February 25, 2012

J.K. Rowling's new novel for adults

Like many people, I'm a big fan of the Harry Potter books. So I was happy to learn that J.K. Rowling is publishing a new novel! So far, details are few, aside from the revelation that the new novel will be for adults and will be very different from her Harry Potter books. The purpose of the press release seemed to be to generate buzz for Little, Brown, the publisher of the new novel, rather than to provide any concrete information about the book itself. Regardless, if Rowling's novel is in a genre that I read, I will most likely read it.

February 18, 2012

Why you won't read my book (and I won't read yours)

I read an average of one book a week. That has been my pace for the last two years, which is far greater than it was in previous years. If I continue at this pace for the next forty years, that will come out to about 2,000 more books for the rest of my life. Assuming that I've already read 1,000 books to date (which is generous), that means I'll have read 3,000 books in my life. With almost 130 million books out there, that means there is roughly a 0.002% chance that I'll read any published book during my lifetime! If we confine the set of books to e-books, then we're talking about just over 1 million books. If all I read are e-books from now on, there is a 0.2% chance I'll read any given e-book (I'm excluding the 1,000 books I've already read, which are almost all printed books).

Of course, I'm not the only reader out there. Amazon hasn't revealed how many Kindles have been sold, but estimates range from 10 million to 20 million across all versions, including the Kindle Fire. Using the higher number and assuming that all Kindle owners read at the rate that I do, then I should expect 20 million * 0.2% = 40,000 copies of my book to be read by someone during the next forty years, an average of 1,000 per year. But that assumes every book is just as likely to be sold, which is definitely not the case. A Stephen King or James Patterson book is going to sell far more copies than a book written by an unknown author. If the top 100 books capture 50% of all book sales (I think it's actually more than 50%), then the rest of us are fighting for the other 50%. Therefore the odds of a reader like me buying my book is 0.1%, leading to 500 copies per year.

What I've left out of the many assumptions I've made is the growing number of e-readers sold, but I believe there will be a similar growth in e-books published, so those two cancel each other out. The other assumption is that the average e-book owner reads at the pace that I do. Based on the small sampling size of my personal friends, I'm almost certain that the average reader will read fewer than 50 books in a year. Even 12 books (just one a month) is a stretch for a majority of my friends.

The purpose of the exercise isn't to tell anyone how many books they should expect to sell. It was more of a mental exercise I went through to set my own expectations as an author. The point is, there are a LOT of books out there, and readers don't read that many books in their lifetime compared to the number of published books, so don't be surprised if you're not selling many copies.

February 13, 2012

First blog interview

My first ever interview is posted on Jenna Elizabeth Johnson's blog today!
Check it out and learn, among other things, what my hidden talent is. :-)

February 11, 2012

Latest free promotion results

Numbers Plus Four went free for one day yesterday. It garnered just 27 downloads and reached the #4,000+ rank on the "Free in Kindle Store" list. It never made the top 100 list in the Short Stories category. Since this promotion fared much worse than the one that ran on a Monday last month, I'm going to use my last free promotion day on a Monday in March.

February 4, 2012

Writing without a net

The idea for George and the Galactic Games came to me in 2004. In the days after my spark of inspiration, I outlined the story and then wrote a synopsis of every chapter. Seven years later, when I finally got around to writing the novel, it was relatively easy. Because I already knew how to proceed and what would happen at each stage of the book, it was just a matter of writing the prose to relate the story.

For the novel I'm working on now, I decided to take a different approach. I'm following Stephen King's suggestion in his book, On Writing, to start with a basic premise for the story and then letting the situation and characters dictate the plot. No outlines, no notes, no ideas of what will happen next. So when I started my second novel, I had a premise, a set of three main characters, and four important events that I wanted to happen during the course of the story. The beginning of the writing process started off well enough. I enjoyed the freedom of letting the characters and situation lead me to where I should go next, but it wasn't without it's pitfalls. I'm definitely re-writing a lot more, sometimes erasing entire sections of the story when I later discovered that it didn't work or that I had written myself into a corner.

Another problem that I'm currently having is hitting all four major events. After about three months of writing, the characters have already reached the first milestone, but I can't think of a good way to bring them to the second. I'm debating whether to abandon the second milestone or to keep thinking of how to move them from event A to event B until I've figured out a good solution.

All of this is making the writing process take longer this time around than with George and the Galactic Games, but I expected that. Regardless of what happens, I'll continue to plug along. Then I'll take what I learn from my experience and determine how I want to approach my third novel.