Things are going well, it seems, re: Never Let the Right One Go.

Things are going pretty well, it seems. I didn’t get as much First-Reader feedback on Never Let the Right One Go as I’d been hoping for, though I got as much as my past experience led me to expect, and after another couple passes I think the text is about as good as I know how to make it. I did a full read through of both books at the end of the week, making small changes as I went, and was very happy with how each story unfolds – even when read simultaneously, alternating chapters between the two books. I was pleasingly entertained, after a month of worrying whether the books were good enough.

I’ve heard back from one of the two photographers whose images I wanted to use on the covers, and barring an unexpected problem with getting a model release signed, have permission to use their image. I’ve begun working on the full-resolution image for the dust jacket, with it. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but I also recently found some music I wanted to use for the intro/outro of the audiobook versions (I normally compose something myself, but have been having difficulty coming up with anything I liked for this project), and this morning I heard back from the composer with permission to use it. All I’m waiting on now is permission from the other photographer (or to locate another acceptable photo for Sophia, which I can get license for) and the rest is good to go. I’ve been spending a fair proportion of my worry over the last month on the matter of getting permission from other creators, and it’s nice to have this (mostly) resolved.

The Kickstarter campaign for Never Let the Right One Go is only at about 20% with less than five days left, and unless there’s a surge of interest in the next few days (I don’t really know how to create one) it looks like it won’t be funded. This is okay, as I’ve said before: I can afford to do a limited-edition print run (probably 50 hardcovers, though I’m now considering an even smaller run) without funding, and without my business going into the red for the year. Being funded would be better, and knowing I had more than half a dozen potential buyers up front would be nice, but I’ll find the readers for these books eventually. Sadly, without funding (or more art sales) I won’t be able to afford to buy the font I want for the text. Oh, well.

I expect to begin recording the audiobook versions either this week or the next, and to send the “Beta” or “ARC” (Advance Reader Copy) version of the texts out to Beta Readers and reviewers as soon as I’m done working on the audiobook. Depending on how my voice and ears hold out, possibly by the end of the month. I still seem to be on track for getting everything together for a mid-May eBook release and hardcover availability, and I’m thinking of making the official release date 5/12/2012. (Though I probably won’t have the hardcovers in hand (and almost certainly not signed, numbered, and ready to ship) at that point.) I haven’t set down a release schedule for the audiobooks, yet, but probably I’ll be releasing one chapter of each book once a week, with (say) a chapter of Sophia on Monday and a chapter of Emily on Friday (with a couple poems from Unspecified, which I haven’t podcast yet) on Wednesdays. That would stretch it out to just over 26 weeks, not being complete until late November. I’ll have to check their policies in May, but has said they want to move to only accepting “complete” audiobooks, which would mean neither book would be available there until the end of November. Meh. If people want the whole thing sooner, they can come to and/or pay for it.

I think that’s it for status updates. Things aren’t as good as they could be, but they’re going pretty well. Getting more feedback, hearing from the other photographer, finding another 30 backers, these things would be nice – but I’ve gotten some good feedback, I’ve heard from some of the creatives I want to integrate the work of into mine, and I’ll be able to afford to publish something very close to the premium edition of the books I’ve been imagining. Plus: I’m aiming for finishing (if not publishing) another 3-4 books (or more) this year, and I don’t feel I’m over-reaching. There’s a good chance they’ll all be digital-only.

The possibilities of focus

I’ve been so scatterbrained, lately. Depressed, for sure, which has led to months without significant work, but which has also led to this recent paucity of focus. I spent most of 2011 reading, researching, and planning toward writing my vampire duology, with the intention of being able to write both books rather quickly – possibly within November, for NaNoWriMo. I wrote roughly half of the two books (most of one, and part of the other) in November, and have eked out another 6 chapters or so for them since then, but I still have about 20 chapters remaining to write.

