writing

New Release: Execution. The Divine, Book Six

You've been patiently (or maybe impatiently) waiting for almost a year and a half, but the moment has finally come. Execution, the Divine Series Book Six, is now available on Amazon!

Landon Hamilton, the champion of humankind in the war between good and evil, had thought he'd seen the last of the demon Abaddon when he destroyed Archangel Avriel’s Box.

He was wrong.

Abaddon is back, summoned to our world by an old acquaintance and desperate for the freedom he was promised.

Now the race is on for Landon and his motley team of angels, demons, and mortals to find a way to destroy Abaddon and put a stop to his handler's plot before humankind is laid to waste.

He's outmatched and out of time. But then again, isn't he always?

When are 40,000 words NOT 40,000 words

I was all set to announce that I had reached the 40k word milestone on book four of the Divine Series, Bound. I was pleased with myself for reaching the ALMOST halfway point in the novel.

Then I went back and read some of it.

It wasn't that it was bad, per se. If I gave it out to some of you, you probably would have told me I was an idiot for thinking it needed to go. Except... it was the story I was telling, but not the story I wanted to tell. It felt repetitive, vanilla, and most importantly - it didn't excite me. If I couldn't enjoy writing it, how could you enjoy reading it? Again, maybe you could have. Or maybe you would have felt the same ambivalence I was feeling. Who wants to read a book like that?

I've written three books in the Divine series, and one other besides. I always end up cutting pages, adding pages, etc. I re-wrote an entire chapter in Betrayal, and I rewrote another chapter in Broken four times (I really struggled with that one).

This was the first time I changed direction... completely, and in doing so had to drop nearly 15,000 words. That's two-three weeks of work, and almost half of the total.

Gone. Dead. Buried.

It's hard to massacre your work like that. Yet sometimes it needs to be done. Will it lead to a better book? I sure hope so. I'm certainly enjoying writing it more, so that has to count for something.

The point is, it isn't about the word counts or the release schedule. It's about producing something that you're proud of, and putting every ounce of effort into reaching the level of quality you feel the reader deserves.

Even if it hurts.

Book Cover Experimentation

If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you'll find a link out to the blog of Joe Konrath. Joe is an author who worked his ass off for years to publish the traditional way, until finally switching over to self-publishing, and hitting it big in a huge way. He's the guy every self-published author wants to emulate (his success anyway), and his advice has a lot of meaning to me. One piece of his advice that I often keep in mind (paraphrased): "If something you're doing isn't working, try something else"

I launched His Dark Empire about a month ago. Compared to Balance, it's been a little bit of a disappointment, as it hasn't sold anywhere near the levels my first title did. Why not? I don't know for sure. Maybe traditional fantasy isn't in as high demand as urban? Maybe the story isn't enticing? Maybe the book just isn't that good?

I think the book is good, and my wife thought it was better than any of the Divine books (she doesn't ready fantasy in general, so for her to read it through in one day says something to me). But... it's also VERY different from Balance. I'm not sure there is too much overlap between audiences, and in some sense I'm starting from scratch.. which is fine.

There are also probably a lot of new authors out there who would love to sell 100+ books in a month. I don't want to come off as whining, because I'm not unhappy. What I am is curious.

I see the sales as a combination of a few things:

1. Visibility 2. Intriguing blurb 3. Attention-grabbing cover 4. Strong opening (i.e. look inside the book)

As far as #1 goes, the first 30 days of a new book is the best it's probably ever going to get.. which is why it is important to me to try to make as good of a showing as I can during that time.

#2 ... I've struggled with this for HDE. I know what the story is, but while the pace is fast, the build is gradual. I feed you information slowly to build suspense, mystery, and intrigue. That makes the description hard, because I don't want to give too much away.

#3 ... I like my original cover but... when I see it in the 'Customers Also Bought' with the other covers... I don't know that it grabs your attention. It's so dark, I think it just gets lost in the mix.

#4 ... I did my best :)

As you can see, #2 and #3 are the two factors I have some control over. I've experimented with the blurb, and some have definitely performed better than others, but I don't feel like I'm there yet. I'm trying version #4 out now.

Cover... now that is one area I want to test, to see if there is any kind of improvement by making it more eye-catching. I'll post a follow up once I have some data, but in the meantime, here is the before and after:

His Dark Empire
His Dark Empire
hde2-small
hde2-small

As you can see, I lightened it up A LOT, and also gave it a burst of color(red) that hopefully will draw the eye. Finally, it's a bit different for a Fantasy book cover (but then again, I think the first one is also)... we'll see if that winds up being a detriment.

I have to say, I am a little concerned that men might reject it, because of the prominent use of the female head, though I'm hoping the run of blood under the 'eye' might sway it back into masculine coolness.

What do you think? Is the new cover an improvement? Do you think it's too feminine, and you wouldn't go near it?

Can A One-Star Review Really Do That?

UPDATE: I've added a new post detailing the outcome of the issue here.

The Situation

I got my first one-star review for Balance yesterday. I feel congratulations are in order.

Actually, I'd be fine with the one-star review, if it had anything at all to do with the book.

Instead, it is from a user who is apparently frustrated with the way his kindle is functioning, and he says that he is unable to read my book because it hurts his eyes. The problem is, the review reads as though it's the formatting of the book that's causing the issue, not the device itself. From what I understand (and I'm pretty technical, but I don't know everything), this simply isn't possible.

(You can read the review here if you'd like)

That's the windup. Here's the pitch.

The Numbers

March Sales (U.S.)

Purchased Returned P-R Borrowed (Select)
967 20 947 52

April 01 Sales (U.S.)

Purchased Returned P-R Borrowed (Select)
33 0 33 6

That's before the one-star review. An average of 32 books per day sold or borrowed. I'm super happy with that, no complaints at all.. it's beyond what I ever expected.

April 02 Sales (U.S.)

Purchased Returned P-R Borrowed (Select)
46 0 46 8

The Results

That's the cumulative total. If you do the math, its 15 books sold or borrowed, the day the one-star review hit (it was published at 1 am PST). I've been tracking daily totals, and the lowest I've had in the six weeks prior was 23. Also, Tuesday is typically one of my BEST sales days. I understand that there is an ebb and flow, and I'm pretty content with 15, but it irks me to think that this review could be crashing my sales at all. Like I said, it would be one thing if it was actually about the book, but since it's about the device the reader was trying to read the book on...

Conjecture

A few of thoughts on HOW it could be affecting sales.

1.Visual star-rating went from 4 1/2 stars (4 filled, 1 half-filled), to 4 stars.. There's one big ole' empty star staring out at viewers who see the book in a list. It's at 4.2 overall.. point one more and I'd have that little halfie back :)

2.Star rating affects position in recommendation que (I don't know if this is true)

3.Viewers read the review and think my book is formatted incorrectly, and they're going to have trouble reading it

Conclusion

It could just be a coincidence; it's only one day after all. At the same time, I'm an analytical sort of fellow, so I couldn't help but analyze.

In the end, I'm left waiting in the hopes that a few more positive reviews will push it out of sight for the majority of users, and blogging about it so I can get other people's thoughts on the whole situation, and maybe make some lemonade out of the lemon.

Do you think that's the right thing to do? Have you had a similar experience? Do you have any advice, or other thoughts?  Please share.