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Happy Halloween!

I’m back from about a week-long vacation and ready to get back at it. I had a promo scheduled with Robin Reads for Dragon Blue on the 26th that performed very well, selling over 100 copies that day and vaulting the book to about 1800 overall in the Kindle store, where it stayed for the next day. But sales and rank quickly slid back down the next couple of days. The book made it up into the 50s and 60s of several subcategories, but I’m still guessing that the real momentum is gained from hitting that first page of a subcat. Actually, I’m not exactly sure anybody knows why a book tends to stick and maintain sales on its own. I’ve heard some authors suggest that a book needs to stand out from its neighbors in the same category. But that goes against the advice to make your covers look similar to others in the same subcat so that people know what they’re getting.

Maybe there’s some magic valley right between being unique and similar. I don’t know. But I’m just going to follow one of the other major pieces of advice I hear over and over, and just keep my head down and finish book 3. A lot of people say book 3 is when their series gain traction. I’m not getting my hopes too high. At this point I just want to outperform month-over-month. I’m going to do that this month, but not by much. Still, as long as I’m not going backwards, I feel all right. I don’t think I’m going to stack up a bunch of promos on Dragon Green when it launches. I think I’m just going to book a couple of promos that have performed well for me and hit up my growing newsletter. I will also try resending to those who didn’t open the first time and see how that works.

But for the next two or so weeks I’m just going to hit the keyboard hard and hammer out the words. I have a strong sense of where this story is going and what’s going to happen. I just need to get it down on the page.

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Launch Week Recap

So the first week after releasing Dragon Red didn’t go spectacularly. I sold about 100 copies, but got virtually no page reads through KU. So far that doesn’t cover what I spent on promos, though I still have a couple waiting to fire. I’m finding the dynamics of releasing a series a little strange. Dragon Blue got a bump, with a modest amount of sales and actually a good number of page reads. That tells me that readers saw the release of Dragon Red and were interested enough to want to go back to the first book and check it out.

That’s good, if those that read Dragon Blue continue on with the series. I’m going to raise the price of Dragon Red to either $2.99 or $3.99 later this week. I don’t see a way for an author to make any substantial income from books perpetually priced at 99 cents. I think the only way to do it is for series to sell through at a higher price point. I’m also still struggling with whether to let my KU enrollment lapse and take the series wide starting with the next book. That will allow me to make the first book permafree and see how that strategy works. It’s apparently a very effective strategy, though one that some authors are saying doesn’t work as well with the advent of KU. But my page reads through KU are so lackluster that I think it may be worth my while.

I’m starting to realize what a rough haul this is going to be. I had visions of rapid fans swooping in to scoop up my latest book and buoy me to at least more than pocket change. I didn’t expect to get rich overnight, but I did expect a steady improvement book-over-book. So far the progress has kind of been flat. I continue to hope that the third book in the series will cause a spike that will carry me forward, but I’ve learned at this point to keep my expectations low.

As of this writing, Dragon Red has 27 reviews on Amazon. I was hoping to launch with a lot more. The good news is that the average rating is 5.0. I was worried that my advance readers wouldn’t like this book quite as much as the last one, since I have more POV characters and the story is a little less linear and much more busy. One reader did comment to that effect, but most readers really seemed to like the book. I think even my tempered definition of success will just have to involve plugging away at each book while trying to build my ARC team and a fan base.

My mailing list is over 400 people now, though the response on launch day was a little underwhelming. I also passed the benchmark of my books being added to over 100 to-read shelves on Goodreads. I don’t know the conversion rate for people who mark a book to read vs. how many actually read it, but it’s nice to see the numbers grow nevertheless.

I feel like I’m on the right trajectory, even if the angle is a lot lower than what I had anticipated. I’m about 40% into writing Dragon Green and it’s going well, so that’s good. I will be going out of town for about five days, though. That’s going to put a crimp on my productivity temporarily. I’ll try to get some writing done on the road, but I don’t think much is going to happen. Also, if I don’t update this blog while I’m gone, you’ll know why. In the meantime, I’m going to try to squeeze out a couple thousand more words before I leave.

