Remember that short story I was telling you guys about, the one that kept getting the “good” (i.e. personalized and encouraging) rejections? It found a home, and will be included in the upcoming anthology Fae from World Weaver Press. I’ll post more when I have a release date—right now all I know is that it’s coming out in the summer.
World Weaver Press is a small publishing house so the payment is pretty nominal (a crisp ten-dollar bill and a copy of the book when it comes out). On the other hand, their contract is really humane: they ask only for non-exclusive publishing rights, which means that I can (for instance) use the story if I decide to self-publish a book of short fiction. They also have a built-in clause about rights reverting to the author after the anthology goes out of print. I think that’s super ethical but unfortunately it’s far from standard in the industry: I’ve heard lots of horror stories about writers being unable to get their rights back after big publishing houses consigned their books to the dustbin.
So there’s pros and cons to working with small presses. But I have to say, all my dealings with World Weaver Press have been great. The editor sent me her slate of proposed edits to the story, all but one of which were obviously good changes that made the prose flow better. In the one instance where I disagreed with a proposed change, I explained why but told her that I would let her judgment carry the day: she decided to let the original phrasing stand. So it’s been a really good experience so far, and I’m looking forward to reading the other stories in the book.
Sumiko Saulson, who covers the local art scene, did a very nice little profile on me for Examiner.com. Sumiko does a great job highlighting our neighborhood artists and makers, and I really enjoy following her posts.
I’m pleased to share that one of my short stories, “The Witch’s Daughter,” is included in the current Hallowe’en-themed issue of Rose Red Review (a literary webzine).
This is actually a story that I wrote back in college. I recently dusted off some old files recovered from floppy disks, and this was one of them. Amusingly enough, it shared a title with one of my current novels in progress—I guess I really liked that title!
I hesitated about sending the story out, because frankly I’m not sure that it’s up to the quality of my current best work. But in the end I decided to go ahead and share it with an audience. Partly because it’s the closest thing to a horror story I’ve ever written. (I would probably call it dark fantasy, but it definitely includes disturbing themes and graphic imagery.)
But mostly, I just really like the last line.
When I was working on The Millennial Sword, I posted chapters as I completed them to LiveJournal, and my friends who were reading would give me feedback and constructive criticism. (Shoutout to Molly Price and Dom Camus, who stuck with me till the end and were incredibly, unspeakably important to my writing process.)
I don’t have a lot of time to write these days, but I do have a couple of works-in-progress that I’m juggling. One is a fantasy novel heavily influenced by Beowulf and The Kalevala, and the other is a science-fiction project—basically my attempt to create a swashbuckling interplanetary femme gunslinger as a genre answer to Han Solo and Mal Reynolds. If anyone reading this blog would be interested in seeing first-draft chapters as they come out, please let me know? I am more than willing to reciprocate by reading and commenting on your own works in progress.
I wrote a new short story just before Sol was born, and I tried submitting it to Tor.com, which is aiming high—they’re currently the best-paying fantasy market that I know of. Today I got a rejection note, but it was a nice rejection note: “Thanks so much for submitting to Tor.com, and for your patience while we evaluated your story. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that ‘The Fairy
Midwife’ isn’t quite right for us. It’s always hard to reject a good story, and this is fun and inventive. I think it hasn’t lived up to its potential—there are tools here for a deeper emotional impact than I felt—and so I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere. Please send us more of your stories in the future!”
This is indubitably a “good” rejection. Good rejections are when you get personalized feedback (as opposed to the generic “does not meet our needs at this time”) and the editors express a desire to see more of your work. I think I went through like a dozen rejections before I made my first short fiction sale (to Dragon magazine back in 1994), and they got progressively nicer and nicer until I finally sent something they actually bought. First it was just the printed slip; then it was the printed slip with a handwritten note on it; then it was an actual letter from an actual editor with detailed and specific feedback; and finally it was an offer letter with contracts to sign. So there’s definitely a hierarchy of rejections. And a good one can kind of make my day.
I don’t actually have anything else to send to Tor.com right now—before this story, I hadn’t written any short fiction for a long time—but I’ll send “The Fairy Midwife” somewhere else. It’s fun and inventive, after all!
