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Dragon Blue: Launch Day Recap

Dragon Blue: A Lie That’s True went live exclusively on Amazon yesterday. Of course every author hopes that when they hit the publish button the copies will just fly off the virtual shelf, and before long they’ll be basking on a beach in the Bahamas, sipping something fruity and alcoholic. Alas, that’s the exception, not the rule.

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We definitely got off the ground, though we didn’t quite blast into outer space. Here are some numbers:

Dragon Blue has sold 30 copies so far. There were 7 pre-orders, so 23 sales the first day. That’s not horrible, but since I’m pricing at 99 cents, we’re still not sipping those pina coladas just yet. There have also already been about 1300 page reads through KU, which is also not bad. That’s about 9 full read-throughs, give or take.

The book is currently sitting at 8,870 overall in the Amazon Paid Kindle Store. This is the first time I’ve broken 4 digits. Outlaw got as high as 15K, then started dropping. Dragon Blue currently has the following rankings in these categories:

#100 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Fantasy
#143 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Paranormal > Demons & Devils
#151 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction > Action & Adventure

Last night it poked up to #90 in Women’s Fiction > Fantasy, and I expect it to bob in and out of the top 100 in that category, based on what I saw with Outlaw. That Demons & Devils subcategory is a little weird. I put a lot of fantasy related keywords into the listing to make sure I was hitting all the fantasy subcategories. Technically there is mention of a demon in the book, and he’s going to be a central villain in later installments. But I don’t know if I would get any blowback from miscategorization on that one. For now I’ll leave it alone.

On Amazon, the book currently has 26 reviews, with a 4.6 average. Not bad. Fifty would be great, but we’re probably not going to get there. But I think ending up between 30 and 40 by the end of the week is reasonable. On Goodreads, we’ve got 14 ratings with a 4.71 average. But several of my ARC team have let me know they’re still reading, so more reviews should trickle in. I’ve worked my butt off putting together a team of nearly 50 reviewers, and it’s paying off in terms of reviews. But I’m competing with titles that sometimes have hundreds of reviews. I’m going to keep beating the bushes on my next book to keep building my team. My target is 300 ARC readers, which might be a nightmare to moderate, but I think it’s probably a vital key to success. I sent out thank you messages to everyone that left a review. If I’m able to consolidate everyone on a list, that’ll be a lot easier to manage. I’ll start organizing and curating more with the next release.

Today we’ve got 1 sale of Dragon Blue, but already 642 page reads, so the KU people are finding it and reading it. I tried to make it a page-turner. Some of the review feedback says that it starts a little slow but builds up steam. With Dragon Red, I’ll take that feedback to heart and try to hook readers in a lot sooner.

I’m trying to look at the long-term here. Of course I would have liked either of my first two books to take off, but again, that’s the exception. Instead I’m building up a solid ARC team and fan base. I’ll release the next book in the series at 99 cents, but then move it up to either 2.99 or 3.99, so conversions for people wanting to keep reading in the series should actually yield some reasonable income. That’s the hope anyway.

Meanwhile, I’m still plugging away at the giveaway novella. It’s about halfway done. I’ll probably share the cover design tomorrow on that. Anyway, if you were part of my ARC team and/or you bought/borrowed the book the last couple of days, thank you!

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Launch Day!

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Dragon Blue is finally live! You can get it for 99 cents in the Amazon store here (free if you belong to Kindle Unlimited).

Launch day is going pretty well so far. As of this writing, I’ve got 10 sales, 6 reviews (4.7 avg) on Amazon, and 4 reviews (4.75 avg) on Goodreads. The ranking is climbing. It’s around 30K in the store overall, but approaching the top 100 in several subcategories. The one the book is ranked highest in is Women’s Fiction>Fantasy, which is fine. My primary category is Romance>Werewolves & Shifters, but that’s a highly competitive category and probably hard to crack.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who has stopped by since I started this blog. I hope it hasn’t all come across as shameless self-promotion, but at least on launch day I kind of have to peddle my wares. I’ll update either later today or tomorrow with new (and hopefully high) numbers.

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Early Review

Dragon Blue launches tomorrow, but I’ve already gotten some early feedback, and it’s been very promising. Of course, Outlaw got good early feedback and strong reviews, but didn’t perform all that well in the market. I’m still guessing that’s a problem with demand and not quality.

