Update: Publishing. Self, and the Other Kind

5 Oct

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10/7/13:

Update on the update, ok, ignore everything I said below: sales of the book are back up, I’ve got 10 now this month and it is currently at #17 in Kindle Noir and #35,899 in “paid kindle store.” I should write a blog talking about how it’s all over for my book more often I guess.

(Man, I cannot figure out how to punctuate the title of this blog, I keep changing it)

Yes, last July 6, I self published on Amazon for Kindle the above-pictured book, Criminal Love and Other Stories.   It is a collection of the 23 stories I wrote between July of 2012 and February of 2013, 17 of which were published either online by really cool crime journals or in some wonderful print anthologies of crime and noir stories.

At first, not much happened. Then, I started getting some reviews and some sales. After about four weeks the sales became four or five a day, and the book was, at one point, as high as number 4 on the Kindle list of Noir Best Sellers.

This has been a lot of fun and very satisfying creatively. As of today I have 18 reviews: 12 five star, 5 four star, and one 3 star. And yes, most of the reviews are from people I know either in person or online or both, and, they are people whose books I’ve read and loved and reviewed. However, almost half of the reviews are actually from readers who I did not know and who stumbled upon the book either through a recommendation by a friend or by Amazon.

Now, as far as I can tell, things are slowing down, at least for now. So far in October only two books have sold. At this point in August or September, the number would have been 20 to 40. I don’t think any have sold in about four days, also unusual. I am falling down the Kindle/Noir charts — this morning the book is number 97. Up until this month it was almost always in the top 30 at least.

One interesting thing is that I believe my sales and my reviews (with only three exceptions) are strictly from people I know from the world of crime/noir readers and writers. While I let my family know about it, and I let all my old and new non-writer friends know about it, the feedback from that group (again with three exceptions) has been nil. I don’t know, is this normal? I wonder if other writers experience this? Now, the book is very violent, it has extremely intense and dark themes and situations. There is a lot of foul language and a lot of sex. So, I wonder if that turned off some of these potential readers? Or, is it just that, sure, this book is a big deal to me, but maybe my family and friends have other things to do and think about, right? It really might not be all about me (shit!). Or, maybe, many of them started it and just didn’t like it and they decided to deal with that by just not saying anything and avoiding an uncomfortable conversation and maybe  getting me all butt hurt?

Total sales now are 255. Not a lot really. Since I sell the book for 99 cents, I only get 35 cents per sale. An insignificant amount, I know. But, it is actual money and I’ll take it. The purpose of the book wasn’t so much to make big bucks as it was to get my name and my writing out there and to create some interest for when my novella comes out.

I really don’t know what I can do about this slowdown. What I think is, at this point, everyone who is going to buy and review the book has probably done so. Of course, I can think of dozens of people who I’d love to get to read it, and then review it. There are a couple of writers/bloggers I know that if only they’d give the book a write-up on their site things would change ASAP. But, I don’t know how to make such people do such a thing. I can’t beg them (well not anymore), it’s just probably not going to happen. At one point about a month ago I sent FB message to about 60 people at once asking them to buy, read, and review the book. Right after that I noticed a tweet on my twitter feed: “Sending a mass email to your FB friends to buy your book: uncool.” And, yes, the tweet was about me and my email. This kind of soured me from doing direct appeals like that (also, maybe some of these people think the book sucks). I tweet about the book off and on and I think that may have helped a little. Lately, I’ve been tweeting excerpts from the book to try to drum up more interested but it has had no effect.

As some of you may know, my novella, The Scent of New Death, was scheduled to be published by Out of the Gutter on November 1. However, there has been a small glitch. The editor’s hard drive crashed about a month ago, destroying his latest edited version. So, we have had to postpone things briefly while we waited for his computer to come back from the shop and now while the edits are finished. I’m okay with that, but I can’t wait for the publication to actually happen.

My experience with Out of the Gutter and the editor, Tom Pitts (Tom is the author of the outstanding book Piggyback, as well as dozens of wonderful crime stories) has been wonderful. At the beginning of this year the company put out a call for new manuscripts. The idea was that each of the editors Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Court Merrigan and Matthew Louis (who also owns the publishing enterprise) would act as “Acquisition Editors.” Authors could read each of their preferences for submissions on the website and then send a manuscript to one of the four. Then, that editor would read the submission and pick a couple to see through to publication. Two books are out already as the result of this process, Love Songs are Too Violent for Me, by Will Viharo, and The Street Martyr, by T. Fox Dunham, with more to come.

I saw this announcement on the website, and was very interested, but was still working on The Scent of New Death. At some point in the early spring I sent a draft to Tom Pitts. I asked him to read it, to let me know what he thought, but I made it clear it wasn’t a submission to Out of the Gutter. I didn’t think it was ready, I just wanted feedback from a writer/editor I admired.

To my delight, Tom read it and called me (yes, some of us actually talk on the phone and sometimes meet in person). He said he liked the book for Gutter and he asked me to make it a submission that he would then accept and take on as an editor. Great, pretty exciting.

Then, Tom went to work. He went through my manuscript, that I think was about 21,000 words at that point. He redlined detailed line edits throughout, all of which I agreed with and adapted. Most importantly, he left notes, notes asking me to punch up certain scenes, notes telling me where things didn’t make sense and telling me to clarify somehow, notes asking me to rewrite entire passages and notes asking me to create some new scenes.

All of this was so valuable. I did as he asked and when I was done I had a new draft that was almost 28,000 words and that seemed so much more than what I had originally given to Tom. It seemed like a real book. It will be out soon and, like I said, I am very excited.

I also just finished a draft of a new book. This one is intended to be a strict noir. Scent of New Death is really more of a straight crime book than it is a traditional noir, but, with its violence, sex, and dark and creepy themes and scenes I think some readers might still refer to it as a noir. The new book though, hopefully, is a traditional noir with a main character doomed by his compulsions.

Man, I really can go on and on about this shit.

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