Archive for December, 2014

My last blog for the year

Posted: December 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s 12/31/2014, the last day of the year. I’m sure this isn’t news for most of you.

Overall, it’s been an incredible year of writing. I’ve published three books, and honestly, I’d hoped for it to have been four or more, but since I’m nearing the end of the first book of The Xenoworld Saga, that means that will just be more books for you guys in 2015.

The highlights were quitting my day job in March (woohoo!), finishing The Wasteland Chronicles in June, and finally figuring out what the follow-up series would be about, something I wrung my hair about for a good two months after several false starts. There were a couple of dark spots, including a major knock on my sales with the debut of Kindle Unlimited. Thankfully, I’m still earning more than enough to make a comfortable living and I had an incredible beginning half of the year, but it’s taught me that things can change swiftly and that I always need to be on my toes about promoting and releasing new books.

I’m approaching 2015 with cautious optimism. The landscape has changed a lot, and competition will be a lot stiffer. My dream would be to write and finish The Xenoworld Saga over 2015. Depending on how much people like it, I could see it going for as long as seven books.

My main plan is to get three books out quickly: Books 1 and 2 of Xenoworld, along with an omnibus of Wasteland Chronicles. I’m currently reworking a revised edition of Apocalypse  with additional content, but it’s still far from ready. I hope to have it done and out by January.

As far as the first book of Xenoworld, pie in the sky would be late January, and the depends a lot of stars aligning, but February is a more realistic date. Book 2 shouldn’t come out long after, because I’ve already written a lot of material for it.

This December has been a really nice surprise. Apple selected Apocalypse for a free first in series promotion, and since then, the first book has been flying off the virtual shelf (currently about 6,000 downloads on Apple alone). It is a very nice way to end the year and I’m glad the series is reaching new readers.

All in all it’s been an amazing year of writing, and I’m hoping 2015 will be even better.

I’m starting to realize this is a little too long, now. My hope for today is to write, write, write until I’m done. It’s getting there, but it’s going to be another 10,000 words or so. I want to start with the edits as soon as possible so I can begin the process of fixing this mess.

In other news, an Apple promotion has completely changed my fortunes on iTunes. Apocalypse before the promotion was seeing 10-20 free downloads a day. After this promotion (which ran on the 20th or the 19th, I can’t remember), it’s been the second most downloaded free sci-fi book on iTunes, and in the top 10 of all science fiction and fantasy. This is great news, because I’ve had difficulties securing other promotions on Apocalypse (which might have a lot to do with how disproportionally represented one stars are on the book’s Amazon sales page). Apple reviewers have been much kinder to me, and I’m happy to see that Apple, as a company, is willing to push indies like myself.

Apocalypse is now getting around 250-300 downloads a day on Apple – about 5-6 times the amount I’m currently getting on Amazon. I couldn’t be happier and I hope it leads to new fans finding the series (as I’m sure it will). If you are one of those people, let me know! I’m not sure how long the promotion will last, but until then, I’m glad to see the series getting some much needed exposure.

Anyway, it’s a great way to end off what has been, overall, a really excellent year. I’ll probably write a another post later, analyzing my year in depth, because it’s been a year of a lot of changes. I hope 2015 is just as good, though of course I’m going to work to make it even better. Personally, 2015 will be the year of the Xenoworld Saga. I hope to finish the series in 2015, which is probably going to shape up in being just as long as The Wasteland Chronicles (unless people just think it’s horrible, but hopefully that’s not the case).

I also expect 2015, from an author’s perspective, to be far more competitive year than 2014. Kindle Unlimited really messed things up for a lot of authors. I’ve had requests to enroll my books in it, but this is something I will never do unless it becomes absolutely necessary (something I don’t believe will happen).

Why? Simply put, to be in Kindle Unlimited, I have to be exclusive to Amazon, which means people who prefer using iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google, or other sites to read my books would just be out of luck, and I don’t think that’s fair to them. Secondly, I think I stand to gain more benefit from publishing wide rather than tall. For example, I wouldn’t have gotten this promotion with Apple had I chosen to be exclusive to Amazon. And third, now that KU has been out for about half a year, while it’s great for readers who are saving money, in general it’s bad for authors…even authors like myself, who aren’t even in the program, because my book might be passed over in favor of something that is enrolled. When you add in the Amazon rankings, a lot of books that would not have been ranked ahead of me, that now get more downloads because they are enrolled in KU, makes my books get pushed down further, which decreases visibility.

Though I haven’t released a new book for my longest time yet, I did notice a marked decrease in sales right around the time KU debuted. I believe as long as I work hard and release books, I will have a good chance of being able to do what I love…but of course, in this business, there are no guarantees. Things change in a flash, and one change can make the difference between a really excellent month and one that isn’t so great.

