2017 Book Sales

Last year I made over $18,000 US dollars selling my Sci-Fi novels on Amazon. At first glance that sounds AMAZE BALLS. But in reality, it’s just a blip on the radar for a ten year career writing and selling genre novels. Most years I’m lucky to make a couple of hundred dollars. In fact in 2016 I made $200 for the year. Not even enough to tell the IRS about. That’s pretty sad. I have 12 novels in my back list but when nobody knows who you are, they don’t sell.

Before last year my biggest success came with my first novel, Starstrikers. It earned about $3,000 US when it came out. Sales climbed and then fell in the classic three month bell curve and then I was back to nothing for the better part of a decade. Back then, I didn’t have a back list so folks read Starstrikers and then had nothing else to purchase. My next novel didn’t come out for another year and then I published at least one per year since. But nobody who purchased Starstrikers knew about the new books and so I had no sales to speak of. For a decade. That’s ten years of writing and publishing in a complete vacuum.

Then last year I put out a novella called Corvette that I hoped would attract people to my Sci-Fi series. I wrote it to market, using standard tropes and what do you know, it took off! Only this time I was ready with a twelve book back list. Readers who enjoyed the novella, did eventually try the series and my sales continued to jug along at a decent clip after the initial bell curve. By the end of the year I was making about $400 US per month.

So far in 2018, one month in, I’m making about half of that per month. If the trend continues, I’ll be making next to nothing in a few months. So much for the back list.

Cheered on by the success of the novella, I wrote a sequel and published it over the holidays. Nothing. No interest at all. Sales are flat. But I continue to write the third book to finish out the trilogy. It is doubtful that I will write any more books related to Corvette, even though I have plans for at least nine total. Book 3 will drop this Spring and then I’m back to my original series.

In all likelihood, I will continue to write at least two books a year until the series is complete. I don’t write to become rich and famous. I write because I have to. I’m sane when I write. But most of all I write because it’s fun. When the fun subsides, I’m likely to stop writing.

In 2018 I will write two books. One is Book 5 of my Star Saga and the other will be a sequel to my Mystery novel, Null Pointer. Next year I plan to write Book 6 of the Star Saga and probably a vampire novel. Just because.

Below are the numbers from 2017 per book.

These are my numbers from 2016.

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Time Lapse Book Writing

On Jan 3 of this year I took a picture of my watch and the lower corner of my Write screen that showed my word count. I did it again after my next writing session and kept it up for the entire month. Everyday that I write on my novella at lunch, I document it with a similar picture. Boring, right? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If you enjoy watches, you might find it interesting to see which of my watches I’ve worn or which band decorates it. Others might find inspiration in my word count or my ever increasing page count.

Either way, I’m still taking pictures after I write and posting them in this Google photo album. A time lapse recording of the writing of a novella. Or perhaps just the last half of one.  https://photos.app.goo.gl/FkF6qESZi5oulC5G2 

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Star Saga Mug

In the things you need that you didn’t know you needed department, I give you my new mug design. It includes all the covers from the first trilogy of the Star Saga. All five books, including the two in-between novellas. The covers are set against a blue-gray field so they pop better and completely wrap around a standard mug. You can purchase this fine product from Redbubble.

Now you can admire the fabulous covers while sipping your favorite hot beverage and if a friend happens to ask you who that Ken McConnell bloke is, you can tell them how much you loved my novels. See what I did there, I created a marketing tool for all my fans to use. If you get this mug, send me a picture of you using it and I’ll tweet it out on Twitter!

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My Thoughts on The Last Jedi, Part 1

There’s much to love about the new Star Wars chapter – The Last Jedi. But before I post what I liked about it, I need to address the problems I have with the story. The film succeeds on many levels and has more going for it than just about any other SW film to date. However, in my writer’s mind, they botched the middle and the ending.

The middle is too long and the whole journey of Finn and Rose is largely just a political statement about how bad the one percent are. Politics aside, you can accomplish the same character arcs and the same plot points in less than half the time by just having them find the code breaker and leave – quickly. It would also help the time constraint that was created by having the Fleet stay out of range of bad guys. Because I for one started thinking about the Fleet when I was supposed to be feeling sympathy for wonder horses and slave kids. It would be even better if they found JD on another Resistance starship in the Fleet.

