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.

2017 In Review

It’s December already (made clear when my wife and I panicked shopped this past week on Amazon for Christmas–came out of nowhere!) and so that means looking back at the 2017 writing goals and assessing how well I met those targets. The goals for 2017 were:

  1. Finish and publish Sunken City Capers Book 4
  2. Read 10 fiction books
  3. Read 10 nonfiction books.

All targets hit! Which is good, since 2017 was deliberately supposed to be a nice and easy year after the horror of 2016. I finished and published The Brummie Con: Sunken City Capers Book 4 in October (whew). That book was a lot harder to write than I thought it would be, so I’m quite pleased it’s done. I have some theories as to why it was such a pain, but I’ll let those thoughts stew some more before sharing.

To date, I’ve read 17 fiction books! I’m ridiculously excited about this. I love reading! Love. It. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to finish an 18th before the new year. This year also included my first audio book listened to–not really my thing. It was good for when I was painting my office (boring, tedious work) but after that I had to listen to it in the car and I learned I really prefer music and to let my thoughts drift on my drives. What would’ve really made it better was if the ebook came free with the audio so I could read it at night (audio books are expensive!). I read a whole lot faster than a narrator can, and the slow pace drove me a little nuts (I did train my brain to listen to it at 1.5x speed, but that was the fastest I could go and still process it). My personal favorites for the year were Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and The Green Mile by Stephen King, both were awesome (for different reasons), but I recommend either to anybody that will listen.

I read 11 nonfiction books that ranged a whole gamut from writing, to parenting, to finance, to Christian theology. My favorites for the year were Creating Character Arcs by K. M. Weiland, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and Heaven by Randy Alcorn (a bit repetitive, but a really, really worthwhile read for Christians).

So 2017 targets hit! It was a good, peaceful year compared to 2016, for which I’m grateful. Next time I’ll post a joint entry of 2017 lessons learned and 2018 targets.


The Brumme Con Released!

The Brummie Con: Sunken City Capers Book 4 is released!

Bosses are dead. Her father kidnapped. And no one has a clue why.

Isa, Puo, and Winn rush back to her father’s estate for answers, but only finds guns, assassins, and relentless pursuit. Forced into a desperate escape, Isa must retreat further into her past to stay alive.

Dejected and back in the miserable gutters she started from, Isa starts to piece together the disparate events of the past several months. Unfortunately, the trail leads back to England, the site of the most daring underwater heist in history and a buzzing hive of pissed of Brits clamoring for the thieves throats.

Confused and on the run for their lives, Isa must unravel the unthinkable: Cleaners declaring open war. More than just their own lives depend on it.

The Brummie Con Coming 10/24/2017!

The Brummie Con: Sunken City Capers Book 4 will be released Tuesday October 24, 2017. The cover and blurb are below!

Bosses are dead. Her father kidnapped. And no one has a clue why.

Isa, Puo, and Winn rush back to her father’s estate for answers, but only finds guns, assassins, and relentless pursuit. Forced into a desperate escape, Isa must retreat further into her past to stay alive.

Dejected and back in the miserable gutters she started from, Isa starts to piece together the disparate events of the past several months. Unfortunately, the trail leads back to England, the site of the most daring underwater heist in history and a buzzing hive of pissed of Brits clamoring for the thieves throats.

Confused and on the run for their lives, Isa must unravel the unthinkable: Cleaners declaring open war. More than just their own lives depend on it.

Out of the Editing Trenches

The editing is over. Thank goodness! Now comes all that other stuff, like laying out the paperback, creating the ebook, writing the adcopy (!), etc. I don’t particularly enjoy writing adcopy–actually it makes me downright grumpy. Grumpy enough that my wife notices. I think it’s the fact that it’s generally less than 200 words but can take a week to get right. It just feels like progress is sooo slow.

But I have picked a release date: October 24th, 2017! I picked this date based on my time estimates for getting everything done, but when I looked October 24, 2016 is the day I began writing The Brummie Con, so releasing it exactly one year later has a nice sense of balance to it (despite my hope that I would put it out in four months [ha!]). Ah, well. I can’t wait to be done with this one. Even though it took longer to write than I hoped and had a number of setbacks, I think it’s pretty awesome.

Next time I’ll release the cover and blurb! October 24 can’t come fast enough!

In the Editing Trenches Round 3

The end is in sight. The real end. The finally done end.

I finished reading Sunken City Capers 1-3, and I’m about 2/3rds through the final read through of book 4. Once I finish the read through, I’ll have to go back through and wrap up any notes and then … done. Well, at least with the whole writing phase. Then I have to shift into the publishing phase. But that, at least, is more easy to schedule rather than the nebulous writing/editing phase.

