Current and future work plans

Yes indeed! I have planned out what I’m going to be doing next in terms of personal work, and have decided to share my plan with you so you can shame me later when I spectacularly fail to accomplish any of it:

  1. Complete chapters 1-3 of The Murder Club Part 1 – This is ongoing with only a few small elements to finish, mostly some panel background detail, text/legal pages and the front cover.
  2. Plan and prepare the Kickstarter for The Murder Club Part 1 – The idea is that this will go live mid-June (after the Election chaos is out of the way) to finish in July, for final release in August.
  3. Continue with the third book in the Powerless series – It’s already around 40k words out of a predicted 120k, so ‘just’ need to finish that off to get a first draft done.
  4. More short stories and art – I will continue to create exclusive short stories and artwork for my Patreon followers, but also a longer short story I want to submit to some SF magazines.
  5. Continue with the art for chapters 4-6 of The Murder Club Part 1 – I will carry on with this in the background. The vigour with which I proceed will be determined by how well Part 1 is received. But however Part 1 sells I will still finish the final 3 chapters, as all the writing, roughs and layouts are done and I personally want to see the whole project completed. Plus I don’t want to leave anyone hanging 🙂
  6. Some super secret project work in the background – This is so super secret I can’t even tell you I’m working on it! Oh… bugger.

And there we have it! At first pass this smells like it might just work, but as always I’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening with me on here as well as my Twitter feed and Facebook page.

Tony.

Eastercon 2017 Arrives!

Eastercon Header

Hello all!

Yes, Eastercon 2017 is finally here – from the 14th-17th April I will be at the Hilton Metropole hotel at the NEC in Birmingham.

I will have a table in the dealer’s room, selling all my books, and I am on two panels this year – the first is “Enhanced Reality, Virtual Reality and Three-dimensional Fiction and Games” on the Friday, followed by “Keeping it Weird” on Sunday.

If you haven’t got tickets yet, there is still time to get them here. And FYI here are the links to the full schedule and event layout.

This is the biggest SF and Fantasy convention in the UK, and my second time there. When I heard it would be in just up the road Brum in 2017 I jumped at the chance! It really is a great convention with SO much to do, as you can see from the schedule linked above. Looking forward to this one 🙂

Tony.

I’m going to Thought Bubble!

Thought Bubble Logo

I am very happy to announce that I have managed to get a table for this year’s Thought Bubble Festival! Thought Bubble is the UK’s premier comics and comic art festival, with a curated list for anyone wishing to sell their goods there, so I am chuffed to have got in. Even getting on their reserve list (which it seems I was) is an achievement.

So I will be in Leeds on the 18th-24th September this year, selling The Murder Club (which will be completed and published by then) as well as Some Kind of Hero.

I’m really excited about this one (as you can tell). The only other really comparable convention is The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which I have also applied to enter (but won’t hear about until June), and also attracts big names in the world of comics, as well as hundreds of independent creators.

Thought Bubble is a bit earlier this year (usually November) and is a bit more central in the city, but I have no frame of reference, so have no idea whether this will affect it for the better or worse. All the same, it looks like it will be a great event, and I will share more details as I get them.

Tony.

Read an ebook week – my books on sale!

It’s Smashwords annual Read An Ebook Week and two of my ebooks are on sale till 11th March:

Powerless CoverPOWERLESS – When the best friend of a retired superhero is killed by another power, Martin must drag himself out of his self-imposed isolation to find out who is responsible. In doing so he finds himself digging up a past he would rather forget, risking exposing the secret of why the team split up and destroying all their lives in the process.

This is completely FREE this week with coupon code SFREE, so go and bag your copy now!

 

 

 

Killing Gods CoverKILLING GODS – When a physically mutated villain’s son goes missing from protective care, he goes on a rampage to try and find his child.
In his way stand a Child Protection Officer following her heart above her duty, a violent anti-hero group desperate for media attention, a seemingly benevolent hero-worshipping cult and Martin and Hayley struggling to work out who they can trust.

This is 50% off this week at just $2 (£1.60) with coupon code RAE50, so get the deal here.

 

 

A summary of my work – Or “What I did in the last 5 years”

I’ve had this blog for nearly 10 years now – my first post was in June 2006 and yes, it was a boring “Hello world!” article.

