Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Club Meeting

Just as soon as Eternal Knight was released a former student of mine, Kelsey Tarzia, picked it up and read it in a single day. I loved hearing that. I also loved that she Tweeted about it, Facebooked it, and reviewed it on Amazon. What else could and author ask for?

Well, she told her mother about it. And not long after that, Robin Tarzia made it her selection for her book club's summer read.

Last Wednesday I went to Robin's house and met the eleven members of the book club. It was one of the coolest experiences I have had as an author. Now that I sit here thinking about it, it was the coolest experience, beating both the book release party and my first book signing.

The meeting lasted for two and a half hours. I didn't want it to end. We spent half the time talking about the writing process and how Eternal Knight came to be written. The rest of the time focused on the characters and themes of the novel. None of the club members are big fantasy readers, although most had read Harry Potter and a couple had read some of Lord of the Rings. It was nice to hear that once they got into the world of Eternal Knight they really enjoyed it.

It was fun hearing some of their questions. I think I started a few too many responses with, "It was really important to me that..." and blah, blah, blah off I'd go. But they were very gracious about listening too me and none of them actually nodded off.

I also had the chance to ask them a few questions. My favorite question to ask readers is about their favorite scene. I love knowing what worked for them, as well as what didn't. I'd share some of them, but don't want to give any spoilers.

The biggest problem with being the center of attention for the evening was that I didn't get a chance to take advantage of the fabulous spread of food Robin had laid out. I was talking so much I could only take small bites and was once caught chewing a mouthful of cheese and crackers while everyone waited for a response to a question. I'll have to work on my eating strategy for the next event. The wine drinking strategy worked fine, however.

The book club was a terrific group. I have to say I envied them. I love books and would love to be able to join a club. I asked if the club was really just an excuse to party every once in a while, but they insisted it wasn't. They are true bibliophiles.

My sincere thanks to the entire club for having me over. I had a great time. I'd love to come back when the sequel is finished. A special thanks to Robin and Kelsey Tarzia for making the event happen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

11 Days Left

As most of you know, I have dedicated the first three months' profits from Eternal Knight to charity. I am very happy that the novel has raised over $1,200 (and counting) for Cure CMD and WEOF.

At the beginning of my efforts I had low expectations and high hopes for how much money Eternal Knight would raise. Well, I beat my low expectations, now it it time to make a final push for the high hopes.

If you were thinking about buying Eternal Knight, I hope you do it now. I want to make this fund drive as successful as possible. Let me take a minute to share a little bit about Liam Miller with you. Liam is the son of two of my best friends and is my motivation for donating my profits with Cure CMD.

I've mentioned Susan, Scott, and Liam Miller before (in the "charity" post I linked to above). Liam is going into eighth grade--a fact that makes me feel really OLD. How can he be one year away from high school already?

Besides being a natural born killer in Call of Duty (a game I will never play against him again for fear of utter humiliation), Liam is a huge hockey fan and serious power hockey player. Liam is a member of the Philadelphia PowerPlay, a power wheelchair hockey league.

(image linked from the Philadelphia PowerPlay website)

Most importantly, Liam is is an all-around good guy.

This weekend is the Cure CMD Family Conference. Susan is taking a stack of signed copies of Eternal Knight to the conference and will be selling them at a table between sessions. Thank you, Susan. I hope you have a great conference.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Second Month (June) Numbers

How did things go in the second month? Numbers were down, but that was to be expected. My May numbers were very big (relatively speaking). I had access to a very large market in my high school (I could sell there because all profits were going to charity) and there was a lot of friend and family demand for the novel.

The numbers:
June (May)
60 (125) paperbacks (sold by me)
6 (28) paperbacks (sold through Amazon and CreateSpace)
5 (15) Kindle ebooks
0 (1) Smashwords ebooks
0 (4) Apple ebook
5 (2)Nook ebook

Five additional book bloggers have agreed to review Eternal Knight. I am really looking forward to these reviews. I think the book bloggers will have a strong multiplier effect.

I received five additional Amazon reviews. I now have fifteen Amazon reviews with an average score of 4.8. Eternal Knight is the 45th top rated epic fantasy on Amazon. I am very hopeful that the good reviews will translate into stronger future sales.

The challenge right now is to keep up the faith and keep promoting Eternal Knight. Of course I imagined EK sales exploding right from the start (hell, I'm a fantasy author--I have a vivid imagination), but I rationally understand that this is an unrealistic expectation. Adam Heine passed this link on to me. It shows sales growth for various self-published novels over time. The important lesson I got from it is that it can take time for a novel's market to develop. What it doesn't show is the effort that goes into marketing your novel. I have to keep exploring new avenues.

