COUNTDOWN TO PREORDER – DAY 7: PREORDER LAUNCH!


KingYes, it’s finally here! After four long years, the story of one memorable year in Japan’s fictionalized history – and in a certain Welsh boy’s life – at last comes to an end in The Last Dragon King, Book 8 of The Year of the Dragon series. The Amazon preorder launches today – the full release on all platforms is scheduled for December 27th.

It all started in the summer of 2012 – though preceded by two years of writing and editing – with the simultaneous release of The Shadow of Black Wings and The Warrior’s Soul. Four years later I have eight finished books,  over 700k words published (a lot more written!), nearly 30,000 copies sold, and, most importantly, an invaluable experience in writing and publishing that will hopefully make my next projects go a lot more smoothly! AND I’ve managed to tie up all the plot threads and lose points by the end – I bet you didn’t expect that! 🙂

Reminder: this is the end of the countdown – and end of all the deals: from tomorrow, the Smashwords coupons expire, and the Year of the Dragon Bundle returns to its usual price of $9.99, (the Paperback Giveaway has already ended) so it’s your LAST CHANCE to snatch those bargains!

All the countdown posts so far:

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6


And finally, here are some stats on all the eight volumes of the series, for all you stats lovers out there:

The Shadow of the Black Wings

Released: June 2012. Word count (final edition): 70k. Sold: 2300*

The Warrior’s Soul

Released: June 2012. Word count: 70k. Sold: 2100

The Islands in the Mist

Released: October 2012. Word count: 80k. Sold: 1600

The Rising Tide

Released: April 2013. Word count: 85k. Sold: 850

 

The Chrysanthemum Seal

Released: May 2014. Word count: 90k. Sold: 1050

The Withering Flame

Released: June 2015. Word count: 85k. Sold: 600

The Shattering Waves

Released: May 2016. Word count: 85k. Sold: 300

The Last Dragon King

Released: December 2016. Word count: 150k. Sold: ?

Bundles:

The Year of the Dragon Bundle, 1-4

Released: April 2013. Word count: 310k. Sold: 15000

The Year of the Dragon Bundle, 5-8

Released: January 2017. Word count: 410k. Sold: ? (that one’s up to you!)

*) The Shadow of the Black Wings has been a free download for the last couple of years, totaling about 70k downloads.
**) all sales Amazon only. Ca. 4300 copies sold on all other platforms altogether.

 

 

 

COUNTDOWN PREORDER – DAY 6


It’s day 6 of the countdown – the pre-order launches tomorrow! Today, the final treat, is a sneak peak on the final cover of the series.

I know, you’ve seen the cover to The Last Dragon King already – but there’s still one more book left to release: the second of the two four-volume bundles, containing Books 5-8, with working title “The Serpent’s Head”.

As before, the cover will be produced by Collette J. Ellis of Flying Viper Illustrations. The release is still some time away – I have it scheduled for January, both in e-book and paperback, so what we have for you today is just a sneak peak of a preliminary sketch – but you can already see it’s going to be the most powerful of my covers to date!

cover_bundle

Don’t forget – tomorrow is the launch of the pre-order, and the last of these countdown posts!

COUNTDOWN PREORDER – DAY 5


It’s day 5 of the countdown – only 3 days left until pre-order launch, and for today I reveal the final map in the series!

As you may know, I like to have a new map in each volume of the Year of the Dragon, and this time it’s no different. The map in The Last Dragon King is in a new style: a late-19th century tactical map. It shows the Dan-no-Ura Straits and surrounding area, in the day before the launch of the decisive Battle of Kokura – one of TWO major battles in the book! (did I mention this volume is more action packed than any before? 🙂

kokura-colour

Visit tomorrow for the final reveal in the countdown, before the pre-order is launched on Wednesday!

COUNTDOWN TO PREORDER – DAY 4


It’s day 4 of the Preorder Countdown – we’re half-way there!

Today’s treat is the exclusive, never before seen, unedited sample of the Last Dragon King’s manuscript! A sample of Chapter 5, starring Captain Fabius of the Soembing.

SPOILERS ABOUND! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!

