Category Archives: eBooks

a GHOST EXILE fix-up?

A confession: I was looking at putting together a GHOST EXILE fix-up from the GHOST EXILE short stories like CHAMPION OF THE GHOSTS, and in hindsight I really like the GHOST EXILE short stories.

I’ve enjoyed writing and reading short stories for a long time. If you think about, two of the most famous characters in literature – Sherlock Holmes and Conan of Cimmeria – got their start as recurring short story characters. Robert E. Howard, in fact, only wrote one actual novel with Conan, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON, though some of the longer Conan stories like RED NAILS and THE SCARLET CITADEL got up to novella length. The novel is the dominant form of written fiction nowadays, but I’m pleased I’ve found a commercially viable niche for short stories in my new-release newsletter and the eventual fix-up novels.

But I think the GHOST EXILE short stories are my favorites in hindsight. I really like GHOST PRICE, GHOST RELICS, GHOST NAILS, GHOST KEEPER, and GHOST ARTS. I enjoyed the scene in GHOST ARTS when Caina and Morgant go to the art gallery, and Caina pretends to be Morgant’s empty-headed girlfriend (to Morgant’s great annoyance). Or the band of hapless thieves in GHOST RELICS, and Damla wincing at the hakim’s atrocious table manners in GHOST NAILS.

The question becomes, though – what stories to include in the fix-up? Right now GHOST RELICS is part of GHOST EXILE OMNIBUS ONE, and any short story that’s in the fix-up couldn’t be in the omnibus because of Kindle Unlimited’s terms.

On the other hand, maybe I could write a short GHOST EXILE prequel in the vein of BLADE OF THE GHOSTS, like a short novel or a really long short story, or do that instead.

Decisions, decisions. 🙂

-JM

Sherlock Holmes vs Caina Amalas

A Sherlock Holmes marathon tonight – I shall watch THE SPECKLED BAND and THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER with Jeremy Brett playing Holmes. I think the Jeremy Brett version of THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER achieves the rarest of all feats – a TV adaptation that slightly improves upon the original short story. Like, if I was rewriting THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER, I would make the changes to the story that the TV adaptation made.

Still, THE SPECKLED BAND and THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER are some of the best examples of short fiction in the English language, and everyone should read them.

It’s a pity that the public domain status of Sherlock Holmes is still in flux. About two years ago I wrote an outline for a short novel where Sherlock Holmes meets Caina Amalas, in a version of Victorian Britain where the Royal Magisterium uses sorcery to defend and protect the British Empire, and the Ghosts act as a check upon the power of the Queen’s Ghosts, but I decided that the risk of legal complications was simply too high, so I dropped the idea.

I suppose I shall simply have to write GHOST IN THE PACT instead. 🙂

-JM

 

 

sales percentages in 2015 – which platform sold the most books?

Let’s talk about ebook sales today! Specifically, which platforms sold the most books. In today’s post, I will compare my ebook sales in 2014 with 2015’s sales, and see what changed over the last year. (Short answer: a lot!)

To start, I would like to thank everyone who bought a book in 2015. There were a lot of you!

Now to the numbers. I sold almost as many books in 2015 as 2014 – it came to about 1% less. So the following pie charts are comparable to each other. Also, these numbers aren’t “total copies sold”, but “total revenue received”, which seems like a more valuable metric. After all, if you sell 10,000 copies of one book at $0.99, but 1,300 copies of one book at $3.99, you’ll have made more money with the $3.99 book.

In 2014:

Amazon US: 40.71% / Amazon UK: 33.4% / Amazon Germany: 0.09% / Amazon Other Countries: 1.8% / B&N: 12.47% / Apple: 6.8% / Kobo: 1.9% / Google Play: 1.5%

SalesChart2014

In 2015:

Amazon US: 38.6% / Amazon UK: 26.9% / Amazon Germany. 0.01% / Amazon Australia: 1.7% / Amazon Other Countries: 0.1% / B&N: 9.4% / Apple: 6% / Kobo: 10% / Google Play: 3.7% / Kindle Unlimited: 1.8% / Tradpub Royalties: 0.01% / Affiliate Links/Ads: 0.01%

SalesChart2015

What conclusions can we draw from this?

-It’s good to diversify. Amazon US, Amazon UK, and B&N all dropped for me, but other sources made up for it.

-Despite all the sturm and drang in the media about Amazon becoming a monopoly, Amazon is definitely not an ebook monopoly. 69% market share does not a monopoly make. It makes for a dominant player, yes, but definitely not a monopoly. My Amazon sales went down by 7% since 2014, which is also not a sign of a monopoly. Monopolies, generally speaking, do not have vigorous competition.

