Saleswanking 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 11.03.47 AMThese are December’s numbers; I just spent an hour and a half or so getting my 2016 spreadsheet set up.  December was down from the last couple of months, but that’s not a surprise, and I sold three times as many books in December 2015 as I did in 2014 so I’m calling it a win.  As always, click to make that legible.

I had a goal for 2015: I wanted other human beings to give me one thousand dollars of American money in return for things I wrote.  And I have good news!  By certain measurements, I beat that number by over fifty percent.

Unfortunately, by other measurements, I spent a lot more money playing author than I earned, mostly because of my insistence on attending a couple of conventions this year and paying early for one of the ones that I’m going to next year.  Conventions have yet to be a profit center, is what I’m saying.  Not even close.  But I think they’re useful, and I’m doing at least two of them in 2016 and may be doing as many as four or five.  If they bankrupt me, I’ll try something else for 2017.  This needs to turn some sort of profit soon, even if it’s just a tiny one.

My books were downloaded or purchased 2350 times in 2015, up from 524 in 2014, an increase that is frankly outstanding even if a lot of those were giveaways.  During that time I released two new books, The Sanctum of the Sphere and Searching for Malumba.  I plan on two more new releases in 2016, a sequel to Skylights in (hopefully, although the window to get this done is closing) March and a second fiction book late in the year that I haven’t definitely decided on.  Other goals for 2016 include being published at least once by someone who isn’t me.  I’ve been lucky enough to have stories published in both extant volumes of the World Unknown Reviewbut I think 2016 needs to be the year where I break into traditional publishing somehow.  Note that I’ll count it as good if the contract is signed next year; the story itself doesn’t actually have to come out, but I want a traditional publishing sale next year.  I would also like to see at least 4000 more books in the hands of readers.  That’s a pretty ambitious increase over this year; we’ll see if I make it.

And I kinda want to write a screenplay and a comic book, just for the hell of it.  I have no plans to try and sell either of them, and this isn’t the first year I’ve said “write a screenplay,” but they’d be fun to try and do.

(Oh, and audiobooks.  Audiobooks, dammit!  At least of BA 1!)

I am sticking with Kindle Select for the foreseeable future, as well.  My ebooks will remain exclusive to Amazon, as I have better sales when exclusive to Amazon than I do when I make my books available everywhere.  Sooner or later Amazon will piss me off again and I’ll diversify again, but for now, Amazon’s where you’re going to have to go to get one of my ebooks.

Or, y’know, email me, and we’ll work something out for your other device.  You can always do that.

But yeah.  In April of 2014, I had no books available at all.  As of now, I have this:


I dunno about you, but I feel pretty damn good about that.

Thank you, genuinely, so, so, so much to everyone who has helped me on this; I hope the stories have been worth it.

Now go review them!

WordPress Year in Blogging

…not a whole lot that I didn’t say earlier today, but it’s right here.  Have you gotten yours yet?

Blogwanking 2015

Fun thing about Macs that I didn’t realize until a few days ago:  most of us know about using control-shift-3 to take a screenshot.  Did you know that if you use control-shift-4 you can then draw a rectangle on the screen and it just screencaps that part?  No need to crop!

Anyway, here’s how this year went:

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That’s with 636 posts published.  Here’s 2014’s details:

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Now, that’s all skewed to hell by the Syria post, which, again, got over 100,000 pageviews and who knows how many viewers; it’s currently sitting at 38,000 FB shares, so… a lot?  What I find interesting: I didn’t miss a single day of posting in 2015, and I’ll be damned if I miss tomorrow or Thursday.  But I had fewer posts, since 2014 had 779 of them, and a lot less engagement– 1000 fewer comments and 3000 fewer Likes.  I would not have expected that.  Tons more unique viewers, though; I was way up on that (nearly double) before the Syria thing hit.  In other words: I reached a lot more people this year, even before the viral post, but they aren’t spending as much time on the blog or talking/communicating nearly as much as the 2014 people did.  My ratio of views to visitors in 2014 was insane.  That went away in 2015.

Geography!  Here’s my top 10 countries:

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I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that with maybe a bit of fiddling toward the bottom these are probably just about everyone’s top countries. I see no reason why my blog would be more popular in, say, France than anyone else’s.  Maybe I’m wrong.

