Wren Bookbub, audiobooks and too much gore – Writing Update 2019 Week 47, 48, 49

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing 1 Comment

On Thurs Nov 28 (Thanksgiving) I had the Bookbub for book one of the Chris Wren thriller series – Saint Justice. It was free in all markets, exclusive to KU. I never thought I’d get the BB without going wide, and was in fact planning on a wide run early in 2020, but applied while exclusive anyway on a whim.

Well, they took it and ran it and now we have results – 24,000 free given away on the 28th, another 4,000 on the 29th, another 1,000 on the 30th. It held #1 position in Amazon free stores in UK, Au and Ca, but maxed out at #2 in the USA.

I was down about this briefly for a few reasons – that I wanted to hit #1, and that the BB estimate was 38,000 average giveaways. So what gives?

Well, I felt better after realizing a few things:

Firstly, the BB numbers are surely for a book that is wide. Mine was KU exclusive. If I had added other vendors like kobo and google, quite likely I’d be at 40,000 or more total.

Secondly, I looked at my stable mates at the top of the US free store, and found almost every other book in the top 100 was a romance. Maybe 10% were not romance. #1 was a romance. Every other book in the top 10 was romance. Even several other books in the thriller genre, that had their BB at the same time as me, were not even close to my rank.

So, that means for that day, I was giving away more free copies than any other thriller author. It’s pretty good. To beat out romance, when they are such big readers, and free readers, would be really amazing, but probably too much to expect. Maybe next time 😉

So – no need to feel down.

It’s been a week since then – and page reads and sales of the Wren books have been averaging about $100 a day. Of course there is some ongoing ad spend. Maybe in a week the BB will be paid off – then Wren can go back to having his ads sponsored by my zombie books :).


I’m looking hard at getting audiobooks made for both Wren and the Last Mayor series. It involves buying out the rights to The Last, which I made on revenue share through ACX 3 years ago. If I can do that, then I have to remake it all.

After editing, it’s probably around 600,000 words total over 9 books. They say 1 finished hour of narration is around 10,000 words, so that’s 60 hours. Per finished hour rates range from $100 up to whatever, $400+.

If I got a narrator at $100 pfh, that would be $6000. Actually not bad, considering it is 9 books. $200 is more likely, then it is $12,000. Ouch. Will the audiobooks ever pay that off?

It is certainly possible. The big zombie audiobook box sets have thousands of reviews on them – which means they sold surely tens of thousands. My series still has problems – but the complete series is getting strong reviews. People are reading it all the way through. Some say the first 3 books are better. Others love it all the way. I’m still editing books 8 and 9. Either way, there are possibilities here.

Wren too horrific?

A review for Chris Wren just rolled in (moments ago) that crystalizes a concern that’s been niggling in the back of my mind – too much horror. Here’s the review:

Grist has a lot of talent as a writer. Most of the book was so good I couldn’t put it down. But he is too hung up on describing tortures. He fills it with so much sick stuff you no longer want to read. He over does it …way over does it! It’s sick. If he wasn’t so hung up on that he could be on of the better authors of thrillers.

That is a kind of awesome review. 3 stars out of 5. But still – ‘could be one of the better authors of thrillers’, ‘I couldn’t put down’ – even though they wanted to.

Well. I want to squash these horror moments. People are saying it constantly – dark, grim, not for the faint of heart. Fine, but a vast majority of the audience have ‘faint hearts’. Or more fairly, they don’t want their noses rubbed in grimness.

I need to address this. It is a blind spot of mine. I guess I come from horror, and even in my sf and fantasy there is plenty of horror. I don’t know why, as I can hardly stand horror myself. I don’t watch horror movies. I hate graphic violence and torture porn films like Hostel. John Wick 3 had parts that made me really queasy.


I’ve already been reworking this book constantly – little things. Dumbing down the social justice warrior and racial aspects of Wren. I cut the potentially confusing perspective jumps – now each book has only Wren and a few chapters with one person getting sucked into each respective cult. I also did a search and replace on every instance of blood, mutilation and other keywords. There were a few. I toned them all down.

So what else needs fixing? Areas I didn’t yet touch up include the torture scene in Teddy’s basement (a tableau Wren discovers), the persistent branding of Mason, and the death of Henry and Abdul. I think those are the grosser bits. It doesn’t hurt anything to reduce the horror here. Leave it implied. That is the next job, after I finish the zombies. They are still the bigger meal ticket!!

Def needs to be done before I move on the audiobook, though.

If you have thoughts on the horror level, do let me know!!

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