This week on A Year in the Life: artistic triumphs! financial failures! all we need is an operatic ending!
Writing: It’s been all about the short stories the past couple of weeks, although that makes it sound like I’ve written like 42 of them, when in fact I’ve written more like 1.5. Heh. Still, it’s forward motion, and I would say that I’m closing out the first half of the writing year with about 200K under my belt. This is less than I was aiming for, but not at all unrespectable.
I’ve just very belatedly finished the proofs on BABA YAGA’S DAUGHTER, a collection of Old Races short stories that’s out from Subterranean Press this autumn (yes, this really is the year of All The Old Races Stuff, after a 5-year hiatus from that world). And now I’m going to toot my own horn some, because this collection came together really well and I want to talk about it as best as I can.
I had a real and particular goal for the BYD collection, which was that it would tell the stories of several characters who are secondary, tertiary or even non-existent in the Negotiator Trilogy. I wanted them to be linked, but for the collection to be in no way considered a novel. I also wanted the collection to enrich the Old Races universe in a meaningful way, but also for it to be completely unnecessary for readers to pick up the collection for backstory if I should ever write more novels in that world.
And to be frank, I succeeded admirably. The book does exactly what I hoped it would in all of those respects, and I’m very, very pleased about that.
But here’s the thing that surprised me: the first story in the book, “From Russia, With Love,” is one of the best things I’ve ever written. I was a little uncomfortable, in fact, with the idea that it is the first story, because it’s good enough that I didn’t think the others could stand up to it. But in doing proofs, and reading the stories both all out of order and also as a cohesive unit for the first time…they do stand up. Every one of them is really well written, the voices change for the different stories, the characters grow and remain true to themselves, and one of the stories puts a completely different spin on some of the events of The Negotiator Trilogy. I was really, really surprised at how much I just flat-out liked the stories, and at how well I thought they did their job.
So not only is the collection, to me, a successful attempts on a physical, it-does-what-I-was-aiming-for level, but it’s also a tremendous artistic triumph. I’m really, really proud of it.
BABA YAGA’S DAUGHTER is my 19th published book. It’s the first one I’ve ever come close to regarding as an artistic triumph: I do not think of my writing in that way. I find that hugely encouraging, when you get right down to it. It kind of suggests I’m continuing to learn and improve, and that’s rather heartening.
Self-publishing efforts: Because I’m going on holiday, I’ve published “Year of Miracles”, the Old Races novella that’s part of this summer’s e-publishing efforts, a little early (Amazon, Barnes & Noble &
Smashwords! You know you want to!) so I don’t have to deal with it over my vacation. Boom boom boom!
Thus far I have to say the Old Races stuff is going embarrassingly badly. Between Amazon and B&N, I’ve sold about 200 copies of ORIGINS, which is something of a letdown after over 1100 “Easy Pickings” sales in its first month. Now, there are a ton of potential factors relating to that, including but not limited to:
– two authors on “Easy Pickings”, thus 2 fan bases
– “Easy Pickings” is Walker-Papers-based, therefore belongs to the longer series w/more active readers
– Faith and I *both* had new books out in the months “Easy Pickings” was released
– short stories vs a novella
– many potential ORIGINS customers were patrons for the crowdfund project that made it happen, so I may have tapped that well dry already
But! I shall soldier on. As soon as I have the last collection, AFTERMATH, completed, I’m going to be sending the whole set to some people who have volunteered to review them, and I’ve bought an ad campaign (!) at Bitten By Books, which is a review site I like a lot. That campaign will be running in August and September after all three collections are out, so we’ll see if it bumps things up a little.
One thing I’ve learned is how Amazon lists its bestsellers–among other things, for e-releases it has to do with how steadily sales have been over the previous month. That’s why “Easy Pickings” suddenly leapt into the top 20 after a month of sales–it had been selling steadily, 10-15 copies a day, for the past 30 days, and that aggragated and put it into the top 20. So that’s clearly the kind of thing I need to be aiming/hoping for with the Old Races stuff. I may even try to do a blog tour for this project, once all three collection pieces are available.
This self publishing stuff, man, it’s not for the faint-hearted!