It’s been ten days since One Tin Soldier‘s release, which somehow means Thanksgiving is less than a week away, Christmas is less than five, and it’ll be 2053 before we know it. As ever, time has no real meaning anymore.
Still, it seemed like a good time to look back at the release and to discuss what’s coming down the pipeline in the future. Not counting flying cars… I’ve given up on those ever becoming mainstream.
This will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book yet, please stop reading now!
Last week, I welcomed my newest book while having a whisky tasting with my angel-wife and brother-in-law. It definitely made for a more enjoyable (and slightly less stressful) release night than usual! We had several dozen pre-orders squeak in just before the official release date, and the final pre-order count was almost 10x that of my previous pre-order record holder. That’s kind of jaw dropping, and I am so grateful to all of you for it!
The release itself was, per usual, a weird event, thanks to time zones. Readers in Australia were already done with the book before it had even launched in North America. As usual, that meant the initial orders and page-reads ended up spread across two days on KDP’s reports… the day before release and the actual day of release. Still, and largely owing to the fact that most of my readerbase is in North America (and the USA specifically), it’s pretty easy to spot the day One Tin Soldier released in my royalties chart:
There’s not a lot of room for ambiguity here.
Needless to say, it was a very good day and has been a very good launch. One Tin Soldier peaked at a ranking of #322 (of literal millions) in the Kindle store. It was also a #1 bestseller in two fairly competitive categories1:
My stay at the top of the charts was short-lived, and I remain a very small fish in a medium-sized pond that is at least three miles of river from the greater ocean of traditionally published bestsellers, but even so… how cool is that?!? My pre-order numbers were strong enough that I knew the book wouldn’t totally flop, but this vastly exceeded my expectations. I should eclipse 1 million total page-reads (across all of my books) for the first time this month, with half of those being from One Tin Soldier. It was my fastest book to 100 ratings/reviews on Amazon, and is soon to become my fastest book to 200 ratings/reviews too. In fact, it already has more ratings/reviews on US Amazon than any of the books in The Many Travails of John Smith.2
But of course, my stress was never really about numbers. I was worried about the usual release stuff3 but most of my stress centered around how people would respond to the book. Not just to the ending, although there’s been some discussion on that front, but to the book as a whole. Leaving the Academy and essentially having the third and concluding book of the trilogy be a western-esque road trip. Separating Damian from yet another circle of friends4. Introducing another 12+ new characters5. And yes, there was that ending… both the epilogue and the final few chapters before it.
So, how has it gone? Way better than I expected. On Goodreads, One Tin Soldier is currently my highest rated book at 4.73 stars. On Amazon, it’s sitting at 4.7. And the reviews have been, for the most part, stellar. Emotional, authentic, expletive-filled… really, everything I could ask for from my readers. There has been a wide range of responses to the ending and the epilogue, of course, and that’s to be expected. Truthfully, my beta readers were mixed too. I had one reader who hated the epilogue. Several just wanted a fourth book. Others found the epilogue to be the book’s saving grace. Basically, everyone had opinions, and I’ve seen those opinions reflected in the larger audience of readers.
And honestly? I love that. I don’t write by committee: I have a vision that I want to achieve and that, in the end, is that6. However, my beta readers are vital to the process and I listen to their feedback. If they had all come back with the same response, I might have second-guessed myself more. The mix of responses instead helped solidify my approach. I wanted this to be a satisfying but also ambiguous, slightly ambivalent, and open-ended conclusion for Damian’s story. I think that’s what we got.
Loose plot threads
Of course, the downside of taking your main character7 away from the rest of the cast is that it makes it pretty hard to provide definitive endings for other characters in the series. Thanks to the epilogue, we know a few things: Silt did, in fact, return to Brownsville8, and now rules there as some sort of military governor. Tessa joined Stormwatch on graduation and became that team’s leader when Dominion finally succumbed to the cancer that had been killing him since before the Break. Damian overthrew Tezcatlipoca, taking even more damage in the process9, and now rules the lands to the south of the Free States. But what about their other classmates?10 Alexa and Bard? The Mission, in general? What is the infection that drove the Weaver out of the north? What’s up with the Crimson Queen? How is it that Cloud was the unsung hero of the entire book?
