Friday, December 13, 2013

Dean Has a New Blog!

Just a quick post to let you all know that I've rolled out a new blog.

You can find it at

I'll be leaving this blog up with all of the old posts on it, but all of the new posts will go to the new blog. I've also created a new mailing list and I'll be moving the current list over to the new list during the next few weeks.

If you signed up to the original list with the 'email' or 'digest' option then you'll be moved over without any effort being required on your part.

I'll be reaching out to those who signed up under the 'no email' option over the next couple of months to confirm whether they would like to be moved to the new list.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

October Status Update and A Darkness Mirrored Cover Reveal

It's been approximately two months since my last status update (I only seem to manage to get them out every other month during my 'off' month when I'm editing and formatting rather than writing nine+ hours a day like I am during my 'on' month).

In the last update I talked about the next Eldon Murphy book (A Darkness Mirrored), which is scheduled to go live on November 8th, which is now less than three weeks away. I'm happy to announce that A Darkness Mirrored has finished up the editing and formatting process and the cover has been finalized.

That's great for two reasons, firstly because that means I've been able to load it up to iTunes, where it is now available for pre-order. Secondly because that means I can do a cover reveal!

The Setup:
Geoffrey has been called a lot of things: warrior, werewolf killer, slave, lover…vampire…soulless. They are all the truth. He's killed hundreds, possibly even thousands of people without a single regret, but that's only part of the truth.

This is the story of the one and only person who called Geoffrey father, the story of an orphan that Geoffrey took in and raised, the girl who would become the woman that he would sacrifice everything for.

This is Lucy's story.

Again, I simply can't express how pleased I am with how this book turned out. I loved how well Broken and Torn fit together, but I never would have expected that I would be able to make two books written ten years apart articulate together with such strength. The Greater Darkness is a pretty good book, and A Darkness Mirrored is a pretty good book, but taken together I think they really shine.

As I've been doing for the few new releases, I'll be discounting A Darkness Mirrored down from $4.99 to $3.99 for the first week, so if you're an iTunes customer go out and purchase your pre-order copy. If you buy your books from Amazon or somewhere else, you'll want to make sure you set a reminder on your phone or double-check that you've signed up for the Eldon Murphy mailing list at

The next bit of news is that the first full Dark Reflections novel (Disillusioned) is currently out to my advance readers. Once I hear back from them, Disillusioned will just need a blurb and a cover and then it will be ready to be loaded up for preorders.

When I write it all out like that it sounds like Disillusioned is just around the corner and I halfway want to push forward the release date for it, but I've decided to go ahead and schedule Disillusioned for a January 23rd release date so as to avoid the kinds of delays that I ran into with Shattered Ties.

In other news, I've done my first pass of the second Dark Reflections novel and I've sent it on to Katie to do a read through and let me know what she thinks of it. Still early days there, but everything is still on track from a scheduling perspective and I'm happy with how it's turned out. I started Dark Reflections with two main goals in mind. The first goal, that of showing just how broad of an impact one of the key characters from Reflections actually had on the world, is advanced by nearly every page of every Dark Reflections story. The other goal is still going to require at least one more book (and honestly it will probably end up requiring two more books), but this second Dark Reflections novel establishes massive chunks of the foundation I'm going to need in order to make that piece of the master plan happen. Even better, this book (Adri's book as I'm calling it) has opened my eyes to something major that I think needs to happen in the main Reflections story arc.

Sorry, I'm not going to give away any more hints, but I think it's going to really ratchet up the tension in the series.

The last thing that I should probably cover off in this update is the fact that I've finished the rough draft for the next Reflections book. This one is going to be focused on Jasmin, Ben, and Geoffrey (from the Reflections story arc I've written as Eldon Murphy).

It's hard to explain how nervous I was about actually going ahead and merging these two storylines, and that was complicated by the fact that I'm having a hard time generally speaking when it comes to deciding exactly what order the post-Riven storylines needs to be written in.  I knew I couldn't do Ash, Kristen and Isaac's story yet, and I was pretty sure that I couldn't take you all off with Jess and Wyatt.

Rachel's story is another that I think is going to need to come a few books down the road because there are several things that need to take place with everyone else before you'll all be ready to really understand some of what Rachel is going through.

In the end I used some fuzzy logic to narrow things down a bit further and decided that Jasmin and Ben needed the next chapter of their story told. Originally Jasmin and Ben's book was supposed to be just them and Geoffrey, but as I started writing it I kept worrying that the storyline was too thin. I added in another storyline, essentially a third point of view, partially because I was worried that I didn't have enough material in this particular story, and partially because there is a certain individual from A Darkness Mirrored that I really wanted to get back to. I wrote a chapter or two of that third point of view, and then got so caught up with what was happening with Geoffrey, Jasmin and Ben that almost before I knew it I was only a chapter or two from the end of the book and I still hadn't fleshed out the third point of view.

Given that the Geoffrey, Jasmin, Ben piece of the book was up in the 90,000+ word range, I went back and stripped out the third viewpoint and finished off the book. I won't be reading back through this particular book until sometime in December, so I don't have a final opinion on certain aspects of it, but I can say that this one introduces a few more breadcrumbs as far as some of the things behind the scenes that are driving the overall story arc. They are incredibly subtle, but offhand I can remember three separate hints that I included in this one and they lead to some pretty huge revelations in some of the upcoming books.

October is now halfway over and I need to give some more thought as to which book to write next. That's a question that's still a little up in the air, but I'm super excited to be able to get through all of the editing, formatting, print layout and the like so that I can get back to writing again sometime in the next week or two.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Shattered Ties is Live!

I'm happy to announce that Shattered Ties, the next Guadel Chronicles book, is now live at all of the major retailers.

The Setup:
Brittle Bonds (The Guadel Chronicles Volume 3) saw Va'del and Jain driven from their mountain home by traitors among the People. The pair's time in the lowlands, surrounded by hostile priests of a foreign religion, tested them in ways they never anticipated, but they never forgot their friends and family who were fighting and possibly even dying on the frozen slopes of the White Spike Mountains.

