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2017 Reading Recap

I’m back! Sorry for going AWOL after the panic attack post, but life has been crazy and I have been detoxing from life by reading a shit-ton of books and playing a wonderful farming computer game called Stardew Valley. If you’re curious, a shit-ton comes to approximately 120 works read in a year.

You heard me (saw me, whatever). I read 120 works this year, which is up from 53 works in 2016. You may have noticed I used “works” instead of books. The reason being is that this list includes mostly books in the traditional sense but also a handful of short stories and quite a few graphic novels. I can already picture someone tutting my love of graphic novels and manga and subtracting them from my year-end total.

They have a narrative embedded in a static medium, so they count.

More than anything, I wish I could gather all the physical books I read this year and take a picture of them stacked into the great wall of literature, but I can’t bring myself to make that kind of mess or see their number and feel like the book hoarder I know I am. Instead, I’m going to post a picture of my spreadsheet. Yup, I have a spreadsheet of what I read called my Reading Log.

I’m the kind of person who likes to keep track of everything I do, so this list not only appears in Excel but also on Goodreads and in my bullet journal (also color-coded). Here it is:

2017 book log 12017 book log 22017 book log 32017 book log 42017 book log 5

So what do I plan to do with this large spreadsheet? Extract data.

I love data. Don’t let the author and English teacher thing fool you. Being an English major means going deep into analysis and picking apart my spreadsheet is just another way to do that.

In 2017, I read 120 works, 27,282 pages, and their average x/5 rating was a 4.16. Honestly, I’m a fairly easy grader when it comes to books. 5 means it hit the spot and was fantastic. 4 means I enjoyed it. 3, meh but it wasn’t awful. 2 means there was some huffing, eye-rolling, or issues that annoyed me. 1 means that the editing was so terrible that I was mentally editing as I read it OR it was highly offensive and I feel the need to eviscerate it. Most things I read are a 4 because I read for enjoyment.

Before I talk about the sex of the authors, I want to make a few points. I read a lot of series, so many of these authors are the same person counted several times. If an author is trans, I consider them to be the gender they prefer, so you won’t see transgender as a listing. 28 works were by authors were male (Lemony Snicket accounts for 10 of these male authors, so take that into consideration), 89 were by females (Jordan L. Hawk makes up 16 and K. J. Charles 15), 3 were by an unknown (all the same person), 1 was written by a nonbinary person. Someone out there (who I have given Dudley Dusley’s voice) has yelled out “But that’s 121, not 120!” I know. One book (Saga) has two authors, one male and one female. Of those 28 male authors, there were 8 unique authors, and there were 29 unique female authors of the 89.

What I find interesting is that many studies have found that people in general tend to read a lot more male authors than female authors. I have never found that to be the case with my reading. I don’t do it purposely; I just find that I’m drawn more to female authors and enjoy their work more. A lot of it is the more sympathetic or emotional quality of female writing versus male writing. It’s hard to explain but there’s a different quality to it in general. This also probably happens because the genres I really like tend to be female-dominated (historical and paranormal fantasy).

In terms of format, I’ve read 38 ebooks, 33 graphic novels, 22 hardcovers, and 27 paperbacks, or to say it differently, I read 33 graphic novels and 80 traditional books (I’ll explain why it isn’t 87 below). I count graphic novel as its own format because it’s different than a traditional paperback. Plus, just staring at the titles, it’s hard to tell what’s a graphic novel versus a novel. A few years ago, I was one of those book snobs. “Oh, I only read physical books.” Like that means anything. Then, I received a Kindle for Christmas and found an author I loved who only published in ebook form (the whim of a publisher, not her own), so I caved and I’ve loved my ereader ever since. Books tend to be cheaper, I can read in the car or before class or on the sly at my office job on my phone. What surprised me is how many hardcovers I read. I’m not a fan of lugging around heavy hardcovers in my bag, but since I’ve been buying more recent releases, it’s my only other option besides ebook.

I also read 7 short stories, which are included in the 120 and brings “traditional books” to 87. These are, for the most part, stories connected to larger works or series. Sometimes it’s hard to determine where a short story becomes a novella. For the purposes of this post, I decided that anything under 50 pages is a short story and anything over it is a novella/novel.

This next section scares me a little bit because it’s a lot and it looks unruly in my notes. I’ve separated what I read by genre, but I want to be clear that these are what I have decided to call them, not necessarily what their publishers would call them. There was no hard and fast criteria for the genre categories.

32 paranormal fantasy
18 fantasy
16 mystery
11 contemporary
9 historical fantasy
8 historical fiction
5 on writing (nonfiction)
4 urban fantasy
3 science fiction
2 afrofuturism
2 history (nonfiction)
2 YA romance
2 historical mystery
2 nonfiction
1 contemporary fantasy
1 steampunk
1 medieval poetry
1 historical romance

As you can see, I really enjoy paranormal fantasy and fantasy in general along with historical fiction (in various forms). A lot of these categories overlap with each other, and certain categories, like fantasy, became a catch-all for books that I couldn’t pinpoint but often tread the line between real cultures and fantastical new histories.