There’s so much work yet to be done on these books. Beyond the 60+ good hours of writing it will take to finish the first drafts, there’s initial editing so I can send to my Beta Readers, then days or weeks waiting for them to get back to me with their feedback, then re-writes and edits based on that feedback and possibly (if I can convince anyone to re-read the books so quickly) a second round of the same. Once I’ve got the basic text in good shape I’ve got to do another close read (copyediting) before I begin recording the audio version – a step which always finds new errors and awkward sentences/dialogue in the text, and which I prefer to do before publishing, when possible. I’ve got to do the interior layout, which shouldn’t be too difficult at this point and with all the experience I have, but I’ve also got to design the cover in three ways, for each individual eBook as well as for the paper/limited-edition/flipbook, hopefully all as a single image. I’ve got to do fundraising (possibly via Kickstarter) to pay for the paper edition, which almost certainly takes weeks or more. Actually podcasting the audio version may take up to a year, though it’s the hundreds of hours of recording, editing, and assembling them which I’ll want to have done before publication. After all that, getting the eBooks ready will be a snap.

Why am I thinking about all this? I just noticed January has slipped away, almost without my notice, and February is at hand. Tomorrow I’ll process the data on January eBook sales and (possibly) update the prices on some of my books/eBooks, according to the formula I rolled out at the start of the year. This has reminded me that Phoenix Comicon is coming up at the end of May; hopefully the significantly lower prices this model affords my paperbacks will result in increased sales at Comicon. This has led me inexorably to the idea that, if possible, I’d like to have my vampire duology flipbook on hand and for sale at the Phoenix Comicon. Which led to thinking about everything in that last paragraph, and more.

Part of the ‘more’ is all the other projects I’ve been working on lately, in my lack of focus, especially the interactive book on writing and publishing. I mentioned on Google+ last night that, in addition to beginning to write that book, I spent some time mapping out its (quite complex) hypertext structure; it’s intended to be read in a non-linear way, like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book as well as a cross between a memoir and a how-to guide for independent writing and publishing, and it’s been percolating up through my mind for years. At the current stage of mapping and note-making, I’ve already got forty-plus chapters/chunks started; if no more occur to me, and they’re each the 1500+word chunks they’ve been becoming so far, it’s already shaping up to be book-length, complex, and interesting. I’ve got at least another 60 hours of work just writing the thing, and possibly over 100 hours, the way it’s been going.

(I won’t even mention each of the other projects I’ve had queueing up and being worked on by my scattered thoughts and efforts, except to say that if I continue on as I am, none of them -certainly not the vampire books- will be finished by Comicon.)

According to my calculations, if I seriously applied myself, I could finish the first draft of the vampire duology in six or eight solid days of work, since I’ve already got it all well-planned and developed. The same is roughly true of the book on publishing; six to ten long, hard days of dedicated work and I could have a first draft complete, from where I’ve already got it. The work would be intense, draining work, and would require me to (somehow) overcome the worst elements of my own insanity; what I have been trying to figure out is whether, if I actually applied myself and accomplished those things, would I have the time needed to get either (or preferably both) projects ready for sale in time for Phoenix Comicon. All that extra work I listed off in the second paragraph – can it be completed and the finished books delivered to my hands before the end of May? And if so, is it worth it to me to try to do so?

If I set myself to these tasks/goals, to this deadline, the aspect most at risk for being potentially short-changed is the editing/rewrites. Getting people, even family and close friends, to read a single book and give feedback (even just basic spelling & grammar, to say nothing of content) in as little as a week or two tends to be a huge fight and to carry a significant attrition rate. I dread sending out two (or worse, three) books with the intention of getting meaningful feedback on any limited timeline, for free. I don’t know how long professional editors would take to do the work, but I know I can’t afford such a thing right now. There are some other parts of the work I can accomplish while waiting for feedback, such as cover design, or working on the other title, but if I expect to incorporate any meaningful changes to the text, the bigger time-sink of recording the audiobook has to wait. I can probably start fundraising before completing the final edits of the text, which helps even out the timeline, some.

Let’s see what the hard deadline would be… Phoenix Comicon runs May 24-27 (Memorial Day Weekend, except without the Memorial Day), which means I’d want to have any items for sale there on hand no later than Tuesday the 22nd, for booth setup Wednesday. LSI typically takes about a week from when I send them the files before they approve a title for printing, then another 3-5 days to print, then I have them shipped via UPS Ground (because shipping heavy things like cases of books any faster is prohibitively expensive), so to be conservative I need to submit the files three weeks before I need the books on hand, at the latest. That means I have to have the book ready for print on or before May 1st.

Yow. 90 days.

If I go mad (in a good, hard-working way) for the next couple/few weeks, I can finish at least the vampire books by the end of next week, and possibly all three books the week after that, and get them to my Beta Readers before mid-February. I’ll need not less than a week after I think I’m done editing the book to work through the audio version, probably at least two weeks, plus time to make final changes to the layouts & text after that, so I should say I need to be done polishing the text by mid-April. That doesn’t sound so bad.

