If I see another gamer, it will be all too soon

CA Red book Character 2I’m trying hard to get ahead of my release schedule.  That means I’m typically working on a book a couple ahead of what is planned for release next month.  If you look at the list on my sidebar (on aurynhadley.com) I’m working on the book that comes AFTER the last one listed.  In this case, it’s another book in the Eternal Combat series.

And right now I really can’t stand gamers.  I said this before when I was working on the gladiators.  When I’m done tweaking every last comma, semicolon, turn of phrase, and checking for overuse of words in a paragraph, I’ve burned myself out on the story.  I hit my editing hard, at the exclusion of basically the rest of my life.  When I finally come up for air, I’m not in the mood to look at it for at LEAST a week (usually two).  But that’s ok.  By my release schedule, I’m often writing a book planned for 2017 and editing a book that’s in a totally different series.

This is why my release schedule is currently alternating between the Rise of the Iliri series (military science fantasy) and the Eternal Combat series (contemporary romance with gamers and high tech).

You see, a girl can only research DDOSing, facial recognition by social media, MAC addresses, IP vulnerabilities, VPNs, mobile hotspots… and the list goes on.  In a few days I’ll be back to diving into the genetic recombinations necessary for a tertiary gender split with a preference for a tiered result in sexes of offspring.  Can you tell I’m a WHOLE lot of fun at the holidays?  Yeah.  I take dorkiness to a whole new level!

Unfortunately, I can’t really complain about the damned iliri for a while.  Not until my readers have a chance to experience that species on their own.  Don’t worry, it’s coming up quickly, and I’m pretty excited.  Thrilled enough that I am eager to get back to the seventh book in that series!

I still want to write an urban fantasy/paranormal romance.  Got a couple of plots in mind.  Think I’ll save that for 2018.

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Cover Re-design (Kinda)

Wold of Oberhame seriesThe Wolf of Oberhame series has always been the hardest for me to design the “right” cover for.  I have struggled with it repeatedly, but thanks to the magic of Amazon, I actually get the chance to try again, and again, and even again if I still haven’t gotten it right.

And, let’s be honest, I’m not exactly some veteran author who has been there, done that, and knows exactly what will grab the reader.  I need to experiment a little.

On the flip side, I have the luxury of being able to make my own covers.  I studied design and advertising layout, so have some basic knowledge of how this is done.  Granted, it could all be outdated, and I’ve learned that scale is rather important, but I have that knowledge.

For those who know, this is also the one aspect that has slowed down a few of my releases.  Getting something that WORKED for the When We Were Dancing cover has been a bit painful.  Finally managed, and……..realized why I am not in love with the above covers.  The scale is all wrong.

What people care about isn’t the scene, it’s the character!

I should know this.  I mean, that’s what I write about.  Where they are, what they do, and how they do it are all symptoms of the person involved in the story.  Every book I write is a character driven novel.  Bringing these “people” to life is my goal… but I designed covers built around the scene?

*headdesk*

And so, I’ve rolled out new covers for these two books, and When We Were Crowned will have one that matches.  I have yet to see how this will affect sales, as they’ve only been live a few days.  It’s a learning process,and I’m trying to learn fast.

 

Being the Outsider

alone-girl-sitting-on-window-waiting-someoneAt some point in our lives, I think we’ve all felt like an outsider.  It doesn’t matter if you’re cool – or not, rich, poor, or anything in between.  There will always be some dividing line that separates us from the rest of the group.

Of course there’s the biggies like race, sexual orientation, and religion/politics.  But the minor things can feel the same.  Maybe it was that time that you were the piano player in the midst of the drummers.  How about being the star football player at the ballet tryouts?  When you feel like you stand out, it sucks.  There’s a piece of you that wants to run and hide, another that wants to prove you can do this, and the one that is terrified.

I tried to capture that feeling in BloodLust.  Imagine being one of a kind, so rare that people stop and look, so freakish that everyone around you is scared of YOU.  How long would it take before you wanted to give up?  How could you change people’s minds?  What would you do?  Would the desperation to be accepted sink in after a year?  Ten?  Twenty?

Then imagine finding a place you truly belong.  Your personal nirvana.  Would it hurt more, or less, when that feeling of security is ripped away?  Could you go back to the hell you lived in before?  What other options would you have?

One of the most common things said about my writing is that it’s “real”.  Doesn’t matter if that’s one of my romances or the fantasy novels, my readers can find the grain of truth buried in the story.  Well, this is how it gets there.  Every book is built on one great lie.  One “What If” you might say.

From that single question, the characters develop, the world evolves around them, and the quest comes into focus.  The plot is always about the character’s personal goal.  The STORY is about that one question that makes the whole thing spin in my mind until it comes out my fingers.  Right now, I’m lost in the despair of being all alone while surrounded by so many others.  The end result is BloodLust, coming out in April.