Shattered Ties picks up the story of that fight and follows the desperate efforts of Javin, On'li, Va'ma and the rest as they try to survive against overwhelming odds. The Guadel who were so opposed to Va'del joining their ranks are about to find out that he's the only person with any chance of saving them from the enemy that they created.

You can find Shattered Ties at the following locations, and a print version will be forthcoming:
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Sony, Diesel and others will follow as Shattered Ties makes it into the Smashwords premium catalog.

As indicated previously, Shattered Ties will be on sale for $3.99 until the end of the week as a thank you to all of you, after which it will revert to its normal price of $4.99.

As always, thank you for everything that you are doing to help spread the word.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shattered Ties Update

Hi everyone.

A late update, I waited until tonight hoping that iTunes/iBooks would get Shattered Ties live sometime today. It looks like that isn't going to happen. The approval queue there generally takes about a week, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more.

I loaded it up on Thursday or Friday of last week (I'm not positive which day as I'm a little punch drunk tonight). I figured that would give enough time to get it live before the release date as it was a little more than a week.

It turns out that wasn't enough time. There were a few issues on my side that led to this one not being loaded up as soon as it should have been, so I'm re-working the process on my side to make sure that I get subsequent books loaded up at least 2-3 weeks before the release date.

Shattered Ties is up now everywhere else (links below), but I'm very sorry for all of you Apple users who are going to have to wait for an extra few days. I'll do a new post as soon as it goes live as well as a tweet and a e-mail blast as soon as it goes live for you guys.

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dean has a forum!

Some of the more observant--or obsessive :) --may have already noticed the new link on the right side of the blog, but I just wanted to put up another quick update for you all to let you know that with some great help from an awesome fan in the Netherlands named Chris (thanks Chris!), I now have a forum up and running where any or all of you can hang out, connect with other fans, or ask me some of those insightful questions that I sometimes get via e-mail.

I've got a few iron's in the fire right now, so moderation and responses might be a little slower than ideal, but I'll try to at least check in once a day and say hi if there are any new posts.

As a teaser, I've put the 'Winter Escapes' short stories up there and I'm prepared to dole out a little more information about 'The Priest' if people ask the right kind of questions.



August Update

We're coming up on nearly a year of me writing full-time, which seemed like something that deserved a blog post, along with the semi-regular update that I'm past due getting out.

Since I quit the day job I've written seven books and published five books. I had two books partly finished before I quit, which means I've currently got 4 more books that are in my production pipeline and which will be published in the next six to eight months.

The first of those is the fourth Guadel Chronicles Book (Shattered Ties), which will be available at the temporarily discounted price of $3.99 (or your local equivalent) starting on the first of September.

The next book, which I'm hoping to get out in November is another Eldon Murphy Reflections (Geoffrey) book, this one featuring the daughter that nobody…well almost nobody, knew that he had. In the tradition of my Eldon Murphy books, this one will be a little more edgy than what I usually put in my Alec and Adri Reflections books. Nothing too bad still, more PG-13 heavy than PG-13 lite, but I still would rather warn people than have something catch them by surprise. In good news, I've already sent this one out to one of my awesome UK fans, Claire, to take a first look at it and she loved it. (Thanks Claire.)

The next book that will be released is my first Dark Reflections full novel, which will be told primarily from the point of view of Alec. I'm hoping for this one to go live sometime in December, after which the second Dark Reflections book (featuring Adri) should be released in Feb 2014.

From a purely business perspective it could be argued that I'm being really stupid to write anything other than Alec and Adri books right now. Trapped, Intrusion, and the Greater Darkness haven't sold anywhere nearly as well as the Alec and Adri books.

All I can figure is that a lot of readers see names other than Alec and Adri's in the blurbs and choose to skip those particular stories, which is a shame because I've received really good feedback on some of those stories and ultimately they are a big part of what goes into making the Reflections universe—Alec and Adri's story—more full and complex.

I'm probably preaching to the choir as it's mostly my most hardcore fans that are going to end up reading this, but I do hope that you'll pick up the new releases even when they aren't directly Alec and Adri books.

On several levels I feel like I had to write these two Dark Reflections book before I could continue on with Alec and Adri, just like I have to flesh out Geoffrey's story a little more before I can continue on with Jasmin and Ben's story.

Dark Reflections gives me a chance to explore other sides to characters we already know and love as well as showing the humanity of some of our favorite villains. Dark Reflections is an alternate timeline, a parallel universe, but it's tightly intertwined with the core Reflections story and it's going to offer a level of depth that I simply couldn't pull off any other way.

Dark Reflections is a story of what could have happened. It's a grimmer place than the Reflections timeline, but not everything is terrible. Like anything else it's a balance of good and bad, but more than anything else, it shows just how much impact the actions, even just the existence, of one person can have.

I can't tell you for sure yet what chapter of the story I'll pick up next. August is an 'off month' meaning that instead of writing I'm desperately trying to get through editing passes of the next Eldon Murphy book, the first Dark Reflections novel, and tie up loose ends for the release of Shattered Ties. If I have a few extra minutes in there I've got a whole slew of print books that need finished up, and a few other assorted projects.

In some ways the sheer breadth of the options I have to choose from is intimidating, especially as the separate storylines start to interact more with each other, but it's also incredibly exciting. I really think that this story is going to be something special. I'm not a good enough writer to write it all yet, but I can see how to get there and I do get a little better with each book.

I don't know if my books will ever have a movie made about them, or if millions of people will read these stories. It's possible that they will never make the kind of splash that I'd love to see them make, but regardless of how well or poorly they ultimately end up doing from a sales perspective, I really am grateful to have you all along for the ride, I'll try my absolute hardest to deliver on the potential of these books, both the Reflections series and the places I'm hoping to be able to go with Jain and Va'del's world.

