Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finished first draft of “Where Magic Reigns”

I thought I wouldn’t make it by the end of the month, but today I finished the first draft of Where Magic Reigns, the sequel to my young adult action adventure, The Elemental Odyssey.

July was my marathon writing month. On July 1st, the manuscript was at 36,702 words. Today I finished the first draft at 86,043 words. That means I wrote over 52,000 words in one month, a significant record for me, especially since I had my 40+ hour/week technical writing job at the same time.

I spent 42 hours writing over the month, so an average of 1,192 words per hour.  My best hourly rate was 1,557 words.

Of course, the story is in a state that I like to call the “ugly first draft.” Not something I want anyone else to read, that’s for sure. My first drafts are always like that because I have to get the story done, not done perfect. I find that if I struggle over every word and phrase in the first draft I'll never get the first draft done. Therefore, I try to power through, concentrating only on plot and information. In subsequent drafts I'll fix up the all sorts of things. I have over 100 comments in it, each one requiring some kind of change or specific improvement to a word, passage, or plot point.

For The Elemental Odyssey, it took me 120 hours to do the 2nd through 7th drafts, which went to the editor.

My next goal is to hand off Where Magic Reigns to the editor in October. That’ll be a stretch, but I’m hoping I can get it done.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The cost of translating an ebook into German or Hindi

In his latest post, Joe Konrath mentions the grand opportunity that new ebook markets will create for us authors. Amazon recently opened their German website (and my Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance book already has a nice review there!). The Indian Amazon page will open sometime next year.

There are many English speakers and readers in both Germany and India. However, to fully exploit those markets, translation into German and Hindi would obviously result in more sales.

Both my novels have German characters and the kid’s book also has an Indian character.

The Elemental Odyssey has JΓΌrgen Schmidt, a twelve-year old boy from Kaiserslautern. It also has Veeksha Das from India. Both are vacationing separately at Mt. Rushmore and both get abducted by magical aliens for an exciting adventure around the world.

Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance has the mercenary antagonist Bernd Buhl, who causes some problems for Noose the genetically engineered dwarf mercenary.

In a perfect world, I would get both books translated into German, and the kid’s book into Hindi.

However, I don’t know how much such a translation would cost.

I quick Bing search gave me some English to German translation rates. Anywhere from 7 to 13 cents per word.

Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance, about 74,000 words, from $5,000 to $10,000!!!

The Elemental Odyssey, about 96,000 words, from $7,000 to $12,000!!!


And that’s just for German.

For Hindi, one quote for translating the Elemental Odyssey was $20,000!!!!

Unless there are MUCH cheaper translation services out there that I’m just not finding, my books won’t be translated any time soon.

Sure, it would be nice to get in the ground floor of two new markets. But I don’t have the sales numbers to support it.

What this means for me

Unfortunately, my books will only be available in English for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, there is still a market for English books in Germany and India.

What this means for you

If you’re just starting out like me, I doubt you have enough revenue to sink $5,000 into translations. If I were you, I’d concentrate on writing more books in English. When you start making a hundred grand a year on your books, then look into paying someone to translate a book. It might be worth it.


If you know of any translation services (for English to German or Hindi) who give free quotes, let me know. I’d like to get more data to determine if 7-13 cents is reasonable.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Writing and the rejuvenating power of reviews

I’m trying to finish the first draft of my next novel by the end of July so I can do revisions in August and September and hand off to editing in October.

My goal is to get the book published (ebook and POD paperback) in time for Christmas. Why Christmas? Because ereader sales are going to take off thanks to prices under $100 and a bespectacled kid named Harry Potter.

I expect JK Rowling’s impending ePotter empire to spur holiday ereader sales to previously unheard of levels. And the best part of this is, for me, most of the new users will be kids and YA fans – the target audience for the Tales of Zura, my YA action/adventure/fantasy series.

After those kids devour the Sorcerer’s Stone in two hours, they’ll need something else to read on their shiny new Kindles, Nooks, and so on. Hopefully, they’ll find The Elemental Odyssey and its sequel Where Magic Reigns.

On average, I wrote about 1 hour and 45 minutes per day so far this month. Last week, I wrote for a total of 16 hours. I think that’s a record for me during a work week.

