The Renegade Chronicles
- Rebels and Fools: $3.99 $2.99
- Heroes and Liars: $3.99 $2.99
- Martyrs and Monsters: $3.99 $2.99
Or get all three—plus an extensive appendix detailing the people, places, and peculiarities of Altaerra—for $4.99!
Or get all three—plus an extensive appendix detailing the people, places, and peculiarities of Altaerra—for $4.99!
For a “word guy,” I sure geek out on numbers.
This left-brained gravitation came in handy when putting together my 2016 business plan. And now, more than a full year later, I’m in a position to evaluate how close reality aligned to the strategy.
Because when it comes to collecting data, I err on the side of ridiculous.
Maybe it’s because the craft—the art of writing—is largely subjective. Sure, there are rules for composition and standards for publication, but (ahem) renegade books still may rise to the top. Other than word counts and number of pages, there just isn’t much room for figures.
But other aspects of my writing—the business of writing—are easy to quantify. For example:
Going into 2016, I knew I would publish all three novels of The Renegade Chronicles in both paperback and e-book versions as well as a digital-only complete collection. Back in late 2015, I had included publishing Magic’s Daughter, a standalone fantasy novel set in the same world as the trilogy (Altaerra), as a stretch goal.
While that didn’t happen, I did produce a free e-book companion to The Renegade Chronicles, Capricon and Beyond, bringing my total to five.
As a goal, this turned out to be a pretty straightforward success. But sales are another story.
Rebels and Fools (paperback)
Rebels and Fools (e-book)
Heroes and Liars (paperback)
Heroes and Liars (e-book)
Martyrs and Monsters (paperback)
Martyrs and Monsters (e-book)
The Renegade Chronicles (Collection)
Clearly, I fell short of my goals here. The only milestone I met—and surpassed—was the sale of Martyrs and Monsters in paperback. Not so surprisingly, the deficit in sales directly impacted income.
Ouch. And the shortfall in paperbacks wasn’t nearly as bad as the disappointing number of e-book sales because I earn far more royalties for an e-book than I do for a printed version. (No printing costs mean more money in my pocket.)
And then there’s the money coming out of my pocket…
Double ouch. For the record, many of these expenses were a result of setting up my business (One Million Words LLC), not necessarily the publishing of my novels, though there were costs associated with that as well.
Moreover, I ended up ordering more copies of the book to sell at events than I had thought I would. Some of that I recouped, but I have a couple hundred dollars in inventory on hand at the moment, thanks to a certain snowstorm that won’t be named. (OK, it was Bailey.)
You don’t have to be a mathematician to calculate how the above numbers affect profit.
Fact: most new businesses don’t make a profit their first year, so maybe breaking even (or coming out just above that) was too optimistic. Yet I ended up much farther afield than I would have liked.
So what went wrong? Perhaps I just didn’t work hard enough?
Nope, I wasn’t slacking. Maybe I didn’t put enough time into what matters, such as marketing.
It became obvious early on that a single hour of marketing per week wasn’t going to accomplish much. And even a novice entrepreneur understands that marketing directly impacts sales. Yet after investing more than three times what I had originally allocated to marketing, why weren’t readers finding—and buying—my book?
What did I miss?
You may be wondering, “What’s Phase 2?” Well, when I saw that sales were sluggish, I did a bunch of research and came up with a plan to boost them. That’s when I decided to put out the free compendium e-book.
For the record, here is how the rest of my time shook out:
* Additional hours for this project were expended in 2015.
** I donated some of my One Million Words time helping a friend publish his memoirs. More on that in the days ahead…
I spent more than a quarter of my time (26.77%) on marketing communications, including a gamut of channels to try to connect to my target demographic. That’s only slightly less time than I spent on actual writing! Only publishing (The Renegade Chronicles novels and the compendium) consumed more hours in 2016.
Which means I must be one lousy book marketer, huh?
Maybe. But in my defense, I also took a grassroots (read: cheap) approach to marketing. Sure, a business needs to spend money to make money, but there are entirely too many ways for an author to flush away what little startup capital he has. If I’m going to invest a penny in a service, I demand demonstrated ROI.
To date, I have yet to find a surefire method for rising above the noise—er, competition—to reach with the right readers. And yet if I don’t do something to draw attention to my books, they’ll remained buried beneath Amazon’s algorithm along with hundreds, if not thousands, of similar products.
But wait, sales don’t reflect the total number of people who have read my book…
Rebels and Fools (e-book)
Capricon and Beyond (e-book)
The idea was this: If I made Book 1 free to download, folks who enjoyed it would pay actual money to read the rest of the series. One can come to a number of conclusions as to why this didn’t happen. Maybe they didn’t like Rebels and Fools very much.