Anyway, Ingrid Stephanie Jordan over at her Tumblr blog posted this very nice early review. Here’s a snippet:

Woooooo well I’m blown out of the water.
This book is Phenomenal from beginning to the end, I’m trying to think of a better word, but let me tell you this Lady, Ms. Macy ROCKS !!!!

I think she liked it. I’m hoping a lot of other readers will as well. We’ll see how launch day goes tomorrow.

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Uncertainty

I got some words on the page this week, but not as many as I would have liked. I haven’t been feeling too great, and that’s part of it, but I don’t like making excuses. I need to put the old nose to the grindstone this next week and get a lot more done. I’ve written two novels in the past 60 days, and there’s definitely an impulse to want to just relax and take it easy for a little bit. But I think I need to get a steady workflow going and a stream of new titles into the market if I really want to succeed. So I can’t afford to take it easy.

I have conflicting ideas about how this next launch is supposed to go. Dragon Blue releases on Tuesday. It’s the first in a series, and I don’t know if that’s a slight knock against it, since people may not want to pick up the first book in a series if the others aren’t written yet. I have a substantially higher number of ARC readers this time around, and I’m really hoping that helps. I’ve read in various places that reviews don’t directly impact the Amazon ranking algorithm, that their primary use is quality validation. That hasn’t worked too well on Outlaw, which has above a 4.5 star rating, but isn’t seeing a lot of sales/borrows. There are only 14 reviews, and it’s possibly that there’s some threshold that really validates a book’s quality. I really don’t know.

I just read a report on a forum about an author making over $2K with their first romance book launch. They say they invested a significant amount of money in a cover and editing. I don’t feel like I can justify dropping $1K on such services until I’m seeing some kind of reasonable revenue on my books. I’ve done a solid amount of research on Amazon, and I continually see covers, blurbs, and writing that is, in my opinion, lower quality than what I’m producing. Are they just gaming the system? I feel like, when it comes to covers, mine are good. Not great, but good. I see very highly-ranked titles with abominations for covers. I don’t want to skimp on quality, but I really don’t see forking out hundreds of dollars on a cover until I reach a certain level of success. Maybe it’s one of those catch-22 things, but based on my research, books can do very well with much less quality than what I’m putting out.

Between the ARC service I’m using and my own efforts to build up an ARC team, I’m really hoping to get 25-50 reviews within the first week. I just listened to a podcast in which the author said that the best promo is your next book. I’m only doing a few promos, so we’ll see. I think I’m going to put a lot more resources into promoting the next book and see how that goes. I’m getting good early feedback on Dragon Blue, so I feel like I’m doing something right. We’ll just have to see how things go next week.

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Working on a New Novella

So I’ve started working on a new novella as a giveaway incentive for signing up for my newsletter. The working title is “Switch and Bait”, and it’s a shifter romance based around a team made up of a male wolf, a female hare, a male bear, a female fox, and a male otter. It’s set in our world, present day, but has links to the Xandakar novels. They are basically mercenaries, hired out to do jobs for shifters and other magical customers who either don’t want the attention of humans or don’t think humans can handle the job. The stand-alone novella involves one of the team members, Sidney Swiftpaw, switching places with a doppelganger who can look like any human she wants but can’t take any animal forms. Sidney is the only prey species among the team’s shifters, and she’s also the tech/computer expert. She feels underappreciated by the rest of the team members, so she warily decides to try living another woman’s life temporarily, while the doppelganger takes her place on the team. There are lots of little twists along the way, and it should be fun to write (and I hope to read!).  I’m aiming for 25K-30K.

I’ll probably share the cover here when I’m done with it. I already have a mockup that I really like. Hopefully I can finish it in about a week. Then I’ll make it available as an exclusive bonus for newsletter sign-ups. I’m also going to send it out to existing subscribers. Speaking of which, I’m up into the double-digits now!

The ARC readers on Dragon Blue are already going great. I got some feedback from one yesterday who had finished the book. She loved it, but noticed a few errors. I fixed them and already pushed out an updated version on Amazon. Self-publishing is pretty cool that way. So it’s less than a week before Dragon Blue goes live. I’m not expecting a slam dunk. I think setting your expectations too high is a recipe for disappointment. But I do expect it to do well, better than Outlaw, since it’s a more focused launch and written much better to market.