Of course, if I continue to have trouble focusing, trouble writing for long periods, or writing at reasonable rates, even with significant daily work it could take me until mid-March to finish the first drafts. Ugh.

What if I need significant re-writes? These books are important to me. Important that they express what I want them to express, even to casual readers. Not so important that they read like mainstream fiction… they’re not even in the same realm as that. But important to me that they’re good, that they do what they set out to do. Tell the stories they were meant to tell. I don’t know. I don’t really even know how to do re-writes. (Ooh; I’ve just added another chapter/chunk’s beginning to the book on writing/publishing, about my editing/rewriting process, or lack thereof.) If my Beta Readers all come back to me saying something like “we don’t really believe Emily is in love with Nicholas; you have to show it, make us feel it, it isn’t there”, or “we couldn’t buy in to anything Nicholas and his group were doing; it was obvious you disagreed with everything he had to say or tried to do”, I may just have a total breakdown, as that would mean most everything I’ve worked so hard to accomplish (in one of the books) I had failed at, compromising the work straight to the core. I might have to take another year on the re-writes, or I might just publish as-is, with the admission that I’m a shitty writer… I don’t know where my emotional collapse would leave me, after excellent feedback like that. (Although, really, I’m just kidding myself with ideas like that; I have never in my life received feedback of that caliber. I don’t know whether it’s because the people reading my books understand my intent and I’m actually doing what I meant to do, or whether my goals were so far beyond the beyond that no one even know what was wrong, and that I’ve secretly, quietly, been a dismal failure all these years. (On the other hand, based on the comments in the worst of my reviews, the one and two star reviews, the single-sentence reviews, the reviews from people who admit they quit reading in under 50 pages… the things those people hate about them are generally all the things that were so important to me to accomplish, or were at least intentional. Not failures of writing, but failure of readers to appreciate what the author was setting out to do. The polarizing effect of my work has become quite encouraging, lately.)) I feel like time is my enemy, at times.

Still, even with worst-case responses, if I can get any meaningful feedback out of people within a month of sending them my books, even that should give me enough time to accomplish significant rewrites, if necessary. Whole chapters, or plot-lines, could be replaced in the time remaining… So I suppose that’s what I’ll have to do. Start applying myself. Intensely. Finish three books’ first drafts in the next three weeks, and have them ready for publication within the next three months.

I’d be tempted to find some money in the budget to order a bunch of modafinil, but I suspect that, if all goes to plan, I’ll be done (or very nearly done) with the most intense part of the work before the drugs arrived from my international pharmacy. If I didn’t have an unnatural aversion to 1) seeing doctors and 2) dishonesty, I’d be much better off convincing a local doctor to write me a prescription for the stuff, and picking it up at my local pharmacy the same day. Somehow, violating federal and international laws bothers me less than either of the things involved in obtaining modafinil the way I’m supposed to. Oh, well. If I had modafinil on hand, I wouldn’t have even had to question any of this, as getting this level of work done would become nearly trivial. *sigh*

I’d better go get to work.

eBooks versus audiobooks, looking at my latest numbers

eBooks are on the ascent, serialized audiobooks are declining. At least for me and my books, they are. All the books I make available in one format, I’ve also made available in the other (except for poetry, so far), so comparing them seems pretty reasonable to me. There are a few discrepancies, for example Cheating, Death, which I made available for free as a serialized audiobook almost immediately, but kept the eBook for sale only for over a year, and which made very few eBook downloads (and a lot of audiobook downloads) during that period. Things like the Untrue Tales series give my numbers hiccups, because of the various versions which have been available over time, and ongoing differences between eBook and audio versions, not to mention that each successive book after Book Two gets fewer downloads. If you didn’t see my latest post with numbers for 2011, you may want to go take a look before reading this post. At least to realize, yes, all my analysis is based on real numbers, and lots of them.