Back then it was mostly about videogames and gaming, but slowly morphed into a writing blog as I worked on my first novel. Some of you who randomly come here might not be up to speed on everything I’ve worked on and been part of, so this post is going to be a brief run down of the last five or so years. To be honest, it’s a bit early in my writing career (hah!) for a retrospective, so this is more to show myself I have actually been doing something all this time…

May 2011 – MAKING GODS

Making Gods Cover Making Gods was a short story collection I released on Smashwords initially, before I plucked up the courage to submit to Amazon in December the same year. For me it was a toe in the water, a test of the whole self-publishing process, both technical and philosophical.

The stories were written over the space of a year or so, and at some point (although I can’t remember the details) I decided to turn them into an ebook.

I was fairly proud of the stories in there, and still am today. Perhaps I should have had a few more in the book, as it’s a bit sparse, but it was never intended as a full release anyway. It helped me learn the processes involved in formatting a document for submission, the whole submit procedure on Smashwords and Amazon, and got me writing for more than just a hobby or interest.

It’s completely free now by the way, and you can grab it on all major ebook stores.

After releasing this, I did a few more short stories but what I was really looking for was an idea I could turn into a novel. Something that could ideally become a series. And that idea came to me with the mental image of a retired superhero working incognito as a night security guard to get away from a terrible event in his past. That’s all there was to begin with. What the event was, what his powers were, what the world he lived in was like I had no idea.

As I do, I left it to stew in my head for a year or so, before I started cobbling all my ideas together and finally pulled together an outline for a novel that would become…

January 2013 – POWERLESS

Powerless CoverOh yes, I bet you’ve never seen that cover before! I made this one myself (can you tell?) and released my great typo-ridden work on the world.

It had taken me a year in total to write Powerless. I wrote in the evenings and on my laptop at lunchtimes, while sat in the back seat of my VW Polo in the carpark at work. I was my own editor (hence the typos, and at least one plot-hole) but I was proud, not just of managing to finish my first novel, but also of the story. I didn’t want to write a ‘typical’ superhero book, and I didn’t want to set it in the USA. I had finally written my dark and contemporary British superhero book that had been stuck in my head for nearly two years.

And you know what? It sold 354 copies in the first year. I also got a 5-star review praising the story, and a 1-star review criticising the editing. And I can’t argue with either of those 🙂

Anyway, I was bitten by the writing bug, and after a brief respite, I had picked the story for the sequel. This was a slightly shorter book word-count wise but still took a year to write and edit.

July 2014 – KILLING GODS

Killing Gods CoverI didn’t find Killing Gods easier or harder to write if I’m honest. It was a different book (no jumping between two time periods – so a more straightforward narrative) but had more groups of characters involved, so making sure the outline worked so no one group was overplayed or short changed was a challenge.

I also got some decent cover art for this (and for Powerless, which had its 2nd edition and a proper edit) from Harry Corr, a friend of mine at work who just happened to be a budding concept artist.

I dropped the price of the first book and kept this one high, as was the reigning wisdom at the time. And… it did OK. It was a slow start. Both books had petered out in terms of sales, but at least they were consistent.

Anyway, at this point I was done writing dark, grim stuff. I wanted to do something a little lighter, just for my sanity if nothing else! So I started work on an idea I had for a Sci-Fi novella, featuring two comedy characters I’d had rattling around in my head for a while. They had started out as an idea for a TV series (yes, I categorise my ideas early on 🙂 ) but then when I realised I didn’t have the cash or production company contacts to make it, I left them on the shelf.

At the same time I had been finishing off a group of short stories I had been working on to keep myself motivated during the process of writing Killing Gods. Realising the comedy book was going to take a bit longer to finish than originally planned, I decided to publish another short story collection – a decent sized one this time. And so was born…

March 2015 – THE RESURRECTION TREE AND OTHER STORIES

The Resurrection Tree CoverI was much happier with The Resurrection Tree and Other Stories than I was with Making Gods. For a start I had more stories in there, but I also had nearly 4 years more experience of all the elements of self-publishing. The formatting was better, the editing was better, I didn’t make the cover myself (Thanks Jo), and it all came together really nicely.

Now, I was well aware that short story collections don’t really sell, and that turned out to be very true. But that wasn’t the point. I had some good stories to get out there, and I also needed to keep my profile up with at least something released this year.

Luckily, after a little bit more work and planning, the comedy book finally came together. And the same year I released…

AUGUST 2015 – HIGGS & SOAP: GALAXY DELIVERY

HSGD CoverI finally got these two daft idiots out of my head! Overall, I had good fun writing Higgs & Soap: Galaxy Delivery, having never written a completely humorous work before, and I have loads more ideas for possible sequels.

