Since The Spiders of Halros was featured on Wattpad it’s started getting some reads. The determining factor is unquestionably visibility. You can see from the graph below that prior to January 8th, almost no one was reading the book. Over the past two weeks with no other change—beyond being placed on Wattpad’s Featured Fantasy page—the same book, with the same blurb, and the same cover went from the 89 reads it had garnered in the months prior to some 4600 reads. Note that Wattpad credits you a read for checking your submission, so 37 of the 89 previous reads were me. It’s too soon to say if this trend will continue (or drop off again) and of course putting a book on Wattpad is the same as giving it away, but The Spiders of Halros is already free elsewhere, so why not? The hope is that an author can find new readers and some of them will stick around. Time will tell.
As a guy with a generally unapplied economics degree, I have a lifelong fascination with graphs and statistics. Wattpad provides information about which demographic your readers fall into. It also shows what percentage finish a section, and you can extrapolate even more useful information than is given outright about the response to the writing in question. Call me a nerd, but I think that’s kind of cool and hopefully will be useful. With a large enough sample size you might actually be able to determine if a chapter sucks;) When people download your free book from somewhere else, you never know if they’ve just added it to virtual pile or actually read it. With Wattpad you can tell how many make it through. Right now it’s looking like about 15 percent of the people who curiously click on the book finish it. I’d consider that pretty decent… considering that the cover has neither an angst-filled-girl nor a six-packed-dude (if you don’t get the reference you probably haven’t visited Wattpad).
Ivy’s Tangle is available now. For those of you who are wondering, the Legend of the White Sword is a young young adult fantasy series. I thought middle grade originally, but having read up on age/level categories on the internet—which is never wrong—I discovered it’s young young adult. Who knew? The protagonist, Jack, is fourteen, and it’s told in the first person. That apparently pushes the book up into young adult. The series will contain no sexuality (beyond kissing) and no significant swearing… which knocks it back down to young young adult. The books in the series are short which makes pricing the e-books trickier. There are no hard and fast rules on e-book pricing, and book prices range from free to crazy. Somebody’s blog (I can’t remember whose) suggests selling all e-books at 2.99. That’s as cheap as an author can go with amazon before the royalty rate slips. I’m trying to get new readers, so I priced Ivy’s Tangle at a buck fifty to start. Free hasn’t worked out well with The Spiders of Halros. It seems that people download free books, but rarely read them, placing no value on a free product, or assuming it’s crap (often a fair assumption). If you read the book and enjoy it, please take the time to review it somewhere. I could use some reviews. Thanks.
Ivy’s Tangle is pretty much done (minus any useful feedback from my remaining beta readers). Hopefully, none of them will find a giant hole in the plot, requiring substantial rewriting. I thought I’d post the first chapter on here, since people read this blog (I’m not sure why) and nobody has read the story on Wattpad in weeks. I’m also going to pull the chapters from Wattpad. It doesn’t appear to be worthwhile for me, and more people borrow my books from the kindle lending library than read them on Wattpad. Enjoy.
Chapter 1 – Ms. Mopat
Perhaps my story began on the day I was born (or long before that) but I’ll start on the first day of last summer. I suppose I should mention that my name is Jack. I’m an ordinary fourteen-year-old. Maybe smarter than average, but below average in almost every other way–I figure it all balances out. My mother and father separated before I was born. I spent the years since being passed back and forth between them. Both were very successful at their jobs, and they moved around a lot. For me it meant seventeen schools in nine years. Needless to say, I didn’t have any friends. At summer’s end, I’d begin again when I started high school… at school number eighteen. When my parents wrote to tell me I’d be living with my grandmother, they used words like stability and consistency, but I understood. The real reason was neither wanted me. You might think I’d be all teary, being a boy whose parents are nothing more than polite strangers, but I was used to it. I’ve had a lot of nannies, daycare, and assorted minders over the years. I even had one year of boarding school–military school! Having to move again and going live with my grandmother wasn’t a big shock.
