2017 Lessons Learned and 2018 Targets

Happy New Year!

The main thing I learned from 2017 was that marketing is pretty dang important. If you build it, they will not come. How could they, unless they knew it was there? Pretty obvious in retrospect. But alas, one of the goals of rapid releasing novels is getting Amazon algorithms to work in your favor (which is a kind of marketing). It didn’t work in my favor. In short, I’m losing money on this series. I hoped releasing book 4 would juice sales. It didn’t.

My analysis of what went wrong are three areas: book 1 characterizations weren’t as strong as they needed to be, I didn’t pay enough attention to also-boughts,  and I misbranded the cover. 1) Isa’s character in book 1 is a little too cocky/strong; I didn’t include enough pet-the-dog moments to make her more sympathetic. She’s a well rounded character, which emerges in later books, but no so much in book 1. I got a lot of comments that people liked the book but not Isa. 2)  When I released the books I paid a lot of attention to gaining early reviews, but not to the also-boughts. The also-boughts are how Amazon knows how to sell your books. So if your also-boughts are all over the place (cookbooks, comics, literary fiction) Amazon doesn’t know what to do with that to push your books. This is opposed to if your book appears in all science fiction heist books, then you stand a better chance to sell books to that audience, right? Whoops. I thought that would sort itself out; I was wrong again. 3) I love the covers, but they’re too reminiscent of Paranormal Romance genre, which was by design (Sunken City Capers has a lot in common with the core tropes of Paranormal Romance so I intentionally went after that). I thought I could get crossover appeal; I think I got neither. Those that like science fiction saw the cover and said that’s paranormal romance, and those that like paranormal romance saw the cover and said that’s science fiction and I missed the bulk of both crowds. This is impossible to really assess without getting new covers, but I’m already losing money and purchasing four new covers is a painful choice.

There are two direct actions that came out of this. First, marketing is going to be the central theme of 2018. Second, Sunken City Capers Book 5 will be the last book in that series. Book 4 ended on a huge cliffhanger, so I’m going to wrap that up (my OCD nature doesn’t let me leave threads hanging unresolved). I had always hoped to keep writing adventures for this band of mischievous ne’er-do-wells for the foreseeable future, but alas, the market doesn’t seem to support that at this time. This leads to another 2018 target: start writing in a new series.

The more sticks you have in a fire, the more likely one is to catch. So I’m switching gears in 2018 to an alternate history steampunk novel series I’ve had on the backburner while I worked on Sunken City Capers. My plan is to get a submission package together and start querying agents and publishers. I’m not sure I want to go that route yet, but I figure it’s a good exercise at any rate.

Another target I have for 2018 is to be more disciplined than I was in 2017. 2017 was intentionally a slower year for me to help me recover from 2016. It’s time to speed things up again (using both lessons learned from 2016 and 2017; not too fast, but not too slow either). My target is to spend at least 10 hours on writing a week. Now I just need to find a good way to track that.

2018 Targets:
1) Learn and apply marketing
2) Spend at least 10 hours a week on writing (including drafting, editing, and marketing)
3) Polish, write supporting material, Book 1 in alternate history steampunk series and start submitting it
4) Outline Book 2 in alternate history steampunk series
5) Write 50% of Book 2 in alternate history steampunk series**
6) Read 10 fiction books
7) Read 10 non-fiction books

**I may or may not do this. Conventional wisdom says not to write book 2 while submitting book 1 in case of changes.

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