The long road

woman-1081873Have you ever had that feeling that you’re chasing your tail, trying to do it right, but won’t “get there” until you do just one more, or two more, or maybe three more things?

That’s how I feel right now.  I have 2 new series being released, but advertising them is frustrating.  Why dump a lot of money into them until there’s something for the reader to go to next time?  I have a series that will be finished in late summer.  Not releasing the other books won’t make it get done any faster.  I have a stand alone book that is now going to be a part of a series.  I could write in that, but see above.  I feel like a creation that is still a work in progress, and I so badly just want to GET THERE.

I’m debating whether or not I should shift around my upcoming releases.  Should I send out the books that are basically DONE, one right after the other?  That would leave my gamer series to wither for a bit, but that could be ok.  I mean, the book doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger (I seriously hate those).

The more I think about it, the better this idea sounds, except for ONE little thing.  I haven’t sent book 2 to the editor for the “last pass” yet.  I don’t have cover art.  I’d have to do a whole lot of groveling to get that done in time.  I have learned from this, though.  From now on, I will not release a series until the entire thing is done.  If that means a few months of publishing nothing, then that’s ok, because that’s how most authors do it.  I just don’t want my book list to get away from me again.

So, while I prepare for the next cover reveal and the one after that, I will be pondering the long road of my career as an independent author.  I will make mistakes.  I will have successes.  Most of all, if I keep treating this like a business, I think that my fan base will stick with me.  At least I hope they will.  I have some amazing fans already, and I certainly don’t want to lose them!

What is Indie Author Success?

refugees-1020163_1280I research my profession – a lot.  Ok, kinda obsessively.  None of the data seems to be consistent, until I realized I was asking the wrong question.

I wanted to know what percentage of independent authors are successful.  Well, that’s a real broad term, isn’t it?  What does that word mean?  Above the median?  Profitable?  Able to quit their day job?  Millionaires?  Until I defined the question better, there’s no way I was going to get a good answer.

So, what does it mean to be successful?  For me, I hope to one day stop working “somewhere else” and focus all my attention on writing.  I’m currently halfway there.  I have a lovely part-time job with a team leader who spends the day talking plot outlines and a boss who checks up on my latest release results.  Saying “I have a book emergency” is a valid excuse for running out the door like my hair is on fire.  I can’t beat this job, but I still would rather write full time.

But still needing to work doesn’t mean I’m not successful.  All of my books are profitable.  They bring in more money than I spend to create them.  That, my friends, is the definition of profit.  I include everything in that calculation, too.  From ad campaigns to design costs and website hosting, if I spend it on the books, then it is an expense.  If it’s vague – like web hosting – then I break the cost evenly among the books.  If it’s specific (like an ad push) then I expect the book to make it back.  So far, my only book in the red is the one that released last Friday, and it’s quickly earning out.
But what kind of money can an author expect from doing this?

To be honest, not much – but what do you expect when you sell something for the price of a cup of coffee?  This game isn’t about making it rich on one book.  It can’t be.  On a book priced at $2.99 (USD) I make less than $2.00, and that money gets divided up by the expenses.  You see, THIS IS A BUSINESS.  I have to treat it like one, and that means volume of sales is the only way to be successful (i.e. a full-time author).

money-1090815_1280So how do I sell a whole lot of books?  Well, it usually helps if there’s a little variety.  I mean, really, how many people are going to rush out to buy a series about some princess turned gladiator?  Not exactly a “high draw” storyline.  Instead, I wrote a novel that hooked the people who DID take a chance on it.  I make them love it enough to want more, then feed it to them like a narcotic.  Once they are addicted, I show them the next shiny thing, then the one after… I mean my books, of course.

Which means I need to keep writing some damned good books.  I can’t put all my eggs in one basket.  I can’t expect that The Rock is going to RT my tweet about a girl fighting cancer.  I certainly can’t sit around and expect my BOOKS to find people to read them!  Sounds silly, right?  But how many people have done exactly that?  How many people think that “if you write it, they will come”?  How many people are so blinded by the passion of their art that they forget that critique is necessary to get better?  They refuse to fix something because the LIKE it like that – and then wonder why it never sells.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am NOT saying that we authors should sell out and write vampire BDSM magician school stories because those sell like hot cakes.  I’m saying that whatever story we have to tell, we need to treat it as art, and make the best art we can.  We need to LISTEN when someone posts a bad review.  We need to celebrate when we get a good one.  Most of all, in order to be a successful author, we have to work our asses off, because overnight success usually takes a few years to make happen.

And if you’re wondering, I make approximately $125/month/book right now.  With each release that number grows.  The more books I have, the more chances for someone to stumble upon my work and read everything else I wrote.  The more books I have begging for readers, the greater my odds of success are.  Remember, 1 in 4.2 million isn’t as good as 1 in 2.1 million (2 books), or 1 in 1.4 million, or where I’m at now – 1 in 1.05 million (with 4 books available).  Never mind the quality of the books, because if your book sucks, no one will pay you for the torture of reading it.  If you’re not getting sales, look there first.