The only misstep I made was I went with making the cover myself again. This was after spending weeks trying to hunt down a suitable artist on all the major art and portfolio sites. I just couldn’t find someone with the style I was looking for. So, in the end, I went with someone who knew exactly the style I was looking for (me), however he was only fairly average as an artist.

Now, I have always drawn, and had been attending life drawing classes for a while, but I hadn’t tackled a full, finished piece of colour work in years. And it showed. If I do a sequel, I will either completely redo this myself, or get another artist to do both covers.

However, having done the cover, something clicked inside me. I suddenly got the urge to draw. Now, the plan had been to start work on the third superhero book after publishing this, but I got the crazy idea to polish up my art skills and try and do a comic book. It had been a vague notion for some years, but the cost of paying an artist was always prohibitive. But if I did the art myself, not only would I have full control over the writing, but also the visuals. This appealed to me, being the slight control freak I am 🙂

And so, in August 2015 I went for it. I knew some people were eagerly awaiting the third superhero book (Hello Tom! Hello David!) so I had the brilliant idea of turning what would have been a short story featuring characters from the books, into the comic. So I condensed the story down into 24 pages and started work on the art.

MARCH 2016 – POWERLESS: SOME KIND OF HERO

Some Kind of HeroNow, it shouldn’t need to be said, but drawing is a very different beast to writing. During the creation of Some Kind of Hero I did get frustrated at the slow speed of translating what had been a fairly rapid writing process into the finished article, even more so than with novels.

With a novel, there are multiple drafts, but I don’t mind doing these, as each one is hammering the rough core of the work into the final shape. Even the formatting, and sorting the cover out I find interesting. But with a comic, so … much … time … is spent with the story essentially finished. The transformation of that story into the final work left me wondering whether I had done the right thing.

Maybe I should have stumped up the cost and paid an artist to do it for me? I could have written dozens more comics, or even finished book #3 in the time it took to draw this! There were many doubts in my mind. But, when I held that first proof copy in my hand, all those months later (courtesy of Comic Printing UK), it finally felt worth it. Not to mention, I successfully got it listed on ComiXology, THE biggest digital comics platform.

Anyway, in the end, I resolved to finally get back to writing full time. After all, I was missing it after spending all these months just doing art.

But then, this little nugget of an idea of two murderous schoolkids lodged in my head. And then I thought I could always do a slightly longer comic work, but in black and white, so less art time. And then, against my better judgement, these two ideas coalesced, and now I find myself making…

??? 2017 – THE MURDER CLUB will be released!

So, yes. I didn’t learn.

The story for The Murder Club is finished and edited after several kind beta-readers helped me out. I am currently 30% of the way through the art, and on target for a release this August/September (probably). I will be doing a Kickstarter for printing costs – I did the same for Some Kind of Hero – and I will be slowly building up on getting the word out that this exists as the year goes on.

And once this is done I am definitely going to finish book #3. It is already outlined, having been cut down from an unwieldy 180k words to about 125k (the same as Powerless) and with almost 1/3rd of the first draft written already.

So, there it is. My self-published writing career laid out in full! Feels odd in a way. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but I know I’ve made mistakes along the way. I’m glad I did it, but I can see now where I could have saved time and effort. But hopefully, I’ll use the knowledge I’ve gained to make things better for myself in the future.

Anyway, if you want more info on what I’m working on, you can follow me and donate on Patreon, where you can get exclusive WIP pages of The Murder Club, as well as other pieces of art and short stories.

So, let’s see what I can create in the next 5 years…

Tony.

Self-publishing 2016 – KDP Select woe

Following on from the post about my 2016 sales figures, I thought I’d share some other self-publishing insights I’d made in the last year or so.

A KDP Select quirk that cut my income by 2/3

KDP Logo

So, I’ve got two books in KDP select, the Amazon initiative where you sell exclusively through them, and get a higher % of sales, as well being listed in Kindle Unlimited, where readers download for free and you get paid per page view. Those books are my short story collection The Resurrection Tree and Other Stories and my SF comedy Higgs & Soap: Galaxy Delivery.

I put those two in the program as a test, mainly because I was seeing almost non-existent sales elsewhere anyway. They have now been in KDP Select since last April. Soon after enrolling in the scheme, I decided to take advantage of one of its benefits – the promotions. You can do a Kindle Countdown Deal, where you set the lowest price to sell at, and each day, over a set number of days, the price goes back up to the original value, or a Free Book Promotion, which is self-explanatory.

