amwriting

First 1,000 Copies!

I started consolidating my book sales numbers the other day and discovered something cool. Looking across platforms and counting free promos, I recently distributed my 1,000th book!

Thanks so much to all of my lovely readers for buying, reading, reviewing, spreading the word, and sending your love and support and encouragement. I say it all the time, but you are truly the best!

Cheers,

—Ben

PS – For the curious, here’s a breakdown:

  • About 75% of those copies were free to the readers, either as free promos or downloads of Hubris Towers Episode 1, which is perma-free. The rest have been paid sales.
  • The Stone and the Song accounted for about 70% of the sales and 55% of the free promos. This surprised me a bit since there are three HT books and only one S&S. Some factors:
    • S&S generated a big surge of interest pre-launch and got nearly 100 pre-orders.
    • The first free promo for S&S got over 300 downloads with almost no publicity from me. Still not sure why.
    • S&S has been available twice as long as the average HT episode.
  • In-person sales of Hubris Towers pocket editions have provided just under a third of HT’s sales and just over half of HT’s profits. This makes sense because most online sales are ebooks, and all in-person sales are paperback sales where CreateSpace doesn’t take a cut.
  • Excluding free copies of HT Ep1, we have about a 74% read-through rate from Ep1 to Ep2 and 31% from Ep1 to Ep3 (so far – one thing I’ve realized is that readers often take a few months to get to a book they bought.)
    • If we include free copies of Ep1, rates drop to about 9% Ep1 to Ep2 and 4% Ep1 to Ep3.
    • Currently we have about 42% read-through from Ep2 to Ep3.
  • The land speed of an unladen (European) swallow appears to be 24 mph.1
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May in Review + June Goals

Hi friends! May completely snuck up on me. Between a series launch, a string of family visits, and a heavy workload at the day job, I seriously didn’t even notice we were in a new month until about the 10th. It was, frankly, unsettling. Nevertheless, May was full of exciting developments. Let’s take a look.

May Accomplishments

1. Hubris Towers series launch!

Hubris Towers

Seriously! Go check it out!

Bill and I published Episode 1 of our new comedy series. It’s so good! You should totally read it!

  • Reader response has been phenomenal, with almost unanimous 5-star reviews to date. Brilliant!
  • First-month ebook sales were a little lower than I expected, but should pick up as we release new episodes.
  • The paperback Pocket Edition was surprisingly popular. I expected to sell a few to die-hard fans, but we sold dozens of them. Maybe because it comes with a free Kindle copy on Amazon. (Boom! Marketed.)

2. My first free promo I made The Stone & the Song free for two weekends in May, and—wow! Suddenly I understand why people use free promos!

  • My book hit #1 Free in Fairy Tales on the first day of the promo and stayed there for the rest of the weekend!
  • Downloads in the first day more than doubled my first month’s sales, and over the course of the two weekends I ended up with hundreds of downloads.
  • This is the first time I’ve definitively broken out of the friends-of-friends sphere of readers, and also resulted in my first (5-star!) review from a total stranger.
  • The first weekend did about four times as well as the second, and I have no idea why. Let me know if you have any theories or have seen similar results.

3. First multi-platform release The Stone & the Song is my KDP Select guinea pig, but long-term I definitely want to build up a robust cross-platform audience. Hubris Towers was my first multi-platform release.

  • So far, Hubris Towers is available on Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Amazon.
  • So far no real traction on the non-Amazon platforms. I’m curious to see how this develops as the series matures and gains momentum. Still pretty sure it’s worth it long-term.

4. Released 2 more sections of the Dream World Collective

5. Wrote about 8,000 words of Hubris Towers Episode 2. (Now with Russians!)

  • Planned release date is June 13. That’s so soon!
  • This is by far the fastest-paced large-scale project I’ve attempted to date, and I’m really excited to see how that helps us build momentum.
  • Sign up here to get a reminder when it comes out

6. The Clickworks Press catalog is expanding! I can’t say too much yet, but I’m getting ready to release the first Clickworks Press book I didn’t write.