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Updating Dragon Blue Cover

I decided to update the cover art for Dragon Blue to have a more consistent look with the rest of the series. Here’s the old cover side-by-side with the new one, along with Dragon Red:

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I think the old cover was fine, but I wanted to move forward with a consistent, branded look for the series, and I think this does the job pretty well. If anybody has any feedback on the covers, old or new, let me know.

Sales continue to be a little disappointing on Dragon Red. Starting the second day of launch, I used two of my free promo days for Dragon Blue to set it to free. I thought that would be a good idea, giving readers the opportunity to pick up the first book in the series free, lowering the risk of picking up the second book in the series. But it doesn’t seem to have helped, at least in the near term. Dragon Blue is back to 99 cents today, so we’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, I’m about 30% of the way into Dragon Green. It’s going well, but this launch week hasn’t been super motivating so far. A lot of authors say the third book in the series is the charm. Let’s hope so. My plan was to finish the series by the end of the year, or early next year, then write a stand-alone contemporary novel I’ve been kicking around. Then to start a new series. I’m pretty sure I want to do a trilogy next. It’s less investment if things go wrong. I really thought dragon shifters were going to be a nice fit for both the market and what I wanted to write, but now I’m not sure. I’ll probably buckle down and do more market research after this series is done.

 

 

 

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Launch Week Update

So I launched Dragon Red on Monday. The first day was fine. I actually got almost as many sales of Dragon Blue as Dragon Red. That kind of makes sense. People see the new book, then go to buy the first book in the series. So that’s cool. Still, the numbers were not very high. They were even lower on the second day, despite a couple of small promos. We’ll see how today goes.

I think the listing looks solid. My ARC team has done a bang-up job so far, posting 20 nice reviews. More will trickle in, I’m sure, but this is a great start. I worked a lot on the blurb, but now I’m second-guessing myself, wondering if it’s a bit too long. You can drive yourself crazy worrying about every little decision you make.

I had one of my advance readers contact me via email with some advice regarding how to leverage Goodreads. Lots of good stuff in there. Virtually every source of advice I’ve listened to has said that the mailing list is the most important tool you have. I sent out a newsletter the day of launch to both my “warm” list (mostly organic subscribers) and my “cool” list (emails gathered from a recent giveaway). Despite having over 400 subscribers between the two lists, the sales results were still underwhelming.

So I’m taking my reader’s advice to heart. I think picking a platform to try to engage readers directly is the way to go. I’m not sure if Goodreads is the best for that. A lot of authors leverage Facebook. So far I’ve focused on this blog, which may or may not be a good idea. A lot of time I feel like I’m just jettisoning message capsules into a void. I think a social platform is probably a better idea, though I really don’t want to be trying to build networks in multiple places. I feel like I’d just spread myself thin. So I’m going to focus on GR for now, try to become more active there, and see what happens. In the meantime, I’ll keep blogging here two or three times a week.

I’ll post another update on Dragon Red in another few days.

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Dragon Red Launch Day!

It’s always a little nerve-wracking launching a new book. This will be my third full-length romance, and I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of things. But you never know.

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Dragon Red: A Fire Unfed is available here on Amazon. My ARC reviewers have already left 15 reviews on Goodreads for the book here. They’re overwhelmingly positive, so that’s good. Amazon has made some changes to the review system in light of worries about incentivized reviews. They’ve increased the amount a customer has to have spent on Amazon ($50 lifetime) in order to leave a review. That’s fine. It seems like a reasonable measure against fake accounts and scammers. But they seem to have changed the way they display reviews as well, only showing verified purchase reviews by default. That may have changed or may still be in place. Amazon changes things quickly. I just hope a lot of my early reviews aren’t obscured.

