Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Where have I gone?

It's been a very long time since I've done any posting. I'm guessing most of you thought I'd fallen off the planet. Truth is, back in 2012 my day job got very busy and very stressful, and it drained all my fiction writing juices.

On top of that, I started a second job designing board games.

So, I haven't had much time or energy to work on my novels. I definitely want to get back to it, but I'm not sure when that will be.

In the meantime, my first board game just launched today on Kickstarter. Click here to go see it.

The game is called Slaughterball! It's a competitive board game simulating a ferocious future sport where 2-4 teams of genetically-engineered super-athletes clash in a remorseless steel pit. You roll dice, play cards, and move plastic athletes around a very cool thematic board.

And did I mention it's set in the same universe as Dead Dwarves Don't Dance? Yep, it is. There will even be an exclusive piece for Kickstarter backers depicting none other than Noose.

If you like board games, or just want to see what I've been working on for the last few years in secret, you should go check out the Slaughterball Kickstarter page.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Twelve Worlds charity donation for 2012

Between Nov 1, 2011 and Nov 1st, 2012, the Twelve Worlds anthology has sold approximately 120 copies, resulting in author royalties of just about $225 (author royalties are paid out 2 months later). I've decided to bump up the donation to $500, which I’ve donated to Reading is Fundamental.

In case you didn’t know, the author royalties from Twelve Worlds go to Reading is Fundamental, the nation’s largest nonprofit children’s literacy organization.

So, if you want to read 14 speculative fiction and fantasy stories from new authors, you should pick up a copy of this book. It’s only $2.99, and about $2 of that goes to charity.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Halloween Riddles!


It's October and time for some Halloween Riddles! I just published my fourth riddle book, and you can get it here for just 99 cents.

Sixty more rhyming riddles are in this book, and each one has something to do with Halloween.

Why not keep the book by the door and give a double candy serving to the trick-or-treaters who correctly answer a riddle?

Or, why not have a riddle contest after you've snagged your candy haul? Every correct answer lets you pick a piece of candy from your friend's sack!

Or, keep the riddles handy for your Halloween party! I'm sure you can come up with some appropriate prizes for that!

Here are just a few examples of the riddles you'll find in this book:


Riddle #2

You hide behind it while in plain sight

To fool your friends and give a fright


Riddle #41

Skinny as a stick

With straw in my skirt

I’m a witch's ally

But the enemy of dirt


Riddle #51

Filling corners, spanning gaps

We're lethal and beautiful traps

Wispy yet strong, we really stick around

Hanging lifeless our victims are found

A patchwork of people

Sewn up tight

Lumbering about

Causing a fright

Born of lightning

To a madman's delight

So many scars

He's an imposing sight

Returned from death

Full of fury and might

Misunderstood and despised

Suffering the outcast's plight

Rousing villagers

Wielding torches alight


You can find the answers in Halloween Riddles – Rhyming Riddles #4.
The cover art was created by Jay Brant over at Headsup Studios. He's got some great stuff, and you should check him out. He's working on updating my Christmas Riddle book cover next and I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Final Kickstarter project report

Unfortunately, my Kickstarter project to help fund the cover art for the sequel to DeadDwarves Don't Dance was not a success. I did get 14 fine folks out there to pledge $301, but that wasn't enough to meet my goal of $1350.

Don’t worry, though. I'll still publish the book, hopefully later this year in time for Christmas. But, I won't be able to print up any cool posters of the cover art. Too bad. I was looking forward to sending out Igor's great artwork to the suppporters.
(If you'd still like to help, the best way to do that is to post reviews of my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads, and so on.)

Anyway, I had some very good suggestions on how to create a better Kickstarter project, which you can read in the comments for this previous post.

One side effect of the project as that I was able to sell several copies of DeadDwarves Don't Dance to people who read my Kickstarter project.

The project ran from June 2 to July 2, and I used Amazon Associates links back to my Dead Dwarves Don't Dance book page in the project page. Based on the Associates report, I earned $5.21 in advertising fees over that period and also sold 9 copies of Dead Dwarves Don't Dance. That's the best free advertising I ever experienced.

So, even though I didn’t raise the money, I hopefully did get a few more fans.

Now, for those authors out there who are considering Kickstarter, here are some things I learned:

1.    Successful projects seem to have more updates. So update at least once a week to keep people's interest. I didn't do this, and it probably hurt me.

2.    Build a larger community before you setup your project. I have 172 followers here on my blog, 77 twitter followers, and 53 Facebook friends. There is probably a bunch of overlap between all these. But, still,  172 followers were not enough to garner enough pledges. So, if you're an author with fewer than a couple hundred people in your hardcore fan base, I wouldn't expect to earn more than $500, so set your Kickstarter goal appropriately.

If any other writer out there has setup a Kickstarter project and has differing opinions, go ahead and comment below! I'm just one person with one project under my belt, so I could be very wrong.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How much do e-authors make per hour/word?