  • This is a game-changer. My plan from the beginning has been to make Clickworks Press bigger than me. Bringing in new authors makes it a fundamentally different kind of endeavor, and I’m so excited to be bringing in brilliant talent this early on.
  • Short-term, this helps authors streamline their publishing experience, cross-promote, and get more exposure. It points readers to great new reading experiences. It helps Clickworks Press develop legitimacy, flexibility, and a robust catalog. Long-term, just wait and see. We’ve got some incredibly cool ideas in the pipeline.
  • I’m still thinking through the details of the business model and I’d love to hear what you would find cool and useful. Drop me a line at byfaroe@gmail.com if you’re interested in brainstorming or have some ideas for me.

June Goals

That was long, so I’m going to keep this quick.

  1. Release Hubris Towers Season 1, Episode 2.
  2. Write 1/4 to 1/2+ of Hubris Towers Episode 3.
  3. Release more sections of The Dream World Collective.
  4. [Stretch] Set up a weekly auto-delivery system that will give people happy stories in their inbox.
  5. Iron out the first-phase Clickworks Press model.
  6. Investigate the costs and mechanisms of a Clickworks Press website that can support my super-cool ideas.
  7. [Possibly] Write more of The Unaccountable Death of Derelict Frobisher. Frobisher is the crème de la crème of my writing endeavors (which is saying something). It will not do to neglect it much longer.

What’s new with all of you? Anything I can get excited about with you? Tell me!

Cheers! —Ben

The Stone and the Song: Coming Soon In Paperback

Stone and Song Cover 4 - High ResolutionThe physical proof (in two senses) is in the mail. This is my first time through the process, but my best guess is that the paperback edition of The Stone and the Song will be available on Amazon in about a week.

Or you can save yourself a week and save two-thirds of the price if you get the Kindle edition now.

I’ve got an afternoon off and am going to write like the wind. I recently revisited Write Or Die, a motivational tool that’s right up my alley, and had rather astonishingly good results. Even a preliminary attempt had me writing roughly double my normal top speed. Now to see if that’s sustainable. If it is, and if I can maintain sufficient awareness of what’s upcoming in the story, I could be reaching 2,500+ words per hour. If.

Let’s see if I can melt away some goals.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – If you want a note when the paperback is available, you can sign up for updates and friendly notes.Subscribe Button Red Border 1

Write Like the Wind!

Today is looking really busy. I may not get much time to write, but if I do I want to put it into building word count on books.

But that’s boring, so let’s make it a challenge. My starting goals for the day are:

Minimum: 500 words

Target: 750

Stretch: 2000

I’ll check in in Comments with how it went. If you want to join me in the challenge, reply in comments with your own goal(s) and let’s spur one another on. To victory!

—Ben

I’m On Restriction (But It Did Get Me Writing)

I’ve now spent two days this week meaning to write 1,000 words or more and writing none instead. I mean, I wrote a lot of words on blog posts and marketing stuff and posting story chunks after final edits and all, but that doesn’t count. I mean real words, new word count on novels in progress.

Now that all of the new release hullabaloo is over, I’m really feeling an urgency to get back to regularly producing lots of word count. I’m more excited than ever about the great stories I have in store, and while marketing and publishing are key parts of the work, and I find them rather fun, my single top metric for success these days is new word count.

More than that, I want to become the sort of person I can trust to hit word count goals like a clock, absolutely reliable regardless of circumstances. It’s going to be a while before I can go full-time with my writing, but in setting up milestones or benchmarks that will help me decide when it’s time, I’m beginning to formulate a new one in terms of reliable writing streak, something like “Can’t quit the day job until I’ve logged six months of 5,000 words each week without exceptions.”

Marketing and publishing and “research” and fun ideas and future planning will all still exist when I’m writing full-time, and there will be a lot less of the artificial structure and boundaries that force me to write fast in rare little bits when I can, so it’s absolutely critical to get the patterns of reliable production firmly embedded now. Counterintuitively, it may actually be easier at this stage, when my entire livelihood isn’t resting on it and I have long patches of my day taken up with other occupying pursuits so ideas can simmer and develop in the background for my rare patches of writing. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

But anyway, in the meantime I do need to write, and my target is 5,000 draft words per week, and I dropped the ball the last two days, so for today I put myself on restriction: no blogging or marketing work until I’d written 250 words. Because for me it’s really mostly about getting started. I didn’t finish those 250 until halfway through the day even so, but the last 130 were in a single 3-minute burst. Let’s see if I can catch up for the week, or at least hit my thousand for today. I’ll report back tomorrow.

