Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Over 120,000 downloads of The Awakened

During this holiday season, when many folks are looking back on what has transpired throughout the year, I thought it would be appropriate to share one way, in particular, that God has blessed me and my family.  Though it’s not even close to being the most important blessing, it’s fun to think about the amazing journey He has led me through, and the others He has in store for each one of us.

It was an exciting time in late 2010, when I received the proof copy of The Awakened: A Wandering Stars Novel.  Just to hold the official version of something I’d spent years creating was a thrilling experience.  The next few months were spent obsessively checking my sales report to see if anyone would bother to read something I wrote.  By the end of last year, I’d sold 48 copies, almost exclusively to friends and family.  It wasn't exactly the wider audience I was hoping for, but I was still pleased.

2011 started slow.  After selling only 8 copies in the first four months, the practical voice in my head began to tell me, “This writing thing has been fun, but now it’s time think about going back to school and focusing on your career.”  Meanwhile, the side of me that prefers to think about less-practical things—the dreamer—whispered, “What about ebooks?  Those are becoming popular.”

So, I started doing some reading.  Then I began formatting The Awakened as an ebook.  In April, I released my novel for this new platform.   But after a couple weeks, it seemed that my writing was destined for the same outcome, regardless of format—to sell a few copies here and there.  Again, the practical voice reminded me that I wasn't getting any younger.

But then I read a few success stories of ebook authors and I saw a common perspective among them.  I’ll try to summarize that message here:

In a world flooded with products competing for our attention, why should anyone pay money for your book?  Who are you?  How do readers know that their money won’t be wasted?  There is a threshold that a reader must cross when deciding to buy a book.  For an established author, readers know what they are going to get and how much they are going to spend for that entertainment.  For an unknown author, they don’t.  So, the threshold has to be really low.  Extremely low.  FREE, if possible.  You have to have something to give away so that people can get a taste for what to expect from you.

That’s when the light bulb went on!  Though The Awakened was written as one novel, I wrote it in three parts.  Each part wasn't exactly a stand-alone story, but it might still work.  And the thought of giving the first part away for free—well, I wasn't exactly selling tons of books anyway.  So, I gave it a shot.

By mid-May, I had electronic versions of Book One, Book Two, and Book Three for sale through Smashwords and Amazon.  It took a little while to get Book One listed for free, as this wasn't a standard option for Amazon.  But it was for Smashwords, and Amazon will price-match with competitors.  So, I sent Amazon the link to the free version of Book One at Smashwords.

Then I waited.

A few days later, I woke up early on a weekend morning and checked my Amazon page for Book One.  To my surprise, it was ranked at #1 in the Epic Fantasy genre for free ebooks.  Confused, I checked my downloads/sales report.  Instead of the single-digits I expected, I saw thousands of downloads.

And that’s when I started to get excited.

Since that day, Book One has remained at, or near, the top of the free Fantasy bestseller list on Amazon.  And the visibility offered by this position has led to sales of Book Two and Book Three, as well as the full version in both print and ebook editions.

As of yesterday, the total number of downloads and sales for all versions of the Awakened, in all countries where they are available, was 120,887!

While the vast majority are free downloads of Book One, it is still mind-blowing to think that over a hundred thousand people throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, are Spain, are holding some version of my novel.  And now, readers are actually writing to me, telling me how much they enjoyed the story and can't wait to read its continuation.

While this would only be considered a modest success by some authors, I feel truly blessed!

I would like to thank everyone who has supported this “hobby” of mine.  2012 is going to be a fun year!  My goal is to release two of the four prequels to The Awakened, and my hope is that they will be even more entertaining.

Merry Christmas!

…see you next year.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just finished Book 3 - thanks for the ride!

--- Old person in New Mexico.

Jason Tesar said...

Old person,

...your signature is awesome! Glad you enjoyed the story. I'll have more for you to read early next year.

-Jason

Anonymous said...

So excited to hear that you are planning to release prequels next year!!! I check this site on a regular basis hoping to see the very words printed now!!! THANK YOU so much for sharing with us!Love, Love, Love your books-

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks so much for your support...and your enthusiasm!

-Jason

Anonymous said...

I am SO excited for the next book!! I downloaded part 1 for free on Christmas and couldn't put it down! I just finished part 3, and can't wait for the prequels! Thanks!!

