Oops, I Wrote a Novella

Regrets - A NovellaI recently wrote a piece where I explained why we authors need to stop writing novellas, because nobody wants to read them. So naturally, I just wrote a novella. Because even I don’t listen to the stupid advice on this stupid blog.

The story behind the story is that I was at a college reunion of sorts, except I wasn’t with the reunion, I was with the band. I wasn’t in the band. I was just hanging out with the band. It was my brother’s band, so that’s not quite as weird as it sounds. Anyway, at this reunion, there was a woman in a blue dress with the most amazing rack. And she kept trying to get her husband’s attention, and he was completely ignoring her.

So that gave me the gist of the story idea. A woman in her 40s, who is still really fucking hot, but for some reason is invisible to most men. I have no idea what’s up with that. But I know a lot of 40-something women, and they tell me it’s definitely a thing. They just kind of disappear somewhere between 40 and 50 and then nobody can see them any more. Or, rather, they don’t see them as sexual beings. So my idea was to put this lady I saw into a story where some random stranger gives her the attention she isn’t getting from her husband.

I figured I’d write a short story. But then I got this weird idea about doing a tick-tock point-of-view thing, where I’d go back and forth between the POV of the woman, and that of the suitor. Switching at scene boundaries. I was afraid it might be annoying or gimmicky, but I sent the first couple scenes to some test readers and they said it worked. (The reviewers on Amazon agree, it turns out.)

So that device made my short story longer. And then this happened:

That’s 100% true. I just didn’t have enough time in a 2,500 word short story to let my characters do everything they wanted to sexually.

It ended up about 9,000 words. That’s three to four times the proper length for a short story. But only half the length of a standard novella. It’s a deminovella. (I looked that up; it’s not a thing.)

But what are you going to do? There isn’t anything I can cut, and I don’t want to pad it out with a bunch of crap it doesn’t need. So I guess it is what it is.

Once I finished it, I polled my Twitter followers about what I should do with it:

Twitter is so helpful

Twitter is so helpful

So I took their advice and made it into a little book. I launched it on Amazon, and you can get it at mybook.to/regrets for $0.99, £0.99, or whatever the minimum price for a Kindle book is where you live.

I hope you like it!

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Testing the “First hit is free” Approach

Attractions - Joshua Edward SmithThere is a very popular marketing strategy in which you make the first book of a series free. The theory is that it removes a sales barrier to readers trying a new author. And if they like the book, they will go on to read the subsequent books in the series. Like many popular book marketing strategies, I think it’s probably nonsense. But I decided to do a little experiment.

Rather than make my first book free, I made a short story free. This has some benefits:

  • I’ve only written two novels so far. By making the short story free, I’ve left open the possibility of two subsequent sales instead of just one.
  • It takes literally 20 minutes or less to read this short story, so I’ll know right away if people are enticed to read the novels.
  • The short story is apparently very, very good. People are raving about it. (4.9 stars with 16 reviews at the time I’m writing this.)
  • I have the first scene of Entropy (my novel) stuck on the end of the short story, to further entice people who liked the story to jump right in. There’s a link there, too, of course.

I went ahead and advertised the free day on Fussy Librarian, in order to get as many people as possible to download the free short story onto their Kindles. That worked great. I got about 200 downloads from that, plus another 75 from plain old Twitter promotion. I landed at the #2 spot for fiction short stories for two days straight, but of course those rankings mean absolutely nothing.

Finally, I left my novel at the empirically determined best price of $2.99 to maximize the chances that someone coming to the page would buy it. At that price my book has a consistent conversion rate of 5% for people who look at the page completely cold from Twitter Ads. So at least 5% of the people who follow through are probably going to buy the book, and probably higher since they already have read maybe the best thing I’ve ever written.

I cannot think of anything I could have done to better position this to succeed.

So it’s been a few days. Guess how many sales of Entropy I’ve had.

Nope. Lower than that.

Lower.

Lower.

There you go. One. One fucking book. And of course, I don’t even know for sure that it was the result of a short story reading. I did suspend my Twitter Ads during the experiment, though. So let’s assume it was.

Shake. My. Damn. Head.

Okay, so my intuition that giving away the first book in your series is a stupid idea: that’s confirmed.

Stop Writing Novellas – The People Want Novels

I stumbled upon the most amazing study. Actually, there are a lot of studies on this site, but this most recent one is so huge and comprehensive, you’ll probably be too exhausted after reading it to bother looking at the rest: May 2016 Author Earnings Report: the definitive million-title study of US author earnings

It’s daunting, so I’ll give you a quick sketch of what they did: They took a one-day snapshot of everything happening in the book business on Amazon.com. Everything. And from that, they extrapolated to make a lot of really interesting conclusions. These are serious data scientists, and they have plenty of evidence that extrapolating from a single day is a legit approach.

Here are some of the things I found most interesting:

  • There are only about 1000 authors making a professional salary writing books.
    The odds of making into the NFL are almost twice as good as your odds of being able to make a professional salary as a book author.
  • Almost all book authors who make a professional salary are independent.
    Your chances of making a professional salary as an independent are really bad, but your chances writing for the traditional or small presses are basically nil.
  • There are only about 2500 authors making enough writing books that their spouse might not insist they get a second job.
  • Big 5 publishers make 40% of the revenue, vs 24% going to indies; but
    Big 5 authors make 22% of the royalties, vs 47% going to indies.
    You already knew that the traditional publishing industry screws the authors, but now you have proof.

I asked the authors of the study a few questions in the comments section, and they got right back to me. Check out this chart they produced:

Source: autherearnings.com

Source: authorearnings.com (reproduced here by permission)

You may recall that I mentioned Kindle “15 Minute Reads” in the piece about my short story. There are a lot of really short books with inflated prices, and I was wondering if they might skew the numbers. He gave me this chart to prove that it doesn’t matter, because nobody is buying those or borrowing them.

For those of you who aren’t so good with charts, let me explain this one to you. It says that 60% of the books people buy (including reading on KU) are novels (200+ pages). But 75% of the books people write are novellas and short stories (less than 200 pages). People have no interest in your lazy-ass novellas, people. They want novels.

Makes me glad I happen to write novels. Another fortunate turn of events for me is that I write romance novels. It turns out that romance accounts for about a third of all royalties earned. Other genres account for about 10% each.

There is a lot more stuff in that study. I encourage you to read it, including the comments section. Fascinating stuff.