How to Create a Progress Bar

I remember the first time I encountered a progress bar on a writer’s website. I thought, “Oh, cool!”

sample progress barI’m visually oriented, so that visual representation of the writer’s progress on his or her current work gave me a much better feel for how near (or far away) the point of completion stood.

I wondered if I would ever add a progress bar to my website, but not seriously, more as a piece of fiction about myself. πŸ˜€

Most writers didn’t (and don’t) have such bars on their websites, but every now and then I would see another. I assumed there was a “widget” or a plug-in that produced the bar, but I didn’t think about it too hard.

And then I realized last April that I wanted a progress bar for my work in progress.

I thought about searching among the WordPress plug-ins for one that creates a progress bar, but…

I feel a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve forgotten how one does this! The last time I was mucking about with plug-ins was when I set up this website in February 2012, more than 4 years ago. I remember none of the details. I’m sure I could figure it out again. At some point, I’ll probably have to. There will be something I decide I want for my site that cannot be done in any other way.

But I decided to try Google first for the progress bar.

Almost immediately, the results turned up someone’s blog post with the HTML code that would do the job. It seemed very straight forward, so I dove in.

The blogger’s example progress bar was orange on black, and the code looked like –

Before I show you, let me say, “Don’t panic!” I’m going to explain each piece. And the HTML is quite a short string. πŸ˜€


<div id=”progressbar” style=”background-color:#000000;
<div style=”background-color:#f96604;width:75%;height:10px;

This is the visual that the HTML produces:

Now, you’ll notice that this black and orange bar is a lot longer than the blue bar in my sidebar. That’s because the HTML code does not specify the length, so it simply extends to the edges of the text window.

The text window for the blog post is much wider than the text window for the sidebar, so we get a longer bar.

I don’t like the l-o-n-g progress bar, so if I had been planning to use it in a blog post pinned to the top of my blog, I would have searched for a way to control the length of the progress bar. Because I was planning on putting it in the sidebar, I didn’t need that. So I didn’t go searching. πŸ˜€

Now, let’s look at the different pieces of that HTML string.

Two Pieces of HTML

It is basically two pieces. The beginning of the first piece is <div. The beginning of the second piece is indicated by that same little bit: <div.

In HTML, every piece has to have the beginning indicated and the end indicated.

So the end of each of these pieces is indicated as </div>

Here’s the code with those beginnings and endings highlighted.

<div id=”progressbar” style=”background-color:#000000;
<div style=”background-color:#f96604;width:75%;height:10px;

So what about those two pieces? What’s in them?


This is the first piece:

<div id=”progressbar” style=”background-color:#000000;

The first piece gives the black background for the progress bar.

Now I am notnot – well versed in using HTML. I’ve picked up what I need to know by looking at the HTML windows of my blog posts. And that’s it. I’ve never taken a class. I’ve never even read a book on the subject!

Which means I won’t be able to explain the way a more informed HTML-user would. But I can explain enough so that you should be able to get your own progress bar in your own sidebar to look the way you want it to.

The Identifier

So, in the first piece, the id=”progressbar” is probably simply an identifier, telling the computer, “Hey! This piece here is the progress bar.” Or, it might also tell the computer something about the basic shape of the element – long and thin and straight.

Those of you who do understand HTML are probably laughing right now and thinking, “Does she really think that? Could anybody possibly be so ignorant?”

Well, yes. Someone could, and I am. But, never mind. πŸ˜€

The Color

Next comes style=”background-color:#000000;

Now I do know what this does. It controls the color of the the background of the bar. #000000 is black.

Next bit, please!

The Shape of the Corners


This controls the corners of the bar. My bar has rounded corners. But if you wanted square corners, you get them by changing 6px (6 pixels) to 0px (0 pixels).

Let’s see what that looks like.

Here it is with 3 pixel corners.

And with 6 pixel corners:


The Thickness

padding:3px; controls how much of the background shows around the edges of the ever-changing orange part of the progress bar. Change that 3px (3 pixels) to 0px (0 pixels) and the border goes away altogether.

Change the 3px to 6px (6 pixels), and the border gets very thick.

I like the 3 pixel border.


That’s the whole of the first piece.

A List of the Code

Indicator of the beginning <div
Identifier id=”progressbar”
Background color style=”background-color:#000000;
Corner shape border-radius:6px;
Border thickness padding:3px;
The end of the beginning (a greater-than sign) >

A space separates the beginning indicator <div and the identifier id=”progressbar”

Semi-colons ; separate the three pieces of the “style”: color, corner shape, and border thickness.

And a greater-than sign > caps off the whole description.

I always reproduce those separators exactly! If you accidentally omit one, the HTML won’t work the way it is supposed to, and the image on your website won’t be what you intend.

<div id=”progressbar” style=”background-color:#000000;

There’s the first piece as a whole.


Now let’s look at the second piece.

The second piece is the ever-changing orange that grows longer as you write more words or shorter when you cut a few out.

<div style=”background-color:#f96604;width:75%;height:10px;

<div indicates the beginning. Or more accurately, the beginning of the beginning!

Color, Take 2



That’s the color. #f96604 is orange.

And next!

The Width


Ah! That’s the bit that controls how much of the black background is covered by the orange. Each time I updated my progress bar, I had to do a bit of math.

When I first put up the bar, I’d written 4,000 words. And I estimated that the book would be 160,000 words long.

4,000 Γ· 160,000 = .025

.025 x 100 = 2.5%

So, instead of width:75%; I needed width:2.5%;

It was exciting when I changed that width:2.5%; to width:5%; at the end of the week!


The Height

Next bit!


It controls how thick the overall progress bar is. If you change height:10px; to height:4px;, it gets very thin.


If you change height:10px; to height:20px;, it gets very thick.


I like height:10px; (10 pixels) best.


The Shape of the Corners, Take 2

Next bit!


This controls the shape of the corners of the orange bar.

Change border-radius:4px; to border-radius:0px; and the corners become square.

Let’s try border-radius:3px;


Hmm. I think I like 3 pixels better than 4 pixels. I didn’t tinker this much with the code when I was setting up my own progress bar. I’m going to try 3 pixels when I finish writing this blog post. πŸ˜€

And that was the last bit of the second piece.

A List of the Code, Take 2

Here are all the bits that make up the second piece.

Indicator of the beginning of the second piece <div
Background color style=”background-color:#f96604;
Width width:75%;
Corner shape border-radius:4px;
The end of the beginning of the second piece (a greater-than sign) >

However, it’s not quite the end of the HTML code.

