While revising Book Two of the Stonedragon Flame, I decided to use the wonderful wordle.net to create a word cloud to visually look at my word usage tendencies. It was an interesting and useful experiment. Then I realized that it also just looked kind of cool, and wouldn't it be neat to make one for Dragon Master as well?

So I did.

It's kind of fun just to look at, and it's sized just right to be your new wallpaper if you so desire. Why not, right? Poor Caedan's name is so small though. Can you find it?


Rise and Fall of Book One

So the lifecycle of my first novel (in a vacuum) appears to have been about six months and 800 paid copies sold. Obviously nothing to write home about, but not the worst thing ever [for the worst thing ever see the lifecycle of my first iPhone game (no, really)]. It's possible that my book actually is just the kind of thing that people are more likely to seek out during Summer months since sales did best during that period, but given the basic shape of the sales curve it looks like this is probably just the way things would be no matter what the initial release date. There was a spike on release, a nice pickup after a month and a half when the hardcover book became available, and then one more small spike at the end with Christmas Sales combined with a small promotion the week before. I'll be curious to see how this graph ends up looking when book two is released, but for now I don't expect any more real upticks in sales (I do hope that the graph stabilizes somewhere above zero copies per week at least).


Signing Books

My experience with Kapipal went very well: nobody seemed to have any problems with the website, my wife and I received the funds minus a small PayPal cut, and we were able to order copies of the book for everyone who wanted one and will have a decent profit even after shipping out the signed copies. If you're looking to take orders for a situation like this one, I have no problem recommending Kapipal.

We decided to spend a decent chunk of our profits from these signed book sales to work up some marketing material. That is, I designed a bookmark to advertise Dragon Master and had 500 of them printed. If I'd been paying closer attention, I would have had 1000 printed instead since the bulk of the cost is in setting up the plates for offset printing. I ended up choosing Print Place to print the bookmarks and I'm happy with how everything turned out: the price was right and the quality of the finished product is excellent. I had a small issue where the files I originally sent for printing would have ended up with the back side of the bookmark upside down, but their QA process spotted it and gave me a chance to correct it before the files went to print, which I definitely appreciated. I hope to have a future entry describing the bookmarks in more detail, probably after I figure out exactly how I'll set about giving them away to potential readers. For now, I'm including a bookmark with every signed copy of the book ordered as a little surprise "extra".


The trade paperback is here! If you'd like a personalized, signed copy of the book, I will mail one to you for just $15! I'm offering this deal for a couple weeks for anyone who actually wants my scribble in their book, but if you'd just like to check out the print edition it's now available on Amazon or directly from the printer for just $12.95 (plus shipping).

Note that I'm using Kapipal to offer the signed copies of the book, so check out the Kapipal project page for more information. If you're not familiar with Kapipal, it's a fundraising site (similar to Kickstarter, if you're familiar with that more well-known website) that I'm trying out for the first time. I'll post an update to say how my experience with Kapipal goes.

Less Than One: Followup

So now that I've had a chance to get reports back from Amazon and look at the data, I can pretty confidently say that the (not entirely unexpected) conclusions gleaned from my "Less Than One" experiment are as follows:

• Taking an unknown book and randomly re-pricing it from $2.99 to 99¢ does not result in a 6x+ increase in sales (At 99¢ and a 35% royalty, I'd need to sell 6x as many books to "break even" financially). Note that this applies only to a 99¢ sale that isn't supported by any additional marketing efforts around the "sale" price. The results may be different if there is promotion around the price drop.

• With rankings around the 44,000 range in Amazon, any minor increase in sales is not enough to make a meaningful difference in rankings. I'm not completely sure, but I think I'd need to be in the top 100 of a given category before the rankings even matter in terms of book visibility.

• There is some increase in total sales volume at 99¢ compared with $2.99, so if I'm promoting book one of a series where additional books are also available, this could be financially viable. Also, if my only goal is to reach more readers, then there is a reason to choose this price point. If I'm hoping to make some kind of living at this, then I'll need to make the book financially viable so I can keep writing more and hope to reach those additional readers later on with future releases.