Eternal Knight is about to enter its last two weeks of charitable fund raising. It it's first two months it raised approximately $1,200 for the Cure-CMD and WEOF.

And just a reminder, if you are a fan of Eternal Knight, please consider reviewing it on Amazon (or wherever you buy your books). Reviews make a difference. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This is what it's all about

I don't know if Eternal Knight is going to ever make a profit. Right now it is down several hundred dollars (and a gazillion hours of effort).

I'm pretty sure it will someday make back the cash I put into publication and promotion. Making up for all the hours of effort... I'm not so sure.

I'm also not sure it matters too much. I'm currently working on the sequel to Eternal Knight. My labors are not fueled by the piles of cash Eternal Knight is raking in. That just isn't happening (yet).

Right now I'm fueled by good vibes.

When I crunched all the numbers (costs and revenues, profits and losses) and published Eternal Knight I forgot to factor something in. I forgot to factor in the value of good vibes. Where do the vibes come from?


It is hard to put into words just how wonderful it feels to get positive feedback from readers. It brings such a great feeling of accomplishment when someone tells you that something you created purely from imagination and effort brought them pleasure.

Sometimes these complements come from expected sources, and as genuine as they might be, they cannot compare to the kind words from an unexpected source.

So, with permission from the author, I'll share with you a message I received yesterday. I almost called it fan-mail, but calling it that wouldn't do it justice. And while I have received several wonderful reviews, this message trumps them all (my apologies to the kind authors of those reviews).

The author is the daughter of an old army buddy and his wife. Friends I haven't seen in sixteen years.

Hello Mr. Heppe, 

I am Megan Johnson and I met you when I was only one year old, but now I am seventeen and about to enter my senior year at high school. 

My mom and dad (Bjorn and Sheri) have mentioned you from time to time and I wanted to personally write to you to say how much I enjoyed your book. Your book related to me very well. The main character Hadde never quit and always tried to beat her opponents, which always seemed to be the opposite sex. 

This book had everything that I like in a book. It had the romance, battling, and pure excitement throughout the whole story. I would have to say that my favorite part of the story was when Hadde was showing up all of the men during the bow and arrow contest. 

This book was so interesting that is was one of those books that I literally never put down, that is unless my parents said I had to do something or go to bed. I am so excited and can't wait until your next book. Also thank you for serving our country. Good luck with the next book!

Megan Johnson

Now how cool is that? I think it made my day week. 

I also think I'll print it out and put it on the wall next to my computer. It will be a nice place to look for inspiration.


Friday, July 1, 2011

How old?

How old should my child be to read Eternal Knight?

I've been asked this question many times in the past month. It is a challenging one to answer.

Eternal Knight is not a Young Adult (YA) novel. It is funny how many people automatically think that fantasy means YA. I think it is a result of the Harry Potter age we live in. If you aren't a fantasy genre reader it is easy to make the fantasy=YA assumption.

Most fantasy novels have great appeal to YA audiences. They might not have been purposefully written for the YA audience, but there is nothing objectionable in them. The Lord of the Rings was not written as a YA novel, but how many of us read the books as teenagers? When I think about some of the books that had an impact on me as a teenager (Shannara, Thomas Covenant, The Belgariad, Riftwar, Amber, Dragonriders of Pern) I can't remember much that my parents could object to. I wouldn't have a problem with giving any of them to a thirteen year old.

GRR Martin is about as popular as they come right now. His works are considerably grittier than much of the fantasy I have read. The sex is more explicit, the violence is more graphic, and the tone is grimmer. The books are also more sophisticated in content and style. A Game of Thrones would not pass my thirteen year old test. That is... for most thirteen year olds.

So should a thirteen year old read Eternal Knight? I'll give the answer any good economist would give... it depends. My question is how sophisticated is the thirteen year old in question. Eternal Knight is not stylistically challenging to read. It is not a piece of sophisticated literary fiction that demands the reader chew on every sentence. However, some of the content is adult. No, there's no sex on the page. But it is implied to have occurred between two of the chapters. And there are a few sexually charged scenes. Some of the violence is pretty graphic as well. 

I know a couple of thirteen and fourteen year olds who have read, and enjoyed Eternal Knight. I do worry that a grumpy parent will seek me out, upset at something their child read in the novel. It isn't a conversation I want to have. After the child has read the book is too late.

When parents ask me if Eternal Knight is right for their child I give them the straight scoop on what their kid is going to read. And if they still aren't sure, I tell them that they should read it first. I might lose a sale with this approach, but it is better than dealing with a disgruntled parent. Hey, if the parent reads the book they just might like it. Fantasy isn't just for kids.