And last of all, I believe that indies should be treated the same as traditionally published authors regarding payouts. Traditionally published authors get a percentage of the retail price of their books, while indies only get around $1.40 (depending on the month, though the general trend has been getting less and less each month…whether this remains the case is still to be seen). No matter how long the book is, or what the retail price of it is, the payout is the same. A $.99 story that’s only 5,000 words is paid the same amount as a 75,000 word book marked at $5.99, which makes absolutely no sense.

That’s why I publish everywhere I can, and anytime I get a reader who requests I publish somewhere else, I try to do everything I can to make it happen. It’s gotten a lot harder to sell books on Amazon for many authors, and not just myself. This is why I think 2015 is going to be a tough year to find new readers. As prices come down and down, there will be less room for less authors to make a living, and it will become especially hard for new authors to break through. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to break through now. I’m lucky to have found a following at a time where it was more possible (but still very competitive).

How is an author to survive, then? Write lots of books that people want to read. That’s it, and that’s what I have in mind every day as I sit down to work.

Well, that’s enough rambling. I should probably get back to work.

138,000 words…and still counting

Posted: December 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s getting close guys, I promise. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope for the first draft to wrap up in another 20,000 words or so. I know I said that 20,000 words ago, but things just keep happening and I have to write them as they come.

It’s getting closer, though, to that final action sequence, and I couldn’t be more excited with the way this book is turning out. I’ll have to re-balance the beginning to match and tweak a few scenes, but I’m just ready for the writing phase to be done and the editing phase to being.

I added a new Xenoworld Saga link the top of my blog for those interested in further information on the series. I had this whole thing written out, but so many details are still subject to change that I don’t want people to think a certain element will be incorporated when, in actuality, I might decide to take it out last minute.

Honestly, I think Prophecy (the working title of book one) has the potential to be better than The Wasteland Chronicles. I’m allowing myself to take more time and really build the world, which should make for a richer reading experience. There will be plenty of action and twists as well, as might be expected of a Kyle West novel.

I actually think it’s kind of cool that I’ve written such a long book so far. At the beginning of this project, I was aiming for 70,000 words. In retrospect, that feels kind of funny. It’s hard to believe I’ve almost doubled that by now.

I expect it to top out at around 160,000 words, and who knows what edits will do. In most of my books, edits made the book about twenty percent shorter, so there’s that to consider as well.

Ultimately, though the book has taken longer to read, there will also be a lot more of a book to read.

Overall, I’m liking the new direction, and I hope you guys, too. I guess the true test will come on release day, eh?

Two years self-publishing

Posted: December 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

This day two years ago, I published Apocalypse for the first time. Since then, it’s been a crazy and rewarding journey of self-publishing. Since then, I’ve written and published seven books with an eighth on the way. Since then, The Wasteland Chronicles books have seen over 50,000 downloads. Most of those downloads have been this year.

It’s crazy to imagine how self-publishing has allowed a lot of people to publish books on their own, and not only that, do much better than they would had they signed with a traditional publisher. It’s not just the much more generous royalties, though that is a big part. It’s the control over your vision. No one is going to care about the story as much as the writer does. It’s amazing to me that I’m completely unhindered in how much I want to write. I can write as many Wasteland Chronicles books as I want, and I’m not beholden to anyone but myself and my readers. It’s amazing that I have the freedom to write another series set in the far future after the the main series has concluded. If I want, I could write side stories for some of the characters in the old series. I could write about about any time period in the Wasteland universe.

Even in the days where I wasn’t earning enough to support myself, I was still making something low three-figures every month. Then, as I kept publishing books, the checks got a bit bigger until I was paying my rent with them. Then, it reached critical mass when it got an important BookBub feature and since then, I’ve been earning to support myself and write full-time.

I’m not the only one, either. There are hundreds of writers out there – and probably even thousands – making decent money from self-publishing, whether that’s a few hundred dollars a month or even into the tens of thousands. Never a day goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to be doing this, or how lucky I am to have such amazing readers. The Wasteland Chronicles is a bit weird. I try to think of what genre it is. The obvious one is sci-fi, but more specifically, post-apocalyptic, but there are also strong elements of fantasy and a dash of horror. There are zombie-ish things in it, but it’s not a zombie novel. It’s its own thing. It’s hard to imagine that there would be a publisher that would have taken it, just because it is kind of weird, genre-wise, but I think what I like most about self-publishing is it lets the readers decide what they like and what they don’t. There have been plenty of people who haven’t cared for my series, but there are also many that have loved it, and it’s for those people that I’m writing.

