Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Short Story Sales Stats Update

About a year ago I went on this kick of reporting all the sales I had for works under 10,000 words.  It eventually got too complex (for me) to keep track of due to the increasing number of published works that I had out along with the fact that Smashwords wouldn't always update in time to do accurate monthly reports.

I honestly don't know how some people can keep track of their sales on huge spread sheets.  They must only have like five books published or something.  Psh.  Novelists.

However I do feel it's important for prospective short story writers to have a realistic understanding of what the market is currently like.  And in light of my third year of being published anniversary, it felt as good a time as any to divulge some numbers.

I don't feel like it would be useful at this point to give a breakdown of everything I've sold in the past three years.  I'll be honest, I don't move thousands of copies and some months I didn't get paid at all for awhile.  What I think would be more helpful is to look at a three month period over the course of three years on two different channels (as opposed to two branches of Amazon) so you can really see the changes.

I first started self-publishing October 2010.
  April 2011 I made $4.90
  May 2011 I made $4.90
  June 2011 I made $13.96

  April 2012 I made $16.09
  May 2012 I made $33.23
  June 2012 I made $24.49

  April 2013 I made $79.16
  May 2013 I made $40.92
  June 2013 I made $39.52

Barnes and Noble:
  April 2011 I made $6.80
  May 2011 I made  $9.20
  June 2011 I made  $5.20

  April 2012 I made $8.80
  May 2012 I made $17.54
  June 2012 I made $8.00

  April 2013 I made $34.86
  May 2013 I made $24.92
  June 2013 I made $41.51

So all you number conspiracy theorists can take what you will from all of those numbers.  The selling season, the channel, etc.  And yes, this is chump change compared to some other authors out there. Writing short stories makes me happy so the fact that I make any money at all from them is really just the icing on the cake.

I would say for me the biggest noticeable change is the fact that I've been getting paid every month now.  Most channels require a $10 minimum before electronically depositing a payment.  As you can see, I didn't always hit that marker some months.  I actually didn't hit that marker a lot of months when I first started.  Especially during the summer slump season (always a low point when selling books).

For over a year now I've been consistently making it well past that $10 minimum marker on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  So I no longer feel like I never sell anything with the occasional fluke months (May 2012, wtf?).

I think at this point I can confidently say that it is possible to make, if not a living, a very healthy side income from writing short stories alone.  In two to three more years I could easily see the listed numbers becoming several hundred dollars.  And this is coming from someone that started out as a complete no-name (ok I'm still a no-name) with no history at all in the traditional publishing industry.   Like, I didn't have a backlist and I'm not famous.

But here are some things to keep in mind as far as short story sales go:

  • I publish constantly.  As quickly as I am able to produce a quality work.  As a short story writer this is my one and only advantage over novel writers.
  • My short stories are everywhere now.  As many channels as I can get them on.  Forget Select and other exclusive programs.  So not worth it when moving so few copies already.
  • The biggest jumps in income occurred when I branched out in genre and, later, branched out to producing more novelettes set at a higher price point.  Writing serials of said novelettes also helped a great deal.
  • Find some cover art designers that you like and buy premades.  They are cheaper than custom and so so so worth the money.  Cover art is a HUGE selling point.  Just because it's a 99 cent short story doesn't mean it has to look like a cheap story.  It's still a story and it deserves a cover.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

SFWG 2013 Flash Fiction Contest RESULTS

We would like to thank everyone that took the time to submit to the Short Fiction Writers Guild's first flash fiction contest. We received an impressive number of submissions for this contest. So it made us very happy to see that flash fiction seems to be alive and thriving in the literary world.

And now for the results!

First Prize goes to Al Stevens for his story “The Old Tenor Player.”  You can buy the collection containing this story on Amazon.

Second Prize goes to Travis Hill for his story “Capture at the Hive.”

Third Prize goes to Kaye Linden for her story “My Soul is Driving.” You can buy the collection containing this story on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and most other ebook retailers.

