Welcome to my Front Parlor, where I hope to engage you in some stimulating conversations about my journey as an indie author, the lessons learned about marketing, and the joys of writing fiction. The past five years have been enormously rewarding, with the publication of four novels in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, Bloody Lessons, and Deadly Proof, a short story collection, Victorian San Francisco Stories, and the forthcoming publication of my first science fiction novel, Between Mountain and Sea. Do come in, look around, comment, and before you go, please leave a visiting card (url, twitter, fb address, etc) so I can return the courtesy and visit you next time.
Like the character quoted in this picture, I feel like I have embarked on a rather perilous but exciting adventure with the publication today of my two works in the Paradisi Chronicles series. My coming of age adventure, Between Mountain and Sea, and the short story I co-authored with my daughter, Butler’s Brother, are both now available on Amazon–and there is no turning back!
The experience of collaborating with six other independent authors to create an open-source, science fiction universe was an adventure all its own, (see the background on the Paradisi Chronicles here), but I hadn’t anticipated how nervous I would be about actually publishing my own novel in this new universe.
I always wondered why other authors said they were writing new series outside their regular genre under secret pen names. But now I think I understand…because for the first time I have found myself asking questions like: What if no one buys my new novel? Worse yet, what if the people who do buy it don’t like it? And what if they say (as I am sure some will) “Locke should stick to writing historical mysteries”?
When I published my first historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, and my first short story, Dandy Detects, I felt I had nothing to lose. It was early 2010, I had no expectations of success. I would not have been surprised if these works simply disappeared without a trace. Even a negative review pleased me because it meant someone had actually read what I’d written.
But then, once both the novel and the short story were met with positive responses, a preponderance of good reviews, and sales that were beyond my wildest dreams, my confidence in my ability to write historical mysteries solidified. (Not that I still don’t get a bit nervous each time a new book comes out, but I already know that many readers like my main characters, my mix of history, romance, and mystery and that helps.)
This time, however, the nerves have been worse. Because I don’t know yet if my existing fans will enjoy my foray into a new genre (both science fiction and young adult) and I don’t know if this work will attract new fans. So, last night, I suddenly had the thought that maybe I should have used a completely different pen name (instead of just dropping the M. and using Louisa Locke).
But then I reassured myself.
Because I always write for my own pleasure–trusting that if I enjoy the characters and stories and settings I create that someone out there will enjoy them as well. And I thoroughly enjoyed writing Between Mountain and Sea. In fact I fell in love with my main characters: Mabel, the young girl who set out with her family to colonize a new planet, Mei Lin, her great, great, granddaughter who never felt she fit in, Tesni, the Ddaeran girl with psychic powers, and Eurig, the charming sentient New Eden primate. So I have faith that some readers, if not all, will find as much pleasure reading Between Mountain and Sea as I had writing it.
However, not just my novel, but the six other works in the Paradisi Chronicles launched today, Do check them out at Paradisi Chronicles.com or click on the covers below and I am sure you will find something to your liking,
Two weeks ago, I was contacted by author Hank Garner who does interviews for his Author Stories Podcast, and the interview just went live today. Hank is a great interviewer (so check out his site), and I was particularly happy that we not only got to talk about my Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series but that I was also able to introduce his listeners to the history behind the Paradisi Chronicles–the open source science fiction universe I have been working on with six other authors for the past year.
In fact, the reason Hank had heard of me was that, even though the first round of works written for the Paradisi Chronicles aren’t going to be out until September 1, our whole enterprise was now the subject of a good deal of buzz among the science fiction/fantasy world of indies. I explained today how this happened in this blog post on the Paradisi Chronicles blog, so if you want to know the details–go on over. Suffice it to say, once again Hugh Howey played a role. The outcome of that buzz is that we already have nearly 30 published indie authors who have expressed interest in writing in our universe. So stay tuned!
Meanwhile, remember you can pre-order Between Mountain and Sea, my coming of age science fiction novel and Butler’s Brother, the short story I collaborated on with my daughter, Ashley Angelly–both set in the Paradisi Chronicles universe.
M. Louisa Locke, August 4, 2015
In a post entitled Time for a Pivot? I detailed a shift in my marketing strategy for 2015. In 2014, all my books were in Amazon’s KDP Select (which requires exclusivity) and I used the 99 cent Kindle Countdown KDP Select tool as my primarily form of promotion. In December 2014 I took all my books off of KDP Select in order to sell them in a variety of bookstores (Apple, Nook, Kobo, GooglePlay), and for these first six months of 2015 I have been using the perma free strategy (making Maids of Misfortune, the first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, permanently free) as my major promotional tool. I also committed to writing more short stories, getting audiobook editions out for the next two novels in my series, and writing a short story for a new science fiction collaborative project called the Paradisi Chronicles.
