Audiobooks, Upcoming Books, and Why Authors Do as They Do…

I find this conditioner positively enthralling, humans.

I come bearing gifts of news and other things, also… answers to many questions you have had.

As my human has received a lot of messages, letters, comments, and so on asking a huge spectrum of questions, it has become my responsibility to take a few minutes to do my best to explain things to you about the nature of my human’s writing habits, her career, and the realistic expense of writing a novel.

(These things aren’t free, y’all.)

We’ll begin with the news!

Hearth, Home, and Havoc is now available as an audiobook!

This novella rarely gets any love, but our human really had fun with this story. It’s about a single mother who has finally lost her last fuck and goes onto an adventure. As this is a romantic comedy, the adventure definitely involves some romantic shenanigans (of the fade to black kind.)

Playing with Fire will be releasing in audiobook format in the next few days, so keep an eye out for it. As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re new to the series, you can start reading for a big bad 99 copper pieces.

If you’re an audiobook fan, please consider giving it a try! (It’ll make my human cry a little less over the expenses Cheetahs Never Win incurred.)

Now, to get to the less fun stuff. Well, maybe. My human has been fielding a lot of questions and listening to feedback about the decision to discontinue the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series.

It’s time to drive around in the friendly blunt mobile. Because being blunt makes sure there are no misunderstandings.

My human doesn’t like misunderstandings.

1: Yes, sales were down. Yes, readers didn’t like the exploration my human was doing in the series. Here’s the thing:

My human writes for a career, but she also writes projects she thinks she will enjoy writing. She doesn’t like writing books she hates. Every now and then, a book gives her fits, but she loves writing the books even when they don’t really cooperate with her.

She still loves them. Just ignore the complaining. She’s expressing frustration. Something she loves to do can also be frustrating as hell and make her want to throw it out the nearest window. We’re fond supporters of defenestration here. Here’s the thing.

No, she ‘just can’t go back to writing books like Playing with Fire.’ Or ‘like Water Viper.’ Or ‘like this book.’

Every book is different. That’s why it’s fun to write. If she has to write books just to make readers happy because she stuck to one shoe box, she’s not going to want to keep writing any more. She’d rather have a guaranteed salary working as an office drone.

No play makes RJ a sour puss.

But that’s why she loved writing the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) books so much.

She could play.

Unfortunately, readers aren’t enjoying how she’s playing, which means they’ll have to be played with in her spare time.

No, she will not ‘write another book just like this one.’

That isn’t fun to write.

She’s writing Burn, Baby, Burn because she wants to write another Bailey and Quinn novel. Not because people asked. Not because people begged. Not because ‘we just want another Playing with Fire.’

Burn, Baby, Burn is not going to be another Playing with Fire.

Quinn and Bailey are married now. Quinn and Bailey are facing challenges as an official couple. Quinn and Bailey are still Quinn and Bailey, but they’re not the same Quinn and Bailey from Playing with Fire. Perkins has changed, too. The grandfathers have even changed.

Time changes people.

Bailey has been softened and tempered by months of living with someone who truly loves her. She’s still Bailey, but Quinn has changed her as much as she has changed Quinn.

Burn, Baby, Burn is not going to be another Playing with Fire.

Oh, there’ll still be a glorious fire-breathing, meat-eating unicorn. There’ll still be a smoking hot Quinn and his insane family. (They have a respectable amount of screen time.)

Perky’s wife is a major player, and boy… you’ll like her, I think.

But they’re not going to be the same book.

She doesn’t want to write the same old book over and over. That’s boring. She’d rather go defenestrate herself and get a day job, one with stable pay and less stress.

What? You thought writing books was a cakewalk? Nah, it’s not, human.

There are days the human crawls to bed leaking because she doesn’t know if she’ll meet her income numbers for the month, and the only person to blame for her failures is herself.

Being a writer is hard.

Here’s some harsh realities she wishes for me to share with you.

She isn’t guaranteed any pay. She has to write books people want to read and are willing to buy. She must entertain them. When she fails to entertain them, she doesn’t get paid. People refund books they don’t enjoy. They pirate them rather than going to the library and requesting them there.

All of those things make it harder and harder for her to want to keep writing books. It’s not just about the money.

Right now, she makes good money. She knows this. She also knows that the money could magically stop tomorrow.

But when the human starts thinking about picking up a minimum wage job anywhere because the stability might be nice, there’s an issue.

The Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) books need to be fun for her, too, But they also need to earn their keep.

There’s math that goes into this. A lot of math. Books aren’t free, and this is the reality of my human’s situation.

