Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest post: Michael Kingswood

I thought I’d give some time to another new author to relate his journey into self-publishing. Michael writes in multiple genres (hard sf, fantasy, post-apoc, horror, etc.). 

Here's Michael:

When Derek asked me to write a guest post on his blog, I was surprised and a bit flattered.  This is the first time I’ve done a guest post, so I’m pretty psyched.

I’m pretty new to the writing scene.  I’ve always been a big reader, but writing?  Not so much.  Don’t get me wrong, even though I’m an Engineer and a Navy guy, I’ve written a lot of things over the years: essays, reports, technical procedures, briefings, letters, blog entries, you name it.  Various people told me I was a good writer through the years, and I once or twice thought about writing fiction, but never did anything about it. 

The closest I came was in online role-playing games called multi-user dungeons, or MUDs.  They were text based, so when the Everquests and Worlds of Warcraft of the world became popular, they lost most of their players.  But I’m a guy who grew up playing Zork and other Infocom text-based games, so I was instantly attracted.  Plus, since they were text-based, the role-playing was very intense and cool, and really was just like writing a story, or to my way of thinking at the time, like playing a D&D game.  My favorite MUD was called A Moment in Tyme, and it was set in the Wheel of Time universe.  I’m a bit of a Robert Jordan fanboy, so that was wicked fun.  I spent many hours over the span of five or six years role-playing swordfights and other things with my warder character, and political intrigue and magic with my Aes Sedai character.  I was disappointed as the number of active users slowly dwindled to virtually zero.  And then I stopped logging in also.  What was the point with no one else there?

I still have the logs of those role-playing sessions.  Looking back at it now, I realize I was writing fan fiction all that time, though I didn’t think of it that way.

A few years passed, and every now and then I’d be reading a good book or something and think something along the lines of, “How cool would it be to be Robert Jordan?”  When he died in 2007, I was saddened for his family’s loss.  But I’ll admit my first thought when I heard the news was, “Oh no, now the story will never be finished.”  I felt bad about thinking that right off the bat, but it’s the truth.

When Brandon Sanderson was tapped to finish the Wheel of Time, my first thought was, “Who the hell is that?”  I quickly found out.  And then a bit later, I discovered his Writing Excuses podcast.  For at least a year, I listened to that podcast, at first to get to know who he was, and then later because their discussions of how the writing process and the writing business works was fascinating.

But still I didn’t do anything.

At some point in this time period my sister finished a book.  Then she got an agent!  Holy cow, I thought, she’s got it made now!  Well maybe not, I’ve since come to learn.  I was proud of her, but also felt a bit shamed, because she’d done something that I’d halfway thought about doing several times, but never had.

So last summer, I sat down and wrote a chapter.  And did nothing with it.

Then, for some reason, over Christmas I blew the dust off, threw out most of what I’d written, and started over.  This time I didn’t stop.  By the end of January, I had 17,000 words or so written.

At some point in January I decided if I was writing a book, I’d better figure out how to get it published.  I recalled a Writing Excuses episode about agents, where they discussed Dean Wesley Smith’s “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing” post where he took on the general mythology surrounding agents.  That post was one of the first blog posts I ever read about the business of writing.  I devoured the rest of that series.

Then I looked for more, and I found cool indie writers like Derek, Aaron Niz, J E Medrick, and others.  Reading about what they were doing, and in particular seeing Derek’s openness with his process and his numbers, gave me encouragement that I could do this thing.

And so I did. 

It’s been a good first year so far.  I have a bit over 150,000 words written, and more to come.  My novelette, Passing in the Night, got an honorable mention from the L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.  It, along with several of my short stories, is for sale in all ebook outlets.  Dean Wesley Smith is letting me come to one of his writing workshops in the spring.  And best of all, I finished my first novel, Masters of the Sun.  It just went live earlier this week.


