Tag Archives: the computer nerd

Rush to Preorder: Write at Your Own Risk…er…Pace, Part 3

Missed a part? Play catchup here.

“Rush to Preorder”

In August 2015, I gave my novel, The Computer Nerd, a preorder date for October 20, 2015, the day before Back to the Future Day. Then I started to write it, or add to its existing short story form, rather. I thought this was a good idea. I was on such a hot streak that I thought two months was plenty of time to produce a great title. I thought wrong.

I had just finished and uploaded the revised version of The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky, a novelette that I’d written as a simple short story years earlier (and am currently in the process of revising again to include more story and less fable, but more on that another time), and because I was trying to keep my release momentum up to one new title a month, it was time to get my next e-book title in motion. I was planning on revising and releasing the short story version of The Computer Nerd, which was only about 6000 words and ended with the protagonist taking a chance on his wife not murdering him in his sleep by going to bed with her, but I decided rather quickly that the story was just a first act and really needed more. So, by the second week of August, I ditched my progress on Teenage American Dream, which was supposed to be my next title at the time, and went to work crafting a novel out of that single-act short story. By September 9, 2015, I finished the first draft of the complete novel, and I was happy with it.

I’d set the preorder date for October 20th, because I thought that would give me plenty of time to revise it and get enough beta readers to tell me how to make it better, even though setting a preorder for October 20th meant I’d actually have to have the whole thing done and uploaded by October 10th. But I couldn’t get the beta readers I wanted even though I asked. I got one reader and two advisors for certain moments in the story to cover my every question. Hardly enough feedback to tell whether the story truly worked, or if it was even any good. Had I given myself, say, six months, I might’ve gotten more feedback, or even given myself enough time away from the story that I could read it with greater objectivity and see for myself what works and what doesn’t. Had I given myself that kind of time, or even a year, I’d have been able to learn enough about editing for genre that I could clearly see what was off about the story and worked to fix it before anyone in the public eye would ever see it.

But I didn’t do that. I obsess over most of my stories, which is evidenced by the fact that I keep going back to stories I’ve written more than ten years ago to see if I can improve them, but I didn’t give myself time to obsess over The Computer Nerd. In fact, as I write this two years later, I still don’t know if my ideas for improvement are actually good enough to make it worth public attention even now. All I know is that my plans for its revision are better than what I actually published in October 2015, as a preorder, in an attempt to publish something new every month.

In Part 1 of this unintended series (I thought I would tell this story in one part, not three), I mentioned my plan to rerelease this story with new content and a new title. This is why the planned update for a “finished” novel that people have bought on Amazon or downloaded for free at Smashwords during promotion seasons. I rushed the current version without giving myself enough time to really let it sit with me. I rarely rush through anything without giving myself adequate time to meditate on its details and fix whatever doesn’t work. But the conventions of indie publishing pushed me in ways I wasn’t ready for, and I broke my own personal conventions (and convictions) to see how the story would perform in the marketplace. The result of that performance was poor to say the least. I had no sales at Smashwords or its affiliates, short of a couple hundred free downloads during my I-no-longer-care phase, which aren’t sales, and may not even be reads, and only a couple on Amazon, the first of which yielded a one-star review. The print book never sold. As of this writing, I have the only print copy in existence, and I don’t get far into reading it without cringing. It’s not bad, but I know I can do better.

I intend to do better.

And I wish to do so by giving it a new identity, hence its retitle to Gone from the Happy Place. I want to make sure that readers get the story they deserve and not the one I felt obligated to rush out the door. I still have logistical questions to answer, like whether or not I want to change the opening, or even scrap the original first scene (my gut says yes), but I also have to consider conventional rules for its genre and figure out how best to incorporate those ingredients that the current version lacks, like, say, adding a new character who complicates everybody’s relationship to each other by simply being in the same room as they (because she’s trying to arrest two of the three characters while stealing the third away as a romantic interest even though he’s married to one of the two she’s trying to arrest, and you get the idea…spoiler alert).

The end result of this tale is that each of my stories are now under scrutiny, and some, like Gutter Child, as much as I like their current versions, still need more to become competitive in the marketplace. I can’t save every story or turn them all into blockbusters. But I can still do my best to give each one a proper foot forward, and that’s why I no longer wish to rush anything I write, even those stories I need to rewrite. Gone from the Happy Place is “finished” already; at the same time, I haven’t actually begun the version that will earn its new name, and I won’t start it until I’m satisfied with my rewrites for The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky, Shell Out, and whatever else needs my attention. And even when I do finish it, I won’t release it until I can get proper marketing in its fuel tank. I want to have a better launch for its next version.

