Archive for May, 2014

Wasteland Stats

Posted: May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

Out of curiosity, I combined every single book of The Wasteland Chronicles into a master copy, including the second draft of Xenofall. I wanted to get a final word count, and since I think Xenofall will stay at a steady word count, I think these numbers are more or less concrete, give or take a few thousand words.

In its entirety, The Wasteland Chronicles is 459,206 words. That’s a lot of words. That’s 886 pages single-spaced Times New Roman 12 point font with a .25″ indent and 1″ margins (you know, for anyone interested).

I estimated I started working on the series seriously in September 2012, so let’s just say September 1 of that year. That’s 615 days ago, which really doesn’t seem like all that much. That’s an average of writing 747 words a day (again, which isn’t all that much, though that’s taking out editing time and stuff. I wasn’t writing new content for all of those daysmaybe two-thirds or so).

Word counts:

Apocalypse: 40,934

Origins: 49,692

Evolution: 61,327

Revelation: 72,801

Darkness: 72,751

Extinction: 73,552

Xenofall: 88,149 (currently)

Glossary: 5,558

The rest of the words come from the chapter titles, about the author, other randomness that’s not part of the story.

The main pattern, obviously, is that each book gets longer. I’d like to think it’s me developing my skills as an author more (let’s hope). The first book especially is lacking in description, and I don’t really hit that stride in full until Evolution and Revelation.

Throughout the entire series, the prefix “xeno” appears 716 times. That’s actually a lot less than I expected.

Assuming you were to buy all seven books (the first being free), you’d pay $17.94. Whoa, highway robbery!

Anyway, all this number crunching was a fun break, but now I have to get back to editing. I hope to have the second draft wrapped in the next couple of days.

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Flow

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

There is a state all creative people try to reach when they’re working on their art. For me, the point where everything else fades away and all that’s left are the words. I see nothing but the story, and everything else goes away. Whether I work quickly, or slowly, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing else but that.

Lately, reaching that state has been rare for me. I just got done with a bit of editing, and I had the fortune to be in that state. I usually don’t feel that way at night since I’m more of a morning person, but I’m grateful to feel it when I get the chance.

I’ve been working so hard on this book and working so quickly that it really has gone by in a flash. Sometimes, I feel like I’m working on Extinction. It’s all melding together for me. After six books, you’d think it would get easier for me. In a way, it does. But each book presents new challenges, and this one is no different.

I got the first draft done relatively painlessly. There were moments of pain, for sure. I wasn’t sure how it was going to end, or how the characters would get there. In some sense, all that is still subject to change, because writing is an ever-changing process. Even though I had some idea of what would happen, what I wrote completely surprised me. The ending, not so much, but how they got there.

There have been days last week where I could barely bring myself to edit. I found myself distracted, unable to focus, unsure of how to make it better. First edits always seem to the roughest, and usually it goes much more smoothly after that. After the first edit, that means when I go back and look at it for a second time, I won’t be distracted by things such as clumsy sentences, contradictions, or things that seem out of place…

Honestly, I’m starting to wonder how I feel, writing this very last book in this series. In a way, I thought it would be a bit more emotional, or sad. Maybe those feelings will surface at some point. For the moment, I feel nothing. There’s just the work. Changing a sentence here. Adding a thought there. Breaking up a long scene. Mostly technical stuff.

Sometimes, under the pressure to release a book quickly (it’s a pressure I put on myself), the creative flow, the feeling of being completely absorbed by the art of it, can slip away. You can forget why you started doing this in the first place. I never started doing this because I thought I would make a lot. I did it because I loved writing, loved creating characters, worlds, and stories. I still remember as a kid, even if the stories weren’t too good in retrospect, the thrill of creation, and how it felt almost as real as real life. Sometimes even realer.

That feeling gets lost, sometimes, and I miss it. I remember feeling that way a lot while writing Revelation, especially, and also the moment Alex gets out of Bunker 108 in Apocalypse. This might sound weird, but when I read Apocalypse and get to that spot, I can’t stop reading, even though I wrote it and I know exactly what happens. The best part of writing for me is when a character is discovering their world, the real world, and trying to survive and find their way in it.

We see Alex grow from this sixteen-year-old kid who doesn’t know anything until a leader in his own right. By Xenofall, he hardly resembles the kid he once was, both from what he has gone through and the people he has met. A reader told me recently that she has to remind herself that most of the characters are “kids” by today’s definition – sixteen, seventeen years old. But a lot of the time, they really don’t act like it, because of their circumstances.

Our world, given that we survive it, molds us into who we are, whether that’s surviving in the physical sense, spiritual, emotionalso on so forth. I just love the moments in writing where everything clicks, where the sentences flow, where every line is like a path laid down before the larger themes, communicating more than the basic words it tells. Most of the time, I’m not aware of that. Sometimes, I feel like I lose that ability.

