Happy almost Halloween, everyone. I have one of my short stories, “The Ghost of Gold and Grey,” available for a listen on Pseudopod, a horror podcast. I wrote it a few years ago, but was lucky enough to have it picked up for audio. This is the first time I’ve ever heard someone else reading my words aloud, so that’s pretty cool. My story starts around the 20 minute mark and the reader has a Scottish accent, which fits perfectly. There’s also lots of great stories by other authors who are on Team Mushens, aka have Juliet Mushens as their agent (save Edward Cox). If you’d rather read but not listen to it, it’s on my blog and Wattpad, too. My story is based on the WIP I’ve codenamed Betwixt Book, which I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog. Ghosts! A castle! The Scottish Highlands! My main character yelling a blasphemous curseword!
by Severity Chase, Richard Kellum, Laura Lam, Andrew Reid, Taran Matharu, & Edward Cox
A gaggle of new Flash Fiction to warm your heart and chill your bones…
Absolution by Severity Chase
Read by Khaalidaah Muhammed-Ali Severity is mystery.
My Daily Vampire by Richard Kellum
Read by Graeme Dunlop Richard’s not only an author (Fantasy/Horror) and daydreamer. he’s a fellow podcaster who, along with Chris Brosnahan (Who’s own serial you should totally be reading too), hosts Early Draft. He’s on twitter here and blogs at Elf-Machines From Hyperspace.
The Ghost of Gold and Grey by Laura Lam
Read by Tatiana Gomberg Laura, geek, author, Californian can be found on twitter here and she blogs here. Her upcoming books are False Hearts & Masquerade. Out now: Pantomime, Shadowplay & The Vestigial Tales.
Run Forever by Andrew Reid
Read by Joe Scalora Andrew Reid – Cook, climber, teacher, writer and one of the most fiercely articulate, creative people it’s my honour to know. He and I, along with Lou, survived redshirting World FantasyCon together last year. That may mean at some point we open a bar. We’ll let you know… Andrew blogs at My God It’s Raining and tweets here.
Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing by Taran Matharu
Read by Marguerite Kenner Taran, is the author of the popular book Summoner: The Novice (read 6 Million times and published in 11 languages) and can be found on twitter here.
Gravemaker by Edward Cox
Read by Alasdair Stuart Edward, author of THE RELIC GUILD and THE CATHEDRAL OF KNOWN THINGS can be found on twitter here and blogs here
And that’s our stories, supplied by The Mushens Agency. I’d like to thank all our narrators and authors for turning in stories that show just how diverse and vibrant a genre horror is.
The stars are right again, and what an age-old cult had failed to do, a band of innocent authors has accomplished. After vigintillions of years the Flash Fiction Contest is loose again, and ravening for delight. Each week, batches of stories will be released into gladiatorial pits to fight for supremacy. The floor will be churned to mud with the blood of the fallen until the mightiest stories remain for your delight and dread. Head over to the forums, take up your stone, and join us in the harvest festivals of the October Country.
It’s easy to be become a member. Sign up for a forum account and make a single post so we know you’re not a bot. This is a good thread to start with. From there, head over to “The Arcade” as the contest thread will not be visible until after you have made at least one post. Authors, encourage friends and families to come over and participate – you just can’t tell them which stories are yours. Visit our forums for rules and details.
Last June to September, I released a short story or novella every month and became a hybrid author. They are tie in short stories to my Micah Grey series, which were trade published by Strange Chemistry but will be re-released by Tor UK digitally this year and in paperback next year, with the conclusion in 2017. I designed the Vestigial Tales to be (hopefully) standalones that could be read in any order. For awhile, I was doing monthly roundups of sales, which proved fairly popular, but after about six months, sales were declining and the roundups were taking too much time.
I figured I’d do an updated list of numbers and some ruminations about what I learned from the experiment.