Or maybe people who like free books like them because they don’t have to pay for them…and with so many complimentary promos going on any given time, they’ll be elbow deep in free reads for eternity.
Examining the time and money I put into marketing and then making informed decisions based on the data is my priority. But I started One Million Words not only to sell books, but also to write new ones.
Learning that I could crank out a book in 190 hours was very eye-opening. Granted, it’s the third book in a series (The Soul Sleep Cycle), so some of the heavy lifting had already been done prior to plotting out If Dreams Can Die. But it does raise a series of interesting questions:
One thing is for certain. I have plenty to ponder as I close the books, so to speak, on 2016.
Or a book for someone who has read everything?
Add a little more magic to someone’s holiday with autographed copies of The Renegade Chronicles, my sword-and-sorcery fantasy series. As a featured artist at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin’s downtown art walk, I will be signing Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters.
I’ll even include a personalized message to the reader in your life; just call me Santa’s little helper.
Friday, December 16, 2016
5 to 8 p.m.
Wood’s Floral & Gifts, 36 N. Main St., Fond du Lac, Wis.
If you already own any of The Renegade Chronicles, I’ll be happy to sign them. I’ll also have a few copies of all three novels for sale—maybe more than a few if I benefit from a Christmas miracle and my new order arrives before Friday.
Fantasy not your thing? Feel free to stop by and just chat. The art walk is free, so if you ever wondered what it’s like to be an author, I welcome questions. I might do a short reading from Rebels and Fools at some point in the evening.
You can support other artists too, including Alan Hathaway, a talented potter and very good friend of mine. See the full roster of artists, where they will be, and more info about Tour the Town here.
Here’s to happy holidays for all and an exciting new year!
Unsure whether The Renegade Chronicles is right for you? Check your compatibility here.
Blind dates are the worst. Maybe it’s human nature to want to know as much as we can before we commit—even if only for an evening.
The same can be said for books.
Our time is precious. We’ve all
romanced read wonderful books before, novels that grab us by the heart and won’t let go. But there’s no guarantee the next plot you pick up will be a keeper. And if you’re judging a book by its cover alone, you’re bound to stumble onto dull, infuriating, or otherwise awful stories.
Banner ads and back-of-the-book synopses give only a glimpse at a novel’s personality. Often we crave more. Reviews help, though in some cases, that can be like asking the ex’s opinion of a prospective partner. Beware of bias.
Fortunately, we live in the 21st century. We have the internet. If you’re looking for a book to pal along with at the beach, a companion for your next weekend at the cabin, or someone with whom to share a rainy night, you’d better do a little research.
I can’t promise 29 dimensions of compatibility, but the following “dating profile” for my fantasy series is as earnest and true as anything on the web.
The Renegade Chronicles
I’m sometimes called TRC for short. I also go by #Renegades on social media.
Some days, I compartmentalize and take the form of three individual paperback or e-book novels (Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters). Other times, I put all of myself out there as a three-in-one e-book collection.
I’m sword-and-sword fantasy, through and through. With me you get knights, wizards, pirates, priests, assassins, thieves, and monsters.
I’m a sucker for imagination, the supernatural, suspense, life-and-death situations, politics, battle, and acts of bravery. (But perfect heroes bore me. Everyone has flaws.)
Also, I love me some plot twists.
I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, which can be scary for some. Maybe I’m a bit of an excitement junky because I prefer high stakes.
Having said all that, I also have a healthy sense of humor. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I’m not afraid to throw out a joke every now and then.
I have a lot to say, so if you like sprawling narratives that encompass many people and places, I’m the fantasy story for you. Not to boast, but my battle scenes are pretty thrilling (though not too vivid), and dialogue with me always comes off as natural.
At the end of the day, I bring the fun. Setting, pathos, narrative arc—these things are important, but I want you to enjoy the adventure, every step of the way. Pacing is important. I prefer the right level of “epic”—not as academic as Tolkien or exhaustive as George R.R. Martin. I’ll make you think…but not too hard.
I promise I won’t spend an entire page describing a leafy glen.
I’ve been told that getting to know me can be a little challenging at first, but with a little patience (a handful of chapters, say), you’ll see I have a lot to offer. Chances are you won’t want to let me go.
Oh, and while I put a lot about myself out there over the course of three novels, there are some secrets I’m just not willing to share up front. I’m hoping to find someone who wants to get to know me for the long haul—in which case, I’ll be more than happy to provide future stories to fill in the blanks.
Readers who love invincible protagonists should look elsewhere. This is a rebellion, people. Dashed dreams, injuries, and fatalities come with the territory. I’m kind of complicated that way; while some characters will find happy endings, others…well…won’t.