Ten years after the Troubles that ended civilization as we currently know it, isolated settlements of survivors have resumed trade and are beginning to rebuild. In the small settlement of Glennville, Jack Simmons lives as a hunter and trapper with his friend and mentor. Haunted by and unable to move beyond the lingering pain from his losses during the Troubles, he nevertheless has found a measure of contentment. But when the trade caravan brings word of a mysterious and mystical threat in the west, he finds himself thrust on an unwanted journey to discover the source of this threat and how to counter it.

Fast paced and action-packed, Masters of the Sun is the story of one man's perseverance in the face of adversity and of the rebirth of magic into a crippled world.

Masters of the Sun grew out of a question I debated with one of the other officers on my submarine while we were on deployment a few years ago: if modern society collapsed completely, and no modern tools could be used anymore, how long would it take for humanity to regress to the stone age?  I think it would be very quick, less than a generation.  Depressing, but true, I think.  How many people know how to survive in the wild, let alone run a forge?

Over time, that question morphed, and I began to wonder what if someone during the collapse of civilization learned how to really work magic?  What would happen then?

You can read my vision of what might happen in my book, available on Amazon, Barnesand Noble, and Smashwords (and in a few weeks on the Smashwords premium distribution channels: Apple, Sony, Kobo, and Diesel).  It’s just in ebook for now, but at some point in the near future, once I figure out how to do it, it’ll be out in trade paperback as well.

Thanks, Derek, for what you do here in your blog, and for your hospitality.


Thanks for telling us about your journey as a writer, Michael. I, too, spent many hours with roleplaying (Dungeons & Dragons, Twilight 2000, Star Frontiers, Harn, Deadlands, etc.) and I agree that it is a great way to nurture imagination and writing. With several books out you’re well on your way to a good income boost, and probably an eventual writing career.

Now, everyone should go check out Michael’s books!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Amazon Kindle Bestsellers Rank and daily sales

I don’t claim to know how Amazon determines the Bestsellers Rank of my books. Common theories include some algorithm that includes total number of books sold, number of books sold in the past X days, number of books sold in the past y hours, sales of other books, tag activity, page view activity, movement of the asteroid Ceres in relation to the constellation Orion, and so on. Apparently, Amazon also changes their algorithm from time to time. So, if you’re selling 20 books a day and getting into the #4000 range one season, you might sell the same amount next season but barely break #8000.

However, I do keep pretty meticulous sales data for my books and I can try to correlate the number of units I sell to the Amazon Kindle Bestsellers Rank.

Here’s a chart of my best-selling book, Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance. The top graph shows daily unit sales, and the bottom graph shows sales rank.

As you can see, there’s a pretty direct correlation between my spike in sales and my better sales rank. One day in April I sold 126 copies of the book and achieved my best sales rank of #333.

These days, I’m selling between 10 and 20 copies a day, and my sales rank fluctuates around #5000 to #9000.

You can see that around the beginning of March I was also selling around 15 copies a day, and my rank was around #5000.

Even at the current #8000 rank, Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is showing up in the top #100 for a couple genre lists (Kindle SF High Tech and SF High Tech). Unfortunately, not in the top #20, which is the sweet spot to be in because your book shows up on the first page of the list.

I hope this helps you other writers get a feel for the relationship between daily sales and Amazon Bestsellers Rank.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August 2011 sales report

August was my 11th month selling ebooks.

I sold 877 copies of 4 different titles. That’s a decrease of 27% from July.

My royalties also declined from $1,066.97 to $866.89.

My average sales per day were 38.9 in July and 28.3 in August.

If sales continue like they have for August, I should gross about $12,500 in 2011. Down a couple thousand from my estimates a couple months ago, but still quite nice.

Alas, I don’t like seeing those lines on the charts heading down. However, there is only one thing I can do, and that’s keep writing.

I’m working diligently on Where Magic Reigns, the sequel to The Elemental Odyssey. I'm on the 3rd draft now, should be on 4th this weekend. My plan is to have it published before December so I can take advantage of all the Harry Potter fans getting ereaders.

I’ll probably take December off from writing, as I’m doing a good job of burning myself out on Where Magic Reigns over the past couple months.

Starting in January, I’ll get going on the sequel to Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance. I’ll be very interested to see how the sequel to my bestselling book does in 2012.