Over the years, there have been a few people outside my immediate family who’ve read the first two books of The Key To Darbas (which were, in an earlier version, one book that was a bit shorter than the combination of the two published books), and their feedback has been encouraging.
But the thing that really gets my attention is when a reader starts talking about wanting to know what happens next.
I got that comment this week from my fellow Charleston soccer fan, Steve Waszkiewicz, a fantasy reader who picked up both A Madness and Siobeth in late November. It reminded me that while I’ve been carrying around a version of that story in my head for more than a decade (I think I first wrote down the arc of that larger story in late 2001), it had been a long time since I revisited it.
That’s what I did yesterday, producing one 12-page document that outlines the story through books three, four and five.
And I know it’s different from that first outline, if only because as I wrote the first two books, the characters took over and changed the story. There are several important characters I haven’t introduced yet, and one unanticipated character who invaded my thinking so forcefully in 2010 that I had to sketch out an entire prequel simply to keep her happy.
I’m sure the story will change from this outline, too. And there’s one immense card I haven’t played yet — simply because none of the resolutions I’ve considered for that subplot have the gravity and resonance the storyline demands. It wasn’t there at the beginning, but it feels like that idea worked, and the tale won’t be complete until I wrap it up.
As I’ve said before, whether I write any of this largely depends on reader response. And that’s not because I’m trying to be coy. It’s not that I don’t want to finish this story. It’s just that I’m a working man with no savings or trust fund, and ultimately I need to limit the time I spend on projects that don’t generate something positive.
But as I went over my work last night, I found myself wondering whether the next step is to write the prequel, or Book Three. Book Three is the obvious option, as it advances the plot and scratches the itch. The prequel, on the other hand, could give that plot a deeper meaning. So I don’t know.
That’s the adventure of the whole thing.
The reason I decided to go exclusively with Amazon during the first three months of my ebook publishing experience was pretty simple: Amazon Direct Publishing offered — in theory, at least — an audience and a means of reaching out to it that my other options simply didn’t. That’s because ADP provides enough promotional options that I should be able to offer a series of giveaways and countdowns for my novels that should cover much of the three-month commitment.
Would that be a good deal for an established author? Probably not. But I’m not kidding myself about how obscure I am.
Anyway, I did my first giveaway on Dec. 4-5, and I did it around A Madness. Talked about it on Twitter and Facebook. I had two hopes for the event: First, I wanted to give away at least 75 copies; and second, I wanted to expand my reach to readers who have absolutely no idea who I am.
The outcome, as I reported it on my Facebook page:
Here’s the final tally for that first Amazon promotion, this time for “A Madness.” U.S., 85; UK, 21; Germany, 11; Italy, 1. That’s 118 books. Strangely enough, one unit from Japan, one unit from Spain and two units from Canada, all of which were listed last night, are not listed this a.m., but whatever. It exceeded my numerical goal, and since there aren’t 11 Germans and 21 residents of the UK on this Facebook list, it accomplished my primary goal, too: Push one of my titles out beyond this poor little group of friends who has to hear about this topic over and over.
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised by the number of overseas sales. But since I can account for only one of those via a friend, I figure the overseas sales indicate something of the power of small advantages in large audiences. Think of it this way: 118 books in two days was enough to drive A Madness into the Top 50 in the Epic Fantasy category on Kindle for a few hours. That’s statistically insignificant to Amazon, but meaningful to a writer without a publishing company pushing his work.
You don’t make a living off that, but it’s traction — and I’m hugely excited to have each of these new readers. More than I can say without looking like a total dork.