Food for thought

We’re watching this show, my housemate and I. In it, every so often 6 chosen heroes are sent to Deal With the Demon Lord. Except this time, there are 7. They not unreasonably conclude one of them is sent by the Demon Lord. They’re trying to figure out who.

1.) If they gang up on the wrong one, they’re screwed.

2.) They have no way of knowing who the plant is.

3.) They already know that somebody raised by the Demon Lord to hate them can change their mind.

They haven’t discussed this yet but it seems OBVIOUS to me that the best and safest solution is for all 7 of them to bond strongly. Be generous to each other. Be kind. Because the absolute best and strongest solution is to make the plant care enough to hesitate and choose not to betray them. Then it’s 7 against the Demon Lord. Hah hah. Good guys win.

Food for thought.


It was really windy today. As I drove home from dropping the kid off at preschool, I watched the tall trees in my neighborhood sway.

Sometimes, in a windstorm, the trees fall. On houses, on cars. People die.

But somehow, we never say, “Ah, and now we must cut down all the trees.”

Sure, we keep an eye on dangerous trees. We assess. We trim. We remove the diseased. But even when disasters happen, we don’t respond by cutting down all the trees.

(And we don’t cut them down for a good reason! If you cut down all the trees, you lose your soil. You end up with a dustbowl. You have an infertile wasteland where nothing grows and everything is the same. Sad. And deadly.)

More food for thought.

Exclusivity and me

I started out with a small press, the lovely Candlemark & Gleam. When I had a publisher, they decided where and how my books were sold: on their website and via most of the major book retailers. Not my problem.

I self-published Nightlights, and as C&G did with Matchbox Girls, I published it everywhere. Even now it’s available in places none of my other books are, like Wattpad.

On my own, I published everything everywhere, except Carousel Chain, which is a little short story thing I threw on KDP Select for a while. Nothing really happened with it, even when I made it free, so I sniffed a little, unenrolled it and moved on.

I believe in my books being widely available. It’s almost a moral issue. So I ignored KDP Select for a long, long time, through all the various changes. I didn’t even bother reading about it. I could see how it helped some but even when I went completely indie and started republishing the Senyaza books on my own, I stayed in wide release.

I have data on how my books sell. I know how they sold in wide release with quirky covers and limited marketing. I know how they sell in wide release with genre-appropriate covers and as much marketing as I could manage within the price limitations I was subject to.

And one day I said, “It’s only a three month term. Let’s see how well they sell if I take advantage of KDP.” It was easy to say, because I’d sold zero books outside of Amazon in the previous three months.

So. The Senyaza books are enrolled in KDP Select, which means the ebook versions are only available on Amazon. It also means they’re included in the Kindle Unlimited subscription, which is the Amazon library service. And what that means is that I get approximately half a penny for every page read by a KU borrower.

(This will have ramifications on the launch of Divinity Circuit in November. Stay tuned if you’re an epub reader. You’ll be presented with options–although the easiest and best one is to support my Patreon.)

Anyhow. It’s been educational, because now I have data on what happens when a book is part of KDP Select and borrowable… and what happens when a book is part of KDP Select and pushed through an advertising campaign. And hey, I can show you a chart. Would you like to see?


I shared an earlier version of this graph months ago, without really going into details. That’s because it was a lot less interesting then. It’s my Author Rank in Amazon, which is related to Sales Rank of an author’s entire catalog somehow. Spikes are sales, usually. Library borrows adjust Sales Rank just like actual sales.

The red arrow highlights where I took over actively marketing the Senyaza series. Sales, paid advertisements, general paying attention. That stuff clearly makes a difference! I went from around $5 a month to $40 a month (but still around a net $5 a month after advertising expenses).

The blue arrow is when I joined KDP. I futzed around with some marketing efforts but while they were more productive than anything I’d seen before, I didn’t have much of a sense of what I was doing. Still, I started getting borrows and that half-penny a page added up to around $50 more.

Then I ran a promotion that worked better than the previous ones. That’s the green arrow. It’s a promotion that wouldn’t be possible without the tools provided by Amazon Select. It hit milestones. I continued to sell books–even more books! and my pages-read skyrocketed. And I’m suddenly contemplating actually earning something I’d call an income from my books (albeit a tiny one). I’ve been working toward that dream so long that it’s almost uncomfortable to contemplate.

