Tag Archives: amazon

Flops, Failure and Learning Experiences

So, about a month later than usual, I’ve finally gotten around to starting my taxes for 2017. Which gives an opportunity to reflect on my situation as it pertains to my writing.

2017 was the year I released my most recent book, namely this one:

It was also the first year since 2011 – when I first started publishing – in which I have not made money from my writing, in fact I racked up a financial loss large enough to be uncomfortable if bearable. The reason for the loss is on the face of it simple, Out of Era flopped. Completely and utterly. A bit of a pisser but there we are; it reviewed well but it didn’t sell beyond a handful. You hope that somewhere down the line it will pick up but really that’s grasping at straws, if it doesn’t kick off pretty much straight away it’s not going to.

So where did it go wrong?

So from here on we’re going firmly into the realm of anecdotal evidence. The last of my successful Nameless War series was released in September 2014, Out of Era came out in October 2017. That’s a big gap. In fact to be brutally honest it was probably too big a gap. I never stopped writing during that time but there were other priorities – I started dating a woman who I’m please to say has recently become my wife, I moved house into what was a bit of a fixer-upper and changed the day job for the first time in over fourteen years. The time slot for writing and its attendant activities basically took one hit after another. Meanwhile the world moved on and I suspect, most of the people that read and enjoyed the Nameless War forgot me enough that the name Edmond Barrett, stopped triggering any kind of mental response when looking at Amazon for something to read. Years ago, before I started publishing I heard another writer claim that to make a living at it you needed to put out at least one book a year. I always found that extremely believable but I never came even close. To manage it I would have had to give up the day job, which when you have a mortgage and are the sole source of income to your household, isn’t really a runner unless you’re prepared to really live up to the starving artist cliche.

The next factor which compounded the first was that I changed genre. My name and reputation as a writer was made in military science fiction; Out of Era is time travel. If you aren’t into science fiction that distinction might sound wafer thin but in fact is a significant gap. I’m not a known name in time travel stories so Out of Era had to go it alone. Had there been less of a gap between books, meaning had it come out while the final book of the Nameless War – the Last Charge was still selling in significant numbers there would have been a better chance of readers following me into the new genre. Which in turn would have boosted my visibility to potential readers who never heard tell of me. So Out of Era just got lost in the crowd. I did try some advertising but the problem there is you can burn a lot of money very quickly for very little return.

Another fact is that to my mind self publishing in 2017 isn’t what it was back in 2011. I know e-readers have been around since well before then but in 2011 they were the new must have gadget. Since there is nothing as useless as a e-reader with no books, people were looking for content and when Amazon opened its system to the self publishers there was suddenly a lot of cheap content. There’s no doubt a lot of it was bad but there was also some real gold and I had the good fortune to be a part of the first wave of e-book self publishers. There were a lot predictions that self publishing and e-books were going to kill publishing and paper books stone dead. That hasn’t worked out. What I think has happened is that e-books found their level. They aren’t going to go away but equally that first great rush came to an end.

My run with writing has been a pretty privileged one. I got to make money in reasonably significant amounts straight off the bat which certainly did a lot to justify the time spent on it. I knew the figure weren’t going to be good but it’s another to look at the cold hard numbers. I’m still going to write, it is and always has been as much a pass time as a profession but have had to re-think my expectations.

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It’s here!

So finally Ships of the Fleet Volume Two is about to hit the digital shelves. Those of you who have it on pre-order are but a few hours away from download. But that isn’t all.

Blog two covers 2

For anyone who hasn’t yet picked up Volume One, on the 1st July, for one day only it will be available for free. Not only that but books one and two of the Nameless War will be on special offer! Can you say fairer than that?

Ships of the fleet can be found:

Battleships – available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

Starcruisers – now available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

 

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Book Three – The Last Charge is now available for Pre-order

If the end was near in my last post it is getting nearer. Book three is now available for pre-order on Amazon.UK and Amazon.COM. Publication date is now set for the First of October. (Yippeee)

Last Charge cover

Those of you on my mailing list will be getting a sample chapter later this week just to whet your appetite.