Obviously, the answer to the question varies by the success of the author. But, I thought I'd relate my own experiences as a less than mid-level author with just a few novels published.

I started my self-publishing efforts back in September 2010. Back then, I planned to commit to 5 years of writing before deciding whether or not it could become my actual career. By late 2015, I hope to have 10 novels in print. The sales of those ten novels should give me a good idea if I'm successful enough to quit my day job and become a full-time novelist.

It's still a long time to 2015, but how am I doing now? Am I making good money? Could I survive on just writing novels? Not yet.

In about 20 months, I've published 3 full-length novels, 2 short story anthologies, 2 DIY books, and 3 riddle books. I've sold a total of around 15,200 units , earned gross revenue of about $15,200, with net expenses of about $7,000, resulting in about $8,000 profit (or about $400 a month).

Definitely not enough to earn a living, but it is enough to take a nice vacation each year.

But another data point you should know is how many hours I work on my novels. I do not have exact numbers for all my books, but I did keep track of my hours at the keyboard for a couple of them and I spend about 200 hours actually writing/editing per novel. This does not include thinking about the plot or outlining. I bet that adds at least another 50 hours.

So I'm going to assume 250 hours to finish each novel. How much does that earn me per hour?

For my best-selling novel, Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, I've earned a profit of about $4,300. So I'm getting paid about $17 per hour.

But that number does not count how much time I spend on marketing (blogs, facebook, twitter, forums, advertising, etc.). I have no idea how much time I spend on that, and it is spread out across all my books. So, let's say that $17/hour is the maximum I'm earning.

Dead Dwarves Don't Dance is about 74,000 words long, so it's earned me about 5.8 cents a word. Certainly not a king's ransom, but within the range of what you can get for writing for magazines and so on.

Unfortunately, not all my books sell as well as Dead Dwarves Don't Dance.

The story is not as good for my other two novels (The Elemental Odyssey and Where Magic Reigns). These are young adult adventure novels full of magical aliens and fun action. But while I think this series has lots of potential and the books are getting good reviews, they have not yet found a large audience. My profit on those two books is actually a loss of $4000. Fortunately, ebooks are forever and I have no more large expenses for these two books. So that loss will decline over the years, and hopefully become profitable at some point. All it takes is one person of influence to find it and mention it to some friends, and the series might skyrocket. (That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.;)

On the other hand, my DIY book (Format Your eBook for Kindle in One Hour) has sold very well and had very little in the way of expenses (about $7,400 profit). So, let's average all my books together and see what my totals look like.

Out of all my books, I've earned about $8,000 in profit.

With three novels and seven other shorter books, I figure I've spent at least 1,000 hours working on them, for a maximum of $8/hour.

Not enough to live on, alas. But, the good news is there's room for improvement. ;)

Now, what can YOU expect to earn? Absolutely no way to tell. You could might earn more than me or you might earn less. It depends on how good your books are. But, even more, it depends on how much luck you have. Based on the success and failure of other books I've read, luck seems to be the overriding factor.

If you have a terrible cover or blurb, or you write like a 2nd-grader, or your story is pathetic, you probably won't succeed. But if all of that is polished to an acceptable quality, your success hinges pretty much on luck. It all depends on getting discovered, and in the overcrowded ebook market, getting discovered is just luck or thousands of dollars in advertising. Not many of us have $$$$$ to spend on ads, so we rely on luck.

In almost all careers, you have to commit time and earn your way to the upper echelons. Sweat out the low pay early years hoping to improve your results in the long run. Fortunately, I have another career that can support me while I write novels.

My advice to anyone else is, don't quit your day job. Write diligently and in several years you might start earning a wage large enough to support you.

Or, you might be lucky and have a blockbuster on your first try. If that's the case, congratulations! It's kind of like winning the lottery but at least you earned it by writing a book!

If you're an author, do you have any guesses as to how much you're making per hour/word? Put it in the comments.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Crowdfunding meetups - learning about local Kickstarter projects

Last night I attend a crowdfunding meetup where nearly 20 attendees discussed their Kickstarter projects, experiences, or just watched and decided whether or not to back them.

The event was hosted by Melody Brown of Atomic Chimp games, and you can read about the meetup here. There are meetings in Seattle and the Eastside highlighting local projects. It was quite informative and lots of advice was available. If you ever get a chance to attend such a gathering, I encourage you to do so! I'd like to thank Melody for inviting me and running these events. I found it very helpful.

I thought I'd give some plugs to the Kickstarter projects that were presented:

Ever want a café where you could also play games, then if you like the game you can buy it? That's the idea behind the Gaslamp Social Games Café, which will be located somewhere in the Bellevue/Redmond area (Eastside of Seattle area). You should definitely watch the video to get a better look at this if you live in the area and want a place to play games, sip coffee, etc!

A 15 foot cubic piece of art that lets you interactively control 216 balls of flame!!! This is a piece of art that will be at Burning Man. So, if you you're going to attend Burning Man and want to firebend, you should definitely check out this project!