Full global reach, 2015:

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Just about everywhere, basically.  Here’s the lifetime of the blog:

…oh, god damn it, they’re screwing with this again.  Well: Greenland fills in, and all of South America, and another country or two in Africa, and a few tiny islands.    I’ll upload the image if I can find it.  Shit.  I NEED MY LIFETIME GEOGRAPHY, WORDPRESS.


Referrers?  Sure, why not, although this is skewed by the Syria post again:

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Not much to say here, I guess, other than to wonder what exactly is causing the referrals.  I tend to get a handful a week but not many more than that; if they ever spike I’ll look into them more closely.

So, that’s my 2015.  How was yours?  Saleswanking tomorrow or the day after.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Scalzi did his list today, which reminded me that I haven’t done mine. See if you notice a theme here.  Asterisks are next to posts that weren’t written this year:

  1. In Which I Tell You How Your Religion Works (105,278 views)
  2. SNOWPIERCER: I hated, hated, hated, hated, HATED this movie (12,925 views) (*)
  3. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: BOB ZOOM (3,653 views)
  4. In which the kids are fine, shut up (2,921 views) (*)
  5. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: OCTONAUTS (2,623 views)
  6. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: CURIOUS GEORGE (2,158 views) (*)
  7. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: COLOR CREW (1,642 views) (*)
  8. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: PEG + CAT (1,197 views) (*)
  9. In Which My Kid is Weird as Hell (1,193 views) (*)
  10. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: BUSYTOWN MYSTERIES (876 views) (*)

All but three of those are connected to children’s shows, since the Weird as Hell bit is actually about Curious George.  Clearly I need to adapt the blog and just talk about kids’ TV all the time, because it gets ridiculous traffic when I do.  The Kids are Fine was Freshly Pressed in January, and we all know about the damn Syria and Snowpiercer posts.

Most of those, you’ll note, are from previous years.  If I restrict this to only posts written in 2015, here’s the list:

  1. In Which I Tell You How Your Religion Works (105,278 views)
  2. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: BOB ZOOM (3,653 views)
  3. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: OCTONAUTS (2,623 views)
  4. Blood Transfusions Don’t Work Like That: A Review of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (787 views)
  5. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is a miserable, wonderful mess of a movie: a spoiler-filled review (464 views)
  6. In Which I Refuse to Shut Up:  A Response to Delilah Dawson (391 views)
  7. How to Launch Your New Book: Everything I Know (361 views)
  8. Creepy Children’s Programming Reviews: PINGU (319 views)
  9. GUEST BLOG: I watched Jessica Jones, and My Hands Froze, by James Wylder (299 views)
  10. In Which I am Way Ahead of Myself (242 views)

This is a teeny bit more diverse, adding a couple of movie review posts and a few about writing; the #9 post, not written about me, was about television and responding to/dealing with trauma, and is probably the most important of the ten.  The only one I don’t really get was #10, which basically benefited from being written the same day as the Syria post and got a lot of secondhand attention as a result.

Tomorrow or the day after, general 2015 blogwanking, and probably a saleswanking post not long after that.  This was a really interesting year.

The Top 10 New(*) Books I Read in 2015

And here we go: my list of the 10 Best New Books I Read This Year, where “New” means “read it for the first time in 2015,” not “came out in 2015.”  Although, that said, I think for the first time there aren’t any books on this list that are more than a couple of years old at the most, and the majority of them actually did come out this year.

(I know I said yesterday that this wasn’t coming out until next week.  I assume y’all will forgive me.)

Also, don’t take the rankings too seriously other than the top three or four books.  My first cut went from 21 to 14, and wasn’t all that hard, but going from 14 books to 10 was really difficult.  There will be an Honorable Mention section at the end.

And, just in case you’re curious, here’s the 2014 list and here’s the 2013 list.

So, without further ado:

2335021910) The Me You See, by Shay Ray Stevens.  This was actually the first book to be added to the shortlist, as I read it in the car on a road trip very early in January.  I read the entire thing basically cover-to-cover along the trip, so the best thing this book has going for it is that it’s a hell of a page-turner.

The premise is simple, but effectively pulled off:  the book begins at the end, with a shooting, but the identity of the shooter is obscured.  We then jump back in time to follow the story of the first victim of the shooting, with bits and pieces of her story told in first-person by people she knows and has interacted with.  The mystery unfolds effectively and the multi-narrator aspect of the story is great.  I got home and ordered the book in print immediately so that I could have it on the shelf and look at it.