For all my titles, every single one that was available in both formats, in 2011 the free eBooks were downloaded more frequently than the free Podiobooks. For every book other than Cheating, Death, the ratio of eBook to audio is not less than about 2 to 1, though the Dragons’ Truth eBook was downloaded almost 6 times more than the audiobook. If I just look at Q4 of 2011, the numbers are even more significantly disparate; even the Cheating, Death eBook was downloaded 4 times more than the Podiobook, and Dragons’ Truth was around 14 to 1. (Most titles were at 5 to 1 for Q4, though my least popular Podiobooks (short stories & director’s cuts) were at 6 or 9 to 1.) Looking at Q1, Q2, and Q3, I find that Cheating Death had twice as many audio downloads as eBook downloads, and that the Untrue Tales books were pretty closely matched, but that the rest of my titles were 2, 3, or 4 to 1 being downloaded as eBooks instead of as audiobooks.

In 2008, all the books I had available for free in both formats (and most of them in 2009) had more downloads as Podiobooks than eBooks. Consequently, I spent a lot more time and effort working on the audiobooks side of my production efforts. By 2010, even with eBooks downloads relatively flat, all my titles except Cheating, Death and the Untrue Tales series were doing better as eBooks. Those few titles’ popularity as audiobooks meant that my total audiobook downloads for 2010 were nearly double those of my eBook downloads, despite every other title going the other way!

One conclusion to draw from this is that the exceptions more closely represent the genres the audience at is interested in, and that my other titles didn’t do as well because they weren’t the right books for the audience. On the other hand, by mid-2011 my Untrue Tales books were being downloaded twice as often as eBooks, and in Q4 five times as often, plus in Q4 of 2011 even Cheating, Death had four times as many eBook downloads as audiobook downloads. Some of that has to do with my eBooks being linked to by big “free eBook” sites, but a lot of it has to do with more and more readers being turned on to eBooks, generally.

I can’t say whether the audience for serialized audiobooks is growing or shrinking, but based on my numbers, I can say that my appeal to that audience is shrinking or already tapped out. It’s possible that there’s a core audience of several thousand Podiobooks subscribers and it took me a couple of years to reach them, but that now all the core members have been exposed to my stuff it’s only the new members subscribing… and that the gradual decline relates to some expression of that. Yet even when, after a period without updates, I returned to updating regularly, adding new books every few months and at least one new episode every week, the peak my numbers hit was only about half what it had been about a year earlier, with 50% fewer titles to contribute to the total downloads. The average number of downloads my Podiobooks have been receiving, per title, has been pretty consistently dropping off for two full years, and are now less than 1/6th what they were in January 2010.

I don’t think this is just because they aren’t fresh, new titles – they’re the same titles I have available as eBooks, and eBook downloads have been moving pretty steadily upwards for the last year and a half. …and except for 4 inbound links in Q4 of 2011, I haven’t done or seen anything to advertise/promote any of my titles or formats over the others in the last two years. I hate marketing, promotion, et cetera, and I’ve been pretty lazy about it. I almost haven’t even Tweeted in the last two years. I blog a little, update Facebook/Twitter/G+ when I have a new thing, once or twice, then mostly don’t mention it again. So it must be something else. I think it’s just that the audience listening to audiobooks is small and the audience reading eBooks is growing.

Numbers for Q4 and 2011 overall

It’s that time again, kids! Time for a huge post with way too many numbers. Love me some numbers. You should see the spreadsheets I’m working with, here – if you think these posts have a lot of confusing numbers, know this is a tiny fraction of the data. If you want it all, I’ll gladly share it, just ask. I figure for most people, these summaries are more than sufficient.

Briefly, first, before we get into the hard numbers: eBook downloads were way, way up for Q4 of 2011. This is largely due to traffic from, which linked to Cheating, Death on October 16th, to Unspecified on November 9th, to Dragons’ Truth on November 29th, and to The First Untrue Trilogy on December 23rd. Total eBook downloads (across all titles) were up more than 100%, quarter-over-quarter. Podiobooks downloads continued their decline; my numbers there only seem to hold steady or increase while I’m actively releasing new content, but mostly they’ve just been declining for the last two years. For Q4 I had roughly $29 in eBook sales, and Podiobooks lumped Q3 and Q4 donations together – my cut was $9.74 for the 6-month period (which equates to $12.99 in donations). I also sold a full set of the Untrue Tales series in paper for $50.

