Category Archives: Soul of Sorcery

How many DEMONSOULED books?

In today’s mail came a question asking how many total DEMONSOULED books there are.

Right now there are ten DEMONSOULED books in two series, and both series are finished.(So, no waiting for it to be finished! 🙂 The first series, the DEMONSOULED series proper, has seven books. The second series, MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED, is a trilogy with three books.

The first book DEMONSOULED is free on all ebook platforms if you want to give it a try.

-JM

15 years of DEMONSOULED

It just occurred to me that I started writing DEMONSOULED in August of 2001.

Fifteen years! Man. A lot has changed since 2001.

One of those changes is that unlike in August 2001 in August 2016 someone bought at least one copy of a DEMONSOULED book every day worldwide. I like to consider that a good change. 🙂

Thanks everyone! When I started DEMONSOULED in 2001, I had no idea I would still be working on the series 15 years later.

-JM

Kindle Unlimited and DEMONSOULED, Part I – a 56% successful experiment

(Today I’m going to ramble a bit about the business of self-publishing. Feel free to skip if it’s not a topic of interest!)

Recently, I decided to do an experiment with the DEMONSOULED series and Kindle Unlimited. DEMONSOULED will be in Kindle Unlimited for May, June, and most of July.

Kindle Unlimited (KU), if you haven’t heard of it, is basically Amazon’s version of Netflix for ebooks. Basically, you pay $9.99 a month in the US and £7.99 in the UK, and you can read all the ebooks you want from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited catalog. For readers, especially the sort of power readers who can get through multiple books a day, this is a pretty good deal.

For writers, this can be a variable deal. Basically, once 10% of a borrowed book has been read, the writer receives a payment. The payment comes out of a fund of money Amazon sets aside each month for KU, which is then divided by the number of borrows total across Amazon for the month. The fund is typically set at $3 million, so the payment per borrow will be $3 million divided by the total number of borrows. So far, this has been about $1 to $2 per borrow. That said, Amazon seems to have stabilized the rate at around $1.30 per borrow by adding additional money to the fund every month, since (so far) Amazon seems unwilling to allow the borrow rate to drop below $1.30. It looks the rate for May came to about $1.34.

(ADDENDUM: The day I typed this, 6/15/2015, Amazon changed the payment structure for KU starting in July. It looks like instead of paying at 10%, KU will now pay roughly $0.01 for every page a reader actually reads. So July’s post will have to reflect that, though it doesn’t apply to May or to June.)

There’s a catch, though – to be in KU, a book has to be in Amazon’s Kindle Select program, which confers a number of benefits (you can set a book to free for 5 days every 90 days), but a book can only be on Amazon – no Barnes & Noble, no Kobo, no iBookstore, no Google Play, no Scribd, nothing. It has to be only in Amazon.

This wasn’t something I was willing to do. On any given month, about 75% to 80% of my sales are on Amazon, which means to do KU, I would have had to walk away from about 25% of my monthly book sales. I wasn’t willing to do that with my novels or technical books.

That said, I’ve written a lot of books – over forty novels and a bunch of shorter things, for a total of over 100 different ebooks available. So I have some room to experiment. I’ve also noticed that some writers do really, really well off Kindle Unlimited. Granted, a lot of these writers seem to write romance novels where the female protagonist is in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf (or, depending on genre, a werebear or weredragon), or in a love triangle with a 21st century billionaire and a 12th century Scottish lord, and I don’t write books like that. That’s not to knock romance books – I simply don’t write them. (I usually get four or five books into a series before the protagonist gets a love interest.) So I was curious whether KU only worked for romance writers, or if it would work for fantasy writers as well.

MASK OF SWORDS was what finally prompted me to try the experiment. That book didn’t sell terribly well compared to my other books. Typically, a new GHOSTS novel or a new FROSTBORN book will clear 1,000 copies its first month, and it took MASK OF SWORDS six months to get that far. I would like to do two other MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED books, but pausing on FROSTBORN and THE GHOSTS to write them would take a hit to my book sales.

So what to do? Perhaps if I put the first seven DEMONSOULED books into Kindle Unlimited, I could promote them and get more readers into the DEMONSOULED series, and then I could finish MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED.

I did some math, and between the seven books in the DEMONSOULED series, I typically sold about 100 a month on all the non-Amazon ebook platforms – Barnes  & Noble, Kobo, iBookstore, Google Play, and Smashwords. Since KU pays about $1.30 a borrow, and a DEMONSOULED novel generally nets between $2 and $2.65 per sold copy, I would need to have about 200 borrows per month to cover the removal of the DEMONSOULED series from the other platforms.

So with that in mind, how did DEMONSOULED do in Kindle Unlimited in May?

In May, the DEMONSOULED series had 112 borrows, and sold 281 full copies. So if my goal was 200 borrows to replace the 100 sales DEMONSOULED would have had on all other platforms, the experiment was 56% successful.

Tune in next month for a discussion of June’s borrows – I tried some new marketing tactics in June, and I think it shall have some interesting results.

