Adventures in Writing

With the end of September, Wearing the Cape is now into its sixth month of publication. Villains Inc. Episode One has finished its first month, and Villains Inc. Episode Two is now available as scheduled (whew!).

How is it going so far? It’s a learning experience. First, I’m learning the strength of book series and realizing why publishing houses love them so much; it took nearly three months for Wearing the Cape to reach 100 sales/week, while Villains Inc. Episode One not only achieved that benchmark instantly, it has mirrored–and often exceeded–Wearing the Cape’s daily sales. Almost half the time, VI:1 beats WtC in the Amazon rankings. Villains Inc. Episode Two has been out only one day, and it seems ready to repeat this pattern (plus a little extra while previous purchasers play catch-up).

What does this mean in sales thus far? The unofficial September numbers (real numbers published by KDP on the 15th) are Wearing the Cape: 930; Villains Inc. Episode One: 891. So over the month of September, WtC sales have experienced roughly 80% growth (511 copies sold in August), and VI:1 has gotten off to a tremendous start. I will clear $2,000 this month, a 100% increase on August’s royalties, a promising trend.

So now, having posted Episode Two: Pursuit on Amazon yesterday, what have I learned about episodic writing? First, I’m glad I decided on this publication style because it got me past the “second-book block” I found myself in. I was also worried that the sequel wouldn’t be as well-received as Wearing the Cape; so far, both sales numbers and reviews seem to show I’m doing a good job keeping up the story-quality. Also, having close deadlines helps; knowing I have to publish at the end of the month focuses my mind wonderfully. On the downside, I have had moments to regret not being able to go back and plant or change plot-threads in the already-published episodes, and there are things I would change if I could. Fortunately they are small things, and in some ways I think the resulting completed novel may be better for the way this is shaping the plot.

Will I do it again? I honestly don’t know. At $.99 for Episode One and $1.50 for episodes 2-4, my royalties for the completed book will be about the same. And certainly having the first part of the book available for the impulse-purchase cost of $.99 is a huge advantage (I am seriously considering taking the first part of Wearing the Cape, packaging it as Wearing the Cape: Episode One, and putting it up on a couple of different Amazon categories for $.99 as an introduction to the series).

However, one problem I hadn’t even considered is the Amazon ranking system. When I post the completed novel in December, Villains Inc. will appear in its categories five times: once for the complete book, and once for each episode. If its current position is any indication, this means VI and VI:1-4 will occupy five of the Top Ten positions all by itself. Add Wearing the Cape, and more than half of Amazon’s Top Ten superhero stories would be mine, bwa ha ha ha ha!

This hardly seems fair, and so I am seriously considering speeding up my production process and releasing the complete novel at the end of October instead of Episode Three, then pulling Episode Two so that only three of my titles will be in the Top Ten: Wearing the Cape, VI:1, and Villains Inc (complete, for $2.99). Since Episode Three and Episode Four would have cost $1.50 each anyway, and my readers would get to see how it ends a month ahead of schedule, I don’t think too many would complain.

Regardless, if I release subsequent books episodically, this is a problem I have to consider. I think epublishing and Amazon.com are, for indie-writers, the greatest thing to come along (despite some problems KDP has with categories)–but we have a responsibility not to break it or ruin it for others. So, suggestions? Thoughts?

A last note for Wearing the Cape fans; once Villains Inc is completed I am not sure which direction the series will take. I have completed the first few chapters of Bite Me: New Orleans Nights, a story about Artemis. Beyond this, who knows? What would you like to see? What is your favorite thing about the stories so far, and what would you like to see more of? The suggestion box is open.

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About George

I am a reasonably successful self-published author ("successful" means I can pay the bills and am highly rated in my Amazon category), former financial advisor (writing is more fun), and have something in common with Mitt Romney and Donny Osmond. Guess.
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16 Responses to Adventures in Writing

  1. Stan says:

    Had a comment/question about the atlas type astra fought in the elevator shaft toward the end.

    It wasn’t clear what happened to him after astra hit the top of the shaft.

    I presume he escaped?

    Thanks,
    Stan

  2. Erle says:

    I am really enjoying your series. It is hard to give suggestions on what direction to take when I don’t know yet where this second book is taking our heroes. I enjoyed the ending of the first book where all the heroes got together and helped out. Your novel would make a great movie, the base battle was epic. I suppose what I would find interesting is if your heroes/villians had to face a World threatening disaster and the heroes and villians from around the World had to form an international team. Your characters haven’t been either black or white in their allegiances to good an evil there is a lot of gray, which is great. Hope/Astra is my favorite character can’t wait to see what being a progessive breakthrough means for her powers. Also in your World it sounds like many breakthroughs enter the military it may be interesting to see that perspective. And yes please release episode 3 and 4 together it’s going to be hard waiting another month. And looking forward to your clearing up that elevator scene.

