Saturday, July 27, 2013

Betrovia's new map!

Not that it's a world-shattering event ...

Here's the newest map of Betrovia!

The more I use Inkscape and GIMP, the more I think I can do this kind of thing ... 
without pulling my hair out in the process :)

And in honor of the nifty new image, Betrovia is On Sale! via Amazon for a measly $2.99!
Via Barnes and Noble only $2.99 as well!
Whoa! ITunes has it for $2.99 too!
Yuppers! Same price via Kobo!

Wait! There's an even better deal! The Land of Betrovia Omnibus!
All three books of the trilogy is on sale as well for just $6.59!
And the nifty map is tucked away inside the Omnibus edition too!

What a steal!
What a deal!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Aerial Drones Part V: More UAV Pro's and Con's

Nearly everyday now someone is either excited about the use of drones for the overall betterment of mankind or feverishly demands their condemnation. There doesn't appear to be many people living in the middle ground.

It's been a year now since I've made my feelings about these beasties public and what I've read, seen and heard in the last 12 months has not altered my stance one bit. More than a few people in Freeburg at MFA 280 agree with me.

Oh sure, like many children of the 1970s, I was fascinated with the aviation industry. I remember like it was just yesterday dreaming about becoming an Air Force pilot, flying an F-16, breaking the sound barrier in the process. (That dream, like an over-filled party balloon, popped quite tragically when, in the middle '60s, an optometrist declared that I needed glasses.) I was determined to keep the dream alive, figuratively at least, by begging relatives to buy model airplane kits for me. Ah, the wonderful fragrance of airplane glue ... those tiny glass bottles of model paint ... agonizing over the best placement of those pesky little decals that first had to be dipped in water. Even though I did receive some pleasure from slapping together models of Mustangs, Ferraris and Corvettes (there was even a fairly-large model of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle!), the greatest pleasure, and the toughest challenges, were represented by assembling everything from WWI Spitfires to the super-sonic fighter aircraft of the Vietnam era.

In high school, I knew someone who knew someone who had one of those gas-powered model airplanes. No, it wasn't a remote control plane; it was tethered to two long pieces of thin nylon. So basically, once airborne, it would only fly in a big oval. But even to this day I can still remember seeing that plane smoke, smelling the expensive fuel and, of course, hearing the mosquito-resembling sound of that little engine. I'm sure I wondered while watching that plane go round-n-round how and when someone would invent a way to allow planes like that to fly tether-free.

Remote-controlled planes ... as well as helicopters ... have been around since the late '80s. Not long after going main-stream, the technology of adding cameras to these RC vehicles opened the sport up to something much-more interesting: aerial surveillance. As the science behind these "toys" has become more and more sophisticated (and the cost of the vehicles rising exponentially), all kinds of people have taken an interest in them.

Which brings us to the present.      

This October, the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference will convene in New York City. According to the conferences' webpage: "DARC is a multidisciplinary conference about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and drones—with an emphasis on civilian applications. Attendees will take part in a far-ranging exploration of these technologies and see firsthand the latest advancements in aerial robotics. In addition to looking at the cultural impact, legal challenges, and business potential, we’ll also examine specific applications for drones including: agriculture, policing, wildlife conservation, weather, mapping, logistics, and more."

Even though my attitude towards UAVs as our federal government is currently utilizing them has not changed, I would love to be part of this conference. And why is that? As with most things in life, there is a need for someone to stand up for the other side of the issue.

Along the lines of communicating a more-negative attitude towards aerial drones, this "slice of life" news story hit the Intrawebz a few days ago: "A small Colorado town is considering whether to issue hunting licenses that would offer residents a bounty for shooting down unnamed drones operated by the U.S. government. Deer Trail resident Phillip Steel told KMGH that he had already collected enough signatures to put his proposed measure on the ballot. 'We do not want drones in town,' Steel explained. 'They fly in town, they get shot down.'"

Symbolic gesture or not, there is a hard-to-ignore vein of truth (thin as it may be) to this proposal. Many Americans simply do not want their privacy to be invaded.

Some Americans who work within the news industry are beginning to take a closer look at the use of UAVs: "I will admit I am skeptical about reporters using a drone — technically known as an unmanned aerial vehicle. But journalists have started to study the use of drones, particularly for coverage in isolated places such as the coastline after an event such as Hurricane Sandy, when roads and other means of access are blocked. Moreover, drones, which are far less expensive than helicopters, can get close to the scene of the action."