While the table below demonstrates that this shift in strategy worked—in terms of maintaining my monthly income—the unintended consequence and perhaps the most important positive outcome from my shift in strategies is revealed in the last row of the table. My writing productivity quadrupled.
|January to June 2014||January to June 2015|
|1||4 books on sale all in Select||5 books not in KDP Select 1 perma free|
|2||Total Sales and Borrows||21,200||13,626|
|3||Ave per month||3,500||2,200|
|5||Ave per month||$6000||$6000|
|7||Promotions||5 KC (including 2 BookBub) and 1 Free promotion||1 BookBub of permafree book|
|8||Words written||2 short stories 18,000 words||Draft of novel 85,000 words|
How did this happen?
First of all, let’s look at the numbers. In the first six months of 2014, I had three novels for sale as ebooks (Maids of Misfortune, Uneasy Spirits, and Bloody Lessons) and a boxed set of those books, with print editions for the novels, and an audible edition of Maids of Misfortune.
In the first six months of 2015, I had three novels for sale (Uneasy Sprits, Bloody Lessons and Deadly Proof––the 4th book in my series), Victorian San Francisco Stories (a collection of short stories) and my boxed set. I also now had audio book editions of Uneasy Spirits, Bloody Lessons, and Victorian San Francisco Stories. This meant that even with the loss of the ebook version of Maids of Misfortune as a source of paid income, I had two more ebooks available for sale and several more audio books as a source of income.
Second, while I had lost the income I was getting in 2014 from borrows from KOLL (Kindle Online Lending Library) because none of these books were in KDP Select in 2015, I had picked up sales from Apple, Nook, Kobo, and GooglePlay that made up for that loss of income. For example, January thru June 2014 (before the Kindle Unlimited subscription service was started by Amazon) I averaged 370 borrows a month from KOLL — about $700 a month in income. For 2015, with none of my books making money from borrows, I made on average $1000 a month (which included sales in the Apple, Nook, Kobo, and GooglePlay stores as well as the Kindle store).
Third, while I sold more books in the first six months of 2014 than in 2015 (see rows 2 & 3), a lot of those books were discounted to 99 cents as part of Kindle Countdown promotions (my main promotional tool in 2014). This explains why I was getting the same income for selling fewer books (averaging 1,300 fewer a month in 2015; see rows 3, 4 & 5). In 2015, I was giving away a lot more of copies of one title (see row 6), but I was also selling all my other titles at full price.
Which leads to the fourth and main point. Those Kindle Countdowns took time. As you can see from row 7, in 2014 I did a promotion every single month. And while this strategy produced more book sales, promotions took a lot of my time — which I could have used for writing. I had to schedule each promotion a month in advance, often with multiple promotional sites. The week the book was on sale, I engaged in daily activity on social media to further the promotions, and in order to determine the profitability of each sale, I spent additional time in record keeping to track average sales before, during, and after the sale.
While the time I spent in 2014 yielded income, it also meant that I only got two short stories written during that six-month month period (a total of only 18,000 words). In contrast, in 2015 I spent much less time on promotions. I had a one-day Book Bub promotion of my perma free book, Maids of Misfortune in January and I ran several Facebook ads for that book whenever the number of downloads per day fell. That’s all.
And the short story in the Paradisi Chronicles I said I wanted to write? It became Between Mountain and Sea, a full-length novel (85,000 words) that I wrote between February and June of this year. A much higher rate of productivity and an unexpected bonus from my shift to the perma-free strategy for my series.
So, have any of you authors noticed perma-free freeing up your writing time? If so let me know.
And for the rest of you, why don’t you go and check out Between Mountain and Sea, the fruits of my greater productivity, which is now available for pre-order. You will notice this book is in KDP Select because I am anxious to see how the new “payment by pages finished” process of Kindle Unlimited works. Stay tuned!
M. Louisa Locke, July 21, 2015
A science fiction adventure through time, space and generations, brought to life through the creativity and independent perspectives of multiple authors. Enter the world of the Paradisi Chronicles, where every new journey is a surprise ride you’ll never want to get off.
Almost exactly a year ago, on July 19, 2014, a fellow indie author, Amanda Allen, brought up the idea (inspired by this post by Hugh Howey) that a group of us should get together to create a science fiction world in which we could all write, with the goal of publishing the first round of works all at once. We could then open up the world to any author who wanted to write in that world. A sort of open-source indie version of Kindle Worlds.