40% of her income automatically goes to taxes. That’s approximately what her current tax bracket is. (She gives herself a tiny bit of buffer, but it’s not a lot of buffer.) (Go ahead and cringe. She pays more than regularly employed people because of being self-employed.) Fortunately, she doesn’t have to put aside anything for health insurance; she’s insured through the male’s work. He pays that bill and doesn’t make her account for those costs from her business. (She’s very grateful for this.)

40% goes to paying the bills. We live in California, so life is expensive. My human partners with her male to keep the bills paid, but 40% of her earnings automatically go to the household so they can live comfortably.

That leaves 20% for expenses.

If she makes $2,000 in a month, that gives her $400 for expenses. That covers one book cover. $300 for the digital copy, approximately, and the rest going to paperbacks and audio spreads. If she doesn’t do audio covers, she might have a few bucks left over she could spend towards advertising.

Oh, but there’s a problem. A book like Cheetahs Never Win costs her anywhere between $600 to $1000 to edit. (Sometimes the editorial bill is higher. Cheetahs Never Win had a higher editorial bill because it went through multiple editors.)

On a $400 monthly budget, she’d be able to release a book once every four months. One month to pay for the book’s cover. Three months to pay for the book’s editorial costs. A little extra would go to advertising.

My human fortunately makes more than $2,000 in a month.

Right now, to continue sustaining book releases at the current level she does and still pay the bills, eat, and pay taxes, she must make approximately $10,000 a month.

$2,000 a month in budget gives her room to have a cover made, do the paperback spread, and pay her editors. All of her editors. There’s more than one.

That doesn’t leave a lot of money for anything else.

When she released Cheetahs Never Win, she gambled on the book doing better than it did; she’d booked in to pay for the audiobook edition to be made.

That cost approximately $1,800. She gambled, and because the book itself didn’t do as well as needed, she lost.

Then, because she wanted Cheetahs Never Win to do as well as possible, she invested $10,000 into advertising on No Kitten Around.

She made that money back… if she forgot the 40%/40%/20% rule. For the sake of that advertising campaign, she was permitted to forget that rule. The male human gave the funds to her as a gift because he was going to invest in his 401k instead, and thought for the short and long term, investing in her series would be the wisest choice.

We’re hoping those investments pay off. We really do. But, being realistic, it’s been three weeks and it’s barely made back its money. Cheetahs Never Win didn’t fly. No Kitten Around didn’t sell as well as it could have. It could have just been the time of year. It could have been a lot of things.

It could just be that people are tired of the stories she wants to have fun and write in that world.

But she didn’t make this decision lightly.

She wants to have fun.

She wants the readers to have fun.

When these things don’t happen, when the latest book will not be able to pay for itself or pay for future books in the series… there’s an issue.

The 40%/40%/20% rule trumps all.

We furry demon seeds need to eat. She needs to eat.

She is not guaranteed any pay.

For those of you on limited or fixed income, please don’t pirate books that aren’t available in your subscription services. Ask your local library instead. You’ll be surprised at what they can order, especially for their digital library system.

Authors, like my human, are paid for their hard work this way. You get to read for free.

And since she gets asked this often, no, my human does not do ARC readers or beta readers. A few years ago, one of these readers stole her books, put them on a pirate site, and ultimately lost her a lot of sales as people pirated the books before release.

And of course, they were reviewed harshly because the books were not publication-ready titles. They were pre-release versions that hadn’t been proofread or completely through edits.

So, yes. Somebody pissed in the pond, ruined two releases for her, and ultimately resulted in a negative earnings year that year because the money she had been expecting to earn back had been stolen from her.

View it this way: you expect your employer to pay you for the hours you work. You give him your time, you expect him to give you your pay.

Authors expect you to pay for the time you get out of reading their books.

No pay is no food, no food is no more books, as the authors must do things to make money to pay for food.

It’s really as simple as that. From the dawn of traditional publication, readers have always been the ones to decide the fate of a series.

Wanted to know why a traditional publisher dropped a series?

Readers weren’t buying the books.

Want to know why an author dropped a series?

That’s a lot more complicated. For my human?

See the math above, add in a dash of “Author just wants to have fuuuunn~” plus a refusal to write inside a shoe box because people just want a rehash of the same book.

Readers complain all the damned time that they just want to read something new… but they complain when they get what they asked for.

Something new happens only when authors write outside of their set shoe boxes.

And boy, do readers tend to get mad when you don’t present them with a rehash of the same old book over and over again.

If my human wanted to write nothing but Playing with Fires with rehashed content and formulaic writing… she would.