So I went slinking back to Amazon with my tail between my legs. Six weeks after leaving the KDP Select program my Amazon sales have not recovered, and I only sold a couple books through Barnes & Noble and Apple. Suspicious as I am of Amazon’s monopolistic market position, I’ve been forced to conclude that for me right now they’re the only meaningful game in town. And I need the extra exposure that the Select program offers.
Anyway, as an extra bit of promotion, I packaged up a previously-published short story as an e-file (sneaking in an ad for my novel at the back) and stuck it up on Amazon. It’ll be free for the next few days and 99 cents thereafter.
So if you want a free short story, go on and grab it!
Final promo stats: 1314 free copies of my book given away over the past four days. I briefly cracked the top ten in Amazon’s list of most popular free e-books in the Contemporary Fantasy category, peaking (I believe) at #9:
It’s even possible that I climbed a spot or two after I went to bed—there seemed to be a surge of last-minute interest in the book, which I think is an excellent sign, as it suggests that people were sharing the link with their friends. On the list of all free e-books The Millennial Sword was at #373. Now it’s switched over to the paid e-books ranking, starting out near the very bottom: #162,077 with a bullet, baby. Woooo!
It’s the last day of my free launch promotion for The Millennial Sword. As of right now 933 copies of the book have been downloaded; I’m very confident that it’ll cross a thousand downloads before the end of the day. It’s also currently listed at #14 on Amazon’s list of Top 100 Free Books in the “Contemporary Fantasy” genre. This is the kind of thing that authors get excited about even though it doesn’t particularly mean much. The real test of whether or not the launch promotion was a success will be if I start seeing reviews crop up on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites.
I have some details that I can share about the paperback version. It will probably be available next week, and it will be priced at $12.99. This is on the expensive side because I’m doing print-on-demand; I don’t benefit from the economies of scale that are involved in a large print run. To be honest, I don’t expect to sell many paperbacks. What I have heard is that having a paperback version available tends to boost e-book sales: that $2.99 digital price looks even better when it’s next to a $12.99 paperback. Plus, I can get copies for my family members and give them away at Christmas.
Over the next few weeks, what I really need to do is stop obsessively refreshing my Amazon sales stats and my book’s Goodreads page, and get back to working on my second novel. As I think I mentioned before, e-book authors almost never make huge sales on a single title—instead, they earn income by building a solid backlist of titles that each sell in modest but steady numbers. I would like to have a second novel to publish by the end of next year. But doing that will require closing down my web browser, and putting in some actual work!
On the first day of my launch promotion, The Millennial Sword was downloaded 369 times. If the numbers continue at this rate, I’ll get over a thousand downloads before the free period ends on Friday. If even half of those people (500) actually read it—and half of those (250) like it—and half of the ones who like it (125) tell their friends…then I will consider the promotion a great success.
Most of what I’ve read about indie publishing suggests that books with 15 or more Amazon reviews get a lot more traffic. I think this has to do with Amazon’s search algorithms and the way that they promote material on their site. But I have to remind myself not to be impatient for Amazon reviews: people need time to actually read the thing, after all!
A couple of technical notes: some people in the UK had trouble getting the download. The link for our cousins across the pond is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Millennial-Sword-ebook/dp/B009JW9K4M/. That should let you grab the book without any problems.
ALSO, while the Nook version of the book won’t be out for a few months, I wanted to let Nook owners know that there are free programs that can convert between e-book formats. Calibre seems to be one of the most popular. I would expect the formatting might not be perfect after an automated conversion, but if folks with the various non-Kindle e-readers want to grab the novel while it’s free, Calibre might be a good option for you.
The Millennial Sword is now free to download from Amazon! Feel free to spread the link around; the launch promotion will run through Friday, after which the e-book will return to its normal price of $2.99.
Some of my early readers have been posting their reviews, which is lovely. Dom Camus called the novel a “vivid, elegant remix of a classic theme…a cleverly arranged story involving some classic themes from English mythology blended with some well-observed writing concerning the heroine’s life in modern day America.” And Jessie Bennett described it as “a love song to San Francisco, a San Francisco where there are goblins in the subway and were-panthers at cocktail parties,” which I think sums it up perfectly.
Reviews are going to be the lifeblood of this book, so I am very grateful to everyone who takes the time to spread word about it. Thanks so much!