-Amazon UK went down from 33.4% to 26.9%, and the reason for that is quite obviously the European Union’s 20% VAT that went into effect for ebook sales starting in January 2015. As one might expect, the new tax has done nothing to stimulate ebook sales in the EU, to the point where small publishers have been complaining that it is stifling their business. So the VAT on ebooks was a bad decision that benefited no one,  but to be perfectly candid the ebook VAT probably wouldn’t even make the Top 50 list of the EU’s bad decisions of 2015, so let’s leave it at that and move on to a different topic.

-Amazon Australia became its own platform this year, and my books have done pretty well on it – FROSTBORN, GHOST EXILE, and CLOAK GAMES have all gotten into the top twenty of their category on Amazon Australia this year.

-Kobo went way up, from 1.9% in 2014 all the way to 10% in 2015.  After Amazon UK, it was my second-best seller. The reason for this was Kobo’s new internal email promotion program. Basically, Kobo is running its own internal Bookbub service. They run regular promotions, and in exchange for a percentage (usually 10%) of the book’s sales, they’ll feature it in a promotional email. This has worked out really well, and FROSTBORN OMNIBUS ONE caught a couple of good sales, so the FROSTBORN series is a consistent seller there.

-Barnes & Noble went from 12.47% to 9.4%. I hope B&N turns it around the way Waterstone’s did in the UK, but the prognosis doesn’t look good.

-Google Play went up from 1.5% to 3.7%, almost double. I think that’s partially because I increased the number of books available on GP, and Google has been cracking down hard on ebook pirates, so there’s less competition from people selling pirated books, which is a good thing.

-Kindle Unlimited did pretty well.  I think KU’s change from borrows to pages read was a good idea. I don’t want to pull any of my novels off the other platforms, but KU is big enough that I don’t want to neglect it entirely. So it seems my strategy of producing fix-up novels from short stories is a good one for 2016.

-Apple shrank about 0.8%. I dunno why – from everything I heard, Apple was growing while B&N was shrinking, but maybe that was limited to romance writers. Apple sells worldwide, so I suspect the EU’s VAT hit Apple’s European book sales, which likely accounts for the slight drop. I’ll have to dig into the Apple sales more to find out.

That’s it for 2015. Looking forward to seeing what 2016 will bring!

-JM

Print Book Catalog Now Available!

PrintBooks

20 of my novels are now available as trade paperbacks, and you can find the complete list of them here!

One of my goals for 2016 is to get better organized with print books, and this page is the start.On the page linked above you can find links to each of the major sites that carries my paperback books. If you would prefer to order a book from your local bookseller instead of Amazon or Barnes & Noble, the ISBN numbers are listed for each book. Simply provide the bookseller with the ISBN-13 number, and they can order the book for you.

I hope to expand the number of print books soon. I’ll start with BLADE OF THE GHOSTS, then finish the CLOAK GAMES series, and move on to FROSTBORN and GHOST EXILE.

-JM

The Frostborn Fixup

BNChampionOfTheGhosts

My experiment with creating a fix-up novel from THE GHOSTS short stories (CHAMPION OF THE GHOSTS) and releasing it on Kindle Unlimited is going pretty well and I’m seeing good results. Better than I had hoped for, to be honest. (A longer explanation is here.)

So I’m going to do the same thing with the FROSTBORN short stories. The plan is to combine THE SOULBLADE’S TALE, THE ORC’S TALE, THE MAGE’S TALE, THE SOLDIER’S TALE, THE PALADIN’S TALE, THE THIEF’S TALE, THE ASSASSIN’S TALE, and THE KNIGHT’S TALE into a fix-up novel called FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS.

The frame story around the short stories will be the Warden of Urd Morlemoch preparing his big plan in FROSTBORN: THE DARK WARDEN. THE DARK WARDEN always had my favorite prologue of the FROSTBORN series anyway, so it is fun to expand on that a little.

Anyway, FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS should be out a few weeks before FROSTBORN: THE HIGH LORDS. Watch this space!

-JM

2016’s writing goals

It’s time to lay out my writing goals for 2016. Of course, before making any kind of long-term plan, it’s good to consider this bit from the book of James:

‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”’

That’s good advice. (I’ve been in some planning meetings where the management should have read that first!) So, if it is the Lord’s will, here is what I will do in 2016:

-800,000 to 900,000 words of new fiction

I’ve done this over the last four years, so barring unexpected developments, I should be able to repeat it in 2016. One of the really useful things I taught myself how to do in 2015 was how to work on two fiction books simultaneously. I’ve never been able to do that before, which I think is why I was able to write over a million new words in 2015.

-Three new FROSTBORN books.

