• 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: 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!

  • Writing

    Reader Questions: Process & Pagecount

    Lots of process questions, so I’m going to tuck them together into one and answer different aspects of questions people have asked!

    Lola & Anne just want straight-up process discussion, which you’d think I’d have covered with the posts for the last couple of weeks, but you’d be wrooooong. :)

    Then Kat Bonson follows up with How does your writing process work (e.g. do you write specific # of pages a day or is it a hit & miss kind of thing)? How does your agent/editor fit into your process?

    I have a pretty standard writing process, which is not necessarily one that I’m always pleased with. It generally looks like “write 30% of the book, hit a wall, go back, fix the things that are wrong, write up to about 70%, hit another wall, go back, fix the things that are wrong, complete the book, fix the things that are wrong…”

    It does not matter if the book is 60,000 words or 175,000 words: those are the benchmarks regardless of word count.

    What this gets me is a pretty clean first draft, or what I call first draft (despite what the folders in my writing directory may say)–the thing I send to my editor, anyway, because by the time I finally get to the end I’ve usually fixed most of what I can fix without outside interference.

    Occasionally there is a massive, massive rewrite called for by editorial, and that begets a whole different kind of process which I will write about soon if I remember. But we’ll stick with non-traumatizing books for now. :)

    Typically I write books in order. Chronologically. More recently, one of the ways I start to know I’m really coming near to the end of the book is that I find myself wanting to skip ahead to write the end. Generally I go right ahead and let myself do that, because it’s much more agonizing to wait than it is to just get it out of the way, and sometimes it informs me about things that have to happen between where I am in the story and where my subconscious is telling me it’s going to end up.

    Probably the first time I did that skip-ahead thing was with SPIRIT DANCES, the 6th book of the Walker Papers, for which I wrote the final chapter immediately after writing, er, COYOTE DREAMS, the 3rd book of the Walker Papers. Then I sent that chapter to my editor as part of my proposal for books 4-6. You think *you* guys had a long wait for that scene, holy carp, my poor editor read it YEARS in advance and KNEW IT WAS COMING but had to wait through the *five other books* I did for her before she got to read the whole story! :)

    (Incidentally, aside from one direct-to-the-reader comment from Joanne, the final chapter of SPIRIT DANCES is actually almost identical to the one published.)

    The last time I did the skipping around was with SHAMAN RISES, the final book of the Walker Papers, which I wrote–by my standards–hugely out of order…but as my husband pointed out, it is The End. It’s the culmination of over a million words of writing. If I’m inclined to write the end out of order, it kind of makes sense that I wrote that whole *book* out of order.

    I don’t know yet if the intensive synopsizing I talked about last week will affect the out-of-order ending (probably not, as I skipped ahead and wrote the end of STONE’S THROE too, and I had a really solid synopsis for that one), but it *does* significantly reduce the 30 & 70% impact walls.

    In terms of daily page count, well, my perpetual goal is 1100 words a day, every day. I never do that. The one year I averaged it was the busiest writing year of my life (and I also moved overseas o.O), but it remains my goal. More realistically, if I get the chance to sit down and write at all, I tend to feel like if I don’t get a thousand words it wasn’t much worth sitting down to even try–but it can be really hard to keep the momentum going when I *don’t* get to write every day, so I try (not particularly successfully) not to beat myself up about it too much.

    It’s easiest to not beat myself up when I’m starting a book and feeling the characters out and stuff. The thing I’m working on now, it took three days and probably four or five hours to get the first thousand words down, but today I did a bit over 4K in 3 hours or so. Beginnings are slow, but once I get my feet under me I pick up speed. The truth is I like to binge write, and if I can get four or five days of dawn-to-dusk writing in I’ll write 30 or 40K and I’m happy as a clam. I don’t write anything ELSE for weeks after that, but it’s great while it lasts.

    Probably 95% of my agent’s input is “work on that, I think it’ll sell” with the occasional “I didn’t like this bit,” which then causes me to go 1. NO YOU ARE A FOOL THIS IS HOW IT MUST BE, *pause for reflection*, 2. NO I AM A FOOL YOUR WAY IS TOTALLY HOW IT MUST BE, HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT, or alternately 1. holy shit, what a great idea, I’ll incorporate that!

    There is no 2 after that one. :)

    My editors’ input is actually fairly similar, though with less emphasis on the “work on this, it’ll sell” and more on the insightful commentary that causes me to be embarrassed that I didn’t see it in the first place. I rarely think they’re fools, although I invariably have a OH GOD YOU HATE ME HOW CAN YOU SAY SUCH THINGS ABOUT MY BAAAAAAAAABYYYYYYY reaction before getting over myself.

    I’ll talk about the occasions upon which they ask for something more dramatic in a different post. :)

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