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The End is Near

Last weekend was a busy one with final changes to the text, finishing touches to the cover art and tweaking the blurb. This evening will see the first attempt at uploading the text to the Amazon system. I thought I was going to get to it last night but then found that a few things have changed in the upload procedure and decided this was not the sort of thing to tackle 10pm. I’ll go in fresh this evening. I haven’t done a new upload in two years and a couple of things on the Amazon system have changed. There now appears to be a pre-order option which is interesting – watch this space on that. The end however is definitely hoving into view.

I have now have a mailing list, if interested read here

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Onward and upward

I’ve finished the last draft of book three. I now have to do the last major adjustment to the text –  basically drop the whole thing into Notepad to strip out all the formatting, along with any nonsense MS Word has seen fit to add and then reformat from start to finish. If you are wondering why I would want to do such a thing, a friend recently also publish a book, one based around Napoleon’s 1812 campaign in Russia. He tried dropping his work directly from Word into the upload program. Somehow it bollixed up the word ‘Cossack’ – which in anything to do with 1812 is going be a word used at least three times per page. So, no avoiding it. Ah well, onwards and upwards.

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Berezina

This is just a shout for my friend Jan van Embden who has published his first book: Berezina. A historical novel set around  of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Apparently my self publishing success encouraged him to try his hand, which is nice – normally I get counted as a warning to others 🙂

Regards

On Amazon UK and Amazon.COM

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E-Book Covers – Refresh, Redo or Rebrand?

During December I finally got around to what had for a while been on my mental to-do list for a while, namely to change the front covers for the e-book versions of both the Nameless War and the Landfall Campaign. I was never entirely happy with my first efforts and as a consequence of my ongoing Ships of the Fleet  project my 3D modelling skills are definitely better now than they were three years ago. I did wonder whether this would have any effect on actual sales.

And the answer a month and a bit down the line is…. maybe.

December probably wasn’t the best time to undertake this change if I wanted to try to study the effects of this change. Over Christmas a lot of new e-reader devices hit the market simultaneously and obviously that has an effect on sales. Still my sales, which after the glory days of just after the launch of book two, had been bobbling along at under a hundred per month, close to doubled. Also I did notice that my Amazon ranking has on average improved. But a lot of different and in many cases uncontrollable factors could be coming in play. So far so ambiguous.

The relevant the cover art for e-books – given that the image will be the size of a postage stamp on the screen of an e-reader – is subject to debate but the whole exercise has got me thinking. The conventional advice is that you get everything right before publishing. But in the case of cover art is there a right answer?

Below is one of my childhood favorites. The edition I read was one on the left, the one on the right is I assume the current edition.

ExamplesSo, same book, same title, same author, different cover; or perhaps we should say different branding.

Back in the days of yore (so ten years at most) when books only existed in dead tree format, they would get printed in runs of hundreds to thousands, depending on expected popularity. If the book did well enough to justify further runs then every so often a new edition would be prepared with a new cover.

Why update at all? If the cover on the left was judged good enough in the seventies or eighties when the copy I read was presumably printed, then what’s wrong with it now?

Well obviously times have moved on. Styles and expectations changed but also the familiar can slowly become the ignored. No publisher wants their titles to lie gathering dust and an old familiar cover become easier for the book buyer to pass over on route to something newer and shinier. This applies to really everything that can be bought and sold, so even if the product remains unchanging, the wrapping needs to be refreshed every so often.

But returning to e-books. As I’ve said before, once an e-book hits the digital shelves it could potentially stay there forever. Unlike the finite shelving of a physical bookshops there is no space limitation. But this means that a given title is in competition with every other book available and with each new year thousands more books will join it.  Again, as I have said before, the self publisher has to think into the long term. At the very least a the cover art will likely have to rejuvenated every few years to keep up with style changes. But should we be thinking in terms of ‘the very least’?

Unlike physical books the digital cover could, if the mood took you, be changed on an almost daily basis. Now that would probably be over the top but perhaps the self publisher should be thinking in terms of having two or three covers and cycling through them every six to twelve months. Just enough for them not to fade into background.

I’m not selling this idea as part of the next get-rich-quick self publishing scheme. I have no evidence to back this line of thought up.  But possibly it is something to be added to the self publishers tool box. If you want to compare my old cover to the new, the links to Amazon below are the new, I haven’t got round to updating the Smashwords.

The Nameless War, available on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and paperback.

The Landfall Campaign, available on Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords and paperback.

The Job Offer, available on Kindle Kobo and Smashwords

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