In the 17 days I’ve been sprinting to get the first draft done, I’ve written 32,544 words. The draft is now up to 67,002 words.

This has been a struggle. It’s not easy to find the creative energy to write a couple thousand words every day after spending the workday doing brain draining technical writing.

But, as Lone Watie said, “endeavor to persevere”*.

13 days left in July, and at least 3 more big things have to happen in the book. First draft will probably end up close to 100,000 words. 13 days to write 33,000 words. It’s going to be photo finish.

Some things that help rejuvenate my creative energy are the nice reviews The  Elemental Odyssey has been getting. Even though sales haven’t taken off yet, I do have 5 invigorating reviews up there, plus Scott has posted about it (and Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance) on his blog. Thanks, Scott!

I thought I’d mention a few quotes from the reviews that I particularly appreciated:

S Kjerland

“…I found it hard to put down.”

“I highly recommend this book to kids over age 10 and adults who want a fun read.”

SD Beallis

YA Fantasy brims with Originality...

“…I couldn't wait to get back to it when I'd put it down…”

“…a fun journey of discovery…”

“…an entertaining adventure story…”

JK Wegehenkel

“The young adult fiction genre is a bit crowded of late, it’s nice that Canyon here has got a fresh take on it.”


“An entertaining, action filled story.”

“The characters are the defining element of this story. The four kids are not stereotypes, in fact they seem extraordinarily well drawn, and they always act the way the character should, based on what we know.”

“…filled with unconventional but well-paced action in atypical settings…”

Thanks to everyone who reviews my books!

And to everyone else, if you like any author, my advice is to go give them a nice review, telling them what you enjoyed from their books. It does wonders for motivation and might help the author get another book out quicker for you to read!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The slush pile is dead! Long live the slush pile!

Two more self-publishing authors, Mark Edwards and Louise Voss, just landed a $ix figure/4 book deal with Harper Collins. You can read about it here.

There have been other examples of publishers signing self-publishers, most notably Amanda Hocking.

I say congratulations to anyone who achieves enough success self-publishing to attract the attention of a publisher! I’m not going to pontificate the royalty calculations on these deals. That balancing decision is the job of each writer based on each specific contract.

But I am going to pontificate on this budding strategy of some publishers to sign successful self-publishers.

Right now publishers are swooping down from the skies to snatch up successful self-publishing writers. No one expects this kind of behavior to stop and why would it? If a publisher sees someone selling tens of thousands of copies of their book in one month, that’s undeniable evidence that there is demand for their book.

Up until the self-publishing ebook revolution, the main way publishers or agents could find successful new authors was by digging through their slush piles or getting tips from trusted friends and colleagues.

And even if they pulled something they liked from the slush pile, there was no hard evidence that it would sell once published. It was just a guess. They hoped it would sell, but only after it hit the shelves would they know.

Then along comes ebook self-publishing. Agents/publishers now have a resource of hard facts to help them determine if a new author can sell: Amazon sales rank.

I’ve read that agents don’t enjoy combing through their slush piles. Out of a hundred query letters, how many do they request samples for? Five? And from a hundred samples, how many do they make offers to? Not many.

So how long will it take for agents to bypass their slush piles entirely and only scour the Amazon/B&N/etc. self-published authors for their next client?

Right now only the very successful edge cases are getting publishing deals. Authors selling tens of thousands of books a month. How long will it be before agents start approaching authors selling 5000 books per month? 1000?

How long will it be before agents don’t need to go through their slush piles because they can be more successful searching through the top 100 books in the genres they represent?

Why would anyone want to toil through hundreds of query letters? Instead, an agent can browse the self-published ebook lists, check rankings, read samples, read reviews, check the buzz on Goodreads, Shelfari, and any of the other ebook forums that exist and will soon exist. That is a wealth of verbatim reader comments and sales data that is not available from a slush pile.

It will be the trailblazing agents who recognize all of that wealth of information as guideposts to their next successful client. Eventually, more and more agents will do the same.

The agency slush pile is dead! Long live the Amazon ebook slush pile!
The title for this blog was obviously a premature exaggeration.

I don’t think the agency slush piles will die off any time soon.

But I do expect them to become the exception rather than the rule for agents to acquire new clients. Eventually, most agents will demand proven ebook sales before they look at your novel. Who knows when the tipping point will arrive?