STUCK!

woman-945822The plot is all twisted.  The subplots aren’t wanting to fall into place.  The tie-in to the rest of the series is refusing to cooperate in a manner that makes sense.  I’m stuck.

I know, from someone who writes an absolutely insane amount of words a day, how is this possible, right?  (I was just padding my own ego there, forgive me).  But seriously, the truth is that this happens to everyone.  I usually solve it by breaking down the story.  Not the book.  Not the novel.  The core story.

For One More Day, the story is about a girl with cancer who just wants to survive.  In When We Were Kings, it’s about a princess who never wanted to be anything but a wife, and now that choice is gone.  For Challenge Accepted, it’s about a girl who wants to be the first female professional gamer in the PLG.  For BloodLust, it’s about a humanlike woman who wants to no longer be alone.  One simple goal.  One single line that the character follows through all those other twists and turns.

Oddly, reading the above, I realize that I need to write a few more books about men.  I have them, they just aren’t on the schedule, yet.

But, carrying on…. I’m currently stuck simply because I don’t KNOW what I need to know.  That means I’m off to do research.  I can’t even imagine how authors used to write stories in a time before Google.  It’s mind-boggling, to say the least.  They’d probably spend years of their lives in a library, thumbing through countless reference books, then interviewing people who really couldn’t care about this crazy book.  And just imagine if you weren’t a published author?  No one would give you the time of day!

And so, here I am, taking a little break from reading about this and that to ponder the ease of modern writing, all because I got stuck.  Yeah, I’m going to work out this little problem, and my book will probably be better for it – but so will the ones that come after.  I got stuck somewhere in my plot, and spent almost an entire day thinking about how exactly I design a story.  How do I make a journey that will be convincing to the reader?  WHY is it that people enjoy my books?  After mulling it over, trying to figure out why I can’t write the ending of this story, it’s all suddenly clear.

I’m stuck because I was trying to end the wrong story.  I got stuck in my writing because I was trying to force the story instead of tell it.  I got stuck because I stopped thinking about why the reader will care about this person, and started thinking about what I could impart.  That’s not story.  That’s my own ego getting in the way, and all my ego is good for are a few cheesy jokes in my blog.

Lesson learned.  I’m gonna go make sure the next novel is the best one I pur out…. until the next.

How I produce a Book/month

still-life-690705_1280So I keep getting asked how I plan to release a FINISHED book each month.  The answer is very simple, really.  I wrote them all years ago.

What, not the answer you wanted to hear?  Probably not.  So many people are trying desperately to crank out work fast enough to bump them up the lists, often thinking only of volume, not quality.  I went the other way.  I had stories to tell, and hoped that one day they’d become “real” books.  Yeah, except that whole “real” part was never well defined in my head.

As a child growing up with only physical books, but an adult who loves her ebooks, I never stopped to think about HOW people would read them.  I just knew I had this story, and I would finish it.  Naturally, when I had the book ready for the public, I contacted an agent, then another, then another.  While waiting for their response, I started researching this whole kindle revolution.

It took time – both for the queries and the research – but I eventually came to a simple conclusion.  I don’t LIKE the direction traditional trade publishing is going.  I DO like the control independent publishing offers.  Unfortunately, by the time I felt confident with dedicating all my hard work to a specific course of action, I’d written so many books I had no idea how to get them to the public!

Kinda people told me to release a book each year.  Uh, if that’s the case, my author career is over!  I have 35 books.  Many of these are book 1 in a series – from trilogies to 10 book epics.  Why would I wait to release them?  They’re DONE (well, my part).  Instead, I began looking at editing, cover art, and how to FINISH a book.

But it’s easy to hem and haw, convincing myself that I need to do something before I release THIS book.  It’s hard to admit that it will never be PERFECT, but can still go out into the world with a missing comma, or in the case of WWWD a “finance” instead of “fiancee”.  No, those mistakes aren’t allowed, but they were missed 5 times.  It happens.  I can still fix them.  And I am/have/will.  But the books are seeing the light of day.  One by one, they are all getting the best polish I can offer, then turned loose on a pre-determined day… because deadlines HELP.

I know, it’s not the fancy “cheat code” people want to know about.  It’s not the miracle cure that you and only you will find on Google.  This is the truth.  If you want to produce a lot of books, then write a lot of books.  Hopefully GOOD ones.  Do everything right.  You see, no matter how many people say the best way to make it big on kindle is to pump out a book/month, they forget one VERY important thing.

You need to release GOOD books.

It doesn’t matter how many books you have if they are all crap.  If there are typos, plots that make no sense, shallow characters… no one will buy them.  That’s just the truth.