I’m thankful for:
Folks who can appreciate a layered story with a large cast of characters in a world filled with shades of gray. (I’m speaking of morality, not the best-selling erotica novel. I’m not at all kinky; I prefer romance to be understated.)
Qualities of an ideal
Did you grow up with Harry Potter? Are you ready to take the next step in the fantasy genre with a more mature match? If so, I think we’d be magical together.
Or maybe you’ve never looked twice at a book with a dragon on the cover. Maybe you’ve always thought fantasy seemed a little childish. I’m here to tell you that you’re never too old for a fun, action-packed story populated with relatable characters. If you’re a fantasy virgin, don’t worry. We’ll take it slow.
If you’ve strayed away from fantasy over the years, I won’t judge. I’m a great rebound series.
Another fun fact about blind dates: it’s a lot of fun to set up a friend on one. So why not forward a link to this
dating profile blog post to anyone you know who might be a good match. The first book is currently free!
Adventure—and, hopefully, some literary love—await!
Reader comments really make my day—even more so than new sales.
Don’t get me wrong. When I receive a notification telling me someone purchased one or more of The Renegade Chronicles, I grin like an idiot.
But digesting a reader’s genuine reaction to one of my novels, well, my soul does a little happy dance every time.
As I’ve mentioned before, copious online reviews can lead to fiscal benefits for an author. Even better, reader feedback lets me know what “worked” in the story, what didn’t, my strengths as a writer, and my weaknesses. All of which will help make my future books stronger.
For The Renegade Chronicles specifically, here are a few things I learned. Some of it came as a surprise, while other observations reinforced what I always hoped to be true:
At the risk of tooting my own horn, here are excerpts of comments compiled from Amazon.com and Goodreads.com:
“This book is a great big step into a world that keeps you pleasantly off balance by feeling uncannily familiar and strange at the same time.”
“Williams’ characters are an unlikely unity of the honorable, criminal, and the witless… Their travels are filled with battles, rescues, victories, and losses. I’m looking forward to the next installment in Heroes and Liars.”
“Fantastic! The boy and I are reading this series together before bed. He’s eleven, and he loves it. I’m quite fascinated by it myself.”
“A compelling start to the series.”
“My favorite of the three. A great fantasy trilogy.”
“In this second installment of Williams’ epic yarn, he makes good on the adventure, camaraderie, and intrigue promised at the end of the series opener Rebels and Fools.”
“I could not stop reading! The second volume in this trilogy is action-packed from start to finish.”
“Just a very enjoyable read with another very nerve-wracking ending.”
“Excellent follow up to the first book.”
“…enough questions linger as to the characters’ true motives to keep my interest into the third book. Bring on Martyrs and Monsters!”
“…The Renegade Chronicles is a very solid introduction into (the fantasy genre).”
“The last volume in the trilogy is nearly as full of action and intrigue as the second book. Secrets are revealed, and the battle between humans and monsters gets vicious.”
“Many questions answers. Many new questions raised. Great closure to many plot lines without feeling too tidy.”
“While this isn’t my usual genre, I couldn’t put it down. The books are action packed and full of mystery, magic, and a dash of romance.”
“I hope we haven’t heard the last from these characters…I’m craving more!!!”
I’d love to write more about the people and places of Altaerra. Truly, I would!
As a matter of fact, I have years—yes, years—of these characters’ lives mapped out beyond what has been published so far. Which is why there were so many unanswered questions at the end of Martyrs and Monsters; these heroes’ (and anti-heroes’) tales are far from over.
The Renegade War foreshadows a continents-spanning conflict that will prove to be much more catastrophic than anything the cast has faced before…
But in order to justify the writing and publishing future fantasy novels, I must sell a heck of a lot more editions of the first three volumes. In the interest of building my readership, I’ll include a list of handy links for those interested in reading, referring, and/or reviewing The Renegade Chronicles.
I can’t wait to hear from you!
Hence forth, let Sept. 13 be known as Reader Appreciation Day!
As a thank-you to my readers—and in hopes of reaching more—I’ve created a free compendium for The Renegade Chronicles, my fun fantasy saga featuring anti-heroes aplenty.
Available for Kindle, Nook, and just about any other e-reader you can name, Capricon and Beyond provides an in-depth look at the world of Altaerra—from the island of Capricon to greater Continae to far, foreign shores.
The e-book compiles a variety of resources for those interested in learning more about the people and places that populate The Renegade Chronicles as well as those who want a behind-the-scenes look at my world-building process. The glossary of more than 250 names and terms will serve as a handy quick-reference guide for “visitors.”