The new slush pile will be the Amazon category top 100 lists and its equivalents.
Are you ready to take advantage of it?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Writing report

Between June the 26th and July 3rd, I’ve been very disciplined and spent at least one hour each weeknight, plus at least 4 hours each weekend, working on the sequel to The Elemental Odyssey. In that time I’ve written 15,000 more words. Woot!

Unfortunately, I also discovered that I didn’t like act two of my outline, so I had to re-plot it.

My goal is get the sequel published before Christmas to take advantage of all the new YA readers who will be getting an ereader for the Harry Potter ebooks.

In order to achieve this I have to write at least 10-12k words each week to get a first draft complete by the end of July. Then I’ll take about a month or two of rewrites, handing off to editing no later than October.

Well, that’s the plan, anyway.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

June 2011 sales report

June was my ninth month selling ebooks.

I sold 1378 units of 4 different titles in June. That is a decrease of 43% from May’s sales of 2406 units. This is my 3rd highest selling month on record. But this is also the largest monthly decrease I’ve seen yet. I’ll examine the causes further down.

My average sales per day were 77.6 in May and 45.9 in May.

Unfortunately, my royalties also decreased for the first time in 9 months:

My royalties decreased from $2913 in May to $1320 in June. That’s a 55% decrease! Ouch.

What caused my sales decline?

Back in March I lowered the price for Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance from $2.99 to $0.99. This resulted in a significant increase in unit sales and royalties.

On May 9th, I raised the price for this ebook from 99 cents back to $2.99. Unit sales declined but royalties shot up through the roof, making May the best royalty month I’ve had.

I watched as unit sales declined and my Amazon ranking worsened to around #3709. I finally decided to lower the price back down to 99 cents on June 9th.  Since that time rankings and sales have been very slowly improving, but not enough to help out June sales.

I think three things might be slowing down the recovery of Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance:

1.    Book buying slows down in the Summer? I’ve read on another blog that Summer sales decline. Can anyone else confirm that? I would think that Summer-time would mean more time for reading fiction.

2.    Amazon’s big price reduction on 600 titles to $2.99 or lower for Big 6 books. This pushed a lot of self-publishers out of the better sales rankings.

3.    Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance has peaked and is now going to settle down to lower plateau of sales.

All of these reasons are just guesses, of course. It’s probably too early to give much weight to reason #3.

Now the good news

Gross royalties are up to $7,555 for the last 9 months. If sales continue as they have for the year, I’ll gross around $14,800 in 2011.

Profits from my epublishing endeavor now stand at $2,956 over nine months.

Two books have made profits: $3,222 for Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance and $2,065 for Format Your Ebookfor Kindle in One Hour.

And some not so good news

This was my first month both my unit sales and royalties declined. I still earned more than $1,000, but it was a disappointment. An inevitable event, but still not something I’d like to repeat in July.

Dead Dwarves, DirtyDeeds is still in the red by $18. It should start turning a profit in July.

The Elemental Odyssey is still in the red by $2,312. This is the book I’ve spent the most money on and it’s the only book in paperback so far. I think it has the potential to be my best-selling book, but it’s only sold 37 copies so far. It needs to find its audience. I don’t think that many young adult readers have ereaders yet. I’m hoping that when the Harry Potter books come out in ebook form that they will cause a holiday spike in new Kindle/Nook/etc. purchases. Then, when kids have finished reading Potter, they’ll need another adventure. Hopefully some of them will try out The Elemental Odyssey and the sequel, Where Magic Reigns.

What this means for me

I believe that I left the price for Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance at $2.99 for too long. I should have lowered it before my category ranks fell out of the top 20.

I also need to get more books out in the series. It is imperative that my readers have more to buy. I’m currently working on my YA sequel, which should be out for the Christmas buying season, but immediately after that I’ll be writing the sequel to Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance.

What this means for you

There are dangers with price experimentation. If you leave your book at the a higher price point for too long, its rankings could worsen to a point where it’s very difficult to regain those valuable top #20 category ranks.

My advice is to raise your price when you're in the top 10 of some category lists. Then lower it again when you hit rank #17-20 in the categories. I think it is very important to stay in the top 20 for at least a couple categories. That keeps your book on the first page of those lists! Prime real estate.