But she doesn’t want to.

Sorry.

Perhaps shunting the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series to no more often than once a year will help. If anything, the human will be able to spend her 20% on spreading out and writing all those equally fun projects she has on the back burner instead.

Because here’s the reality: she had been writing so many of them because you were having fun. She’s completely happy writing something else.

And now she will.

Burn, Baby, Burn, which should be available for preorder sometime in the next month or two, will essentially decide if its 20% will go towards the next book in the series. If it flops, well, its 20% will go to a new series that may let her keep writing.

She is not guaranteed pay. That means she does have to try to write what may sell better.

On Facebook, there’s a group called The Fantasy Worlds of RJ Blain. If you like seeing what she’s up to, every Wednesday or so, she releases a new scene or snippet from a project in the works. (You can access the group clicking the link below if you’re interested.)

But for those who don’t really want to join a group, here is a snippet from Hypnos: Seeking the Zodiacs #1. The preorder for this book goes live in June or July–or whenever she’s finished the draft and it goes to her editor. (Expect 3 months following the draft being completed and it going to her editor for release.)

She’s having a blast with this series. It’s a traditional 12 book series with a prequel. (13 books total.) It will follow one character as she adventures through a post-World War III world loaded with magic.

She is the manager of the FBI’s supernatural quads for the San Francisco area, and her job is to help police the supernatural.

Shenanigans happen. She’s feisty. She’s spunky. She has sass in high volume. She’s a lot of things, but I love writing her and her friends.

This series is replacing the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) books. The covers have already been paid for, although they haven’t been made yet with the exception of two. This is a big gamble, but she hopes you all enjoy a more traditional series with a set beginning and end.

With this one, you know exactly what you’re getting.

Like everything else she does, this is a gamble, but some gambles are worth making. And in the worst case scenario? It joins the books with a 1-2 year release frequency.

And since she’s gambling a lot, the Wolf Hunt series should be completed by the end of 2019. No known dates on when License to Kill, the Case Files of Karma Johnson, and Dual Nature will release. She’s not going to worry about them until 2020 at the earliest probably.

(Why? Simply put, some of those books haven’t even earned back if they were assigned 100% of their earnings. They’re being done entirely because she wants to. And she must pay for them when a book does well and earns back and is solely investing in the existence of new books.)

She likes them, so she keeps writing them. That’s it, that’s all.

But for everyone asking, the reviews on paid vendor sites, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc are what she uses to tell if readers are actually enjoying a series. This, in conjunction with how well the sales are going and other feedback she receives, is what determines if she’ll keep writing more stories of the same world or series back to back to back.

And no, she will not ‘write another Playing with Fire’ or ‘Hoofin’ It’ or whichever one you want just because you liked that specific book. (She’s really grateful you liked that book, but that’s not how writing a book works.)

She has to want the book to happen. She writes books she wants to read.

And yes, Cheetahs Never Win cracked her up as often as it made her cry.

Because to her, a good book makes you laugh and cry. And that one accomplished both for her.

Not everyone is going to laugh at the same jokes. Not everyone is going to cry over a book the same way or even cry at all.

But our human?

She’s not going to just write yet another book of this type because that’s what’s been asked for. For her, it just doesn’t work that way.

There will never be another Playing with Fire.

But there will be other books. Will they be in the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series? Well, there’s Burn, Baby, Burn.

After that, we’ll see.

Because she wants to have fun, too.

And sometimes, that spells the death of a series.

(And she’s okay with that.)

P.S.: The human expects absolutely nothing of her readers. Don’t like the way the series turned out? Don’t buy the books. The series will die, and that won’t bother you because you didn’t like the way the series turned out. Totally okay.

That’s reality.

My human will keep writing. Maybe you’ll like the next thing on the horizon.

It is okay for a series to die when people no longer enjoy or have fun reading it. But if you did have fun reading it… take a few minutes to leave that honest review that you did. It’s so easy to forget.

And then those who didn’t like it ultimately have the loudest voice.

And that, too, spells the death of a series.

As a final note: No, my human does not look at goodreads. In her opinion, that is where authors go to lose their self-esteem and generally die inside. (Generally, people review with lower stars at goodreads, and they’re generally just harsher and meaner there.)

You will never find my human active on goodreads, and she only logs in to ask a librarian to merge profiles so people can find her books. Sorry.

We do hope you enjoy going on new adventures with our human.