This is me! And you likely know all about this one already. If not, check it out. Looks like I got some additional pledges based on the meetup last night, so woot! One person at the event said he'd download Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, so I even got a sale! That's a 5% conversion rate, which is really good.

Kind of like a tinkertoy system for big kids. If you're an engineer you'll probably love this! The project was successful, earning triple its goal. But you should still check it out to see if you'd like to place orders Terence Tam.

Unfortunately, I missed a couple prospective project presentations because I had to leave. I hope to plug those when they go live.

I foresee crowdfunding having a significant impact on all sorts of entrepreneurial activity, manufacturing, and jobs. I think it's a great thing. If you've never checked it out before, why not do so now? You might find some project that you really like!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting readers to help promote your books

I've been doing something like this in my ebooks, and I thought I'd provide some similar boilerplate content that you can use in your ebooks.

Independent authors need ways to promote. I agree with David that word of mouth is the best path for us indies. This might be off-putting to some, or even sound like begging. But publishing is changing and we must adapt and persevere. Am I ashamed to ask readers for help getting the word out about my books? Not at all! And you shouldn't be either. In fact, if enough of us indies start asking, we might instill a new default behavior in readership to write reviews at a much higher rate than they do now (Dead Dwarves Don't Dance has sold about 8,000 copies and gotten 37 reviews, or about a .4% review rate).

So, feel free to use the following boilerplate in your books (I put it at the end of my books). Use it as is, edit it, take snippets, add to it. Whatever. You'll probably want to change a few bits to align with your own genre/books.

Want to read the sequels sooner?

If you loved this book (or any other book) the best thing that you can do for the author is to help promote it.

The vast majority of independent authors also have full time jobs and earn only a few thousand dollars a year from our novels. Unfortunately, we do not have enough time to promote nor enough money to advertise. We just write our books, publish them, and then hope readers find and hopefully buy them. For most of us, that doesn't mean a lot of money unless we get lucky and sell 50,000 or more books (most of us don't sell anywhere near that).

So, the best advertising for us is our fans telling their friends and family about the books.  For us, word of mouth is the best advertising. In the age of the internet, word of mouth includes reader reviews, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, and so on.

Writers don't have the time to find and frequent each forum, blog, review site, and so on. But, collectively, our fans might know about a many such sites. And if you love a book, it's a great idea to mention it in one of those places.

But, why should readers shoulder the burden of promoting? Isn't that the job of the author?

Yes, it is.

But posting on forums, updating blogs, sending out emails, trying to get interviews and reviews on big websites, and so on takes a LOT of time. Every hour of promotion is one less precious hour the author has for writing the next book in the series you love.

An indie author's promotion efforts actually make it take longer for the next book to get into your hands.

Would you like the next book sooner?

Again, the very best way to help make that happen is to promote the book yourself. I'm not talking about being militant and getting into anyone's face, commanding them to buy the book. But there are a few simple things that can really help, and if enough readers do it, other people might be convinced to buy the book:

1.    Write a review for the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or wherever you bought it. Reviews don't have to be long, but you should mention a few things that you especially liked about the book so people who read your review can get a better idea of what it's like. You might say: "I really loved how this book merged magic and aliens into an exciting adventure story." See? Simple and short and it says something about the book.

2.    Mention the book on your Facebook page with a link to an appropriate website. Quick and simple like: "I read this exciting book.  Check it out: www.talesofzura.com."

3.    Rate the book or post your review on Goodreads or similar sites (such as librarything.com, shelfari.com, books.google.com, anobii.com, weread.com, chapters.indigo.ca, revish.com, reader2.com).

4.    Mention the book on appropriate forums where you are a member. You wouldn't post about a spy novel on a gardening forum, but you could post about a kid's outdoor adventure book on a Scout forum, for example.

5.    Post your review on your own private blog. Sure, you might only have a dozen readers, but you could be the pebble that starts the avalanche of interest that would eventually help the author sell enough books to quit their day job (or maybe even turn it into a movie).

6.    Tweet about the book.

I bet you're thinking "Sheesh! That sounds like a lot of work! I'm not going to do that!"

And, of course, you don't have to.

But if you don't, the book you love might not sell well. For us independent authors who don't get any advances or have publishers backing us, we have to pay attention to sales. Most of us aren't rich. If a book doesn't sell well, the author probably won't write any more like it. Instead, the author will write a different storyline or genre to see if those sell better. Or the author might stop writing books.

If there are a lot of sales of a book, an author is encouraged to write more like it.

So, if you love a book and have some spare time, write a review. And if you have more time, tweet or blog or like or Facebook or chat or whatever you feel comfortable with.

Who knows? If enough readers do that, authors might be able to quit their day jobs and write novels full time. You could get the next novel in your favorite series two to three times sooner!
Let me know what you think of this, and if you use it. And if it works!

PS: Don't forget about my Kickstarter project where you can get a signed poster of the cover to Dead Dwarves Don't Dance!