Do you guys have any tricks for getting writing (meaning new actual story material) when there’s other stuff vying for your attention?

Cheers!

—Ben

Patron Perks, Stone & Song Edits, and a Prototype

I’ve got a few exciting production updates and goals today. Here’s what I’d like to finish by the time I go to bed.

Patron Perks for the January Bonus Bundle

It’s time to deliver the January Bonus Bundle to my wonderful patrons! I still need to finish some of the writing and get the post-production completed. Today I’d like to finish all 3 parts:

– The History of the Moustache (A Modest Contribution #2) – These are short, funny bonus episodes hosted by the Dream World Collective’s resident geek, Otto. Always sure to be highly edifying and inaccurate. Tons of fun to write. Should be about 1000 words.

– Character sketch of Sushi Vasquez (3 sections) – $3+ patrons also get a peek at my character design sheet for Sushi. This one should be easy to finish, but the original was lost with the theft of an old laptop long ago, so it will still involve some rewriting. Guessing this will be 500-750 words; the outline-ish format will make it easier, as will the fact that I know most of the content already.

– Kitchen Adventures #1 – A cooking show with Summer (also from The Dream World Collective). This is the first one I’ve created and I’m unusually nervous about it. Maybe because it has to be funny but also end up with a recipe that (more or less) works. Otto’s the guest on this one, which should help. This goes to $5+ patrons, so currently has a very small potential audience, which may also contribute to the jitters. Best guess is 1000-1500 words, but I’m going to play this by ear. Could be shorter if the focus ends up more on the recipe than the adventure by which they get to it.

The Stone and the Song Preliminary Edits

So I’ve committed myself to a very quick turnaround on this (cf. my early experiences setting up an Amazon pre-order). I need to finish all my edits, proofreading, and post-production (including any CTAs and the Dream World Collective preview I’m including) and upload the final manuscript by midnight Wednesday 2/11/15. Not sure if that’s midnight at the beginning or end of Wednesday. I suspect the former. Will be done Tuesday night just in case. I committed to this before I’d really even previewed the manuscript to see if it needs any rewriting or just proofreading and tidying up.

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

It’s only about 30 pages and I finished preliminary edits on the first third or so yesterday. Today I’d like to get through at least proofreading and formatting on the rest of the manuscript. I think at least one scene needs a minor content revision. If I can get that done too, so much the better. Tricky thing there is that it’s based on a possible minor plot glitch, so I may actually need to figure out what’s going on (unseen to the reader), which can take an unpredictable amount of time.

A Prototype!

I’m really excited about this one. For February I’ve got a really fun scheme in mind. I’ve developed an elegant little mechanism for folding a single sheet of paper into a mailable letter with just a few folds: no cutting, adhesives, or envelope required.

Idea is to create little fill-in-the-blank notes and letters that you can print out, fill in, fold up, and pop in the mail to someone you love (or like, or know, or don’t). I’m kind of going to shanghai Valentine’s Day and take it beyond romance, because love comes in all sorts of forms and people are valuable.

Only problem is that I think the current version ends up about half an inch too small to fit USPS machinable mail guidelines, so I’ve got to rework it a bit. Here’s a preview in the meantime.

Letterfold – Blank (Prototype 1)

And So Much More!

Oh my gosh. So many things going on right now. I also need to get the patron-only preview of the next section of Dream World Collective up so I can post it publicly over the weekend.

And I need to get the landing page for the letterfold project up. (By the way, is calling it the Share The Love event too cheesy? Any better ideas?) I’m also setting up a proper mailing list host and possibly even an autoresponder. Really should get that going by the Stone & Song release date at the latest so people who read it and love it have a good way to get in touch with me.

I’m really excited, though. This is a time for pushing hard to lay a ton of infrastructure, which should really help as the first couple novels reach completion.