There are a lot of questions left unanswered. Some of that was by design. Some of it was a side effect of the framing I chose. I envision the post-Break world as just that… a world. So, while Damian’s story is the main focus of this trilogy, there are a million other stories going on at the same time. Some of them, we get glimpses of or resolutions to. Others remain completely out of sight. Damian’s particular story is over (for now), but life goes on for everyone else. I’ll provide some of the answers in other novelettes and series, but my main focus is always on telling the main character’s story. Not everything is going to get an answer or tied up neatly by the end.
That said, in the future, I do think I’ll avoid taking my first-person-POV MC away from almost everyone he cares about for the entire final book of a series. I still think it was the right move for Damian’s story–and the idea that he would be going back to his friends was intentionally always in his mind right up until the point that possibility was taken away from him–but it presented some real challenges, and I get why people would want more resolution at the end.
The good news is that there will be more books set in the post-Break world. Next year, look for a full-length, standalone novel featuring Her Majesty, set in the days after One Tin Soldier. It should test the truth of Damian’s line in OTS: “This continent only has one queen.” I’m also going to be starting a second trilogy set in the Free States, with a tentative release date of 2023. It will have a (mostly) new cast, but old favorites will show up as cameos or talking heads on vid, and long-time readers should get some insight on where everyone has ended up. I’m still plotting out that series now, but I think you all will enjoy it.
Finally, my list of novelettes to write seems to grow with every passing week. I have novelettes to write about Vibe/Paladin’s internship with the Defenders, a reporter’s seemingly suicidal trip to interview Grannypocalypse, the reappearance of Ishmae, and so much more11. The only constraint is time. I’m already planning to release three books next year12, so we’ll have to see how things go. I have yet to turn a profit on a novelette13, but I really enjoy the format.
In the meantime, I just want to thank all of you. Damian’s story is near and dear to my heart but it was also a hell of a trilogy to officially start my career as an author with. Your response, feedback, and support has really meant everything to me. If you didn’t enjoy this last book, I’m sorry and I promise I’ll try to do better in the future. If you did enjoy it, then buckle up, because there is a lot of fun still to come. Fun and blood. Somehow, there always seems to be a ton of the latter.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve got gumption, kid. In fact, you’re just the kind of person that would make an awesome subscriber to my newsletter. Come join the fun!
And by fun, I mean “be alerted when new books are available.” If this site’s blog posts are my monthly, in-depth, fact-heavy shareholders’ reports, the newsletters are my far-less-frequent, carefully crafted pseudo-tweets, skipping all the nitty gritty to tell you what you actually want to know: what’s new and how you can get it.
I promise that I will never spam you… because spamming takes effort, and I am way, way too busy for that.
- Superhero Science Fiction and Superhero Fantasy. Whose bestsellers frequently seem to have nothing to do with superheroes… but that’s Amazon’s issue, not mine!
- That’s right: the series I ended at three books is stomping all over the series that will be seven books long. I don’t always make the best choices from a business standpoint!
- That somehow the uploaded version would have missing pages, that Amazon would reject it at the 11th hour, or a thousand other things that have yet to ever actually happen.
- Repeating a move that some people took issue with from Red RIght Hand.
- To the despair of my beta readers!
- Which is not to say I don’t make mistakes and learn from them… I do! I hope!
- And his first-person POV!
- With help.
- Because of course he would.
- I’ve been amazed and impressed by the number of people who have wanted to know what happens next to Alan-Fucking-Jackson.
- And yes, I’ll try to fit in a story about Alan-Fucking-Jackson too! And Orca! And Bard/Alexa/Bard’s wife! And Paco/Lynn.
- The Italian Screwjob in March; book 1 in my entirely new series/setting in the summer; and the aforementioned Her Majesty novel in the fall.
- I told you I was bad at business!