The ship’s boards creaked again. Captain Fabius winced at the sound. One hadn’t plied these waters for twenty years without recognizing when a vessel was close to shattering.
            His first officer shared in his concern. With his head tilted towards the creaking, he notched a quick note in his journal.
            “Are you sure we’re in the right place?” Fabius asked, for the fourth time.
            “Either that, or our navigator’s lost her mind,” the first officer replied, for the fourth time.
            Another wave, crested with thick white foam, struck against the ship’s bow with an unearthly wail. Hemmed in between the walls of the grey and black clouds, surrounded by whirlpools, water devils and water spouts, the Soembing stood reluctant against the dark wall of the Sea Maze stretching before it. Its engines purred quietly, just enough to maintain the course – whatever the course was in this forsaken place. Fabius insisted on them running all the time, even if the ship hadn’t changed position for three days, as they waited either for the navigator to correct her mistake, or, by some miracle, the wall of black clouds to open and allow them inside, as it always had, for the past two decades.
            “With all due respect, Captain,” the First said, looking at his notes, “I think it’s fair to say they don’t want us back.”
            “If we turn to Huating, we won’t get any pay for our trouble.”
            “If we move forward, we won’t get any pay ever again,” replied the First, his face soured.
            “Let’s stay a while more. I have a good feeling about today.”
            “Really?” The First raised his eyebrow, then glanced at the Sea Maze. “I’m surprised you’re able to have any good feelings around this place.”
            Fabius nodded in agreement and forced a smile. He knew what the First meant. For twenty years he’d sailed the Ship – in its various incarnations – across the “Divine Winds”, as the locals called them, and he’d never got used to it. The magic of the East always unnerved him with its alien ways, but this was something else altogether. On his first journey, he had been naturally wary of the random storms, the unpredictable currents, the insanity of the compass readings and star charts – all the things the more experienced sailors had warned him about before setting off. But he’d soon learned all of that was just a minor nuisance compared to the real terror of the Maze: the wailing.
            The clouds wailed and howled all through the night. Not the usual howl of a winter wind in the ropes – but a sound that could only be produced by a horde of tormented souls: a piercing cry of anguish, wordless but full of meaning, coming from a thousand suffering throats hidden somewhere in the black clouds. There was no hiding from it: it penetrated into the deepest cabin, into the cargo hold and engine room, through cotton wool and hands covering one’s ears, almost as if it wasn’t coming through the ear canals but entered straight through the brain.
            What nameless Spirits had been tortured to create this monstrosity, Fabius dared not imagine. But it suited what he’d suspected about the Yamato magic in general: abuse of souls, forbidding them from passing beyond the veil of the mortal world to do the bidding of the priests and the shamans. They thought they managed to keep this a secret from the Westerners, but Fabius had heard enough rumours and gossip over the years to piece together the truth.
            He stared at the cloud wall. What’s going on beyond it? The control of the Maze belonged to the government at Edo. Every year, the Dejima Oppertovenaar received an envelope from Edo with coordinates of the secret path leading towards the Kiyō Bay, sealed with the Taikun’s crest. The path was different each year – but it should have stayed unchanged until the next summer. Of course, that was before the civil war erupted in Chinzei, before the Gorllewin landed in Shimoda, before the Soembing was sent out to buy Dracalish weapons for a Yamato warlord… Had the rebels won without them, but didn’t know how to control the Divine Winds? Or was Edo in such chaos that nobody bothered to pay attention to keeping the path open?
            First was right to be concerned. But Fabius couldn’t help feeling the wind would soon change. Maybe it was something in the wailing coming from the wall of clouds – a quality he sensed, rather than heard. Or maybe he was just being stubbornly optimistic for no reason at all.
            “You’re right, it’s hopeless,” he said. “Tell Verle to plan a course for Temasek.”
He heard his men cry out in distress. He turned just in time to see a giant black wave break over the deck.

 

COUNTDOWN TO PREORDER – DAY 3


smashwords_sqIt’s Day Three of the preorder countdown, and for today’s treat, I offer Smashwords discount coupons on ALL SEVEN BOOKS released so far. With these discounts, every book costs only 99c!

The coupons expire on December 7th, when BOOK 8 is released, so this is your best chance to catch up to the series so far!

Here are the coupon codes, feel free to share these among your friends, the number is unlimited as long as you use them before expiry date – and only when buying the books from Smashwords:

NEW_BUNDLE_1000

 1-4 BUNDLE IN ONE VOLUMEWV89Q

Seal_Cover_1000px V3


VOL. 5 CHRYSANTHEMUM SEAL
: VF76M

Flame_Cover_1000px V3

 VOL. 6 THE WITHERING FLAMEGS48Q


Waves

 VOL 7. THE SHATTERING WAVESAC37M

COUNTDOWN TO PREORDER – DAY 2


It’s day two of the Amazon Pre-Order Countdown – and today’s treat is the best yet: I’m giving away a FREE copy of the Year of the Dragon bundle IN PAPERBACK – worth $20!

The+Year+of+the+Dragon,+Books+1-4+BundleJust click here to enter the Amazon Giveaway. You must be located in the US, I’m afraid – I don’t set the rules… This is a proper, thick book – 830 pages, with the beautiful cover by Collette J. Ellis of Flying Viper Illustrations, who also drew the cover for the upcoming Volume 8, so it will look great on any bookshelf!

The giveaway lasts for this whole week – make sure to notify your friends about the chance to win this beautiful FREE book!

See you tomorrow for another announcement.

COUNTDOWN TO PREORDER – DAY 1


THE COUNTDOWN IS ON.