As of today, the stories have sold the following amounts:
Total Sales/Borrows per Story (until June 2015, which is the last payment period):
“The Snake Charm”: 198
“The Fisherman’s Net”: 163
“The Tarot Reader”: 120
“The Card Sharp”: 139
Total sales: 620 (a little under 2 a day on average)
The Cold Hard Cash:
Total Gross Income to Date: £485.88 ($760.28)
Costs: £132 for 10 ISBNs (I still have half of them)
Total Net Profit: £353.88 ($553.73)
Where I Sold Them:
Most of my sales were Amazon. On Smashwords I sold 60 in total of the above across all stories (25 of those were through Apple), but some sales were for free when I made the stories pay-what-you-want for a few months (one person paid me $5 a story–thank you whoever you are). There wasn’t that much uptick through Smashwords and the other distributors, so after a few months, I went back to being exclusively on Amazon in the hopes I’d get more borrows from Kindle Unlimited. I had a few, but not loads. Occasionally I made a story free on Amazon for a period and got a few hundred downloads each time, say 200 to 400. I do think a few of those led to sales of the other stories or the main novels. At the moment I’m not sure if I should keep them on Amazon or put them back on Smashwords as well, but not as pay-what-you-want as I don’t think Apple Books supports that. I could also maybe put them up on Wattpad too, as marketing for the main series.
What Marketing Did you Do?
Not a lot. Mainly just talking about it on social media sometimes and occasionally making them free or cheaper. I never paid for advertising. I did notice if I put a story down to 99 cents it didn’t change sales one whit. So if people wanted to buy it, they were okay with paying $2.99 for the longer stories.
Sales would be relatively strong initially and then tail off after a month or two. The Drystan stories (“The Snake Charm” and “The Card Sharp”) were marginally more popular, which isn’t too surprising, as he’s a favourite in the series. “The Tarot Reader” is my favourite of the stories, and the longest and therefore best value for the price, so it’s a bit of a shame it’s sold the least. “The Fisherman’s Net” is the shortest, so I’ve always kept it around the 99 cent price point.
Was it Worth it?
Yes and no. I have extra respect for all my publishers and agent do for me, definitely. I also learned a lot about design and self-publishing. I know how to format text into ebook without it looking terrible. It was a fun side project and I did like having control of the process and going at my own speed. Writing and putting these up kept me busy and helped my anxiety as I got ready to go on sub for False Hearts. It also helped me feel likeI hadn’t given up on Micah Grey, whose future was super uncertain then. That forward momentum made it much easier to go back and finish the first draft of Masquerade in the autumn of 2014. I learned that I have around 80-100 readers who will buy what I put out within a few weeks, which is nice. Thank you, loyal readers!
But for 60,000 words, £353/$553 is not a great wage by any stretch of the imagination. The minimum professional level is 5 cents a word, which would be around $3,000 for all stories combined. I so far have made 1/5th of that. If you compare my self-published income to my trade published income (which, sorry, I’m not going to post), the result is pretty ridiculously disparate, even if you factor it in per word. Self-publishing was not the magical honey pot in my experience, not that I expected it to be.
The Vestigial Tales are still there, though. Recently I’ve made maybe $10-20 per month, but this is the first month where it looks like I won’t make anything. When the Micah Grey series is back in ebook (in a few months!) and print, and after False Hearts comes out, they might start selling again and fund some coffees when I work in cafes.
No one would call the experiment a runaway success, but I also didn’t lose any money. I didn’t invest in editing (a group of beta readers helped me) and I’m very thankful to my friend and cover artist, Dianna Walla, for her amazing work. If I’d paid market rates for both, I’d still be in the hole financially over the Tales.
Would You Self Publish Again?
I don’t know. I do have another completed Vestigial Tale already that I wrote last year, called “The Mechanical Minotaur.” It’s about a little boy who finds a minotaur automaton that might be able to lead him to his mother. Think The Indian in the Cupboard meets boy Cinderella. There’s some hints in it to things that tie into the climax of Masquerade though, so it doesn’t stand on its own quite as well. I’m not sure what to do with it, really. *stares at story on hard drive*
I like writing shorter works between novels as palette cleansers. I have lots of ideas for other Vestigial Tales that I’d love to write on the side in between my books. Mystery novellas about a famed Shadow in Imachara around the time of Micah’s childhood, the story of the discovery of the Clockwork Woman in Pantomime, and there’s a new character in Masquerade I really like even though he’s not in it that much. He’d be a good candidate for his own story. I made a pretty detailed world for the series and I have a lot of fun dipping back into it. But who knows.
