Weekly Update – February 21, 2017

af6-cover-ebook-editionFirst, I’d like to reiterate yesterday’s announcement that Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play is officially available for pre-order on Amazon. The Kindle version will be released next Tuesday, February 28, and the print edition should also be available on or around that date.

If you’re new to the Action Figures saga, or an AF fan who wants to introduce someone to the series, mark Monday, March 13 on your calendar, because that’s when Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins will be available on the Kindle for free. Actually it’ll be free all week (until Friday, March 17), so that gives you five days to grab a copy for yourself or gift one to a fellow reader.

WRITING PROJECTS

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootBlades of Glory: I managed to sneak in a little work here and there but was mostly away from the laptop due to Boskone (more on that below).

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: First draft finished.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage: First draft finished.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins:  Audiobook recording in progress.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

Boskone is behind me, and while it was a decent weekend I’m doubtful whether I’ll try to go back in 2018.

The benefit of doing pop-culture-related conventions, especially cons like Arisia and Boskone, which tend to be more reader-oriented, is that you’re immersed in a target audience and the potential for sales and positive exposure is excellent. The drawback is that these shows can be very expensive. A table at Boskone is $70, plus they require people to basically buy an admission to the show (I personally despise that practice; I worked numerous comic cons with my wife and they didn’t hit vendors for a fee and then admission on top), and that almost doubles basic expenses. Then you add the unavoidable costs of parking, which can be considerable since they’re in Boston, and travel (gas and tolls). Even if you avoid superfluous expenses like food and lodging, you’re still dropping a couple hundred dollars just to be there.

In order to recoup those expenses, I have to sell at least 17 books at their convention price (I offer a small discount at shows to encourage sales), and that’s to barely break even. That might not sound like a huge number, but consider that there are several other authors there also selling their books, plus new and used book sellers, plus vendors selling non-book items. There’s a fair amount of competition for the patrons’ limited spending money.

The long and short of it is, Boskone did not provide a respectable ROI, and that is for me the deciding factor on whether to return to a given show. I’ve met several indie authors who do shows planning to lose money but do them anyway for the exposure, but I view this as a poor business model. Exposure is fine, but if it doesn’t lead to sales, it’s a waste of time, effort, and money — and the people I’ve spoken to admit they don’t know for sure that attending a con has directly resulted in later sales, and they certainly can’t connect any sales that do occur after a show to their appearance at said show. They might have correlation but they can’t prove causation.

 

Power Play – Available for Pre-Sale Now!

af6-cover-ebook-editionI’ll keep it short and sweet: Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play is up on Amazon for pre-sale! Buy it now for $3.99 and get it when it drops on Tuesday, February 28. The paperback edition should be available about the same time. Sorry I can’t be more specific but unlike the e-book version, I can’t specify when the print edition becomes available.

Cover Reveal! Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play

As I write this, I’m getting ready for day two of Boskone, but I’ve already been quite productive, thanks to my body deciding that sleeping until 5 AM on a Saturday was late enough (and I say “thanks” in the most sarcastic way possible).

I’ve received my finished cover art for Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play, and I spent the morning prepping the print and Kindle editions for release, and by the time you read this, the Kindle version may already be available for pre-sale. I’ll post a link on Monday, but you can go check for yourself on Amazon if you’re impatient.

For now, check out the finished front and back covers, and grab Power Play on Kindle when it drops on Tuesday, February 28!

Art and copyright 2017 Patricia Lupien.
Art and copyright 2017 Patricia Lupien.

Best Week Ever! Part Three

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I planned to start doing direct book sales through this website. I was so motivated by the concept, I powered through my exhaustion (slept like crap for two straight nights) and got things set up.

So I am happy to officially announce that you can now buy print editions of all four Action Figures books and The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich through the Buy Now page. I’m selling all books for $12 — a savings of $1 to $3 over the cover price — plus $3 to cover shipping, which will be by media mail rates. The bonuses of buying from me directly: I’ll sign each copy and throw in an Action Figures bookmark.

