Why do you write? What are your goals as an author?

There are as many answers to these questions as there are authors but I think most authors can be broadly divided into two camps – the ones whose answers mention money and success a lot and those that don’t. I am one of the writers who does not mention money as a motivator – don’t get me wrong, I am not criticising those who do nor am I saying I wouldn’t like to be able to make a living doing what I love but it is not my key motivation.

If you go looking for advice about writing on the internet you are likely to find a lot about maximising sales and how you too can make thousands of dollars a month by just following some simple tips. The truth is that if you want to make a living writing your best bet is to work hard, put in the time writing anything and everything that makes money – magazine articles, novels in fashionable genres, non-fiction, anything you can sell. If you work at it hard enough, write enough and sell it well you stand a chance of making a living at it. Don’t let anyone criticise you for doing it either, if it works for you then go for it.

If you want to make a fortune as a fiction writer with work you genuinely believe in, the works of fiction you love and have carefully crafted and poured your heart and soul into, then your best bet may be prayer to your deity of choice. The truth is that this only happens for a tiny minority of writers. It would be marvelous if it would happen for all of us but the reality is that it probably won’t.

So, if you can’t make a lot of money or be offensively rich and famous, if you can’t even make a living at it then why bother? Simple. Because you are a writer. It is something you are, not something you do. Even the people who seem to be writing anything they can to make money are doing it because they love writing, they are just more felxible about what they are willing to write.

Sure, if you are like me then the books you publish will not be much in the way of sales and even your free downloads won’t be anything to get over excited about. However, if you would be writing them anyway you might as well publish them online – it is free to do and gives you a new hobby, checking download numbers, which will give you a few days of joy and many days of self doubt. Of course, if you are a writer self doubt is an old friend so you’ll enjoy that.

Why do I write? Largely because I can’t stop myself, I am writing stories in my head all the time so I sometimes have to force them out onto the page.

What are my goals as a writer? To keep writing, it is just that simple.

Failure to Launch.

No, not the awful rom-com. That is a movie so bad I think it may technically qualify as a crime. Instead I am talking about the launch of my latest book, New Dawns, which collects the serial I published recently.

For the launch two promotion were booked in, one was booked on 23rd November and the other on 28th November, both through fiverr.com. The first I have used before and confirmed I was booked in for 5th December, the other I haven’t used before and I have not heard a word from. Neither put anything up yesterday. Neither replied to questions about when the promotions would go live yesterday.

End result, no sales whatsoever.

So, a total failure of a book launch. The big problem is that you can never get back that launch day feel and the promotional value of it. Hopefully they will get back to me today, or at least soon, and run the promotions but it is a big missed opportunity. Isn’t it annoying when things out of your control wreck your plans? I guess I should have remembered the old saying ‘Men make plans and God laughs.’

Career change.

Over the years I’ve worked in all sorts of industries – telecommunications, insurance, legal & tax publishing, boat building, transport and local authorities to name just some of them. I’ve done customer services, logistics, IT, reporting & analysis, website creation, marketing and all sorts of other jobs inbetween. All of this after orginally studying for a degree and masters in Chemistry. However, about this time last year I got made redundant and had to rethink things.

I applied for over 300 jobs, no idea how many over that – I just stopped counting at 300. The redundancy money soon ran out. After 9 months I finally got a job, the workplace was odd and the people odder, the money was not great either. After 3 weeks I gave my 4 weeks notice, you see I had done something useful with my time off and tried to change my career and I was finally getting the chance.

Now I am doing teacher training, specifically Early Years (pre-school, kindergarten, whatever you call it where you are) teacher training. I’d always been interested in going into teaching but had always been put off as everyone wanted me to teach teenagers Chemistry. If I’d had the interest to sustain a career in Chemistry I’d have done a PhD and gone into it full time 20 years ago! So now I am busy doing a university course and a placement in a nursery, I’m busy and struggling to find time to write but I am finally finding out what job satisfaction is!

Serial Fiction

The final part of New Dawns, Season One, went up on Amazon on Friday. First time I have published a novel in serial form and the first time I have written a Christmas story to finish off a book. The collected version will be out in a couple of weeks (on 5th December) so I need to work out how best to market that and see what sort of download numbers I can get.

What have I learned from writing a serial? First and formost, if I am going to commit to a publishing schedule then I need to have everything written first or specific time set aside to write that cannot be taken over by other things. Everything but the final part was ready to go when I set it all up, the final part was tough to write as I had no time to do it and a commitment to get it out in the same schedule as the rest.

Secondly, serial fiction is a complex beast and very different from writing a novel or short story. Each individual part of a serial must be a satisfying story in itself. Not necessarily stand-alone as it is part of an ongoing narrative but a satisfying read on it’s own. Did I manage this with New Dawns? Probably not with every part. Honestly, New Dawns would probably have worked better as the first novel in a series. In any future serials I will try to think more like a TV series – the first part is the pilot and the others the individual episodes. New dawns was possibly more like a mini-series – one story split into parts – and the individual episodes should probably have been longer and thus fewer in number overall.

Will there be more New Dawns? Sure there will, there are a million more stories I can tell in that setting but I need to work out the best way to tell them. For now, I am ready to move on to the next idea and see where I end up with that. Will it be another serial? That will very much depend on the idea.

Sales and downloads.

In the past I’ve put up a lot of information about sales and downloads but recently I haven’t updated on the last few promotions – increased busyness in real life reduced time to post updates! Instead I thought I’d put up some total figures as they might be of interest.

