Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Author

I photocopied the cartoon below from a 1933 Nov issue of Punch Magazine from the University of Wisconsin Library many years ago. At the time I dreamed of being an author and I loved this cartoon of an author. I've had this poor black and white photo copy framed for years. The caption reads:

Author in search of local colour spends a convivial evening roystering with the peasants at the local inn.

I get a smile out of it every time I see it. Love the dog. Well, now 40 some years later the Stranger could be me. (Though truth be told, I've never had any desire to royster with the peasants.)

In this modern age you can get buy the color a print of it here: 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lost Star's Sea Progress Report

I hope to wrap up my revisions of The Lost Star's Sea within the next 10 days. All I have left to do is to polish up the last section of some 25K words or so. Everything else has been, or is now out for proofreading and feedback from my volunteer beta readers.

What remains to be done then, is;
1) Finish revising the last section of the book, well under way.
2) Get that section proofread and out to my beta readers.
3) I probably will make a map of the section of the Archipelago that the story takes place in to post on the this blog. I don't think a list of characters is necessary, though there are a lot of characters. We'll see.
4) Need to write the various blurbs for the various listings.
5) Make all the corrections my proofreaders and beta readers send back to me.
6) Make some minor revisions to The Bright Black Sea to correspond to changes I made for The Lost Star's Sea -- mostly changes in name spelling and terminology.
7) When all of the above are done, all that will remain to be done is to upload it to Smashwords and Amazon. If all goes well, it will be a Thursday in the last half of July 2017 or early August 2017 As usual it will be free on Smashwords, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo, and for a while, at least, $.99 on Amazon. Hopefully they will once more match the free price of their competitors, once the book makes its way from Smashwords to those other retailers -- usually about 7 to 10 after it's published on Smashwords.

Castaways of the Lost Star will be unpublished when The Lost Star's Sea is released, since Castaways becomes the first section of The Lost Star's Sea -- about 20-25% of it. The rest is all new. It's another long, episodic adventure novel, about 350K words long, some 30K words longer than The Bright Black Sea.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Amateur Writer

I happened to come across this blog post on Quartz, and it really sums up my attitude about not only writing but my painting as well.

The key takeaway:
Chesterton says as much in his biography of Robert Browning:
The word amateur has come by the thousand oddities of language to convey an idea of tepidity; whereas the word itself has the meaning of passion. Nor is this peculiarity confined to the mere form of the word; the actual characteristic of these nameless dilettanti is a genuine fire and reality. A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the toils of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.

I think that within the next 10 years, self-published books will be almost entirely written by amateurs, people with stories write and to share with others. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Two Years of Free Books

It's been two years since I self published my first science fiction novel, A Summer in Amber on 27 April, 2015. I followed that book with Some Day Days on 9 July 2015 and then A Bright Black Sea on 16 Sept 2015. Since I'd been working on those stories for more than five years, I was able to release all three within five months of each other. In 2016, faced with the fact that my next story, the companion volume to The Bright Black Sea would not be finished before the last half of 2017, I published the first, 70K word, “episode” of the book as a stand alone story, Castaways of the Lost Star on 25 July 2016. The complete book, a 340K word long planetary romance, The Lost Star's Sea is on track for release this summer.

My books are targeted at a very small market – me. I have old fashioned tastes in books –  mostly adventure novels from the first half of the last century, give or take a decade or two – so they're not written to be commercial products for today's mass markets. Having no commercial ambitions, or any need for the few dollars they'd likely bring in if I tried selling them, I offer them for free. Amazon requires at least a $.99 price, but they've been kind enough to price-match free in the US store and 2 books in the UK store. Because I hate self-promotion – and work – I'm content to let price, reviews and word of mouth promote my books. And since I value good reviews over downloads, I write my blurbs to attract only the subset of readers who will likely enjoy them. I can publish free books without losing a penny because I can do – almost – everything involved in self publishing in-house. The exception being, as I found out the hard way, proofreading. However, I now have a crew of very kind volunteer proofreaders willing to help me with that.

There are many ways to build a readership. I've chosen the way that suits me best – honest descriptions and the elimination of price as a barrier. So how does it work? Let's take a look.

A Summer in Amber
Release 27 April 2015
1st year downloads & sales - 2,222
2nd year downloads & sales -1,357
Total to date                       3,579

Rating & Reviews
         1st Year 2nd Year Total
5 star 13        12            25
4 star 16         -             16
3 star -           4              4
2 star 4           2             6
1 star -           -              -
Total 33         18            51

Some Day Days
Released 9 July 2015
1st year downloads & sales – 1,139
2nd year downloads & sales –   511
Total                                  1,650

Ratings & Reviews
         1st Year 2nd Year Total
5 star -           2           2
4 star 2          1            3
3 star 1          4            5
2 star 1           -           1
1 star -           -            -
Total 4           7           11

The Bright Black Sea
Released 16 Sept. 2015
1st year downloads & sales - 3,176
2nd year downloads & sales – 2,569
Total to date 5,745

Ratings & Reviews
          1st Year 2nd Year Total
5 star 59         33            92
4 star 12           7           19
3 star 4            4             8
2 star 1            -             -
1 star 2            1             3
Total 80          44          124

Notes: Amazon dropped price matching in March of 2016 until Sept. of 2016, so I have no data to determine if and how the release of its sequel affected sales. Downloads in Sept 2016 were twice the highest number recorded for any other month – I suspect that the spike was due to some sort of promotion by Amazon. (I saw a similar unexplained spike in A Summer in Amazon Sales in its first year as well.) I didn't happen to catch it at its peak, but several days later is was still at #20, so it may have well been the #1 free Space Opera for a day. Selling at $3.99, it sold 16 copies during the March – June time period. And in the July – August time period when it was priced at $.99 it sold 15 copies. Foreign sales currently run 1 to 2 copies a month at $.99.