All I have to say is, I wouldn’t be here unless without the people who have supported me. That’s my readers, friends, family, mentors, other writers, and anyone else I’m not thinking of. If any of us stands anywhere, it’s because someone helped put us there. And a lot of people – thousands, if you count every person who’s read my series – have put me where I am today.

All I can do is keep writing, and hopefully keep writing the stories you guys want to read. My current work in progress is the longest thing I’ve ever written. By the time I’m finished, it will probably be twice as long as a typical Wasteland Chronicles book. It’s taking a few risks, but after working on it for months, I think I’ve found the main storyline that’s going to be the heart of the series, along with the twists and turns along the journey (as there will be quite a few).

The first draft will probably be done within a couple of weeks. I plan on working on it every day until it’s finished (and I also plan on adding a preview section to my blog for those interested, that describes the world a bit).

Thanks for reading, and here’s to another year!

Passed 100,000

Posted: December 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

I should’ve updated here a few days ago, but I passed the 100,000 word mark last week. I’m seeing the ending sequence now and it’s amazing how much easier it is to write when you know at least something about how it’s going to end. I wouldn’t say it’s a magic pill by any means, but it at least gives your characters a path to walk in order to make it there. I’m glad that it’s going to be ending in a lot of action, because there’s parts of the book that go a little too slow for my taste, but we’ll see about fixing that when the editing starts.

My guess is the first draft should be finished in a couple of weeks or so. Maybe even one week. Then it’ll be onto editing. The first read through is always the hardest because it sees the most changes, but it gets better after that.

I think for now I’m pretty settled on naming the series Xenoworld. It seems fitting because at the end of The Wasteland Chronicles, it’s implied that humanity and the alien Elekai are to share the planet as the wait out the four hundred years for the Radaskim to return. The world really isn’t Earth anymore, at least not Earth as it was to begin with. A lot happens in those four hundred years, but anyone familiar with history knows it just repeats itself. One of the fun parts of writing the book was coming up with a detailed timeline of everything that happens leading up to the events of the novel. It was interesting to see how the human Elekai descendants shaped history, along with other people, such as Augustus and his sons and Onyx Black. A hundred years after the events of WC, though, things start to get pretty unrecognizable. After two hundred years, it gets even weirder (but hopefully in a way that makes sense). All that fun stuff I’m being very vague about will reveal itself in the book.

As far as an actual book title…I’m not really sure, yet. What’s weird is, all the book titles for WC seemed to come to me naturally, but besides the series title, nothing has really has come forth. The main idea holding the book together is sort of the connection between the future world and the past world (no, not time travel, though that would be cool), so the title might have something to do with that. I’m really excited for the future books as well, which will have some pretty bizarre ideas as well. I’m hoping for two more books, and I should definitely hit that. WC was supposed to be just three books, and around the time of Evolution I sort of realized there was no way it could be told in three. Maybe the same thing will happen here (unless, of course, it’s a big steaming pile of poo, in which case I’ll try my hand at something else). I’m all too aware that I could be writing a stinker, but hopefully that is not the case.

I say that because this book is different in a lot of ways, which is a bit of a risk on my part. But rather than try to mimic WC in style and tone, I wanted to try something different. The pacing will be a bit slower, because the world is a lot deeper and it takes a bit of time for that to shine through. It leans more fantasy than sci-fi…one of the more interesting aspects of the WC universe is that it starts very sci-fi, and ends in something more fantastical (those dragons just came out of nowhere, I swear). Similarly, the world of the next four centuries goes from one based on advanced technology (such as the Bunkers and tech from the Old World) to one of fantasy (one based on the biology and power of the xenovirus, and the ability of the Elekai to harness that power). Old tech will still come about in the book, but it will be rare and only used by the elites. The world for the most part is low tech, with some exceptions – humanity is never able to fully rebuild what they have lost, for various reasons – but at the same time, technology branches in a different direction that emphasizes alien biology more so than building more advanced machinery. And all the complications that entails. I guess it’s just a weird amalgamation of both fantasy and sci-fi, but I hope to explain everything well enough to where the fantasy seems like something that could really happen.

It’ll just be whatever it’s supposed to be. I think it has the potential to be better than WC, but it’s also going to be a bit more complicated, so we’ll see how that goes.

Oh, and the main character is a female. I’ve never written anything from a female perspective, but in my writing experience, the moment you say you can’t write a character because of who you are is when you’re severely limiting yourself. As long as we believe we’re capable of doing something, it’s amazing how much we can pull off. So, there’s that. I’m sort of operating under the assumption that writing a female character isn’t too much different from a male one, at least where motivations are concerned. How those motivations manifest themselves socially are another matter, especially in a culture that’s different from modern day America.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Time for sleep.