I just sent out my newsletter and reminded my ARC team the book is live. Between sign-ups from Instafreebie and the crossover promo I did recently, I have about 400 subscribers. That’s up from the 14 I had when I launched Dragon Blue. I would like to think that’ll make a difference. We’ll see.

Thanks to everyone out there who has read any of my stuff. Have a great day!

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Writing Dragon Green

Having done just about everything I could in preparation for the launch of Dragon Red on Monday, I started writing the third book in the series, Dragon Green: A Vision Unseen. It’s coming along pretty nicely. I already have the first two chapters written. I find that I enjoy writing the stronger female characters more. Thalia was a nice character, a rabbit shifter who learns to take charge, but she was ultimately very shy and not worldly. In Dragon Green, the heroine is Dr. Brynn Mulbrook, an archaeologist from our world. She’s very tough and driven, and I’m finding writing her a lot easier.

In the meantime, Dragon Red already has 12 ratings on Goodreads, all 5 stars. So that’s cool. I was reading launch stories in other forums, though, and one author said they put their book up on Goodreads prior to launch and within a few days over 100 people had shelved it as to-read. My books still aren’t getting anywhere near that kind of traction. I’m wondering how that author’s book was getting so much visibility prior to launch. So far only my ARC team is reading and shelving the book. I don’t know if other readers on GR are seeing the book in their lists and just thinking they’re not interested.

Anyway, I’m keeping my expectations properly tempered for Monday’s release. I just want to do better book-over-book with each release, and I think that’s reasonable.

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Dragon Red Now Listed on Goodreads

I didn’t realize until today that an author can list their book on Goodreads before the publication date. I’m glad I found out. So even though I’m not planning on launching Dragon Red until Monday, you can view the entry on Goodreads now here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32595661-dragon-red

I’m pretty happy with the look of the cover. I’m going to use this general style for the rest of the books in the series.

I’m at a sufficient spot in my outlining on Dragon Green that I’m ready to dive into the writing. I don’t want to over-plan. I like some of the story to be spontaneous. If I stay on my usual pace, then the next book should be finished and ready for release by early or mid November.

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Outlining Dragon Green

Now that the virtual ink on Dragon Red is dry, I’m working on outlining the next book in the series, Dragon Green. I’ve seen some blog/forum posts warning about burning out, but I honestly feel like I need to keep up this pace if I’m going to have any kind of success. And I also feel like this is not a ridiculous pace. I’m basically writing 3,000 words/day for about three to four weeks, not including weekends. Next is a few days of editing. Then I take a few days to decompress and handle some of the release/marketing issues surrounding the book. That gives me a 50K novel every 5-6 weeks, which is a nice turnaround, and so far I’m not feeling spent. That’s after 3 books. We’ll see how I’m doing after 10 or 20.

Anyway, I’m feeling much better in the planning stages of this book than I was with Dragon Red. All I knew in that book was that I wanted to start out with my hero wandering the desert with amnesia, and that I wanted the romance to be one of forbidden love, two shifters of very different types who had to work together to accomplish their goals and ended up falling in love because of it. The details were very murky, and the writing didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked.

But the planning for Dragon Green is going much better. I introduced the hero, Vander Tanglevine, in the last book. He’s a very laid-back type living in and ruling his remote jungle paradise. But in the first chapter he’s going to get his call to action when a merfolk oracle tells him he needs to get off his butt, retrieve an ancient weapon hidden away on Earth, and get ready to fight the strongest enemy he could imagine. The heroine is going to be Brynn, an archaeologist from Earth whose professional and social life are in shambles. She’s obsessed with finding hard evidence for an alternate world full of shapeshifters. She’s gathered bits and pieces, but not enough to convince anyone, and her colleagues think she’s a loon. Her boyfriend even thinks she might be crazy and when we first meet her, he dumps her.

The first act is basically going to involve Vander’s journey to earth and meeting Brynn. She’s going to need to decide whether she wants to help him or finally get the proof she needs to legitimate her claims. Oh, and of course they’re going to start falling for each other. But Vander is going to have to return to Xandakar. He’s supposed to marry Nevra Nightshadow, after all. And apparently there’s a dark scourge looming on the horizon. So he leaves Brynn behind.

