Choices

I like it when I have a ton of things to work on. I love order but I thrive in chaos. That is until I lose control and there are just too many things floating around. Today is one of those days where I am on the verge of losing control.

Good thing is I don’t care that there are so many different things floating out there for a change. On top of getting my book ready for launch, I am writing a novella that will release in November as part of the aforementioned collaboration. At this point, it’s going to write itself so I’m not that worried about it.

What got my heart racing was the conversation I had yesterday about moving up the book series I am going to write for the collaboration by three months. Suddenly that was a quarter-million words of production effectively due in 89 days.

That is a total worst-case scenario as well, there’s some wiggle room in that schedule but not a whole lot. I need to make some choices in the next week about where to focus my writing time and effort for the rest of this year. In general, how I am using some of my time really.

There are always going to be problems, or challenges if you want to put a positive spin on it. Yesterday while I was thinking about these challenges I was focused on the wrong pieces. At my fastest writing speed, I would have to put in another 55 hrs a week of work get those books out, plus the ones I wanted to release before the end of the year.

Well … that’s not going to happen.

When I thought about it more today, I realized that maybe the challenge isn’t the number of hours I have available to write. Don’t get me wrong, if I could quit the day job, I would happily write 55 hours a week. Well, maybe not all the time.

I think the challenge is how do I increase my productivity? From everything I have researched, reading and talking to other authors, it means I need to explore dictation.

That’s another learning curve so do I take the time to figure it out? Does that help in the short term or would it set me back?

I had a hard time when I tried it out because writing for me is the tactile act of running my fingers over the keyboard. It puts me in that headspace. I still have a mechanical keyboard at home.

Still, I believe it’s coming down to the fact I need to add dictation to my arsenal of writing tools.

I have a lot of drive time on my hands today as I head up to see my girlfriend. It’s a four hour and some change drive one-way and I do this drive every two weeks. It works out to nearly eighteen waking hours that I can’t write each month. At three thousand words per hour (3000/wph) that would mean drafting a nearly completed book in my genre. That writing speed is a conservative estimate as well.

It looks like the only choice here is to embrace dictation.

Peace. I will be taking a few days off from blogging to enjoy family time.

From Zero to Launch – Collaborations (Part 3)

From Zero to Launch – Collaborations (Part 3)

Ok, so back to what I was talking about collaborations. Specifically, what changed my mind about it. Best way to start is with the end.

Keeping with the honesty theme, money was a big reason I entertained the opportunity I was presented with at the conference. The universe has seen some monetary success, and there was a lot of room for growth. Money wasn’t the primary motivation, but it does matter. We all have to eat. I have done my share of pro bono project work in the past at the expense of profitable ventures.

That said, money was not the main attraction, however. Don’t get me wrong, the author I’m working with had a great sales pitch, but money was the last thing that they mentioned. That made a big difference to me because it wasn’t just about making money; it was about creating something significant. Something that has lasting value to the readers. The world is fascinating and just with the few ideas he spitballed, I could see how there was room for my ideas to live in harmony with his.

Those two things are what changed my mind. The opportunity to create with like-minded people in harmony.

Ok. That seems pretty generic.

On the surface, it sure does. Opportunity is usually a polite term for “I’m gonna make some money!!!” And money will rain in. Sometimes rare opportunities are more about learning all the inner door secrets of the master (for you kung fu aficionados). As well all know, those opportunities are few and far between and require a lot more work than most of us are willing to put in. That is if we even ever see the expected pay off.

So when I say opportunity, that is not what I mean. What makes it a real opportunity is because we have complementary goals. Even if I don’t make a ton of money or learn all the secrets of editing and book publishing – I am going to enjoy the journey and the time spent doing it.

In my experience, most “opportunities” clearly favored one party over another. This is not the case. Working with like-minded people isn’t a new thing either, but legitimately getting along with them and with more than a trust in the legalities that bind us, is pretty rare.

I have to mention that the collaboration is just more than two of us, it’s a team of five. While we are all writers, as a group, we have a bunch of competencies that combined make for one kickass author. One brings excellent editing skills. Another the business savvy and knowledge to create great launches. So on and so forth.

And because we collectively are doing those things, I have a lot more time to focus on writing. There’s also a higher chance that what I write will put some extra cash in all of our pockets. What I really gain out of this is some awesome experience doing what I love, with relatively low-risk.

And new friends.

I can’t tell you how much more fun I am having with these people “working” in comparison to the day job. In the past, this is the type of working relationship where I have walked away with life long friendships.