A bit of history to start with, publication dates.
Second Time Lucky? and Sovereign Nation went up in mid-to-late September 2013.
Chasing The Future went up on Amazon in July 2014.
The various parts of New Dawns went up in October 2014, with another part going up the end of this week and the final one going up when I have finished writing it.

Second Time Lucky? total downloads: 1,153 (1,146 free, 7 sales).
Sovereign Nation total downloads: 1,243 (1,221 free, 22 sales).
Chasing The Future total downloads: 325 (320 free, 5 sales).
New Dawns (all parts) total downloads: 474 (458 free, 16 sales).

Overall total downloads: 3,195 (3,145 free, 50 sales).

Broken down by country:
2,929 in the USA.
162 in the UK.
30 in Germany.
22 in Canada.
14 in Italy.
8 each in France, India and Australia.
6 each in Spain and Japan.
2 in Brazil.

In just over a year that is 3,195 total downloads! Way above what I would have expected. Yes, it is mostly free downloads but I don’t care about that. Even assuming that the highest downloads (Sovereign Nation) are unique readers and that every other download has come from subsets of them that means over 1,200 people have read something I have written. At least I can be sure it is too many for it to just be friends and family!

Christmas in November (and October).

Admittedly Sainsbury’s had the Christmas biscuits out for the August Bank Holiday weekend so you could argue I am a little late but it still seems odd to write a Christmas story now. Then again, if I wrote it at Christmas I’d be releasing it after Christmas – not exactly a great release strategy!
The final part of New Dawns is set at the first Christmas for the colonists on humanity’s new homes, hopefully giving a positive and uplifting ending to the story. The only problem is, how do you get into the Christmas spirit so early? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m trying but it just feels downright odd, especially as the past few days have been bright and sunny! I’m in London, October and November are supposed to be cold! We’ve got better weather now than we had during some of the summer, where’s the snow?
I guess I could put on the Christmas 24 channel but I fear that many TV movies may melt my brain. A Christmas carols CD? If they get stuck in my head and I start wandering around humming them it will make people think I’m crazy. Well, I guess I am stuck with just using my imagination – serves me right for writing fiction!

Sequels and where to go next.

My serialised novel, New Dawns Season One, is being released a week at a time, Sovereign Nation is out there, Chasing the Future was released a while ago, Second Time Lucky has been out for a year – so, what’s next?

A Christmas story for New Dawns is needed to cap off the first season, then there will probably be a collected edition. The Christmas story will tie up most of the main storyline, or at least get them to a place where a pause is appropriate before season two. It will be somewhere between five and eight thousand words if all runs to plan, making the collected edition around forty-five to fifty thousand words long.

When I was talking to a friend about Sovereign Nation recently he said that he was surprised anyone survived it as I was killing off characters at a high speed, then I realised the sequel is similar in a way – lots of characters die and there is a lot of injuries. So, I want to do another sequel but I want to make it a bit less bleak, the Carters need to have some fun. I’ll probably come up with another novella or short story to carry on their adventures, a palate cleanser if you will, and then decide what comes next.

Then all I need to do is decide which of my dozen other ideas should be done next. Sci-fi? Fantasy? Romance? Thriller? Who knows?

New Chances free promo results.

New Chances went up for a free promo on Friday, the idea being that people would download it and then by the second part, New Beginnings. As a free download it was a success – 213 in a day. As a way to get people buying part two, not so much a success – no sales of part two. So next week I am trying running free promos for New Chances (15th to 18th October) and New Beginnings (16th to 20th October) with part three, New Homes, launching on 17th October. Will there be any cross promotion? Wait and see, I guess.

Chasing the future, my novella sequel to Sovereign Nation, will also be eligible for a free promotion again this coming week. Sovereign Nation has been a bit more successful so maybe it is worth putting this up for a free promo too? I will have to think about it, how to market a sequel is a new puzzle to solve.

New Chances Launch Results.

So I launched the first part of my new serial on Friday, New Chances is the first part of New Dawns Season One. I priced it at $0.99 / £0.77 and booked in three promos for it. It has sold 7 copies (and one Kindle ‘borrow’) since launch. Not exactly flying off the virtual shelves.

But, I have a plan. This Friday part two goes live so I am going to make part one free for one day only, with a Bknights promotion. Will free downloads of part one lead to sales of part two or pre-orders for the other parts? I have no idea, I guess I will find out Friday.

Final free promo results!

Ok – the free days are over, the promos have run their course, it has all gone quiet. So, how did it go? The final download figures are below:

Second Time Lucky (23rd to 27th September)
USA
23rd 592
24th 176
25th 47
26th 42
27th 28
Total: 885

UK
23rd 6
24th 3
25th 0
26th 1
27th 1
Total: 11

Elsewhere: 9

Total overall: 905

Sovereign Nation (26th to 30th September)
USA
26th 197
27th 241
28th 220
29th 80
30th 162
Total: 900

UK
26th 7
27th 7
28th 8
29th 2
30th 4
Total: 26

Elsewhere: 24

Total overall: 950

First conclusion – I really just need to focus on the USA as a market! Second conclusion – Bknights promos work better for free books than for $0.99, by quite a significant factor. Genrepulse’s Fiverr promo seems to be ok but doesn’t provide as big a boost as Bknights. I am unconvinced by Authorchathost’s Fiverr promo, they assure me they promoted the books where they said they would but I couldn’t see them and I didn’t see any uplift in downloads either.

All in all a massive success in terms of numbers though. Both books getting over three and a half times the number of free downloads they’d had in the previous year in the course of a week!

I think as a minimum a Bknights promo can be justified every time the books go free. Now I just need to see what happens when my new serial launches on Friday!