-Finish the GHOST EXILE series!

GHOST EXILE has only two books left to go after GHOST IN THE THRONE. So if all goes well, I should be able to bring GHOST EXILE to its conclusion in 2016.

-Finish the MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED trilogy at last!

I’m into the second book, MASK OF DRAGONS, right now, and hopefully I can finish the third book in the second half of 2016.

-Two new CLOAK GAMES books.

-A systematic approach to print books.

I’ve got 20 of my books available in print, but I’ve taken a very scattershot approach to it, and most people don’t even know the print books exist. So I want to do it more systematically. The first step is to make a central page for print books on my website, with links and ISBNs in case people want to order the books from their friendly local bookstore.

-More Kindle Unlimited Fix-Up Novels.

My experiment with turning the short stories into fix-up novels worked pretty well in CHAMPION OF THE GHOSTS, so I’ll be doing more of that in 2016.

-A 101 TIPS & TRICKS tech book on Linux Mint.

So, if all goes well, this is what I hope to do in 2016.

-JM

Did I reach 2015’s writing goals?

laptop

Back in January I laid out the Writing Goals I would like to accomplish in 2015.

2015 was kind of a weird year, and a lot of unexpected things happened (I thought I would have to move, twice, but it didn’t happen either time), so let’s see how I did with my Writing Goals. The original Writing Goals are in parentheses below:

-(Write 800,000 to 900,000 new words.)

And how! I actually wrote over a million words in 2015.

-(Write three new GHOST EXILE books.)

I did this one. I wrote GHOST IN THE INFERNO, GHOST IN THE SEAL, and GHOST IN THE THRONE. Also BLADE OF THE GHOSTS, which isn’t a GHOST EXILE book, but close enough. 🙂

-(Write three new FROSTBORN books.)

I did this one as well. I wrote FROSTBORN: THE GORGON SPIRIT, FROSTBORN: THE BROKEN MAGE, and FROSTBORN: THE WORLD GATE.

-(Write one new tech book: WINDOWS 10: 101 TIPS  & TRICKS.)

I did that, too!

(-Write MASK OF DRAGONS.)

I didn’t get to that one, alas. I started MASK OF DRAGONS, and am currently on Chapter 2. I also wrote THE SERPENT KNIGHT, a novella to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the original hardcover release of DEMONSOULED back in 2005. So I only did that one partially.

(-Start bundling short stories into four-pack omnibus editions. For a while I dithered about doing omnibus editions of short stories, but I could never get the covers right. Then I saw that some other writers were doing omnibus editions by shrinking the covers of four books down to 400 x 600 pixel images and then combining them to form the usual 1600 x 2400 image. When I saw that, a light went on. So I’ll start making omnibus short story editions later in this year.)

I did that one with WORLD OF THE GHOSTS volumes one and two. However, I’ve since discarded that idea in favor of creating fix-up novels out of the short stories and releasing them on Kindle Unlimited. It’s working, so far – CHAMPION OF THE GHOSTS had sold more copies and made more money from KU page reads than the WORLD OF THE GHOSTS volumes ever did. So we can say this goal was met, and I’ll be assembling more fix-up novels in 2016.

(-Get up to at least 30 of my books available in print. Right now I’m at 19.)

I definitely didn’t get to this one. I fell off the Print Books Wagon in 2015. I only made a print version of CLOAK GAMES: THIEF TRAP, and that was all. So I definitely didn’t come anywhere near this one.

Some unexpected things happened as well. I was planning to stick exclusively to FROSTBORN, GHOST EXILE, and MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED in 2015, but around the time of Potential Move #1 I was writing down some ideas as a mental break, and I sort of went with it. Five months later we have three CLOAK GAMES books, so it’s funny how things work out.

So I met most of my writing goals in 2015! In a few days I’ll lay out writing goals for 2016.

-JM

I Literally Wrote A Million Words In 2015

I was hoping to get to 800,000 or 900,000 words in 2015. Instead, as the following chart demonstrates, I actually wrote slightly over one million words in 2015:

WordCount

It was actually more than that, since of the finished books on this list, the word count came from the final draft, and I typically cut between two and five percent between drafts.

So while I didn’t make all of my writing goals for 2015, it nonetheless turned to be a productive year!

-JM

short stories and the fix-up novel

BNChampionOfTheGhosts

Today I’m going to talk a bit about literary history and the business of self-publishing. Specifically, short stories, marketing funnels, fix-up novels, and Kindle Unlimited. Feel free to skip if the topic doesn’t interest you, or to ask questions if it does.