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks for supporting my "hobby"!

-Jason

Anonymous said...

Got a kindle for Christmas and didn't have money so checked the free books and found the awakened series. Instantly fell in love can't wait for the prequels I just have to know what happens next. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent.

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks anonymous!

-Jason

Anonymous said...

I got a Kindle for Christmas as well and I am so glad that you made book one free because honestly I may not have found this wonderful story otherwise. I read all three back to back to back and I can't wait for more. Prequel or sequel. I also wanted to let you know that reading about how you came to write the book in the first place was very inspiring. I wish you the best of luck and seriously will read anything you write from now on. You just made it to the top of my list.

--Mike in Little Rock

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Mike,

I've been saying this alot lately, but thank you for supporting my "hobby". I'm trying real hard to turn writing into a full-time career and it's people like you that will make my dream a reality.

-Jason

MaHoneyD said...

Just finished book # 3 and went looking for more of your stories, that is how I found your blog. Can hardly wait for more stories from your mind world. And yes your books are definitely on my worth to pay for list.

myylar said...

Wow. Just finished reading all three books. I am glad that you kept hunting for a way to market your books successfully.

J. Gregory LaClare said...

As an aspiring author, your story is really inspiring. This trilogy is EPIC. Can't wait for the screenplay...ooo or the video game...This is the stuff franchises are made of. Can't wait for your new novel in Feb.

On a side note, this might be a weird thing to write on a blog comment, but I feel like the Lord wants you to know that you are a huge force in His kingdom and he is really pleased with your faith.

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks MaHoneyD! I'm glad you enjoyed them.

-Jason

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks myylar! It was quite a process of highs and lows to get to this point. Right now, it's kind of marketing itself. I continue to read a lot of blog posts about how to actively market my writing, and maybe there will be more time for that in the future. But for now, I'm working off the assumption that the best use of my time is to keep writing and publishing books.

-Jason

Jason Tesar said...

Hi J. Gregory,

If you think The Awakened would make a good video game, you're going to love Wandering Stars (and the continuation of The Awakened series)!

It's always good to hear from aspiring authors! If you need any advice or encouragement, feel free to ask.

As far as the Lord's kingdom is concerned, I'm just trying to pay attention to the passions He's put in my heart. Oftentimes, this is difficult because I can be spiritually hard-of-hearing :) I pray regularly that He would guide my thoughts and actions so that I could glorify Him.

-Jason

Brian said...

Hi Jason,
I just wanted to let you know your strategy worked perfectly on me.

I'm enjoying book 1 and will be gladly buying 2 and 3.

I've gotten lots of great free ebooks for my kindle, but one of my frustrations w/fantasy authors is that they'll release the middle book in a series as a free download.

I guess the hope is people will get hooked and buy the prior books, but it seems like letting people start the beginning would make more sense!

Anyway, rant over and thanks for the good read!

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks Brian.

Not to deter you from continuing, but I have to warn you. After writing the first three books of The Awakened series, I realized that I needed to go back and flesh out the background story that I used as a foundation. There were too many pivotal characters and events in the past to just leave it untold. So, I'm working on a four-volume prequel series right now. When those are done, I'll move on with Kael's story. I didn't do it intentionally, but I might find myself in the same category of other fantasy authors you mentioned.

Anyway. I hope you enjoy Book Two and Book Three.

-Jason

Brian said...

Thanks for the reply, but I just downloaded the combined edition w/books 2 & 3!

Looking forward to the prequels. One of the things I really enjoyed and appreciated about the series (Book 1, for now) is the balance of being left of wanting to know more of the backstory (so the prequels will be fun!) and being immersed in this world and the fast-pacedness(?) of the plot.

Not to go on and on, but I'm a big fan of the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and it's really what got me hooked on the genre, but after book 5, in my opinion, it's so sprawling that the series just d r a g g e d.

Thanks again for a very enjoyable read!

Anonymous said...

been reading your novel book one for about a week now on my kindle i received over a year ago and never knew how to work it. i am thoroughly enjoying the story; am at about 50% read so far. thanks for sharing your "hobby".

yvonne - dallas, tx

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading the 3rd book in your series...LOVED THEM!! I can't wait for the next book:)

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks!

tbrown said...

