A Year in the Life: Week Five

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This is a series of posts about the day to day detail work that makes up the life of a writer. It’s not glamorous, but it’s real. This week, as last time, I’m also discussing the crowdfunding efforts I’ve been part of, and posting short essays about them. So: onward!

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Writing: Nothing. Zero. Zip, zilch, nada. The past two weeks I have done no writing, no revising, no nothing. Normally this would be called a vacation, except it was caused by a convention sandwiched by two colds, rather than an intention of taking time off.

Work That Isn’t Writing: Hundreds of items have gone onto this list. I have:

– discussed with publishers the grey area where self epublishing meets the hope of a future physical collection of the same material (answer: it behooves you *greatly* to be prepared to have previously unseen content as part of any project like that you pitch)
– sent an “art fact sheet” to discuss what I’d like to see on the cover of the 8th Walker Papers
– emailed back and forth quite a lot with my agent about an upcoming series proposal & am now holding my breath as it goes out into the world!
– revamped cemurphy.net
– had a book launch for the 7th Walker Papers novel
– contacted a cover artist about art for an upcoming e-release
– contacted an editor for the same project
– gone through the opening steps of putting together an anthology
– arranged everything to go to a convention in England next month
– helped to run & participated as a panelist in a local SF convention

And that’s what I can *remember*.

Self-publishing efforts:: Holy carp, people.

At the beginning of February, “Easy Pickings” made it into the top 20 on Amazon’s top sellers in both the Kindle-specific and general e-book listings for contemporary fantasy. This becomes somewhat self-perpetuating, so for about three weeks we remained there, reaching as high as #11 and #12 in the listings. As a result, we averaged over 100 sales a day in February, and closed out with a total of just under 3000 sales for the month. That puts us in the region of 4100 sales for the first couple months of e-release, and Faith and I are over the moon about that.

The numbers at B&N are not nearly as spectacular: about 200 sales for January and February each, which brings in a nice bit of pocket change. I would love to see those numbers grow, just because I’d like to see B&N take a chunk out of Amazon (oh what it’s come to, that we’re cheering B&N…), but I’m entirely content with steady, if not amazing, numbers there.

I’m going to be very curious about the next few months, seeing where the numbers stabilize at! I’ll keep you posted!

And I’ll close out with a bit more of my lecture on crowdfunding, so your brains will be ENTIRELY FULL when I’m done with you. Muahahahah. :)

More on crowdfunding:

What sorts of rewards would be attractive?

Rewards are the hardest thing about crowdfunding, I think. (Except for the general nerve-wracking “I’m throwing a party and wonder if anybody will come!” aspect of it.)

Your basic reward for crowdfunded storytelling is the story. $5 gets you the e-book. There’s a real argument to be made for making it a base $10 buy-in because, as someone pointed out to me during the “No Dominion” campaign, if you’re pricing your book at what you’d buy an e-copy for on Amazon or B&N.com, you’re basically just setting up a pre-order system, not crowdfunding per se. But I like a $5 basic buy-in, because it’s a price point almost anybody can afford, and it gives the patron the specific item they presumably most want: the book!

General Reward Thoughts: I said a few days in to the “No Dominion” campaign that I’d already thought I needed to restructure the reward levels, and I still think I shoulda. I should have set it at $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500 for the realistic rewards, and I think leaving the $1K, $2500 and $5K for “anybody got silly money?” rewards is fine. It probably should have looked something like this:

$5 : the novella
$10 : the novella & 2 short stories
$25 : novella, 4 short stories, name in acknowledgements (because holy crap, 520 backers, I’m gonna have four pages of thank-yous!)
$50 : the above & a bookmark featuring the NO DOMINION cover art
$100 : the above & a behind-the scenes chapbook of the NO DOMINION cover art photo shoot/9×12″ print of the cover art
$250 : the above & the limited edition print run of NO DOMINION included
$500 : the above & and your name as one of the characters in either NO DOMINION or one of the companion short stories

For other peoples’ reward ideas: Laura Anne Gilman’s “From Whence You Came” campaign page; Tim Pratt’s GRIM TIDES campaign page, and Chrysoula Tzavelas’s MATCHBOX GIRLS campaign page. There are others that I can’t think of right now, but I will happily link to them in the next post if people want to point me at them in comments.

Best Reward Idea: For the “No Dominion” campaign, it’s clear that the extra short stories were the best reward idea offered up. That makes sense: I’m a writer, the people supporting this are my readers, so of course they’d like extra stories. I write fast, so a short story is a reasonably time-effective reward to offer.

Worst Reward Idea: My worst reward idea, hands down, was the Unique Kickstarter-Patrons-Only Calendars. For two reasons, as it turned out. First–or the one I discovered first, anyway–is that it didn’t appear to be an exciting rollover point for people. Short stories garnered faaaaar more enthusiasm. So that’s important to know.

Second, though, and actually far more relevant than the popularity angle is the cost-ineffectiveness. I knew standard 11×17″ calendars would be too expensive, even if I was ordering a couple hundred of them, but it turned out (and I didn’t look this up beforehand, bad me) that 7×11″ calendars aren’t noticeably cheaper than the big ones. So I have learned to, for pity’s sake, do all the due diligence for cost effectiveness ahead of time next time, and, er, if I’m going to do calendars again, make them a high-end buy in bonus, like the handful of them that went to patrons who bought in at $250+, rather than an “everybody who buys in at $30 or more gets one”.

While calendars are probably not something everybody’s likely to try to put together, the principle stands: if it’s something that has a high cost point, only include it at the high end of the buy-ins. Learn from me on this one.

A Mistake I Made: When I went into the “No Dominion” campaign I only intended to write 1 extra short story. This made the higher end rollover points of “if we break $15K I’ll write another novella!” seem pretty reasonable. But then during hte course of the campaign I became overwhelmed with excitement and ended up throwing freebies and things out, with a total of I think 5 short stories and 3 chapters of a book I haven’t written.

You can see how this starts becoming not-cost-effective. The *smart* thing to do would have been say “And at $15K we will have something REALLY NIFTY! But you have to get us there, or almost there, before I’ll tell you what it is!”

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5 comments to A Year in the Life: Week Five

  • Mikaela

    ….E-release? What e-release? This is the first I hear about it!
    The anthology I knew was in the works. Even if it is just on the idea stage :).

  • adamgaylord

    This whole crowdfunding thing is very interesting. I’m not sold that it’s the right path for me but I’m happy to know that there are other viable options out there.

  • I love, love, love the information you’ve been providing on Kickstarter. I found that when I did a non-Kickstarter “pay what you want; here are prizes” offering of FRIGHT COURT, that a lot of the people did not actually want the prizes they were entitled to, at their level of giving. I felt a bit guilty, as if I’d not kept my end of the bargain, but after three rounds of contact, asking for addresses or specifics (e.g., which character do you want to write the postcard to you?), I closed up the rewards shop.

    Are you finding that some people don’t take you up on rewards? Or is Kickstarter, by its very nature, more cleanly rewards-focused?

  • Christina Stiles and I just finished our RPF kickstarter project, at 150% funding, which was really nice. Like you, we found that people wanted more several things: short stories most, shorts with a role playing adventure based on the same scenario second, role playing game adventures third, jewelry made by me and leather items made by Mike.

    For a look at the teirs, if anyone is interested, here is a link.
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1473997268/rogue-mage-roleplaying-game-and-world-book.
    Annnnd. Catie and I have put together another project….which I imagine she will anounce soon. :)

  • Cindy

    That’s mean to tease us like that Faith. :)
    Sometimes it seems I am always waiting for book releases.
    Thanks for the post Catie.