In seven days, the eighth and final installment of the Year of the Dragon saga will be available for preorder, exclusively on Amazon! The story is about to reach its conclusion – and you might be among the first to find out how!

The+Year+of+the+Dragon,+Books+1-4+BundleTo celebrate, every day for a week I’ll have a little treat for you, so keep coming to see what’s going on – better yet, subscribe to this blog or add me on twitter for updates. Today it’s simple: The Year of the Dragon Books 1-4 bundle is for $0.99 on Amazon.com only for the whole week – probably for the last time ever! This might be your LAST CHANCE to get it for this super-low price!

See you tomorrow for another announcement.

Kindle Direct Publishing – Paperback


5111xg4qthl-_sx311_bo1204203200_1About a week ago, I noticed a new chart on my daily sales report on KDP: Paperback. Turns out, Amazon decided to cannibalize its own print-on-demand branch, CreateSpace, and offer KDP authors an option to drop their books to paper straight from the KDP dashboard.

For the moment, there is little incentive to do so on books that are already printed via CreateSpace. The options are limited – there is no Alternative Distribution, no free copies. The pricing – as you can see below – is identical to CS. The service is very much in beta. So for the sake of testing, I chose to paper-ize my haiku booklet, as there’s no chance of my experiment harming its sales  🙂

screenshot-2016-10-22-08-48-35

Starting out, the interface is a combination of KDP aesthetics and CreateSpace options. You’ve got your usual setup, already filled in with information from the ebook version. If you have the ebook all set up, there’s nothing for you to do here other than approve and click Save and Continue.

Screenshot 2016-10-22 08.48.56.png

If you have the book already as paperback in CS, this screen is where you let Amazon know about it so they can automatically import all the paperback settings for you – although, as I said, at the moment there’s no incentive to do that.

Screenshot 2016-10-22 08.50.42.png

On the next page, if you haven’t imported CS settings, you’ll get a bunch of options to choose from. As far as I can tell, these all cost the same in print, except the difference in color and black & white. Here’s more pricing information from the help page – looks identical to CS prices.Screenshot 2016-10-22 08.49.54.png

NB, at the top of the second page you can assign your own ISBN, or let Amazon assign it for you.

Screenshot 2016-10-22 08.57.03.png

From the second page, you can launch the Cover Creator if you don’t want to create the cover yourself. Again, standard CreateSpace fare. The selection of layouts and colors is limited – I certainly would advise creating your own image if cover quality is important for you. There are a few bugs here, too – for example, only on the second time I launched the creator did it tell me that the book is too narrow for the spine text – after I’ve already previewed and approved the book to print. I’m not sure what the final product of this would look like, and it’s a pity I wasn’t told beforehand, especially considering Amazon doesn’t offer free author copies like CS.

Screenshot 2016-10-22 08.59.10.pngThis is the screen you get after uploading the content PDF and cover, and approving everything to get to the next stage. For me this took a long time, even though the booklet is tiny.

Screenshot 2016-10-22 09.05.46.png

The editor found one major problem: the content PDF didn’t fit the print size. This threw me off a bit, since all I did was save doc as PDF from Word, without changing anything – I guess Word took my printer settings for PDF? Anyway, the editor fixed the scaling with a push of a button, and the rest of problems were not critical to the quality of the book (mostly having to do with DPI of images and embedding of fonts, neither of which was important for this experiment).

Screenshot 2016-10-22 09.06.02.png
The standard 3d preview of the “ready” paperback

Screenshot 2016-10-22 09.06.55.png

The final page, as always, is the pricing. I thought the prices were better than CS at first, but no, CreateSpace offers exactly the same prices and royalties for its main distribution channel.

Screenshot 2016-10-22 21.32.21.png
Two versions of the same book. Unplusgood. 

Weirdly, Amazon is unable to automatically link the paperback and ebook versions, despite them both coming from the same source; same problem as on CreateSpace, but you’d think they fixed it for their in-house solution. I hope it’s just a matter of time, or of the service being in beta, otherwise it’s going to be a bit of a pain. If the two versions do get linked eventually, I’ll update this post to let you know.

screenshot-2016-10-22-21-36-28
KDP and CreateSpace comparison chart

So there you have it – the KDP paperback. The setup is easy, especially if you’ve already did some work for CreateSpace version. If you only care about selling paperbacks on Amazon, this is a valid option – but you get that from CreateSpace anyway, and you miss out on Extended Distribution. Amazon promises to add that, as well as proof and author copies, eventually – and once they do that, I guess KDP will replace CS as the go-to paperback solution, but for now that seems a long way away.

Perma-free on Amazon, 2015 version


Perma-free is a controversial method of getting your work out there, but it still works as a promo tool for some, especially if you have a series of books. I will not be discussing here whether it’s a good or bad thing to do; but if you do decide to do it, here’s how. I just did these steps, so I know they work.