Leave a Comment:

19 comments
Amanda Robertson says January 16, 2019

Hello! I love your books. I was wondering if you were going to expand the “Nature of the Beast” series? Thank you so much for taking the time to read my comment

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    The Sneaky Kitty Critic says January 16, 2019

    Dual Nature is the second and final book of that series. I’d guess 2020 or 2021 at this point unless the mood strikes me sooner and I happen to have time when the stars aligned.

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Kim Dunk says January 16, 2019

Do you know – people can be really funny about books that they read (funny as in strange not as in haha!) How many people read books that are part of a series because they love to see how all the characters are doing, and they like to feel somehow part of the families being written about, be they ordinary people, or paranormals or aliens? It’s almost the familiarity of a comfort blanket.
But that tends to mean that they’ll steer clear of series that don’t work like that. The Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series didn’t work like that. Yes, they were set in the same world, but that was it. But perhaps because the books were released under a blanket title the expectation was that they did work that way and once it was realised that they didn’t, that there were no recurring characters to come back to and that every book was different, that readers lost interest.
Well more fool them. I’ve loved all of this series – it was different, and quirky and the world that was created feels so real that whenever I surface from the books I am disappointed to find that it isn’t! And Cheetahs Never Win is, in my humble opinion, one of the best.
But I perfectly understand that my loving this series is not enough to keep it off of life support.
So, Princess and Zazzle, please reassure your human that it isn’t her books that are at fault, but lazy readers like me, who rarely post reviews even though they’ve read a brilliant series of books, but somehow expect their authors (and their series) to survive regardless.
Mea Culpa!
Kim.

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    The Sneaky Kitty Critic says January 16, 2019

    Dear human,

    Thank you. Our human really appreciates it! She was really, really not happy having to make the decision she did. But things could turn around. People do love coming back to see the same characters. That’s why she’s doing a traditional 12 book series, for those who like it and don’t like the ones that stand mostly alone.

    But the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series was designed to circle around back to other characters as the human feels fit. Or take a side character and make them a love interest. Or the main character.

    It was all based on what the human felt would be fun at the the time.

    Shane and Marian were a couple that the human was planning on returning to, but that’s off the burner unless the series revitalizes or does better down the road. It might.

    But if it does, it’ll get back into higher production in 2020, as 2019 will be the year of exploring new things, starting new series–and finishing old ones.

    Reply
Jennifer says January 16, 2019

I know the brick & mortar bookstores do not give refunds on books because people are mean and return books they’ve read, which cheats the authors. Why should e-books be any different?
So, what would it take to stop this practice, and how can I help?

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    The Sneaky Kitty Critic says January 16, 2019

    I already take reasonable steps to stop piracy, but honestly, tell your friends and family to request the books from the library. That sort of thing helps counter the lost wages author suffer and gets the books available to people who can’t afford the books.

    (And always recommend your favorite books to everyone so people know what to read! Word of mouth is so helpful for everyone!)

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Katie Wray says January 16, 2019

I greatly enjoy your practical descriptions of an author’s process and decision-making algorithm. I like the information about how to help you continue to write your stories. For a few authors, including you, I will buy any new book published no matter what I think of the blurb or the cover or anything, because I have never been sad after choosing to commit to one of your books. I don’t leave reviews, because I hate reading them and am paranoid about glass houses. I do, however, pay attention to star ratings and now that I know you use that information, I will leave the ratings. I’m going to go back in now and express myself through stars.
I will continue to read your newsletter looking for ways to help and will second guess none of your authorly choices, because unless you are happily writing, I am not happily reading.

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Cathy says January 17, 2019

I found your writing process insightful, thank you for sharing. Why shouldn’t you write what you want to, it is after all your worlds that you are creating. And I totally get that you do still have to make a living, we all do, and we all do some things that we wish we didn’t have to. But writing the same book over and over, just doesn’t make any sense. I like both standalone books and series but I don’t want to read a rehash of a past book just because I liked that book.

The bit about the pirating of ARC’s is just awful. I read ARC’s for maybe too many authors but I would never post it somewhere for everyone to see. I do post the review everywhere! I didn’t realize about Goodreads. I do post reviews there (copy paste from Amazon), I may need to re-evaluate that. If it doesn’t help the author, why do it?

I enjoy reading books way to much to give an author a hard time about what he/she is writing. It sounds like you have been really put thru the wringer on this and it isn’t fair. Don’t like the books, don’t read them. Plenty of other books out there. Stick to your guns, you’re the one that has to live with yourself and it’s not worth being miserable.

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Farhia says January 17, 2019

Thank you for taking the time(twice) to explain this. Also, your books are an automatic preorder for me because I love them. I’ve been self employed for a number of years and the pressure is scary. Commiserations!
Thank you for writing books that bring joy. Its a rare and precious thing.

