Non-Scientific Experiment Results

Welp, it’s December. Thank goodness. I am so ready for this year to end. But that means it is time to look at the results of the experiment I’ve been doing the last quarter-plus and come to a verdict. Of course, this isn’t a scientific experiment and there is no real “control” beyond knowing what I’d been doing before. Still, I’ve seen a trend and it is enough to try to keep the “experiment” going.

Heaven help me.

Simply put, back in the summer, I decided to try to put out something new–or re-branded with additional new text included–every month. This has meant making sure my butt is in the chair and I’m on the work computer instead of the gaming computer for much of each “work day”. It also meant finding new and quicker ways to recharge between projects. Most of all, it meant keeping a tight rein on Myrtle the Evil Muse.

Okay, quit laughing. I know trying to rein her in, much less muzzle her, is pretty much a lost cause. But it sounded good when I wrote it

The Goal:

To see what impact on overall sales putting out a new title every month would have.

The Process:

This is where I laugh hysterically. I started this experiment with a firm idea of what I would be publishing and when. I started with four titles that were either already written, had basic rough drafts done or were fully–or as fully as I ever get–outlined. I knew one of the titles would be shorter than my usual fare, more of novellas than full novels. One of those, Cat’s Paw, was the second in the bridging stories between the Nocturnal Revelations and the first full-length novel in the Noctural Awakenings story arc.

What I didn’t expect was having Myrtle rise up and demand I write another novella, this one in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series, as well. Once I got started, I undestood why A Magical Portent needed to be written. It is the bridge between Rogue’s Magic and Magic Rising, the next full-length novel in the series. Portent gives information that would otherwise wind up being one or more info dumps otherwise.

But it wasn’t scheduled and that threw everything, and I do mean everything, off.

Back to the process. Basically, it was write, send to alpha/beta readers, edit and publish. It meant butt in chair five days a week and often six or seven. I did give myself most evenings off and the majority of most weekends. I also started getting up earlier than I like–okay, that started with idiot dog who likes getting up long before the sun does so he can chase the nocturnal critters who think our yard is part of their personal highway to wherever.

The Challenge:

There were a number of challenges this presented. From choosing cover art and then adding text elements to the actual writing process to promotion and publication, there was something in each step that had me wanting to run for the hills. For the most part, I managed to keep those fears in check. However, I fell down on one major part of the process: promotion. If I had done better at it, my numbers would have been better. Don’t get me wrong. Falling down there did not invalidate the experiment. But more on that later.

Another challenge was finding ways to recharge the creative batteries and switch “voices” more quickly than I usually do. The latter is easy enough, at least with series I’ve been working on for a while. I simply re-read at least the last book in the series before sitting down to write.

The real challenge came in recharging the creative batteries. Usually, working with my hands–and by that I mean manual labor like building something outside or stripping paint, priming, repainting, etc. I didn’t realize until yesterday that what I’d been doing wasn’t enough. How did I realize it? I looked up mid-day and realized I’d gone into full German hausfrau mode and had started removing the hardware from the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and cleaning them.

And this without company coming.

Yep, the brain reached critical creative mass and needed a time out.

Unexpected Consequences:

The “duh” part of this is that I’m a walking zombie usually by the third week of each month. I’m not a morning person. So adjusting to getting up between 0430 and 0500 most days is not fun. I’m no longer that college student who could stay up several days straight and still be human.

Changes in story arcs. This is particularly true where the Eerie Side of the Tracks series is concerned. That “universe” began as a simple romantic suspense novel. Then Skeletons in the Closet came out and, well, the first twist occurred. (And yes, that is being finished. That is another of the unintended consequences. I finally know where it is going.) The series has started becoming more serious and in the next two books, it will continue along in that vein. Don’t get me wrong. It won’t lose what makes it what it is, but not everyone is going to have that HAE.

Yesterday, Myrtle hit me again. This time with a plot bunny she’s been trying to push for some years now. Except this time, she’d figured out where the story needs to go and started sharing it with me. I know when she’s serious when I’m driven to do a cover for the story. That almost always means it is going to be one of the next ones to be done. However, I made a deal with her. Because I still have at least five novels/novellas on my plate that need to come out soonest, I will do this one in installments on my blog. One or two chapters a week.

Here’s a link to my blog post about it yesterday. And here’s the placeholder cover.

Of course, I also did two variations. Why? Because the muse demanded it.

Now, I know the covers suck. But they are more a placeholder to give me the feel/inspiration the story arc needs right now. And, yes, this story wiill be darker than much of my work, although it isn’t going to be horror or dystopian. And that’s all I’m going to say for now.

Well, all I’m going to say about Demonsbane. You know I have more to say about how this “experiment” of mine turned out.

Conclusions:

This is no big “Duh!” because I knew it already. I suck at promotion. That is what I have to start working seriously on. Why? Because the spike in sales I saw by putting out titles on a regular basis, even shorter titles, seems to confirm two things. First, people want to escape through reading. That’s probably more true right now than it has been in a very long time because so much of our regular escape mechanisms have been curtailed or closed altogether.

