Writing Wednesday

  • Writing Wednesday

    Writing Wednesday: Price Points

    I’ve released two books back to back so far this year, MAGIC & MANNERS in March, followed by ATLANTIS FALLEN in April.

    As an experiment, I priced ATLANTIS FALLEN $2 cheaper than M&M, to see if the number of sales at the lower price point made up for or (hopefully) outstripped the profit I make off the higher purchase price of MAGIC & MANNERS.

    It did. Just barely. It took about 28 of its first 30 days to catch up to MAGIC & MANNERS’ first month, and in the last couple days it inched into making slightly more money than M&M had, but we’re talking about…$110 more. Which is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also not a great argument for quantity over…er. Higher price point. Whatever single word we would use to mean that. :)

    There are an overwhelming number of unknowns in this variable, making it pretty well impossible to say whether ATLANTIS FALLEN would have done (financially, for me) just as well at $9.99 as it did at $7.99. Just a few of those variables are:

    – it was the second book I released in a row; perhaps at $9.99 it would’ve sold fewer copies because of that

    – it’s urban fantasy vs historical fantasy, and urban fantasy is kind of what CE Murphy is Known For, so perhaps the price point didn’t matter at all because of Preferred Genre status

    – I promoted MAGIC & MANNERS pretty damn relentlessly its first month but was much more lacksadaisical about ATLANTIS FALLEN

    All of those and other things could be factors. Absolutely no way of telling.

    A thing I’m finding really interesting, though, is that throughout April, and so far in May, MAGIC & MANNERS is only slightly behind ATLANTIS FALLEN in absolute number of sales (and consequently slightly head in actual profit, because of the price point difference).

    The wonderful thing about that, from my perspective, is that although I have a perception that readers feel Urban Fantasy is My Thing, it may be really that CE Murphy is My Brand and that’s what people are buying, more than a specific genre. Which is what a writer hopes for, of course, so yay! (Especially yay because whoo boy do I have a wide variety of stuff coming out over the next several months! :))

    At any rate, I think I’m going to leave ATLANTIS FALLEN at $7.99 and see how the two books play out over the course of several months or even a year, just out of curiosity. All of this is a long-term game

    Oh, and for those who are curious: NO DOMINION, which was released, er, several years ago now, doesn’t seem to be getting any kind of boost from the new books. It’s still selling about what it has been the past couple-three years, which is both interesting and totally fine. If its sales represent the long-term income/sales numbers for any given book then someday that’ll be a modestly decent income to rely on. So that’s cool.

    Obligatory link salad:
    Kobo || Kindle || Nook || Amazon || Audible
    & at bookstores near you! (ask them to order you a copy!)

    iBooks || Kindle || Kobo || Nook

  • Austen Chronicles,  CEMurphy,  Writing Wednesday

    The Magic & Manners Project: Publication Process

    Part two of my series on all-out self publishing, a project I’ve taken on with MAGIC & MANNERS, a Jane Austen pastiche in which I wondered what would happen if the Bennet sisters had too much magic rather than too little cash. Part One, which focuses on finding and working with a production team as well as developing a work flow (including a Helpful Check List) is here.

    This week I’m going to look at the actual publication process. I’ve been working through Amazon and Ingram, who are both doing what’s called Print On Demand (POD), which means the book is printed when you order a copy, rather than having copies sitting around a warehouse waiting for someone to order them.

    I assume you know about Amazon. :) They have a couple of self-publishing arms, one for print books (CreateSpace) and one for ebooks (KDP). Bookstores, very reasonably, don’t want to buy print books from Amazon, and Amazon has a captive audience for its ebooks, as they’re the largest distributor of them and have the lion’s share of the market with their Kindle e-readers. I am, largely, not going to talk about Amazon, because it’s such a closed ecosystem the whole process is somewhat different.

    Ingram is one of the two largest book distributors in the world; they are, in other words, the people from whom the bookstores buy their books. They have a self-publishing arm, IngramSpark, and it used to be that in their listings (where bookstores order from) they listed the self-published books separately, in an area where they wouldn’t come up for a bookstore unless the store went in there specifically looking for it…which bookstores had no reason to do. A while ago, though, I read that Ingram had changed that policy and that Spark books were now available broadly throughout their system, and I’ve been very interested in pursuing a self-published book with them since, because the theory here was that a self-published CE Murphy book could now turn up in (say, the Barnes & Noble) system and cause them to say “oh sure we’ll order that.”

    It’s not actually that easy, because without a reason to look for a new CE Murphy book there’s no reason they would, but in theory, it *allows* them to, at least. I’ll get to promotion in a later post, because it’s going to be too big to bite off here, but in short, right now that’s why it’s really fantastic for readers to go into their local bookstores and ask if they can have a copy ordered in, and suggest short-ordering (which means just ordering a couple of them) some for the shelves.