In May 2016, I did the latter for both books. I set them up for a 5-day free promotion and went on social media and Kindle forums to promote it as much as I could. And it went well – I shifted 137 copies of The Resurrection Tree (TRT) and 214 copies of Higgs & Soap (H&S). I was initially quite pleased. I had actually done a similar promotion with the short story collection during a brief dally with KDP Select in 2015 and had over 400 takers then, so this was down a bit, but still encouraging.

However, the following month, sales of my other titles plummeted…

Graph - sales drop

The big green and maroon bars in May are the free copies of TRT and H&S flying off the digital shelves, and it’s clear to see that sales of my superhero novels Powerless and Killing Gods dropped off significantly that month, and continued to stay low. At the end of 2015, sales had been increasing from around 10/7 per month of each to 70/30, and this continued until April 2016. The month of my free book promotion, these dropped to 40/30, and eventually settled around 22/10 on average.

Now, it could just have been a coincidence – readers suddenly tired of superheroes, I reached some kind of saturation point with my books, it was the start of Summer and people read less – but nothing else happened at that time that could account for it.

Why it happened I can only guess at. Sure, some people might have seen the free book offer and held off buying “Tony Cooper’s” other books for a month or so, but the free books weren’t in the same genre, and the sales drop has been consistent since. So, I’m thinking there was probably some Amazon algorithm at work here. Because I suddenly “sold” a large number of books for free, I’m guessing some code kicked in that either increased the visibility of those KDP Select books AND/OR decreased the visibility of my other books, as they weren’t “selling” as well. And by visibility, I mean in the recommendations system: “People who bought this…” “You might also like…” etc. And it looks like this effect has persisted ever since.

Anyhow, I am never going to do a price promotion on any of my KDP Select books again. A bit extreme perhaps? Maybe so, but I was approaching £100 per month sales before this event, on an upward trend, and I’m now back down to averaging £30. It could have been a mistake putting two books in the free promotion at the same time, maybe that’s what triggered this? If I had done one at a time, it might not have hit me so hard? The thing is I have absolutely no idea, as Amazon keeps their algorithms completely opaque.

Welcome to the wonderful world of self-publishing! 🙂

Self-publishing sales 2016

First things first: Happy New Year to one and all! 😀

Now that’s out of the way, it’s time to delve into some sales figures. I have done this twice before, in 2013 and 2014, but skipped last year for no particular reason I can remember. I like to do this because there isn’t that much honest information out there for self-published creators into the reality of how it works and what actual sales and income look like.

Because I missed last year, I thought I would do a run-down of the last (first) four years of my self-publishing journey, along with a few hints and tips about things I’ve discovered along the way.

So, here’s the graph of sales per year:

Sales Graph

As you can see, there’s an upward trend, with only a handful of things to point out:

  • The drop in Powerless sales from 2013 to 2014 was because at this time it was selling for full price (£3.99 if I recall), and I only dropped it down to 99p after the sequel Killing Gods came out in early 2014. I think this drop was partly due to sales fatigue at that higher price, combined with the fact it was a standalone book at that time (people less likely to pay that much if not part of a series) and the fact that prices seemed to be starting to drop overall in 2013/2014 across Amazon and the whole ebook world.
  • Powerless/Killing Gods is a combined ebook of the two books, and I never expected it to sell huge numbers as it was more an experiment in creating another line of income. Interestingly, this sells mostly on the Apple bookstore and Barnes & Noble in the USA, as opposed to Amazon.
  • Whilst The Resurrection Tree and Higgs & Soap have low actual sales, I have used free promotions on Amazon to “sell” 640 and 214 copies of them respectively. And because they’re exclusive to Amazon now, what this means is that the moment any of these 854 people start reading, I start getting paid per page read. And luckily for me, most people tend to read cover to cover – especially Higgs & Soap – which equates to a bit more than a full sale.
  • Quite pleased that my comic, Some Kind of Hero has sold decent numbers on both Amazon and ComiXology. You never know how these things will go, especially for a one-shot story that’s tied into a line of books! I’ll be promoting it more this year and we’ll see how it looks in next year’s graph.