-JM

Reader Question Day #72 – Maglarion vs. Lucan Mandragon

(Note that this has lots of spoilers for both CHILD OF THE GHOSTS and the entire DEMONSOULED series.)

MAM asks, keeping with the theme of some of our recent posts:

Who would win in a fight, Maglarion or Lucan Mandragon?

That is a good question, and it essentially comes down to where in the series you are, because both Maglarion and Lucan Mandragon evolve quite a bit. Over the course of CHILD OF THE GHOSTS, Maglarion acquires a great bloodcrystal, which grants him superhuman healing abilities and fuels his sorcery. Lucan, at the start of DEMONSOULED, is the most powerful wizard in the Grim Marches, but he is otherwise a normal human male. By SOUL OF SWORDS, he can draw on a well of stolen Demonsouled power, has the memories and powers of his ancestor Randur Maendrag (a powerful necromancer), has become an undead revenant, and also carries the Glamdaigyr and the Banurdem, two artifacts of immense magical power.

So, if Maglarion from the end of CHILD OF THE GHOSTS faced Lucan from the beginning of DEMONSOULED, Maglarion would clean Lucan’s clock. But if Lucan from SOUL OF SWORDS faced Maglarion, he would utterly crush Maglarion.

That said, Lucan has an edge that Maglarion simply does not – Lucan believes in things. Maglarion just wants to live forever. Lucan starts out wanting to defend the Grim Marches from dark magic, and by the end of the series, he’s on a crusade to rid the world of the Demonsouled forever. That makes Lucan much, much more dangerous than Maglarion, because Maglarion is simply looking out for himself, albeit in a particularly evil manner. Lucan is willing to go much farther and take greater risks in pursuit of his goals. Maglarion almost destroyed Malarae, but he never attempted anything on the scale of the Great Rising at the end of SOUL OF SORCERY.

So while Maglarion from the end of the CHILD OF GHOSTS might defeat Lucan from the beginning of DEMONSOULED, Lucan’s convictions, and willingness to risk himself, would give Lucan an edge that might let him prevail over Maglarion. But SOUL OF SWORDS Lucan would crush Maglarion, hands-down.

-JM

Morvyrkrad and ancient tombs of unspeakable horror

Someone sent me a nice email praising SOUL OF SORCERY (Demonsouled #5), in particular the chapters that center around the ancient tomb of Morvyrkrad. The reader particularly liked the sense of dread and foreboding around Morvyrkrad, of finding something horrific sealed away in an ancient place, and wondered if I had any particular experiences that inspired it.

Well. Let me tell you a story.

A while back someone brought me a desktop PC repair. A desktop PC, one of those old beige Optiplex GX400 towers Dell used to manufacture before they tried (and mostly failed) to do cool designs.

“You have cats, don’t you?” I said, dusting off the top of the case.

“Yup,” said the client.

“I bet you smoke, too, don’t you?” I said.

“Yup,” said the client.

“How long have you had this computer?”

“Nine years.”

“And in that time,” I said, “it’s never been moved?”

“Nope.”

I nodded, took a deep breath to steel myself, and then opened the computer case.

An inch of smoke-scented gray fur.

Covering every single component. Like 1970s shag carpeting from hell.

The fact that the computer turned on at all was astonishing. The fact that the client’s house had not burned down was proof that the age of miracles had not yet passed from the Earth.

And that was when I learned all I needed to know about finding something horrific sealed away in an ancient place. 🙂

-JM

Reader Question Day #69 – The order of THE GHOSTS novels and short stories

JB asks:

I am a huge fan of the ghost series… I was wondering what order do they go in? I have read all of the ones I could find on my kindle even the short stories. I am reading them again but I wanted to go in order from child of the ghosts to ghost in the ashes and I’m not sure where the short stories fit into the rest of the series. I can’t wait till ghost in the mask comes out…I feel like I have watched Caina grow up!!!

Thanks! I’m glad you liked them.

Officially, they should be read in this order:

#1 Child of the Ghosts
#2 Ghost Aria (though Ghost Aria actually takes place during CHILD OF THE GHOSTS)
#3 Ghost in the Flames
#4 Ghost Dagger
#5 Ghost in the Blood
#6 Ghost in the Storm
#7 Ghost in the Stone
#8 Ghost in the Forge
#9 Ghost Claws
#10 Ghost in the Ashes

LKM asks:

Do you write from an outline, or do you just make it up as you go?

A little bit of both. I always write an outline beforehand – usually about 3,000 words to describe the entire book. It’s pretty thorough, but I’m open to improvising if the story demands it.

A good example is Malaric in SOUL OF SORCERY and SOUL OF SKULLS. In the initial outline of of SOUL OF SORCERY, Malaric was simply the mercenary captain Lucan hired to bring him to Morvyrkrad, and then Lucan would betray him and leave him in Morvyrkrad once he had the Wraithaldr. But Malaric’s role expanded the minute I actually wrote him – first he became the assassin the Skulls sent to punish Molly Cravenlock for her betrayal, but Malaric decided his ambitions would be better served by following Lucan.