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Angela Kenyon says January 17, 2019

I’m sorry to hear that the Magical Romantic Comedies hasn’t done as well as expected. I found ‘whatever for hire’ first and fell madly in love. Kanika has been my favorite go to pick me up book but I’ve bought them all now and have really enjoyed that world. I’m going to go back and make sure I left reviews. Finding this series has encouraged me to check out your other series. Just read Inquistor the other day and am still horribly sad that Samantha is gone. 😢

That being said, I love your sense of humor and if you wanted to write another Kanika book, my feeling wouldn’t hurt at all. Thank you for all your hard work.

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Tess Stahl says January 17, 2019

Hello,
I love the whole “The Magical Romantic Comedy ( With a Body Count) series! I bought some of them to give as gifts for one of my daughters, and she loves them too. I have not yet read your other series, but I will. Personally, I don’t understand all of the people wanting the books (or any books) to be the same. WHY??? I find the most enjoyment in seeing what next comes out of the fertile imagination of a writer that I like. You are awesome, and I hope you keep writing-anything!!! Thank you and may God, the Gods, and all of the Goddesses Bless you. Tess

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Patty Mele says January 17, 2019

I can understand your decisons very much so. The reason for me personally, Is my husband, John and I had problems with his Amazon account and they closed it down and so I opened my account on Amazon and the problem is my account can’t do reviews because I have not reached a certain amount so I am left with Barne and Nobles sight which I would be happy to go on and review until Amazon lets me review on theirs. I love the books that I have been able to read and whatever you write I will enjoy I am sure.

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    The Sneaky Kitty Critic says January 17, 2019

    Last I checked, the requirement is $50 of non-book purchases until reviewing across the site is unlocked. I could be wrong about that now, but that’s what it was last time I checked. I’m sorry you had trouble with your account. 🙁

    Reply
Judith says January 18, 2019

I have thoroughly enjoyed every book that I have read. Loved the winter wolf series and all its offshoots. Loved the magical romantic comedy (with a body count) and loved the royal states novels written under your other pseudonym. I enjoy that each book is different, and love the giggles I get reading your work. Just want you to know that your work is appreciated. Thank you.

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Jennifer says January 20, 2019

I’ve recently read all the Magical Comedy world books and really enjoy them. I also auto buy another series that you write and love that world too. But I’m slow to start reading a new series (especially if there are a number of books published) because I tend to want to read them one after another and break my budget buying new books. Have you thought of/can you put some of the lower performing series up for Kindle Unlimited? There are some authors that I follow using only KU like TKG because holy cow that’s a lot and I go back multiple times with each book. On the other hand, there are a number of books that I’ve tried first and then bought and some I know I’ll buy just to give that extra boost.
I enjoy that your books are about different people in the same world. I’m looking forward to meeting Perky’s wife. Are you doing any continuations of Serial Killer Princess?
Love your books whether it’s crazy fun times or more serious and tragic. Keep writing. 😉

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    The Sneaky Kitty Critic says January 21, 2019

    Unfortunately, I will not be putting my books into the Kindle Unlimited program. I’d have to deny the books from other vendors and public libraries, as the books must be kept exclusive to Amazon. I’m a firm supporter of public libraries, so I won’t be enrolling my books into KU anytime in the future unless they remove full exclusivity from the program. (While you can do print to libraries while in KU, all digital copies can only be sold through Amazon in that system.) That, plus I am paid substantially less per book when in KU. (But that’s a different matter completely.)

    That said, please consider requesting the books from your public library! My titles are available in the digital library systems, so you can check them out and read that way–or you can ask them to order print editions.

    Reply
Jules says January 22, 2019

Ok, so I’ve ordered hearth, home and havoc in audio, daily checks for playing with fire (no luck yet) and pre-ordered storm called. I already have the first 3 royal states novels in audio , but…but…can you tell me when Huntress will be released in audio???? Oh and just to let you know, the choice of narrator is perfect on the ones I have.

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    The Sneaky Kitty Critic says January 22, 2019

    I’m hoping Huntress will be ready by the end of the month; the voice actor for it had a death in the family, so he’s running behind on the recording. I’ll check in with him early February to get a better idea on when it’ll be ready. 🙂

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Jules says January 23, 2019

I will maintain my lonely vigil on amazon. on another note. I’ve been going back through all your books on amazon that I’ve bought and read and adding comments (5 stars, natch). As per a previous comment, I’m terribly lazy when it comes to leaving comments. but if it helps to maintain a series I enjoy I will get up off my lazy arse and do it.

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