Despite his tremendous efficacy in consistent and deep world-building, Tolkien seems to have operated in his basic plotting in a way I can only characterize as “pantsing”.
Author: Karen Myers
Karen Myers is a fantasy and science fiction author, best known for her heroic fantasy novels. Her stories feature heroes in real and imagined worlds filled with magic, space travel, and adventure.
(See the first part of this article here for background.)
How, exactly, does AMS assign the lagged sales data?
I've established, via occasional spot checks during my tests in the previous article, that it takes several days for the Orders (Units Sold) data to finalize for the AMS-reported sales.
I was asked if it trickles in randomly, or if it is assigned to the particular days that it should have been applied to originally. Since I didn't know the answer, I decided to find out.
I also now had a corrective for my “organic sales = effectively zero” assumption. 3 weeks of testing in August established a baseline for my 2 advertised products (1st book in series for 2 series (ANNWN-N1 and CHAIN-N1) of 0.2 units per title per day.
So, I used the July 1-July 29 test period (which is now over a month old) and took a look.
First, I used the AMS reports to do a day by day look at the reported units sold. I compared that with my spot check during the month of sales as-of a particular date — that ran out well past the end of the month to let the lagging data catch up.
I discovered that the lagged data is assigned after the fact to particular days, presumably the dates that would have been correct at the time. In other words, my spot checks of units sold as of date X for the month are smaller than they would be if I could do that now, because lagging data has been applied to those dates sometime between when I did the spot check and now, a month later.
Undercounting & Missing data
So, now that the data is final, what does the undercounting look like?
(This article continues here.)
For about a year and a half I had a good run with basic AMS Manual Keywords ads — those ad farms of thousands of keywords. Then, in the fall of 2018, something significant changed at Amazon, besides just the AMS reporting system upgrade, and my ads which had been running at a smallish but steady profit basically stopped working well.
At the time, I didn't concentrate on the issue, content to spend several months working on getting my feet wet with Facebook Advertising while my AMS ads ran feebly in the background (at least I wasn't losing money on them). Let's just say that two separate attempts at Facebook product ads ended unsuccessfully and I shut them down to rethink my approach.
So, there I was in June with no effective advertising running and, let me tell you, that is no place you want to be. In the absence of any recent new release, my organic sales on my primary (1st-in-series) books are, at best, less than 1 per day.
But there's an upside to poor organic sales numbers — they make a great background to test against for advertising!
As the Game of Thrones series winds to an end, David Peterson (the creator of all the constructed languages on the series) comments on what it's like working with Dothraki and actors.
He was an inspiration when I first sought out conlangers to get help with language hints in The Chained Adept.
Watch and learn…
Whether you write to an outline, or churn it out by the seat of your pants, all of us are likely to come to a moment in the creation of a story where we are struck by a realization: if character X only did this instead of that, it would be so much better for the story.
How much trouble this causes you chiefly depends on how far along you are in the story at that point. It may cause you to revise your possibly painfully detailed outline, or it may force you to reconsider exactly where the story should be headed, if you're not confined to an outline, thus revising some of the highlights to come.
As a pantser instead of a plotter, I find this mostly happens to me when I brainstorm “what next?” for the moving boundary of the current words, but it can strike for older character actions, too, further back in the body of work.
I don't know about you, but my typical reaction when this happens is first elation (whoopee — an improvement!) followed by depression (look at all the changes I'm going to have to make to what's already been done and what is to come). Generally the former outweighs the latter, but I do have to get past the moment of deep despair at the work involved.
It could be worse. We could be George R. R. Martin.
It's time to look back on 2018 and take stock — what worked, what didn't, and where I spent my time.
Feels like it all passed in a blur…
The first five months were consumed in followup activities following all the marketing work I did in 2017. That included:
* ONIX development. StreetLib had some technical woes, and altogether the process needed to be solidified before I could consider it reliable.
* Standardized deliverables. As part of the ONIX finalization, I tightened up the formalization of all my final output folders, with their various text, image, and marketing component content so that the loose assemblage of files for works-in-process had a clean transition point to rigid folders with standardized deliverable content. This has proved a great time-saver whenever I need to deal with ONIX data or distributors or marketing requirements, including my websites. With almost 30 titles now, order is a fundamental virtue.
* New covers for the Chained Adept series. Having lost that cover artist, I took a long look at the covers and decided I not only needed a new cover artist for the Affinities of Magic series, just starting, but might as well have him redo the Chained Adept series as well. I like the new Affinities of Magic series that he's been developing, and the Chained Adept got a visible boost from better covers. I even asked him to create an advertising image I could use for advertising for the Hounds of Annwn series.
* German translation. While I was in an investment mood, I decided to make my initial experiment with translation by finding someone to do the first book of the Chained Adept Series for the German market, where the SFF genre does well. I'm very happy with my translator — she has delivered the full manuscript, and I still have to go through it with my minor German and automated translation to make sure there's nothing odd about any of the results, before releasing it into the German market to see how it does. By then, I hope to have my Facebook Ads beyond the USA processes in decent shape.
* Publishing contracts/royalty reporting. A little after the fact, I completed the final version of a standardized publishing contract to use and got everything cleaned up for my first outside author. At the same time, I created the processes for tracking and reporting on royalties and payments for outside authors.
* Google Analytics. After several stumbles, I finally commissioned a decent tool for looking at the fate of my various UTM statistics for articles and other things.
Goal for fiction for the new year
2018 – 300,000
2018 – 33,172
2017 – 30,777
2016 – 43,429
2015 – 30,619
2014 – 34,214
2013 – 28,714
2012 – 18,347
Total – 219,272
Always good to know what the numbers say…
Words of fiction
2018 – 87,519
2017 – 94,891
2016 – 346,258
2015 – 119,593
2014 – 64,390
2013 – 210,470
2012 – 270,600
Total – 1,193,134
It used to be easier
Oh, for the halcyon days of 2012 and 2013, when your book going up on Amazon attracted eyes, especially since the categories weren't any too large.
I still have my souvenir of being #1 in a niche category.
It spoiled us for a while. We wrote as quickly as we could hoping to outrun the “tsunami of… stuff” rising up behind us. Some of us are still trying that as our primary method of coping.
I'd like to present some more sobering numbers.