Which, of course, prompted the obvious question – what were Malaric’s ambitions? Why, to overthrow his father and his younger brothers, and claim the throne of Barellion for himself. So Malaric went from a minor character to one of the principal antagonists in SOUL OF SKULLS. Had I slavishly followed my original outline, that would not have happened.

Celia asks:

Your books rock! I love the ghost books. How did you come up with such an idea as the ghost books and all your other books.

Thanks! I’m glad you liked them. Here’s a longer essay from last year explaining where I got the idea for THE GHOSTS – as with so many things in life, it started with a rejection letter.

-JM

Reader Question Day #68 – the knightly orders of DEMONSOULED

Note that this week’s Reader Question Day CONTAINS SPOILERS for the entire DEMONSOULED series. Read at your own risk!

MM asks:

Would an Arminiar knight beat a Dominiar or a Justiciar knight?

Probably. The Arminiar knights are battle-hardened, on account of constantly fighting the Malrags coming down from the Great Northern Waste and invading Northreach.In fact, the Arminiars have done their jobs so well that most of the realm thinks Malrags are only a story, or an ancient foe from the past that long ago died out. Of course, in SOUL OF SERPENTS, everyone in the Grim Marches learns otherwise.

The Justiciars and the Dominiars, by contrast, haven’t faced a foe on the level of the Malrags in the centuries since Randur Maendrag accidentally destroyed Old Dracaryl. The Justiciar Order was originally founded to guard the realm from dark magic and serpent worship, but in time became corrupt and more interested in the acquisition of lands, especially after the fall of Old Dracaryl. The Dominiar Order split off in protest of that corruption…and, in time, spent most of its time trying to seize new lands and fighting the Justiciars.

But Mazael destroyed the Dominiars in SOUL OF TYRANTS and the Justiciars in SOUL OF SWORDS. So the Arminiars are the only knightly order left in the realm. One of the ideas I’m contemplating for the next series set in the world of DEMONSOULED is centering the story around the Arminiars, but I haven’t decided anything so far.

EJT asks:

If you do not mind me asking, how many books are you planning for the GHOSTS series?

As long as I can keep ‘em from getting stale and people keep buying them, I’ll keep writing GHOSTS books. :)

More concretely, I’m planning to do between ten and fourteen, with any more beyond fourteen determined by whether or not they’re getting stale and if people are still buying them.

-JM

DEMONSOULED – the complete word count of the series

Now that the DEMONSOULED series is complete with SOUL OF SWORDS, I decided to amuse myself by calculating the total word count of the books. Word count is one of those things that writers care about, as writers are often paid by the word, but it generally doesn’t interest most readers. (You can tell whether or not someone is a writer by asking how long a book is – a writer will say “about 100,000 words”, while someone who reads a lot but doesn’t write will simply cite the page count. Or, in the modern era, the number of Kindle locations.)

So how many words long is the DEMONSOULED series? Let’s find out!

Demonsouled: 110,000

Soul of Tyrants: 117,000

Soul of Serpents: 123,000

Soul of Dragons: 114,000 words

Soul of Sorcery : 138,000 words

Soul of Skulls: 142,000 words

Soul of Swords: 148,000 words

The Dragon’s Shadow & short stories: 30,000 words

So a grand total of 922,000 words in 12 years. That comes to approximately 2,363 book pages, more or less, if my math is right.

Of course, I didn’t do anything with DEMONSOULED from 2005 to 2011, so of those 922,000 words, I wrote 695,000 of them in the last two years or so. I have been busy! 🙂

-JM

Soul of Sorcery – 3,000 copies

SOUL OF SORCERY passed a milestone in March when the book sold its 3,000th copy. To celebrate, let’s have some new cover art:

I had always wanted to do a fantasy novel based on, or at least inspired by, the Battle of Adrianople, and SOUL OF SORCERY drew at least some of its inspiration from that period in Roman history. (You can read more about the process here.) Of course, I also wanted to do a book that had woolly mammoths and griffins, and both of those wound up in SOUL OF SORCERY as well.

SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK BELOW!

SOUL OF SORCERY was inspired by the Battle of Adrianople, but it doesn’t match the history completely. Lord Richard, for instance, might be similar to the Roman Emperor Valens, but he’s nothing like Valens. Additionally, that period of Roman history has no equivalent figure to Mazael Cravenlock. Theodosius the Great ended the Gothic War and made peace with the Thervingi Goths, and he was nothing like Mazael.

One interesting thing about the character of Malaric was that I didn’t plan him – in the outline it said “Lucan hires mercenary captain (decide name later)” and that was that. But when I got to the scene where Lucan meets the “nameless mercenary captain”, his personality sort of just jumped off the page, along with his grudges – and Malaric had a lot of grudges. I like to outline my books thoroughly, but sometimes it’s good to improvise, too.

-JM