Thanks again,


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cover and Blurb for Shattered Ties (Guadel #4)

It's getting very close to September, in fact time is flying by almost too fast. I'm going to have to really hustle to get the last few items wrapped up that need doing so that I can get Shattered Ties up for pre-order on iTunes and Kobo.

I wanted to stop for just a second though and let you all see the cover and the blurb.
The setup:
Brittle Bonds (The Guadel Chronicles Volume 3) saw Va'del and Jain driven from their mountain home by traitors among the People. The pair's time in the lowlands, surrounded by hostile priests of a foreign religion, tested them in ways they never anticipated, but they never forgot their friends and family who were fighting and possibly even dying on the frozen slopes of the White Spike Mountains.

Shattered Ties picks up the story of that fight and follows the desperate efforts of Javin, On'li, Va'ma and the rest as they try to survive against overwhelming odds. The Guadel who were so opposed to Va'del joining their ranks are about to find out that he's the only person with any chance of saving them from the enemy that they created.

I especially love the wraparound cover that Katie did for the print version. Here it is, stripped down to mostly just the art.

I hope that you're all as excited about this one as I am. Shattered Ties posed some new challenges for me, but it's got more action and magic in it than the first three books combined and I'm happy with the final product. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Riven is Live!

I'm happy to announce that Riven, the next Reflections (Alec and Adri) book, is now live at all of the major retailers.

The Setup:
Adri is the happiest she's ever been, but a noose is slowly tightening around the entire pack. Alec's victory in Chicago put the shape shifter ruling body on notice that he was going to do everything he could to bring them down, but she knows that right now he needs time to secure allies, time that they are almost certainly not going to have.

Alec's power has grown to a level Adri never would have believed possible just a few months ago, but the Coun'hij has the perfect tool for killing him and destroying every structure in Sanctuary. All indications are that Puppeteer is stalking them with an army of bestial creatures who are immune to Alec's special ability.

Alec has taken his first step towards reestablishing the monarchy, with him as the king, and now that Adri is back in his life he seems to know who he wants to be his queen, if they manage to survive. Unfortunately Adri never realized becoming royalty was part of the bargain when they got back together.

You can find Riven at the following locations, and a print version is hopefully only a few weeks away:

Sony, Diesel and others will follow as Riven makes it into the Smashwords premium catalogue.

As indicated previously, Riven will be on sale for $2.99 until the end of the week as a thank you to all of you, after which it will revert to its normal price of $3.99.

In other news, the fourth Guadel Chronicles book, Shattered Ties, will be released on September 1st and it will be followed by another Eldon Murphy Reflections book featuring Geoffrey towards the end of this year.

As always, thank you for everything that you are doing to help spread the word and for coming along to see what happens on Adri and Alec's journey together.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Ending

My favorite part of writing is seeing a story come together. It's almost like building something with blocks. You start out with an idea, but it isn't until you actually start building your structure that you realize all of the details that you didn't have quite right, that you hadn't thought through yet.

There's something incredibly magical about taking facets of a particular story and putting them together in ways that you didn't expect to when you started out. I'm constantly amazed at the way that things will just click into place almost without any help from me. Things that I put in without really thinking about them at the time turn out to be pivotal later on it the series.

That means that my writing process is a little bit of an exercise of faith each time. I always know at least a little bit of what needs to happen in a given book, but so much of it just happens during the course of actually sitting down to write.

Usually there are two big milestones to any book. The first is when I know how I want the book to end and the second is when I know how I'm going to get from wherever I am to that ending. Once I know those two things then finishing the book is mostly just a matter of putting in the time to get all of the words down on paper.

Last night I figured out how I'm going to end Alec and Adri's story. I don't know exactly how I'm going to get there still, but I know how the series is going to end; and that's incredibly liberating.

I sat down for half an hour or so last night when the idea first came to me and sketched out the essentials; who would be involved, what new characters need to be introduced before it could happen and some key changes that will need to take place in a couple of existing characters.

It wasn't until I finished getting that all down that I realized something else.

For most of the last twenty years I've had another story rattling around in the back of my head. It's a Wheel of Time style epic fantasy set in the same world as the Guadel Chronicles, and there are some overarching themes that I always planned on working into the story there. Oddly enough, the ending of the Reflections series will have some of the very same themes, just done in a different way.

I really wish I could tell you all more, but I'd probably better just leave it right there for now. I don't think this was just coincidence though. It feels a bit like I've got a story that I'm supposed to tell, and that it's determined to make sure that it's told regardless of anything else.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Riven Cover Reveal...sort of

Katie has finished the cover for Riven, but this time we've done things smart and we did the print cover from the start rather than starting with an e-book cover and then coming back later and redoing everything so that we could release a print version.

The trickiest part this time around has been trying to settle on an border that we felt like dealt with the transition between the left side of the girl's face and the spine of the book. I'm in the process of ordering print proofs for our final four versions, which will probably be what decides things for us, but I thought that all of you might want to see what we've got so far.

(Remember the printing process results in .125 inches being cut off from all four sides, so the border you see here will be half the size on the actual printed books.)

I think that Katie and I are leaning to #1 for the print version and the gold border from #3 for the e-book, but I'd love to hear what you think.

The blurb on this one may not be what I end up using when all is said and done, but it gives you a bit of a feel for what's in store :)


Monday, April 29, 2013

What to write next...

I wasn't anticipating that I'd make another post this month, but a question has come up for which I'd love to have input from all of you.

Apologies in advance, this post is a bit raw. I didn't ask Katie to edit it for me, so the odd typo or two might slip by me.

It's starting to feel to me like the book I write in May will be a Dark Reflections novel. There are some things coming up in the next few Reflections novels after Riven that need the storyline from Dark Reflections to be fully appreciated.

The artist in me is saying 'full speed ahead,' but the business person in me is a little nervous about writing this Dark Reflections novel.

I've only sold about 1/3rd as many copies of Trapped as of Forsaken over the last four months, so it would appear that people are much less interested in stories that aren't part of the central Alec and Adri arc.