It is a wholly different challenge from what I thought being an indie author would be for me. At least the path I imagined. I am still going to work on my own books as well, but when opportunity knocks, I’ve learned that to take a small pause and listen.

What this all boils down to is: This collaboration is time well spent.

From Zero To Launch

A small pause.

Today I hit a wall with writing. It wasn’t writer’s block or anything like that. It simply came down to, I was and am mentally drained today. The day job took a ton of effort today but that is only the secondary reason.

The primary reason was I just wanted to spend time with my daughter. So we sat back and watched some stupid YouTube videos together and laughed until she fell asleep on the couch.

I came upstairs to work on From Zero to Launch – Collaborations (Part 3) and knew I had to stop. I know I could finish that piece tonight but it wouldn’t be quality. Or it would be worse than normal, you be the judge.

There’s no one way to achieve success as an author, but there is at least one common activity that isn’t unique to being an author either. Sometimes you have to know when you just need to take a break.

So I will post part 3 tomorrow.

From Zero to Launch – Collaborations (Part 2)

Yesterday I mentioned how my lack of knowledge about co-writing was a boundary at first until I realized it was a barrier. Well, there is truth in knowledge will set you free. Sometimes it sets you on fire too, but that is liberating in its own way.

This is a bit of a tangent, but there’s a payoff I swear. 

Throughout the conference I attended, there was a reoccurring theme around how collaboration can assist authors in their publishing careers. Having studied organizational management in depth, many of the points made sense. What I didn’t realize, was how rigidly I framed collaboration as two (or more) people working on the same idea, discussing which words to use, poking and prodding at the plot and story structure, and so on.  

I missed all the other pieces of work an author needs to do, often just as difficult as writing that stupid manuscript. You know, managing your ads, the social media campaign, designing the cover(s), editing, material for your newsletter, etc. I held this false image about that part of the business and how much effort, work, and time would need to be put into those activities. It’s almost exhausting to think about it. 

Two questions need to be answered when thinking about publishing a book as an indie author.

  1. How competent are you at doing those things?
  2. How much time are you willing to devote to doing those things?
  3. Are you willing to learn to do those things well, or is it better to hire someone to do them for you?

Three. There are three questions.  

There is an underlying concern all three questions have in common too. To paraphrase another author, “I get paid for the words I write. So when I am doing anything that takes away from writing words, I am taking time away from the thing that puts food on my table for my family.”

At its core, they are absolutely correct. If we don’t put words down, we don’t spend the butt in the chair time, there won’t be a product to share with our audience. All the other activities are value-add multipliers. They influence how well our books reach people, and ultimately, our livelihoods if being an author is your day job.  

The one thing that tied everything together was time.  

There are only so many hours in the day we can work. Time is our most valuable resource. If you love writing, the last thing you want to be doing is figuring out your ROI on the previous series you published when you could potentially pay an accountant or ask a friend who enjoys doing that type of thing.

I will say it again. 

Time. Is. Our. Most. Valuable. Resource.

This is not exactly a new revelation, either. We all know this but are we living it? It definitely wasn’t something I considered cognitively when I decided to start writing and publishing.

We all have things that we like doing. I, for one, enjoy calculating the ROI (Return on Investment) of projects and products. I can make my own covers too. I don’t enjoy the work however, and I would have to really step up my photoshop game to produce a quality cover. It makes much more sense to find an excellent graphic artist and farm that work over to them. 

I never looked at how a collaboration could save me time and give me more time to write, which is what I want to do. I truly enjoy that part of the business the most. So tomorrow, I’ll explain how I changed my perspective and opened up new opportunities to write.

From Zero to Launch – Collaborations (Part 1)

One thing that I was 100% positive of when I started learning the writing business was: I am going to write my stuff and only my stuff.  Figuring out which path was the best for my journey between traditional publishing and indie publishing was hard enough.  The thought of having to work with someone else on a creative project as well seemed impossibly difficult.  

So what happens at the first writer’s conference I attend?  Yup, that’s right, I signed up to write in another world.  

Why the heck did I do that?  Collaborations were supposed to be a hard no, right?

At the conference, there were some really good points made about why and when to work with others.  Not all of those points resonated with me, but a few did. I am not going to cover all those points – be honest I only wrote down the ones that made sense to me, but I’ll want to share what my thought process was in decided to work with this group of people.

First things first are the ‘why nots’.  It’s important to me to firmly define the barriers to doing a thing, so I can make an informed decision.  Barriers can be a good thing too, let’s not forget that. They are called boundaries and should be respected when they are a positive thing. I had a habit of saying yes to just about every project that I was asked to join for years.  