I loved the idea. While I write historical mysteries, one of my favorite forms of recreational reading has always been science fiction, particularly the kind that focus on world-building. So, after a lively online discussion, I recklessly wrote, “sign me up!”
Three days later, we had a group of over ten interested authors, and we started the collaborative process of deciding the parameters of that world (would it be Earth in the future or another world or multiple worlds? Would there be aliens, or not? People with paranormal powers? Did we want a “Men in Black” scenario? Fantasy elements? Would the stories happen in a single time period or range over time?)
We voted on the various options, and the most popular was the creation of worlds (not Earth) in a single planetary system outside our galaxy, with our stories ranging over time. However, there was strong support for a MIB scenario and a strong interest in some sort of paranormal or psychic element.
Amanda, Cheri Lasota, and I took what the other authors said they wanted and brainstormed online feverishly over a few days, and then I was asked to write up the basic backstory for what we started to call the Paradisi Chronicles about New Eden and Tenebra, the worlds we were creating, planets in the fictional Paradisi System.
The Paradisi Chronicles Backstory:
In the last decades of the twenty-first century, ten families, seeking to escape an increasingly devastated Earth, focus their power and wealth on building spaceships that will allow a select few to leave Earth and colonize the world they call New Eden. Here, on their new home in the Paradisi System, these Founding Families hope to avoid the environmental and political disasters that were destroying Earth. But they find that the world they claim for their own is already inhabited, and the Ddaerans, although human in their appearance, possess abilities that the Founders and their descendants find both intriguing and frightening …
Now, I had no business starting a whole new series in July of 2014, because that was the month I started writing Deadly Proof, the fourth book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series. I am not one of those prolific writers who are able to write across multiple genres, producing multiple books, in multiple series, multiple times a year.
In fact, Maids of Misfortune, my first historical mystery, took 20 years between first draft and publication, the next two books each took just short of two years from beginning of research to publication, and I had already spent over a year doing the research for this fourth book that I was starting to write. I am, as you can see, the opposite of prolific.
But I told myself that I would just write a short story in this new world I had helped create, something I could do while Deadly Proof was being beta read. Since I had already written several short stories between novels, this seemed like a reasonable plan.
What really happened:
What happened is that while I spent my days recreating a world that existed 135 years in the past (1880 San Francisco) I was spending my evenings doing the research needed to create the new world, New Eden, set nearly 300 years in the future.
I read scientific articles on things like wormholes, space stations, EmDrives, and whether or not species can cross breed, poured over the maps Cheri Lasota was creating for this new world, and created backstories for the Yu Family, one of the ten Earth Families that would settle New Eden found the nation of Caelestis.
I also participated in the lively online discussions with other authors like Andy Bunch, Roslyn McFarland, Auburn Seal, and Sarah Woodbury to settle such questions as what language should the colonists from Earth speak once they were on New Eden? From what language should the speech of the New Eden natives be derived? What kind of transportation system would they build and should they have money or just online credits? How would the psychic powers work? And could the new settlers from Earth and the Ddaerans (the natives) be able to have sex and reproduce? Heady stuff!
And in the end, I fell in love with New Eden and its inhabitants. And when I began to write, the short story became a full-length novel––the first in a planned series about this world called the Caelestis Series.
So, on September 1, 2015, I will be one of seven authors who are launching our first works in the Paradisi Chronicles.
Between Mountain and Sea, is the novel I wrote feverishly between February of this year, when my fourth historical mystery came out, and now. It has two main protagonists. The first is Mabel Yu, a young girl who came from Earth with her family to settle New Eden. In diary entries we follow her life from young adulthood to her death over a century later. The second and primary protagonist is Mei Lin Yu, one of Mabel’s descendants, a young girl of sixteen who spends the summer at Mynyddamore, the ancestral home that Mabel built, and discovers secrets about her family, the Ddaerans (the native inhabitants) and herself that will change her life forever.
Working as part of the Paradisi Chronicles group resulted in an unexpected bonus. I got the chance to collaborate on the writing of a short story with my daughter, Ashley Angelly, who had joined our group of authors.
The story, Butler’s Brother: A Tale of New Eden, is about two Ddaeran brothers who were separated when they were young boys by the Kuttners, one of New Eden’s ten Founding Families, and about what happened when they finally were reunited.
Call to action:
If you like science fiction, I would like you to go over to the Paradisi Chronicles website and learn more about the other authors writing in this open source world and the novels and novellas that will be available on September 1.
Subscribe to the site to get news of the launch and how to find these books and subsequent publications. This is also the best way to be notified when we offer giveaways, run contests, or offer promotional discounts on our works.