Thanks for being in on the journey with me! What are you reading/writing/working on these days? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Cheers!
—Ben

The Problem of Writers Writing About Writing to Get Readers

Oh, man, guys. Bookshelfbattle just put it perfectly.

Sometimes with all of the blogging, twittering, and social media-ing, I just wonder if all writers are doing are talking to other writers. It’s like we’re all door-to-door salesmen, knocking on a door, “Wanna buy my book?” And the person answers, “No, but do YOU wanna buy MY book?” [link]

This made me so happy! It’s exactly right, with a brilliant mental image thrown in. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially as I’m getting into blogging properly for the first time in a while. I’m already slipping into writing as a writer for writers to attract writers to my writing blog so they’ll read… my… stories? Well, that’s no good.

My real goal is to find a huge band of brilliant friends and fans who love reading what I write and talking about things I’m into and doing cool stuff to make the world a better place. So I start writing about whatever I’m currently obsessed with to draw the people that will align with it. And I’m obsessed with writing, self-publishing, generous marketing, etc. And other stuff, but it’s taking a strange degree and style of discipline to get into other headspaces in the context of blogging.

So I end up writing a blog for writers rather than readers. Which might work out, because writers are mostly thinking people who love great stories and read a ton, so that’s cool. But even so I’m engaging them as writers trying to get better at writing, not as readers looking for a good story.

So then I figure I need to be writing stuff my (potential and actual) readers would enjoy. Not content about creating content. Just…you know, content. Except I write novels, and that’s not great in blog format. So I can write supporting bonus materials and behind-the-scenes stuff.

Tricky bit there is that only a few dozen people are familiar with my work at the moment, so if I give excerpts, backstories, fun tidbits about the story world, character profiles, and that sort of thing, nobody will know what I’m talking about, and if I talk about other stuff it’s a different form of the original problem. I’m just talking to game-lovers about games or communal people about living in community or spiritual people about our invisible friends, and I can occasionally tack on a mention of my books and people might read them, but it’s still not really engaging with readers as readers.

I’m still figuring this out. The easy first steps are to be very generous and to actively be a reader, not just a writer. At minimum this opens up a dicey little quid-pro-quo with you other aspiring writers where I’ll try out your story and read/buy/love/recommend it if I like it, and maybe in a few cases you’ll try mine out too. But I don’t really enjoy that arrangement. Setting aside the fairly low readership numbers it’s likely to garner, it also just feels a little fakey and weird. I love reading peoples’ stories, but I don’t want it to be so they’ll read mine and I don’t want to feel pressure to respond a certain way because I want them to like me and I don’t want them to feel obligations and all. At best, it’s a strange and roundabout way to find one of the aforementioned brilliant friends.

More fundamentally, I want to get better at providing all kinds of cool things that I like and that my aforementioned brilliant friends would like. Sometimes writing, sometimes game design, sometimes kerning or sea monsters or metaphysics. And sometimes my actual stories, either bonus materials or just actual chunks of story. And sometimes exciting announcements that the next book is out or that I have a cool bundle of fun available. (Speaking of which…)

What’s scary about that is it means constantly re-breaking the mold. I’m theoretically all for losing readers rather than redirecting my writing to cater to a perceived audience’s perceived expectations. But already, a few posts in, I find myself hesitant to write posts that are much shorter or longer than what I have, or in a different format, or about a different kind of thing, because I’m already finding really cool people who like what I write about writing, and if I write about sea monsters maybe it will break the spell and you’ll all leave. (Which is irrational, of course, because who doesn’t love sea monsters?)

So all that to say, this blog isn’t going to just be writing tips. Might be a little while before I get it out of my system because the art and business of writing are what I think about for dozens of hours a week. But there might also be tea and mythical beasts at some point. Some of you find that exciting, not disappointing, and I’m really, really excited that you’re here.

Thank you, bookshelfbattle. Really great phrasing of an important situation. Everyone else, do you want to buy bookshelfbattle’s book? I think you should buy bookshelfbattle’s book. (Bookshelfbattle, do you have a book? Blast. Should have thought this through.)

But seriously, at least check out the blog. I’m enjoying it a ton. Finally someone who’s putting out engaging ideas for discussion, not just writing writing tips for writers writing for writers.

Cheers!
—Ben