Shoddy journalism has often been associated with the infringement of personal liberty and privacy. And I have to agree with the writer of this op-ed piece when he says: "I ... cringe at the combination of drones and paparazzi creating some serious havoc."

An important application of UAVs, to some residents of America's Southwest, is the patrolling of the country's border with Mexico. There's even a fairly-active poll located at related to this very issue.

I like what one person posted: "As Technology Advances, So Must Our Security Measures! The drones should not be equipped with any weapons, or possess any sort of damage-causing features. But, to spot illegal immigrants trying to get into the country, drones should absolutely be utilized, and their findings should be immediately reported to on-foot border patrol who can seize the offenders and deport them back to where they came from."

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? The technology is there ... the funds are readily-available ... but US Customs agents' hands are frustratingly tied by the current administration. 

Would I change my attitude towards the use of UAVs if they were being used effectively to stem to flow of illegals crossing over into Texas, etc.? Maybe ... 

What's that quaint saying? "God made everything that has life. And the rest is made in China"?

It appears that the United Arab Emirates is crafting UAVs that are attracting China's northern neighbors: "The Russian military is planning to purchase aerial drones in the United Arab Emirates, a defense industry source said Wednesday (July 17 2013). 'We are talking about at least two United 40 Block 5 models developed by the company ADCOM Systems,' the source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told RIA Novosti."

I wonder ... how many expat Chinese are working in that UAE factory?

Now here's a great idea for a webpage! That is ... if you don't mind finding out just how pervasively aerial drones are being utilized around the world!

"GOT A DRONE? Share your best aerial pictures and let's build a world map of our Earth with a bird's eye view. All DJI Phantom, AR.Drone owners an others welcome and sign up to upload your first picture!"

It must be said that this particular collection of photographs is being cached somewhere other than the US of A. Therefore, the irony that must be associated with webpages like this is simultaneously humorous and pathetic.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What should I be doing besides writing this stuff?

As a precocious young teen, I hoped someday to publish a novel or some kind of book ... at least one, anyway. As I grew older, gradually less consumed with self, the desire to gaze at a book with my name on it stocked by the local bookstore continued to grow, even though the reality of ever realizing that dream grew dimmer with each passing year.

In 1990, a fellow missionary/educator who lived down the block from us in Taichung asked me to help him format his non-fiction book. Watching that book go from a Word docfile, then printed out via a laser printer and finally holding the first edition of that 300+ page paperback in my hands a few months later rekindled in me that desire to become a publish author.

As summarized in a previous blogpost, Betrovia, my first novel/book, was uploaded two years ago this month. Since then, the other two books of the trilogy as well as a handful of related (and unrelated) short stories are now for sale.

Even as a self-absorbed teenager, did the thought of supporting myself via writing ever cross my mind? I would have to think it did. But what about now? With three novels in paperback and ebook editions? Might I be wishing to somehow support myself and my family by becoming a full-time writer?

One of my nieces who has been writing professionally since high school announced via her Facebook page a few months ago that because of her novels selling so well, she was able to submit her resignation at her traditional job and therefore become a "stay-at-home" mother and writer. Bully for her, I say!

But might it matter what she writes? Of course it does! She is probably grossing nearly 2 grand a month selling "erotic romance" novels. That's right, my niece writes "mommy porn," fiction that, if ever converted into movies, would be rated X.

What about my stuff? The trilogy and the short fiction? They would have to be rated G for "family-friendly," "family-centered" even.  (One of my readers who lives close to the MFA in Freeburg said that I needed to even "spice up the action" a bit!) And that was my overt intention as I wrote them. Growing up, I thought about the "kind" of fiction I would write and I even considered writing something "controversial." But as I've matured in my Christian faith, I've relied on the leading of the Holy Spirit in writing stuff that is hopefully is insightful, involving, interesting and, of course, in line with Scripture. I've yearned to create fiction that doesn't pander to the baser regions of the human psyche, fiction that should be "good food" for the soul (like those Chicken Soup books?) compared to "junk food."

One problem with writing and publishing "good food" fiction is that it's akin to planning and preparing healthy meals: many people prefer "junk" compared to the "healthy" stuff. And when it comes to how people spend their "disposable" income, much of it is spent on "mommy porn" instead of "wholesome" literature. Then there's those who attest to the "Supersize me" mentality as they download megabytes of erotic-lit from, etc.

All in all, I like writing the kind of fiction that my grandmother would love ... even if it's not selling like I wish it would! But there are days when I struggle with "Am I just wasting my time?"

Read on to see what the fine people who frequent The Writers' Cafe say about this topic!