Haven't read a book m years, just articles in magazines and internet. I got a kindle for Christmas, found your 1st book for free, read it, then bought the other two, read them. Couldn't put it down. Can't wait for your prequel.

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks tbrown! I can't wait to get the next book out there to show readers the next step of the journey. It's going to be a fun ride!

-Jason

Anonymous said...

I read all three books in 5 days. Given that I'm a mom of 5 n s homemaker I stayed up late nights n read in between errands. I'm infactuated with this trilogy n hope to see another book soon. My ultimate question is was Adair an angel but forgot like Saba aka sariel

Jason Tesar said...

Adair is only a man, but he will play a pivotal role in the continuing story of The Awakened.

-Jason

Robert in Virginia said...

Hey Jason.
I just finished reading Book 3. As soon as I finished the first I had to get the rest. I, like a previous poster, stayed up late and read on breaks at work. I hated to put it down and was left wanting more at the end. So much so that I just barely finished reading it and immediately came here to see if anything else was ready. Thanks for sharing your creation with us and God bless you.

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Robert,

I'm so glad you enjoyed the books. Thanks for giving up a little sleep!

-Jason

Anonymous said...

Just finished Books 1 thru 3. Hurry up with the next installment please. I can't wait to read more.

Retired in AZ.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason

I have just finished reading novels 1 through 3. I thoroughly enjoyed the world you have created and I greatly look forward to the prequel set...

Congratulations on your first novel. Clearly you have a creative mind and spirit. You also have more than enough wisdom to recognise in this technological age that releasing novel 1 for free on Amazon would reach the widest audience (and an audience of previously non-readers to boost)! Well done!

I suspect you will go far...

psych in oz

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks Psych!

Jason D. Morrow said...

Could you give us some insight as to how many downloads this translated into for your other two books?

ilovemylipstick said...

Just finished book 3 OMG please let us know when there will be more! Pre-quals? Are you going backwards or forwards with the story? Either way, can't wait to see more from you on this series.

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Jason. I'd rather not say how many downloads of the other two books I've had, because it leads people to start estimating how much money I am making. Some authors are OK with it, but it's kind of uncomfortable for me. Instead, I wanted to make the point that the total number of downloads was enough to validate the whole writing process for me. I hope you understand.

-Jason Tesar

Mac said...

Hi J……….
Great series – about to buy 2 n 3 – once I find where one commenter(?) ‘spoke’ about buying them as a bundle. The free option is an outstanding way to entice readers – especially for those of us old retired folks on fixed incomes!
When possible I prefer buying thru Smashwords as there I can get Mobi download – Kindle format is too constricting.
I am retired from DOD and have recently started proving authors with images (usually free) for their eBooks interior and some covers plus the product page for some of their books (the ones I have read).
Would you mind me placing some images, that I think fit the story, on your Product page on Amazon? I have some ruins I shot while stationed in Turkiye that might fit. Not to mention the thousands of others I own (landscapes, swords, spears, staves, etc).
Mac
Noël Baba’s Fotos
Weatherford, TX

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Mac,

Other images on the Amazon product page may be a little confusing for shoppers, but thank you for the offer.

The "bundle" you mentioned is probably the combined or omnibus edition of my novels. It contains Book One, Book Two, and Book Three. In ebook format, it's listed at $4.95.

But since you're on a fixed income, I'll let you know about a deal I've been running for a while. I'm offering a coupon code (through Smashwords) for a free copy of Book Two to anyone who reads Book One and writes a review (on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, or Goodreads...preferably all of them). The same goes for Book Three. So, If you're willing to do a little writing, you can read all three of the books for FREE.

Here's the link to the discussion on Amazon where I mention all the details: http://www.amazon.com/Read-Awakened-series-FREE/forum/Fx32892PGA7FRLR/Tx2ZHM09C00FLZC/1/ref=cm_cd_et_md_pl?_encoding=UTF8&cdMsgNo=1&asin=B0051BBHGE&cdSort=oldest&cdMsgID=Mx1BL5CKKYXU3UC#Mx1BL5CKKYXU3UC

-Jason

Kathy said...

Hi Jason, I just finished your first three books and loved reading every minute of it. I had to get on your web site to see if you planned to write more of this exciting story. I'm so happy to see that you are. You have a great gift!
Your New Fan,
Kathy

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Kathy,

I have lots more in store for readers and I'm glad that you'll be coming along for the ride.

-Jason

Raphael said...

Hi,

I finished part 1 of The Awakened and liked it a lot!

Is there a way to purchase a bundle of ebook and paper book?

I obtained part 1 as EPUB from Smashwords. Some comments on that edition.
a) Why do you set a specific font? I kind of like being able to choose whichever font I want on my ereader.
b) You link all (?) names of cities and countries to the maps in the back. While a nice idea, I found it to disturb my reading. Maybe link only the first occurrences?
c) The bigger map images do not show on my reader (Kobo Touch)
d) There does not seem to be a chapter structure. Is this on purpose?

Anyway, thanks for this great story! Will read the rest, of course.

Jason Tesar said...

Hi Raphael,

Right now, I don't have a way to offer bundling of ebooks and print books, as their distribution isn't handled by the same companies. Hopefully this will be an option in the future.

Regarding the Smashwords EPUB:

A) I followed their formatting guide which limited font use to only a few widely supported ones. I thought that readers still had the ability to change the font to fit their preferences, but maybe this is something that is handled at the XML level. I don't have the experience or time to code each book, so I'm not sure about this. In the future, I will be releasing revisions to the three Awakened books that are out now, and may hire out the ebook formatting portion.

B) As far as the links...great idea! I will probably only link the first few occurrences in the future.

C) I'm not sure about this one. When I formatted these books, the specifications for image size/resolution/display-across-platforms was poorly documented, not only at Smashwords, but Amazon and the others as well. This is something I will be spending more time on with future books and revisions. For now, you can check out my post entitled, Illustrations for The Awakened, which will allow you to see the maps and diagrams in greater detail.

D) Can you clarify what you mean by "chapter structure"?

Thanks a bunch for the feedback!

-Jason

Raphael said...

Hi Jason,

I answered already, but that comment apparently vanished in the ether.

A) It may also be an issue of my reader, I am not sure. I reported the behaviour to both Smashwords and my reader manufacturer; no response from either.

C) I found the maps, thanks for putting them on.

D) The book's table of contents only shows entries for the images, and it is not possible to navigate between chapters. File 'toc.ncx' seems to contain this information; if you check out other EPUB ebooks,you will see that they have one entry per chapter (which is very convenient).
I see that Smashwords requires DOC as input (doh...); so maybe you did not set up the book's chapters in Word properly. Can't be of any help there, I am afraid, as I don't use Word.
For EPUB you create yourself, check out pandoc: http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/epub.html

Keep on rockin'!

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks for the info Raphael!

When I published these books, a TOC was an option (primarily used for non-ficiton), but not a requirement. With printed books as my reference point, I didn't see the need to include a TOC for a fiction book.

But times are changing quickly! I'm still learning how to make use of the technology available, and will likely have to continue revising things just to keep up with industry changes. I will be correcting the TOC issue in the near future for the Awakened books and others I publish from here on out.

Really appreciate the feedback!

-Jason

huia said...

Please bring Adair back in your next series! I loved you first series. You are a gifted writer :)

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks huia!

Adair will play an important role in the continuation of the Awakened series (there will be ~ 7 books by the time it's finished).

Wandering Stars is a prequel series that goes back thousands of years, so you won't see him in that one.

Thanks for the encouragement!

-Jason

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,
I downloaded book one on my iPhone for my 13 year old son, he was one of them kids that would only read the Harry Potter series over and over again and not even consider picking up another book. Anyway by the end of the first chapter he was hooked and finished the whole book in two days, during which time I never saw my phone !!!
I invested in a kindle for him and downloaded books two and three, which he has just finished. He now cannot wait for your next books to be released. He likes to write stories himself and has a fabulous imagination which has been inspired even further by your books, many thanks for sticking it out and taking a chance, you've given my son a whole new thirst for reading and writing.
T Barnes

Jason Tesar said...

T Barnes,

Wow! I'm honored that your son has been inspired by my stories. It's the best compliment I can receive. Thanks for letting me know and for cultivating your son's imagination. Hopefully, I'll get to read one of his books some day!

-Jason

Maggie Milligan said...

A lover of kindle' s free books to find new authors, I was so glad to find this trilogy. I have read them back to back, completely lost in their world. Thank you for a wonderful escape from reality!

Jason Tesar said...

Thanks Maggie. I'm glad you enjoyed them.