Given that I need to write several standalone books that will focus primarily on Rachel, Jess, and Jasmin, I'm potentially setting myself up to do a lot of work that not very many people will be interested in reading (especially when you add in Geoffrey's books, which also haven't been as well received).

Being an indie writer means that I have to balance the art against the business, so I'm curious what you all think.  Would you be interested in a Dark Reflections novel where Alec and Adri don't know each other yet? Alec's dad is still alive, as is Adri's dad and sister and Alec and Adri don't know each other yet.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.



Saturday, April 27, 2013

End of April Status Update

It's hard to believe that April is already nearly over. This month was a 'down' month for me meaning that I haven't written any new fiction. Instead my time has been spent editing and wrestling with books that needed put into paperback.

Honestly those are some of my least favorite parts about being an indie writer, so I'm trying to make sure that I don't let those activities take over all of my time. The plan this year is to spend alternate months writing and fill in with all of the other housekeeping chores that need done since I have such a backlog of housekeeping tasks. January was dedicated to Shattered Ties (Guadel #4) and March was spent writing the sequel to The Greater Darkness (this book doesn't have a name yet, although I'm thinking of something like 'Reflected Darkness'), so it's just about time to sit down and start up another book.

The bad news is that I'm not yet sure which thread of the overarching story to pick up next, but the good news is that I feel like I've managed to get quite a bit accomplished over the last little while:

New Fiction:
Riven is fully edited and I've gotten responses back from all of my beta readers. That means it just needs a cover and then I'll spend a couple of days getting everything formatted for the various e-book retailers.

Shattered Ties is with my editor, RJ Locksley, for the next round of major editing.

Trade Paperback:
The first three Guadel Chronicles books are now available in trade paperback.

I've reformatted Broken and Torn yet again (this makes 3-4 times for each of them), but now they just need a wraparound cover.

Splintered, Intrusion, Scent of Tears and Trapped are all fully laid out, so they just need revised covers and then I'll order physical proofs.

Forsaken is about 90% of the way done from an interior standpoint, so another few hours ought to see it to a point where it also just needs a cover before proofs can be ordered.

Lastly, I've done a bit of work on my blog that I hope will work as intended. I've added a 'coming soon' block on the right side so that it's easy to quickly find out when a given book is scheduled to be released. With any luck that should help make sure that you all get a chance to get new releases during the first week when the price will be slightly cheaper. I've also re-worked the list of my books that was previously on the right side of the blog. It's still on the right side, just below the 'coming soon' panel, but now the list has a single entry per book which links to a separate page for each title. It's a little cleaner than the way I had it before, but more importantly, I've put the books up in order by series. I've had a number of e-mails lately from people who weren't sure what order to read the books in, so hopefully this change will help make that a little clearer.

Between now and the end of the month I'm also hoping to upload revised versions of nearly all my books up to the various retailers. These new versions will fix some errata that I found in the course of prepping each book for trade paperback, but they will also be modified slightly so that the reading order of the series is more obvious.

I'm excited to get back to writing fiction in May and I'm extremely happy with how Riven has turned out. My beta readers have been even more excited than usual after reading Riven and I can't wait until all of the remaining details are squared away so that all of you can finally read it.



Friday, April 26, 2013

A Kind Review

Julia from over at At As You Wish Reviews put up a very generous review of Broken that I've been meaning to link to for months. It's worth checking out her blog, just based on the fact that she loved Broken so much we know that she's got pretty good taste :)

Here's a link to the review.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Big Apology

A Big Apology!

I'd like to apologize to anyone that signed up for may mailing list over the last few weeks who was expecting some kind of e-mail telling them how to get their free copy of Torn and Thawed Fortunes, but who didn't get any kind of e-mail.

I used a tightly restricted (I'm the only one that can send messages to the group or see the e-mails of the people who've signed up) version group inside of Google Groups to administer my mailing list.

Months ago I started playing around with the idea of using the welcome message inside of Google Groups to provide people who signed up to the mailing list with a coupon code to Smashwords that would allow them to download free copies of both books in whatever format the preferred. I made a note to remind myself to fully test the functionality, but somewhere along the way I lost track of that part of my to-do list and I failed to make sure that the welcome message acted as I'd expected it to.

I've added an instruction page on my blog now explaining to people that they'll need to create/login to their Google Groups account to access the coupon code, but in the meantime I've sent out an e-mail to the entire mailing list providing them with the coupon codes.

Sorry for the mix-up and a big thanks to Kaniah for pointing out to me that the mailing list wasn't quite working as intended.

Hopefully I'll have another status update sometime this month once I've polished off a few other tasks.



Monday, March 11, 2013

March Status Update

Release date for the next Reflections novel:
I'm incredibly happy to be able to announce a release date and an official name for the next Reflections novel, the one that had been code named 'TWB' up until now. Riven will go live July first and will continue Alec and Adri's story, taking it in directions that were hinted at in Forsaken along with introducing some exciting new developments!

Riven will have a retail price of $4.99 (or the local currency equivalent), but in an effort to reward all of my faithful fans, I'll be setting the price to $3.99 for the first week it is out. That means that you can have Riven downloaded to your electronic device of choice in time for the 4th of July (for those here in the States) and you'll pay the same amount for it that you paid for Trapped despite the fact that Riven is ~20% longer.

In all honesty, the discounted price allows me to kill a few birds with one stone. I've covered my reasoning in my blog post entitled "The Business Side of Things". A lot of you won't care about anything in that particular post, but for those who someday want to succeed as an indie writer, or even just those of you who are interested in business, there are some worthwhile bits in that post.

Before you all run off to read "The Business Side of Things", please remember that nothing I'm saying in that post is meant to detract at all from the fact that I really am trying to give back in a small way at least to all of you fans that have done so much to help spread the word about my writing.