Putting It All Together

We have the first piece.

<div id=”progressbar” style=”background-color:#000000;

We have the second piece.

<div style=”background-color:#f96604;width:75%;height:10px;

But each of those only just describes the start of each piece. We must also tell the computer, “Okay, that’s enough. End it here.

And each piece needs its very own “End it here.” They can’t and won’t share! πŸ˜€


That gives us the whole thing, if we’re okay with orange on black. I wasn’t.

I wanted something that would blend better with the other colors on my website. I liked the idea of dark blue on pale blue. Since #000000 was black, and #f96604 was orange, what numbers would yield the blues that I wanted?


I did some searching and discovered that the whole rainbow of web colors is described by numbers called “color hex codes.” Each is composed of a combination or letters and numbers, six of them. And there are web sites were you can match up the color and the number.

I googled and found one of these sites:

Navigation bar for

The Color Picker

The top navigation bar at has something labeled “get info.” I clicked the triangle next to that label, and a color picker appeared.

color picker at

Choosing a Pale Blue

I clicked around on it until I arrived at a light blue that looked good. The hex code for it #dff0fd appeared in the little info box. I copied it and pasted it into the HTML piece that controlled the background of my own progress bar.

Light blue on the color picker

<div id=”progressbar” style=”background-color:#dff0fd;


The orange on the light blue background does not look good to my eye! Of course, we’re only halfway to what I want.

Choosing a Darker Blue

I clicked around on the color picker some more, until I arrived at a darker blue that looked good. Then I copied and pasted that number #1b8be0 into the HTML piece that controlled the “orange” part of my progress bar.

Dark blue on the color picker

<div style=”background-color::#f96604;width:75%;height:10px;



I finished the first draft of my WIP and sent it off to my first reader this week!

I feel a little lost. It’s time to start work on the cover – and I’ve been searching for the right images for it – but I’m already missing the writing.

I think I’m going to treat myself to writing the short story that’s tugging at my inner artist while I work on the cover.

Let’s see that progress bar with 100%.

140,712 of 140,712 words

And there you have it! More than you ever wanted to know about HTML and progress bars! πŸ˜€

HTML to Copy and Paste

On the chance that you want a blue-on-blue progress bar for your website, here’s the complete HTML. Feel free to copy and paste. Remember to change the 75% to the percentage for your WIP!

<div id=”progressbar” style=”background-color:#dff0fd;
<div style=”background-color:#1b8be0;width:75%;height:10px;

For more about blogging:
Why I Wanted a Progress Bar
Why Create a Site Map?
Slow Blogging and Other Variations
SPAM Deluge


A Beautiful Morning

So many of the early mornings this summer were beautiful. That of September 5th charmed me so utterly that I wrote about it in my journal. Since I am head down in the exciting final scenes of my current novel – and prefer not to take sufficient time away from it to write a blog post – I’m going to share that morning with you. πŸ˜€

September 5, 2016

Clear sky this morning, deep blue to the south, paler hue overhead, shading down to a soft warm white above the mountains to the west.

Crickets sing in the grass, their droning music punctuated by small tuneful chirps, crows in the distance, melodic twitters from songbirds nearer by. Sun brightens the trees of the slope across the way. Magical.

Sunlit weedsThe back yard is still in shadow, muted greens; golden light hits the upper branches of the holly, so tall it rises above the ridge.

The inner reaches of the maples are quite lovely, a mosaic of shadowed leaves and sunlit ones with pieces of sky showing through.

. . . “the same summer will never be coming twice.” Never quite the same.

quote from
Anne of Ingleside,
L.M. Montgomery


Copyright Statement for My Website

United States ConstitutionFrom the moment I click the “publish” button, the posts and pages on this website are protected by copyright law. Which means that limited excerpts of the contents may be quoted by others under the fair use doctrine. But any more extensive reproduction of my words, and any use at all of my photos or drawings, may only occur when my permission is sought and granted.

However, many blog owners put a copyright statement on their websites. It serves as a reminder that the content of the site does belong to the site owner, a fact that is sometimes forgotten online.

The crafting of a copyright statement has been on my to-do list for quite some time. Today, I finally tackled the task.

Many sites have only the most basic of statements.

Copyright Β© Siteowner.

There were two reasons that would not not work for me.

The most obvious one is that my site contains some content that does not belong to me. I love old paintings and old book illustrations, and many of them are in the public domain. Which means I am permitted to place images of these old works on my website.

I also include images that their creators allow to be used under Creative Commons licenses.

So a blanket statement of copyright would be grossly inaccurate. Most of the contents of my website belong to me, but not all of it.

The other reason I prefer not to use a blanket statement, is that I want to encourage people who like my books to tell others. While one friend talking to another has no need any special permissions, a blogger – writing a blog post about one of my books – who wants to use my cover images or marketing copy, does need permission. A very limited copyright statement might discourage these folks!

With all these parameters to keep in mind, developing my copyright statement took some thought.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution

This is what I came up with:

You have my permission and encouragement
to reproduce my book covers and cover copy
for the purpose of telling others about my books.
Please do!

(That purpose only, of course.)
Public domain images that appear on this website,
images used under a Creative Commons license,
and excerpts from book reviews
possess links to their sources and credit to their creators.
All other content,
images, and text
copyright Β© 2011-2016
J.M. Ney-Grimm.

The first paragraph lets bloggers, reviewers, and others who want to talk up my books know that it’s fine for them to copy my book cover images and my cover copy on their own websites. I retain my copyright to those things, but I grant permission for them to be used.

The parenthetical remark that follows is probably not necessary, but I wanted to be clear, lest an ill-informed or muddled hobbyist think it would be okay to simply “borrow” one of my book covers to slap onto one of their own books. It wouldn’t! πŸ˜€

Next comes the statement about the elements appearing on my site that do not belong to me.

If you hover your cursor over the image of a public domain painting or a photo used under a Creative Commons license, you’ll see a little text box that displays the title its creator gave it (if it has one; not all do), the creator’s name, whether the image is in the public domain or is being used under a Creative Commons license, and the website where I found the image – usually Wikipedia, Wikimedia, or Flickr.

If you click on the image, a new tab will open on the page of the website where the original image rests.

When I quote from a review of one of my books, I include the name of the reviewer, and I link to the website where the review originally appeared.

Excerpt of a review by James J. Parsons of Perilous Chance

The final paragraph of my copyright statement is where I state my ownership. I created this website in early 2012, so you would think that the years specified would include 2012 – 2016. But I published The Troll’s Belt and Troll-magic in December 2011.