So, if you’re wondering why my publishing pace has suddenly slowed to a crawl, or why I’ve produced nothing commercially since May 2016, that’s why. I believe in quality over speed. I ignored it in 2015. I won’t do that again. It’s the same reason I don’t blog all of the time. I’d rather spend my writing on novels than on lectures.

But thanks for reading this all the same! Please come back. Next time I’ll write about…er…stuff, I guess. You won’t want to miss it!

Note: You can find links to most of the books mentioned in this series as thumbnail images to the right. If you’re reading this on your phone, you can find the links at the top. Alternatively, you can wait until I release the revisions and just subscribe to this blog for updates instead.

Please be sure to subscribe to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm to receive alerts when new posts go live. The handy blue subscription button is located at the bottom of this page.

Cover image by Pixabay

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The Experts Aren’t Always Right: Write at Your Own Risk…er…Pace, Part 2

Missed Part One? Play catchup here.

“The Experts Aren’t Always Right”

As an independent author, when it comes to writing and selling books, I have to take matters into my own hands. As much as I would love to have someone else handle my marketing, cover design, copywriting, actual writing, etc., I don’t have that luxury. If I want people to read my stories, I have to get the word out on my own, or convince others to help me by convincing them that what I have to share is worth reading. And to convince them to read my work, I have to market to them, which means, ultimately, the cycle is unavoidable, and I’m responsible for getting the word out regardless, help or not. If it’s near impossible to get any reader interested in reading my work, then it’s even more nearly impossible to get them to market for me. If I don’t do it myself, it won’t get done, and the book will undoubtedly flop.

But even if I do get readers, and even if I can convince a few of them to help me get even more readers, it doesn’t mean my career is set and ready to launch. I also have to figure out how to get and retain fans, which is even more nearly impossible than the even more nearly impossible task of getting a support system to help me find those fans.

But nearly impossible isn’t the same as impossible. Fortunately, impossible is a dead adjective in independent publishing. Okay, more like an animated corpse that seems lifelike. But it’s still dead.

Through traditional publishing, authors have a chance to get their books displayed on a shelf at a bookstore, and by proxy, open an avenue for exposure that indie authors often don’t have. This doesn’t necessarily improve the author’s chances at discovery, as any book that’s displayed with the spine out is no more likely to get discovered than a specific crack in a sidewalk in the heart of a beautiful park would get discovered. But even shy people can discover that crack in a sidewalk if the alternative is to make eye contact with other people, so at least it’s an extra opportunity.

For an independent author, that chance for discovery is almost entirely limited to marketing, whether via e-mail, or word-of-mouth, or blast system like Bookbub or Instafreebie, which tends to succeed only when the author already has a following or fat marketing account and strong copywriting and cover design, and getting a sale through that market or discovery is dependent on whether or not the moon passes by the sun at the precise time a chicken crows while a dog pees on its head, which is, to say, not easy.

And that’s just for one book. What happens when the independent author writes another one? How many times does the moon eclipse the sun? (At the time of this writing, the total eclipse is scheduled to begin in Oregon and proceed through the heart of the United States and into South Carolina in a few hours, so, timely! But by the time this goes live, it’ll be long gone, so ha ha, you gotta wait another 18 months for the next one! But I digress.)

Because it can be difficult to build an audience, and even more difficult to retain one, independent authors are often encouraged to write books quickly (one every month or two) to earn enough income to write full-time. And this is assuming they have at least 3000 e-mail list subscribers who are ready and willing to buy every book the independent author writes, or tens of thousands of subscribers that can balance the odds enough to glean about 3000 loyal readers from the list. With the average $2.99 e-book earning its author 70% of its sales, 3000 loyal readers can earn him over $6000 a book. And that’s great…if he can pop out a new book every couple of months on average.

Traditional authors can’t do that because the industry takes about 18 months to contract and release a book via publisher (the length of time you’ll have to wait for the next total eclipse to happen after today, August 21, 2017, aka the day I’m writing this post, not necessarily the day I’m posting it). But independent authors can release books as quickly as they can write them, which is awesome for anyone who writes quickly and cleanly and doesn’t mind ignoring his loved ones most days.

The key idea here being how quickly one can write, edit, market, and release a full-length book of about 200 or more pages (50,000 words or more) and still be good enough to keep the reader coming back for more. Is one-to-two months for each book really long enough?