I’ve circled a date on my calendar for publication, and I’ve started to plan around that date, but I’m not ready to publicly commit to it yet. Assuming there’s no hiccups in the final read through and edits, then I plan etching that date in and starting up the publishing gears. Hopefully, I’ll have more concrete news next time!

In the Editing Trenches Round 2

Whoops. Looks like I missed a couple of blog posts. The first time was deliberate. Editing is such yucky task for me (at least with this novel) that I chose to use the time I would write a blog post to get more of the editing done. The second time I just forgot—I was on vacation! My wife had a work conference in Vienna and I got to tag along as an accompanying spouse (which I must say, is the preferred way to go to these things). But don’t worry, here’s a shot of me working on editing The Brummie Con right around the corner from the Parliament building. It was … uh … the only actually time I worked on it. Quite a waste honestly to haul that computer and manuscript around (but oh so nice to take a break).

The editing is so close to being done it’s ridiculous. Honestly, this blog post is longer than the words I need to add to finish it up. But, of course, I’ve hit a bit of a wall and the last 200 words are like trying to pull teeth and write with the accompanying blood. I’m hoping to finish today, and then roll into reading the first three novels. After that it’ll be one more pass to ensure book 4 lines up with books 1-3, then I’m done. I’m eyeing a release date on early October. I hope to have set a definite date by the next blog post, which I will post on time!

In the Editing Trenches Round 1

If I could find a gif to sum up how the editing is going it would be from the Exorcist when Regan pukes all over the place (you’re welcome that I’m too tired to go through the effort of finding it and posting it).

I should be done with the first pass of the third act sometime this coming week, but it’s been slow going (the story of this novel). First, day-job work was particularly busy the past two weeks so I often prioritized sleep and self care. Second, things changed as the novel progressed, so it takes extra editing work to make sure it’s all coherent–there are lots of scribbles of “don’t lose the bubble on this” or “is this still true?” And tracking those down takes time. Plus, past-Jeffrey helpfully left notes like “need a simile here” instead of actually writing one. Isn’t that nice? Now it’s present-Jeffrey that’s left holding the shaft and has to come with all those. Sigh.

Oh, oh! And I keep pulling the previous 3 books to check things and I’m like: Yeesh. I think I should really reread all 3 before doing the final read through of book 4 to make sure everything makes sense. So, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be doing that.

All of which means, it’s still too early to estimate a publication date. Goodness, it’s July already isn’t it? So I’ll say, there’s an outside chance publication will be in August, but more likely September.

Back into the editing trenches!

Zero Draft of Brummie Con is Done!

I finished it about four hours ago, a bit unexpectedly and with much relief. This sums up about how I feel about it:

I still have probably a month of edits ahead, but for now: it’s finally done. This novel, you guys. This. Novel. Never have I had such problems and such a glacial pace before. I started it October 24, 2016 and finished today June 17, 2017 so about eight months. Feels like eight years to be honest. It came in at 68k words, but according to my tracking I wrote about 82k on it. So that means I’ve had to back up and toss at least 14k, or about 20% of the novel.

That may not be bad for some writers, but it is for me. There were three separate times I had to back up and toss out significant wordage. Always disheartening when you feel like your pace is already slow. In fact, I thought I was going to be done with the novel last week, but I had a burr under my skin about the climax. It didn’t feel right. The order of the revelations was wrong. The Thing, the Big Thing, needed to go up front, completely changing the last three chapters. I was so disgusted, I didn’t write at all for a whole day, which sounds silly, but it broke a streak going all the way back to the start of April.

Fortunately, the problems with this novel has a silver lining. I’ve already significantly edited the first 2/3rds of the novel  when wrestling with where to go, so the editing process shouldn’t be too painful. I still don’t have a publication date, but hopefully next time I’ll have a better handle on how long the editing process will take and will be able to give an estimate on when it’ll be released.

Into the editing trenches!

Brummie Con Update

I’ve kept to my schedule of 400 words a day and I’m sooo close to being done with the zero draft of The Brummie Con: Sunken City Capers Book 4 I can practically feel it (even if I can’t see the precise ending yet). I’m siting at 64k (which makes this one longer than The Solid State Shuffle and Leverage) and I’m right in the middle of the climax. I should only need another 2-3k after this to wrap it all up and set up book 5.

The problem is, I’m a panster. I work without an outline on this series, trusting my subconscious brain during drafting and then my conscious brain when editing. The climax of book 4 is where everything is finally tied together, the “ah-ha” moment if you will. So naturally, I have to figure that out. I have the overall forest to guide me, but now it’s time to fill in the individual trees. I’ve temporarily switched to brainstorming mode to work out the fine detail structure. But once that’s done, I expect to start drafting again and wrap up very quickly.

I sincerely hope to write next time that the zero draft is done and I’m in the throes of editing. Of course, we have that whole house moving thing happening so we’ll see how that impacts my writing time.