The marketing copy for those two books has changed many times, and the covers have been revised, too. However, the old covers and the old copy appear in some of my posts about cover design and copy writing. Therefore, I use the time span of 2011 – 2016. Of course, I’ll have to update that interval every year on January 1.

I placed my statement in both the sidebar and the footer of my site, because I want it easily found. If I put it in the footer only – well, I allow seven posts to appear on my blog page. It’s a l-o-o-o-n-g way down to that footer. Might as well be hidden behind blackout curtains! The statement in the sidebar is much more accessible.

But if you click on an individual post, the sidebar disappears. And the footer at the bottom of that one post (or the bottom of a page lacking a sidebar) is not far away at all.

So I’ve got both bases covered.

I am not a lawyer, so none of the above is legal advice. But I thought my thinking and my process might be of interest to some of you! πŸ˜€

For more about blogging:
Why Create a Site Map?
Slow Blogging and Other Variations
SPAM Deluge
New Home Page


A Story for My Coloring Book

Three weeks ago, when I asked folks to print out a sample page from my upcoming coloring book and give it a try, one commenter made a remark that really interested me.

I like pure abstract, but fairly soon after I settled in with pencils and coloured sharpies I found myself wanting the image to tell a story. Widdershins

Being a teller of tales, I liked the idea of finding a way to blend story with my drawings. But how could I manage it? The drawings I intend to collect in the coloring book are very much abstracts. I think of them as “modern mandalas.” The pairing I wanted between story and image did not immediately present itself to me.

But there was something tickling at my back brain. If I just let it percolate for an unspecified time…maybe I would get an idea.

Well! That idea arrived yesterday, and I’m really excited about it.

If I weren’t in the middle of writing the intense conclusion to my current novel, I’d be writing the start to a new short story. I love my idea, though, and once I send my novel off to my first reader, I know what I’ll be working on while I await her feedback.

I’ll probably publish the envisioned short as a standalone ebook, as well as in the pages of my coloring book. I took a bunch of notes. It’s hard to wait to start! But I’m not a writer who can concentrate on two stories at the same time. And my novel will be complete soon.

In the meantime, I’ll share another design intended for my coloring book. πŸ˜€

coloring book, sample page 2

For more about my upcoming coloring book:
Page for a Coloring Book
Drawing for Fun and Relaxation


WIP, Utterly Engrossing

Maple TreeI remember so clearly setting up the progress bar for Tally the Betrayals. I’d already written 4,000 words, and I’d been reporting my word-count-per-day all through those 4,000 words to a writer friend.

Me: “I think I’ve done most of the research and world building I need in order to start writing. I think I’ll start next week!”

Friend: “Start tomorrow!”

Me: “Huh. I suppose I could.”

That was a Wednesday. I did, indeed, start Thursday, and it felt great. I’d been focused on publishing tasks (covers, blurbs, etc.) for many months. Then I went through the medical emergency of a retinal tear. And then I had a troll citadel to design. πŸ˜€

It had been 5 months since I’d done any writing. I missed it. But I felt wobbly. What if I’d forgotten how?

I hadn’t forgotten how, of course. I think writing is a bit like bicycle riding. Once you know how, you don’t forget.

But I felt like I needed training wheels! So I reported to my writer friend that first week.

“Only 300 words today, but I started.”

“Better today: 800 words.”

“Now I’m getting into the rhythm: 1,200 words.”

When I reached 4,000 words, I realized that I shouldn’t lean on my friend through the entire 120,000 to 160,000 words that my novel would require. (Tally felt like a longish book to me.)

And, really, I didn’t need that much propping up. But I’d really liked reporting my word count to someone. I found it motivating and encouraging.

Just saying, “I wrote 1,600 words today,” to someone other than myself felt like getting a treat.

So I decided to set up a public progress bar on my website.

I worried that I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to do so. (Google is your friend.)

I worried that I wouldn’t like it once I’d set it up. (“You can always take it down again, J.M.”)

I worried I would disappoint those of my blog readers who watched that progress bar, when there were days that I didn’t make much progress.

Holly TreeBut I wanted to do it. So I did!

And you know what? It worked beautifully for me.

I did figure out how to create a progress bar. I plan to blog about that process soon.

And I love updating my progress bar each day. “See, I did write 1,200 words today! Really!”

I’ve also enjoyed seeing the darker blue color that indicates words written slide farther and farther to the right. It was a very tangible marker, more so – for me – than seeing the page count grow in my manuscript file.

Now, as I look at the 113,000+ word count and the 94% slider bar visual, I feel amazed that I am almost finished.

“How can this be? It feels like just yesterday that I was putting up that progress bar with 4,000 words!”

But I am close to the finish. And, as is usual for me, I’m finding my story to be intense, engrossing, and hard-to-put-down. If only my brain didn’t become soggy with fatigue, I’d write far into the night, saying, “Just one more page,” the way a reader does when reading a good book.

But my brain ceases to hold the necessary edge around 5 PM or so. Sometimes I’m so beguiled by the events in my story that I push until 7 PM, but that’s rare. Better to get a good evening’s rest and a good night’s sleep, and start fresh in the morning.

Deck View

As I write this blog post, it is 7:15 AM, and I am sitting out on my back deck – as I do each morning to keep my circadian rhythm in sync with the sun. But now it’s been half an hour.

I’m going to go in, eat breakfast, and get started writing Tally for the day!

I can’t wait! Gael – accountant to the “dark lord” in my “dark tower” – is going to make a crushing discovery in this scene! πŸ˜€

(No, Tally does not really have a “dark lord.” It has someone much more interesting!)

The links from this post:
5 New Books!
My Torn Retina
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
How I Rehabilitated My Sleep


Why Create a Site Map?

Just 5 years ago, I’d occasionally stumble upon websites possessing a page called “site map” or “sitemap.” That page presented a long list of the entire contents of the site. I found such lists very useful. I could skim them quickly to locate exactly what I hoped to find. Or to determine that the information I wanted was not present. Often I’d discover hidden gems I hadn’t been seeking, but that I was glad to acquire.

I liked site maps. I wished that every website possessed one.

angled metal tracks on an electronic circuit board

Unfortunately the trend was moving away from my preference. Somehow it was decided that the sole purpose of a site map was to ensure that Google’s crawlers – and those of other search engines – could locate each web page efficiently, so that the page could be listed by the search company in their search results.