Second, putting out titles closer together than I have been not only helps sales in that particular series but overall. It helps that I link all my books to my real name as well as the pen name.

Third, sales as well as pages read have increased and there isn’t as much drop off because new titles are coming out within a week or two of what had often been the huge drop off point. I could probably improve those numbers with solid promotion. Now to figure out how to do that effectively without feeling like I’m doing nothing but begging folks to buy my books.

So, yes, I’m going to keep pushing and trying to bring out a new title every 4 to 6 weeks. At least as long as I can. It means pushing myself and exercising self-control. In other words, remembering this is my job and treating it as such.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

And I’m going to need lots and lots of coffee and probably good whiskey.

FYI: Since March, here’s my publication list. All but two came out since mid-August:

Featured Image by Mark Frost from Pixabay.

14 comments

    1. Whatever looks good to you, Pat. FYI, Rogue’s Magic comes before A Magical Portent. Nocturnal Prey comes before Cat’s Paw but isn’t required (both are shorter works). Prey is a rebranding, re-release with new material of what was originally titled Hunter’s Home.

      1. Is “Slay Bell’s Ringing” a Book 0 in the series? I ask that, because Amazon lists “Witchfire Burning” as Book 1, and “Light Magic” as Book 2. But they are all set in Mossy Oak, right?
        I got “Rogue Magic.” It came out while I was in a state of ‘non compos reviewus.’

        1. Slay Bells is set in the same town and has some of the same characters but isn’t part of the “series” because it is straight rom-suspense, without any of the UF elements.

  1. > Now, I know the covers suck.

    Why do they suck?

    They look just fine to me. They have the title, the author, they clearly position the book in a series, they have a presumably-relevant picture, and they don’t look like a first-year graphic arts student had a font-gasm all over them.

    I’m aware that my opinions on cover design are radically different from the accepted norm here, but all three covers contain all the information I need (zero points, since I expect that as a minimum level of competence) and they don’t have offensively bad “art” or lettering. (In TRX-land, you only *lose* points on cover design). Your net score is zero, which is *just fine*. Actually, considering the abominations printed by Real Publishing Houses, that should probably be re-rated as “spectacularly good.”

  2. Okay, now I’m going to rain on your parade. The strip of covers at the bottom of your post includes one for a book called “Cat’s Paw.” It is a good example of an offensively bad cover. It was notably bad even in the thumbnail. I opened the Amazon page to view it in full size (as full as any potential buyer is likely to see it, anyway)

    note: the other five look fine, and a couple were actually good enough to grab my attention.

    “Cat’s Paw.” The shadowed font is hard to read and annoying.

    “Noctu… something” It’s printed in some color over other colors; I can’t see it. If it was a physical object I could turn it at an angle and look for edges of character outlines, but I’m out of luck on the image. I could load it into one of my picture editors and enlarge it and maybe see what it looks like in grayscale, but why would I make that much effort for one and a half words?

    Name and series: looks fine.

    Background art. Faint cat of some sort. I assume it’s relevant somehow. No problem.

    Foreground art: perhaps done by, or intended for, a pubescent comic reader. Giant duck lips, breasts larger than head, malproportioned arm with hand as large as face (or maybe arm and breasts match, and head is way too small), hilariously large pistol that looks a lot like the duded-up Desert Eagle Arnie carried in “Red Heat.” And there’s a reason why most shooters don’t wear a ring on their gun hand.

    The expression. Given the gun and coat I would expect to see resolute, angry, curious, surprised, suspicious… the neutral blase expression reminds me of Burt Reynolds’ character in “Striptease” where he’s announcing his boots are full of Vaseline. Whatever it’s supposed to represent, it just zoomed over my head at 30,000 feet and climbing.

    And while I understand the flappy Matrix coats are de rigeur in some genre art now, if you’ve actually *worn* one, they’re a hassle with chairs, car doors, or trying to get things out of holsters or pockets. If you haven’t worn one, watch some old episodes of “Columbo” and watch how Peter Falk deals with his, which was fairly lightweight cloth. Since the coat may be a genre signal I won’t count against it, though.

    This is a cover that, if I slid it out of the shelf in a book store, I’d slide it back in as soon as I caught sight of it, without bothering to pull it out to read the back.

  3. An impressive amount of work. Congratulations!

    I think that marketing and publicity is *the* hardest task for indie writers. How do you get noticed in the sea of chaff?

    Your current path of publishing regularly is definitely helping.

    1. Honestly, it is hard for any writer, indie or trad. We think trad publishers will do PR for their authors but not really. Not unless the author is a best seller or one who’s been tapped as “the next big thing”. Too often, publishers basically tell the authors they are on their own when it comes to PR. In fact, there are agents and publishers out there who will ask you what your marketing plan is before they will even review your work.

      And yes, publishing regularly does help. It’s just difficult to keep it up at times. At least it is for me.

  4. Cool!

    Me, I’m feeling proud that I published at all. But I’ll try to do more than one work next year.

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