Dean's mailing list:
You're going to sense a recurring theme here, but I've been doing a lot of thinking over the last five or six months about just exactly how I can best move forward with the business side of my writing career. Those of you who read the business post I'm referencing above will see how my mailing list ties into all of that, but for those who don't care to read that particular post, I just want to let you know that I've made some changes to my mailing list.

I'm still committed to not spamming my mailing list subscribers with a bunch of information that they don't care about, but now when you sign up for my mailing list you'll get a Smashwords Coupon code that will allow you to download a free copy of both Thawed Fortunes and Torn in just about every electronic format known to mankind.

This means now that on most of the major retailers that you can get the first two books in each of my series for free, which means that I'm giving away almost $20 in free novels to anyone that has even the slightest inclination to try out my stuff. Obviously, my hope is that this will draw people into trying out both Broken and Frozen Prospects, and then going on to read Torn and Thawed Fortunes before ultimately buying the rest of the books in each series.

I'd love for any of you who haven't already signed up for my mailing list to go ahead and do so now and for everyone to help spread the word. More than anything else, my mailing list gives me a way to let my readers know when a new book goes live.

Status update:
Just in case any of you are curious, I thought I'd take a minute and let you know what I've been working on. The beginning of December was mostly about getting final edits and formatting done for Forsaken and Brittle Bonds. The middle and end of December was spent writing Riven, which I finished up on the first of January. I then spent most of the rest of January writing Guadel #4, which was the hardest book I've written yet.

It's hard to get into chapter and verse about why this particular book was so difficult to write without getting into spoilers, but essentially it boiled down to the fact that I made some implications about Va'del's character in I'rone, and I wasn't quite sure how I was going to make that happen. It wasn't until I was more than halfway through writing my rough draft that I really knew how I was going to get where I wanted to be for the closing scenes of this book. It will be interesting to see what my advance readers, and then ultimately all of you, think about this fourth book, but having made it through all of the blood, sweat and tears, I think it's one of my strongest pieces of work yet.

February has been spent doing a first past editing run of Riven (once Katie had finished reading it) and then in progressing the various trade paperback editions of my work that have been giving me fits for months now (more on that below).

Paperback versions of Dean's work now available:
As of right now, Frozen Prospects and Thawed Fortunes are both available on Amazon as trade paperbacks.


Brittle Bonds has been laid out and I'm currently going through my quality control process to make sure that the final product is up to snuff.  I've got Splintered about 80% of the way through the layout steps and Forsaken is about 95% through layout. On both of those, revised print quality covers are the next big step before they go into quality control.

Broken and Torn (the consolidated novel) has a finalized cover (which I'll be posting a picture of in the next little while) and now is just waiting on a final editing pass before I order proofs and start my quality control process.

Any interest in an interview series?
There is a storyline in the 4th Guadel book that I was originally planning on incorporating into the book, but which I ultimately ended up leaving out because I couldn't get it to quite come together like it needed to.

As I was thinking about that a few days after I finished the rough draft, I decided that maybe the best way to get some of those tidbits of information out would be to do an interview series where some of my readers got a chance to ask questions, both before a book came out and then again after the book came out.

What do you all think? A good idea? A waste of everyone's time? If someone is interested in coming up with some questions shoot me an e-mail and we can talk it through.

Forum Mods
One of the ideas that continues to bounce around the back of my head is that of doing a forum for my readers. The biggest benefit would be that it would provide a single place for fans of either series to get together and talk about what they loved in each book.

Obviously the big downside would be that getting a forum up and running would be a big undertaking given that I don't have any experience in that kind of thing and then it would be an ongoing demand on my time to moderate it.

Given that the writing is still a ways from paying all of the bills, I have to continue to focus my time and efforts on getting more books written, but I'm still interested in seeing if I can find a way to see this happen.

If any of you have experience setting up and/or running a forum I'd love to hear from you. It's possible that we can work something out where I can make it worth your while to help me get the forum up…

The Business Side of Things

This is essentially the third time that I've written this post, as Katie can attest to. Something very similar to this was in the initial drafts at the end of two of my recent books. I ultimately decided to pull the information back out of both books because it wasn't quite the right thing to be including in a novel, but I haven't been able to quite shake the urge to finish this post and put it out where you all could see it. You may want to read the post immediately after this one before you dive into this particular post. (I know that's backwards from what you'd expect, but I didn't want this post to be the first thing that new arrivals see.)

Given that rather lackluster introduction, I'd like to set out some ground rules before I get into the meat of the post.
1. This isn't going to be about my characters or worlds, so please don't be disappointed when you get to the end of the post and I didn't drop any tidbits about Alec and Adri or Va'del and Jain. There are some interesting things in this post, but it's mostly interesting if you have considered becoming an indie writer, if you have a background in business, or if you just have one of those minds where you like to see how different things fit together to create a cohesive set of rules or guidelines. This isn't "required" reading by any measure. (Not that anything I write is required reading, but hopefully you get the idea.)
2. This post is going to sound very mercenary. I'm not sure that there is any way to avoid that, so I'm not going to try. As an indie writer I have to wear two hats. The writer hat worries about art and the publisher hat worries about making enough money that I can keep writing. Not everything I do is motivated by money, but some things I do are motivated by the thought of making money, and I don't think that is something that should require an apology.
3. Like most things, this isn't a perfect science. I don't guarantee that anything I'm saying here will work, but as I tried to figure out the underlying principles to making a living as an indie writer, the approach that I'm about to describe seemed to be the best balance when it came to increasing my income to a sustainable level (and hopefully beyond as time goes by) and trying to provide an honest product to my fans that they felt like was a good value in exchange for what I was asking for.

Hopefully those ground rules help avoid any misunderstandings!

Additionally, there are two business concepts that need covered before we get into all of the writing stuff:

1. Customer Acquisition Cost or Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
2. Customer Life Time Value (LTV)

CPA is the cost to put your product in front of a potential customer which then goes on to buy the product. If you buy a Super Bowl add for a million dollars and it brings you a million customers then your CPA is $1.