Now, I like relevant search. Very much. When I google something, I want the best result to appear on the first page. And perhaps site maps were always geared to ensure that this happens. Perhaps they were never intended to help human visitors. But these days, the site maps are all actively hidden from human browsers, tucked away where only crawler bots can see them. I think that’s a shame.

I’ve tried using the search boxes available on most websites. I’ve tried clicking on the by-the-month archive links. And the category links. But not only do these methods often fail to deliver what I seek, but they have little chance of turning up the hidden gems that I don’t know are present.

It’s a shame. Totally a shame.

However, there’s no reason my own site must participate in this great omission. I’ve had creating a site map on my to-do list for a long time.

It didn’t seem urgent at first, because my site didn’t have much content. In the summer of 2012, I had only 3 books published – each of which possessed its own web page – and I’d written a mere dozen or so blog posts. No doubt most visitors absorbed it all in under 10 minutes and then moved on, unimpressed. “Huh. There wasn’t much to that.”

Today it’s a very different site! This is my 238th post. I have 19 books published – each with its own web page. I’ve created 15 “lore” pages for readers who want to know more about the North-lands and the other worlds in which my stories take place. Plus there are the miscellaneous pages such as my bio, a sign-up for my newsletter, a landing page, and so on.

There’s a lot of content present. And since I don’t tend to write many ephemeral newsy posts, the material retains its interest for quite a long time.

But if no one can find my post on the limits of obtaining vitamin D from sunlight or my explanation of how magic works in my North-lands, then the posts may as well not exist.

I decided this week that it was time to tackle my site map. One intended for humans!

Multitasking, photo by Jenn Vargas

The task took longer than I thought it would. I suspect that is often the case with such projects. There is software to automate the process. But it seemed likely that it would take me just as long to learn the software as it would to create my site map by hand. And I believe the software tends to generate the proverbial wall of text.

Admittedly, all the site maps I’ve ever seen were walls of text. They were useful in that format, and I could have settled for such a basic list.

But I knew that if I grouped the list into related categories, it would be a lot more accessible and thus a lot more useful.

So I’ve done just that. Check it out! πŸ˜€

Site Map

I’ll lay you a wager that you’ll find something I wrote back in 2012 or 2013 or 2014 that tickles your fancy. Am I right? Tell me what post or page it was in the comments! πŸ˜€

For more about blogging:
Copyright Statement for My Website
Slow Blogging and Other Variations
SPAM Deluge
New Home Page


Page for a Coloring Book

I’ve been drawing in the evening and enjoying it. I find it relaxing, engaging, and satisfying. Plus I think the results are cool! πŸ˜€

coloring book patterns used

Some of the pattern combinations I’ve drawn won’t work in the coloring book I intend to create, and that’s okay. I draw primarily for my own pleasure. But many of my pen-and-ink designs look perfect to me as candidates for a page in my coloring book.

I’m hoping that a few of you who visit my blog enjoy coloring. If you do, would you consider doing me a favor?

Click on the image below, and the link should take you to the original image file, which is a little larger than the image appearing in this post.

Print out the design. And try coloring it!

Then report back on your experience. (Either in the comments or via email.)

Was it fun? Was there a part of the design that you particularly liked? Was there a part that you wished were different? I’d love to know, so that I can tailor future pages for maximum enjoyment.

coloring book, sample page 1

Thank you!

For more about the origin of my proposed coloring book:
Drawing for Fun and Relaxation


Revising Light’s Blurb

A goddess of ancient times, under a volcanic sunAs many of you probably know, I consider myself blurb-challenged. Marketing copy simply does not come naturally to me – or unnaturally either. πŸ˜€

I believe I continue to improve – thank goodness! – but improvement comes slowly, and requires lots of help.

Last week I received wonderful help from someone who writes excellent blurbs. He read my blurb for Devouring Light and remarked that it was full of plot, more plot, and nothing but plot. This is bad! To quote Dean Wesley Smith, “Remember, readers want to read your nifty plot, not be told about it.” Exactly.

The really odd thing? Until the feedback on my blurb for Light, I honestly didn’t perceive that it was congested with plot. The instant I read the feedback, it was clear as day. I don’t know why I have such trouble staying out of the plot in my blurbs, or perceiving it when I stray into plot, but I do.

Anyway… once I saw the problem with Light’s blurb, I set to work fixing it.

And now I’m going to share what I did!

Light quote 1

This was the problem child:

Can one small good deed offset ultimate destruction?

Mercurio stands watch over the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger, but not from afar. Close to home lurks the real risk that his festival for Sol’s 25th anniversary will be a bust.

Failed negotiations with constellations and his fellow guardians send him to the brink of complete frustration…when a beautiful celestial wanderer fetches up at his domicile, seeking refuge.

Her form beguiles. Her mystery intrigues. And Mercurio’s fascination with his visitor poses yet another threat to Sol’s celebration.

Will Mercurio recognize his role as cat’s paw soon enough? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than any of the guardians imagine – threaten the solar system’s very existence?

This is, indeed, much too much plot.

And while the way in which constellations and planetary guardians appear as characters is clear in the book, it won’t be to someone browsing a bookshelf or a web page. When a browsing reader is confused, he clicks away to another page or sets the book down to pick up another. Not what I want!

Light quote 2

So I tossed the whole thing and started afresh, writing out my thoughts in my journal.

Focus the Devouring Light blurb on the moment when Mercurio arrives home:

β€’ all of his records indicate that something is wrong
β€’ but Vigilem, his clockwork cat, won’t say what (even though he knows)

It’s been a bad day – Mercurio’s planning a circus show for Sol’s birthday, and none of his fellow planetary guardians (or anyone else) wants to help. It looks like he’s going to have to ask Haden, and Haden is no safe power to approach.

But now he’s got problems on the home front as well.

β€’ bad day
β€’ no one will help with the circus
β€’ and now this: problems at home
β€’ little does he know that both sets of problems will meet
  in a much larger one!

Light quote 3

Writing out my thoughts always moves me forward much more effectively than merely thinking them. Once I’d jotted down all of the above, I had an idea for the start of the blurb.

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves his the oddball chunk of rock – with its retrograde out-of-sync spin orbit and spin, its apparent illusion of retrograde motion – almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him to organize a gala celebration circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him. Nobody wants to

After a day of “no, no, and no!” from Saturn’s clowns, flying lions winged bulls, and acrobats, he returns home to learn that something a speck of cosmic debris menaces his planet

β€’ orbit transcript
β€’ rotation transcript
β€’ planetary magnetosphere
β€’ coronal disturbances & solar flares
β€’ Vigilem coy

…to see an anomaly on all the transcripts recording Mercury’s the events in Mercury’s sphere. Something is wrong with his planet. But what?

