Saturday, April 29, 2017 marked President Trump’s 100th day in office as well as the People’s Climate March, and there was a local climate march in Durango, Colorado, which I attended. My friend Hannah went with me, and since the sky was spitting snow at my house that morning, everyone had to dress warmly.
As you can hopefully see from that picture, some folks made large puppets to walk in, supporting the effort to power the American economy with 100% renewable energy, and there was a mix of professionally-made and homemade signs on display.
This was my favorite professional sign, art created in a similar design to the professional Women’s March signs used in displays on January 21 —
This was my favorite homemade sign, propped against a stroller at the gathering after the march in Buckley Park —
I love preschooler artwork like this. Totally great sign.
A lot of my friends attended this march, and I took pictures of some of them. Here is poet Mary Kate, with her puppy dog Cher (who is hiding behind Mary Kate’s preschool class sign), along with tireless LGBTQI advocate Anna (who made her original cloth Earth Day sign, attached to the snow shovel she’s carrying, 26 years ago) —
Here is my friend Dreamweaver, sporting a super-awesome hat a shaman made for her —
Here is a picture of me and Hannah, in front of one of the giant puppets who walked in the march —
As the final speaker told the crowd about the importance of minimalism and shared stories about how she grew up summitting tall mountain peaks all over the world, Hannah and I climbed the hill at Buckley Park, and I took this photograph of the people listening to the final speaker —
I don’t know what the final attendance numbers were, but there were at least 700 people there, probably more. It was a chilly morning, but the weather was pleasant despite the cool temperature. Overcast, but not pouring rain or dumping snow.
I turned 37 on Tuesday, May 2 (don’t I have such a great birthday? spring baby Taurus here, word), and since my two newest novels are still available for free, I wanted to share my current download counts for Kinned to the Sea and Bloodshade of the Goddess. Especially since Kinned to the Sea is ALL ABOUT climate change, and I just participated in this march.
The clear winner (no surprise) is Bloodshade of the Goddess, with 313 downloads. Kinned to the Sea, which debuted about six weeks after Bloodshade of the Goddess, has 183 downloads.
The free downloads have not created any new reviews, either on Amazon or on Goodreads. I have two diehard bestie-friendsies (also known as fans of my work who are my friends in real life) who have each reviewed both of these books, so when I see that Kinned to the Sea only has two Amazon reviews, even after being out for two months, all I can do is shrug and say, “This is why literary agents want nothing to do with mermaids.” The follow-up statement being, of course, that “mermaids don’t sell.” I don’t think climate change fiction sells, either. I had hoped this book would do a lot better, but the market has spoken, and in this case, the nay-sayers were right.
There is also a “common knowledge” idea out there among indie authors and people who promote indie books that the more titles an author generates, the more their readership will grow. I would like to say I have not found that to be true. Here has been my particular reality, concerning my books and my readership —
My husband bought about 60 copies of my first novel in paperback, which I gave away to people in the hopes of gaining reviews. Some of those people were strangers, some were friends, some were friends of friends. For my second novel, my husband bought far fewer paperback copies, about 20, and I gave those away. People who received free paperback books had a much better track record posting an Amazon review. People who received free ebooks also posted reviews, but the percentage was a lot smaller. I think about fifteen percent of the free paperback readers posted reviews, and about two percent of free ebook readers posted reviews.
For Mark of the Pterren, my book fans are solely responsible for all nine of my current Amazon reviews. I offered the free ebook to people, but hardly any of my friends or family wanted the ebook. I had a dedicated group of beta-readers who loved that book and promoted it, and that is why I have nine Amazon reviews for my third novel. (My husband and I cannot afford to buy any copies of this one. It’s a massive book, and expensive to purchase, and I need to prioritize saving up for a laptop, since mine died in November, and has not been replaced. Thank goodness my old desktop is still grinding away, or I’d really be in trouble.)
This brings me back to the fact my first novel, The Etiquette of Wolves, has 42 Amazon reviews, and my second novel, Love and Student Loans and Other Big Problems, has 16 Amazon reviews. Now, before you get all excited and assume that almost all 20 of my free paperback copies of Love and Loans earned me reviews, I must also make clear that a local book club chose Love and Loans for their monthly pick, and a number of those book club members bought the book and posted positive reviews. Before that happened, the book had nine or ten reviews. So the book club readers were a HUGE boost to my review count.