I also mentioned my plans to sell e-book versions as well. Here’s the situation with that: Action Figures – Secret Origins and Scratching a Lich are both part of the Kindle Select program, which means I get to benefit from such perks as being able to run promotions (such as the free giveaway for Secret Origins running through Friday), and my book is available to Kindle Unlimited members. The down side is that I can only sell Kindle Select titles exclusively through Amazon.

So I have to give some thought about the potential benefits of selling e-books directly from this site verses the benefits of Kindle Select before I pull the trigger one way or the other. In the meantime, if anyone really wants an epub or mobi version of Secret Origins or Scratching a Lich, contact me directly and we’ll talk.

All that said, I am in the process of formatting the other three Action Figures books for direct sale as e-books, and since those aren’t part of Kindle Select, I will be able to sell them via the site without any conflicts.

One more thing worth mentioning: I plan to start selling e-book copies of Secret Origins and Scratching a Lich at personal appearances. I figured out how to make it work, so if you see me in person anywhere, I’ll be able to sell you a copy on the spot, and you’ll have it within a few minutes!

Speaking of personal appearances, I have something cooking for a little later this month. I’ll let you know about that as soon as the details are nailed down.

Artwork and copyright Patricia Lupien.
Artwork and copyright Patricia Lupien.

I’ll end on a high note and present to you another sneak-peek of the cover of the upcoming Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups. You’ve already seen the Entity, now check out Tricia’s progress on Kunoichi’s new look!

The Making Of A Novel

As you may know, Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups got delayed until January. I hated to make that call, but as I remarked to one disappointed reader, real life came calling and pushed the process back. It’s one of the unfortunate and sometimes unavoidable pitfalls of being an independent author.

When I talk to people about my work, they’re often surprised at what goes into creating a novel. The process is much more complex than they realized, and fraught with potential hurdles than can easily screw up a release schedule, so I thought I’d chat about the process of creating a book start to finish — or, more specifically, my process. There is no one single “right way” to write a novel, despite what some might claim.

For me, the process starts with what I call the “rough plotting” phase. This is when I hash out the story from beginning to end. I lay out the plot and character arcs, set up key scenes, etc. All this happens in my head; I am not the kind of writer who takes extensive notes or meticulously lays out a story in advance. I like an organic process that surprises me with where the story and characters go. It keeps my creative energy up.

Next, the actual writing begins. This part of the process can take a few months, and my day-to-day page output depends on several factors, such whether I’m having a high or low creative energy day, how confident I’m feeling about a given section of the story, and if I actually have time to write. Four days out of the week, I work for my wife’s company Storied Threads, which leaves me with Friday through Sunday to write.

…Unless she’s vending at a show, which occurs a dozen or so times each year; or if I’m involved with the Connecticut Renaissance Faire as a performer/assistant fight director, in which case I can kiss my weekends goodbye for two months; or if life stuff happens (social gatherings, holidays, emergencies, etc.).

I cant brainAnd of course, there are days when I’m supposed to write but can’t, because my brain hates me and won’t let me do anything. This condition is often called ‘writer’s block” but is also known simply as “the dumb.” On days like that I usually spend a couple hours trying to power through it, but when I write the same paragraph over and over again and it still feels like a big bag of suck, I usually give up for the day and try again tomorrow.

During the writing phase, I often come up with an idea for the cover art, which I throw over to my artist, Tricia, so she can start doing her thing. This is one part of the process that is completely out of my hands. I can request a deadline for the completed artwork, but all it will be is a request. Tricia has a family, a day job, other art projects (her own and for other clients), a life of her own — all things that just might take priority over whatever work I have for her. It’s in my overall best interests to be flexible and understanding when stuff comes up. She does great work for me and I don’t want to lose her!

Colbert Give It
This is not how you get results from your cover artist.

After I finish writing the novel, I begin the revision process. Depending on how confident I am with the first draft — and on how much time I have, and how much the creative juices are flowing — I can do a second draft in as little as one three-day weekend. More often it takes me at least two weekends of work. Measured in hours, that’s 30 to 60 hours to revise a full manuscript. Tack on another 30 to 60 hours if I decide a third draft is in order.