No obvious answer…

To quote those clowns of Saturn: “No, no, and no!”

I’m down in the plot again. The first paragraph was on the right track, but after that it all went south. Grrr! Try again!

Light quote 4

Mercurio – the guardian of Mercury – loves the oddball chunk of rock, his sacred charge, with its out-of-sync orbit and spin, its illusion of retrograde motion. Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him!

After a journey filled with no, no, and no! Mercurio returns home to learn that his beloved planet…

something out of order with his beloved planet

β€’ a meteor
β€’ a comet
β€’ a wanderer, a hobo, a vagabond

which means a one-of-a-kind celestial body, something Vigilem is not familiar with

Aagh! There I am down in the plot again. Okay. Start on a fresh page. One. More. Time.

Light quote 5

Mercurio guards the planet Mercury, his sacred charge. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia charges him Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday, the joke’s on him.

A joke with lethal consequences in this clockwork universe where the simple “no, no, and no!” of Mercurio’s friends and neighbors prospective circus performers

What kind of story is this? It starts with Mercurio designing a circus performance and ends with [spoiler removed]. It’s a story in which the stakes keep getting raised. It’s a save-the-world story. A save-the-solar-system story.

A joke with lethal consequences as the stakes rise ever higher.

Hmmm. The first three paragraphs of my blurb are good, but I need a good closer, like the closer for Caught in Amber.

Amber quote

A tale of multiple rising stakes

A tale of rising stakes told with all the subtlety and deception word play J.M. Ney-Grimm brings to science fantasy.

J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes with the delightful subtlety, misdirection, and playful teasing wordplay inherent in displayed by typical of Mercurio himself.

As you can see, I started to descend into the plot again when I touched on those “lethal consequences.” This time I pulled myself up, realizing that I needed to go directly to the closer. I tinkered with various possibilities for that closer, but I could feel my brain getting soggy. I’d lost my sharpness. I was nibbling close to what I wanted, but I was just going to get farther away from it, if I continued without a break.

I set the blurb aside and got a good night’s sleep.

Light morning

(Yes, the photo above is the view from my back deck.)

The next morning, it felt like the whole thing needed to sit another day. In fact, I gave it two days, and awoke on the third knowing the right final paragraph was waiting in my back brain. All I needed to do was sit down and start writing. It would come.

Courier for the gods Divine and mMischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

The next paragraph or line needs to be something other than what happens next.

While Mercurio plots to wangle his way around the “No, no, and no!” from his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the guardian of Pluto plots a much darker spectacle a spectacle much darker than a circus.

In a clockwork solar system of the mythical celestial spheres, Devouring Light

Light quote 7a

Gah! I need some way of including “clockwork solar system” in this blurb. But it’s now really time to hit the closing paragraph!

While Mercurio wangles his way around the “No, no, and no!” delivered by his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns, the somber guardian of Pluto plots a much darker scheme.

A tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system governed propelled ruled by the gods of ancient Greece and Rome told with the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys.

stubborn, ornery, testy, exasperated, impatient, irritable, captious, irascible

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay enjoyed by Mercurio himself, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

Yeah! Nailed it! Time to get the computer out!

(Yes, I was writing longhand. It works better than typing for me when I’m really struggling.)

At this point, I knew I had the basic structure of the new blurb. It would need small adjustments, but the heart was there. And while longhand is better for when I’m laboring, the computer is much easier when I’m making adjustments.

Light quote 8

Here’s the blurb in its (current) final form:

Mischievous Mercurio guards the planet Mercury – his sacred charge – with quirky devotion. He loves the oddball chunk of rock, with its illusion of retrograde motion and its out-of-sync orbit and spin.

Almost as much as he loves playing pranks.

But when Earth’s guardian Gaia bids Mercurio to organize a circus act for Sol’s birthday celebration, the joke’s on him.

While Mercurio wangles his way around the captious refusals of his would-be stilt-walkers and clowns – “No, no, and no!” – the somber guardian of Pluto plots a darker scheme.

With the subtle delight, clever misdirection, and teasing wordplay that Mercurio himself enjoys, J.M. Ney-Grimm tells a tale of steeply rising stakes in a clockwork solar system ruled by the gods of ancient Rome.

For more about writing sales copy for fiction:
How I Wrote and RE-WROTE Cover Copy for Troll-magic
Cover Copy Primer
What Happens After the Manuscript is Complete?
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!


Quiche sans Crust

Swedish apronI’ve always loved quiche, but it’s been decades since I’ve made any in my kitchen. I’m not sure why I dropped it from my repertoire. Honestly, I’m not sure it was ever in my repertoire. A shame.

But last week, my daughter who hates eggs announced that she’d been served quiche at a friend’s house and really liked it. I leapt on my opportunity to get some luscious, farm-fresh eggs into my beloved child. πŸ˜‰

Since it has been many months since I’ve posted a recipe, I’m leaping on the chance to do that as well.

It’s been years since the food researchers conceded that they were wrong about the cholesterol in eggs. It’s not harmful, never has been harmful, and you can eat as many eggs as you want. Actually, they conceded that the cholesterol in eggs is not harmful and has never been harmful, but they wussed out of reversing their recommendation to limit eggs. It just looks so bad. Heaven help their reputations!

So what’s good about the nutrition in eggs?

Just about everything. They are rich in vitamins, especially the important fat-soluble A and D.

(Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin, healthy mucous membranes, proper immune system function, healthy eyes, and good vision. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth, the proper functioning of the immune system and the brain and nervous system, regulating insulin levels, support of the lungs and cardiovascular system, and preventing cancer.)

Eggs contain ample high-quality protein. They are an excellent source of EPA and DHA – long-chain fatty acids that are vital to the development of the nervous system in young children and to the preservation of mental acuity in adults. Eggs are truly a complete nutritional package, provided they come from chickens raised on pasture, where they scratch for bugs and worms.

quiche eggsChickens sitting in vast warehouses produce eggs that lack some of the superlative benefits of pasture-raised birds. Their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 20:1 instead of the optimum 1:1. And you can see from simply looking at the egg yolks – pale lemon yellow versus rich orange – that warehoused chickens produce eggs with less beta-carotene. They also have 28% less vitamin A.

