Category Archives: eBooks

selling short stories: The Bone Orcs & The Skull Trees

Today let’s talk both about the FROSTBORN short stories and a bit about writing and selling short stories.

Everyone likes short stories, but they’re hard to sell, because while people like short stories, they much prefer to buy and read novels.

Myself, I write short stories for two reasons. One, I enjoy doing them. Two, they make useful bonuses for my new-release newsletter. When I release a new novel, I also give away a free copy of a tie-in short story to my newsletter subscribers via Smashwords coupon code. It’s a nice bonus for the newsletter, and usually a couple hundred people just buy the short story outright, which is also a nice bonus for the author. ๐Ÿ™‚

That said, I’ve never figured out quite what to do with the short stories after the coupon code expires. They just sort of sit there and don’t really do anything. They’ll sell a few copies a month (my oldest bonus short story, GHOST ARIA, sold three copies in May), which is nice, but won’t do much else.

So I’ve tried various experiments to sell more of the short stories, or to use them as promotional materials for my novels. Here are some of the things I’ve tried that didn’t really work:

-Enrolling the short stories in Kindle Unlimited and giving away free copies.

-When Kindle Unlimited’s new pay-per-page structure came along, I tried the short stories in that, and it didn’t really work, either.

(As an aside, I decided to stop using Kindle Unlimited altogether. It means you can’t sell on Kobo and iTunes and Google and the other platforms, it’s too unstable, and there are never-ending stories of problems like this one. While KU has benefits at the moment the cons of KU definitely outweigh the pros.)

-Bundling the short stories together into anthology-style collections. I gave away a bunch of them with CLOAK GAMES: THIEF TRAP and CLOAK GAMES: FROST FEVER, but that was pretty much it.

Then I stumbled onto the one thing that has really worked – 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 โ€“ Stephen King, Poul Anderson, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Jack Vance, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and numerous others.

FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS is probably the most successful result of short stories I’ve done so far. Most of the FROSTBORN short stories are the origin stories of Ridmark’s companions (except for THE TRAITOR’S TALE, which has a lot of spoilers), and are combined in a frame story where the Warden of Urd Morlemoch lays out his plans.

So fix-up novels seem like a good long term idea, which led to another idea.

What if the short stories were designed to be joined together in a fix-up novel at the end? Usually the short stories are one-off tales – like, GHOST DAGGER doesn’t have much in common with GHOST THORNS. But what if they were designed to become a fix-up from the beginning?

The DEMONSOULED short stories would lend themselves well to that, since they’re all about a younger Mazael at Lord Malden’s court. After MASK OF SPELLS comes out, I’ll write one more story about Mazael as a young knight and combine it with the others to make a new fix-up novel, probably entitled SOUL OF KNIGHTS.

Also, I’m trying something new with the remaining five FROSTBORN short stories. They’ll all be about Ridmark’s journey into the Qazaluuskan Forest four years before FROSTBORN: THE GRAY KNIGHT, and in the end I’ll combine them into a fix-up novel called FROSTBORN: THE BONE QUEST.

It will be interesting to see how it does!

-JM

a note of thanks

The Lord has been good to me of late – April was my best month so far for ebook sales, and sometime in April I also sold my 400,000th ebook since I started self-publishing in 2011.

400,000! Boggles the mind, it does.

I would like to thank you all for coming along on the various adventures of Ridmark, Caina, Mazael, and the others – with more adventures to come soon!

-JM

Book Bomb: Nethereal, by Brian Niemeier


Occasionally MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL author Larry Correia chooses a book he likes to “Book Bomb”, driving it up in the sales ranks on Amazon. This month he’s chosen NETHEREAL by Brian Niemeier, which I just started reading last week.

It’s really good so far – if I had to sum it up, I would call it “Firefly meets Space Wizards meets Event Horizon.” Definitely worth checking it out!

-JM

The School Internal Homes Of Magic And Sorcery

The phone/tablet Google Translate app has this very useful feature that allows you to point your device’s camera at a page of text, and the app translates the text to the language of your choice upon the screen.

If you work with a lot of computers configured to use foreign languages, as I do, this is extremely useful.

However, sometimes the translation is a bit inaccurate, as the following translation of the book description of Harry Potter from Spanish to English shows:

IMG_0008

Though, to be honest, if the government did operate a School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it would probably name that school the “School Internal Homes Of Magic And Sorcery”.

-JM

 

5 years of self-publishing

As of April, I’ve now been self-publishing for five years now.

First, thankย you all for reading! I spent years writing without an audience, so it is very gratifying to get emails asking when the next book is coming. So thanks for coming along on the adventures of Mazael, Caina, Ridmark, Nadia, Rachaelis, and all the others – knowing that people await the next book is a good spur towards excellence!

Man. Five years. Tempus fugit! Considering my original plan was to self-publish DEMONSOULED and SOUL OF TYRANTS and then forget about them, self-publishing worked out really well. ๐Ÿ™‚

In the last five years, I’ve written 7 DEMONSOULED novels, 14 GHOSTS novels, 11 FROSTBORN novels, 3 CLOAK GAMES novels, 9 nonfiction books, and dozens of short stories. I thought I was done with fiction in 2010, but clearly that was not to be.

Stay tuned – I have some sales scheduled to celebrate the 5 year mark, and I’ll give away some stories for free to my newsletter subscribers later this week. Of course, this would be an excellent time to subscribe to my new-release newsletter. ๐Ÿ™‚

-JM

how did I learn to write non-fiction?