46 of those stories had LGBT characters as the leads. That means, over a third of the works I read this year had non-straight main characters. I think that is kind of amazing considering how certain groups would like to downplay the role of LGBT people in the world. I refer to myself as queer, so I probably gravitate toward stories and characters I can relate to. Within the list, there are also quite a few books with LGBT characters, but they aren’t the main character(s) and weren’t counted. It’s nice to see that the role of LGBT characters is growing past their past token or comedic or tragic status.

If I could, I would love to see what authors I read the most this year or analyze how long it took me to read a book on average based on genre or length, but I can at least tell you that on average I finished a book every 3.041 days. That’s crazy. It still blows my mind that I’ve read that much. Resisting is stressful, the news stresses me out, and my outlet this year has been reading.

Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about some highlights from 2017’s reading along with my bullet journal for 2018 and the goals I’m hoping to accomplish in the coming year, especially regarding reading and writing.

Happy New Year everyone! What did you read and enjoy in 2017?

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An Experiment

eob freebie ranking 9-30So I decided last week that I would conduct an experiment. The part of me that is a biology major is screaming, “Insufficient data!”, but I would still like to share my meager yet telling findings with you.

People buy more ebooks during the week than they do on the weekend.

On the 19th, I had made The Earl of Brass free for that Saturday only. I did a bit of hustling online, posting about my sale, making my little graphic for it, and tweeting it with tags to various retweet groups. I only sold 122 copies that Saturday. While that’s nothing to scoff at since now 122 more people know of my book, it isn’t that much. I climbed up the sales rankings, tapping out somewhere around #2,000 in the free Kindle store and #3 in free Steampunk. Not bad at all. I saw similar results when my friends/fellow authors posted about how they did with a Saturday sale and no outside promotion.

Then, I started to think about when I buy ebooks. Did I do it often on the weekend? Not really. When I checked my email on a Saturday or Sunday, I would scroll through my Bookbub or Ereader News Today email, only stopping if something really caught my eye. Most people are busy during the weekend. They’re running errands, driving their kids to activities, catching up on some Netflix. They aren’t scrolling through Amazon’s freebies to find the perfect book.

Well, what day would be better? Friday? Definitely not. People are out and about more on Friday than they are on Saturday. Monday? Nope. That’s the day where you’re all wound-up about work, school, the kids, getting to work/school on time, getting everything together. That left the middle of the week, Tuesday to Thursday. Checking my own ordering habits on Amazon confirmed that I did most of my ebook buying in the middle of the week (you know you have a problem when you can use yourself as a place to gather data). Mid-week you have gotten over the rush of Monday and now you’re thinking about how to escape boredom or even planning what you’ll do later in the week.

I decided to set my next freebie for a Tuesday. This time, there wouldn’t be any roof-top screaming about my book being free. I wanted it to all be organic downloads from people who weren’t influenced by my posts. Amazingly, it worked way better than Saturday, seven times better actually. As you can see from the picture at the top of the post, the best overall ranking I saw last night before I crawled into bed was #227 in overall free, #1 in steampunk, #2 in historical-fantasy. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw those rankings. I was sick as a dog yesterday, so seeing those lovely tiny numbers really made my day. This morning, I went and checked my KDP dashboard to see how many downloads I actually had. 902. 902?! I have never ever had that much downloaded on one day.

I’m sure some of you are screaming, “But they were free!” Yes, they were free because free pulls people in for the rest of your series. People are much more willing to take a chance on a nobody like me if the first book is free. Why pay $3.99 if you don’t know whether my book will suck or not? Free means they’ll download it and if they like it, they may move on to book two. Yes, there are people who just hoard free books. I’ve downloaded quite a few free books I haven’t gotten back to, but the thing is, the book is on their device. At any time, they could read it and discover that you’re one of their favorite authors. A loss leader can only help to boost future sales and hopefully generate a few reviews as well.

Right now, I’m working on my plan of attack for when The Earl and the Artificer is finished. Leading up to it, I’m going to be doing a few more freebie days to generate interest in the series. With Kindle Select, I get 5 freebie days to allocate as I wish, so I’m sprinkling them around. I’m not 100% sure when book 3 will be out yet, but when it gets closer to the release date, I hope to take out an ad in Bookbub or ENT about The Earl of Brass being free. Hopefully, that’ll drive sales toward books 2 and three. This plan won’t be implemented for a while, but it never hurts to plan ahead. I will update you as I go on experimenting with sales and marketing.

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What’s In A Number?

Numbers… so many numbers swirl around my head on a daily basis and oddly all are about my writing.  It may seem odd to think of writing in terms of numbers, but with my first book published and the second well into production, it is often what my mind diverts to when I don’t feel like writing.  The urge check and analyze this data is often overwhelming, and part of what I hope to do this year is to not obsess about the data related to publishing. Continue reading

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