"I know this journey I started a few years ago isn't a race and doesn't have a finish line, but it seems more and more I am struggling to shake off that feeling that I'm just wasting a lot of time. Oddly, I never feel that way when I'm actually writing; it is all the other work involved in trying to get visibility. As a writer, maybe it is time to rethink what my goals are."

"I spend far too much time worrying about my (lack of) visibility and wondering if I'm doing enough. Invariably the answer is 'no' which sends me into a whirl of time wasting searching for promotion tools/ sites and all that business. I keep coming back to  advice I read on here.
'Write, write some more, then write again.' It's simple but the right advice I think. At least until your fingers are covered in callouses and hurt like hell from typing."

"Most of the time I alternate between 'I'm so terrible and awful and everything I do is bad!'"

"Maybe you could try changing your blurb and your cover art. That's what I have learned to do when a book appears to be stalling. What do you have to lose?"

"You always should consider the options. Are you wasting time? Well, what else would you do with your time? Write a symphony? Build a better mousetrap? Complete your tea cozy collection? Worse yet, take up quilting? Stop listening to your inner schoolmaster! Whatever you do - always remember that life is made for farting around. (I think it was Vonnegut who said that first.) I write because it's fun. I like to make money so that I can have more time to write. That's the sole purpose. I want to make my life comfortable enough to allow me to continue writing. It ain't no sin if it gives you a grin."

"And don't believe me..... a good number of readers out there (who can be potential customers) take this point pretty seriously. Sometimes a buck is the diff between sales and no sales. Also consider a campaign on Facebook as well as blitzing Twitter. You need to keep thumping the media to remind people the books are available (even world famous McDonalds is on the air every week pushing product). And really... drop the price a dollar and see if your sales don't improve a bit. (But that's just my opinion)."

"I gave up writing guest blogs because it was a massive waste of time. Now I spent most of my time writing with a little bit maintaining my social presence while advertising on paid sites."

"Ditto for me.  I wasn't a fan of social media, and I used up too many creative juices trying to keep up with blogging/twitter/facebook.  That sucked time from writing that I just couldn't make back, so I just do the marketing when I see a slow down and get back to the ol' keyboard."

"With all the amazon algo changes, you need ten novels (NOVELS) to make a living from this. I think the best course of action would be to release at least FOUR novels per year, minimum. Not just one. By Dec I will have released nine novels since January. Do I expect a fortune? No, but certainly it will be something to live on. Small chunks at a time. One novel per year is not going to do it."

"I think it’s substantially a waste of time for most people, including me. I have been traditionally published several times. Trad publishing has always been a ridiculous lottery; if you were with a major house (hence in book stores and getting basic press etc) you were in a lottery of a few hundred per genre per season, talent aside. Indie publishing means there are literally hundreds of thousands of books, many with great covers, in your lottery, talent aside. And the indie/ebook cake is still considerably smaller. So now you have to pay $$$ to Bookbub to advertise that your book is FREE and hope against hope that it’ll be one of the few that actually makes back significantly more that the ad cost. Then you wring your hands and hope that the reviews you get will help ‘build your platform’. Then you get a fresh cover and tweak your blurb. Then it’s suddenly next year and you’re still dreaming that somehow you’re gonna break through. And on it goes, fuelled by stories of Hugh and other outliers. Just as happens in trad publishing, but with the difference that at least you have an advance, and editor and some sense of achievement/purpose/possibility... It’s the Klondike over again; and we all remember who made most money there, right? Hey, I think I’ll sell pick axes/write a book about how successful ebook publishing."

"Is going to the movies a waste of time? Reading a good book? Listening to music? If you're getting some kind of enjoyment out of it, it's not a waste. If the other stuff - the marketing/promoting - is what's grinding you to a pulp, then take a break from it and just focus on getting the next book out there instead of promoting the current one. Then, after your batteries are recharged, then attack the other stuff again."

"I used to think writing a good book was what you had to do, but it's a lot more like a big strategy game, and the book is only a tiny piece."