• $2.99 is the best eBook price point for me, for now. I may experiment in the other direction with a higher price to see how that affects sales volume and total revenue, but I don't expect to drop below $2.99 any time in the near future.


Less Than One

In an attempt to create another data point to go along with J.A. Konrath's gambit to price all his eBooks at 99 cents this weekend, I'm doing the same for Dragon Master. I've had a slow but steady stream of purchases of the book so far, netting me a not-very-impressive-but-it-sure-could-be-worse sales rank that seems to hover in the 40,000 range on Amazon.com at the normal price of $2.99. After this weekend I intend to price the book back at $2.99 permanently, especially as Amazon's royalty system severely penalizes authors for pricing their books any lower than $2.99, but I intend to blog about my experiences here after the experiment is over, whatever the results turn out to be.


Dragon Master: A Post-Mortem (Part 1)


Dragon Master - Book One of the Stonedragon Flame
My first novel, Dragon Master, is now available on Amazon for purchase. Official publication date: June 15, 2012. I'm going to write a short series of blog posts as a post-mortem to the writing, editing, publishing, and marketing of this first novel. The dates listed are accurate to the best of my recollection, as are the facts. 

March 26, 2012
I get a haircut. I realize that every fifth year, two dragons are born. I write that down, and keep writing everything that follows from that simple premise. The dragons can only be killed by Dragon Masters (okay, so at the time they were called "Eradicators"), and Masters can only be born through the same ceremony that also leads to the birth of dragons. The interesting character in this world is the potential Dragon Master, and so the whole of book one originates from this idea. But the world is rich, and this character is only part of a much larger story, so I keep writing a synopsis for another book in the series. Then another. These characters belong to a story arc that plays out over seven books, but even then the story of the world isn't told. As I expand on the bigger pictures, the real history of this world, the origin of the dragons, the hidden power players, I realize that there's more to be told. This series is actually just the first of three series set in this world, part of a huge plot. I actually have twenty one books that need to be written to tell the whole story. I roughly outline the overall arc of the remaining fourteen books and set out to focus on book one. I start writing actual first-draft fiction. None of this ends up in my final draft, but I've nevertheless started writing a novel. Out of nowhere.

March 27, 2012
"You'll get the kill, or you'll die trying." The first words on the first page of the first chapter, excluding the prologue. They are the first words I write on the twenty-seventh, and they'll actually survive with only minor tweaking all the way through to publication. I write a 2,902-word first chapter, then a 3,131-word second chapter, and half of chapter three. Writing is fun. I decide to make my iPhone game free for a few days as some strange way to make myself feel less guilty about spending my time focusing on writing instead of making games.

March 28, 2012
So I'm apparently writing a novel now. You'd think I'd have realized that a couple days ago, but I was still somewhat in denial about the whole thing until I do a word count and realize I'm over 11,000 words written, one-sixth of the way to finished, just a couple days removed from the first germ of an idea. I decide to tempt fate and write a quick blog post about it.

March 29, 2012
Didn't I make Beat Boxes free the other day? I should see how that's going. Oh. My! Okay, so I wasn't expecting numbers like that. I guess people like games when they don't have to pay for them. Good to know. Maybe I should take a break from this writing thing and spend some time trying to make the most of this sudden download spike? I wish I had more hours in the day, but who doesn't? One thing I don't lack is adrenaline. Another blog post. I continue writing the novel, but only a little bit today.

March 30, 2012
I realize that I need to write a prophecy. Instead of writing five thousand words in a couple hours, I write sixty-six words in two hours. And I know full well that I'm going to have to re-write almost every one of those words, but it's important that I have a complete first draft of the prophecy because not only will it play a role in this book, but it's actually laying the foundation for the entire series. I don't realize it yet, but the entire series will be named for this prophecy. I suppose, then, that it's appropriate that I spent so much time focusing on it. I gladly sprint through another two thousand words in less than an hour once I finish with the prophecy, though the events that transpire at first confuse me.