  • Writing Wednesday

    Writing Wednesday: Patreon patronage

    A while ago I was muttering about how I wanted somebody I *knew* to have test-run a relatively new distribution opportunity for self-published writers, and one of my friends said, “Er, Catie, you’re the one who does that. You go charging off the cutting edge and we all wait to see how it works out and then follow, having learned from you.”

    I said “!” because I didn’t know that was a thing I was perceived as doing, but since it apparently is, I’m gonna talk about my experiences with Patreon now. :)

    I’m on my second Patreon project: the one currently running is an Old Races Short Story Project, plus occasional extra sundries as I happen to do them. My first project was MAGIC AND MANNERS, a Jane Austen pastiche in which I asked the all-important question, “What if the Bennet Sisters had too much magic rather than not enough money?” (It will be widely available in October! Or November if things go badly, but definitely around then!)

    Patreon has two options: one is that patrons pay a creator Per Thing, and the other is that patrons pay a creator Per Month.

    I did M&M as a weekly serialized novel, with Patreon’s Pay Per Thing option, with a promise to not post more than one chapter a week, and with a guess as to how many chapters it would run, so that patrons could decide how much they wanted to/could afford to pay per chapter.

    It worked, but frankly, I don’t recommend serializing something on Patreon that way.

    The problem is that on the creator end, you end up getting nickel-and-dimed on micropayments and percentages going to the site. If I post 5 chapters in a month and get paid Per Thing on it, and someone donates $.25 per chapter, or $.05, I can end up actually getting nothing at all from their donation after the credit card fees, which do not like tiny tiny payments at all. This isn’t good for anybody! My patron has spent fifty cents (or whatever) in support of…credit card fees…and I have given chapters away! (Which frankly bothers me a lot less than the idea that people who are trying to support me are only succeeding in supporting a credit card.)

    I think there’s a great window of opportunity for Per Thing support on Patreon, but serializing a book is not the way to take advantage of it. I think it works better for more one-off kinds of projects: songs, completed books maybe, poems, paintings, I don’t know. Not chapters, though. Not in my experience.

    I therefore debated with myself a lot over whether I was going to do Per Thing or Per Month with the new Old Races Short Story Project. My goal is to post a story a month, plus some extras, but Patreon WILL let you *not* charge for something, so I could’ve kept doing Per Thing.

    But this is a thing I’ve noticed by running crowdfund projects: lots of people are actually interested not just in The Thing, but in Supporting The Artist. Especially if it’s relatively convenient. Many people have $5 (or whatever) that they’re willing and able to spare per month to help artists, you know, not starve. Or pay the rent, or the cable bill, or just basically worry a tiny bit less about all of those things so they can do more art.

    It makes practically every creator I know twitchy to imagine going out and just…asking for money. “Hi! I’m a writer! Give me some money so I can write, please!” We almost all feel like we had damn well better provide something in exchange for that money. We almost all always *do* provide something in exchange…but honestly, my experience has been that most of the time, patrons say “No problem,” if there’s no new content that month. Especially if they’ve been warned in advance, as I did when I switched my Patreon from the M&M project Per Thing payment system to the ORSSP By Month system. I did that in May or June, and told my patrons I’d be starting the new ORSSP in September.

    I lost a handful of patrons, but I expected to lose *most* of them, and was kind of stunned that I didn’t. And now the new project is underway and I’ve picked up more patrons, and I’m getting near to my funding goal, which is enormously exciting to me. So I’ve learned that Patreon is a spot where creators can potentially go to just hang in there for a few months if life gets chaotic (as, gods know, mine did this summer), because a majority of patrons really do seem to be there to support the artist; the stories and whatnot are sort of a perk.

    I’m trying to come up with some closing statements here and not doing very well. I think the Per Thing model is a really good one, especially for bigger ticket projects (hello, Amanda Palmer), but I didn’t like it for myself for a weekly Per Thing. I’d no doubt be happier with it as a monthly Per Thing rather than a weekly one, but there’s an ease in the Per Month payment, because that way I don’t have to set it to trigger a payment on a piece when I post it. (That burned me last year, when Patreon’s user interface wasn’t as good/I hadn’t grimly memorized what I had to do, and I ended up posting several things for free, which was aggravating because it was so easy to do accidentally more than because I hated to post the chapters for free…)

    A thing to remember going into it, though, is that Patreon isn’t Kickstarter. With all that that entails, good and bad. It’s not a huge cash cow, generally speaking. I know artists whose Patreons will cover a nice dinner out with drinks, monthly (or, more practically, the cable bill). I know others who are actually breathing more easily because they’re paying the mortgage now, and others who can buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks once a week with their Patreon funds. It doesn’t have that shiny video-game high-score goal thing that Kickstarter does, or the pressure of SUPPORT IT NOW BEFORE IT DISAPPEARS! And that’s not its purpose, of course, but it does mean it’s a very different kind of fundraising and success has to be judged very differently, and realistically.