And I should also say that I know my diehard besties frequently spend money on my paperback books and ebooks, even though they can receive the ebooks and/or the paperbacks for free (when I can afford to buy the physical books for them) so beta-readers also cross into this category of being customers, despite the laborious work they put into these projects.
Here are the numbers I have right now on Amazon:
The Etiquette of Wolves (mystery): 42 reviews
Love and Student Loans and Other Big Problems (contemporary): 16 reviews
Mark of the Pterren (science fiction): 9 reviews
Bloodshade of the Goddess (urban fantasy): 3 reviews [*only available as an ebook]
Kinned to the Sea (YA fantasy): 2 reviews [*only available as an ebook]
In my opinion, having physical copies of books makes a huge difference in review counts. Most book clubs do not review ebooks, they want the paperback copy available. The vast majority of book clubs who meet in person, chat about books over wine, and post online reviews, tend to read what is called “women’s fiction” and shy away from science fiction, urban fantasy, and YA titles. (Note that I did not say “all” book clubs, but “the majority” of book clubs favor women’s fiction or historical women’s fiction, rocketing titles like Orphan Train and The Language of Flowers onto bestseller lists.)
On Goodreads, the YA fantasy genre, YA historical genre, and YA contemporary genre dominate the market in book sales and reviews. But it’s really hard to break into that market, for a large number of reasons. If ALL of my books were YA fantasy, I might be making some headway. But I suffer from the fact that I write across genres, so I cannot build a genre readership. I am a writer who must rely on my diehard besties and diehard fans for reviews, also known as people who are always game for my completely erratic stories, stories which have no logical coherency to bind them together other than the fact that I wrote them.
I’m not even helping myself right now, since I’m currently working on a historical fantasy at the moment — yet another genre jump that makes building a readership that much harder.
I wrote a query letter for this work in progress, and I’ve submitted this letter to be slashed — better known as “critiqued” free of charge — by author Mindy McGinnis on May 13. She slashed my query letter for Bloodshade of the Goddess last year, and she was willing to slash a new one for me, because she is awesome.
My letter is pasted below, and I welcome any feedback my Thought Candy readers might like to share. Just comment below, or use the Contact form on my website, if you don’t want to share publicly. Query letters have to be really short, and detail the plot without giving the ending away. They are complicated things to write. But I’m hoping that, this time, I can start the query process early, receive the results by the time the book is finished, and then (most likely) move forward with self-publishing from there.
If I had a good number of reviews for all of my self-published books, I could mention that in my letter. But unfortunately, my low review count would make a literary agent more likely to delete my letter, unread, so I have to leave my self-published books out of this letter. I have won no awards, and do not possess an MFA in creative writing, so there is no bio paragraph in this letter. Just the plot of the work in progress, and the comparative titles for marketing purposes, which all literary agents require.
Thanks for reading! And if any Thought Candy readers want to comment on this letter, your feedback is appreciated as well! ^.^
Warrior, wizard, slave: no matter how powerful Andre Hawthorne becomes, he knows only death can set him free. He is the property of Mara Tsaryov, the ruthless Witch of Shadowfall, named for the Lithuanian forest where she was born. Mara bought Andre as a child, bonded him to her with magic, trained him to guard and protect her—and now that he’s grown into a charismatic young man, Mara has fallen in love with him. But in 1790, an aristocrat of New Russia would never permit herself to fall in love with a black slave, a living piece of her property who doesn’t even desire her. Mara despises her feelings, and she longs to kill Andre to rid herself of her shame.
But this particular slave is too useful for Mara to kill, and her political schemes would be impossible without Andre’s skills. His magic protects her chateaux in the Carpathians, Mara’s favorite home and the seat of her power. Frustrated with Andre’s indifference, Mara decides to enhance her physical appearance, and dress to inspire his lust, in order to regain control of herself, and of him.
So when a gifted seamstress in Kiev loses her husband, and must sell herself into slavery to keep her family safe, Mara is only too happy to acquire this slave. A Mongolian witch raised by Cossacks, Sienna Katyev will never be as powerful as Mara—but Sienna has her own kind of indomitable strength. As she works alongside Andre inside Mara’s chateaux, the two become friends, and then lovers. If Mara knew how they felt, she would kill Sienna, so Andre begins using his magic to free her. The more secrets Andre must keep from Mara, the more perilous freeing Sienna becomes, as political intrigue and love bring Andre toward a violent confrontation he knows he can’t win.
The Shadowfall Witch (100,000 words) will appeal to fans of historical fantasy such as Juliet Marillier’s Heart’s Blood and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.