Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rethinking Marketing Strategy

When I started this series, about a year and a half ago, my original plan was to write a series of novellas, which I would bundle together, three or so to a "book." The first piece, The Case of the Haunted Vampire, cooperated, coming in at about 16K words, a bit short for a novella, but close enough.

The Case of the Lost Werewolf Puppy, the second work, was supposed to be about 20-30K words. Unfortunately, that story didn't cooperate, and I realized about 15K words in that I was working on a full novel. Its current word count is about 90K, firmly in the short novel range. I'm not planning to be an epic novel writer, and 80-100K is a good length for a light, genre novel, as this one is.

This all has left me with a bit of a quandary. There simply isn't enough plot to the first novella to allow me to lengthen it. But the second was always intended to be number two in a series. I don't want to market Haunted Vampire as something it isn't, although with e-books, it's difficult to tell how long a book is until you've bought and downloaded it. Deceiving my readership isn't going to win me more readers.

I've been noticing a lot of authors releasing "prequel" novellas and short stories lately as a way to market a longer book in a series. I've decided this will work well for me.

Lost Werewolf Puppy is going to become the actual first book in the series. I'm pretty sure it stands alone, and I've got some beta readers willing to confirm that for me. Haunted Vampire is now a prequel work. Readers will probably want to see how Paul and Dafydd met, and that's the story I tell there. In hindsight, it's not the best story to be first. Lost Werewolf Puppy has lots of action and more character development. It's a good "first" in the series.

My pricing plan remains the same. Haunted Vampire will be .99 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (where I can't price a book as free), but it will be free on Smashwords, so I can tell people about it as a freebie intro. Lost Werewolf Puppy will be $2.99 everywhere, as will subsequent books. I'll experiment with putting the longer works on sale, and we'll see how it goes.

I think this will work and allows me to adapt to the changing lengths of the stories in the series. I may have a few novella ideas later, and I can always treat them the same way. Offer them up for .99 or free.

And in case you were wondering, the next book is already in progress. About 16K words in two weeks of writing. Obviously, it's going to be another novel, and it's going to be good. We're finally going to find out who Paul really is and how he became a vampire. There might even be a bit of romance in it. ;)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Finished the First Draft!

I finished the first draft of The Case of the Lost Werepuppy on Monday. It was an odd experience. I knew I was getting close. When I finished my writing last Saturday, I knew I had just a few more scenes left. I needed to do some wrap up after the climactic battle, and Dafydd had some soul-searching to do. Several people had just died for his fight, and that's never an easy moment for a character.

I sat down on Monday (having seen X-Men First Class on Saturday), and I knew the scene was going to have some of the feel of the Charles/Erik scene in the library (except both Paul and Dafydd were drinking Scotch--no wine for Paul in my scene--and the chessboard was absent.) Ehm. I digress. Think I enjoyed the movie?

Anyway, that dialogue scene turned out to have a couple of surprises for me. I'd been mentally roughing out the scene the night before, and I knew I wanted Paul to finally reveal how old he was. When I was writing on Monday, I literally typed, "I was born in..." and then pulled out my notes. Remember, Paul is based on an historical character, and I had his actual birthday.

That was when I got my shock. Paul's date of birth was September 10. The scene I was writing took place on September 9. Remember my post of last week on resources? The date of the story was driven by full moon phases, and I hadn't remembered Paul's date of birth. It was one of those things I cut and paste into Evernote to refer to later.

It's funny how things work that way. Kind of like it was meant to be, huh?

My other surprise came when I finished the scene. I was done. I mean really done. I'd wrapped up the theme and the story in that scene. I needed a couple of paragraphs to resolve one last plot point, but I decided it could all happen off-screen. It didn't need to be shown.

So I was done. And I'm very glad these guys are in a series. You know the feeling you get when you finish a really good book? One of those you never want to end? Finishing this one felt exactly like that. I'm hoping that means it will be as good for my readers as it was for me.

But it's not really done. It still needs editing. I kind of figured out my themes as I went along, and now I need to go back and strengthen them. Plus fix inconsistencies, crappy wording and make my fight scenes obey me. I hate writing fight scenes. Good thing I can rewrite them passably.

Oh, and just because I could, I started working on the next book yesterday. I do my best writing in the morning. Editing I can do anytime. Might as well use my time wisely.

One final link to X-Men. Want to see what Paul looks like in my head? 

It was kind of eerie watching the movie. This was pretty much exactly how Paul has looked to me. Even down to the slight head tilt. And Fassbender is almost exactly the same height and has the same color eyes as the historical Paul. In real life, Fassbender's hair is lighter than Paul's, but in this role, even that is right. Eerie.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Research Tools For Writers

First some cool news. This blog is now available in a mobile version, so don't hesitate to drop by on your cell phone or tablet. It looks good and loads fast!

Today I wanted to share some cool resources I've found for research. How did writers manage before the Internet?

Since I am writing about vampires (and werewolves in the latest book), sunrise and sunset times are obviously important. Did you know there's a site that lists those? I can search for the times on a particular day, and not just in DC. I can find that information for anywhere.

Moon phases have also been important for this book. I wanted to set the book in roughly the fall time frame, during a relatively recent year, and I really wanted the full moon to fall on a Friday. Pretty specific, huh? Well, I was able to search for moon phases on the same site, and I discovered that September 2009 fit all the criteria. So if you were wondering when I set the book and why, now you know!

What about historical weather? This one took me a bit longer to track down. I don't want to pay for the information if I can avoid it, and until this week, the only sites I found charged subscription fees. Then I found Weather Underground. Mouse over the "Local Weather" tab, and you'll find the option to search for History Data. It's free, and they give you an hour by hour recap. Now I know that it was overcast with light wind during my final fight scene. No rain at the time of the scene, but it had rained a few hours earlier, so there might be some slick spots. Bet I can use that to build some tension.

Wikipedia is, naturally, one of my go-to sites. Just a couple of days ago, I was describing my werewolves, and I needed to know how big to make them. A quick Wikipedia search on "gray wolves" gave me what I needed. I wanted them just a big bigger than gray wolves, so now my werewolves are about 6 feet long and 3 1/2 feet tall at the shoulder.

But the coolest resource so far has been Google Maps. Want to see where my final climactic battle is held? Follow this link and click on Satellite view. Cool, isn't it? While I'm writing the scene, I've got this map open, and I use it to storyboard the action.

Of course, great resources can't substitute for a good story and well-crafted writing. A writer could overdo references to time, place and weather. But having an idea of the exact time in which to place the story has given me some good ideas. And I think they've made the story better.

What about you? Any writing resources to share?