I don’t really expect steady results until I’m at least three books into the series. I know some readers don’t even want to pick up a book in an unfinished series, for obvious reasons. But once the series is established, they’ll give it a go. My plan is to release and keep Dragon Blue at 99 cents as an intro to the series. Future titles will release at 99 cents for at least two weeks (I’ll experiment with the duration of the launch promo), then bump up to either $2.99 or $3.99 (I’ll experiment with that too). That seems like a reasonable plan.

For right now, I want to do a great job on this novella, which could eventually lead to another series if my newsletter subscribers like the characters. As a newer author, I want to make sure I’m giving new readers a strong incentive to give me a try, and offering them something of value for free seems like a solid way to start that relationship. Then I’ll dive back into Xandakar, book two, which I’ve already started sketching out a little. It’s going to deal primarily with the red dragons, though we’ll probably see representatives from every clan somewhere in the story. I like writing books that are fast-paced, with lots of action, both in and out of the bedroom. I also like surprises, so there will be at least a few thrown in.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

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Back in the Saddle

So I had a nice weekend away in Dallas. Went to the relatively new Natural History Museum. It was nice. Not enough dinosaurs for my taste, but a few.

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I was a little worried because the first exhibit wasn’t very interactive or interesting, but they got better as we went along.

I also got to eat Korean food, which is one of the few cuisines in short supply around Acadiana, and that was awesome as well. We also went to Torchy’s Tacos, which is usually amazing. But this time I was very underwhelmed. All I can say is I think it’s best to stick to flour tortillas there. The corn ones were not very good.

Anyway, I’m back home and still planning what to work on next. I do feel like it’s probably worthwhile to try to knock out a nice 20K novella as a giveaway incentive for the mailing list, something I can just perpetually offer. Though I would also like to get started on the next book in the Xandakar series. Initial feedback is trickling in from some of my advance reviewers, and so far everyone loves it, which is a relief. I wonder if, no matter how much you write or how successful you are, you always worry whether they’re going to like the next thing you put out. At least this time it seems like they do. So I think I just need to stick with a similar approach to the next four books.

Dragon Blue ended with an introduction of a new character who will play a lead role in the next book. No matter what I start working on next, I’m going to at least start doing some preliminary outlining of Dragon Red this week.

 

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Launches Are Hard

Whew! Okay, so I’ve sent out review copies to everyone on my list. If you read this blog and I missed you, or you’re not on my list of advance reviewers and would like to be, shoot me an email at: macybabineaux@gmail.com.

I’m going out of town this weekend, but hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with messages and emails. I’m trying to line up promos for the week of launch, and then Monday I’ll start planning my next project. Like I said in an earlier post, I think it might be worthwhile to hammer out a nice novella as a permanent giveaway bonus for the newsletter sign-ups, though I would like to get started on the next book in the series. Putting that off just a week to write a novella seems like a decent plan. We’ll see how I feel Monday morning.

I ended up with about 35 advance readers this time around. I was sending links and files via email, Facebook, and Goodreads, but I really just need to try to get everyone’s email address and consolidate the list and just use Mailchimp to send out advance copies. If the list keeps growing it’s going to be a massive headache. I listened to a recent podcast where the author had about 300 ARC readers, which is great, but if I happen to get that high I don’t need to be sending files and links several different ways.

I’m going to take it a little easy today. I think I generally like the schedule of about three weeks to write a ~50K novel, then about a week to edit and handle the marketing/ARC side. But I do feel pretty tired right now. I’m going to hit the ground running on Monday, though. Have a good weekend, y’all!

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Dragon Blue (Shifter Romance) Now Available for Pre-order!

Like the title says. You can now pre-order Dragon Blue: A Lie That’s True.

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The book goes on sale Tuesday, August 30th. So I’m doing a 12-day pre-order period. From the podcasts I’ve been listening to, that sounds like the sweet spot, between 1 and 2 weeks. I think the idea is that preorders drive also-boughts, making them available the day the book is actually released.