"Indie publishing is not for the faint of heart.  We are our own publishers doing all the things that publishers do (sometimes better and sometimes worse).  It is not a gold mine.  And despite what a lot of articles say, very rarely do they start printing money for you the moment you upload your book to KDP.  Indie publishing is hard.  In my experience, you should plan on two years before you start turning the sorts of profits you can live on.  There are a lot of people that it is not right for.  But for some, who get their kicks from entrepreneurial adventures and enjoy being their own boss, it can be a hoot.  It's just like running any other small business, only rather than running a bakery or a department store, we're peddling our own books.  Some people like to hire a baker to make the perfect cake, some people like to do it themselves.  No right or wrong.  Just what experience you want. "

"Can I make a suggestion for a likely way to break the unhappy cycle you describe?
1. Write a series in an at least semi-popular genre
2. Make sure the packaging (including price) is attractive and as genre-clear as possible
3. Publish a new title in your series every three months
4. Use LibraryThing and Goodreads giveaways to gain the required amount of reviews for step 5
5. Feature the first book of your series with BookBub
6. Build a mailing list to give each new release a ranking boost right out of the gate
If you complete all six steps and don't see a decent and consistent amount of sales by this time next year, I'd be very surprised."

"With all due respect, I think I have some better advice for breaking the unhappy cycle:
1) Write whatever the hell you feel like and don't even worry if other people will like it or not.
2) Get some friends to proofread it, make a decent cover in photoshop/gimp, put it up for sale and forget about it.
3) Without spending any time or money on ads or giveaways, go back to step 1 and repeat.
Focus on the stuff that you love--the stuff that makes you want to write.  Dive in with zero expectations, so that you'll always be pleased when something good happens. Experiment to find other aspects of the business that you love.  You may really enjoy making covers, or producing a well-formatted ebook.  For the stuff you don't love that you can't escape doing, find a friend who does and exchange services ('I'll make your cover if you help me with my blurb').  Don't be afraid to try new things. Over time, you'll find that at least some of your books are starting to find readers. Some of those readers will become fans, and start pestering you about when your next book is going to come out.  If you keep writing and publishing, you'll find your monthly royalty checks growing from two figures to three figures, and from three to four. Eventually, you'll have to start worrying about crappy stuff like taxes, accounting, business structure, etc.  Or maybe you'll end up loving that stuff, who knows?  But if you focus on the present and on doing the stuff that you love RIGHT NOW, while being patient about the future, you'll wake up one day and realize 'Whoa, I think I'm actually going to make it.' Is that irrepressible optimism?  Perhaps.  But that's more or less how it's happened for me.  And if I had to go back, I wouldn't do it any other way."

"I spent the bulk of the past 3 years working on my backlist titles and getting them online. I feel sick about the writing time I lost during that time period, and yet that was important too. maybe. not sure if I should have worked to get ALL titles up, but it's done. I still feeling guilty about every second I'm spending doing anything other than writing, even brushing my teeth. I feel that I have so much catching up to do. I'm not a multi-tasker, so I have to either be in writing mode for months at a time, or promoting, designing, formatting, uploading mode. It's almost impossible for me to do both."

"Setting a goal of selling X isn't realistic, because there are not that many things you can do to make people want to buy your books. True, you can boost visibility and run promotions, tweak covers and blurbs, social media till you're blue in the face, but you can't make people buy em. That's the lottery element. If setting a goal of producing the best work you can at a reasonable clip is being discussed, that's a different matter. Improving your craft daily? Achievable. Writing stories you find moving and which you'd want to read yourself? Sure. But sales goals are really expressions of how you hope the entropic universe will react to your work, and you can't do much beyond writing great work, spending 25% of your time marketing and 75% writing, and making judicious use of your 25% marketing time. Writing is a really crummy lottery. It always has been. The odds of making real money at it have always been long. But now, the odds for a decent writer who crafts decent stories and is fairly savvy in marketing them have dramatically improved - they still aren't great, but they're better than they've ever been, judging by the sales numbers we see here every month. And miracles can happen. But basing a career on a lightning strike is a poor strategy. I think I started writing well when I discarded the notion that I'd really ever make more than beer money at it, and focused on the craft and the story, and went from 80% marketing time to 20% or so marketing time. And I got lucky - I found an audience, and they keep telling friends, and their friends tell their friends, and so on. I think that's how it works. But it all starts at crafting stories people want to buy - stories that they can't get from anyone else, told in ways that are unique to your voice. Books aren't fungible. A War & Peace is not equivalent to the latest Locke. Vomiting out dross is not a good formula, and getting caught up in all the sales talk, while interesting, has little to do with crafting stories that capture readers' imaginations and make them want more. I believe that in the end, it always comes down to the writing and the story. If you are satisfied with that, then the rest is noise. And if you think you're going to do this and make a bunch of dough, you're delusional. Some will, but the overwhelming majority won't. So I'd advise that you figure out why you write, and if it's to make money, take a hard look at the true odds of doing so. They're slim. Better than ever, but still slim. I always say write because you love it. If you want to go into the book selling business, that's a business, and expect to fail unless you do everything exactly right - because most start-up businesses fail. Even if you do everything right, most businesses still fail. That's fact. Could be timing, could be bad luck, could be the universe hates you, but they fail. The book selling business is a highly competitive one that's saturated. The odds aren't good of succeeding at it. That's the buzz kill part. Then again, every day we're seeing people making a living at this - people who weren't doing so just a few years ago. That's the optimism part. I would never tell people why they should do anything, but there are worse things to fail at than honing a craft you're passionate about and that gives you enjoyment. If you can sell a few, hey, that's gravy."