Step one, of course, is to ensure your book is free elsewhere. This one remains the same as always, and has been described countless times. Just to refresh your memory: use Smashwords. Even if you have publisher accounts on Nook or iTunes already, these won’t let you set up a price of zero. Only Smashwords can do that for all channels – as far as I know (still not sure about Draft2Digital). Kobo is the only publisher that lets you set up a perma-free book directly, and that will come useful later, but Amazon doesn’t see Kobo as as much of a competitor as Nook or iTunes in US, so that alone may not always work.

All your other books, you can sell directly through retailers, if you so wish. But the book you want perma-free, has to be distributed through Smashwords (or equivalent).

Once you’re sure your book is free on as many other stores as possible, you have to inform Amazon. The old way was to simply get your friends to report the price match from the book page, through the “tell us about lower price” link. But this no longer works as well as it used to. In fact, it didn’t work for me at all. I waited and waited, and the price remained stubbornly as it was – until I’ve discovered the truth. So here’s what’s changed: right now, the best and most reliable way to ensure your book is price-matched to other retailers, is to write Amazon a letter.

Log in to your KDP account, click Help, then Contact Us. From the list of topics, choose Price Matching. Fill out the form with the following information: your book’s Amazon info (title, link, ASIN), and all the channels where your book is currently free that need matching to.

The Shadow Third Cover 250The turn-around on this is almost immediate – for the main Amazon regions at least (see below) – as opposed to the “Tell Us” button. A day or so later, your book will be price-matched – plus, you get an e-mail confirmation, which is always nice. But there’s a trick to it. Amazon now wants you to inform it of EVERY COUNTRY your book is free in, to match it to its own regional stores. Linking only to .com versions of the retailers will only match your book on Amazon.com.

This isn’t easy, since some stores don’t have regional versions, so I had to do some digging. I used the following list of links to make sure I covered all possible regions for “The Shadow of Black Wings”:

(The only one I’m missing so far is India, but I never had any success selling books there, so it’s something I will have to live with for now.)

Just search for your own book at each of these links, and you will have the contents for the letter ready. Click send, wait no more than a few days for a reply, check if the books are really free everywhere you wanted them (you may need to clear cache or view in incognito mode to see the change) – and start promoting! 🙂

Note: it may still take a few weeks for the effect to trickle down to the more obscure Amazons, like NL and BR – and they might revert to full price at any moment without notice. Just another down-side of the silly way in which KDP manages regional websites.
Thanks to the good folks at Alliance of Independent Authors, who first taught me this trick!

Promoting a stand-alone novella: Dragonsbane #free #kindle


Dragonsbane

The hardest task of a self-published author is promotion; the hardest books to promote succesfully are stand-alone ones, and out of these, the most notorious must be novellas.

A stand-alone book cannot be used as a loss-leader. It can’t be offered free or cheap, in an effort to guide the readers to your other work. A novella, especially a new one, without reviews or ratings, is a terrible thing to promote: most of the big sites will not accept a work like that, or if they do, it will cost you more than you can usually hope to get back from sales.

It’s a conundrum. It helps if you’re an established author, with large following, and plenty of fans that will buy anything you release; but even they may not be willing to spend money on a short work with completely new characters in a completely new world.

So what is there to do? Well, bugger me if I know! Today, I’m doing a one-day free promo on my latest novella, Dragonsbane. It’s not quite a stand-alone, as in, it’s set in the same Mirror Worlds multiverse as Dragonbone Chest; but that is meaningless, as the multiverse is vast, and the only thing the two works have in common are dragons.

I’ve used my list of book promo sites to find the ones that accept freebies without reviews on short notice (this, incidentally, is why it’s important for readers to leave reviews – any reviews – on Amazon books: we need those stars to get advertising space). There aren’t that many, and most of them don’t have much following. I’ve scheduled a few tweets, and a reddit post. This blog can hopefully bring in a few downloads, too. It would certainly help to have a big mailing list that I could now bomb with the promo information – but despite my best efforts, I could never get more than a couple followers (it’s here, by the way). So yeah, I did all I can think of. Will any of that work? And what will be the effects of the free promo on what matters – ie. sales? We’ll just have to wait and see…

For now, click the cover above, or go here, for a free download of Dragonsbane, the second Mirror Worlds novella! It’s short, it’s fast, and it’s more action-packed than anything I’ve written so far 🙂

Ennaki’s Master is a dragon slayer. But not just any dragon slayer: each beast he slays is greater and more powerful than the previous one, and each fight brings more woe and damage to the innocents around. As the knight proceeds with his murderous scheme, Ennaki begins to doubt and wonder. Is his Master’s secret plan really worth the slaughter? And is this really the best way to win the everlasting War against the Shadow that threatens to engulf all Mirror Worlds?