I guess it could be. Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels in the summers he spent at Goldeneye, his home in the Caribbean (Jamaica, I believe), and spent the rest of the year working as a real spy, leaving his publishers to take care of the rest. That’s about two months per book for his part. I don’t know if he had to do anything more than just write the books. But even still, at that rate, he produced just one book a year. You could say he spent the other ten months researching.

I’d argue that producing a new book every one or two months is beneficial for keeping readers’ attention, but it may also be too much for those who feel oversaturated by reading books only from a particular author who, for some reason, is more prolific than even James Patterson or Stephen King. Ian Fleming had a dedicated readership, and even though it took him just two months to write each novel, it took about a year for his readers to get each one. In spite of the gap between stories, they came back anyway. They had other authors they could read in the meantime.

Indie authors don’t have to wait a year to get a book they’ve spent two months writing into their readers’ hands. But is that a good thing? I have authors I’m subscribed to that I still haven’t read because I simply can’t keep up with their pacing. It seems like every time I think about starting one of their freebies, they’re pitching me a new book. I’m not ready for it yet! Of course, it’s not their fault I’m not ready for it yet. I’ve just got so much else to read. Maybe a year between releases isn’t so bad. But, for the indie author, a year between releases is the same as starving. Seems like neither party really wins here.

I don’t know how involved Ian Fleming got with his books after he submitted them to the publisher, and it may be that two months dedicated to his author career was plenty, but independent authors don’t have the luxury to stop at the writing process or spend two months a year on a single book. They have to maintain the editing process, as well, and that can cost time and money. If an editor charges between $1000 and $2000, for example, then that reduces the author’s $6000 in sales profit to just $4000. And that’s not including cover design costs ($300 on average), marketing services (conditional, but probably more than $100 and upwards to about $600), and any subscriptions to web hosting or e-mail list providers ($100 a month or more), and now the author is down to earning an ROI of about $3000 or less for his book, and that’s assuming he’s grossing $6000, and if it took him two months to produce that book from zero to hero, then he’s earning about $1500 a month as an author, which is about what I make tutoring college students how to write.

It’s not a lot when you crunch the numbers. And it takes a long frickin’ time to get enough subscribers and fans to produce those kinds of numbers in the first place.

Now, these are estimated costs based on research and not based on experience. In contrast, based on experience, each book earns about $3 a year. This is without a mailing list, or marketing system, or editing service, and so on. This is based simply on writing and uploading a book to Amazon or Smashwords and crossing my fingers (what all writers wish they could do successfully) and seeing what happens. This is based on zero reviews, or a three-star average thanks to a one-star review cancelling out a five-star review, and, while I’m at it, wishing upon a star.

And that three-star average is based on cranking out a book in two months without editing, marketing, or having any real beta reading support, save for a single reader who says the book is “pretty good,” which isn’t the same as saying the book is “freaking amazing.”

It’s also based on beating a preorder deadline on the advice of experts who say preorders increase first-day sales and that preorders should be given to all books. No, I’m gonna have to disagree here. Preorders are yet another marketing stage for increasing exposure on a title that needs marketing to get that exposure, but it’s only helpful if the author produces a book that readers would actually want to read, which usually requires something called quality, which is hard to achieve on two months’ worth of writing, marketing, etc. I’ll cover that in more detail tomorrow.

But everything about writing and publishing independently comes down to costs, both in money and time, and neither produces guarantees for success, even though more of each increases the odds.

Now, there are things in my life I wish I could reset like a videogame, most of them having to do with career choices or women, but I don’t regret giving independent publishing a chance. What I do regret is rushing through my titles in order to match the speed that some authors claim they need to produce their own success. It’s that regret that has led me to the decision to otherwise disown the current version of my novel, The Computer Nerd, and seek to revise and release the story under a new title, and to do so at the pace I need to make it worth buying and reading. This isn’t to say that it’s bad in its current form, mind you. But it is to say that it needs better.

More on that tomorrow.

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Cover image by Pixabay

Friday Update #8: Quiet, yet Still Here, and Still Making Strides toward a Better Future

I’m looking at my update history, and I see that it’s been a couple of months since my last post. If you’re following my blog, I have likely given you enough time to forget that Drinking Café Latte at 1pm is a thing, so let me step back into the light for a moment to ensure you that it is still a thing.

But where have I been?

I’ll give you a quick summation of things, and then I’ll get to the stuff you’re probably on here to find out more about.