Guess how many actually got done?  

My reasons not to collaborate.  

  1. Time.  
  2. Comfort.
  3. I knew nothing about how coauthoring worked and figuring out how to do this on my own was hard enough.
  4. Money.

I’m going to explain these a little deeper but not in order, so stick with me. 

Let’s be honest here. You have to split the cash in an equitable fashion when you work with other people.  As an unpublished author, half of nothing is still nothing. The thought of sharing a nothing burger or a poorly received book made me wilt inside.  I can do that but I never want to ask someone else to do that. 

The other side of the money issue is true as well. If it was a hit, I’d have to share the wealth.  I’m more than ok with that, teamwork is the way to go for just about everything in life if you want to make a lot of money. The issue for me is the part of me that would always wonder how well I would have done on my own?  It’s a matter of self-worth (using a crappy metric, I know) but I want to know the answer to that question.  

I am very comfortable doing all the different tasks associated with self-publishing, or at least learning how to do them.  Striking out alone made sense, to learn from others but also to learn by doing. I am sure eventually there will be tasks that I will farm out (Cover design for instance) but I want to experience all the things that go into creating a book.

Time is another big piece of the puzzle.  I have a full-time job, a pre-teen daughter, and my girlfriend lives four hours away.  It’s a lot of time in car the on top of work and family. This is a career I’m kicking off with part-time hours.  Splitting my time working on another book project besides my own seemed like a bad idea. Recruiting help was a difficult prospect too since we’d have to find a working cadence that fit for both of us.  

My lack of knowledge made me think that this was one area I could ignore as a new author because working with other people adds complexity.  Starting out I wanted to reduce complexity, even if it took more time to learn new things. Then, once I understood all the pieces of the authoring puzzle, maybe I would look at collaboration.

Turns out my ignorance was the thing that changed my boundaries into barriers. 

That is tomorrow’s post though.  

From Zero to Launch

I’d like to thank the Fantasy Writer for letting me add my thoughts to the blog first and foremost. Now, on to my first blog post about how my initial launch is going.

The Freakout

I have signed myself up to do something potentially stupid, which is to edit and publish my first ever completed book by Oct 31. If I had made this line in the sand back in January, that wouldn’t be so bad, but I”m trying to get it all done in 45 days.  As of this post, it is 33 days from now.

There are a ton of things that I need to complete before I can release the book.  Even more than I had realized, and as a part-time job right now I am finding setting up my author platform and getting ready for this release is a full-time gig.  Intellectually I knew this but it’s amazing how badly I underestimated the effort necessary.

So raise your hand if you hate to show people your creative side until “it’s ready”. Well, no one can see your hand up but you’re not alone. My draft is a hot mess so I am freaking out about this self-imposed publishing deadline.  But I refuse to change it unless I absolutely have to.

There is a lot that needs to be done before I am ready to hit that publish button and send my first work out into the wild all alone, but when I stop to breath there is a lot that I have accomplished.

What I have completed:

  1. A professional email and domain.
    1. I was going to use another one that I owned but my gut told me it wasn’t that professional.  And it was a long name that while easy to remember, people like easy things and typing out a twenty-plus word long domain name is not easy.
  2. Facebook Author page is staged
  3. Book 1 cover is awesome!
    1. Some small things I’d change, maybe – but I am going to roll with it and see how it does.  
  4. Did I mention that I picked up a cover that I love and received great feedback?
  5. Ready to upload and publish my preorder on Amazon.
  6. I have beta readers
  7. I finished my reader magnet
  8. I thought this list was longer.

The list of things I need to do is really too long to go into details so here are the things I need to get done this week.

  1. Finish editing my book so I can get it out to my beta readers. I am 50% done, so there are only 40k words or so left to go. 
  2. Complete my facebook page.  
  3. Setup my newsletter.
  4. Setup my website.

It’s a lengthy post already so I’ll end with this today.   I’d like to say all the work I have done this point was been 100% focused on getting Book 1 out the door but it hasn’t.  In late July, another opportunity writing presented itself and I have been working on that as well. It wasn’t until TFW (The Fantasy Writer) challenged me to release this book with theirs that I got serious about my own work.  So I’m working double-time and I’ll be talking about how that has affected my release.

The First Book

I’m redrafting my first book. It wasn’t hitting the notes I wanted so I changed the setting and the overall arc. It’s going to be submitted to my editor next week and I’ll have a better idea then if it requires further work.