LTV is the amount of 'profit' you'll make on a particular customer. If you sell a service where you make $.20 per customer, then the million dollar Super Bowl add was a bad idea because you lost $800,000 on it ($1,000,000 in advertising costs minus the $200,000 you made in profit on the customers).  If you sell something that gives you $2 per customer then your Super Bowl add was a smashing success and you just made $1,000,000 ($2/customer * 1,000,000 customers - $1,000,000 add spend or alternatively $2/customer LTV - $1/customer CPA * 1,000,000 customers)
Now that we've got some of that business stuff out of the way, I'll try to stay away from math for a little while. A writer/publisher has several assets that they bring to the table in their efforts to make a living.

I'm not going to get into the soft assets, like dedication, the ability to write or a winning personality. Instead, I'm going to focus on two 'hard' assets. The first is a marketable book or books, the second is a fan base of people who like the author's writing to the point that they have paid or would be willing to pay money to read it.

You can start with either of those assets and under the right circumstances parley it into a living. There are plenty of 'famous' people who started out with a fan base before they ever had a book. Given the size and excitement level of their fan bases these people were almost guaranteed to make a large amount of money as soon as they released their first book. Interestingly enough, 'traditional' publishing has spent a lot of time and effort lately publishing books by these kinds of people because there is a relatively high chance that the publishers will make their money back and then some on these kinds of books.

One way of looking at this model of business would be to say that this person has offset their CPA of acquiring their fans through some other business and now they are looking for a way to increase the LTV of those fans.

Most of us (me included) are coming at this from the other direction. Instead of starting with a fan base and using it to sell books, we are starting with a book or several books, and then trying to leverage them into a fan base.

Once you have a book and are actively trying to sell it, there are two broad categories by which you're going to try and move copies. Active efforts and passive efforts. Active efforts would be things like going door to door around your neighborhood with a stack of your books and trying to sell copies of your book to your neighbors. Passive efforts principally represent something that you do once, and then they continue to create the possibility of selling copies. The best example of something like this is the very act of uploading your book to Amazon or iTunes. Once your book is up there it will get a certain amount of exposure (albeit sometimes a very small level of exposure) without any further effort on your part.

On the face of it, it's pretty easy to see that most 'active' methods of customer acquisition generally aren't going to be very profitable when it comes to selling a single book for which the indie author will make $2-$3.5 per copy. With all of the other competition out there for people's attention, you're generally going to see CPA's on active customer acquisition which are so high that you'll lose money on each new customer. Given that, I'm going to focus for a few minutes on maximizing the passive channels.

Passive Customer Acquisition
Passive exposure can be broken down into a number of components.

1. Number of locations in which product is available.
2. Algorithm/positioning traction
3. Number of products available

Number of locations isn't really just about the number of locations, it's about the number of places your book is for sale and the aggregate foot traffic across all of those stores. If one online store with a million customers is good, then adding a second store with another million customers will generally be even better.

What is Dean doing? I'm distributed to Amazon (10 dedicated stores plus traffic from countries that don't have a dedicated store), iTunes (50 stores at last count), Kobo (1 worldwide store but they have major outlines in 50+ countries), Smashwords(1 plus they get me to 7 more stores), and B&N (2 stores). And I'm slowly starting to get out audio and print versions of some of my books. I've tried distributing to some even smaller stores, but generally haven't seen any results for having done so. At some point I might go back to trying to distribute my work more widely, but for now I've grabbed all of the low hanging fruit and once audio and print versions of everything are up, I'll feel pretty good about this component.

Algorithm/positioning traction is meant to be a measure of how visible your book is inside of a given store. If your book only shows up in someone's browser if they search for 'purple unicorns suffering from persistent sinus infections' then you're product probably isn't going to make it in front very many of the retailer's million customers.

What is Dean doing? I've set the first book in 2 different series to 'free' at most of the locations. This makes my books show up on more lists and in the 'also bought' sections in more places. 'Free' also has the benefit of making the two free books a more compelling value proposition (see below). There are other tactics that you can take to try and improve your algorithm/positioning traction, but you can waste a lot of time making changes to your keywords and never know if the changes to your results were because of what you were doing or because of something entirely unrelated.

Number of products is basically the number of books you have available for sale although you can repackage multiple stories into a single offering or do a few other things that can increase your virtual shelf space. As a general rule, the more products you have up in a given store, the more opportunities customers will have to find you.

What is Dean doing? I'm currently up to 20 titles of which 9 are novels, 10 are short stories and one is a compilation of 5 of the short stories. I've got two more novels that are in editing and I occasionally play with the idea of dusting off two fan fiction novels that I wrote more than a decade ago and re-writing them to the point that they could be published as well.

Value Proposition
Even in passive acquisition strategies, just having a prospective customer see your book isn't enough to ensure a sale. Instead you have to 'convince' the prospective customer to take a series of steps that ultimately end with them purchasing the book. Your cover and title need to draw the reader onto the book's product page. Once the shopper is on the product page then your blurb needs to be good enough to convince them to either buy or download a sample, and if they download a sample, the sample needs to be good enough to convince them to buy the rest of the book. I like to think of this as a series of value proposition steps. If your cover looks neat, then a reader will decide that there is value in spending thirty seconds to see if the blurb is interesting. If your cover looks terrible then your prospective customer will decide that there isn't much value in reading the blurb or the sample.

What is Dean doing? I try to make sure that I have clean covers and interesting blurbs, but so does everyone else. I'd really love for the major retailers to begin reporting conversion rate statistics to their authors on a book by book basis so that we can see if a blurb change does a better job capturing the imagination of a particular reader, but for now that's just wishful thinking. What I have seen is that making a book free drastically increases its value proposition for prospective readers. So by setting two of my books free not only do I show up in more places and on more lists, people are more likely to download my book and give it a try when they do see it.