Like I said, I don’t come from a tightknit family, and I’d only met my grandmother three times in my whole life. She’s my mother’s mother, and my other grandparents are all dead. I’d met none of them.
The week before school ended, I received an envelope containing instructions and airline tickets. Having done a fair bit of solo travelling over the last fourteen years, I was a pro. A taxi picked me up at school and after a couple flights (and another longer taxi ride) I arrived at Glastonbury Manor.
That’s what the sign at the end of Gran’s driveway says. Gran runs a boarding house, and she’s been at it for over fifty years. I’d never seen the house before and was suitably impressed by its massiveness when the taxi brought me down the long tree-lined drive. Gran’s house is built from dark grey granite and stands three stories tall with dormers running along the slate roof, lighting what I figured must be the world’s biggest attic. The lawns and gardens at the front of the house were perfectly manicured and ended sharply at the forest’s edge. We’d driven through a good half-hour of forest before arriving at Gran’s, and I’d seen no sign of other residences, or even side roads, for most of that time. Glastonbury Manor’s driveway started where the road ended.
“You really gonna live here kid?” the taxi driver asked from the front seat.
“Apparently,” I said. “This is my grandmother’s house.”
“She must be loaded.” He pulled the cab up in front of the wide stone steps.
“I guess so.”
I hopped out, looking at the front doors as the cabbie unloaded my suitcases and dropped them beside me.
“Good luck kid,” was all he said before he drove off, leaving me standing at the threshold of the next stage of my young life.
With all of my worldly possessions sitting on the front steps, I considered ringing the bell or making use of one of the big, polished-brass knockers on the front doors. I only considered it briefly; no one eagerly awaited my arrival, and I’d spent most of a night and a day in taxis, on planes, and waiting at airports–sitting. I wasn’t hungry, or tired, had no need of a washroom, and I wasn’t keen to see my grandmother. It didn’t look like rain, and, nobody would drive a zillion miles out into the country to steal my stuff. I decided to investigate the property. The forest called out to me. It begged for exploration. Gran’s spooky-looking house also begged to be explored, but that was better left for a rainy day. I walked back up the drive to the point it ran parallel with the forest. The trees grew right up to the edge of the gravel and stopped. Somebody had trimmed the forest like wall at the edge of the property. I swear it looked like an invisible fence held back the vegetation. Even the branches high-up were cut; most appeared to have been pruned in the distant past, but a few showed signs of more recent trimming. Not a single bud of new growth crossed the invisible boundary. Weird.
I didn’t plan on taking a long hike and getting myself lost. I’m not an idiot. Although I was, up to that point, a city boy. My plan was to go a short way in and have a look around, keeping the open lawns and gardens in view. As long as I could see Gran’s grass, it’d be impossible to get lost. Getting into the woods was harder than you’d think; the edge was as dense as any ancient hedgerow. I pushed forward, eyes closed, as the branches grabbed and scratched at me. A few steps in, something tore my right pant leg open with a loud ripping sound and tripped me. I’m not a clumsy guy, but the next thing I knew I was tumbling and sliding downhill. When I came to a stop, a few bruises later, I opened my eyes and took a first good look at the forest.
The forest was dense, twisted, and gloomy. It wasn’t middle-of-the-night dark, but only a small fraction of the sunshine penetrated the canopy. I sat up, rubbing the side of my head, one of the many spots I’d banged on ground or root during my tumble. I sat in the bottom of a long ditch; thankfully not filled with water. Standing up, I couldn’t see over the edge. Even as I determined to climb back out the way I’d fallen, I realised I didn’t know which way that was. Too many old leaves and too much brush covered the forest floor for me to tell. Since there were two possible choices, I took the fifty-fifty bet and climbed up the side I thought I’d fallen down. I figured at the top, I’d be able to see the driveway–even if I picked wrong. I had only taken a few steps into the forest.
At the upper edge I peered into the surrounding vegetation, seeing no sign of a brighter patch or the driveway in that direction. Down I went again and scrambled up the opposite side of the ditch. The driveway wasn’t visible on that side either. It didn’t seem possible. Gran’s driveway was light-grey gravel, which should have shone through a crack in the undergrowth. I couldn’t make out a thing. The driveway couldn’t be more than a few steps away, and I forced down a growing feeling of panic. I wasn’t lost; I’d hardly gone anywhere.