Always be on the lookout for future contest announcements!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review of "The Prisoner," short story by Laura Lond

Captain Torren, the warden of the Dormigan Prison, knows that the mysterious Prisoner 34 is much more dangerous than the authorities think. Torren does his best to guard him, going so far as to break some of his orders, but the new governor’s sudden wish to personally inspect the prison threatens to destroy the shaky balance the warden has achieved.

A really interesting fantasy piece by Lond.  It was bordering on psychological which is unusual for the genre but Lond was able to pull it off without the story feeling forced.

I was immediately fascinated by Prisoner 34.  Lond does an excellent job giving us just enough backstory to whet our appetites and yet not bog the flow of the short story down with mountains of exposition.

What dropped the story from a 4 star to a 3.5 for me was the the fact that it didn't feel complete at the end.  This is a part one of a series but it doesn't change the fact that the story needs to have an end.  I don't mind cliffhangers but I do mind when it feels like the story just got cut off for the sake of part two.

But I was certainly intrigued enough to want to keep reading.  Definitely worth picking up a copy.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Three Years and Counting

When I write these publishing anniversary posts there's this strange feeling that I just finished writing the last one and yet when I go back to read the last one I can't help but think, "Holy crap that was a long time ago.  I was so innocent!"

Greater cosmic forces than I decided that October should be my milestone month.  It marks the start of both my teaching and publishing careers.  This October marks my third year of being published.  So I think this now makes me a minority in the indie publishing world?  Sweet.

As I look back I would say this has been a year where I've grown more as a writer than a publisher.  My publishing strategy hasn't really changed all that much.  Other than blogging and the occasional Facebook post, I'm really not into social media anymore for book promotion.  It was such a major time drain and I just don't have enough hours in the day to really make an effective presence.

I've stuck to my plan of releasing more novelettes at the $2.99 price point.  So most of my writing this year has revolved around longer (for me) works rather than super short stories.  I plan to continue this since I actually find myself liking these slightly longer works and the extra money they generate makes them well worth the time.

In an effort to become a more efficient publisher, I've created a project schedule and set aside even more time for writing.  I now write every day and the project schedule ensures that I don't neglect pen names.

It's strange because in my first year of writing/publishing I avoided doing these things because I thought it would suck all the fun out of being a self-published author.  After all, isn't the main attraction for such a route the leisure to write whenever one wants?  I worried that too much organization would stifle the creative process, best to let the ideas flow naturally.

But really the opposite has happened.  The organization has helped the creative flow.  There's something very powerful about doing something every day.  It changes you.  In previous years I was excited about the publishing process.  Now it's the writing that excites me.

Ok I phrased that badly.

Writing has always excited me.  But I used to write blindly.  Putting words on the page without any thought about how they work together.  I'm now more craft oriented.  The challenge of finding the perfect way to write something is now exciting to me.

It's interesting because writing is subtle.  Previous years have felt like a steep uphill climb of learning and now it's more like choosing which path I want to take.

So here's to the start of year four!  I'm excited to see where it will take me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review of "Beneath a Vengeful Sun," short story by Ron Leighton

The concubine Ránača, despairing over her dead family and status, agonizes when Mother Volhuxa, oldest of Master Hergesto's bed-slaves, informs her that they will be sent out of the main house to live with the other slaves. Ránača fears what this will mean--and wonders whether she wants to live at all.

Over the past years that I've done reviews on this blog I've read several stories by Leighton.  In this particular piece I couldn't help but notice how much the author's writing voice has matured.  The characters are deeper and the story concept more powerful.

As with past works, however, my main issue with Leighton's work is the grandiose idea crammed into the confines of a short story.  While this story definitely feels more streamlined than others (fewer characters, more direct plot), it goes on just a little too long.  It's a short story, not a novel.

But it doesn't change the fact that this is a very enjoyable read.  The loose fantasy style makes for a nice backdrop for what is, essentially, a nod to America's slave history.  But don't let the fantasy elements fool you.  This story is more geared toward the history buff than the LARPing expert.  Still, it's worth picking up a copy.

3.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.