But whether I feel the flow, or not, the point is to keep writing. It’s easy to get discouraged and not believe in your abilities. Emotions, or the lack of them, can make it feel like I’m not making any headway, or make me feel like everything I write is devoid of feeling. I think this happens when you work hard, you start seeing the trees and not the forest (or however that expression goes). I’m still so close to The Wasteland Chronicles that I can’t imagine what the entire story is like.

Sometimes, I feel like my readers have a better idea of what it means than I do. I wasn’t intentionally writing anything for the sake of being poignant or deep. For the most part, it’s just an action-based hero’s journey kind of story, but like any story, there are glimpses at the emotional, the spiritual, what it means to be human. I do think one of the larger themes of the story is the impossibility of the battle they are fighting, and their willingness to never give up, no matter how impossible it gets.

I guess I should take that attitude as I try to finish this series. Not that it feels impossible or anything. It’s just a matter of one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time.

Book Update

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Hey guys. I haven’t updated in a while, so here it goes.

I’m about 78,000 words into Xenofall, and it’s still going. It passed Extinction in length yesterday, but who knows how long the actual, final product will be. I may do a lot of cutting, or a lot of adding, later on. There’s some things I glossed over that need elaboration, and there might be some pointless parts that need to be taken out.

One of the weird things about writing full-time is that I’m working a lot faster. It seems like only yesterday that I was agonizing over Extinction, and now I‘m agonizing over this one. It’s been a month since Extinction has been published, and I’m almost done with this first draft of Xenofall. It really has all gone by in a blur.

Xenofall is still very rough, obviously, because it’s a first draft. I always knew this one was going to be the longest one because of the sheer amount of things that have to happen. On one hand, I want to write it as quickly as possible, but at the same time, I want it to be as quality as possible.

I don’t do release dates anymore, because I never know what issues might crop up when I’m working on the draft, but my guess would be sometime mid-June or so. There’s still a lot of story for me to write, and it will be a challenge to incorporate everything I want in the story. After all, this is the last book of The Wasteland Chronicles and I want it to be the best it can possibly be. The last thing I’d want is to write something that disappointed or wasn’t as good as the previous booksand I’m a little worried about the ending, because it’s going to be really, really crazy. But if you’ve read so far, then I guess you would expect that, because there have been some crazy twists through the series.

Whatever the case, it’s been a pretty amazing journey so far. I hope to blog about it at some point, when it’s all said and done. This is a world I’ve been living in since late 2012, when I first started writing Apocalypse. Approximately 20 months after that point and several hundred thousand words later, it will be over and I’ll start my new project.

I’m really glad the series found some fans because there were times where I was convinced it wouldn’t amount to anything. My main fear is that whatever I do next might not be as popular, but at the same time, there’s no use in worrying about things I have no control over.

That said, I plan to announce my next series as soon as Wasteland Chronicles is complete. For fans of the series, I don’t think you have anything to fear. If you like the Wasteland Chronicles, then my new series will be right up your alley. I’m aiming for it to be a mere three books long. It doesn’t even have a series title, much more book titles, and the idea in my head is still quite fuzzy. But I’m thinking about it a lot, and I think it’s something that you guys will really, really enjoy.

Well, that’s all. I have to get back to writing.

Book Giveaway

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

For those of you who don’t follow my Facebook page, you should! Right now, I’m doing a giveaway on my page for three signed copies of Extinction. Just hit “like” on my Facebook, and you’ll see the link to the giveaway in one of my posts.

So far, there’s about 40 people entered, so with three copies, your odds of winning are pretty good. This is something I see myself doing with each release. I used to do giveaways on Goodreads, back in the day, and hundreds of people would enter for a chance to win one book.

This time around, I think I’m only going to start doing giveaways exclusively for my fans. So if you want a chance to win, head over to my page (above link), like my page, and enter.

April by the Numbers

Posted: May 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

I will always remember this month as my first as a full-time writer. And I have to say, this month has been very encouraging, sales-wise, and probably won’t be equalled for a long time yet.

A lot happened in April. First, it was my first month as a full-time writer. Second, BookBub ran my book on April 1st, which resulted in about 30,000 downloads on Apocalypse on all retailers throughout the month. BookBub caused me to gain precious traction on Barnes & Noble, which historically has been a poor seller. And probably most importantly, I released my newest book, Extinction, in the middle of the month. It almostalmostbroke the Top 1,000 books, which would have been a new milestone for me.

Extinction sold about 185 copies on the day of its release on April 13, about twice as many as Darkness sold:

ImageApril was my best month ever, sales-wise. On all retailers, I sold 6,866 books, outselling my next biggest month, January 2014, by 2,759 books. To me, that’s absolutely incredible and a bit unexpected.