For the moment, I’m focusing my attention on my books under contract and plotting out others to pitch. The recent Amazon payout system change seems to have gutted a lot of self-publishers’ income too, which is another shame. Not as easy to put up short work and get a kickback any more.
So there’s the one year update of my Vestigial Tales. Feel free to check them out (they’re free for Prime members to borrow and I get paid per page read). I can always use another cup of coffee. 😉
As many authors put up entries on award eligibility, I figured I’d do it, too, just in case anyone wishes to nominate my work:
Shadowplay, January 2014, Strange Chemistry Books
“They Swim Through Sunset Seas” in Solaris Rising 3, August 2014, Solaris Books
If self-published work is eligible for anything:
“The Snake Charm,” June 2014, Penglass Publishing (novelette)
“The Fisherman’s Net,” July 2014, Penglass Publishing (short story)
“The Tarot Reader,” August 2014, Penglass Publishing (novella)
“The Card Sharp,” September 2014, Penglass Publishing (novelette)
(Note: the Vestigial Tales are on sale for 99 cents each on Amazon and pay-what-you-want on Smashwords. Feel free to download them for free if you’re short on funds, or if you can, buy them for the price of a cup of coffee. Purchase links here.)
Quite nice to see a wee list of all I published last year. A few things to come in 2015, too! 🙂
Favourite book read in January: either City of Dragons by Robin Hobb or In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters.
February 2014: Licked my wounds, battled depression and anxiety, and kept promoting Pantomime & Shadowplay. I went down to Newcastle for the North East Teen Book Awards, which ended up being very, very timely. I’d been tempted to take a writing hiatus (because I knew I could never quit completely), and here were teens saying my books were some of their favourites of all time, wanting to take photos and have my sign things, and just in general being so sweet and so enthusiastic about books and reading. I came back and threw myself into the new project I’d been editing. I’d finished the first draft at the end of November 2013, and after some great beta reader comments, I was working on turning it into a workable draft. I called it Bonkers Book on social media. I also announced the Vestigial Tales, or my plan to self-publish some short stories/novellas set in the same world as the Micah Grey series. I also had an Aberdeen launch at Waterstones for Shadowplay, and was really touched by how many people came out for it. I seemed pretty on top of things. Behind the scenes, I was still a mess, though I was getting myself together.
Favourite book read in February: Unteachable by Leah Raeder.
March 2014: I’d been approached to write a short story for an anthology and in March I was able to announce it as Fablecroft Press did a funding drive for the Cranky Ladies of History, which blasted through its goals. I also got to participate in Robin Hobb’s worldwide scavenger hunt (post with pictures illustrating the clues), and am now friends with the girl who found my present, Louise, and we meet for coffee occasionally. I found out Pantomime had been nominated for the Bisexual Book Award—yay! I went to my friend Rhona McKinnon’s wedding and danced at my first-ever ceilidh.
Favourite book read in March: The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill.
April 2014: There were some good events for #LGBTApril I participated in. I went to my first convention of the year—Eastercon, in Glasgow. As the conventions are usually in England, it was nice to only have to travel 2 hours to get to one, for once! I was on my first panel. I had fun but it was also a difficult convention, as my mental health was still patchy. There was more ceilidh dancing. I finished editing Bonkers Book and was working on the Vestigial Tales. Laya drew her first (of what proved to since be many) fan art pieces, and I also received some fan mail. I was so touched I wrote an emotional thank you to readers. I finished editing Bonkers Book & sent it to my agent and worked on the Vestigial Tales.
Favourite book read in April: This was a good reading month so I had three: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, and Cress by Marissa Meyer.
Favourite book read in June: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
July 2014 aka THE MONTH MY LIFE CHANGED: Vestigial Tales: I posted a roundup of “The Snake Charm” and its first month sales, launched “The Fisherman’s Net,” shared “The Tarot Reader’s” blurb and cover, and went on the local radio. Tor/Macmillan offered pre-emptively on Bonkers Book aka False Hearts, changing my life. It was right before a big work audit and I was trying to concentrate on spreadsheets while internally screaming with glee. The press release went live on July 25th. I told work I wanted to stop working full-time. My friend Erica came out to visit from California.