"Careful, I'll start quoting Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and then we'll delve into the depths of Nihilism and Solipsism. The observer gives the meaning. Good luck finding objective meaning in artistical pursuits. Really, it shouldn't be us answering your question of whether you're wasting your time. You should be asking yourself? For myself, though, if I publish a book, and someone reads it an enjoys it, mission accomplished."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Should I stick with my series? Of start something completely new?

WooHoo! The Land of Betrovia trilogy is done! 

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls, book two, is the shortest of the three (75K words) while Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation, book three, is the longest (104K). And it was about this time (early July) two years ago when I decided to make Betrovia a trilogy instead of trying to tell the story of Patrik and Harrak's scrolls through one book. Otherwise, as I realized at that time, Betrovia would have been over 200K words!

A few days ago, a lady who bought all three books of the trilogy came into the MFA in Freeburg and, with a sincere but concerned look on her face, relayed more than a few comments about how I ended the trilogy: "Why did character X do this? Why did you kill off character Y? I thought for sure from how you ended book two that character Z was going to do this" and so on. I told her that I have already written and published two prequels to the trilogy, with others in the works, as well as am working on both a spin-off and a continuation of the trilogy. (The plan is that it will be a short story, at least, centering on Edelin and Galena, two major characters from the trilogy.) I then asked her if she reads ebooks via a Kindle or some other ebook-reading device. She said that she didn't. I quickly replied with something like "I should be able to put together a paperback version of the prequels" but I don't think she was listening. Needless to say, she was hoping for fewer "loose ends" upon reaching the conclusion of the trilogy.

With the trilogy being done, where do I want to go from here? I like how the two prequels have turned out, even though they are only short stories, and am on the third chapter of the Kristof and Dalten "spin-off" that will hopefully be at least a 12 chapter "novella." Oh, and I don't want to forget that there's also some ideas for other prequels focusing on Patrik and his family when he was a youngster.

But what about the Life of Beatty stuff? The short stories I've pulled out of the novel that I nearly drafted in 1985? What should I do with those?

Or maybe start something completely new? 

Via Leanpub, I've posted an idea for a young-adult sci-fi novel that could get me a foothold in different demographic.

As I've been wandering through this writing-process malaise, I found out what the fine folks of the Writers' Cafe think about continuing a series as opposed to venturing into 
something new and different ...    

"I'm feeling a little not-so good about things right now. Sales, in spite of a new release, have tanked but that seems to be happening pretty much across the board. Now I worry a LOT about the way my books are perceived as a series. As it is, although it's technically a series, each book is a stand-alone story and doesn't really have to be read in any particular order. It is helpful, of course, because there are ongoing themes and characters. I mention as much in some of my blurbs and the front matter. However, does this structure negatively affect sales of a new release?  If a reader sees a book in the "new release" section and then sees that this is Book Four, would they not just give it a pass, figuring that they won't know what's going on with the story? I know that series are popular with some readers, especially in sci-fi/fantasy, but I worry about shooting myself in the foot by continuing this as a series. I am getting very good reviews but, like many, am not getting the sort of visibility I like. So, because of current sales, I'm wondering if there is any point in continuing the series or if I should try something else. My readers are asking for more stories, and I'd love to deliver those, but I can't just keep writing for the same 100 people. I do regularly offer promos for the first two books (Bookbub, Select etc)."

"People like investing in series. If anything, that sentiment has become stronger with ebooks. They'll buy one book with the knowledge that if they like it, they can go back and get the rest. People are lazy, and would rather buy a second book in a series than go hunting over the internet for something to read."

"Since you have so many books within the same story universe, maybe you should branch out and see what happens. You could either stick to the same genre but use completely new characters in an unrelated storyline, or go further, and try a different genre. Maybe even non-fiction, if you have an interesting story to tell."

"What do you mean:'But I can't just keep writing for the same 100 people.' Why not? They will eventually spread the word and sales will increase. And if you somehow make it clear they're stand-alone books, I think you'd have the best of both worlds. Having a loyal fan base is worth a lot, no matter how small. And to me, 100 isn't all that small."