Hurricane Matthew

So, I live in South Florida, and one of the big issues that South Floridians had to face in early October was a little thing that could’ve been utterly disastrous called Hurricane Matthew. Even though the hurricane did some damage along the eastern seaboard, it didn’t do anything close to what meteorologists were promising us back on October 6th, which was essentially total devastation. A Cat 4 rolling in with a 15-foot storm surge in a place that rarely gets hit so hard is only manageable when the ground is higher than sea level. Where I live, we are pretty even with the sea, so a storm surge of 15 feet would bring the ocean into many of our neighborhoods, and even though I don’t live in a flood zone, a surge that high would possibly turn my neighborhood into a flood zone. So, I was understandably living on pins and needles that day.

Fortunately, the storm did not quite reach our coast—an act of God perhaps, as all the models were telling us that we were screwed, and even the weather reporters on the local stations were visibly nervous, and justifiably relieved when the storm took a new track in those final moments. The storm turned so early, in fact, that I didn’t even lose power.

But because it was forecast to bring doom to our town, I had to spend some time preparing for it, and writing and researching wasn’t really top on my mind.

A New Course

The following Monday, October 11, my manager pulled me into her office and handed me a sheet of paper, saying, “Here, I think you’d be good at this.” I looked at the flier and saw an invitation to sign up for a CPT certification course in manufacturing at the college I work at (different campus, though) for just $300, thanks to the school winning a science grant (normally a course like that would run for $1800). The benefit to signing up was that I could earn 15 credits toward an AS degree in engineering, should I ever elect to work toward one, and earn an extra $5000 a year in a related field. Because I make very little doing what I do for a living already, and because I make far less doing what I love on the side, I thought it was worth looking into. Of course, because I make so little doing what I do, and far less doing what I love on the side, spending $300 on anything these days is a luxury I often cannot afford.

However, this program was set to begin on October 15th, payments would’ve had to been submitted by the 14th (remember, I found out about this on the 11th), and if I were to sign up, I wouldn’t have had much time, if any, to really debate the pros and cons of changing my direction on the fly, to rededicating my time to something I didn’t even know if I wanted to do, or even to figure out if I could afford the cost. Whatever I’d decide would’ve been a snap decision that could ultimately change the course of my professional future, and making a choice for or against would’ve affected me for years to come, most likely.

Then I considered that the 14th was payday, and that I would’ve had just enough to cover the bill if I were to skim on a few others, and that I’d been praying for opportunities to embark on a more profitable life for a long time now, and I saw this as an answer to that prayer, so I took the chance on it.

November 5th was the day of our first exam—on OSHA standards and safety—and I passed. I’ve got three tests to go before I earn that certification. The class will continue off and on until April.

What that means for my writing and other projects is simple: I have to actually study something for school again—something I haven’t had to do in 12 years—so I’m relearning how to be a student, and doing so is cutting into much of the time that I had originally put into my other projects. So, I haven’t been doing much work outside of studying and game designing (one of my secondary hobbies) since my last Friday Update.

The Computer Nerd

But, I did make time to update the ending to The Computer Nerd. I still have a few changes to make before I can call myself satisfied with the story enough to push out a final revision (or at least final until I learn yet another important lesson about mysteries and thrillers), but I’m getting close to updating Amazon and Smashwords with the newest version. I won’t give an ETA because I haven’t made it priority since October 15th, but I do have a few holiday breaks coming up, so I foresee the possibility of an update happening in December sometime.

Zippywings 2016

Finally, because the end of the year is fast approaching, I feel it’s time to discuss the likelihood of a new collection of short stories appearing at various e-book retailers come the last days of 2016.

My original plan (as of last year) was to produce an annual collection of short stories (called Zippywings, which is based on my online presence) for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017, to supplement the forgotten volumes I had produced between 2004 – 2006 called The Collection of Junk. I had developed this plan based on the assumption that I would be producing revised editions of my existing short stories throughout these three years, with novelized versions of select stories appearing beside them.

However, this plan has been significantly altered thanks to the lack of sales I’ve made on Zippywings 2015, or anything really. Pretty much my entire e-book success has been based on the free short stories I released in a yearlong burst of productivity, and not one paid book has generated more than four or five sales. This greatly reduces my desire to even produce Zippywings 2016.

However, I am a perfectionist at heart, and I still like the idea of having the book exist, even if it exists only in my personal library. So, I will be putting it together. But I don’t think it will include much more than what I had already produced at the beginning of the year.