But what about the slave kids and the Walt Disney ending with Tinker Bell? Not needed. This is the middle film of a trilogy. It’s supposed to be a downer and you need to save the warm fuzzy hopeful message for Episode IX. This film subverts the audience’s expectations in many ways and I agree with all of them, but it does not need to offer much in the way of a happy ending or hope. It already has a Rey of hope and it botched her journey in the ending.

The second big problem is General Leia and Admiral Holdo. Their roles needed to be reversed. Leia should have been the one to drive the ship into the enemy super star destroyer. This act of bravery would have saved the Resistance and brought Luke back to the fight and his heroic ending. It would have left the Resistance with a new leader in Holdo and it would have been a great send off for both of the remaining original characters. Again, reinforcing the theme and providing an emotional punch that the film lacks in the third act. Also, given the unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher, I know I would have been weeping if she had actually died in the film.

Now back to Rey. Just like in the film, after she escapes from Kylo, the movie pretty much forgets her. We don’t see her dealing with what Kylo told her about her family – the fact that she’s alone and not related to the Skywalkers. We need to see our heroine come to terms with that and that scene should provide the Rey of hope we need that the Resistance will survive. She needs to team up with Holdo and Poe and they need to pledge to rebuild the Resistance to honor what Luke and Leia died for. That’s your hopeful ending. Not some space kid who nobody cares about. As it plays now, I really don’t care what happens in the next film. I needed that final emotional scene where the Resistance leaders are inspired to make a come-back.

I waited to post this until hearing the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, because I hoped that they would come to the same conclusion as I did. They did. Go listen to it, well done them.

 

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Inspirations – Marty Robbins

A few years ago I wrote a bunch of short stories about a Stellar Ranger company stationed on a small, desert world named Ocherva. Those stories eventually culminated in book one of the Star Saga – Starforgers. The western style hero of my stories was a blonde woman named Devon Ardel. Devon went on to become the central character in the first three Star Saga novels and a huge reader favorite.

But she was born from a long and masculine tradition of the American cowboy and more specifically the Texas Rangers. Pictured above are some actual Rangers posing with their weapons. Pretty much the quintessential western bad asses. So I created the Stellar Rangers in their image. But in my research about the west and lawmen I came across a 1950’s album called Gunfighter Ballads by Marty Robbins.

I loved the gunslinger pose Robbins did for the album cover and specifically I liked the flat brimmed hat he wore. That became the look of my my Stellar Rangers. As I listened to the album I quickly became a fan of Marty’s music. Some of my short stories make references to songs on that album that probably only a Marty Robbins fan would pick up on.

I’m not a fan of today’s Country music but I really enjoy these Western songs from the 1950’s. If you’ve never listened to this album you owe it to yourself to give it a spin. Great stuff and great musical story telling by Marty Robbins.

 

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Corvette: Seer of the Black Star, Paperback

Finally, you can order your own copy of the Corvette sequel in paperback. Once again I’ve chosen to go with Amazon’s quick and dirty pre-formatted paperbacks. Primarily because it’s less work on my part. Sure, I have to struggle and swear with LibreOffice Write to format it, but when it comes to creating it on Amazon it’s pretty painless. I think eventually we’ll produce some paperbacks of the Star Saga numbered books, but we’ll take the time to do the PDF’s of those in the same way a traditional publisher would, so we can control everything and make them look awesome.

Right now though, the sad reality is that I can’t sell paperbacks in the same volume as I do ebooks. Not even close. So it doesn’t make any financial sense for me to spend the time and labor on creating them. It’s relatively easy for me to make a decent ebook and get that to market. Follow the money, right?

You can click on this LINK to order your copy today.

I’ve had lots of fun writing this trilogy and I hope they provide you with a few hours of pleasure in this crazy old world we live in.

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The Corvette Trilogy

When I set out to write the Corvette novella I specifically designed it to appeal to a certain type of reader and for the most part, that reader type responded and made it my most popular novel to date. I also intended it to guide new readers to my Star Saga series which it has, quite nicely. I didn’t expect it to do quite as well as it has, but now that fans have found it, they deserve more stories about the crew of the oldest corvette.

