Let’s go back to January 1st, 2011. I had finished and re-finished Wearing the Cape, and while I turned to three other projects (to see which one would pop in my head), I sent query letters to close to 100 agents and publishing houses. The response was underwhelming if not unexpected. The odds of a literary agency taking a serious look at the first novel of an author writing in a very non-traditional genre were…not good. I should have been prepared to patiently query and wait for at least a year or three.
But I wasn’t. Therein lies the story of Youwriteon.com and a review of the first 7,000 words by an English writer living in Africa. I love the internet. Long story short, Mark Willaims (among other things, the coauthor of Sugar and Spice, one of the UK’s top-selling ebooks in 2011) read my sample draft on a site dedicated to providing shared criticism for aspiring authors, and convinced me that, not only was Wearing the Cape publishable, it was self-publishable. Reading the full manuscript didn’t change his opinion, and the thoughts of someone whose own self-published book was climbing the Amazon rankings, well they have some weight. So I thought about it for all of January while learning everything I could about the new ebook self-publishing market.
The final consideration? If the book was really any good (and Mark’s enthusiastic opinion aside, with 4.5 stars, it made Youwriteon.com’s bestseller list), then maybe I could create some positive buzz for it by selling it in ebook format on Amazon.com. Hopefully a literary agency or publishing house would see it and offer a contract. Plus I might make a little money–and at the time I was living paycheck to paycheck, with too much month left at the end of the money. I was in.
Those of you following this blog know how it went: I sold less then 30 the first month, under 100 the second month, at $.99/copy. During that time I shamelessly solicited blog reviews from any reader/reviewer I could tempt with a free download. After that it began to gain speed, nearly doubling in sales each month for the next three. Sales growth declined when I raised the price to $2.99, but I still made more money because of Amazon’s strange royalty system. Wearing the Cape peaked last year at around 900 sales/month, but appears to be holding steady at around 750/800. But I hadn’t been sitting still watching my KDP numbers climb.
As soon as it was obvious that Wearing the Cape was at least a modest success (a grand success for a first book by an unknown author), my next project crystallized: Villains Inc., WtC’s first sequel. VI actually started because, after finishing WtC, I had to know what happened to Hope Corrigan next. So it began as a sketch, a first playful action scene, and before long had picked up creative steam. So I set myself the goal of a 2011 release date, and dug in. Then hit several creative walls in quick succession. Finally, I decided that the only way to meet my goal was to break it up; I committed myself loudly and repeatedly to a sequential release schedule which basically nailed me down to a two-month publication date for each episode. The move actually cost me a bit in royalties–again because of Amazon’s weird royalty structure–but it payed off by forcing me to get it done as each deadline approached. The final week’s work on each episode was especially fun, the last days of December have mercifully blanked themselves from my memory, but I made deadline by two days.
Not me, though I know how she feels.
Publication did not, however, come off without some problems. First, a final post-publication read-through of the full VI by one of my unpaid editors yielded some errors we’d missed. None too bad, thank goodness, but a couple of them embarrassing. So now, a week after “final publication,” I’ve re-released VI with errors corrected. For all of those who have already bought VI or VI4, you can get the corrected copy by emailing Amazon/Kindle and requesting the changed version be loaded into your archive (and I’m going to see if I can’t get them to do a email-blast to everyone who’s already got theirs, letting them know about the change).
And that is a lot of buyers; in the first eight days of 2012 I have sold 450+ of VI4 and 70+ of VI. Apparently a lot of readers have been waiting patiently.
So, what now?
2012 has brought changes and is bringing more. With VI finished, I am taking VI1-VI3 out of publication. Readers finishing WtC are invited to check out VI by a link on the last page. VI4 will remain available until the end of January, to allow all those who bought VI1-VI3 to read the final episode without having to buy the full novel. Anyone who bought just VI1 or VI1-VI2 will still pay the same for the full novel as they would for VI3-VI4 individually, so I don’t think I’m putting anyone out. Meanwhile both Wearing the Cape and VI1 are available for borrowing by anyone with a Kindle Prime account (and it’s flattering that so far 20+ Kindle owners have made Wearing the Cape their one free loaner of the month).
And more change is coming to Wearing the Cape. With some of the royalty money, I’ve engaged the services of a talented young artist to do a cover for WtC and its website (which will then undergo some major changes). The new Print On Demand trade paperback edition will have a very nice 6 by 8 inch cover–featuring Astra, of course–and its release will mark the beginning of a serious campaign to get the book into comic-stores.
New projects? See previous posts, but my first priority is to fulfill my promise to Artemis-fans out there and finish Bite Me in the first half of 2012. I have no idea how well a story about a pissed-off vampire in a superhero world is going to sell, but we’ll just have to see. After that I’m finishing a story that has been waiting to be written since 1992 (a long time to wait). In the meantime, VI and Bite Me will both be given their own trade paperback editions (with, I hope, the same cover-artist). In short, 2012 promises to be a busier year than 2011.
And it’s going to be an amazing year. Here comes the sun, indeed.
12 thoughts on “What A Difference A Year Makes.”
Good for you! I’ve enjoyed your work immensely so far and look forward to more! Write on!
Looking forward to the new cover!
The WtC franchise will take a huge step forward this year, and deservedly so.
And congrats on you 2011 releases, too (not to mention all MWI is doing this year).
Marion, you’re an amazing writer, and I am *very* glad I found WTC last year.
This genre is screaming for more writers. I’m a superhero fan, but I never really took to the comic book format; there’s simply not enough superhero fiction out there in non-comic book WTC has proven that you can have a good, solid story, good characters, and still do it in the crazy fantasy world of superhero fiction.
Thanks, too, for sharing your numbers with us. It gives other aspiring authors (I wrote a book during the 2011 NanoWrimo) an idea of what to expect.
Keep up the wonderful work! I’ll definitely be looking out for “Bite Me.”
Thanks for the kudos, and there are other superhero genre writers out there–mostly indie. I recommend both Ben White’s Charlotte Powers books (YA, shading into dark), and Jim Bernheimer’s “Confessions of a Grade-D Supervillain.” Both writers have a less traditional take on superheroes than I do, and both are very good.
I just discovered your writing this past week, read both Wearing the Cape and Villians Inc. Great characters, good superhero drama, well written. Looking forward to the next story with Artemis.
Both in one week? You should have paced yourself; Bite Me is going to be a few months…
Months? Serialize it! Us Artemis fans can’t wait that long!
Don’t tempt me; BTW, have you read VI4 yet?
Embarrassingly, no. Simply realities of life. The days are too short. 😦 Taken me five days just to respond to your question!
VI4 acing up my TBR list, but I know once I start i’ll have to finish it, and then I’ll want to re-read WtC. If I had a TV, games console or entertainment centre I’d throw them out to free up more reading time, but did that years ago and still no joy.
To think, we can put a man on the Moon, but can’t squeeze another hour onto a day…
I have enjoyed your work also and loved the wrap up of VI. I was a little worried you would not be able to pull it off after episode 3, (did not think ep4 would be long enough) but you did. Whenever I see a post on the Amazon forums by someone asking for something new to read or what they should order for their Kindle. You are one of the 4 authors I suggest. Those being Thomas Deprima (A Galaxy Unknown Series), Nathan Lowell (Solar Clipper series), Scott Sigler (The Galactic Football League series), and you. Looking forward to what you have in store for us in 2012.
Thank you–I’d worried that, after a lot of fans waiting for each new episode, Episode 4 would feel either contrived or anticlimactic. And I’m flattered to be put in company with science fiction pioneers like Nathan Lowell.