The stories that will be included in the volume:

  • Gutter Child (novella version)
  • The Fallen Footwear
  • Waterfall Junction
  • The Narrow Bridge
  • Teenage American Dream (short story version)

The stories I hope to revise in time for inclusion:

  • Sweat of the Nomad (novella version)
  • Zipwood Studios (novella version)
  • Snow in Miami (the Christmas special)

Of these stories, “Snow in Miami” is the only one I plan to also release as a freebie on Smashwords, if I finish it in time. Like I said, writing hasn’t been a priority with everything else coming at me this season.

The other three, which you’ll probably recognize as the titles of the next three novels I had planned, exist as short stories, and have for years, but I had wanted to rewrite them as longer form stories. Because that plan is on hold for now, I figure there’s no harm in releasing the original versions (with better writing) as part of Zippywings 2016, and then address their novel versions, which will likely endure different titles, later.

The Next Friday Update

Because I’m not writing as often as I’ve been in the recent past, I don’t expect to deliver a new Friday update each week like I had planned this past summer, but I will stay in touch as important developments arise, so do subscribe to my blog, or check back here often for new news. I expect to post at least one more by Christmas, maybe a couple, so don’t forget about Drinking Café Latte at 1pm. Updates will continue, even if they’re slow.

Post Script

Oh, and we elected a new president last week. That’s new, if you haven’t been keeping up. To quote a line from the 1996 film, My Fellow Americans: Hail to the chief, for he’s the chief and he needs hailing.

Friday Update #7: A Primate Mailman and Other Marketing News

Since my last update, I’ve written part of a new prologue to The Computer Nerd, in an effort to raise the stakes of the story a little sooner. I still have to finish it and clean it up, but it’s there and in progress. Here’s a snippet of what’s to come:

            Something in the dark slammed against the handle to her locked bedroom door, and she shot forward out of her restless sleep. The ringing echo of clanging metal had barely died when the unknown force hit the handle again. This wasn’t the usual wakeup call she had every morning. If it was even morning.

A pair of stem-shaped shadows divided the dim light shining through the crack under the door and stretched across the floor toward her. They didn’t shake, just remained stock still as the source of the shadows jostled the handle, cursed, and jostled the handle again.

The woman slid her feet out from under the sheets and reached for the table near her bedside. Her robe was folded on the tabletop. She had asked the assistant who placed it there to keep it neat, but now that she needed it, she wished she had left it near her pillow where she could reach it.

“Come on, you useless tool,” said the gruff voice on the other side of the door.

The woman felt anxiety creeping up on her. She expected someone to unlock her door as they always did first thing in the morning, but they usually had keys. And they rarely cursed at the door. She didn’t know who was trying to break in, but the last thing she wanted was for the impatient man to see her undressed. In spite of her circumstances, she still wanted to look classy.

She stretched toward the table again, but the handcuffs locking her to the opposite rail prevented her from reaching all the way.

“Fine, you leave me no choice,” said the man on the other side.

The woman was given one pillow. It was hardly big enough for her head. She tried batting at her robes with it, but she merely brushed the edge of the table.

The shadows finally shifted to the side. The man on the other side of the door was changing his entrance strategy. She had no idea how long it would take him to enter, or what he would do once he finally broke in. In spite of the near frigid temperature of her room, she began to sweat.

And that’s just the beginning. I hope to upload a new version of The Computer Nerd in time for the first-year anniversary of its worldwide debut on October 20th. Keep an eye on the news.

Time for MailChimp

After an unnecessarily stressful time at my job this week, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on setting my marketing strategies to get more attention on my books, as a way to bring me closer to financial independence. Seminar after seminar I’ve been listening to this summer has universally agreed that the mailing list is the way to go, and that MailChimp is the best site for beginners to use. So, that’s what I did this week. I signed up for the service.

Now, I haven’t done anything with it yet. And I probably won’t for a while still. But what I think I’ll aim to do is to write a pseudo sequel to The Computer Nerd (more like a side story involving the bounty hunter Mr. Sanders) and make it free. Then anyone who subscribes to the mailing list through the second book can get the first one free. Then I can resume marketing strategies as usual for the third and, if I deem it necessary, fourth books.

If you’ve read The Computer Nerd and you’re wondering how on earth I would pull a trilogy or tetralogy out of that story, then I would say think of Mr. Sanders as a potential protagonist, and you might figure it out.

Anyway, I’ll be spending some time figuring out how I want to set up my first marketing campaign. It’ll be a while still before I do that though.

