Well, the first draft anyway. I’m flabbergasted, exhausted, and other adjectives. I’ve written 62 pages in the past 11 days, and I freely admit there are some dodgy, dodgy bits in that last sprint to the end — but it’s all there. It’s a complete narrative, it works how I wanted it to, ends how i wanted it to. On Spell/Sword it took me longer to edit than to write, so I take comfort that I can take as long as I need to fix all of the fiddly bits. I’m tremendously proud of this one, I have no problem saying [believing] that this book is better than the first. I’m going to put in a drawer for a couple of weeks and let it cool down and come back fresh — I’m sure then I’ll be singing a different tune, but for now LOVE AND PEACE.
Here’s some crunchy numbers:
In published form: 52,000 words
The Riddle Box
Rough Draft: 65,000 words [21% longer!]
Started Writing: 4/26/2013
Finished Rough Draft: 9/24/2013
YEAH! Excited and a little exhausted. I’m going to unplug my brain and put it in a nice cool cup of yogurt for a while.
So, I gave my book away on Kindle for five days, how’d that go?
This is mainly for the edification of other self-publishers, or folks who are just super nosy about my BIZZ.
Big Caveat, right off the top. I am a terrible and slap-dash marketer. There are many, many people on the internet who are much more consistent, pervasive, disciplined…and successful than I am at self promotion. So this was an experiment, with little leadup-or follow through. I knew I was going to attend DragonCon, that place is bursting at the seam with nerds, fish in a barrel, right?
So, here’s what I did to prepare.
I went through my Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard, and activated the days I wanted for the Free Promotion. You are
allowed 5 days per…quarter? I went ahead and set it to run over all of Labor Day Weekend, and then the Tuesday after. The rationale being, that if people find out about the sale, or pick up some of my promotional items, they can download the book when they get home.
Talked it up here on my blog, and also on my Facebook fanpage. [Become a fan, if you’re so inclined! There’s all sorts of randomness I drop on the fanpage, that doesn’t merit a full blog post. Button’s on the right hand side of the page.]
Made a post in a Free Ebook subreddit, to hopefully attract some folks to my blog.
Printed 1000 business cards to pass out at Dragon*Con, each with the cover art on one side, and a quick pithy description of the special and the book on the back, with a QR code that lead directly to Amazon. [This cost me about $50 bucks.]
Printed up some special shirts for my local friends who were attending the convention. [And also stuffed a few cards in their hands to pass out themselves.]
Quick pact with a lesser demon.
Things I Didn’t Do [and Probably Should Have]
There are tons of sites and twitter feeds that advertise Free Ebooks. I researched a few, but it all just seemed so sleazy and mechanical. I’m as desperate for readers as any other Level One Author, but I’m hoping to start this out with something a little more personable than a free Ebook spam. There probably are better venues out there that I didn’t find, but as usual, I ran out of time and decided not to worry about it.
Attend Lev Grossman’s panel and denounce him.
Throw some cards at Jim Butcher like ninja stars.
Make a lengthy pact with a major demon.
So, a fair amount of time invested, and a small amount of cash. How did it turn out!
Free Downloads of Spell/Sword: 315
315. Copies of my book. Out there in the world. Hopefully 315 copies that will be read and cherished and reviewed on Amazon or Goodreads. Spell/Sword is sold through two services on the Amazon platform, Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace for the paper version. Because of this it’s a little fuzzy on getting exact sales numbers, especially going back all the way to April when the book was released. Prior to this special, my lifetime sales of the book were somewhere between 125-175 copies. That means in one weekend, I increased the number of copies of my book in the world by easily 200%.
I’m sure other authors have had more success than I, with much better planned promotional strategies. But I’m stoked, regardless! For the amount of time and money required, this thing was an excellent experiment.
As usual, I ramble. Let me know if you have any questions about any of these numbers or details, or about the processes used to make all of this happen.
Look, you’re a smart person. I’ve just spent a whole week listing reasons why my book is going to be free, and why you should take a few seconds to download it for free this weekend. But I know none of that matters. You are a discerning individual, who makes decisions in their own time –in their own way.
So if this doesn’t convince you, The Seven Reasons My Book is Worthless:
And here’s the one where I stop being self-deprecating, and lean on the Vainglory Lever.
In my unbiased opinion, Spell/Sword is the most important book currently available in print. It’s cheeky, unbalanced, not professionally edited — it’s peppered with the mistakes that a Level One Fantasy Author, such as myself, is bound to make. But it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter. Because I’m on to something. I’m up to something. I’m taking a swing at the whole epic fantasy genre. Tropes and troubadours and troubles and trousers. I want to break it and honor it and love it and push it screaming off a cliff.
And I’m doing it wrong, I’m making mistakes. But in the rubble I will stumble into moments of glory and wonder.
Reason #7: Because It Isn’t
I wrote a book! I worked very hard on it, and damn if it isn’t unique and spiffy.
