Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Changing Marketing Plan

Honestly, it's killing me to sit on a nearly finished book without releasing it, and sometimes I wonder if it feels like a tease to the readers of this blog. So I thought I'd talk about my original marketing plan and how and why it's changed over the last year. Which will explain why I continue to sit on my first book.

About a year ago I started reading an excellent blog on self-publishing, A Newbie's Guide To Publishing. Follow it. It's excellent, and I'm stealing most of what Konrath talks about as I make this journey.

Soon after I started reading the blog, the characters of Paul and Dafydd sort of dropped into my head and said, "Write us!" How could I refuse the request of two incredibly hot guys, one of whom was a vampire? I thought this through. The main keys to success in self-publishing seemed to be:

1. Have lots of books
2. Sell them cheaply
3. Have a great cover and description

I decided I could do that. But I didn't have a huge pile of unpublished novels sitting on my hard drive. I had two, both of which required as much work as writing new books. And I had these two guys bugging me to write their story.

So I figured I could cheat. Instead of writing full novels, I'd start by writing novellas of about 15K-25K words. I'd publish them for .99 each and try that. Over time, I figured I'd graduate to full novels. I'd even decided to rewrite one of the existing unpublished novels as a Paul and Dafydd story. I was going to trumpet it as "Paul and Dafydd's first full length novel!"

The Case of the Haunted Vampire cooperated nicely, coming in at about 18K words. I thought it would take me another six months to write two more like it and then I'd be ready to release.

Then Amazon added a new royalty structure. In addition to the 35% plan, they started offering a 70% plan. The kicker? The book had to be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. But how could I resist a doubled royalty?

Back the drawing board. I'd always planned to release the first book for free at Smashwords and for .99 at Amazon (indie authors can't offer books for free on Amazon). So, I decided, instead of releasing each novella alone, I'd bundle them at two or three per "book." That would justify the $2.99 price. I'd still release Haunted Vampire for free/.99 as the introduction to the series.

No problem. Write two (or maybe now three) more stories, and I could publish!

But The Case of the Lost Werewolf Puppy didn't get the memo. It's at almost 30K words now, and I think the story is about half done. And, as I was writing it, I realized I need to make some significant changes to Haunted Vampire, but I want to finish Lost Werewolf Puppy first and make all the changes at one time. That's the biggest advantage to holding the first book in a series until finishing the second. Dafydd has changed jobs from a part-time stage magician to a multi-level marketer (in addition to being a warlock). Now I can go back and make that change to both books. I'll probably also see if I can lengthen Haunted Vampire by about 5K-10K words. I suspect I can add a few scenes to make the book stronger.

Long story short. Plans change.

But to reward my loyal readers of this blog, next week I'm going to post an excerpt from Haunted Vampire. There was a scene that all my beta readers particularly liked, and I think it gets across the feel of the series very well. Look for "the incredible shrinking vampire" next week!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have To Write Crap

Note that I said "write." I didn't say "publish." It's an important distinction.

Last week was brutal for working on The Case of the Lost Werewolf Puppy. I hit, not really a block, but a very hard section to write. Since I am writing about a warlock who does ritual magic, I thought it might be a good idea to actually write a ritual.

If I'd known what I was setting myself up for, I might have written a series about a vampire and, I don't know, a zombie, maybe.

I was trying for something realistic. Not that the ritual had to work, but I wanted it to sound like it could work. So I did a lot of research on ritual magic, materials, circles and the like. Research was easy. I found herbs and some chants that seemed to fit. I figured it would be easy to pull all that together into a cool-sounding ritual.

Was I ever wrong!

It turned out to be the hardest 1200 words I've ever written. The set-up was easy: getting the space ready, giving Dafydd a bath to purify him, locking up the ferrets so they couldn't get in the way. No problem.

But actually writing the steps to the ritual? Wow! It took me three days to write, and I'll be honest. It's horrible. No one will ever see that draft.

It's okay. I can go back later and rewrite and make it work. But to get to the rewrite stage, first I had to write it. And some authors never get that.

It's possible to psych yourself completely out of writing by worrying about the first draft. "Does it sound okay?" "Do I repeat words?" "Does it flow?"

None of that matters the first time around. Just get down a rough concept. I'm not even sure my tenses are straight in that scene. For some reason, I kept trying to write in present tense, and I'm not sure I caught all the times I slipped. I'll fix it in rewrite. By the time it's done, it'll be cool.

Which is the lesson today. Sometimes you just have to write crap that you can go back and rewrite into roses.

And now, thankfully, I'm back to writing good Paul/Dafydd action. No, not that kind of action, you dirty-minded reader. They're off in search of some dead bodies.

Anyone else want to share how you got past a tough scene (or scenes)?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm Back!!!

Okay, I admit, the end of last year sucked for me and writing. As in, I didn't write a word on my book from about mid-November on. So I've made some changes in how I keep myself accountable.

First, I've recommitted to writing as a regular activity. While I didn't write anything for the past month and a half, I did read a lot of blogs about self-publishing, and things are changing. Authors are starting to see success without having a huge back list. A ton of e-readers were sold for the holidays. If there ever was a time to be self-publishing e-books, it's now. Writing for vanity is one thing. That's easy to procrastinate. But writing to make real money? Hey, that's worth making a priority.

Okay, so all well and good to say I've made it a priority. That and $1.69 will get me a medium iced tea at Panera. What specifically have I done to make sure writing happens?

For 2011, I have three areas I am focusing on, for work. One of them is publishing. The other two are related to my coaching business. Each morning, I am dedicating time to planning my day. One of those three areas must be represented each day. And each evening, I look back on the day and write down (in my iPhone, of course), what I did that day to advance each goal. So far, I'm on track for the first two days I've used the system.

I'm also being more specific about my tasks. Instead of a recurring "Work on Werepuppy" task, which I mostly ignored, I'm creating specific tasks based on what I think I can accomplish that day. For the last two days, the task was "Re-read Werepuppy." It had been so long since I'd worked on it that I thought I needed a refresher.

Starting today, my goal is even more specific. Today the goal is "Write 2000" words. I think I can do that since I don't have any meetings scheduled, and I've burned through a lot of admin-type tasks that accumulated over the holidays. Other days, the goal will be smaller. Some days, I won't work on the book at all. That's okay. I'm looking at each day and setting realistic, specific tasks for the day.

I think it will work. I committed to my coach to work on getting these systems working by the end of the month. I'll report later on how it's working.

Enough about process, though. Tune in next week when we have some fun. I'm going to be interviewing my main character, Dafydd the warlock. If you have any questions you want to ask him, put them in the comments, and I'll include them next week.

Here's your chance to ask a fictional character anything you want. Don't miss out!