The Cost of Marketing

Which brings me to my other eye-opening point. I’ve listened to several of Nick Stephenson’s freebie seminars since June, and garnered a lot of information and tips on how to grow my audience. Obviously, without spending the $600 necessary to get his whole course, I can’t find out all the details, not without extensive independent research. Even though I would like to enroll, I can’t afford that right now. Too many bills and too little income.

But, this week, he sponsored the release of a new book called Broken by author Gordon Hopkins, based on Stephenson’s Leopold Blake character, and offered a 75% launch week discount on the title. Anyone who bought the book between September 10th and September 14th (his traditional five-day window) would gain free access to a new course he’s designed called Your First Six Figure Launch, as well as all six of his earlier Leopold Blake novels.

I bought the book, got the freebies, and listened to the course. And I finally learned of a detail I’ve been trying to figure out since June. Turns out, to get a really good, consistent marketing campaign going, I would need to set aside about $230 a month or so, minimum. And I think that’s before the free 2000-subscriber limit on MailChimp kicks in.

So, for someone whose bills constantly flirt with his matching line of income, I think that’s going to be a huge challenge for me. So, I don’t actually want to get the mailing list active until I’m close to launching the third book (but I’ll start it with the second).

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Oh, and I’m back to eating healthier. I’ve lost about ten pounds since the beginning of the month. Cutting way down on the carbs to get that weight loss.

End-of-the Month Roundup: August 2016

My Friday Updates started off with a bang, and then they tapered off, and most of August has been without. “Why?” you may ask. Well, the simple reason is that I haven’t had much to talk about in August.

But, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I have actually done a lot of work, but not on my writing. I’ve been spending much of August studying, marketing in particular, but also editing. It’s the editing I’ve been learning that’s stalled my free-flow of writing. In short, I want to get my stories right, and to do so, I have to better understand the genres they fit in.

I’ve always had a problem with genre classification. I get the general genres like action and drama. But I’ve never been taught the conventions of these global genres, nor the conventions or obligatory scenes of their more defined parts (like action adventure, for example). Thanks to The Story Grid, I’ve been learning more about the genre types, and to some extent the conventions that make them work. More importantly, I’ve been giving more thought to what defines certain stories within their chosen genres, including my own stories. Especially my own stories.

I’ve been wanting to write an update to The Computer Nerd for a while, but I’ve been holding off because I want to attempt to run it through the grid (as outlined at The Story Grid website), and I want to be sure I fully understand how the grid works, and in turn figure out what I still need to do to make The Computer Nerd work. I also want to pick up Shawn Coyne’s book so that I have some kind of textbook to refer to when I give storygridding (a term Shawn Coyne coined) a try. I think it’ll be easier to graph once I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.

To be clear, I do think the story works based on the genre I’ve established. But now I’m wondering if I’ve picked the right genre. And I also think I can make it better. Even still, I have pictures in my head for improving it.

But, of course, that’s not the only thing I’ve been studying, nor the only thing keeping me up late at night.

When I do put it through a new rewrite, and eventually rerelease it, I also need to consider the cover image. I like what I have, but I don’t know that it’s appropriate for the genre. So much to consider, and I feel like no matter how much I learn about my craft, my awaiting knowledge seems to stack and stack.

There’s also the secondary concern about marketing. Whenever I do reedit and repost the story, I’ll want to do so with a change to the metadata. In short, I want this thing primed for marketing, and that means stripping out much of what’s already in there and replacing it with a more direct (and beneficial) link.

But how do I follow that?

The primary marketing tactic I see and hear all over the Internet is that the mailing list remains king. And guess what. I don’t have one. Nope, no mailing list. My blog subscription option is the best source I have for sending out new information, and most of the people who come here come to read my one comedic post about hoverboards, so they’re not going to subscribe. Clearly, that needs to change. So, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the mailing list and when to start it. But, I don’t want to really push the thing until I have what Nick Stephenson calls a “reader magnet” ready, and I’m starting to think that moving the post-credits scene to a mailing list exclusively is a bad idea. That scene is really part of the book, and should remain with the book. So, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novella about the bounty hunter who’s searching for our mental institution escapees (spoiler alert if you haven’t read The Computer Nerd) and using that as my subscription incentive.

Would you be interested in reading the story of Mr. Sanders’s pursuit of our escapees?

Of course, getting people to subscribe means giving them something else to buy down the road, and The Computer Nerd is not something I plan to make a sequel or an entire series out of. It’s supposed to be standalone. Assuming they want something in the same genre, what do I give them?