That’s when I heard something. Nothing too ominous at first–just a rustling in the dry leaves. Probably, squirrels out hunting for nuts. I heard the noise again. It sounded closer and maybe heavy for a squirrel. Raccoon? It was early for them, but also dark in there. Then the rustling sounds came from two directions. Both sounded closer. After a few seconds of silence I exhaled a sigh of relief. That was before sound of movement came again–this time from even closer–and from a third direction. I couldn’t see ten feet into the forest, and I took unconscious steps back away from ditch… and the sounds. Louder, faster, crunching came from at least three different directions in front of me. Whatever they were, they were close now, and definitely bigger than squirrels. Half a second before I was sure the unknown creatures would burst into view, something grabbed me by my shirt collar, dragging me backwards away from the ditch and the frightening sounds.
I may have kicked and screamed a little.
I didn’t know what had a hold of my shirt. It dragged me through the scratchy branches and back onto Gran’s driveway. My kicking and screaming had no effect. I was hoisted upright until I got my feet back under me. With the sudden release of my collar, I spun about in the now dazzlingly bright sunshine. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect to see a pretty, raven-haired woman in a French maid’s uniform. She nodded before turning, and without saying a word, strode away up the driveway towards the house. For a moment, I stood still, at a loss. I turned back towards the forest. It looked the same as it had before; a bunch of trees and bushes. By the time I faced the house again, the woman was halfway there. I had to run to catch up with her at the front steps.
That’s how I met Ms. Mopat, my grandmother’s maid, cook, and one hundred percent of the regular staff at Glastonbury Manor.
I’ve finished writing the first two books of The Legend of the White Sword series (and am well into number three). Below are the covers as they stand right now. I’m sure some tweaking will follow. I’m calling these middle grade (the protagonist is a little old for that, so maybe upper middle grade, or younger adult?). These books don’t have any sex, or bad language (beyond damn or douche bag), so they should be safe for any kid who’s allowed to watch television on their own. There is some violence, but I wouldn’t consider it very dark. The books may require you to channel your inner twelve year boy to enjoy them, or maybe not. They’re also quite short (though well within industry standards for middle grade fiction). Hopefully, somebody will like them. I went with manga-style cover art because they have a bit of a light novel feel to them (I know the designation is more based on the simple kanji used, you needn't bother commenting to inform me of that;)
For anybody wondering what the quality of print-on-demand books is like (I’m using CreateSpace right now), I can tell you it’s surprisingly good. Obviously, they just print the files you send them, but the binding and print quality is as good as, or better than, trade paperbacks. (Google book machines to see some cool tech) Somebody compared them to softcover textbooks, and I’d agree with that. That’s for novels, and black-and-white books. The colour books are no heck and expensive. I did one children’s book (for my mom) that way, but I don’t think I’d do another, unless they started offering nicer paper choices. For novels, no complaints. They’re a little more expensive, but the book doesn’t get printed until someone orders it, so there’s nothing in the way of economies of scale. I mostly make the paperback versions for my own enjoyment. Thanks to those of you who bought a physical book. Believe it or not, I make less on them than the e-books (play with the CreateSpace pricing calculator and you’ll soon discover why), but it makes me smile, knowing physical books are out there… somewhere.
It’s been a while, so this post is an update. Resurrection, the first of my science fiction series The Alien Documentaries is available from amazon as an eBook and as a paperback (also at CreateSpace). I’m trying the exclusive-at-amazon thing for the first 90 days, so if you have an amazon membership that lets you borrow books (prime I think?) then you can read it for free (for those 90 days) — read it, you’ll like it (probably, if you like science fiction). NOTE: Not a kid’s book. Also, I’m giving away a signed copy, but if that’s still ongoing when you’re reading this, you likely saw the little click-me button on the home page.
