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The Next Book

The title of the next book will be called, "The Revenant and the Cult." It's done, it's in the middle of the process where beta readers are providing me feedback. The next major step is to send it off to the editor.

However, I want to address one salient detail of the book: it will be released in two parts.

Now, I touch on this subject in the Foreword of the first book, but that's really not the right forum to explain my decision to take one book and break it into two parts. The forum to do that is, well, here. I have several reasons for my decision, and I'll detail them below.

Finances and Sales

The elephant in the room here is the current state of the economy and sales. Inflation is taking its toll on people's budgets. The first thing that people cut out of their spending is frivolous things like entertainment. Books fall under that category.

As it stands right now, the whole story clocks in well over 110,000 words. That's a sizable book. While there is a debate on whether places like Amazon prioritize larger books over smaller ones, I don't make my sales riding the algorithm. I'm doing old-school, pavement-pounding forms of promotion that don't rely on the intricacies of Amazon's technical wizardry. I could provide other reasons why I don't want to have a strong link between Amazon and sales, but most of them revolve around the adage, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." In this cancel culture age, I don't like knowing that someone can shut down my sales with the flip of a switch.

Given that most of my audience is keeping a sharp eye on every penny, it's in my best interests to provide as much as I can for as little as I can. If I can give them the first half of a book, and then give them time in their budget to buy the second half of the book later, that seems like a reasonable tradeoff. If it comes down to it, I can set up bundles that people can buy to get both books. And, if I do direct sales, I can easily provide discounts if I bundle both books.

Furthermore, I sell quite a few books using outlets like Bookbub, where I can advertise eBook discounts at various sites (Barnes & Noble being one of them). However, above a certain price point, the discount becomes less attractive. So, the lower the cost of the book, the better. I can only discount a 110K book so much before I lose my shirt on it. Keep in mind, THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB hasn't even paid for itself yet, and it is my biggest seller.

While I like to tout my sales numbers, the reality is that people gravitate more toward THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB than they do THE WIZARD'S STONE. The reason for this is pretty obvious: THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB is a $2.99 eBook. So, price matters.

Selling a smaller book looks way more attractive from where I'm standing. Even though I'm spending more money (buying two different covers, two different ISBNs, and paying for two different copyright registrations), I have to potential to make more sales.

Yes, I said it - it's costing me more money to do this.

But sales and people's finances aren't the only reason why the book is being split up.

Time and Effort

This story grew far larger than I initially envisioned. I spent a month telling people, "I only have 2 chapters left and the book is done," after each and every chapter I wrote. I ended up having to rework the story and drop the initial concept. Then I added a bunch of elements that greatly added to the complexity of the overall story.

And now that it's done? Well, it's taken a lot longer than I expected to get here. I suspect that if I hand the book to an editor at this point, the release date is going to get delayed. I don't want to say that I'm in over my head here, but it certainly feels like it.

If I break up the book, I essentially postpone large amounts of time for editing, large chunks of time for additional revisions, provide more time for beta readers to provide their feedback, and so on, and so on. Carving the beast into chunks and dealing with them is much easier than having the handle the whole thing at once.

Remember, I have a good-paying career I have to maintain, and they frown on me working on my personal stuff during work time. I'm not a full-time writer, though I take this calling quite seriously. My time is limited. So, downshifting my literary ambitions a bit helps keep from things getting out of hand.

Changing Trends

Most Fantasy authors seem to be saddled with two genre expectations:

  • You must release an epic work (100K words or better).

  • It must be an epic series.

I can almost hear the people reading this tell me how wrong I am. However, if you start scrolling through the various Fantasy subgenres, you can find book after book after book where these two "rules" apply.

Most of those huge books contain a lot of fluff that doesn't need to be there. People praise the works, but often complain that, "This book could have half the size it is and still be good." In fact, I'm hearing that quite a bit.

THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB was recently praised by a long-time, well-known author for being both well-rounded and short. That book embodies much of my writing philosophy: only write what is needed to service the story. I don't need to explain lines of ancestry or thousands of years of lore across dozens of chapters if I can simply mention it and move on. Plus, it allows me to write a book to examine, in detail, those hints of lore in greater detail without bogging down the story that brought it up in the first place.

Plus, with the Pulp Revival movement, and a growing trend of rapid-release publishing, books are getting smaller and more numerous. It very well may be that the trend of mammoth Fantasy epics becomes a legend of the noble past.

The fact is, I'd rather write a thousand short books than a hundred huge tomes. if you want an epic huge tome, I can always combine these stories into a hardback and sell that.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have anything against big books. I write where the story goes, and I stop where I feel the story needs to end. I don't like adding things to a book unless it somehow applies to the story. And when I do add things, I like to only cover those things that apply to the tale being told. While I may drop a few hints here or there, that's about as far as I'll go. Plus, hinting at bigger things opens the door for me to write another story to flesh it out. If it takes 130,000 words to do that, so be it. I must confess, I sort of scratch my head at the popularity of THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB. I thought - and still think - that THE WIZARD'S STONE is a better book overall. However, I can see the appeal of THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB, and I don't mind writing more of those types of stories. But I don't feel the need to turn them into huge books.

One last thing I should mention as it relates to the rules. THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB was a success going against a lot of the established rules of publishing. It was a novella. The book cover was fairly simple. And I didn't even establish an extensive backstory for the villain or the hero. Yet, it garnered a following quickly. The prime reason why I'm writing THE REVENANT AND THE CULT is because fans wanted more. I routinely get praise for the cover. It has a bunch of critical elements that should have failed but didn't. And that was literally by design. I knew what I liked, what I wanted, and I chose those things that fell in line with my preferences. And it worked. I think the same applies here.

Thematic Concerns

And now we come to my greatest concern.

Over the years, I've learned to trust my gut. If something doesn't feel right, then something ain't right. This proved itself out during the beta read of the first part of THE REVENANT AND THE CULT. And as soon as this deficit was mentioned, it wasn't long before I acknowledged the problem, and even had a solution that made the entire story better.

But I can't escape the fact that my gut knew there was a problem that needed to be addressed before someone pointed it out.

Well, my gut has been telling me, for some time now, that this book needed to be split up. I've been agonizing over this decision for months, to the point that my wife rolls her eyes when I mention the subject. I didn't make this decision lightly.

While the whole of the story is cohesive, it holds two distinct moods. The first half is more of a Fantasy thriller. The second half is more like THE REVENANT AND THE TOMB. Given all of the other considerations I explained above, why would I put this out as a singular work?

The reluctance I had to embracing the one-book solution revolved around the fact that neither half could easily stand on their own. The first half would have a fairly abrupt ending. The second half would have an abrupt beginning. Are these bad things? I don't know. Does this constitute a reason to invalidate all of the concerns I highlighted above? Well, the answer I came up with is: no.

Moods and themes are important in stories. I can't ignore that. So, I'm going to embrace this decision. Because that's what my gut tells me to do.

In Conclusion

I know that, despite my justifications, some will draw their own conclusions as to why I'm breaking up this story. From an eBook and audiobook standpoint, the cost would be the same to the reader regardless if I broke up the story or kept it together (I price my books based on word count). I know that some people are sensitive to being left with cliffhangers, and some won't buy a series until it is complete. Both books are already written. Part 2 of the story will be published regardless. So, you won't be left hanging.

That all said, I know full well that doing this is a risk. Not an earth-shattering risk, but a risk nonetheless.

I felt that the direction I took was best for the story overall. I probably won't repeat this with future books. I'm pretty sure most publishers would never do something like this. However, that is the beauty of self-publishing. I can work outside of the box and do as many dumb things as I want. I'm just praying that this was the right dumb move.

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