Run down to the bookstore, or glance over your Goodreads lists. How many of them have all of these things?
– fairy tale mythos
– an eel-powered juke box
– a female protagonist with no romance subplot
– a male protagonist who uses a sword, but isn’t really that good at it
– roller-skating frogs
– a long lost civilization whose technology and architecture have completely defined the modern era — but are only barely mentioned or explained (Trust me, it’s for your own good. If you get me going about the Precursors, the Arkanic civilization, the books are going to get really, reeeeaaaaallly long.]
– lesbian bards who’s sexual preference is of almost no interest or relevance to the narrative
– foreshadowing that doesn’t resolve in the same book (it’s episodic story structure, DEAL WITH IT)
– bunnies with mechs
– villains who aren’t
– heroes who aren’t
– the only book that lives in what Terry Pratchett called the ‘consensus fantasy universe’.
– one really mean turtle
– The Gray Witch [shudder]
This book is my first controlled stab at establishing Swordpunk, and even through all my anxiety and hubris — I think it matters. I think my work matters. I think there are a lot of people who can pick up the melody, and will want to sing along.
I’m going toe to toe with authors with a lot more experience, the armory of a publisher at their back, and let’s be honest, almost as much talent. I’m never going to get there if more people don’t read the book, and join the Swordpunk Army.
Or I could be wrong. I could be talking a great game, and the book is still garbage.
One of the many difficulties of being a self-published, broke-ass author is exposure. You don’t have a publisher’s marketing department behind you, you have no prior work to lend credence to your work, your operating budget for publicity is whatever cash you can scrape together after you pay rent, utilities and your re-occurring subscription to Jams and Jellies of Eurasia Quarterly.
Your only recourse is a slow-slog. Word of mouth from your friends and family helps, but it’s a trickle. You go from blog to blog, hat in hand, begging for reviews. Throwing rocks every which way on the internet, hoping the book will hit the right person at the right time.
I’m throwing darts at the cosmos, here.
So, when the chance arrives to throw more darts, it’s an opportunity that cannot be missed.
Reason #6: Dragon*Con
I’ve gone to this convention for the past several years, but this time I go as an Underground Sensation.
I’ve printed up some T-shirts for my kind friends and Brand Ambassadors who will be attending, and in their pockets will be hundreds of business cards. Simple cards advertising the Free Kindle version of Spell/Sword.
I just have to hope and pray that people take them, that people find them where I hide them, that con-goers won’t find it weird to find stacks of these arranged like a ziggurat in the Men’s Bathroom at the Hyatt.
There’s no special code or anything, the book is just going to be free on these dates.
In a crowd of 50,000-100,000 nerds, dorks, and geeks – there must be a few that can catch what I’m laying down.
Hey! In the remote chance that you read this AND you find one at the Con — take a picture of yourself with it, and send it to me. I will be completely flabbergasted and gin up some sort of reward for you.
I am a creature of avarice and cynicism. Pure altruism, idealistic devotion, working on faith — these are all grand, wonderful things that I have a serious problem operating with. If I’m doing something, if I’m working towards something, I need there to be a concrete goal. A carrot on the end of the stick. I want my paycheck. I want my experience points, and if I break all the jars there better be some fucking rupees shining inside.
So, how am I able to keep working on my self-published fantasy series? A difficult task with innumerable pitfalls, hurdles, frustrations, despairs, and sorrows — a task with little immediate gain, far less ultimate reward…and an atom’s breadth chance of eventual success in the world at large.
Come close, let me whisper it to you. What I see at the end of the road, my dream job.
Reason #5: The Dream
I wake up in the morning around 8:30. I lay in bed for a bit and collect myself, maybe thumb through the internets conveniently distilled onto my phone. Then I get up, conduct my morning toilette, walk the dogs, feed the dogs, pet the dogs. Household tended to, I head to my office.
At first it’s just a desk in the back of the house, but slowly as time passes it morphs into an office. Some quiet corner made of brick and steel, with comfy leather chairs and an upstairs loft where I’ve constructed a nap room.
I sit down, sometime around 9:30-10. I flip open my noble Chromebook, or jab the spacebar of the hulking computorial behemoth I’ve purchased with my latest writing advance.
And then I write.
I write stupid stories, and funny stories, and stories full of blood and woe. Stories about Jonas and Rime and their long, strange journey.
And somewhere out there in the stranger world, people pay to read them. They pay me enough that this is all I need to do.
Some hours later, friends wander into my office and I stop working. I go for a long late lunch, then come back to my office to write some more.
I knock off in the early afternoon to beat the traffic, and because it’s time to go pet the dogs.
I walk home, planning the evening and letting the day’s stories settle and writhe in the weird back 40 of my brain.
The next day I do it again.
That’s my dream. My carrot, my XP, my rupees in the jar.
That’s why the book is free. Because that dream is way better than the buck I’ll make from you buying it.