Shay Ray is also an indie author and a Twitter buddy; you should be following her at @shayraystevens if you aren’t.

205188729) The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu.  This book is weird; when I reviewed it I gave it five stars, but with some reservations, and there were points during the year where Three-Body Problem could very well have been the top book on this list.  However, it is part of a trilogy, and part of a trilogy in a really clear way— it’s not one of those trilogies where the first book was a one-off that did well so they added more books; this story clearly wants the next two books to be complete.  And the second book, The Dark Forest, wasn’t translated by Ken Liu.

And the translation utterly ruins the book.  The second book is so bad and so unreadable that I couldn’t get through more than 15 to 20% of it, and that’s as the sequel to one of my favorite books of the year.  Unfortunately, the fact that the second book is a one-star at best means that I can’t recommend the first one as highly, because it  really isn’t as self-contained as it could have been.

The worst thing?  The English translation of Volume 3 comes out soon, and Ken Liu translated it.  So I’m in the position of either just trying to read Books 1 and 3, or trying to force my way through the awful second book.  Blech.

But 3BP, evaluated by itself, really is something special.

(Sidenote: speaking of Ken Liu, you might also remember me highly praising his The Grace of Kings, which also came out this year.  I loved the hell out of it while I was reading it, but it unfortunately didn’t hold up as well as I expected it to.  I still plan to read the sequels, and it’s still good enough that it’ll appear in the Honorable Mention section down below, but some of the criticisms of it I read afterword resonated strongly enough that I can’t put it in the top 10.  Dude still had a hell of a year.)

231302868) The Venusian Gambit, by Michael J. Martinez.  This book’s presence on my Best of the Year list has nothing to do with the fact that Michael Martinez specifically thanks me for some reason in the afterword.  The three books known as the Daedalus Series constitute some of the most fun I’ve had reading science fiction in years; they’re adventure books in a way that I really don’t think you see very often nowadays.  Gambit is the best of the three, taking every cool idea that Martinez could think of, throwing them all at the wall, and then writing a book out of everything that stuck.  There are zombies and aliens and the future and the past and space galleons and the French fighting the British and power armor and magic and alchemy and how the hell is this all in one book and oh there are jungles on Venus in one of the alternate realities because this series exists in two different parallel universes and Christ, how many times do I have to recommend this series before you read it?

232099247) The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi.  My favorite thing about this book is that it’s a Paolo Bacigalupi book and I liked it.  Bacigalupi is one of those authors who has gotten a lot of recognition and won a fair number of awards and whose work I haven’t previously been able to get into in a yeah, this is my fault, not his sort of way.  The Water Knife was probably his last shot; if I didn’t like it I was just going to have to put him up on the shelf with Stanley Kubrick and stop worrying about it.

But!  The Water Knife ends up being an excellent sci-fi thriller, taking what feels very much like a Clancy novel or some sort of crime book and tossing it into an American Southwest just far enough in the future that the states are starting to literally go to war over water.  It’s kinda post-apocalyptic in the sense that a bunch of terrible shit has already happened and kinda pre-apocalyptic because it’s clear that climate change is going to make things a lot worse before they get better, but once you get past the book being set in the future there’s little that’s science fictiony about it.  That’s not a complaint; “<other genre> book set in the future” is a perfectly cromulent way to write science fiction, and in fact I’d call it one of speculative fiction’s strengths, because I can recommend this to somebody who only reads, say, Clancy or Grisham and expect them to enjoy it.  This is the only book on the list I think my Dad might like; you see what I’m saying?

250670466) Lost Stars, by Claudia Gray.  I read almost all of the Star Wars books.  Most of them, lately, have been bad.  Some of them have been absolutely terrible.  And I don’t read a lot of YA unless it’s so popular (say, Hunger Games or Harry Potter) that I can’t avoid it, or it’s written by an author I’m already familiar with.  Claudia Gray writes for kids and adults, and her YA Star Wars book is good enough that I’m going to be looking for her work for grown-ups in the very near future.  This is the best Star Wars book written in a long time, and if you liked Force Awakens or the original trilogy you really ought to check it out, as this book spans the events from A New Hope through to the Battle of Jakku which you see the aftermath of in the beginning of the new movie.  Check out my review for more details, and note that of the three things I found clues to in the book, I was right about one, wrong about another, and as yet somewhat undetermined on the third.  But definitely read the book.