April 2, 2012
I've been writing at a decent clip, around five thousand words a day, though sometimes I get off on tangents and will eventually end up having to cut some of these scenes and chapters. I write up another blog post, a stake in the ground to remind me where I've been and where I'm going. Maybe it'll be interesting to theoretical future readers of my blog.

April 4, 2012
I've crossed the halfway point of writing the first novel. I'm surprised that I haven't run into any blocks, that I still feel like I'm running downhill, just as I've been doing from the first moment I started writing this book. I set clear goals for myself, and decide that there's no reason why I can't complete the first draft of the book after just fourteen writing days (I've had to take a couple days off, and will need to take a couple more days off in the coming week, but since i won't be writing at all on those days I won't count them as part of the two weeks). 

April 6, 2012
I'm reading a lot about publishing. About traditional publishers, about the traditional route of finding an agent and a manager and getting a publisher and working with an editor and regular publishing schedules. An advance would be nice. Actually, an advance may be necessary since the free sales spike hasn't translated into especially high sales of my game and that's the only source of income for my family right now, and our savings are running dangerously low. Still, there's a lot to recommend the self-publishing route in this day and age, and even if I haven't had success embracing my entrepreneurial spirit I can't deny that it's who I am. Or who I want to be, at least. I'm still writing, too. I complete chapter 13 and get to work on Chapter 14. My self imposed deadline is approaching.

April 8, 2012
I begin to wonder what kind of book cover Dragon Master might have. If I go with a traditional publisher then I likely won't have any input, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? Only one way to find out: I'll try to design a cover myself and see how it goes. I know that I want to feature Caedan, Boe, and Daija to give potential readers a sense that these people are important to the story. I spend some time finding images I can work with for my rough mockup: nothing I'd actually use externally, but useful to get basic blocking right and help me visualize the image. I figure I'd have a traditional fantasy book cover painting done up. In the end, I realize that my book cover sensibilities are stuck squarely in the 1990s. Perhaps I should stick with a good thing and focus on my writing.

April 9, 2012
I'm in the home stretch. I have three more days to hit my deadline, and three or four more chapters to write. I've known from before I wrote the first word how the books would end, at least dramatically, but I still need to figure out exactly where is the best place to actually end the book. I figure I'll deal with that when I get to it, and I just focus on getting to that ending. I have a couple of big decisions to make now about reveals, who finds out what, and especially what the reader finds out and when. I bring up the notes that I wrote back on March 26 when I started this thing and I'm surprised by the depth and detail that's there, and how very closely I've followed the outline of what should happen in book one despite never having gone back and referencing the outline again until today. I decide that whatever muse gripped me that day knew what they were doing and I trust my notes and go with the reveals as they're written.

April 10, 2012
Even as I'm writing the final chapter, I'm not yet sure if it's the end of the book. But as I draw closer and closer to the climax, I realize that's where this story ends, that's the natural end of book one. If I was writing a stand-alone novel then things would be different, but then if I was writing a stand-alone novel then a lot of things would be different. What I have here is something that stands on its own, it's a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. But it's also part of a larger picture, and I can't really keep going without opening a lot of doors that won't be answered in this book, so I need to go ahead and write it:


I've done it. Thirteen writing days averaging over 4,000 words a day. One complete novel. My first. The first of many to come, hopefully.



When I heard that the so-called "sweet spot" for best viewing of the annulear eclipse was going to be in relatively nearby Kanarraville, Utah, I thought it could definitely be worth visiting. And it turned out that it was! I admit I was most excited about the event because my novel features a kind of "Ring of Fire" eclipse, though one that works very differently than what we got on May 20th.

In the book, a festival crowd gathers to watch the event–and now I got to go to what amounted to a festival wherein a crowd gathered to watch a similar event! There was quite a bit of cheering, something I hadn't imagined though it's something that felt obvious there in Utah in the moment. So the timing and placement of this eclipse worked out serendipitously as it will help me enrich that scene in the book from my life experiences. I wonder if that means I can write off the $30 we spent on special eclipse viewing glasses?

Public viewing telescopes, media coverage, and a ring of fire.