Capricon and Beyond also contains a never-before-published prologue for the series, starring “the Stranger.”
Other content includes:
And have a happy Reader Appreciation Day!
New to Altaerra? Learn more about The Renegade Chronicles here.
An editor of mine once said, “No one wants to know how the sausage is made.”
He was referring to journalistic processes—the hoops reporters jump through in order to research, interview, and write stories as well as edit, paginate, and publish them. Readers care only about the quality of finished article, not all of the work that went into it.
That might be true of newspapers, but as a lifelong fan of fantasy, I know that those who venture into fictional realms often appreciate additional glimpses into the wider world, including supplementary explorations of characters and cultures and even the author’s method for creating them.
Think of them as travel guides.
In the spirit of giving fans a more in-depth look at the people, places, and peculiarities of The Renegade Chronicles—and an excuse to return to Altaerra—I’m in the process of creating a (FREE!) compendium called Capricon and Beyond.
While I put the finishing touches on the e-book, please enjoy this excerpt. It’s a character profile I composed for a certain rogue knight prior to writing the first draft of Rebels and Fools.
Horcalus comes from a long line of Knights of Superius. Like his father and his father before him, Horcalus stands tall—about 6’2”—and keeps himself in excellent physical shape. The muscles on his arms, legs, and chest are well-defined, and there’s hardly any fat on his body. His eyes are gray; his hair, brown. A full, neatly-trimmed mustache graces his upper lip. Despite a rather hawkish nose and sharp chin, Horcalus is a reasonably handsome man.
Horcalus’s usual garb consists of combination plate-and-chainmail armor, a shield of some sort, an open-faced helmet with a nose-guard, and his trusty longsword.
Horcalus presents himself with an air of quiet dignity. He acts and speaks proudly, though not haughtily. He has excellent posture, looking comically stiff at times. He doesn’t fidget, and maintains a composed, stoic exterior unless something has him greatly discombobulated. His tone tends to soften, and he is more likely to smile when interacting with women and children.
Horcalus’s speech is the epitome of proper. He’ll almost always use two words in lieu of a contraction. He may use an outdated or archaic phrase or expression without realizing it.
Horcalus’s childhood was not so unlike many other boys borne of Knights. His father was stern but loving, making sure his son was well-disciplined and teaching the boy everything he knew about life and the Knighthood. Horcalus became his father’s squire at a remarkably young age and then went to Fort Splendor to train as a novice when he was fifteen years old.
Horcalus loves a challenge and delights in a hard-fought victory, though he is ever a gracious winner. He spends much time engaged in mock-combat, honing his skill, teaching others what he knows as well as learning from their techniques. Aside from physical trials, he likes games that improve his intellect and sharpen his wit (e.g., solving at riddles and playing chess). He has little interest in games of chance and shuns gambling.
Horcalus is not quick to laugh, but that is not to say he is devoid of humor. He’ll laugh at clever joke but seldom at another’s expense. He hates lies and engages in a lie only when it’s unavoidable. He’s a very bad liar, actually. His conscience holds a tight reign over his actions.
Like most Knights of Superius, Horcalus is extremely patriotic, but Horcalus does his best to accept people of every nation. Like many humans, he has his misgivings about the other races, but he is never less than polite to the occasional half-elf or gnome who crosses his path. He distrusts magic-users, but his greatest prejudice is against people who foment disorder and take advantage of their fellow man.
Horcalus is a stalwart optimist. He became a Knight to help make the world a better place. So long as he is fighting for the side of peace and justice, Horcalus enjoys life. Conversely, when he becomes a member of the Renegades, the disgraced Knight finds life nearly unbearable.
Horcalus serves Pintor the Warriorlord by adhering to the virtues outlined in the Knighthood’s code of conduct. He knows several prayers by rote. More often than not, when he prays, he is asking for guidance or forgiveness. Horcalus also honors the other Gods of Good, though he doesn’t really address these other deities by name.
While Horcalus did have a childhood sweetheart, he won’t fall in love until many years after the Renegade War. Horcalus thinks love is important, and he wants a wife and family, but the quest for a soulmate is far more difficult than anything the Knighthood has ever asked of him. He always figured the gods would provide him with a capable woman when and if they see fit. Horcalus wants children too—particularly a son to follow in his footsteps as a Knight of Superius.
Horcalus made many friends while in the Knighthood. His best friend and mentor is Chester Ragellan. He develops relationships with Klye Tristan, Arthur Bismarc, and Lilac Zephyr during the Renegade War.
More details about the release of Capricon and Beyond as well as other exciting news for The Renegade Chronicles will be released soon. Until then, may the Warriorlord watch over you!