"Just 2 cents: What if you made an omnibus with the first three books, or even with all four in the series? This way, if someone wants to read it but really wants to start at the beginning, they might get the omnibus."

"As a reader: if book 4 interested me, my next step would be to look at book 1. I would never give up on a book because it was part of a series, but I would go back and start at the beginning. An omnibus would tempt me. I've seen authors keep the order of their series vague (as some have suggested) arguing that they can be read in any order. I'm sure that's true, but I'm compulsive enough to want to read them in order and it is when I can't figure out the real chronology that I wash my hands of the books. I say keep it clear. Sounds to me like you should take a small break and work on something else but don't quit on your series. People like it and more and more people will get into them with time. New books outside the series will continue to be chances to promote your name in front of new readers."

"I'd do 1-2 omnibuses and maybe consider making bk 1 permafree so it could rise in the SciFi charts. Up to you of course. It'd also be good if you could indicate the order of reading in the title or on the covers."

"I think the big thing is do YOU want to continue the series.  If you still like the universe you have created then continue to write that series. I wrote a series and have put the first three books into an omnibus. I also have book one at the 99 cents price with a link at the end to the entire trilogy. I understand your frustration about writing a book for just a 100 people but hey a fanbase is a fanbase and it has to start somewhere. I have about a 100 people i know will by the next book in a series. The trick is to get them to review and talk about your book. All it takes is that one right person to fall in love with your books and sing their praises."

"I guess it depends on your plan/vision if you were to continue it as a series. It has to end at some point. If now isn't the time (meaning there is book 5 in your head), but you want to try writing something else, then you can try writing something else. And then come back to book 5 whenever you're ready."

"I worry about the same kind of thing and would love to hear the advice you get. I'm about to release the second book of a swords & sorcery fantasy trilogy. Like your series, my stories can be read stand-alone, but the books are clearly marked as Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3. Most of the advice I've seen here on the boards has been that series rule. I guess readers like the continuity and familiarity that a series offers. However, I could see how that sword would cut both ways. If the audience for your series is limited to begin with, continuing a series will keep you stuck in that limited market. It might be necessary to write something different to widen your exposure. In so doing, you might even bring new fans over to your series. That's my theory anyway. After I finish the trilogy, I'm going to take a break from that story world to write an urban fantasy that's been roiling around in my head. FWIW, I read The Catalyst and enjoyed it. You can definitely spin a good yarn. I didn't see anything that would limit your success with that series, other than the fact that the SciFi market itself is limited compared to, say, Romance. I guess we can't all be Hugh Howey or George R.R. Martin."

"Many people wait until the series is complete. When you promote, 99% of the time you should be promoting book 1. Once the series is done, advertise book 1 but make sure you say 'This series is now complete' and 'Start with _____' etc. I only advertise the other 4 books in my series once in a great while. I never do paid advertising for them, only the first one. When I do guest blogs and interviews, I talk about the first book, show all the book covers, mention it is a 5 series that is now complete, etc. Mine have not gone crazy with sales either, but I'm convinced that for most of us it is a slow build. I agree with others who have said:

1. It is important to let people know books are part of the series and which number each is
2. That each book can be read stand-alone.
3. That if people find book 4 interesting they will check out book 1."

"Perhaps just completely avoid using the word 'series', or numbering the books.
Just give them all a cover that looks very similar to each other (Edit - I see you've got that already), with similar titles, and put something about 'set in the nnnnn universe' in the blurb. I've just finished reading a set of books by Adam Hall, and a huge number of them have similar titles like Quiller Balalaika and Quiller KGB and Quiller Solitaire.  So, something like that."

"Can you work on two books at once?  If so, I'd work on one in the series and another new book outside the series.  Or, if you can't write more than one book at a time, try writing the series book and then write the new book.  I have a friend who dragged her feet on writing a book that was not part of a series, but when she finally published it, it sold way better than any of her books in the series.  You just never know what book will take off.  I prefer to diversify when possible. However, if this series is all you want to write, then I'd stick with just writing for the series.  There's no sense in forcing yourself to write something your heart isn't into."

"I think you should write something else in between books in a series. It makes life interesting, though I can see getting caught up in your world. It sounds like you need to take a break for yourself, also, so that's something to consider. I'm going to be in a similar situation with titling/numbering books in a series, as my books could be read by themselves, but they carry a long arc that's going to be resolved in the last book. I had planned on doing something like Jim Butcher does with his Harry Dresden books, but I'm rethinking that. Not sure what I'll decide, but I do know as a reader I like to read books in order."