For the past three years, I’ve written a bonus short story to go along with each new novel, and I’ve then given those short stories away for free to subscribers of my new-release newsletter via Smashwords coupon code. This has worked out really well, though I’ve never been sure what to do with the short stories after the coupon expires. They just sort of sit there, and maybe sell 2-3 copies a month, but that’s it. Which is a good thing, but I write the short stories to help promote my books, and it would be useful if the short stories would help promote my books long after the last subscriber has opened the newsletter.

The problem is that the basic idea of book marketing is that you create a marketing “funnel” to draw readers to the books – making the first book in the series free, running occasional sales, and so on. The difficulty is that after the newsletter, the short stories don’t really fit into the funnel anywhere, and it’s hard to sell fiction without a marketing funnel.

I also had to decide what to do about Kindle Unlimited. Books in Kindle Unlimited have to be exclusive to Amazon, and I didn’t want to pull all my books from the other retailers. That said, Kindle Unlimited is also a big market, and I wanted to tap it. I wrote BLADE OF THE GHOSTS with the intention of giving it away for free to newsletter subscribers when CLOAK GAMES: REBEL FIST comes out and then putting it on KU early in 2016, but writing short novels just to put on Kindle Unlimited is a strategy I don’t have time to pursue in the long run. (Though BLADE OF THE GHOSTS did well enough that I might do another short prequel GHOSTS novel in 2016.)

Then I remembered something I had read about years ago – the “fix-up” novel.

A fix-up novel is a novel that originated as a chain of related short stories that were then fused together into a single book. A lot of writers have done that – Stephen King, Poul Anderson, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Jack Vance, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and numerous others. I’ve done it, too – the first book of THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS was originally a string of short stories back in 2002.

I’ve written a lot of short stories, and they easily could combine into short novels which I could then put on Kindle Unlimited to extend my marketing funnel into KU. I could quickly make a fix-up novel out of the current THE GHOSTS and FROSTBORN short stories, and with a few more stories I could make another two out of the GHOST EXILE and the DEMONSOULED short stories. I could put these fix-up novels in Kindle Unlimited without removing any of my current novels from the other ebook retailers, essentially having my cake and eating it too. Over the long-term, I would write the bonus short stories with an eye towards eventually combining them into a short novel.

I think this would make for a worthwhile marketing experiment, so I will give it a try in 2016. After a few months I’ll report about the results.

-JM

BLADE OF THE GHOSTS – Permafree versus Kindle Unlimited

BNBladeOfTheGhosts2

Today I’m going to talk a bit about book marketing. Feel free to skip if you have no interest in the topic, or to ask questions if you’re curious!

For the last couple of years a successful marketing tactic for ebooks has been something called “permafree”. The idea is that if you have a multi-book series, you make the first book free on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and all the other ebook retailers. If it works, people download the first book for free, read it, like it, and then go on to purchase the other books in the series. This has worked out pretty well for me – DEMONSOULED, CHILD OF THE GHOSTS, FROSTBORN: THE FIRST QUEST, THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS, and THE TESTING are all free on all the ebook platforms, and they’ve done a good job of drawing people in to the rest of the books in their respective series. In marketing-speak, this is called building a “funnel” draws people in to the rest of the books.

In the last year and a half, free books have become less effective than they used to be on Amazon while continuing to work on the other retailers. One reason is that Amazon added an additional click to get to the free lists – they used to be displayed side by side with the paid bestseller lists, but now you have to specifically click through to find them.

A far bigger reason, though, is Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription program for ebooks. I don’t think predictions that KU would destroy the paid ebook market have borne out – I sell more books on Apple, Kobo, and Google Play than I did before the advent of KU – but I do think that a lot of the people who used to read free books on Amazon have shifted over to Kindle Unlimited subscriptions instead.

The logical response, of course, would be to switch the first book of the series to Kindle Unlimited. The significant drawback would be that the formerly permafree book would no longer be available on the other retailers, and it would be kind of stupid to have, say, DEMONSOULED books 2-7 available on Kobo, but not the very first book. No one starts a series on the second book, or at least not very many people.

So I thought about this for a while, and I decided to try an experiment.

I wrote BLADE OF THE GHOSTS, a short novel set between CHILD OF THE GHOSTS (GHOSTS book #1) and GHOST IN THE FLAMES (GHOSTS book #2). When CLOAK GAMES: REBEL FIST comes out next week (if all goes well), I will give BLADE OF THE GHOSTS away free to my newsletter subscribers for a month, but after that month is up, I’ll put it into Kindle Unlimited.

We’ll see how it does. If it performs well on Kindle Unlimited, it will stay there, and if it does not, I’ll put it back on all the other retailers. It will make for an interesting marketing experiment, and if it doesn’t work, one can always obtain useful knowledge from even a failed experiment.

-JM