I finally got around to updating the paperback covers for the Arros Chronicles. If you have a version with one of the old covers, you are one in a billion (almost an accurate statistic). I liked the cheesy 80’s cover art, and I kept it on the back under the text.
If you have time, and you enjoyed one of my books, please post a review or even a rating where you got it. If you downloaded The Spiders of Halros from somewhere shady, please download a free copy from a legitimate source and review it. I don’t make any money either way, but can use the word of mouth, and it helps the book become more visible. For those people kind enough to post reviews already, thank you. I don’t have many reviews for any of my books, and it cheers me up to see that people are enjoying them. NOTE: If you’re the I’ll-review-your-book-for-five-dollars guy, don’t bother emailing me again… it ain’t gonna happen;)
I’ve been writing a middle grade fantasy series on and off for a while. It recycles a world I built for an adult fantasy series (that never went anywhere) years ago and follows the adventures of a boy named Jack. Here’s the tentative blurb and cover.
Jack shrugs it off when his parents tell him he has to go live at his grandmother’s huge old rooming house in the middle of nowhere. After all, he’s had to start at a new school every year since kindergarten. He has no idea how the last summer before high school and the other boarders at Glastonbury Manor will change his life.
I’m going to give Wattpad a try for the first book and see how that goes, putting up a chapter a week. For anyone interested, those chapters will be first/second draft quality, but readable. The final book will likely be a little different.
I updated all the Arros Chronicles e-book covers so they match and are at equal quality levels. Based on the little graphs that tell me how many people click on the first book, this seems to have hit the ‘sweet spot’. Now… I need to figure out how to write an enticing blurb.
I added a new cover to my website and Goodreads for the third book of The Arros Chronicles. The book isn’t done, but the cover art was and I figured I’d get a little preliminary advertising out there. Here’s the cover I posted.
I’m looking at the cover on Goodreads, and at the tabs underneath for getting the book from an online store, and I wonder what would come up for my not yet finished book. So I click on Amazon. This book comes up.
Son of a b@#$h. I didn’t bother googling the title for my book. Every title is already taken by somebody, somewhere. Another book out there with a book and an amulet on the cover…likely. One that also has a similar title…son of a b#$@h. I’ve never heard of the book or the author. The subject matter has no similarity. Still, what are the odds? I think I’ll go with my original title: Jewel of the Empire. I’m sure somebody else (a bunch of somebodies) has used that title too, but hopefully not with matching (sort of) cover art.
It appears giving away a book for free doesn’t always work as a marketing strategy. I think part of this may be that people don’t value something they’ve gotten for free. Free books tend to sit unread on reading devices in the thousands. So…I’m going with not free for The Spiders of Halros. Three bucks is still well within the category of bargain books, and I think, still good value for the product. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m getting out of the free book business for good. Undoubtedly, far fewer people will download, but I’m hoping a higher percentage will actually read. Note: Amazon takes a while to readjust a book’s price from a price match, so it will be free there for a while (day, week, month?).
Here's the working cover for my next novel (written, but unedited). It's a bit of science fiction (if the cover doesn't give that away please let me know;) I'm expecting to release this one in September at the latest. The Alien Documentaries are a three book series Resurrection, Retribution, and Redemption.
I tried funny for over a month and I didn’t see any significant deviation in the little graph that tells me how many people are downloading the book. The books aren’t funny anyway so I’m going to try exciting/cheesy and see how that goes. The next installment of Spiders of Halros blurbs:
A thousand years ago, peace was bought with an ocean of blood.
In the years since…much has been forgotten.
Stories that should have been told went unspoken.
Terrible knowledge was lost to the ages.
An ancient evil awakens and a world’s fate rests on the slender shoulders of six young women.
The Spiders of Halros begins The Arros Chronicles and the journeys of the Ballantine sisters as they search for a way to save their father. The princesses will discover love can be sweetest in the darkness and nothing is stronger than the bonds of family.
My suspicion is the book just doesn’t show up on any sort of search (where you didn’t start with the title or my name), but writing blurbs is comparatively little work.