"My suggestion is to take a short break from what you're doing now and try something new. I'm about to write a standalone book in a new fantasy universe I've been creating for years. If it actually takes off, I will probably start an actual series in that world. If it doesn't, I can continue to write standalone books that take place there to satisfy my own creative needs. Maybe do something like that. Write something that's completely standalone, and if people respond to it, take your readers' favorite character and give him an actual series."

"The best thing I ever did was switch genres and start writing something else.  My Junco series has one more book, maybe another novella next year.  But in between I've written two books in another series and a stand alone.  First thing - it's good to take a  break and do something different.  I've enjoyed writing contemporary and I'm just about ready to go back to SF and enjoy it for the freedom it provides.  And number two  - I think switching genres, going from SF to contemporary romance, to YA sweet romance has not only helped me as a writer, but given my readers something else to think about (and purchase) that they might not have ventured into.  I'm not sure how many people jumped from junco to Tragic, but I have enough reviews saying they were not sure they wanted to and took the chance anyway to keep me satisfied.  Also, even though I did not expect it, I now have NACR readers giving the SF a try too. I say move on and come back to that series later.  I stretch out my SF releases farther apart than my CR's because frankly, they are a lot harder to write.  Readers understand. And case in point about releasing book four and being worried about gaining new readers - yesterday in one of my book clubs someone mentioned the last book in a series I've never read. I decided to pick up the first book, read it in one sitting, and now I'm on to book two. This is how it works.  Don't worry about writing more books in a series, but DO worry about only writing the same series over and over again.  Start a new series."

"I'm planning the 'switch genre' trick myself; same setting, but instead of military sf I'll be doing some 'space noir' later on this year, once I've got a few Battlecruiser Alamo books out, just to hedge my bets a little. I figure the cross-over from readers should be pretty decent in any case. That and it will give me a break from Alamo for a little while; I might need it after five books to keep me fresh."

"After doing lots of promotions and getting some good sales on my series book I was all excited about releasing a stand alone in March. It tanked. Despite getting one of my best blogger reviews so far I've sold 5 copies since March. I thought I had fans, but then realised they were series fans, not fans of me as an author. I started out as a stand alone writer and have very little love for series either as a reader or writer. However, self-publishing seems to have moved the goalposts and I've got caught into writing a series if I want to sell anything at all. I would suggest that you at least finish the series, make sure it has a proper end, and then go on to the next thing. I know there are all those threads 'how to sell a million books' and all that, but if you're not writing from your heart and writing what you want to write then eventually you're going to hate your books and yourself. I'm happy for people who can write in cold blood and churn out what the market wants but not everyone can. Maybe it's a lot easier when you're making thousands of dollars a month, but I wouldn't know about that."

"That is me. I am slightly OCD about reading in order, even if something is barely connected. When authors come up with prequels later on in the series, it's an absolute nightmare for me. When an author writes a series, but the chronological order is different than the published order, it might make my head explode. Joanna Bourne, I am looking at you. Some of us readers are like this, others don't care. But if I read a book and didn't know it was part of a series until after, and it was not the first book in such series, I would be beyond annoyed. I wouldn't go and read the rest. I just don't like to go back and read stuff I already know more about from later books. That is like watching season 2 of a TV series before watching season 1. Every little thing can annoy me if it's spoiled. When I see books on sale that are #2, or #4 in the series and its an author I know I will like, I have to first check and see if book 1 is decently priced, at the library. etc. If I buy a later book, chances are I like the author enough to go ahead and then head for the first one. I would not do that with anyone unknown to me or a new author. There is a reason I have to frequent sites like goodreads, fantasticfiction, fictiondb, fictfact to figure out series order. Sometimes when there are in between novellas and such with half numbers, I might not even bother anymore. I started reading Sherrilyn Kenyon for example and just gave up now because I can't figure out anymore whats what. There are intertwining series withing the original series, or something like that. I am so overwhelmed trying to figure it out and just stopped reading the series. And not because I didn't like it. I wonder how many readers are like me."

"I think most successful series can't be read in any order because the thing that makes them successful is the thing that compels the reader forward. Obvious case in point: What will happen when Harry Potter at last faces Voldemort head-on? What makes a series compelling (for me) is the little parts along the way revealing more and more parts of a greater puzzle that I have to solve or a final confrontation that I have to know who lives, who dies, who loves, and who loses. You get the idea."