But enough of weighing the pros and cons of eggs. What about my quiche?

quiche milkWhen I made it for my family, I made two, one crustless and one with a crust. That way I can eat low-carb, while my kids and husband get the kind of taste sensation they prefer. The recipe below is for one crustless quiche. You can double it, if you want to make a pair like I did. Or you can pour it into a crust, if you prefer your quiche with wheat. πŸ˜€


quiche cheesedab of butter
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 slices of deli ham
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
dash of white pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives


1 β€’ Make sure you have a rack in the middle of the oven, and either remove the second one or place it below the middle one. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

quiche spices2 β€’ Smear the butter all over the interior of a 9-inch glass pie dish.

3 β€’ Heat the milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until a few tendrils of steam start to rise from its surface. Then set it aside, off the heat.

4 β€’ Grate the cheddar cheese, if you have not already done so. (I do my grating after heating the milk, to give the milk a chance to cool a little.)

quiche ham5 β€’ Cut the deli ham in strips, roughly half an inch wide and 2 inches long.

6 β€’ Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly.

7 β€’ Add the salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and chives to the eggs and mix well.

8 β€’ Lay the ham strips all over the bottom of the pie dish.

quiche ham and cheese9 β€’ Cover the ham with the grated cheese.

10 β€’ Pour the egg mixture into the milk and mix thoroughly.

11 β€’ Gently pour the egg-milk mixture over the cheese and ham.

quiche uncooked12 β€’ Getting that full pie dish into the oven without spilling it is tricky! Take it slow and use pot lifters, so that all your attention can be on the liquid level and not on your vulnerable fingers.

13 β€’ Let the quiche bake for 45 – 50 minutes.

quiche cooked14 β€’ Test for doneness by inserting a butter knife into the edge of the quiche custard. The rubric says that if it comes out clean, the quiche is done. I say: know your oven! The knife came out clean from last week’s quiche at 40 minutes, but it could have used another 5 minutes. This week’s quiche generated a knife that never came out clean. After 55 minutes, I took it out of the oven anyway. I should have taken it out 5 minutes earlier. Both week’s quiches were good, but not at the ultimate sweet spot.

quiche slice15 β€’ Let the quiche cool to lukewarm – about 15 minutes – and serve. Cut the quiche to create 6 pieces.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Baked Apples
Coconut Chocolates


Do Goodreads Giveaways Work?

Goodreads is essentially a social media website for readers. Its stated mission? “To help people find and share books they love.” This April, Goodreads announced that 50 million reviews of books had been posted by users on the site. There’s no doubt that many, many readers frequent Goodreads and that many authors hope to catch the attention of some of those readers.

Goodreads landing page

One of the aids to discoverability offered by Goodreads is its giveaway program.

The author or editor or publisher of a book lists the title in the GR giveaway program, specifying the dates during which the book will be offered, the number of copies to be given away, and which nationalities are eligible to participate. Goodreads chooses the winners. Then the author (or editor or publisher) mails the paperback books.

I first tried the program in 2013 with my novel Troll-magic.

I followed the GR recommendation that I give away 10 copies and that I let the giveaway run for a month, from March 1 to April 1 in this instance. I limited the countries to the US, the UK, and Canada, because I was concerned about shipping costs.

As it turned out, US shipping averaged $4 per book, the UK $5 per book, and Canada $7 per book. I sent each copy directly from CreateSpace. International shipping from the US has become more expensive now than it was back in 2013, so how you get the books to the giveaway winners is even more important. I suspect CreateSpace mails each book from the plant nearest to the specified address and thus gets the cheapest shipping rate possible.

Just last month, when I attempted to mail a brand new copy of Quantum Zoo sitting on my shelf at home to a reader in the UK, I was shocked to learn it would cost me $24 or more! I quickly reverted to sending the book directly from CreateSpace.

thumbnail imageSo how did my first giveaway turn out?

March 1 – April 1, 2013
Sign-ups: 580
# put on GR to-read list: 239
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$112

I wasn’t impressed.

At the time, Troll-magic had been out for 14 months. When it first released, about ten of my family and friends bought and read it. After that it sold one or two copies a month. It seemed fairly clear that the book was largely invisible, readers who might like it stumbling upon it by sheer chance.

What I wanted to do was advertise Troll-magic in one of the newsletters then available, such as Pixel of Ink or Ereader News Today. But in order to be accepted by such advertisers, my book needed reviews. Most readers do not write reviews. I’ve heard rates ranging from one reader out of a hundred to one reader out of a thousand who will do so. But no matter where the truth might lie, my book was not selling enough copies to garner reviews.

The Goodreads giveaway guidelines state that the average giveaway book receives six reviews for every ten copies given away. They caution that this is an average. Each title will perform differently.

Troll-magic received only two, and their substance was not in the least helpful. One winner’s review was merely a note explaining that she was too busy to read at that moment, but that she planned to bring Troll-magic on her next vacation and maybe read it then. The other winner said that Troll-magic had too many point-of-view characters for her taste. (It has five.)

I did notice that the book sold 5 copies in April, instead of its usual 1 or 2. But I was not convinced the increase was due to the giveaway. I’d tinkered with the book’s keywords. The increase could well be due to that change. I’d also joined a writers’ group that focused on marketing. There were five of us in the group, and the other members were reading Troll-magic in April. I figured 4 of the 5 sales were my fellow writers buying their copy to read.

However, the GR guidelines were talking about averages. With reason. The tire is always going to meet the road in the specific readers who win. And the readers who enter a giveaway will not be as choosy as they might be, if they were spending their own money to buy a book. Some of the readers signing up would be people whose reading tastes are such that they will never like any of my work. Some of the winners could be readers who will never like my work. If I’m really unlucky, all of the winners might be such people!

I decided I would try another giveaway with a different book.

Sarvet cover image, 150 pxSarvet’s Wanderyar
August 31 – September 30, 2013
Sign-ups: 384
TBR list: 149
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70

These were better results! Six reviews, and all of them positive: one 3-star rating (I liked it!) and five 4-star ratings (I liked it a lot!).

The substance was better too.

“I loved this book and recommend it to everyone…” a cup of coffee and a fairytale  β€’  “Short and sweet and easy to read.” Nadhirrah  β€’  “I enjoyed the author’s style, and how she successfully wove together a brief story that did not sacrifice depth and detail.” Tyler  β€’  “Wonderful tale of coming to age…” Jay  β€’  “…quite engaging. Sarvet’s Wanderyar is a bildungsroman that depicts a girl’s transformation from an innocent and fearful child to a wide-eyed and open woman.” Shelby Rollenhagen

I’m not sure I noticed that in the month following the giveaway, Sarvet’s Wanderyar sold 5 copies instead of its usual 1 or 2. Since I spent $70 to purchase and mail 10 copies to giveaway winners, and those 5 copies sold (at $2.99 each, with Amazon keeping its 30%) netted me only $10.46, the giveaway was not a cost-effective way to advertise. But I note the increase now. At the time, I remained focused on gathering honest reviews.