Anyway, I’ll be sending out advance copies to my ARC team soon (tonight or tomorrow). In conjunction with the ARC service I’m using, I’m hoping on having 30+ reviews the week of release. I’m also going to be more strategic about running promos to coincide with release day. I plan to send a newsletter out the day of release as well. I’m hoping to drive sales up from the day of release through that weekend and push the book up into the top 100 of its category.

Of course, I’m also hoping the ARC readers like the book! Stay tuned.

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How Original is Original?

I’m currently finishing up edits of Dragon Blue and should be done in the next day or two. I felt like I had a much better plan this time. I have about 30 ARC readers of my own lined up to read the book. I’m going to schedule promos for the first few days of actual release. And I’m going to put the book on preorder for a longer period this time.

But one thing kind of has me worried and/or bummed out. As I write this, the top three books in Romance>Werewolves & Shifters are dragon shifter books, and they’re all different colored dragons. Now, I had seen one of these books lower in the rankings before I started my book. But I didn’t know it was part of a series that would follow the [COLOR] Dragon template. The thing is, the actual content of the books sound very different. Those are set in a present-day city setting. Mine have a link to Earth, but mostly take place in the fantasy world of Xandakar. There are a number of other differences, but suffice it to say the actual stories are quite different.

So I’m plunging ahead. I can’t really change the templating of my naming scheme, because it’s important to the way the series unfolds. I’m just hoping readers don’t go “Oh, jeez, Macy just copied those other books.” But then, there’s the whole issue of copying anyway. Where is the line between writing a genre book that’s heavily defined by tropes and forging your own path? With this series, I was trying to satisfy what looked like a strong demand. Given that the top three shifter books are dragon-based, I’d say I was probably right. But a lot of the books in that category look very similar. It seems there’s a fine line between producing more of what people want and producing something original.

I’ve heard advocates of writing to market basically say that it’s almost impossible not to write something original, that it’s going to come from you as a unique story with whatever you bring to it. And I guess I’m not really worried about the story as being perceived as original, but the concept and marketing. I’m going to hope that readers of this genre are particularly forgiving when it comes to similarities in the looks of covers and titles, and that through reading the blurb and maybe some sample text they’ll be happy to read something that’s similar, but original.

I felt like The Time-Traveling Outlaw was an attempt to genre-bend and make something original. And that hasn’t done all that well. Reviews/ratings are strong, but sales are not.

I’m also nervous about how Dragon Blue is going to be received by my ARC readers. It’s got more sex than my last book, but it’s basically a fantasy adventure. It’ll probably be fine. At least I hope so.

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Epilogues

I’m usually not a big fan of either prologues or epilogues. They usually feel tacked on. Prologues in particular annoy me because I feel like they’re keeping the story from really getting started. It’s like starting a book with a flashback or something. I want to get introduced to the central characters straight away. I want things to get moving. Epilogues seem less bad, but there’s a similar thing going on. The story’s over? No wait, I’m going to tack something else on the end as well.

That being said, I went ahead and wrote an epilogue for Dragon Blue. For one, I felt like I needed to get up to 50K words as a hard minimum. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Dragon Blue is part of a series. The actual ending is happy, of course. I’m not going to violate that particular convention. But even though the hero and heroine have triumphed and are planning now to live out their lives in love, I wanted to add something that would frame what was coming next. This book, this conflict, was just the beginning. There are larger forces at work, and an overall more dire and impending threat. Things are moving in the shadows. Even bigger, nastier bad guys are scheming. So an epilogue seemed like a perfect place to do that.

No prologue, though. I’m gonna draw the line there. Another couple of things I thought about including as backmatter were the first few chapters of the second book. But I need to get this one edited. I’m anxious to put it in front of my ARC readers and get the ball rolling. Another thing I’ve thought of doing in the space between this book and the next is working on a stand-along novella set in the same world, possibly to use as a giveaway for my newsletter. Siccora Wildfire is a key character in Dragon Blue, having lived most her life on Earth with her bodyguard Korrigan, who is a wolf shifter. I was thinking of writing a novella from their perspectives, detailing their relationship. Not sure if that’s where I’m going, but it’s something I’m thinking about.

Anyway, the next 2-3 days are hardcore edits and formatting. I want to get the book ready by the end of the week. Wish me luck!