Force Multipliers
If that was where everything ended, then most writers would be in a world of hurt, but luckily there are what I like to call force multipliers out there that make a huge difference when it comes to selling books. Three of my favorite are:

1. Complementary Books
2. Word of Mouth
3. Fan Base

Complementary Books
When writing subsequent books there is always a question with regards to what strategy the author should take. If you write a series, then the second book is almost guaranteed not to do any better (sales wise) than the first book in the series. Alternatively, a new, unrelated book may always hit the publishing lottery and sell millions of copies and do vastly better than an author's existing work.

What is Dean doing? I would love to win the publishing lottery as much as anyone else, but I tend to favor writing series over standalone books. From a craft side, ultimately writing more words over more books gives you a chance to pack more into a story arc. Additionally, my characters tend to do a lot of the driving as far as where any particular story ends up going and it's always easier to write if I've got established characters that can help develop the plot with a minimum of heavy lifting on my side. From a business side, by continuing to develop my existing series I create a high degree of correlation in my work. If you liked Broken, you're likely to enjoy Torn. Once you read Torn you're probably going to want to read Splintered, etc. etc. I'm firmly convinced that my strategy of 'free' wouldn't work as well if I had two free novels and seven other unrelated books.

Additionally, by writing in a series I get to increase the LTV of each new customer. With one book my LTV of each customer might be as low as $2-$3 dollars. If I have six books in a series, then my LTV could be in the $12-$18 range. It still means that I've got to bring in a lot of new customers each month to make a living writing, but it means that I can look at a much broader range of marketing/customer acquisition activities. With only one book available any marketing activities that have a CPA of $4 would be a bad idea because I'd lose $1-2/customer. With six books a guaranteed $4 CPA would be incredibly good news because it would mean that I would make $8-$14/ customer. If you could have that kind of LTV and CPA and then turn around and use that marketing activity to generate a thousand new customers per month you'd soon be sitting on quite a lot of money.

I'm not a marketer though, I'm a writer. So while I might eventually be in a position where it would make sense to hire someone else to do some marketing on my behalf, right now my time is generally better spent doing the thing that only I can do, which is writing. This does mean however that as each new book goes live I should generally see more value out of my existing passive customer acquisition strategies.

Word of Mouth
You could say that Word of Mouth and having a fan base are just two sides of the same coin, but for definitional purposes, I'm going to define word of mouth as an ongoing thing. Having people talking about your work serves to function as a kind of passive acquisition source. It's one that you can't really control, but it seems to have an almost exponential impact on the acquisition of new fans. As more people are talking about your books or talking more energetically about your books, you'll tend to see a much higher rate of new customer acquisition than you would otherwise see.

What is Dean doing? I have a ton of really awesome fans that have written me to let me know that they've told friends and family to go out and get one of my books. I'm incredibly grateful, and the only thing I've really been able to hit on is to keep the price of my books affordable. I've toyed with the idea of a full-sized novel being priced at $5.99 or $6.99, but although I think that would be a very reasonable price for my books, for now I'm going to keep them at $4.99 as a way of saying thanks to the fans that are helping spread the word about my writing.

Fan Base
I mentioned fan bases briefly up above, but the concept needs discussed in further detail. For purposes of this post, a fan base is a group of people who will buy an author's work very soon after it is released, and it is the most powerful asset that an author can have for two reasons.

1. Multiplicative Revenue Recapture
2. Exponential Visibility Growth

In case you're wondering, I just made both of those terms up, unlike LTV and CPA which have generally agreed upon definitions.

Multiplicative Revenue Recapture Let's suppose that an author's first novel sold ten thousand copies. If that author didn't manage to create a fan base in the process of selling those books, then they may only sell a couple of hundred copies of their second book. If however the author managed to turn half of the ten thousand people who read their first book into an fan base that is eagerly awaiting their second book, then the author stands to move the better part of five thousand copies of that second book in a relatively short time with corresponding financial gains as a result.

You could look at this as the author having increased the LTV of their customer base (fan base), and you'd be right. You could also choose to look at it as the author having recaptured a part of the revenue stream that they would have likely achieved had the second book gone live concurrent with the first book.

What you call it isn't as important as the concept that a fan base represents a significant financial asset. If the author is able to continue to provide a good value proposition for their readers then the fan base should continue to grow as time passes and that asset will continue to become more and more valuable.

Exponential Visibility Growth You can point to a lot of differences between a relatively unknown indie author like me and a big-time bestselling author, but one of the most substantial is the fact that the best sellers have tens of thousands or even millions of people who will buy the author's next book within the first few days after it is released, and oftentimes they don’t even consider any other course of action. They may not even bother reading the blurb because they already know that the odds are heavily on the side of them loving anything that author writes.

All of those purchases happening in such a short time drive visibility for those authors. It may be because they end up on a recognized bestseller list, it could be because they then rank highly on the search ranking or genre lists at the big ecommerce sites, or it could even be because potential readers see dozens of copies of the new book in the hands of their friends and family. Whatever the reason, the very act of releasing a new book for these authors results in new readers buying their work.

As if the success of the sequel combined with the arrival of new readers wasn't enough, many of these new readers will go on to become fans which means that the next release will probably generate even more buzz, more money, and more new fans.

When you start putting this all together, there can be an almost explosive growth in the sales of an author. Let's do some math.

