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”.
Category: Just for Writers
(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 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.
Let's talk about estate planning for independent-author/publishers. Not a fun topic, I know, but there's no point shoving our heads into the sand in the enthusiasm of the young indie-author revolution and pretending that we're going to live forever.
Business succession planning
All businesses face succession issues — who will take over for key managers and employees. In larger firms, this is just a normal plan, part of the annual review of the business's readiness to handle change.
Family businesses have additional challenges — what will be the role of the family members in the business once the founder dies or retires? Will they run the business, or will they just own it and let others run it? Will they sell it, and how?
A business is an engine for making money. Without the right people in place to make it work, or someone to sell it to, it falls apart.
We indie-authors/publishers are typically one-man businesses. We don't think in terms of key employees, since we haven't got any, but we are ourselves the key employee, and we need to make plans for what will happen when we are no longer able to run our business. And if we've managed to grow large enough to have actual employees, we have the same issues as any other small business. We need a business succession plan.
You've climbed that first hill. Congratulations!
You've written a book or several, you've presented the world with a few well-written, well-formatted, well-edited stories, and you're settling into a world of writing, pleased that you've come some distance up the path from your initial indie panic at all the different skills you need (not least your writing skills).
Your pencils are sharpened and you're ready to really bear down on the writing process, now that you have a handle on it and know how your books will actually make it into the book retail trade, and who you can call upon for extra help when you need it for covers, etc.
STOP. WAKE UP.
What is it we find backward about traditional authors and author-wannabes? The notion that all they need to do is write, and someone else will take care of all that stinky stuff like marketing and all the business issues.
Is that what you want to do?
Don't forget — you're not an indie AUTHOR, you're an indie AUTHOR-PUBLISHER. You don't get to just disappear into your writing and hope that everything else can just follow the initial methods you've chopped out of your research for how-to-publish, as though that were something static and unchanging.
No, that's just the FIRST step.