I hope you haven’t slipped into a diabetic coma (πŸ¦ƒ)

This is one of my world-famous emails, originally sent Friday, 23 November 2018. Get on the list here.

Those of you in the US are probably full.

We don’t really do Thanksgiving in New Zealand – but the photos on my social media of food, more food, and all the food kinda make me wish we did. This week:

  • The 15-day story challenge;
  • Tragedy; and
  • A peak into my old, terrible covers.

Let’s get to it.

The 15-day story challenge

Some of you who’ve been here a while will remember Delilah. I wrote this story and sampled it out to you over the course of a few months, eventually giving out the free book download link. It was fun to do, and most of you seemed to like the tale. I’m doing something similar again. Similar, but totally different.

I’m writing an entire new story in 15 days, then I’ll give it to you.

How did this come to pass? I’ve been talking with a few of my writing buds, and we’ve formed a collective posse to take on the challenge. The rules are simple.

  1. A fresh story, start to finish, scribed in 15 working days. We’ll pick up the pen December 3rd, and put it down December 21st. No cheating: we can’t work weekends.
  2. We’ll each be writing something different, but with a common artifact (more on this soon).
  3. Keyboards down over Christmas, because while “writing” is a convenient excuse, we’ll each get murdered if we don’t do in-law duty. This is serious.
  4. 7th January you get the unedited version (if you want it). Meanwhile, we’ll be going through editorial.
  5. 21st January, you get the full, edited story.

For those who get ereaders as gifts over the festive season, you’ll have something to put on it at the start of the new year.

During the 15 days, we’ll be sharing our progress – you can expect videos of haggard writers, or perhaps drunk writers, depending on how it’s going. We think it’ll be fun. You can join in; I’ll be sharing writing samples and my too-busy-to-shave face during the 3-week duration.

Each of us will give away our story free to our list members. You’ll get stories from Nova Blake, Kim Faulks, TG Ayer, and John Hindmarsh, assuming you’re on their hookup lists. I’ll give a few more details next time, but until then feel free to shell me with your thoughts and prayers for doing this to myself.

The tyranny of the powerful

By “powerful,” I mean the world’s biggest bookstore. You’ll remember last email I spoke of how launch week was going for Chromed: Upgrade, and fairly positive on the results despite the poor dollar value, right?

Well, everything’s fucked.

The book’s not had the expected success due to pagereads as I’d hoped for, and – to quote Han Solo – it’s not my fault. Amazon removed the book from Kindle Unlimited, destroying the pagereads and associated ranking. All those expensive ads? Totally wasted.

How did this happen? A good question. I engaged Amazon support on this very issue 😬 About the time I launched the new book, I also removed my Ezeroc Wars stories from the program. I wrote the mighty Zon, asking to remove a handful of specific titles (as the rest had finished tenure) from KU; they said, “No sweat, we get it,” and did me a solid.

They, at the same time, removed Chromed: Upgrade (but, weird, not the sequels, which are still enrolled in the mighty machinery). I got an email from “Supervisor Ray” where I learned the how and why of the error; a simple mistake from a human, trying to be helpful, but costing future earnings and wasting ad spend.

I guess this is a note on the perils of having all your eggs in one basket. Despite this, which is a fairly significant, hard, and viscious kick right where it hurts (my wallet), I had good news this week. News that outweighs the pain by an order of magnitude.

I’ll hold fire sharing that with you for a week or two. This, in the trade, is what we call a “bad cliffhanger.”

And now for something horrible

Back when I was Learning2Market, I figured, “Hey, my Night’s Champion books are supernatural thrillers, so I’ll give ’em a thriller cover.” Initially, I got this roughly right with Night’s Favor. Behold, the original UK-English cover:

Buoyed by my meteroric success with this novel, I commissioned an artist to do more of a comic-book style for the sequel. He did exactly what I asked him to do, which is a shame, because what I really needed was someone to beat sense into me. Evidence a book that does not say ‘thriller’ in quite the right ways:

This didn’t do well at all. I dug deep into my “it’s a thriller, Richard” feelings and minted this piece:

It’s not a bad cover, but it doesn’t scream, “supernatural!” I did a similar cover for the third and final in the series, and let me tell you (before the sales numbers came in) I was very pleased with myself.

Sales? Almost zero. Naturally, I was dumbfounded. These covers are amazing! So amazing. A writer friend took me aside, and said, “Richard, they’re a bit shit. I mean, they’re fine, but there’s no werewolves, vampires, ghosts, or Riders of the Apocalypse. So, basically, everything you’ve done is wrong.”

Fair point.

I spent a great deal of time researching covers in urban fantasy and supernatural suspense. Eventually, I came up with the final (hah) covers, which aren’t too bad (in business parlance, this means they convert). Here’s where I arrived, after years of mistakes and tomfoolery.

That’s it from me this week. If not too many of you laugh at my terribad covers, I’ll share you even worse ones from the original Upgrade. I hope today’s been the excellent treat you deserved. Peace out.


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