Author 'A' writes a book and publishes it where it sells a very respectable 10,000 copies per year and earns the author $30,000. At the end of the first year 'A' releases his second book which is highly complementary to the first book (we'll say the two books are part of a series). As a result, 5,000 fans preorder the first book and it shoots partway up several bestseller lists.  Not only did 'A' make $15,000 out of the gate on the second book, he also saw an extra 2,000 people buy the first book during the second year as a result of the buzz around the second book.  Additionally, because 'A' now has two books more people are stumbling across him and his baseline new customer acquisitions for year two is 11,000 people, all of which buy both of his books.
Year 1 income was 10,000 customers * $3 per copy for a total of $30,000
Year 2 income is 13,000 customers (11,000 (new baseline) + 2,000 (buzz related)) * $6 per customer (2 books $3 each) + 5,000 * $3 (the preorders of the second book) for a total of $93,000

Let's say that the author releases a third book at the end of the second year. 'A' has now sold books to 23,000 people (10,000 the first year plus 11,000 baseline the second year + 2,000 buzz related in the second year). As a result 'A' gets 11,500 preorders of their third book. Having a third book out there for people to stumble upon gives 'A' an extra 1,000 new fans to his passive acquisition efforts over the course of the third year, but the real kicker is that his preorders pushed 'A' up to the very top of a couple of bestseller lists and nearly to the top of several others and the buzz that this creates results in another 8,000 extra customers deciding to pick up his first book.

Year 3 income is 20,000 customers (12,000 (new baseline) + 8,000 (buzz related)) * $9 per customer (2 books $3 each) +11,500 * $3 (the preorders of the second book) for a total of $214,500. Even more exciting 'A's fan base has quadrupled between the end of the first year and the end of the third which means that his fourth book will be even more of a household name.

Obviously there are a ton of variables that I'm not accounting for there and the numbers are just meant to illustrate a concept rather than provide any hard figures as to what to expect, but the potential for this kind of explosive growth as my fan base picks up subsequent books and my stories become more and more visible is what had me excitedly telling my wife at one point that we were going to make insane amounts of money over just the next few years.

What is Dean doing? I wish that I could say that I was making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year already, but the actual truth is that the last four books I released created little if any visibility. I expected a little bit of that because two of the books (Trapped and The Greater Darkness) introduced new characters in the series that my fans hadn't had a chance to get to know yet. Likewise Brittle Bonds was the third book in a series that hasn't sold as well as my Reflections books. I did however expect that I'd see a really good uptake of Forsaken. I told myself that I'd be happy with a 70% or so uptake by my existing fan base (meaning that if I'd sold 1,000 books to date I'd be happy if 500 people bought Forsaken over the first week or two that it was live). Secretly I was fantasizing of 90-95% uptake and excitedly imagining the thousands of new readers that would come into the series as a result.

I actually saw about 10-15% adoption over the course of a month and a half. It's hard to say exactly what the number was because I had new people coming into the series during the month of release who just naturally went on and purchased Forsaken because it was the next in the series rather than because they had been eagerly waiting for months to get their hands on it.

What do I think that means? Well for one thing I apparently will continue to hold off on any plans for lavish trips to exotic new locals. Obviously my expectations were way off. That may be in part to the fact that Splintered (my third book in the series) ended on an…untraditional note. It's possible that may of the people who purchased Splintered simply didn't want to continue the series after the way Splintered ended. I don't think that's a massive factor though because the reviews for the book have been quite good. I've only seen one review where someone said that they wanted to throw the book across the room in a fit of rage.

My suspicion is that most of the people who read Splintered didn't know that Forsaken had been released.

Dean's Grand Plan for World Domination
All of that leads to the question of where I go from here as a publisher. I already know that Author-Dean is going to write some books that aren't going to be as tightly correlated to my existing books as Publisher-Dean would like, but given that fact I need to figure out a way to get my income up to a level where I can make a go of this on a long-term basis.

I ultimately don't know how many copies I'd need to sell of a new release to see the kind of visibility spike that would turn me into an 'overnight' success, but I suspect at my current rate that I might be 5-10 years out before my releases generate any kind of real visibility.

That's not to say that I'm 5-10 years out before writing is paying the bills necessarily because as I continue to release new books my LTV of new customers will continue to climb, but given my pre-writing background as an accountant it might not surprise you to hear that I'm fairly risk adverse. That matters because until I hit a point where my fan base is large enough that the 'new release' money is paying the bills, I'm to a certain extent at the mercy of the retailers who are currently funneling new customers my way.

Given that I really, really would rather not go back to working a day job, I'm going to do an experiment to see if I can help spike my release visibility faster than what I saw with my last few releases.

1. I'm going to have a firm release date for all of my upcoming books and the date will be several months out so that people have plenty of time to find out that the book is on its way well before it actually goes live.
2. I'm going to post my announced release dates prominently on my blog, and direct readers to my blog at the end of my books for the specific purpose of making sure that they know when the next book in a given series will be out.
3. I only send out e-mails to my mailing list to announce new releases, but I'm going to make sure that I have a release schedule at the bottom of each e-mail that does go out.
4. I'm going to incentivize people to sign up to my mailing list by giving them a free copy of the second books in both of my series. This is the first step that actually has some real risk to it because I could end up giving away about a quarter of my income if everyone who currently buys a copy of Torn or Thawed Fortunes instead just signs up for the mailing list. I'm proceeding with it, on a short term basis at least, because I think it will go a long ways towards starting to spike the visibility I'm after on my new releases. I also like the idea that it is another small way of leaving more value on the table which hopefully my fans will appreciate.
5. I'm going to discount the price of each new release by about 20% for a period of one week to help encourage my readers to pick up the new release over a short time period which will help drive greater sales velocity and hopefully give me a higher (albeit shorter term) visibility spike.

Ultimately I believe that having a strong mailing list will be the best way to increase my revenue from my writing efforts (for the publisher in me) and help get my work in front of more people (for the author in me). It will be interesting to see over the next few months whether or not my gamble pays off.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Brief Update

Sorry everyone. I don't mean to have dropped off of the face of the earth for the last month or so. Once The Greater Darkness, Trapped, Forsaken, and Brittle Bonds were all up then I spent the balance of the month writing the next Reflections book (working title is 'TWB' for now) and then have spent the rest of January so far buried in the 4th Guadel Chronicles book.

I've got a handful of other updates that I need to post, but they may not make it up until after I get the 4th Guadel Book finished up (probably the end of January).

I hope that you all had a great Christmas/Happy Holidays.

For those that are curious, Scott at the Indie Book Blogger just posted a 4 star review of Brittle Bonds!