Once I’m pleased with the manuscript, I send it off to my test readers, which is another point in the process that I can’t control. They’re doing me a favor by reading and critiquing my book, so I have no right to put them on a deadline or rush them. Fortunately, they tend to be fast readers and I normally receive my feedback within two to three weeks.

Once all my test readers have reported in, it’s time to work on the next draft, wherein I correct any problems with the story, strengthen the parts that work well, and fine-tune the prose (I have a bad habit of over-writing, so I’m always on the lookout for superfluous material to cut for the sake of length and pacing). This takes another weekend or two.

Next step is to send the manuscript off to my editor, Julie. She is wonderfully thorough, insightful, and always offers meaty feedback. That level of diligence requires time on her part, and depending on how her schedule is — again, she has commitments above and beyond my needs — it could take her up to two months to finish editing a manuscript.

When she’s finished, guess what? That’s right: I do another round of revisions! Usually by this point all the major parts are set and all I have to do is make final corrections.

Hurry Up
My relationship with formatting.

And then it’s on to the boring part of the job: formatting everything. I have to format the base MS Word file, which includes scintillating tasks like making sure all the page breaks and paragraph indentations are where they should be; and then I have to format the whole thing for the print edition (which doesn’t take too long if I did that first part right); and then I have to format it again for the e-book edition.

That part finished, I then go into CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing to set up the books — which is quite a bit more than simply uploading my various files. I have to choose book categories and keywords for search engines, get my ISBN and AISN numbers, select my pricing and royalty options, and after my files are uploaded, I have to review the books cover to cover to ensure they formatted properly. And if they don’t? I have to go back into my master files to make the corrections, re-upload the new files, and start the review process all over again.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I’m doing things like maintaining my online presence, promoting the next release, setting up book signings and public appearances, and looking for new ways to spread the word about my work — and sometimes, during the “hurry up and wait” points in the timeline, I’m starting work on the next book.

All told, the process of creating a novel from the time I start writing to the day it sees publication is six months if everything goes smoothly — which it almost never does. More often it takes around eight months, start to finish, before readers get to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

And that, boys and girls, is how a novel gets made.

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Strongarm & Lightfoot – Available For Pre-Order!

Final cover art for "The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot - Scratching a Lich." Art and Copyright Patricia Lupien.
Art and Copyright Patricia Lupien.

Man, it’s been a busy and eventful day!

And the good news just keeps on coming, because the Kindle edition of The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Scratching a Lich is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

The Kindle edition will go on sale on Tuesday, September 22, and hopefully the print edition will be available around the same time. And remember, if you’re planning to go the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, you can grab a copy from me in person, and I’ll happily sign it for you. You can also pick up all four of the Action Figures novels, and then you can go back another day to meet one of the other authors who will be there during the show’s fall run.

Secret Origins – Back On Kindle Unlimited!

Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer went out to my editor this weekend, so with some time to kill before it comes back to me for a final read-through and formatting, my mind turns toward marketing and promoting the book before its late March release.

Even though I’ve been at this indie author thing for a year and a half, marketing remains an ongoing experiment as I tweak old approaches and explore new avenues for promoting my work. A while back I removed the entire series from Kindle Select, Amazon’s promotional program for e-books, because it seemed to be impacting sales — which, to be blunt, is where the money is. Book “rentals” through Kindle Unlimited do send money my way, but not as much as a sale, and the royalty rate has been falling (royalties for rentals are paid through a collective fund. Don’t ask me to explain how it works).

In theory, this move should have resulted in more sales, but that hasn’t been the case, so I’m putting Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins back on Kindle Select. That means if you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you effectively get to rent the book for free! Click the image below to head over to Amazon and pick it up.

Book Three – Pre-Order Now!

Check it out!

Presale Screencap

 

Okay, the image is too small to make anything out, but this is the pre-order page for the Kindle edition of Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect! That’s right, you can line up your Kindle edition now and it’ll automatically pop up on your e-reader on September 27. The future is amazing!