I’ve remained a Top 50-ish sci-fi author, according to Amazon’s rankings. It’s kind of crazy to be on the same list as a lot of my heroes. It’s also crazy that the majority of these authors are self-published.

Here’s the vendor breakdown of books sold:

Amazon: 4,930 (As usual, Amazon is the top player. As far as market size, Kindle will be king for a long time to come, to the point where it’s hard to imagine it being any other way. Things can change quickly, though.)

B&N: 677 (Even if Barnes is on the downslope (sadly), it’s encouraging that there are a lot of loyal Nook users. BookBub allowed me to reach a lot of them this month, which is GREAT, and I hope Nook will remain a player for a while to come).

iTunes: 975 (I’m also very happy with iTunes this month. Like Barnes, it’s difficult to get traction there, and it’s easily lost if you’re not releasing consistently and promoting. I’m hoping for a late May release on Xenofall to keep interest in the series.)

Kobo: 50 (Kobo has been very lackluster. I think it’s a visibility issue, and it’s not very friendly to the permafree model, at least in my case. When I try to search The Wasteland Chronicles there, Apocalypse isn’t even listed first, and that makes all the difference. That, and someone browsing the site itself is very unlikely to stumble upon Apocalypse, unless they were already planning to get it. It’s weird that I actually used to do better on Kobo when I had far less books. I hope they can perform better in the future).

GooglePlay: 116 (GooglePlay is an up and comer, and I hope Google chooses to place a lot of resources for their book platform. I know that’s not really their emphasis as a company, but it would be nice. They offer 50% royalties, which is less than Amazon and the rest. Coupled with their price slashing, I have to charge a bit more per book. Still, GooglePlay has a strong global reach, and I get downloads in loads of different countries that even Amazon might not be able to reach).

Smashwords: 7  (I’ve made the decision to publish all my books to Smashwords, in the interest of making my books as freely available as possible. Some readers prefer to have the book and many different formats while ensuring that it is DRM free. I publish all my books DRM free, but it’s really just a little extra effort on my part to make them available on Smashwords, so why not)

CreateSpace (paperbacks): 111 – This is my best month for paperbacks, and I’m actually surprised at how well they’re doing. I think Kindle Matchbook makes readers more likely to buy the paperback, because then they can get the Kindle version for free.

Total books: 6,866

Breakdown by Title:

Apocalypse: About 30K freebies

Origins: 1,727

Evolution: 1,409

Revelation: 1,189

Darkness 1,152

Extinction 1,341

Having almost 30K downloads on Apocalypse vs. having 1,727 on Origins might seem horrible at first, but most of those free downloads came from BookBub, which offers free books every single day. Retention will naturally be low, because these readers are far more likely to have LOADS of books just sitting on their ereaders. Still, for all those who do read the book go on, it gives a very nice boost that lifts the whole series for months.

Overall, I’m HUGELY pleased with these numbers. Every title sold over 1,000 copies! It’s an encouragement to keep working to release Xenofall this month (probably later).

It makes me a little sad that the series is about to end, but I don’t think it will be my last book in the Wasteland. I’m thinking of a possible follow-up series to The Wasteland Chronicles, and have some pretty awesome ideas bouncing around.

Well, that’s April in a nutshell. My plan for May is to finish Xenofall and release it later this month. And then I’m off to Europe (most likely) in June to visit friends and do a bit of exploration on my own as way to celebrate the end of a series I’ve been working on for so long. Yes, dear reader! It’s looking very likely that I will be in Europe from early June to mid-July – about six weeks. While there, I’ll be visiting friends in Germany, traveling around on my own to various countries, doing loads of writing, and sampling the fare, culture, coffee, and of course, alcoholic beverages. I’m talking about this as if it were an absolute, but I have yet to buy a plane ticket or make concrete plans! I plan on doing everything as cheaply as I can, since it’s just me.

The current plan is to leave early June, visit with friends for a bit, then travel to Vienna, Prague, possibly Budapest, Trier, and maybe Paris or Marseille. Also, I really want to visit San Marino and Capri. I probably wouldn’t be able to fit that all in. But, however you cut it, I’ll end up at Rome for the last leg of my journey, where my family will conveniently be vacationing. If this does end up happening (and it probably will) I’ll be sure to take copious amounts of pictures and relate my adventures. At this point, I will be working on my new series, hopefully releasing the first book by early July.

Well, that’s all I have for you, and I know it’s a lot! It’s exciting times in the life of Kyle West. I’m hoping all the cultures I see we be inspiration to work on my next thing! Even though I’ll be in Europe, I’ll still be writing like a madman – it’ll be half work, half play. I don’t know, we’ll see!

Now, I’m going to get back to writing. They’re about twenty-five miles from Ragnarok Crater and I have to see if I can get the crew out of some trouble they got “tangled” in.