Interesting enough, my downloads on iBooks dropped by more than half once Amazon started offering all my books for free again with the release of Castaways in Sept 2016. That seems to be the only reason for that to happen.

The Castaways of the Lost Star (a sequel to The Bright Black Sea)
Released 25 July 2016
2nd year downloads & sales - 1700
Total to date - 1700

Ratings & reviews
         2nd Year
5 star 6
4 star 4
3 star -
2 star -
1 star -
Total 10

Coming this Summer: The Lost Star's Sea. The concluding volume of the Lost Star and the adventures of Captain Wil Litang.

The Complete Totals

First year downloads/sales of all books – 6,537*
Total number of ratings/reviews - 117

Second year downloads/sales of all books – 6,137*
Total number of ratings/reviews - 79
Two year cumulative download/sales – 12,674*
Cumulative number of ratings/reviews – 196

*Kobo does not report free downloads to Smashwords so this number is no doubt vastly under reported. Maybe by 100. $ Sales constitute only a small fraction of these totals. And the straight 400 download difference between the two years is just weird.

I release my books through Smashwords and Amazon. Last year Smashwords distributed books including iBooks and B & N but not Kobo outsold Amazon by 2 to 1. The cumulative totals now are about 50-50.

Two calender year profits: (2015 & 2016): slightly under $50 from Amazon sales.

With no data to compare these results to other self publishing authors who entered the science fiction market in 2015, I have no idea how they stack up to the more conventional ways of establishing a self publishing venture. However, I'm very pleased with the results and have enjoyed the whole experience. I've learned a lot, made new friends, and accomplished something I've always wanted to do – write a book or two that are read and appreciated.

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who helped make this publishing venture both very enjoyable and modestly successful. While my name is on the title page, other people have helped to making the books better than I could've done alone. First off, I'd like to thank my volunteer proofreaders and beta readers. I produce a vast number of typos and have an amazing ability to be blind to them, so a sincere thanks goes out to Sally L., Carlos S., Hannes B., Nicole B., Martin V., Walt, and Stephen B.. I truly appreciate the efforts they've made to make my books better for every reader. I'd also like to thank the readers who took time to write to me. And all the readers who have taken the time to review and/or rate my stories. I'm not writing for money. Reader satisfaction is my benchmark of success, and while I know that I can not please everyone, I am glad that the people who do like my stories seem to truly appreciate them. And finally, I'd like to thank you, dear reader, for selecting my books and spending time alongside the characters and in worlds I've discovered lurking in my imagination. A story without a reader is a pretty sad thing. I'm glad that my stories have found readers, and readers who have enjoyed them.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two Years!

Two years ago today I published my first novel, A Summer in Amber. On one hand, it seems like a lot of stories ago, and on the other, that summer in the highlands is still fresh in my memory. Next week I will post on this blog my 2nd Annual Report reporting on my "sales" figures for my second year in self publishing. Stay tuned to see what the wages of "free" have earned during the second year!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Done. Sort of.

I'm very happy to report that I've finished the first draft of part 8, The Dragon Kings. This is the last section of The Lost Star's Sea, which means that both the book and the adventures of Captain Wil Litang have, at long last, wound to their way to their appointed end.

Of course we're far from the end of work on it. I still have a lot of hammering of the words, sentences, and paragraphs to get them into shape for publication – especially in the last two or three sections which are more or less first drafts, and my first drafts are often rather pedestrian, sketchy, and rough around the edges. The first three sections, however, should be pretty much ready to go – one last read through, and then proof reading.

So what's next? This week I'll start my last read through of part 2 (part 1 is The Castaways of the Lost Star) and once I'm satisfied with it, I'll print it out and hand it over to Sally, my wife and first proof reader. Once she's done with it, and I'll make the 100's of corrections she'll find. Corrections made, it will then be ready to be read by my volunteer proofreaders and advanced readers – hopefully by the end of April. Episodes 3, & 4 should follow at a similar pace, every three weeks or so. If all goes well, we're looking at a late summer, early fall release date.

I'll be contacting everyone who's signed up to be a volunteer proofreader/advanced reader when I have the first proofed version in hand. Any one interested in reading the not quite final version prior to book publication, can drop me a note at and I'll put you on the list.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Island Trails

Another view of the Islands of the Pela. This time we have a vine bridge spanning a gap. The "broad feathered" natives of the island, with their more articulated and clawed feet can easily use these vines to cross the gap. The painting's so-so, but I think the islands in the distance are an improvement. That's the way it works for me -- learn a lesson with every painting -- and hope I don't forget it.