191618525) The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin.  I have… six books by N.K. Jemisin?  And they’re all wonderful, so you really ought to just start with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and by the time you get through to the last book in the Dreamblood duology the sequel to The Fifth Season will probably be out.  The Fifth Season is the first book in her third series, called The Broken Earth, set in (again) a post-apocalyptic world, or maybe it’s more that the apocalypse is ongoing and repeating and they just sort of have, like, apocalypse eruptions every now and again in this world.  It bounces around, Song of Ice and Fire-style, between a handful of main narrators, and all of them are compelling and interesting and there’s a big twist at the end that I totally did not see coming and was super awesome.  Like I said, she’s great; read all of her books.  All of them.

181701434) An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield.  I didn’t actually read a lot of nonfiction this year, but you should look at the Honorable Mentions list at the bottom of this post to see three more nonfiction books that it hurt me to trim out of the final Top 10.  This is the only nonfiction book that made the list, because there was no chance in Hell that a memoir by Chris Hadfield about his life and career as an astronaut was not going to be one of my favorite books of the year unless it turned out that Chris Hadfield couldn’t put two words together correctly to save his life.

As it turns out, Chris Hadfield can write, among his many, many other skills.  You will note that the book credits no co-author.   The guy’s literally one of the most interesting people on Earth and, as I said before, the book is a mix of a self-help/inspirational title, a memoir, and an instruction manual on how to be an astronaut.  EVERYONE wants to be an astronaut.  Go.  Read.

234444823) The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson.  This is the most recent read on the list– I just finished it a week or so ago– and I didn’t bother doing a full review of it because I knew it was going to be on this list soon anyway.  Interestingly, Traitor and the next book on the list are almost the same book in a lot of ways: both take a character from a foreign culture and plunge them into court intrigue and a position of power and then shake things around and see what’s left standing.  Also like the next book, this is a book that I enjoyed despite a couple of what are probably pretty major flaws.  Chief among them, in this case, is that the culture that Baru Cormorant comes from is vastly more interesting than the one she ends up in– homosexuality is so normalized that most people have multiple parents, and Baru herself has two fathers and one mother, and one of the conflict points of the novel is that the culture that colonizes her home and eventually sweeps her off to her “merit-based” position as chief accountant (more interesting than it sounds, I promise) of a foreign land is not so big on The Gay.

It also has the laziest map I’ve ever seen in a fantasy book.  Read it anyway; Baru is fascinating and the weight of the entire book rests on her shoulders; if she wasn’t as interesting as it is the book would have collapsed, but she’s great.

179100482) The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison.  Goblin Emperor is weird as hell; it’s my second-favorite book of the year, and it belongs here, but if you read my review you’d think I hated the thing.  It’s much like The Force Awakens in that respect.  I’ve already given you the broad outlines of the plot because they’re very similar to Baru Cormorant; the main difference between the two is that Cormorant is very low-fantasy and Goblin Emperor is very much Tolkien-esque high fantasy, with a glossary at the end and a bunch of words that you won’t be able to pronounce or spell and will probably have to look up a few times to remember what the hell they mean and goddammit I liked this book I just can’t talk about it without sounding like I didn’t.  Go read it so you know what I’m talking about.  I can’t wait for the sequel, and I’ll reread it before I read the sequel, too.

209806671) The Mechanical, by Ian Tregillis, is the best book I read this year, and the gap between it and Goblin Emperor is pretty stark.  It is set in an alternate-history twentieth century where the Dutch invented mechanical clockwork automatons called Clakkers sometime in the seventeenth or eighteenth century and then used them to take over the goddamn world.  Clakkers are sentient but have no free will, and the main character of the book is a Clakker named Jax who manages to escape his geasa and I ain’t telling you a single other damn thing about it other than that you ought to go read the damn thing right now.  The sequel just came out but my wife snatched it up before I could get to it; she told me last night that the bit that she just finished reading was the best action sequence she has ever seen in a book.  Not for nothing, this is also the most beautifully-written book I read this year; I’m typically more of a story guy than a language guy, but it’s notable enough in this book that I need to mention it.

So, what’s your top 10?

HONORABLE MENTION, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER:  Public Enemy: Inside the Terrordome, by Tim Grierson; Zer0es, by Chuck Wendig; The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu; Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates; Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz; Abbadon’s Gate and Cibola Burn, by James S.A. Corey; Anathem, by Neal Stephenson; and The Unquiet Grave by Katherine Lampe.