Reflections On a Launch – However Many Must Die’s First Month

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It’s been almost a month since I threw However Many Must Die out into the world so it seems like a good time to reflect on the launch. It also left me considering where I’m at with my personal publishing journal overall, for anyone that might be interested.

In summary: things have been going well, though there’s still a lot of work to be done.

‘ve been absolutely honoured by some of the amazing responses to the book, with some brilliant reviews coming in and a lot of love being shared. I also hit a nice milestone with a hundred sales within the first few weeks. This isn’t a huge figure, in the grand scheme of book sales, and a lot of it came around the release with only a trickle following – but I’m stoked about it for a couple of reasons I’ll get into below. 

New Series, New Genre, New Readers

It’s always tricky releasing something that’s a departure from the norm, and However Many Must Die is the first in a completely new series from me. It’s quite a genre shift, as I’ve built most of my audience in somewhat niche urban fantasy thriller/horror territory. 

The world of The Blood Scouts has fantasy and horror and the characterisation and pace that are hallmarks my earlier books – but it’s my first outright secondary world release and my first military fantasy, with grimdark leanings. In fact, one of the reasons it took me so long to release was I was considering using a pseudonym but I couldn’t think of any that I liked.

This definitely made a difference with targeting my existing audience, evident from a general lack of activity from my mailing list, which I typically count on for most of my sales. I had a few readers who loved my earlier material not really vibing with this one, as might be expected, so the vast majority of my sales seem to have been from new readers, or at least ones not prompted by my emails.

While I’d still love to reconnect with my existing audience, the positive launch was really pleasing in light of my difficulty inspiring the mailing list.

Keeping Things Full Price

It’s also been encouraging because I went into this release with an idea not to offer a discount outright. It was a tricky one to decide as I want more people to read it, but I also want people to value it.

More than that, I want to maintain its value.

I am pretty jaded with our main marketing tool being the act of devaluing our product, and while I appreciate that it is a powerful marketing tool, especially when you have a wider catalogue, I’m also wary of cheap sales with little follow through. Honestly, this is a big book, it’s unique and high quality. It’s worth more than a cup of coffee and I’m going to stick to that. (Though it is also available to request through libraries and I’m still willing to send out review copies for free.)

I may offer discounts when it gets older, when we have more Blood Scouts books to make up for the shortfall, but for now it’s priced what I think it’s worth. Which might potentially limit its reach, to a degree.

But I’m thrilled to have found this first hundred readers who believe in it.

The Power of Sharing

So the question then comes to how I’ve got here with the obstacles of building a new audience and a higher price point. These things were both compounded by me not having much of a marketing plan, either, which I’ll circle back to later.

The most obvious reason I’d say I’ve managed to reach people with this is probably the wonderful cover, thanks to the artist Stefan Koidl. He created something that was able to fully convey what I was offering in a single glance. That’s a rare gift, especially considering how hard it is for me to generally get across the wacky angles I’m coming at… Big, big kudos to Stefan!

Connected to that, the book’s received a superb social media response. It’s one that people have been keen to share and I’m really grateful to everyone who’s passed it on.

Then there’s been the tremendous reviews; I’m blessed at this point to have a good crowd of reviewers willing to give me a go, and they’ve been generous and amazing in writing up their thoughts on this book in vivid detail! Here’s a round up of some of the quotes so far; thanks so much to everyone for these kind words (I’ve included links, so do check out some of the full reviews if you have a chance!):

  • “I freaking bloody loved the Blood Scouts” – Julia Sarene, The Fantasy Hive
  • “A unique, compelling story with plenty of action and vivid characters.” – Patrick Samphire, author of Shadow of a Dead God
  • “This book has it all, and it is delivered in slick, lightweight prose that does not miss a beat, yet somehow flows like a blockbuster.” – DB Rook, FanFiAddict
  • “a great read that I really recommend checking out” – Dominish Books
  • “Loved However Many Must Die. Excellent story. Go read it now!”- Queen’s Book Asylum
  • “One of the best books of the year.” – Travis M. Riddle, author
  • “an impressive story filled with creativity and heart” – Lynn’s Books
  • “compelled me to stay awake well past my bedtime” – Space & Sorcery
  • “an excellent book, a story that is a direct punch to your feelings” – Jam Reads
  • “I was thoroughly impressed by the originality of the world…intricately fascinating” – Fantasy Book Nerd
  • “an action packed, heart-breaking, and gritty read. Highly recommended!” – Damien Larkin, author
  • “an amazing read!” – Sam Stokes, reader review
  • “an absolute blast” – Pete Barnable, reader review
  • “A great novel, with characters I found myself caring about, probably more than was good for me.” – Sue Tingey, reader review

That’s pretty much been the recipe so far, and to get this far relying solely on social media sharing has been amazing as I’ve done almost no other marketing. Bringing me back to this idea…

Why this is especially positive for me…

I made a living for six years on books that I advertised well, which otherwise wouldn’t sell. But the landscape’s changed (is always changing) and over the past three years or so I’ve seen a gradual, inevitable decline, with nothing new I tried working. I’d somewhat temporarily given up on actively marketing my books, as I slowly ran out of energy and time, needing to freelance more to make ends meet.

I really lost a lot of steam around the time I released Given to Darkness, the concluding book in the Ikiri Duology, but it started with generally disappointing sales from Kept From Cages. Despite getting a lot of good reviews, it didn’t sell. There are various possible reasons why, but the bottom line is it took a lot of hustle to sell in small numbers and proved harder to move the sequel at all. Given to Darkness fell pretty flat, and so did I.

That tired me out enough that by the time Dyer Street Punk Witches came along, something more marketable with a solid cover, I found it very hard to commit to any serious marketing. I got plenty of blog coverage with a couple of tours, made some marvellous character cards and ultimately got to the SPFBO semifinals, but again it proved tough to convert and I had even less time and energy to commit to marketing.

This had an effect on releasing However Many Must Die (actually written a long time before Dyer Street), which I was wary of investing in, given it’s a new series and I just wasn’t up to doing much selling. I was incredibly lucky to get editing assistance from Patrick Samphire and from Dominish Books through the Indie Fantasy Fund, and had some excellent beta readers who encouraged me on. Still, when it came time to release my plan had pretty much fallen back to a weak build it and they’ll come.

Yet people have been very kind and the reviews have been wonderful and for once it feels like I’ve got a book that people actually want to buy. So that quick hundred sales is really encouraging me to finally dust off my marketing cap and get back to the proper graft. This isn’t my strongest launch ever (for the curious, that would be Advanced Writing Skills for Students of English), but However Many Must Die’s release has been invigorating.

Onwards we go, and I can tell you there’s already a Book 2 on the way.