Favourite book read in July: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier and Natural Causes by James Oswald.
August 2014 aka THE MONTH OF ALL THE CONS: Vestigial Tales: I posted my month 2 roundup of being a hybrid author, launched “The Tarot Reader,” and unveiled the cover and blurb for “The Card Sharp.” Erica and I took a day trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. I went to Nine Worlds in London and had a great time—definitely my favourite con of the year. I went to some other London events such as the Broken Monsters launch for Lauren Beukes and the Fantasy in the Court event at Goldsboro Books, where I got to meet some people from my new publisher, like my editor Julie Crisp, for the first time. Then it was time for another convention, Loncon3. I went back to Aberdeen, exhausted.
Favourite book read in August: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.
September 2014: Vestigial Tales: another monthly roundup and launching the last of the Tales (for now), “The Card Sharp.” The cons weren’t over! I journeyed down to York for Fantasycon. My husband and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary/10 years of being together. I did some events for #WriteCity in Aberdeen, doing both public events and school visits throughout the city. I started my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen and began reducing my hours slightly at work. I was able to announce that False Hearts will be published in the US through Tor/Forge and in Italy through Fanucci Editore. Peter F. Hamilton blurbed the book (!), calling it: “A smart debut from someone who’s clearly got what it takes.” I went down to Winchester for Amy Alward’s beautiful wedding. I became a British citizen!
Favourite book read in September: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes.
October 2014, or THE MONTH OF NO FREE TIME: I did my full-time masters. I did more school visits. I worked around 30 hours a week at the day job. I tried to write, but that didn’t really happen. Pantomime was listed as Gay YA’s October Book of the Month and they did lots of great promotion. I managed to post another Vestigial Tale monthly roundup. I really missed sleep and free time, but by the end of the month, my replacement had started and been trained and I dropped down to around 12 hours a week for work. I finished the first draft of Masquerade, finally.
Favourite book read in October: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (for uni).
Favourite book read in November: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, with an honourable mention to the Complete Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Mather.
December 2014: I finished up the first semester of my Masters degree. I went to London for my agent’s Christmas party. I went to the Isle of Arran on my first-ever writing retreat with Elizabeth May and Emma Trevayne, editing Masquerade for beta readers. I waited to hear about *stuff* and tried to be patient (and failed). I was called back into the day job almost full-time for a little bit. Stress. Stress. Stress. Aaaaand relax. Got ready for Christmas. Ate all the food. Now: reading, watching a lot of TV and slowly editing what I wrote of Brainfreeze Book and sorting through Masquerade beta comments.
Favourite book read in December: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.
I have a short story in the upcoming anthology from Fablecroft press, The Cranky Ladies of History, about a very cranky french pirate, Jeanne de Clisson, in the 1300s. Here’s the full table of contents. There’s some rather familiar names on there for me, which still tickles me: Jane Yolen, Garth Nix, Juliet Marillier, Nisi Shawl, Kaaron Warren, Foz Meadows, and more. I’m looking forward to sharing the story with you all soon.
Background if you’re new to my blog: I’m self-publishing some short stories/novellas set in the same world as my Micah Grey series (Pantomime & Shadowplay). There’s going to be a bit of delay in getting the third book to market (hopefully the Kickstarter will go live next month), and so these will hopefully help break up the wait and teach me about the process.
So this month saw the launch of “The Tarot Reader,” the third Vestigial Tale, and I also made the first one, “The Snake Charm,” free for 5 days.
Sales still kept ticking along. I had an upswing on Tarot’s launch day, and another near the end of Nine Worlds – maybe people who went to my workshop purchased some? Loncon didn’t seem to have any impact on sales. If anything, they went down during those days.
Putting up Snake Charm for free was fun. Loads of people downloaded it, so I’m hoping over the next few months I’ll get more reviews, and that some who downloaded the first one go onto purchase the others.
And now, the numbers!
