Year Five

by wjw on October 22, 2015

Cover08smallerThis summer I completed my fifth year as an indie author, albeit one who markets only his own backlist.  And then to top it all off, I sold six books to traditional publishers.

So. Yeah.  All that.

The upshot is that every long work I’ve ever written is now available in electronic form, in most parts of the world. (And yeah, I know the Praxis books aren’t available in the UK, Australia, and the rest of the British former dominions [except for Canada], but I’m working on that.)

Maybe half of the short fiction is also available, but the sales numbers are small on shorts, and because the per-copy price is low I get paid on a lower tier, so that amounts to less motivation to release more short fiction.  Which I will do eventually, but it’s low on my scale of priorities right now.

But the novels are all still selling well enough to produce a series of very welcome deposits every month, deposits sufficiently large so that I really don’t have to traditionally publish at all.  I just like the security of having a two-track career.

Still, my ebook sales have been in a slow decline all year, which confirms the news from elsewhere.  Unlike some analysts I don’t think ebook sales as a whole are suffering, but rather that individual titles sell fewer copies, because they’re vanishing into this enormous sea of self-published books, and it’s hard for any one title, or author, to maintain visibility.

Also, it’s possible that most of the folks who want books from my backlist already have the books from my backlist.

This means that my ebook numbers are more than ever dependent on sales and promotions.  Sales and promotions, in turn, are dependent on gimmicks, and gimmicks go in and out of fashion.  Until a few months ago, the conventional wisdom was, “Don’t bother with Facebook ads, they never pay.”  But now, it’s all, “Facebook ads are totally the way to go!  Go, Facebook ads!”, because someone finally figured out a gimmick to make them work.  And then it’ll be “Go, Facebook ads!”, right up to the point where it’s not, and then some other gimmick will take Facebook’s place.

As in previous years, about 80% of my ebook sales are via Amazon.  Nook is crumbling away, Kobo has always been a fairly minor player in the U.S. but is stronger in Canada, Australia, and Europe, Google Play sales have always been soft.  Sales via iBooks are a strong second place to Amazon, which is why I wish Apple would gets off its duff and raise iBooks’s visibility.  They’re the only people who can give Amazon a run for their money, and I wish they would.

But iBooks does such a tiny fraction of iTunes’ business that it seems like an afterthought.  Alas.

So in order to raise my profile a bit I’m putting out newer, nicer versions of my ebooks.  Days of Atonement, with a new cover, appeared last week.

This week I’ve gone back to the first ebooks I ever uploaded, The Crown Jewels and House of Shards, to be followed by the third book in the Maijstral series, Rock of Ages.

I had chosen the Maijstral books as my first ebooks because, frankly, they were my worst-selling books ever, and I figured I could afford to make mistakes with them.  If they ended up looking wrong, I wouldn’t be any worse off.

But now that I’ve gone back to look at them, I see a great many mistakes.

The Crown Jewels, I now see to my horror, was badly formatted.  All the text was jammed together, with no empty lines between, say, chapter breaks.  (It was  readable, and the paragraph formatting was fine, it just looked ugly.)

It’s as if the file decided to ignore any <paragraph command> that didn’t have text after it.

I don’t know what program produced that result, though I suspect an early iteration of Smashwords’ Meatgrinder.  But I must have figured it was the best I was likely to get, because I uploaded it everywhere.

House of Shards was formatted just fine, but the text clearly hadn’t been copy-edited, and was rife with the sort of errors you get with bad scans, “bied” for “fried,” etc.  I was shocked to make this discovery, because I know the book was copy-edited twice, once by Kathy (who in her former job was a professional copy editor), and secondly by me.  Somehow a bad scan got substituted for the text we’d actually worked on.  I can’t imagine how this happened, or how I didn’t notice when it did.  But it was something that happened five years ago, and now it’s impossible to backtrack.

Anyway, both books are fine now, or will be once the uploads propagate through the online world.  But now I’m scared it happened elsewhere.

So I will proceed, and go through the whole lot of them, and fix whatever is fixable.  The tools I have to work with are a lot better than the tools I worked with back then, so the upshot should be some damn good books.  Which, in this world, is all you can ask for.


Dave L October 22, 2015 at 3:35 am

I think I have your entire back catalogue both in book form when I could find it, and all of the ebooks even where I already had the book.
Just write the books and I’ll buy them. You are on my very short list of authors whose work I will buy sight unseen every time.

Needless to say I’m looking forward to the next bunch of Praxis books.

Sharon Joss October 23, 2015 at 10:18 am

You might think about gathering some of your short stories into a collection and releasing them that way, either with 5 or 6 similarly-themed stories or as a ‘best of” collection, similar to what Nancy Kress just did. It’s a little more work in terms of TOC and headings, but you can price it accordingly, and it’s a great deal for the the reader–many stories for the price of one or two.

wjw October 23, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Dave, thanks very much for the kind words.

Sharon, I =do= have a collection available, and it doesn’t sell (much). The themed-anthology thing is on my list of things to do, but for the most part it would consist of stories already available somewhere (and not selling, much). So it’s fairly low on my schedule of priorities.

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