Because the results of the Sarvet and the Troll-magic giveaways were so different, it seemed clear that one could not depend on any one giveaway. The sensible thing to do would be running a series of them. I decided to run giveaways for each of the novels and novellas that I had published.
Navarys cover 150 px

Skies of Navarys
November 25 – December 20, 2013
Sign-ups: 509
TBR list: 187
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
JAN sales: 0

“The characters are realistic thirteen years old with all their curiosity, doubts, amiability and daring in the face of adversity.” Wendy  β€’   “The plot of this novel was more action driven than character driven.” Lyle Appleyard  (Note the opposite reader reactions!)

thumbnail image of cover
The Troll’s Belt
January 13 – February 8, 2014
Sign-ups: 597
TBR list: 207
Reviews: 6
Money spent: ~$70
2014 sales rate: ~1 every 2 months
FEB sales: 3

“Different take on an old classic. Enjoyed thoroughly.” Shelia  β€’  “Wow… It was a really good read.” Emilia  β€’  “There were a lot of loose ends left.” Bob Stuhlsatz  β€’   “The part of the story I enjoyed the most was…about finding courage to get yourself out of a situation that seems hopeless.” Deanna Lenz  β€’  “…a good book that I’ll be holding on to to read to/give to my son when he’s older.” Bel

Livli's Gift, 150 px cover
Livli’s Gift
February 17 – March 22, 2014
Sign-ups: 848
TBR list: 332
Reviews: 4
Money spent: ~$90
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
APR sales: 3

“…the novel was beautifully written.” Eva  β€’   “It was truly a trip reading Livil’s Gift. Especially when the character goes into trance…” Jay  β€’  “…a good story.” Sabrina Bradley  β€’  “I cannot believe how lucky I am to have received this incredible treasure of a novel for free…” Joe

A medieval lady stands in an ancient stone hall
A Knot of Trolls (anthology)
April 14 – May 10, 2014
Sign-ups: 789
TBR list: 295
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$95
2014 sales rate: ~1 per month
MAY sales: 2

“I don’t read a ton of high fantasy so I was a little apprehensive to start reading this book. However, I found these stories to be a fun and interesting read. Ney-Grimm has created a fascinating new world rich with details and memorable characters. Very well written, Ney-Grimm paints a vivid world full of magic.” Alisha

A goddess of ancient times under a volcanic sunDevouring Light
June 30 – July 26, 2014
Sign-ups: 599
TBR list: 238
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$85
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 4 months
AUG sales: 2

“Pretty accurate understanding of astrology… Hades: I have a real problem with people always portraying him in an ‘evil’ light; as far as gods go he was actually pretty nice.” Jodi

(Okay… the reader is always right about her experience. Yes. But this is my blog, so… my novella Devouring Light has nothing to do with astrology; it is inspired by mythology and the ancient Greek cosmological model of the celestial spheres. I portray Hades as a complex character, not an evil one. Just sayin’.) πŸ˜€
thumbnail cover image
Perilous Chance
August 18 – September 19, 2014
Sign-ups: 859
TBR list: 351
Reviews: 2
Money spent: ~$75
2014 sales rate: ~3 every 2 months
SEPT sales: 4

“…lovely fantasies …quite enjoyable …great characters… Thank you.” Vykki  β€’  “It was almost poetry-like. That threw me off a little bit and caused me to not enjoy it that much.” Tyler Knight  (Ah. Not fond of lyrical prose!) πŸ˜‰

At this point I’d run 8 giveaways, spent ~$665, and had seen only 1 or 2 reviews for the last 4 giveaways. It was time to assess my overall results.

My first thought? Goodreads giveaways are awfully expensive for the results they generate! I can’t afford to carry on in this way!

Looking at the average numbers… $84 spent per giveaway, 645 sign-ups per, 250 TBR, 3 reviews generated per, I decided I was done with giveaways.

There the matter lay for nearly a year and a half. “But, but, but…” as Ian Fleming writes in the delightful book (not movie) Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

QZ spine photo 600 px

I had 8 lovely, brand new copies of Quantum Zoo sitting on my bookshelves, because I’d wanted to see a pile of them all in one place and I’d been convinced I would give many copies as gifts the previous Christmas. (I gave two of the ten I’d ordered. Ha!) πŸ˜€

And then I heard several indie authors say that the optimum number of copies for a GR giveaway was one or two, not ten.

What if I tried a 2-copy giveaway for Quantum Zoo? I’d already paid for the books. Even if both winners lived in Canada, I’d need to spend only $14 to learn how a 2-copy giveaway performed.

I set it up. And then, in a burst of enthusiasm, I set up 2-copy giveaways for Hunting Wild and Caught in Amber as well.

So, how did they go?

First, let me say that I was ill-informed about international postal rates here in the US. The last time I’d mailed a gift to a friend who lived across the Atlantic, the shipping rates were reasonable. Apparently that changed sometime in 2015. As it chanced, one QZ winner lived in Canada, the other in Britain. I would need to spend $24 each in order to get the books to the winners, for a total of nearly $50. No way! I quickly reverted to my old standby of sending them direct from CreateSpace, but it meant I spent ~$24 (for books and postage) instead of the $14 I’d estimated.

Quantum Zoo thumbnail size coverBut what about sign-ups and TBR lists and sales?

Quantum Zoo
May 18 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1205
TBR list: 294 +292 = 586
Reviews: 1
Money spent: ~$24
2016 average sales rank: ~#300,000
JUNE sales rank: #112,624

“5 stars… an interesting collection of stories… through the weird and the wonderful…” Michael

(Quantum Zoo is on my fellow editor’s KDP desktop, not mine, so I don’t have immediate access to sales figures.)
Hunting Wild cover image, 150 px
Hunting Wild
May 17 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 811
TBR list: 315
Reviews: 0
Money spent: $15.47
2016 sales rate: 1 per month
JUNE sales: 1

“This is really well done. I only meant to read a few pages, and looked up a couple hours later when I finished.” Amazon review

Amber cover 150Caught in Amber
May 12 – June 17, 2016
Sign-ups: 1069
TBR list: 428
Reviews: 0 (one 4-star rating)
Money spent: $20.71
2016 sales rate: 3 per month
JUNE sales: 3

“The writer gave herself a difficult challenge with the setup, as for most of the book there is just one character, trying to survive and figure things out. It works. The writing is atmospheric and lyrical…” Amazon review

Obviously the proponents of the 2-copy (or less) giveaway were correct in asserting that it made no difference to the number of sign-ups. The most I’d ever received for a 10-copy giveaway was ~800. Yet both Quantum Zoo and Caught in Amber broke the 1000 mark. Hunting Wild is a novella. It received 811 sign-ups, compared to the ~500 that my other novellas received.