Act II is going to involve Vander being seduced and imprisoned by a powerful siren. Brynn will then travel to Xandakar, and she’ll be the only one who can try to save him. Meanwhile, there are going to be dolphin shifters, telepathic jewelry, and all sorts of other stuff. I’m still working out the rough details. The fine ones will come with writing. But I’m feeling good.

I’m trying to temper my expectations of the Dragon Red release. I’ve got more ARC readers and a growing mailing list. I also have a much firmer grasp of which promos I want to use. But I still don’t want to get my hopes too high. My modest goal at this point is just to exceed the results of those with Dragon Blue. Once I have at least two more books in the series done, I’m going to look into making the first book permafree. I’m probably also going to revamp all the covers so there’s a branded, consistent look.

I feel like things are moving along nicely. Time will tell.

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ARCs of Dragon Red Going Out

So I’ve finished edits on Dragon Red: A Fire Unfed and sent out advance copies to my ARC team. This part is always a little nerve-wracking. Not quite as nerve-wracking as actually publishing, but still. I’m pretty happy with how the book turned out, though of course every writer always has doubts. I have to admit that over the past week my mind has been drifting to thoughts of the next book in the series, Dragon Green. I feel like I have some really good ideas about what I want to do with it, and the style is more of a return to the first book.

Anyway, as always, if anyone reading this is interested in joining my ARC team, just drop me an email at macybabineaux@gmail.com. I’ll post updates throughout the week about how the review process is going.

In the meantime, I’m happy with how my newsletter list is growing. I’m really hoping it will have some impact on launch, which I’m planning to do in exactly one week, next Monday, 10/17/16. If I need to do major revisions based on feedback I may push that back. But right now that’s the plan.

I’m probably not going to spend a lot on promos this time around, either. I’ll likely just sign up for the few that were very effective with Dragon Blue. I’m trying to keep my expectations modest for this launch. A lot of writers say book three is when a series really begins to take off (if it’s going to). I think that makes sense, because a third book really does show that an author is serious about keeping a series going, and I understand that some readers may not want to pick up a book if they see there are only one or two installments. Still, it would be nice to move a few copies and have a decent month. I’ll post updates on those stats after launch.

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Still Editing

I’m not a huge fan of editing, but it’s fine. The editing on Dragon Red is nearly done. I’m still planning on sending out advance copies on Monday. My ARC team is up to 54 right now, which is a little lower than where I wanted to be. I wanted to have between 75-100 ARC readers lined up for this launch. I might still get there. I got the list of email leads from the Self-Publishing Roundtable Promo I took part in last week. There were about 250 emails from there. I sent out a welcome message today. Right off the top, four of the emails bounced, which means they were undeliverable. So far three people have unsubscribed from the list. But that’s still a very nice number of leads.

I may send out another email to that list next week and see if anyone’s interested in joining the ARC team. If anyone reading this is interested, let me know at macybabineaux@gmail.com. I had one ARC reader express concern over Amazon’s new policy on incentivized reviews. Here’s Amazon’s statement about the changes. You can read the whole thing, which isn’t long, but basically they say that providing a free sample of a product in exchange for a review is prohibited. But then at the end they say this:

The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.

So most authors I’ve seen talk about the subject say that the way they handle ARCs won’t really change. Maybe they need to tweak the language a little when sending out advance copies. Wording used to be along the lines of “Are you interested in an advance copy in exchange for an honest review?” Now it seems best to just say something like “Are you interested in an advance copy? A review is not necessary, but would be appreciated.”

Also, Instafreebie has been a great tool for growing my mailing list this month. I crossed 100 subscribers today! That feels like an important milestone. So far I’m doing a good job of being productive, producing a book about every five weeks. If I can keep up that momentum while building a solid fan base, I think I’ll be poised to do well in the coming months.