Now, so they’re in the same format as the other quarters of 2011, here are all the eBook and Podiobook download numbers for/through Q4 of 2011, as usual giving the total of eBook downloads, the total of Podiobook downloads, and the more-accurate (re: # of people who dl’d a full book) total downloads of the final episodes of each Podiobook, as: eBook/total-PB/final-PB

  • Lost and Not Found: 494 / 1,376 / 97
  • Dragons’ Truth: 2,123 / 1,527 / 155
  • Forget What You Can’t Remember: 729 / 5,828 / 140
  • The First Untrue Trilogy: 1,034 (eBook only)
  • The Second Untrue Trilogy: 557 (eBook only)
  • Untrue Tales… Book One: 1 / 3,032 / 198
  • Untrue Tales… Book Two: N/A / 4,015 / 264
  • Untrue Tales… Book Three: N/A / 1,656 / 144
  • Untrue Tales… Book Four: N/A / 1,301 / 113
  • Untrue Tales… Book Five: N/A / 1,140 / 113
  • Untrue Tales… Book Six: N/A / 1,076 / 102
  • Cheating, Death: 1,567 / 5,834 / 356
  • Lost and Not Found – Director’s Cut: 260 / 345 / 29
  • More Lost Memories (full): 335 / 702 / 39
  • More Lost Memories (ind. stories, eBook only): 3
  • Time, emiT, and Time Again (full): 277 / 761 / 48
  • Time, emiT, and Time Again (ind. stories, eBook only): 6
  • Last Christmas: 3
  • Unspecified: 1,537
  • Total Q4: 7,390 / 28,593 / 1,798
  • Total 2011: 17,502 / 151,233 / 9,784
  • Total all-time: 33,195 / 543,595 / 35,237

re: Podiobooks downloads: It looks like about 200 people started the Untrue Tales series, I lost a good chunk in Book Two, more in Book Three, but the 100 people who made it to Book Four stuck with it to the end – which matches what I’ve previously observed. Downloads of my short story collections and the Lost and Not Found – Director’s Cut were off by about 50% quarter-over-quarter, to fewer than 50 people finishing each title during the entire quarter. Everything else is just less than flat, part of a gradual overall decline.

re: eBooks: Only about half of the people who downloaded The First Untrue Trilogy downloaded the second, which has remained roughly true since I released the eBooks (60% over the life of the eBooks). (This is unfortunate, as I believe books 5 & 6 are some of my best writing to date, and that the second trilogy is much better than the first.) Unspecified was released at the beginning of Q4, and has been downloaded more in Q4 than all but 2 of my titles, which is saying a lot, since it’s a poetry book. The only titles which did better where my YA novel and my zombie novel, and Unspecified was only 30 downloads (>2%) behind Cheating, Death. All free eBook downloads were up for the quarter, probably owing to the free-ebook-seeking traffic linked in as mentioned above, but eBook purchases for the period were down again. It looks like I only sold 21 eBooks across all titles and all platforms during Q4, 2011. Continue reading Numbers for Q4 and 2011 overall

I’m so glad it’s nearly over

For the last week or two, I’ve been quite tempted to just go upload all the remaining episodes of Untrue Tales… Book Six to and be done with it, forsaking the schedule I painstakingly designed and then promised to my readers/listeners. I’m sure some subscribers would have been happy to have the rest of the book sooner, but since the end of the book was available in print and as an eBook on April 1st, and was completely available on the Modern Evil Podcast about a month ago… they could have gotten it “early” one way or another. On the other hand, when I promised books four through six I said there would be new episodes of Untrue Tales every week through the end of June, and I haven’t missed a week yet, and we’re there. I suppose that I could release the last episode today, since it’s the last week of June, and not be contradicting myself by putting it up a couple of days early? Bah. I’m going to stick to my Wednesday-release schedule for

Either way, I’m glad it’s nearly over. I’ve been wanting this series to be behind me for quite some time. Also, this is the last remnant of any ongoing work for any of my existing projects. After the final episode of Book Six is uploaded to, everything is potential future projects. Stories I haven’t written yet, books I haven’t read yet, art I haven’t thought of yet… no schedules, nothing set in stone, nothing ongoing or weekly or really even seasonally or annually, since my plan for this vampire duology doesn’t neatly fit NaNoWriMo, just… nothingness. Err.. I’m supposed to say “possibiltity” instead of nothingness, right? Make it seem less suicidal to be happy to be clearing my plate?

Anyway, the final episode of Untrue Tales… Book Six, the final episode of the entire six-book series, goes live at this Wednesday. Perhaps I should write a paragraph or two to hand Evo to post on the Podiobooks blog when it goes up, commemorating the end. I’ll think on that.