Nor did the fewer copies offered seem to negatively affect the number added to TBR lists, each in the 300 – 400 range.

For making readers aware that a book exists, 2-copy giveaways seem just as effective as 10-copy giveaways.

What about reviews?

Honestly, I’m no longer pursuing reviews. Sure I like receiving them, especially the glowing ones! If a reader were to ask me my preference, I’d say, “Please! Do leave a review! Yes!” But I’ve had the chance to try some of those newsletter ads that have review thresholds, and none were effective.

Glory review image

Most require that the book advertised be on sale for 99Β’, which means I’ll make 35Β’ for each sale. The ads cost between $15 and $40 (or more). So I’d have to sell from 43 to 115 copies in order to break even. I don’t. So far, the best a newsletter ad has done for me is 8 copies sold – nowhere near good enough.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of my audience are not finding their next good book from such places. I’m not myself.

Oh, I tried the newsletters as a reader for several months. And I regretted buying (and reading) the few books that caught my attention. Maybe that makes me a cranky old cow, but I don’t think so. I suspect that not many writers are writing the type of book I enjoy, and those that are do not advertise on Ereader News Today, etc.

Furthermore, I’m guessing that readers of J.M. Ney-Grimm books are also not able to find a lot in the newsletters that appeal to them.

Now that I have the ability to buy spots in the newsletters, I’m no longer very interested in doing so. Wouldn’t you know! πŸ˜€

However, I’m reconsidering the proper purpose of GR giveaways and whether they might be useful for overall discoverability. As I prepared to write this post, I did a little digging online (again) for what other authors had to say about giveaways, and I found a very interesting post by Catherine Ryan Howard. She agrees with two of the conclusions I’ve come to: 1) don’t use GR giveaways to get reviews, and 2) don’t give away 10 copies at a time.

I wish I’d encountered her advice before I did all my expensive experimenting! Although she wrote it just as I was starting my last 10-copy giveaway, so… too little, too late? πŸ˜€

But I’m wondering if a 1-copy giveaway might have a place in my launch strategy for new books. Reviewing the effect that giveaways had on my sales, looking at the long term, not the short term, was very interesting.

Up until May 2013, I sold very few books. With each new release, the four friends who’d decided they actually enjoyed reading my fiction would make their purchases. Another handful of strangers would buy their copies. And then the book would settle down to selling very sporadically.

Business for Breakfast, cover imageI was in what Leah Cutter, author of Business for Breakfast, calls the “drips stage.”

You write a novel and publish it.

Somebody buys it. Great! This is a drip. You make another sale that month. Maybe you don’t sell anything the following month. Then you have another sale. … A sale here, a sale there.

She described my experience well.

But in May 2013, something changed for me. I reached what Cutter labels the “trickle stage.” (Cutter calls books “properties” in the quote below, as in “intellectual properties.”)

Everyone who has read your stuff loves it. You continue to write and publish. But your work hasn’t found its audience yet. Drips continue. Then, at some point… you notice a change. A single property may still only have a sale every other month or so. However, this other property is also selling a copy every other month. … Not a single property is selling consistently or well. However, all your properties sell one or two here or there. Suddenly you have a trickle.

That was it exactly.

From the time my first book released in December 2011 through April 2013, I sold in drips. Most months I sold 1 copy of one of my titles. Some months I sold 4 or even 8 copies. Some I sold 0. Once I sold 14 copies! That was exciting! But I never knew what to expect. I hated the “drip stage”!

I won’t claim that “everyone” who read my work loved it; the reviews that appeared were by-and-large positive and one reader who kept a blog posted several glowing reviews on his site. I was encouraged, but eager to reach more readers.

Wanderyar review image

Then, in May 2013, I sold 20 books. From that month onward, my sales stabilized. I averaged 12 sales per month, with a low of 6 and and a high of 33, most often hitting the 9 – 15 range. I had reached Cutter’s trickles stage. And – looking back – I suspect it may have been the Goodreads giveaways that did it.

It couldn’t have been the writers’ group I joined (as I surmised in the immediate wake of the Troll-magic giveaway). There were only five of us, and when the other members read Troll-magic for the purpose of giving me marketing suggestions, only two of them purchased the book. The other two sideloaded it to their ereaders from a file I emailed to them. And after they’d read it, three of the four said, “I don’t usually read this type of fiction, but I liked it anyway.” I seriously doubt they converted to Ney-Grimm fandom. πŸ˜€

Sales stats May - June 2013So, where did the sudden and sustained increase in sales come from?

It could have been the keyword changes I made, but I doubt it. Their main use is to determine which categories Amazon places your book in, and which “bestseller” list it will appear on when sufficient copies are sold.

Some writers get a lot of sales when their book appears on a bestseller list, due to the increased visibility. My sales have always worked exactly opposite to this. Some unknown factor will prompt a spurt of sales and pop Troll-magic onto the Norse bestseller list. But once the book is there, the extra visibility does not result in more sales. Instead, the book slowly slides down the rankings and eventually off the list. Until the next time a spurt of sales pops it back onto the list.

That behavior fits with what I suspect about my audience. They don’t get their reading recs from bestseller lists, any more than they do from newsletters.

Which means… that the greater visibility for my books that suddenly arrived May 2013 was caused either by the Goodreads giveaways or by some other unknown factor. There’s no way to know for sure, of course.

But my next step will be trying a 1-copy giveaway. Will it receive as many sign-ups as a 2-copy giveaway? What about additions to TBR lists?

I currently average 20 books sold per month. Would a series of 1-copy giveaways with short, 7-day durations as recommended by Catherine Ryan Howard boost my visibility to the next level (Leah Cutter’s “streams”) the way the first giveaways boosted me from “drips” to “trickles”?

I still have more questions than answers, but I’ve got some new questions. πŸ˜€