All very interesting I’m sure, but you want to know about the money! So here we go:

Income graph

Almost made enough for my solid gold yacht! However, this year is rubbish 🙂

I’m a little premature here, given that my Amazon payment for November isn’t due until the end of this month, but expect that 2016 column to go up by another £30-£40 or so. FYI, the 2014 dip in sales matches the drop in Powerless sales and low initial Killing Gods sales, which I’ve talked about above. But to be honest, it isn’t the most interesting graph, it’s this one:

Graph of Income per Book

This is how much each book brought in per year. Powerless was full price for 2013, then dropped to 99p for 2014 onwards, so no big surprise it’s not raking in the money. However, while Killing Gods was slow to start (coming in and staying at full price) as more people picked up the first book, more went and dropped cash on the sequel. At 99p, over 1400 people have so far gambled on Powerless, and over 400 on Killing Gods, which means (ignoring those who just bought the second book alone) there’s around another 1000 people who haven’t bought the sequel yet. Now some of those might have read the first one and genuinely aren’t interested in continuing, but there will be a number who are maybe holding off the sequel for now and an even larger number who haven’t even read the first one they bought yet.

It’s well known that Kindle readers will readily drop 99p/99c on an ebook and have a massive digital pile of titles to-be-read.

It’s also well known now that if, as an author, you have a book series, selling the first book at 99p/99c or even giving it away free will greatly encourage sales of the sequels. Give readers an “easy in” to your books, and if they like it, then you’ve got someone who might pick up the sequels. If they don’t like it, they’ve only spent less than a pound, so no great loss for anyone involved. And as it is, my graph above seems to bear this out.

Oh, and as for sales per channel, I’m not going to show the graph for that as it is so skewed, but Amazon netted 1114 sales in total with 15 for iTunes/Apple and 16 for Barnes & Noble, which is a similar pattern to previous years.

The truth of the matter is that self-publishing is a long game. Don’t quit your day job to finish that novel expecting to replace your salary when you release it. You won’t. You have to be prepared to keep promoting, keep bringing out new material, keep at it for years to start to see that upward trend turn into something that can support you.

To be honest, looking at that final graph, I should be banging out the third book in the series right now rather than working on a graphic novel! So that’s my plan after The Murder Club is released – to finish and publish book #3.

Hope this has been useful for you. Feel free to add your own info, or ask questions in the comments below and I’ll answer as best I can.

Tony.

Holiday Message

Well hello everyone! I’m sure you’re all busy preparing for the Winter festivities, however you celebrate, so this will just be a small update.

I’ve been busy adding stuff to my Patreon page – many of my posts there are available to all, and those that are ‘locked’ to donation levels include all sorts of exclusive art and stories. In fact, I’m going to post another short story later today for my $5+ backers, so go have a look and tell me what you think.

Work-wise, I’m cracking on with The Murder Club. As well as finishing the dedicated website, I completed an edit pass of the story and art, and I’m now into the inking phase. Pleasingly it’s going nice and fast, so I’m hoping to catch up with my schedule (a tad behind) and will release on time next year. For regular updates of progress and art, Patreon is the place to be, but here’s a freebie – an inked page from the comic, all ready for dialogue and toning.

As well as the piece of art and short story for my Patreon people, I’ve been outlining a novella that interests me. No idea when I’ll have the time to do anything with it, but it’s one of those stories that grabs you by the throat and you feel you have to get it out. And, randomly, I’ve been making clay gifts for my niece and nephew. Here is the clay owl I made for my niece, painted in her favourite colours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever you’re up to this coming week, I hope you have a great time!

Tony.

Patreon-exclusive short story published

Patreon Logo

I have just published an exclusive short story on Patreon for my $5+ patrons. It’s a science fiction tale called “The Bridge“, weighs in at about 4200 words, and you can’t get it anywhere else 🙂

This is the first Patron-only content I’ve published (thanks to other stuff getting in the way at the moment), however I have more planned for the coming weeks, including small pieces of art and mini (250-500 word) stories based on randomly chosen topics.

Enjoy!

Patreon page launched!

I have gone and launched my Patreon Page!

If you sponsor me monthly for as little as $1, you get exclusive updates and a monthly Q&A session. For $3, you get ALL my past and future work in digital format. And from $5 a month upwards, you start to get exclusive, Patron-only rewards.

And the donation tiers go up to $100 a month, including such delights as high-res colour artwork, early access looks at draft stories and comics, a bi-monthly video from me, and physical rewards such as books, comics and merchandise.

Pateon Page

Follow the link, have a look around and tell everyone you know, because I’m all ready and waiting to make stuff just for you 😀

Tony.