So yeah. I read things sometimes from various traditionally published pros, and from indies who would “never give [their] work away,” and they talk about how bad KDP Select is. Conceptually, theoretically, philosophically… maybe so. But I know for a fact that refusing KDP Select on philosophical grounds does nothing for my dreams.  I can write good books but I simply don’t have what it takes–personal popularity, a great hook, a platform, marketing savvy, whatever–to get hundreds or thousands of people to pick those books up. Not without Amazon’s help.

I’m hoping I can build a real fanbase while things are the way they are at Amazon. I don’t have any faith that I’ve found a forever home. But I’m willing to take advantage of opportunities while they’re around.

A side note: I think it’s funny how so many people come into publishing  and assume they started at the bottom. I’ve read people worrying about their Author Rank (that chart above) dropping below 1000– and assuming everybody else shares the same worry about the same level. I laughed.

I think that happens with both indies who started out somewhat successful, and with traditionally published authors. My definition of ‘somewhat successful’ is a lot lower than somebody who started out making the equivalent of a few hundred bucks a month. Oh yes. On the other hand, I’ve learned a ton, maybe including some stuff those who start out luckier never do?

Another sidenote: I’ve recently encountered the idea among some indies that books can be ‘dead’. Dead beyond resuscitation, even. I’ve read suggestions that badly performing books can only be saved by taking them down, changing their titles and covers to ditch previous record links, and republishing. I laughed again. I might not be laughing in a few months when I do some more experiments, but right now all I can think is, “I’m glad nobody ever told me that my books were dead.”

Marketing as an Indie

This is how selling books on Amazon works as an indie, after you’ve exhausted your own lovely readership.

Sales rank is like shelf space. The higher your sales rank, the more likely you are to be seen by random browsers. (This is also influenced by # of reviews, especially when it comes to browse methods other than category-wandering, like ‘also bought’ and straight up search results.)

Sales rank is obviously influenced by sales. So you need to move your book up in the sales rank so more people see it. You need to do this by selling. Or by doing giveaways that you convert to a minimal price point on the second day. And you have to promote the sales and the giveaways, so you go to various deal-promo lists and you hope to get a lucky feature or else you pay them (or you get lucky and THEN you pay them) for that feature.

And you hope like hell some of the taste-setters maybe pick up your book someday. One of the problems there is that the taste-setters are pretty courted and petted and busy, and they often have an aversion to reading books they haven’t heard other people talking about warmly. Kind of a catch-22 there, where you also have to end up lucky. But you keep trying because word of mouth matters and some mouths have more reach than others.

Meanwhile you’re of course working on the next books, which, especially if they’re sequels, provide their own boost to sales. I think they’re the longest-term thing to be accomplished, both in terms of time spent and benefit gained. But ask me about that again in a year or so!

It’s definitely a job, with expenses. Not anywhere near a full-time job, not for me and my shelf and my approach. But I can understand why a micro press without somebody armed with a budget and fully dedicated to marketing would eventually flounder. And unless you have lottery-winning luck or an existing platform with thousands of solid social media contacts, simply writing a book and putting it out there is going to result in six sales and depression.

DIVINITY CIRCUIT now available for preorder


OK! DIVINITY CIRCUIT, the 5th book (and 4th novel) in the Senyaza Series is now available for preorder on Amazon.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Amazon is likely the only ordinary book retailer that will be carrying the ebook (although there will be a paperback available as well through normal distribution). IF YOU WANT AN EPUB, the best way to get it is to sign up for my Patreon. I will also be opening a temporary store somewhere like Gumroad the first week of release in order to sell epubs directly. After that you’ll have to talk to me directly.

Go forth! Preorder! Tell your friends. Oh and I will probably be tweaking that blurb before release…

Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) Report (Wednesday)

Today was Wednesday of Sasquan, Worldcon 2015. I got to the airport around 9, spent half an hour going through security, ate breakfast at a Chili Too place, then decided to bravely volunteer to check my suitcase. Then I chatted with random other Worldcon attendees and smiled at a cute, sweet 3 month old on the plane. Whee!

Once I was there, my friend met me at the baggage carousel and her chauffeurs (parents) kindly took both of us to my hotel where I waited in line more and got to check in eventually.

After that we got a tour from another con attendee showing us how to get from my hotel to the main convention center. It was really unpleasantly hot and a little bit hazy then, around 12:45 PM.

At the con Registration, I waited in line for another 45 minutes to get my badge. Then we set out to visit the third con venue and maybe get some lunch. I also decided I needed better shoe inserts so we put a drugstore on our path. Along the way I started feeling pretty woozy– even faint. It was weird. By the time I got my new insoles we managed to realize the place we were heading for food was closed so we trudged back the way we came and decided to check out the Consuite that was opening at 3 PM. So we got back to the con hotel and I was barely mobile or upright. We went to the 15th floor where the consuite was… where we waited in line until 3:30 because the hot dogs weren’t ready or something.