  • Writing Wednesday

    Writing Wednesday: Discipline

    @kit_flowerstorm on Twitter asks me to discuss how to practice the discipline of writing.

    This is a question I get a *lot*. I don’t know if all professional writers get it a lot or if I do because I seem to have a particularly impressive output (or if it’s just that, as I actually *noticed* a few weeks ago, I work a lot).

    There is not a romantic answer to this question. The truth is that when writing is your day job, you sit down and (if necessary) struggle for the words just like you might go to a more typical job and struggle through the day, regardless of how much you might not want to. It’s what pays the bills, so it’s what you do.

    Furthermore, you know what it takes. It takes sitting down and writing. It takes getting your butt in the chair and your writing instrument to hand and doing it. There’s no romanticism to that either. It takes screwing up more times than you can count and frustration beyond compare and aggravation and polishing and trying to do better, but at the end of the day nothing’s going to come of it if you do not sit down and write.

    Those things, however true, are also perhaps not necessarily a very useful answer. This, though, might be:

    First, you have to want to write more than you want to do anything else. *Anything* else. You have to want to write more than you want to hang out with your friends. More than you want to sleep, because you can get up an hour early or stay up an hour late and get in a little writing time. More than you want to go to lunch with your coworkers, because you can steal 30, maybe 45 minutes of writing time if you eat a home-made lunch and hide in a corner for the rest of lunch hour and write. More than you want to watch TV or go to the movies; I have a friend who says if you have time to watch TV, you have time to write, and she is absolutely correct.

    It’d be good if you don’t want to write more than you want to exercise, because exercising is really good for you and helps clear your head and can make writing easier. So try not to want to write more than you want to exercise, but really, you’ll probably want to write more than you want to exercise.

    You have to accept that if you want to write professionally, you’re going to have to treat your writing like it’s a job. It’s not a hobby. It’s a job. It’s almost certainly a job you’re not getting paid for, and if you’re a typical writer, you won’t get paid for it for a long time. I wrote five full length manuscripts and at least two massive partials over the course of a decade before I got a contract. This is pretty normal. You have to be somewhat obsessed to pursue something like that for so long, at the expense of things listed above and things like the things listed above, for so little reward. For possibly *no* reward, because getting published is hard.

    But if it’s what you want, if it’s what you really truly desperately deeply want, you will find the discipline to do it. You’ll skip lunches out, you won’t watch tv, you’ll choose to write for another half hour instead of going to the gym (don’t do that, go the gym), you’ll forego sleep in the name of a few more words on the page.

    All of this is vastly more difficult if you have a child. If you’re the primary caregiver to a child and you’re trying to write and you find even five minutes to get some words on a page, you are hugely admirable and should be proud of yourself.

    You will not always want to write more than you want to do anything else. That need will come and go. You can beat yourself up for it if you want, but honestly it’s better if you try not to. If the real, deep, frustrating desire to write is there, you’ll go back to it after a while. Maybe after a month. Maybe after a year. Maybe after five years. If you don’t feel the pull to go back to it, don’t worry about it. It’ll be okay.

    If you do feel the pull, you’re probably a hopeless case, under which circumstances I can tell you that deadlines are possibly the most useful discipline-keeper that I know. I do not believe in the Douglas Adams school of deadlines; I do not enjoy the sound of them whooshing past over my head. Writing groups can be helpful for that, if you’re not good at setting and keeping your own deadlines.

    Daily wordcount expectations can be helpful, even if it’s just 100 words. Don’t be overly ambitious with wordcount goals. It’s much, much better to have a tiny goal and over-reach it than a big one you have a hard time reaching and missing a day of which will put you so far behind you give up forever (or at least weeks).

    Exercise helps. I swear to God, it really does. Whatever kind works for you, going for a walk, going to the gym, swimming, yoga, whatever. Moving a little bit loosens up everything, including your mind, and it can make it easier to get those words on the page.

    But ultimately, y’know, you’ve just got to sit your butt down and do it. I really don’t know any other way.

  • Shaman Rises cover
    Writing Wednesday

    Writing Wednesday: Outlining a Series

    Beth Cato, author of the splendid CLOCKWORK DAGGER books, said she’d love to know more about my outlining process(es) for series.

    bahahahwoooohahahahahaha ahahaha bahahah hee hee hee

    *wipes eyes*

    Okay. No, seriously. *laughs* Seriously, it’s an excellent question/thing for me to think/write about. The truth is I’ve become much more serious about outlining in the past few years, but I haven’t yet taken it to the series level that I’d *like* to. (I should, in fact, be looking very hard at REDEEMER and perhaps MAGIC & MANNERS in those terms right now.) So I’ll talk about what I’ve done so far, with–well, I’ll start with a particular focus on the Walker Papers, but honestly if you guys would like me to I could do a pretty thorough discussion of the development for any or all of the series I’ve worked on. Let me know if you’re interested in more than just one development examination!

%d bloggers like this: