Hello there! Despite the fact that it’s been less than a month since my last post, it feels like it’s been ages. I think there’s a few contributing factors to that, which I shall elaborate on at length in the following blog post. As the title might imply, I’ll be going over all of my thoughts pertaining to the recent release of Restart Again: Volume 4, as well as giving some updates on Volume 5’s progress. There’s been a lot on my mind lately in that regard, so this will probably end up being a pretty substantial update. With that in mind, I’ll be putting a TL;DR at the end if you just want the updates without any of the rambling. I suppose I won’t hold it against you if you skip to the end. I suppose.
RELEASE STATISTICS, REVIEWS, AND MILESTONES
Look at that, we’re even doing headings in this one!
As has been the case for my previous releases, I was overwhelmed by the support Volume 4 received upon release. The landscape on Amazon apparently changed quite drastically in the intervening year between Volume 3 and Volume 4; most of the trending categories my books sat in no longer existed, and the ones that did were much more competitive than they used to be. That being said, I was able to snag the “#1 New Release” tag for a few days after launch! If you’re dedicated enough to be reading this, I’ll assume you’ve already read Volume 4, so I’d like to give you (yes, you! You reading this right now!) a very sincere thank you for reading. We’re just over a month out from the official release date, and the book is currently sitting at 82 reviews on Amazon, with an average score of 4.5, which nestles quite nicely into my expected range (4.2, 4.6 and 4.6 for Volumes 1-3 respectively). If you happen to be reading this and haven’t left a review on the Amazon page, I’d love if you’d take a few seconds and give me your thoughts! As always, I’ve read every review I’ve received, and I’m always looking to hear your feedback, positive or negative.
On the topic of milestones and reviews, we’ve recently passed two noteworthy dates in Restart Again history! First off, Volume 1 of Restart Again recently received it’s 500th review on Amazon. Just typing that out is strange in its own right; that’s halfway to FOUR digits of reviews! If you’re perhaps a new reader to the series (maybe those Amazon ads I’m running are finally starting to work!), I’d like to now give YOU a big thank you for joining me on this adventure! There’s plenty more story to tell, and I hope you’ll stick around.
The second date of note is the 1-year anniversary of Volume 3’s release, which is only a week away at this point. This also nicely coincides with it’s review count milestone, which is only 6 reviews away from reaching the nice round marker of 300. I’ve been particularly surprised by the success of Volume 3; it very quickly outpaced Volume 2 in sales and reviews, and may someday even overtake Volume 1! My assumption as an author on Amazon was that my first book would always receive the most attention, and then each subsequent release would decline in popularity as only the most die-hard fans stuck around. Apparently, that’s not the case! Whatever is causing people to stick around, I hope I’m able to keep recapturing that essence in the years to come.
ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
The release of Volume 4 was also the first time I faced some significant challenges in my publishing through Amazon’s KDP program. I didn’t realize just how smoothly my first three launches went; back then, my biggest issue was getting the paperback covers formatted correctly. Unfortunately, I found myself with a handful of new challenges that I had very little control over, which I shall now list for you in excruciating detail.
My first issue came during the pre-release campaign. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Amazon’s author pages, one neat function as a customer is the ability to follow authors that you enjoy in order to receive automatic updates when they release new books. Amazon doesn’t allow us authors to actually see that list, or have any idea of how many people are following us, but the fact that it exists is very helpful in getting the word out when you publish something. That’s especially true in my case, where I have such a small following here on my website and on my social media channels; with the almost year-long gap between Volumes 3 and 4, it would certainly be helpful to remind people I exist!
Unfortunately, this follower list failed to execute its function properly on the release of Volume 4, and the notification email was never sent out. I know this because I follow myself on Amazon, and my notifications history very clearly does not show my book in there. When Volume 3 was in preorder, I knew the exact day the email went out; not only did I receive one in my inbox, but my preorders increased by over 300% on that day, and continued to stay elevated for the remainder of the preorder campaign. The lack of this notification may have something to do with the slower release of Volume 4; to put things in perspective, Volume 3 had amassed 100 reviews in only two weeks after its release. I can’t say with certainty this is the one and only cause, but I suspect there are plenty of people out there who enjoyed the first three books and just don’t know the fourth one is out, despite checking that “follow” box on my author page. I hope you all find it someday!
The second issue I encountered was with the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon, which allows customers to look at the first 10% of your book to see if it’s something they’re interested in. For some reason, this never activated on the eBook for Volume 4. I contacted Amazon support, and after a week of waiting, the feature was finally added (three weeks after launch). I didn’t think much of this glitch, but I suspect it and my previous issue were related somehow, as well as…
Issue #3: Page count. I noticed a strange disparity between the “estimated” page count on the Kindle version of the book and the actual page count in the physical editions. If a book releases solely as a digital book, Amazon gives it an estimated page count based on some hidden formula for average words/page, but when it’s linked with a physical edition, that hard page count is automatically transferred over. This didn’t happen with Volume 4: For weeks after release, the “estimated” page count for the eBook was somewhere around 670 pages, whereas the physical editions sit squarely at 488. This issue actually fixed itself on the same day that the “Look Inside” issue was fixed. Coincidence?
PROBABLY NOT, because I ALSO received an email on that day clearly describing my 4th release issue. Amazon’s support team had determined that I was using bots to artificially increase my pages read on the eBook version. Now, this certainly came as news to me, as I wasn’t doing anything like that, but it makes much more sense when you consider that the digital version of my book had just “lost” nearly 200 pages of content; Amazon’s automated systems most likely assumed that all of those reported page reads for pages that didn’t exist was somehow a malicious bot attack, and they responded accordingly. My reporting page was immediately slashed, and about 40% of my projected revenue for Volume 4 disappeared in an instant. I’d like to point out that writing is not my main source of income, and this isn’t in any way a devastating blow to my livelihood. It just…kinda sucks. Luckily, the email notifying me of this suspicious activity said I had no need to take any action, and there was no punishment to be doled out. Let’s hope issues like these were just an unfortunate glitch in the system, and I don’t run into them in the future.
I was initially holding off on making this blog post in an effort to have a firm date to announce, but this is already long enough as is, so let me just say this: I can now officially confirm that the audiobook version for Volume 4 is in the works, once again starring the voice talent of Alex Knox! Papers have been signed and manuscripts have been sent. I will most likely receive the release date for the audiobook sometime in the next few weeks, and will be sure to make a (very short) news post about it!
So, this is a weird section to write about, as metadata is not my forte. When I first began the process of publishing Volume 1, Amazon’s self-publishing system wasn’t the most user friendly. My initial intent as an author was to publish under the “pen name” of Adam Ladner, and I attempted to use that when I published Volume 1. Given that my full name is Adam Ladner Scott, I figured I had to do something in order to allow my name to trend in search engines, because Adam Scott the famous actor and Adam Scott the slightly-less-famous PGA golfer are both 1,000 times more famous than I’ll ever be. This is why all of my covers say “Written by: Adam Ladner” and why my website is adamladner.com. In the end, I believe this was the correct choice of action: searching Adam Ladner on Google brings up me and my books as the first results!
However, the pen name Adam Ladner conflicts with the official name on my Amazon Author account, which lists me as Adam Ladner Scott. I’ve technically known this disconnect has existed for years now, but it’s never seemed like much of an issue to me; searching either name brings up my books on Amazon, so I was happy. You might be asking yourself, “What was the point of even telling us all of this, Adam Ladner Scott? Who the hell cares?”
Tantor Audio cares, apparently! In an effort to maintain accurate bookkeeping (an understandable endeavor), they were not as content with that disconnect as I was. During the process of signing contracts for the production of Volume 4’s audiobook, I was asked to “properly align my metadata”. The easy fix would have been to just change the author name on my Amazon account, but unfortunately, that name is set in stone the moment you publish a book. My only other option was the change the cover and interior text for every book I’ve released (eBook, paperback, and hardcover editions), updating everything to Adam Ladner Scott. This definitely took a while, and reuploading covers/manuscripts came with it’s own set of challenges (apparently some of Amazon’s quality standards changed over the past few years, causing me to make additional edits before everything was approved), but everything now matches.
The only reason I’m telling you ANY of this is because you may notice a very slight change in your physical collection in the future. With the author credits changed, all future printings of my books will credit me as Adam Ladner Scott, which means that those of you who already own Volumes 1-4 (credited to Adam Ladner) will have a different author credit on Volume 5 and beyond. This is the sort of thing that would annoy me to no end, so I just wanted to warn those of you who are particular like I am. Sorry!
VOLUME 5 PROGRESS, BURNOUT, AND SELF-CARE
A strange pivot from boring metadata discussion, right?
The main reason I delayed making this blog post was that I have very little to share with you in terms of progress on Volume 5’s manuscript. I have two draft chapters completed at the time of writing this post, one of which was actually transplanted from the end of Volume 4’s first draft. This means I’ve only been able to write one chapter in the past two months or so, which is slow even by my standards.
I attribute this to a variety of factors. My work schedule has changed a bit, meaning I’ve had to change my writing schedule to match. My dog was pretty sick for the past week, and the combination of watching her and being anxious about that dropped my motivation for pretty much everything to 0. The story has entered a very delicate period and needs to be carefully handled (those of you who read the drafts for Volume 4 on Royal Road know where things will be going, and perhaps can understand what I mean), which means I’m putting everything I write under an even heavier layer of scrutiny than usual.
But, beyond all that, I think the major factor was burnout. Ever since I started writing the Restart Again series in 2019, I did everything I could to make sure I got something down on the page every single day, even if it was just 100 words. This was initially a tactic I used to motivate myself to finish the first book (before I knew it would be a published series), and I think it worked pretty well. But continuing that strategy has been, unbeknownst to me, a rather stressful mandate. Over the past month or so, I started to dread opening the Drive document, because I knew I had to write something, but it was getting harder and harder to figure out what to write. That stress made it harder to write, which made it harder to open the document. I’m sure many of you can recognize the pattern of anxiety there.
So, I made an executive decision. For the past two weeks, I haven’t written anything in my draft document. I felt pretty guilty about it at first, but as time went on, I realized it was definitely the best decision I could’ve made. It wasn’t a realistic goal to set for myself; writing for 1,000 days straight probably isn’t a standard anybody should hold themselves to, even professional authors. Everybody needs a weekend, even from the things they love.
I’m feeling more motivated to write now than I have in quite a long time, but I think I’m going to hold off a little longer. I’ve had some of my best ideas for Volume 5 over the course of this “sabbatical”, and I’d like to let it all marinate for another week or so. When I do get back to writing, I hope it’ll be with a fresh set of eyes, and it’ll certainly be with a new respect for taking breaks.
TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ (+L+RATIO+YOU’RE BALD)
The release of Volume 4 was both successful and exciting; I’ve been very happy with its reception, and would love it if you’d leave a review on Amazon to let me know your thoughts on it!
I encountered some new challenges from the automated systems on Amazon’s end that both suppressed my visibility and affected my bottom line, but I’ve mostly worked through those. Let’s hope they never happen again!
Volume 1 just passed 500 reviews on Amazon (Wow!) and Volume 3 is just about to hit 300 (right at it’s 1 year annniversary, wow!).
The audiobook for Volume 4 is officially in the works, and I’ll update everyone with the release date as soon as I get it!
From this point forward, all of my published works will be under the name Adam Ladner Scott. New copies of my books (both previously released works and future works) will have this name, which might clash with the original pen name of Adam Ladner on your existing paperbacks and hardcovers. Sorry!
I’ve been working through some burnout over the past month, and have taken some time away from writing to recharge my batteries. While my passion for the Restart Again series has never faded, the motivation to actually write the prose was becoming more difficult to find every day. I’ve had some exciting ideas for Volume 5 over the course of my brief sabbatical, and I’m looking forward to polishing them once I start writing again at the end of the month.
Probably didn’t need a header for this.
If you stuck with me through this blog post, I both appreciate and admire your dedication. It may have been a bit of overcompensation for the lack of writing I’ve done this month, but I always like to give everyone a behind-the-scenes of what’s going on with the project.
If you skipped to the TL;DR, I hope it was informative! I’ll have some more info for you soon in regards to the audiobook release date.
Regardless of whether you read the whole post or not, I hope you’re doing well! If you’re perhaps feeling a bit stressed out like I’ve been recently, just remember that it’s always okay to take a break and just exist for a while. A little R&R might just leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever challenge you’re facing.
This is without a doubt the longest post I’ve made on here to date, so let’s just end the rambling here. Stay safe out there, and as always, thanks for reading!