    • George says:

      Thank you! And the elevator-scene has been “fixed” with a mention in the later briefing. Books purchased on Kindle don’t automatically update, however; what you would need to do is send an email to Amazon requesting they update the “copy” on your shelf, then download it again when they confirm.

  3. Just finished Ep. 2. Loved it. I’m digging the episode format, but I’ll wait for a full book if that’s the direction you decide to go. I agree with previous comments that the elevator resolution was a bit murky, but not so much I couldn’t figure it out. I am intrigued a bit by the identity of the elevator opponent. We didn’t really get a description. I assume that’s on purpose…

    As to the future direction, all I ask is that you keep writing and building this world. I’m loving it! More Astra would certainly be welcome, but another character (or a villian?) would be cool preferable to nothing at all. Keep up good work!

    • M.G. Harmon says:

      Thank you! In light of my schedule, I’ve decided to release Episode 3 on schedule–after that it will be a race to polish Episode 4 as soon as possible. And I have no intention of abandoning Astra and her friends, although I may put some other stories first (at least one sci-fi novel I REALLY want to finish).

  4. Kevin Rau says:

    Congratulations on the series – and the sales, George! I’m writing the fourth book of my own superhero (ongoing) series as well – it’s good to stumble across a kindred spirit.

    I’m impressed (and amazed) at your sales figures. I knew my weakness lay in my marketing (or lack thereof?), but wow, I do believe Superman has nothing on me with his Kryponite weakness versus mine to marketing.

    Mind if I ask – are you relying on the reviews from Amazon to push your sales, or are you using other avenues as well? I’ll understand if you don’t want to share your secrets, although I have a feeling even books in the same category won’t compete much at the prices we are charging.

    Either way, I’m happy to see another superhero genre writer see his books taking off in flight. Kudos!

    –Kevin Rau

    • George says:

      Sorry to take so long to reply–your post got hung up on my board and I just found it. To answer your question; the only real marketing I have done is to solicit reviews from reader/bloggers (in the first couple of months), and make sure that my stuff is properly categorized and tagged on Amazon. Of course, I also let people know about it here, and I put up a page on Wearing the Cape on TV Tropes (an evil, evil, site, and I recommend it to all writers). A couple of small comic-news sites also published reviews. Other than that, it appears to be spreading by word-of-mouth; when I finish VI 1-4 then it may be time to consider other marketing strategies.

      • Kevin Rau says:

        You replied rather quickly – and thanks much for the reply! I suppose I should try to hunt down some bloggers that might like superhero novels. I did some searching and didn’t find any – or at least before I found some I got hung up on all the news about how most reviewers won’t touch self-published novels and got bummed out.

        It certainly sounds like your marketing is working just fine with the continuing increase in sales figures. I’d be pretty darn happy at this point if I saw numbers remotely like yours. (Granted, my novels haven’t been out as long, but even so you started out stronger. Reviews must be worth something….)

        It’s an interesting strategy – releasing novels in quarters or fifths. I’m glad it’s working for you. I don’t believe I’d go that route myself, but it’s definitely an experiment that seems to be working at least in your case.

        –Kev

  5. lluang says:

    Hi. I’m very much enjoying the series. I’m one of those that got attracted by the low price of Wearing the cape and stayed on for the ride.

    I think I found a typo in V2: Chapter 14 during the conversation with Seven and Fisher, on the Amazon Kindle it is location 362. it reads “and tripped the CF the moment she realized you’d notice it” I think it should be ‘C4’ instead of ‘CF’ (index finger didn’t move while you were touch typing)

  6. Peter Agee says:

    HI
    Just a note to say that I have bought all 3 books so far and wondered when Episode 3 will come out?I am looking forward to it

    • George says:

      I’m glad you like the story so far–leave a tip in the jar and express your delight on Amazon.com if you’re enjoying the show. The good news is Episode 3 should be available this weekend. I am currently polishing the last draft to make sure it’s as good as I can make it, and would enjoy hearing comments/opinions on what has gone on so far.

  7. Clifton says:

    I’ve been enjoying your writing and can’t wait for Villains Inc. III to come out! I’ll definitely be checking out “Bite Me” and anything else in the hero genre you care to write. The pace on all of the books has been great and the action has been really exciting. Please keep up the great work!!

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