Paid (Amazon): 87
Borrowed (Amazon): 0 (interesting, as Kindle Unlimited went live recently)
Paid (Smashwords): 0
Total for August: 87
Total Sales to Date: 263
“The Snake Charm” at $2.99: 14
“The Snake Charm” free as part of the Kindle Select promotion: 395
“The Fisherman’s Net”: 29
“The Tarot Reader”: 44
Total Gross Income for August: £78.52
Total Gross Income to Date: £217.06 ($358.81)
Costs: £132 for 10 ISBNs
Total Net Profit: £85.54 ($140.61)
The graph with the free units selected. Makes the rest of it look hilarious.
Graph with the free units de-selected.
Reviews as of today:
“The Snake Charm” on GR: 37 ratings (20 reviews)
“The Snake Charm” on Amazon: 7 (US), 9 (UK)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on GR: 15 ratings (8 reviews)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on Amazon: 1 (US), 1 (UK)
“The Tarot Reader” on GR: 12 ratings (5 reviews)
“The Tarot Reader” on Amazon: 1 (US), 0 (UK)
As ever, if you’ve read the stories, please please consider leaving a review, especially for Fisherman & Tarot on Amazon. They’re looking a bit lonely.
So far I’ve published around 40,000 words of fiction and made $140 in profit. So, self-publishing is not paying much, technically. However, the £132 was going to be spent anyway for the Kickstarter. $140 is a fair chunk of the cover costs for Micah Grey 3. And also, this is only 3 months in. I can offer these stories for free for promotions or as rewards for the Kickstarter. I’ve learned a lot about self-publishing, and I’ve enjoyed having control over the side project. Writing more about Cyan and Drystan has already made book 3’s first draft stronger. Sales may stay reasonably steady. I might still make the odd dollar or two off these in 10 years. Writing is all about the long tail.
This month I received partial payment for June’s sales – the $61 I made in the US is in my account, with the small Australian/Canadian payments pending. Nothing UK yet–I think you have to reach a threshold of around £150 before you’re paid or something?
In non-self-publishing news: I received payment for my short story in Solaris Rising 3. I’ve received my contracts for False Hearts and the option book, which has the code name of Brainfreeze Book, so I might be paid for that some time in September. I also have 4 creative writing workshops in September and 2 in October throughout Aberdeen. There’s also other cool things behind the scenes I can’t talk about yet.
Next month’s goals: Put up “The Card Sharp,” the final Vestigial Tale to be released this year. Put “The Snake Charm” up on Smashwords because the Kindle exclusive period is up. Research and start planning the Micah Grey 3 Kickstarter. Work a lot on Micah Grey 3, which is getting somewhat close to finished. Keep plotting and researching Brainfreeze Book.
And so I unveil the last cover and blurb of the Vestigial Tales to be released separately this year.
I started this project with a Drystan short story, and so I’m ending it with a Drystan novella: “The Card Sharp.” As before, this is probably best read after Pantomime & Shadowplay to know his character most fully, but you can quite easily read it as a standalone as well, if you don’t mind some minor spoilers into the character’s past. This is set before “The Snake Charm,” as well, and tells the story of what happened to Drystan after he left home but before he joined the circus.
Now I have to finish editing it! Because my schedule has been thrown off by travel and conventions, I don’t anticipate this one going live before mid-September.
Without further ado…
Untold centuries ago, the Archipelago was ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artefacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Sometimes, a person will be lucky or unlucky enough to discover that each piece of Vestige has its own tale to tell…
The Card Sharp
“He always mourned that moment, when the high began to fade. It was like he moved from who he wanted to be to having to face the reality of who he was. He’d rather feel supernatural. More than Drystan Hornbeam, a seventeen-year-old-boy who had made a lot of foolish mistakes and didn’t seem to be changing his habits anytime soon.”
Before Drystan became the White Clown of R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, he was a Lerium addict struggling on the streets of Imachara. When a mysterious woman gives him a chance at a new life, he takes it, even if it means falling even deeper into the dark underbelly of the capital of Ellada. Drystan knows that selling Lerium to the powerful men and women who bet at the high stakes card tables is perilous, especially when he still battles his own addictions. Yet when he meets a man who can help him learn to cheat at cards and swindle them out of enough money to start a new life, he dives headfirst into more danger.
Vestigial Tales are stories set in the world of the award-winning Micah Grey series. Step behind the circus ring from Pantomime, the theatre of Shadowplay, and more…