I spent the early spring months of this year brainstorming about where to take the crew next and what kind of stories to tell. I went off on a tangent that I thought would have been awesome and then realized that the readers of Corvette, probably wouldn’t accept what I was writing. So I stopped and recast and re-plotted the story into what you can read today as Seer of the Black Star.

It’s hard to talk about the new book without triggering spoiler alerts, so I’ll talk about it from a 30,000 foot vantage point. The big picture. I decided to make the Corvette books a trilogy in the classical sense and to loosely follow the career of Commander Vance. There is one year between each book of the trilogy and the over-all character arc concerns how Vance adapts to being a captain and handles some difficult crew issues and tough villains. If the trilogy continues to sell well and there’s a market for more books about Vance, I will continue his story as a Destroyer captain in a second trilogy. There is a very definite finale in mind to Vance’s character arc and hopefully readers will get to that point.

In Seer of the Black Star we start to see how a respected loyal crew member can go rogue and leave the Fleet. In many ways Vance takes that personally as he is involved with that crew member. But it is more than just a strained relationship story. There are rises and falls in many of the minor character arcs in this trilogy. As for Commander Vance himself, his career will take its own path and it’s not always going to be the proper one. I hope you come along for the ride. It’s going to be fun.

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Release Day!

Eight months after my Corvette novella launched, I’m releasing the sequel – Seer of the Black Star. That’s the fastest turn around for a book I’ve ever managed and it happened for one reason only. Corvette got fans! The little novella about the littlest ship in the Fleet took off and became a best seller in it’s first month. I’ve sold 7,268 copies so far this year and what’s better than that? It’s lit a fire on my back list and led to eleven thousand sales total on the year so far. Not too shabby.

The best way to ensure I write a sequel is to buy my books, not just one, but all of them. Fans have done just that and this book is their reward. If you enjoyed Corvette and then went on to read a few of my other books, I thank you! This book’s for you!

Seer is the second book of a planned trilogy and I’m writing the next book as I launch this one. With any luck, book 3 will be out next Spring and the trilogy will be complete. If sales continue to climb for this series, I can assure you there will be more. I have another trilogy planned with Vance and his crew that will be called Destroyer. In the meantime, I’m back to the Star Saga next year, writing Book 5, XiniX.

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Black Star Build, Part 4

I actually took the time to include Vynn’s four winged starfighter as it would have looked after he rammed the bridge of the Black Star in chapter one of the novella. I build it from strip styrene stock and stuck it into the bridge windows. At least I know it’s there.

I also added a hand painted flaming skull that marks it as a pirate ship in this universe. At this point the model was done and I had nothing to do but photograph her for the book cover.

Here she is with the Weippe.

Took this one with my phone so you could see the set up in my garage. I used the sun as my single key light.

The Black Star made regular trips to my office for show and tell. Below is the final book cover after a decent Photoshoping by my brother, Byron.

Byron improved the flaming skull and composed the elements into a pretty cool scene from the book. Done.

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Black Star Build, Part 3

The base color of the Black Star is flat black. The best way to cover these large models is with a rattle can. Ain’t nobody got the funds to pay for model paint via an airbrush. So I used flat black spray paint and went to town.

There’s a dumbbell holding the base down and covered with the drop cloth.

Looks good.

Looks like some kind of massive laser rifle.

Back on the C-stand and ready for weathering.

Not sure why I started here, but I did. I mixed black and white artist chalks with a dry brush and rubbed it in good. This gives the black a more slate gray or charcoal black color that I was after. It’s a slow process.

Soft focus but you can see the whole ship has been dusted with the chalk.

Next up was a pass with brown for rust coloring. Just to add interest and age the ship.

This side’s looking pretty sweet.

Because the model would be photographed in “space” I was a bid concerned you would loose detail. So I dry brushed silver over the details to help make them pop and add another layer of age to the model.

It looks a bit too rust colored here. But trust me, on the cover, it will look smashing. Like the decals and the scribbling graffiti?

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