This book isn’t going to be a masterpiece of literature. I just want the readers to enjoy a good story. I want them to get hooked into the story and devour every chapter. I want the book to be impossible for them to put down. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

It’s so much harder to execute than it appears.

My process is strange, I write the book and then I read it and reread it and wait for the parts where I get bored or lose interest. A lot of my writing is instinctive. I can’t verbalize or explain breakdowns of arcs or character motivation or all that stuff. I suck at discussing craft. All I know is that “something feels off” and I have to figure out a way to fix it. I usually have a vague idea why it feels off and I keep fiddling with it until it starts feeling right.

I need the readers to love this book so that they pick up the next. I need them to love it because it also introduces a character that has a spinoff series in early 2020 and I’m going to put up the pre-order when this book goes live. I’ll be able to determine if I was successful in my pursuit of hookiness based on the number of pre-orders I get for Book 2 and Book 1 of the new series.

So this week is all about fixing the first book and rewriting the first chapter.

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  • Art of the Arcane: This promotion requires a newsletter share.

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Amazon Ads: 1-9 September 2019

I’ve gotten 68 pre-orders from 1-9 September, averaging 7 books a day. My pre-order record in a single day is 11. In another lifetime that number was in triple digits but a fresh start requires humble expectations.

Why 11 when you can see 12 right there? Well, one pre-order was returned that same day taking the total down to 11.

I’ve referred to advertising as burning money in the past because it is the way I do it. However, I’ve come to a decision that I’m going to set this book up as a loss-leader in order to get the beginnings of a readership. There isn’t much money to be made when advertising a 99c book unless you get readers hooked and buying the next books in the series. I’m going to treat it as such. This book will be the launchpad of my publishing career and it’s worth spending money on that.

My launch strategy involves increasing the spend on Amazon Ads when the book is live and signing up for newsletter promotions. I think a lot of KU readers hunt for books that way so I believe it would be effective in getting more borrows.

Another method I’m going to use is free author promotions. I’ll discuss that in more detail in the next post.

I’ll share how much money was spent advertising the book if it recoups its losses. Until then, I’ll share how many pre-orders I’m achieving and if I beat the record of 11 per day.

It’s the Little Things

Today was an admin day. All these little things add up to a mountain so I decided to tackle everything so I could start the week fresh and just write.

Things I did:

Updated my Author Website: This has been long overdue. I changed the theme, customized it, scrubbed the old posts and updated the pages. Still to do is post new content this upcoming week to replace all the posts I purged. I also have to establish a social media calendar to ensure I post content across my blog, twitter account, and instagram. They’re all pretty empty at the moment.

Linked UK & Canada Stores on Amazon Associates OneClick: I’m planning to host weekly posts featuring books and I want to add affiliate links to them. Affiliate links are an easy way to make some extra money. The holidays are coming up and people buy a lot of things on Amazon. I’m hoping to get some of that action.

Signed up for ConvertKit: Started a paid subscription. I got my first batch of subscribers from a list builder I signed up for. (I’ll discuss my list building approach in a separate post.) I created a couple of forms and integrated them into my author website.

Discussed Fonts: I contacted one of my cover designers on the font he has on my covers. It seems like a little thing but it’s time consuming. I really want my branding to be consistent. I have a nice author font across the covers I’ve commissioned from various cover artists but I decided I want this cover designer to have a different font. I want a thicker font that stands out in thumbnail size. I had to hunt for fonts and share them with him so he could test them on the covers he’s designed. I still haven’t found the perfect one. This is a work-in-progress.

Modified an Existing Promotion Website: I have an existing book promotion website that I haven’t touched since early this year. I scrubbed all references to my pen name. Starting Tuesday, I’ll be sending out regular emails to the existing newsletter contacts. I plan to run a book fair in November so I will reach out to the author subscribers next month to set that up.

Created a Google Form for Author Newsletter Swaps and Promotions: I realized I need to take full advantage of seeing a lot of authors at November’s conference. My plan is to have a lot of business cards on hand with a QR code to the google form. Ideally I’d get fantasy authors that want to help promote my book in return for me promoting theirs.

Started Designing the Business Card: This is a work in progress. I need a couple of book covers to be finalized, which means I need to choose a font, and then I can finish the design and order the cards.

Updated my Expenses File: I’ve left some paid invoices in my inbox. Updating my expenses file meant I could finally clean out my inbox by filing them away, and have a better idea of how much I’ve spent so far on everything (the answer: too much).

Now that I have my admin sorted, I can focus on writing for the week.