"As I see it, there are two separate questions here; one for the writer, and one for the publisher. (Remember, we're all wearing two hats.) If you still have stories in your universe that you want to write, do so. That decision is not based on sales or number of fans. If sales of that series are not enough to pay the bills, then you have two choices; make up the difference through another source of income or write something else, something that you believe will provide a greater revenue stream. That may be a different genre, or the same genre in a different story-verse, or even a different set of characters in the same story-verse. (Heck, it can be a different genre in the same story-verse!) Either choice of revenue stream would likely reduce the amount of time you can devote to your current series, but that's life. We've all got to pay the bills. And I agree with the others in that 100 readers are worth writing for. They just may not be financially worth being the ONLY thing you write, in which case those 100 readers might have to wait a bit longer for the next one in the series. Good readers will understand."

"Developing the back story of your main character(s) is a good idea.  George Lucas did this with the young Indiana Jones.  He built two franchises: Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  S. Stallone did the same with Rocky and Rambo.  Really tough to do, producing two cultural icons, but worth a thought.  On the other hand, Norman Mailer talked volubly about a 5-part series about an Irish character.  It was useful to him to fantasize about.  He was too much of an episodic author to sustain such an endeavor lasting for years, picking up, as he did well,  on the contemporary vibe. Know yourself as a writer.  Are you more of a sprinter or a long distance runner?"

"This is not going to be a popular opinion, but here I go. Series: I'm getting tired of them. And I see a lot of other readers are getting tired of them, too. I long for the days when an author released a stand alone book, then dusted their hands off and moved on. I'm also tired that I have to keep track of the gazillionth series in existence. The Love Me Series, The Kick-Butt Series, The Shoot-Em-Up Series, The OMG-YET-ANOTHER-SERIES! Series. I especially dislike a trend I'm seeing where authors are willfully ending their books at a point where the story feels incomplete so they can capitalise on me buying the continuation. I never do. When I see a book that mentions it's in a series, I first check how many books are in it. <= 3 books? I'll probably give it a shot if when I read the reviews, I don't hear the 3 / 2 / 1 stars complaining about a sense of incompleteness. > 3 books? Pass."

"As an author with two relatively successful series, I would say that if series #1 ain't doing it for you, proceed to series #2. That's if you're worried about increasing your commercial success. If you haven't seen the kind of sales you want with four books in the same series, it's doubtful that the fifth is the one that's going to break it wide open for that series, so pay attention to the result you're getting and move to something else that you feel could do better. I launched my Assassin series a year and a half ago. Built it till it had 4 books, which still sell well. Then launched my JET series, also with 4 books. I then did book 5 of the Assassin, followed by book 5 of JET. My plan is now to release one installment per year for each series, unless one goes all Wool on me, in which case, that's what I'll write. I'm about to release a third series, BLACK, which is a noir Hollywood PI series with a vicious sense of humor set against the entertainment industry. Mockery of everything is sort of the undercurrent. I have completed book 1 and am working on book 2 as I plot book 3. Plan there is to have 3 or 4 published by year end. So far having a new, robust series offering each holiday period has resulted in a tripling of overall sales every year. Obviously it's hard for that to continue past a certain point, but my philosophy is that if one series is selling well, two can sell even better, and three, better still. And it increases my odds of having one of them hit big. I don't think anyone knows exactly whether what they write will hit or not, so the more lines in the water, the greater the chance of catching fish."

"Whenever I hear the words 'stand alone' series I automatically think of the McNally series by Lawrence Sanders. I read those books close to twenty years ago. They're all about the same characters and in every one of them Archie McNally has a mystery to solve. It is a 'series' but there is no order to the books. You can read them in the order that they were released, or not. Even though there might be some slight chronology to them, if I recall, nothing in normal his life ever changes so much that it would affect future books. For example, he always drives a red Mazda Miata (remember, this is 20 years ago). If the car was to get totaled in book 3, then that would impact book 4 and he wouldn't be driving a Miata and it would be weird if you read book 4, then read book 1. The consistency, and permanence of those types of details are what make the books truly stand alone. So my question to you is, are your books truly stand alone or are there events that permanently change the landscape of future books? Can they really be read in any order? If they can, then I suggest you market them as the McNally series is marketed. There's the title: 'McNally's xxxxxxx' then the parenthetical (The Archy McNally Series) and then virtually no mention of any order of the books in the blurb (strangely, the new digital cover images have book numbers on them, the original books didn't.) other than the first book blurb saying 'Lawrence Sanders introduces...' and one of the blurbs states 'Book six...' So, Title, (Series Name) then no mention of Book #X. that's what I would suggest. Maybe even change the subtitle to (A Targon Tales Adventure)"