After scarfing down some sandwich meat and bread, we felt better! We were going to explore the panel locations but then we wandered into the dealer’s room where I eventually lived vicariously through my friend trying on half a dozen corsets and skirts Eventually she bought two of each. It was fun! And then it was after six and we needed dinner so we decided to go try out my hotel restaurant and then head to the party venue to check out the Worldcon 2019 bid parties.

So… we went to the shuttle stop (because walking had been such a disaster before for me). On our way there we discovered that the sky was no longer a little ‘hazy’. The sky was orange as if the world had been tinted through sunscreen windows. And the sun itself was crimson like a beating heart. Because the Spokane area is full of fires.

At the shuttle stop we waited for about thirty minutes. It was kind of fun watching con-people wander by. At one point, an older fellow with a twinkle in his eye bent down to where I was sitting beside the stop and pressed a penny into my hand. “Get a job! But don’t change your hair.” The penny was a 2015 one and I’d never seen one side of it before. Coins keep changing, people, it’s weird.

Anyhow, I giggled at this and it kind of made the wait worth the time.

Finally we got the shuttle, went to my hotel and had a dinner of rather odd wraps and excellent fries, for not too much money. And then we took another shuttle to the amazing Historic Davenport hotel where we pretended to belong to furniture like they have in the lobby and then toured the various bid parties, trying food and drinking drinks. I have to say while I sort of loyally favor Helsinki, they had the most crowded and disorganized party and the least appetizing food. The straight-up best organized and presented party was DC. Japan was charming, with weird Japanese snack food and lots of local alcohol and pretty Japanese boys handing it to me (what can I say I’m a pig). And Montreal’s bid party had a really great ambiance and food that looked good (but by then I was done).

At one point I saw a guy wearing a sign that said, “Looking for Interactive Fiction Writers” and I chased him down, recognized his name from Choice of Games and introduced myself to him with, “I wrote part of a game for you once.” And he recognized my name and we chatted a bit before I moved on. Honestly I would have been happy to chat more except I was tired and on a mission so maybe I’ll run into him again.

And now I am back in my boring hotel room soaking my feet. 13600 steps today.

(More) Experiments in Marketing

Lots of book sales and promos. One day I’m going to write up a post on all the services I’ve used. Not quite yet, though.

Meanwhile, partially due to lack of movement outside of Amazon, I’ve put all the Senyaza books up on Kindle Select, to see how access to the Kindle Unlimited audience works out for me. What this means is if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read them for free.

I know not all of my readers are Kindle readers. Divinity Circuit, the 4th full Senyaza novel, will be available as an epub for at least a limited time (and maybe an unlimited time; it all depends). Preferentially if you’re eager to get the ePub (or PDF) you’ll go back my Patreon for $1 a month. Otherwise I might do a temporary publish on Smashwords, or maybe use something like Gumroad as a distribution method. We shall see. I’m going to aim to have DC out in November, hopefully coinciding with the end of my current Kindle Select term (so I can take all the books out for bundles.)

In tangentially related news, I’ll be attending Worldcon in Spokane next week! It’s terrifying, even though I’ll have friends there. I’ve been a big emotional bundle. Probably this is also related to what I’ve been working on recently, which is a new YA novel written as a gift to my fifteen year old self.

I will try to take some pictures and make a post from the convention. It’s good to have records of first times and this is my first time at any Worldcon. It certainly looks to be a unique one…

A graph

Many jagged lines, trending up near the end.
Amazon Author Rank Chart

Amazon offers various metrics and services to authors: a glimpse into their own Bookscan numbers, a quick look at sales ranks and new reviews, a way to update their bio. It also offers something they call ‘Author Rank’, which is sort of like ‘sales rank’ but takes into account all your books (or so I assume).

This is a snapshot of my sales rank since the beginning of the service, which was about 8 months after Matchbox Girls came out. Book sales rank charts look fairly similar, with the same kind of downward curves and spikes. Each spike represents a sale (or maybe more than one sale, on good days.) As more books get uploaded into the system, existing books have to work harder to get the same spikes.

The Senyaza books reverted to me April 1; I uploaded Matchbox Girls at the $2.99 price point and the others at $4.99.

Citadel of the Sky was released May 15, which is also when I started actively advertising Matchbox Girls, with periodic $.99 sales.


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