Ubuntu1510Terminal

Antonio asks:

“How in the world do you write so much and such diverse topics?

How did you learn both fiction and non-fiction writing?”

How did I learn to write non-fiction? Long story.

First, I learned the fundamentals in high school. Iย took a journalism class from a very competent teacher, who taught me the three basics of non-fiction writing: 1.) Avoid passive verbs, 2.) Answer the questions “who, why, where, when, and how”, 3.) You can write an article on any topic by sticking to the basic structure of Introduction/Thesis, Point A, Point B, Point C, and Conclusion, with additional Points added as necessary.

This was to serve me in excellent stead later in life.

Jumping ahead to 2005, DEMONSOULED was published, and author blogs were all the rage back then. Since I wanted DEMONSOULED to sell lots of copies (it didn’t) so the publisher would buy the sequel (they didn’t), I started an author blog, and promptly ran into a problem.

Namely, I didn’t have anything to blog about. The trouble about writing non-fiction is that you need something to write about.

So I tried blogging about various observations and witticisms, but nobody read them, and I gradually started to lose interest until I accidentally did something clever.

Namely, I complained about a Ubuntu Linux problem.

My day job is in IT, and Ubuntu Linux is the most popular version of Linux, and it turns up in a lot of server rooms. Back in early 2008, I upgraded a machine from Ubuntu 7.10 to Ubuntu 8.04, and in the process the upgrade broke the file sharing functionality. I happened to complain about it on my blog, and the next day I noticed that the blog post had gotten over 60 hits from Google searches. Apparently a lot of people were having that problem, and turn to Google in search of solutions, and so came to my blog.

That suggested possibilities.

I started writing more about Ubuntu Linux and the various things you could do with it – SSH, Samba, web servers, WordPress, and so forth – and my blog traffic climbed steadily, spiking up a bit with every new release of Ubuntu. Soon the site was getting hundreds of hits a day, and then thousands. I started experimenting with Google Adsense ads on the site, and at its peak in 2011 and 2012 it was getting five thousand hits a day and bringing in a few hundred dollars in ad revenue every month.

In fact, it was going so well, and I was so disgusted with the traditional publishing industry, that after I wrote CHILD OF THE GHOSTS in 2010, I decided to stop writing novels and focus entirely on the Linux website. Maybe I would do a short story from time to time if I saw a call for submissions that looked promising, but that would be it.

Then in 2011 I found the Kindle, and discovered self-publishing ebooks. After I got the rights back to DEMONSOULED, I self-published that, and then I realized my various posts on Ubuntu could make a book. So in April of 2011 I combined them, rewrote them, and self-published THE $0.99 UBUNTU BEGINNER’S GUIDE, later renamed to simply THE UBUNTU BEGINNER’S GUIDE. It sold really well – it was my first book to reach 10,000 copies, as it happens.

However, I also decided to write one more novel to finish off DEMONSOULED, so I wrote SOUL OF SERPENTS, and after I made DEMONSOULED free, the novels started to sell more copies than the nonfiction books, so I’ve been focusing on that ever since.

So that’s how I learned to write nonfiction – real-time feedback from blogging! I don’t do as much nonfiction these days, since all my attention goes into novels. That said, if I lose my day job, I’ll add in non-fiction, since it’s easy to do 500 words here or there as you work on a novel.

-JM

an updated THE GHOSTS OMNIBUS ONE

GhostsOmnibusOne

Let’s talk a little about the business of writing today!

BLADE OF THE GHOSTS leaves Kindle Unlimited on April 17th, and after that happens, I think I’ll add it to THE GHOSTS OMNIBUS ONE to create a new edition. Right now THE GHOSTS OMNIBUS ONE contains CHILD OF THE GHOSTS, GHOST IN THE FLAMES, and GHOST IN THE BLOOD, but the new version will add BLADE OF THE GHOSTS to that, since it fits chronologically between CHILD OF THE GHOSTS and GHOST IN THE FLAMES.

That way, I’ll be able to create a combo cover for THE GHOSTS OMNIBUS ONE containing the covers of all four books. I really like the current cover for THE GHOSTS OMNIBUS ONE, but for omnibus editions, the market really seems to favor either 3-D box set covers, or the sort of four-in-one covers I used for FROSTBORN OMNIBUS ONE and GHOST EXILE OMNIBUS ONE.

I don’t think I’ll put BLADE OF THE GHOSTS back into Kindle Unlimited in the future. It’s been an interesting experiment, and Kindle Unlimited offers some useful promotional tools, but those tools only really work if you put an entire series of novels into Kindle Unlimited, and I’m not willing to do that. Like, the FROSTBORN series is my best seller on Amazon, but it’s also my best seller on B&N, iTunes, Kobo, and every other platform, so it would be a bad idea to sacrifice the sales on those platforms for Kindle Unlimited.

(This also means that CHAMPION OF THE GHOSTS and FROSTBORN: THE KNIGHT QUESTS will be available on B&N, iTunes, Kobo, and Google Play later this year.)

Still, if I was just starting out now, I would probably put my series in Kindle Unlimited at first for greater visibility, and then expand it out to other platforms after the fourth or fifth book.

Now back to working on Chapter 22 of GHOST IN THE PACT! ๐Ÿ™‚

-JM