I’ve been giving more thought to other stories I’ve posted or have planned to post by now–Gutter Child and Teenage American Dream specifically–and considered that maybe their stories could fit more into a mystery or thriller convention, and less in the convention they already have. So, among all of my other stray thoughts, I’m wondering if I should expand Gutter Child and turn the current plot into a subplot, and give Teenage American Dream a darker problem. I have some ideas on how I can expand them, but that will undoubtedly hold up my current plans of the other stories I’ve mentioned on this blog. I feel like I’ve been ignoring them long enough.

So, that’s how my month has been. No progress, just a lot of studying.

I also host a biannual game-making contest, which had a deadline this month, so I’ve been giving that a lot of my attention. But you came here to find out about my writing, didn’t you?

Friday Update #4: Market Research Continues and Other Book Updates

Short update this week. I’ve spent most of my free time ingesting more and more information about how to increase my readership and how to give readers what they want. Specifically, I’ve been watching videos from Your First 10,000 Readers creator Nick Stephenson and stocking up on relevant information about building an audience. I know the sales pitch is coming to my inbox very soon, and I’ll have to figure out what I can afford and what I can’t when the time comes. The short understanding is that to move my business forward (and we’ll have to call that what it is, won’t we?), I have to start investing in growth solutions, and that includes implementing the strategies necessary to grow and nurture an e-mail list. So, that’s what I’ve given most of my concentration to this week.

But, my research of indie trends and successful entrepreneurs doesn’t stop there. I also found out this week about an extremely useful resource called The Story Grid, both a blog and a book by highly respected book editor Shawn Coyne, which helps writers target their books with an editor’s eye. It’s in the same camp as Larry Brooks’s Story Fix, a book that I hope to review on this site in the near future, but goes even further down the editing path by identifying genre needs and expectations and providing helpful charts that measure out like a medical reading to diagnose the “works, doesn’t work” qualities of a book. Anyway, I’ve started reading the blogs associated with that site, and I hope to pick up the book (which is essentially an edited collection of these blogs, arranged in a teachable manner) sometime soon. It’s more expensive than most writing books out there, so it’s one I have to plan for. But I do hope to pick it up this summer.

The Computer Nerd

The first few blogs posted in The Story Grid (the early ones from October 2014) have already gotten me thinking about my currently released titles and whether or not they “work.” Some of them are just short stories and novellas, and have smaller structures with smaller needs, so I’m not too worried about where they stand at the moment.

But I am thinking more about The Computer Nerd (or, The Computer Nerd Scandal, if you’re coming here from Smashwords in July) and its climax, and I’m wondering if I’ve really given it all of the scenes it needs. I had this question back in April when I worked on its first post-release revision, but now I’m starting to think the resolution with the story’s villain isn’t quite what the convention needs, so I plan to write and release another small update this weekend addressing the villain’s exit from the story. I’ll be sure to announce its update when it becomes relevant, so check back here soon. But I’ve already gotten a clear idea what this resolution needs, so it won’t take me long to implement it. If you’ve already read the book, there’s probably no need to read it again—unless you want to. However, if you were unsatisfied with the way the villain exits the story, then I hope the next update will do more to please you.

Because I’m learning something new all the time, I cannot guarantee that the next update will be the absolute final. But I do know it’ll bring the story closer to its expected conventions, and that with each update I give it, I’ll feel more satisfied with the product and less certain how to improve it. So, eventually the updates will stop.

Other Books

In the coming week, I’ll likely be making changes to the status of my three novels that are up for preorder. Based on all that I’ve been learning for the last month or so, I’m finding it harder and harder to justify sticking to the schedule, or even to the plan that I’ve established for these books. In short, I’m planning on canceling the preorders for them soon, so apologies if you’ve preordered any of them since they went live last October, but based on the preorder counts of my other books that have since been released, my feeling is that I’m not sacrificing anything by making this decision. I’ll speak more to that thought next week though, as that will require a fuller announcement.

In the meantime, check out those sources I spoke about at the top of this post if you want to improve your writing and marketability, as well. They are very helpful, and I think anyone who’s serious about writing and publishing should give them a look.

 

 

 

Friday Update #3: Book Cover Changes and Smashwords Sale

So, this week I made some changes to my packaging for Gutter Child and The Computer Nerd, including genre classifications, keyword updates, and in the case of Gutter Child, modifications to the cover and description.

gutter child cover alt 10
Cover image for “Gutter Child”

Nice, right?

