And poof. Just like that, it’s December.
Time has a way of speeding up around the holidays, and this year has been no exception. Between See These Bones’ book launch, a five day water fast, Thanksgiving, my birthday, and a trip to Florida for my mother’s birthday, you’d be right to wonder if I’d gotten any writing done at all.
And the answer is… sort of. But I’ll get to that. First, let’s wrap up the last month of news in pseudo-interview format.
How’s See These Bones doing?
Sales remain far, far better than I’d feared and still much worse than any bestselling author you might think of. On the whole, I’m pretty happy. We’re up to 14 US reviews/ratings on Amazon1, which is a tiny fraction of the overall sales, but also nothing to scoff at. The majority are very positive (4.7 star average), and I’m delighted to see people both finding the book and enjoying it. It’s a similar story over on Goodreads, where there are 15 ratings and 6 reviews for a 4.4 star average, and the title is slowly starting to show up on people’s want-to-read lists.
As expected, the paperback vs. ebook vs. Kindle Unlimited sales ratios continue to shift. I remain surprised by the # of paperback copies sold, but with the launch madness well behind us, Kindle orders are now enjoying a 2:1 advantage in total orders. The real surprise has been Kindle Unlimited. After a decent November, KU page-reads have jumped way ahead of the other formats in December. Nice! From a royalties standpoint, the ebook still wears the crown, but any doubts I’d had about making the book eligible for KU have long since been vanquished.
As far as the top markets go, the US remains the clear frontrunner, while the UK has started to pull ahead of Germany in both orders and page-reads. I’m eternally tickled to have people reading my book in other countries!
That’s a very fancy chart. What are you doing to keep it from turning into a donut?
Well… technically, it already is a donut, right? Just a parti-colored one.2 But I get what you’re saying. I’ve talked in the past about our promotional efforts for See These Bones. It’s definitely been a ‘throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks’ approach. A lot of effort was spent prior to the launch, but now that See These Bones is out there in the wild, we’re doing what we can to remind people that it exists.
Amazon Marketing Services
Since shortly after the launch, we’ve been running an Amazon promotional campaign. Because Kindle Unlimited reads don’t appear to count as sales, it’s difficult to say how effective the campaign has been. We’ve had a few sales directly resulting from clicks on our sponsored search result listings, but the click-through rate itself has been fairly anemic. Worse, only a small portion of those clicks result in sales. However, when we paused the campaign for a week in early December, sales and Kindle Unlimited page-reads plummeted. When we re-enabled the campaign, both numbers returned to their ‘norms’.
Do we know those two things are linked? No… but it’s convinced us to keep the campaign going for a little while longer. If nothing else, royalties are outpacing ad costs, so that’s a good thing.
We also recently ran a one week promo on NetGalley. It appeared to have a negligible effect on sales, but we weren’t expecting an immediate impact. With NetGalley, people (reviewers/bookstore owners/librarians, etc.) request to download copies of the book. Reviewers might then share reviews of the book (to NetGalley, Amazon, and their own blogs), and bookstores/libraries might place an order to add stock to their own shelves. When we were pre-launching the book, we noticed there was often a multi-week lag from initial request to review or order, so we won’t see how successful the campaign was (if at all) until probably January.
Reviews and word-of-mouth
So far, the best3 advertising we’ve seen has been from all of you. I’ve heard from a number of readers who enjoyed the book and said they recommended it to others… and then heard from a few of those referrals saying the same thing. I’m far more likely to try a book if someone I know recommends it, so it’s easy to see why that sort of advocacy is so effective. Thank you all! (And just as a reminder… please post a review, so that you can advocate to total strangers as well…!)4
Other advertising options include a potential BookBub marketing push, as well as Instagram and Facebook ads, but we’re holding off on those until at least after the holidays.
What if I love books but don’t have time to read?
I’d say you’re part of a growing crowd. Thankfully, there’s good news! We’ve found a voice actor to record the audiobook of See These Bones, and they’re already 30 chapters into the narration!
We spent a few weeks on ACX listening to hundreds of sample narrations before we created our own project for people to audition for using two provided scenes from the book5. In the end, we’re thrilled with the voice actor we chose, and the chapters he’s been providing have been excellent. There’s a slight bit of cognitive dissonance for me, hearing someone else read the words I wrote–it turns out his voice sounds nothing like the mental voice I use when reading things… go figure!–but I think the end product will be fantastic.
The audiobook should be available sometime in late spring 2020, and then you can read my book without… you know… reading my book.
Audiobooks are cool, but sequels are cooler. It’s already been a month. Where’s book 2?
That’s the question I hear most from people6.
The answer remains the same: I’m aiming to release Red Right Hand in fall 2020. But first, I have to actually write the dang thing. Then, I have to edit it, format it, market it, and all the rest. A lot of those last bits should go faster, since I now supposedly know what I’m doing, but editing will always be a lengthy process. My mid-term goal is to write the book by early summer, and then spend the subsequent months getting it into shape for release.
Fall 2020 is a really long way away, and I’d rather read out by the pool. Preferably with a margarita. Can’t you write faster?
Wouldn’t that be nice? Frankly, I’m a bit worried about my existing deadline, namely due to the fact that I’m still working on rewriting Investigation, Mediation, Vindication, the first book in my other series, with the goal of releasing that in the spring. If I somehow stick the landing for 2020, it would mean I’d be releasing two books and an audiobook (maybe two) next year. The Russian Judge would probably still give me a 3.4, but I’d call that a win. Wish me luck!
Fine. I’ll wait, I guess. But how far into the IMV rewrite are you?
I was really hoping you wouldn’t ask that, oh fictitious interviewer. Technically, I’m only 10k words in, which is about 10% of IMV’s 100k total word count7. However, my goal is to keep a large portion of the later book, so this rewrite should hopefully only end up being 20-35k words in total. That puts me roughly 33% into the rewrite. Or closer to 25% if you include polishing of the rest of the book.8
With 2020 less than three weeks away, and some of that time being swallowed up by the holidays, it’s highly likely the rewrite will bleed over into the new year. Still, progress is being made.
Are the new pages any good? I have absolutely no idea… but the main character, John, makes me laugh, and that’s never a bad thing. When the book is finally released, I’ll let all of you be the judge!
I’ll be back just before New Year’s with a goodbye letter to 2019, talking about what went well and what didn’t9. I may even revisit the goals I shared back in January, just so we can all have a good, long laugh about them. Until then, Happy Holidays!
- As well as a 4-star review in Germany and 5-star reviews in both the UK and Canada… much love to my international readers!
- Mmm. Sprinkles.
- And the cheapest!
- If you have feedback but don’t want to leave a review, just drop me a comment on Twitter or via the contact form on this site. I’d love to hear from you!
- A dialogue-heavy scene between Damian, Silt, and Kayleigh, as well as the entrance scene for one Sally Cemetery. Between the two, I felt it would show how they handled both voices and atmosphere.
- ‘What’s it like being married to an absolute badass like your wife?’ is a close second though. (And the answer is: It’s amazing!)
- Investigation, Mediation, Vindication is a bit shorter than See These Bones, thankfully.
- These are the kinds of number games we authors play to make ourselves feel more productive!
- I’ll probably avoid politics this year though, because… yikes.