If you are an author, be sure to check out the For Prospective Authors Page to see if you would like to join us!
And finally, if you are curious about what science fiction written by an historian is like, look for my announcement on this blog with the buy link to my novel, Between Mountain and Sea, September 1.
M. Louisa Locke, July 17, 2015
I was just reading a blog post entitled, “Short is the New Black” and I thought…why haven’t I posted anything in…over 2 months!!!! And the answer is, in the past my posts have been long….very long….sometimes longer than a short story. And I have been too busy writing fiction to write blog posts. So I am going to try something different. Short and sweet.
The audiobook version of the third book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series, Bloody Lessons is now available, and the ebook version is 99 cents in most ebookstores for the next 2 days (May 6-7), and if you by the Kindle ebook version you get the audiobook version on audible for only $1.99) A very good deal.
Deadly Proof, the fourth book in the series, (which is also available in all major ebook stores) has been out for three months and has sold extremely well and had 56 reviews and a 4.3 star rating. I am consequently starting the process of doing the research for a new short story and the fifth book in Victorian San Francisco Mystery series.
As reported in previous posts, my 2014 strategy for keeping my books visible through KDP Select promotions wasn’t working for me any longer, so I shifted strategies to put my books out there in most ebookstores and I made the first book in my series, Maids of Misfortune, perma free. I also was fortunate enough to get a BookBub promotion for that book in January.
Part of my strategy was to make this shift before the fourth book in my series came out to make sure that the book would be discovered by fans who didn’t depend on Amazon to find their books, which is why Deadly Proof came out 2 months after the other books went off of KDP Select.
Another strategic move was to offer my ebook collection of my short stories for free for anyone who signed up for my newsletter, to try to capture a larger percentage of the people who were reading the perma free book. I also started using Facebook ads for that perma free book (rather than periodic promotions with the various competitors to BookBub.
Finally, I have been writing a book that will the first in a new (non-historical) series, a collaborative effort with other authors (including my daughter) that will be announced shortly. My hope was that this would keep me writing steadily while I was doing the research for the next historical work.
For perma free to work, you have to keep that perma free book visible. On Amazon that has been easy, with Maids of Misfortune staying in the top 5 of the historical mystery free list since January. The result is that in April the average number of daily downloads has remained high at 137 copies a day. My downloads in non-Amazon stores are more difficult to measure because I publish through Draft2Digital and neither Kobo nor Barnes and Noble report free downloads. But for Apple and GooglePlay combined, my average number of downloads a day of Maids of Misfortune for April was 51.
Occasionally sites that feature free books have featured this first book in the series (without any cost to me), and the Facebook ad for the perma free book that has been running for a month has increased the likes for my author page and resulted in a more than 5% click through rate (percentage of people who got the Facebook ad who then clicked on the link to see the book), which seems a decent return on a tiny investment (click throughs are costing me 17 cents per click.)
Perma free only works well for an author if people who read the book that is free actually go on to buy other books by that author. This has been the nicest result for my strategic shift. November 2014, before I made Maids of Misfortune perma free or went off of KDP Select, I sold on average for all my books (ebooks, print, audio, etc) 6.7 books a day. If you included borrows through KDP Select, the average went up to 16 books a day.
In March 2015, the last complete month I have statistics for, I sold 100 books a day (which included all versions of all my books–not short stories.). This is a combination of sell-through, selling books through more than Amazon, and the publication of the new book, Deadly Proof (which has more than compensated for the fact that I am not getting any direct revenue for the ebook sales of Maids of Misfortune.)
The combination of the perma free book and offering my collection of short stories free has dramatically increased my rate of subscriptions to my newsletter. In the 4 months before these two changes, my average number of subscription a month was 13. My average afterwards has been 47 a month. Not world shaking–but very satisfactory.
Finally, I am very pleased with the way that having a non-historical fiction series going while I do research has increased my productivity. This WIP, which started out as a short story, then a novella, has so engaged me that it is now going to be a book. I have 44,000 words written, and my plan is to finish the draft by the middle of June (it will be much shorter than my historicals) so that it will come out with the other works in this collaborative enterprise September 1, 2015. This would mean that I will have published a book six months after my last book (instead of taking the 1 1/2 to 2 years it has taken me between books.) A definite improvement in productivity and one that has been very rewarding creatively.
Ok, maybe this wasn’t short, but I hope it was informative.
Meanwhile, do think about ordering Maid of Misfortune for free or Bloody Lessons for only 99 cents as the perfect gifts for Mothers Day!
M. Louisa Locke, May 6, 2015