For a little while I thought I might not be able to set this up due to my regular editor’s unexpected unavailability (until January!), but the Internet is a mighty resource, and I was able to pin down a replacement in short order.

Depending on how things play out, the print edition should be available around the same time as the Kindle edition.

More Announcements Than Humans Should Be Allowed To Have!

September is Action Figures month! I declare now, so mote it be.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]

Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect is in its final stages of preparation and is now slated for a September 26 release — which happens to mark one year since Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins debuted! This is still a bit of a tentative date because things can always still go wrong, but that’s what I’m gunning for.

Once I nail the date down a little better, I’ll be taking advantage of Amazon’s new pre-sale feature for indie authors, which means when book three is officially available, it’ll be automatically delivered to your Kindle!

To build up excitement for the release, I’ve got several things planned for the weeks preceding book three’s release…

  • Wednesday, September 3: Action Figures – From Hell’s Heart, a brand new AF short story starring Dr. Enigma, will be posted on this website.
  • Tuesday, September 9 through Thursday, September 11: the Kindle edition of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins will be on sale for 99 cents!
  • Tuesday, September 16 through Thursday, September 18: the Kindle edition of Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women will be on sale for 99 cents!

This is a perfect time for new readers to jump on-board. If you’re already a fan of the series, let your friends know about these upcoming sales, or maybe drop a buck or two yourself and get them as gifts.

I’ll post updates as these benchmarks arrive, so stay tuned!

Action Figures – A Reintroduction

As of this morning, I’ve exceeded last month’s sales by 12 copies (312 sold in June), so I have ample motivation to get back to work on book three (said work has been somewhat on hold due to two renaissance faires eating up a lot of my schedule and creative energy).

Most readers of this blog know about the series already, but I’ve gained quite a few new followers on my various social media platforms, so this post is aimed at people who have yet to pick up either book — you know, something AF devotees can pass on to their friends to introduce them to the series (hint hint), which they can then buy by clicking on the Buy Now tab at the top of this page.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret OriginsAF Cover

It was the worst summer of Carrie Hauser’s life, and the weirdest: it was the summer her parents announced they were getting divorced, and when a dying alien passed on to her his fantastic superhuman abilities. 

All Carrie wants now is to settle into her new home in Kingsport and get her life back to something resembling normal – but that won’t be easy when her secret is discovered by a group of teenage super-hero wannabes, who need her help to discover why experimental military drones have been wreaking havoc in town. 

Their search leads the fledgling super-team to Archimedes, an artificial intelligence that will do anything to escape its virtual reality prison and enter the real world. 

However, the kids aren’t the only ones with an interest in Archimedes, and the super-teens soon find themselves caught in the middle of a longstanding feud between Concorde, Kingsport’s high-flying hometown hero, and his nemesis, the deadly mercenary Manticore. 

Save the day? Sure…as soon as school lets out.

 

Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic WomenPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]

The world is full of magic…and it wants the Hero Squad dead. 

Winter in Kingsport heats up when the necromancer Black Betty comes to town, on the hunt for the Libris Infernalis, a legendary book of dark magic with the power to raise hell on Earth…literally. 

Facing power beyond their understanding, the Hero Squad turns to the Protectorate’s resident sorceress for help, but the mysterious Dr. Enigma seems to have an agenda of her own. Is she on the side of angels, or is she a devil in disguise?

 

And, coming this fall…

Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts ImperfectPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]

The past is coming back to haunt the Hero Squad.

Archimedes, the Squad’s first foe, is finally heading to trial, and the teen heroes aren’t exactly looking forward to again facing the man capable of revealing their deepest secrets to the world — but their secrets are nothing compared to the dark truths being hidden from them by people they know and trust.

When those secrets are finally laid bare, they could tear the team apart, one heartbreaking piece at a time…and if they don’t, the bloodthirsty killer known as Buzzkill Joy will.

 

Still not sure whether Action Figures is for you? Then go check out this free full-length short story!