In both cases, I’ve changed the weaker performing genre categories to Fiction > Mystery > General (with The Computer Nerd no longer classified under Themes & Motifs > Psychological and Gutter Child no longer classified under Literature > Literary on Smashwords or General > Family on Amazon). I hope these minor changes will improve my exposure to potential readers, especially now that my keywords are much more focused than previously.

To give you an example of the kinds of keyword changes I’ve made, here is a list of my old keywords versus my new ones for Gutter Child. Feel free to skip ahead if keywords don’t excite you.

Smashwords Old Keyword List

drama, relationships, family, young adult, college, quirky, writer, teenager, truth and lies

Smashwords New Keyword List

family drama, famous relative, adoption mystery, teen young adult, college life, quirky, writer, teenager, truth and lies, obsession

Amazon Old Keyword List

adoption, college, relationships, family, writer, truth, lies

Amazon New Keyword List

family drama, adoption mystery, college life, quirky, teenage angst, truth and lies, obsession

If any of these changes improve sales or, at the very least, exposure, I’ll be sure to mention so in a future update. One of my current goals for Drinking Café Latte at 1pm is to take you guys on my self-publishing journey, experiences, and pitfalls with me. That way we can all learn what not to do together.

Book Title News:

I was talking about titles with a close friend last night and told her the names of my next three novels. She’s pretty good with labels, and I was paying attention to her reactions and suggestions for improvement regarding each one I mentioned. This conversation started because she’s not the biggest fan of the title The Computer Nerd.

So, even though I am not necessarily changing course at this stage, I am considering updating my future titles based on our conversation. She had some great ideas, and I think they’re worth experimenting with. Here’s what could happen in the coming months:

Teenage American Dream could be renamed something akin to Teenage Dilemma (or something of that nature—she likes the title; I don’t so much).

Sweat of the Nomad we didn’t talk much about, but I’m sure that will be addressed eventually.

Zipwood Studios may eventually become An Invitation to Nowhere. I really do like that title. I also like the original title, but she made a good point that the title is basically the name of a building. Like Walmart. My contention was that a book with the title Adventures in Walmart would sell. She didn’t disagree, but I’m pretty sure she’s right about a title like Zipwood Studios being less likely to sell.

Will I actually make these changes? I don’t know yet. Part of the reason these books even have these titles is because these are the titles I gave to their short story counterparts many years ago, and I like consistency between products and their upgraded versions. But I am considering it.

I’m testing the grounds with The Computer Nerd, which as of July 1st will be called The Computer Nerd Scandal (on Smashwords and its affiliates only, and only for the month of July). On August 1st, I’ll make a decision whether to keep the new title or to revert it back to its original name. It’ll depend on what kind of business the title change gives me.

In Other News:

A few days ago, Smashwords announced its Summer/Winter sale for 2016, to be held from July 1 to July 31, and I’ve decided to enroll my e-books in the promotion. So, even though I’ve already got a number of permafree titles available on my store page to choose from, you can get my other current, usually not-for-free titles either for free or at a fair discount throughout the month of July.

Participating titles include:

Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two (25% off) – $3.74

Zippywings 2015 (50% off) – $2.00

The Computer Nerd (50% off) – $1.50

Gutter Child (100% off) – free

So, if you’ve been waiting for a sale like this to check out any of these titles, now is a good time to get them. Be sure to leave me feedback after you’ve read your copies. As far as I know, the coupon codes for the discounts will be available at checkout.

And that’s it for this week’s updates.

Actually, no it’s not. I’ve spent much of this past week celebrating my 40th birthday. Here’s a picture of me pretending to blow out the candle on a vegan Oreo cupcake (made by my friend April, who’s vegan and good at it) in my new Marty McFly, Back to the Future 2 hat after I blew out the candle for real but my sister was too slow at taking the shot. This photo was taken at my celebration dinner at Mulligan’s Beach House last Saturday.

my 40th birthday
Celebrating my 40th with some 80’s nostalgia.

I’ve also spent part of the week updating a book of interactive fiction that I started about three years ago and then forgot about until recently. It’s called I Like Pigeons, and it’s very much a work-in-progress, but it’s fun to write and a nice distraction from the books I should be working on, like Teenage American Dream, for example.

So, that’s it for this week’s updates.

 

Free for How Long Now?

October 27, 2015:

So, last week I released my latest e-book, The Computer Nerd, with a modest price tag of $.99. I had set this price thinking it was a great idea. Er, no. Not only was I selling poorly on those first two days (how poorly will be covered in another blog sometime in November), with the few “sales” I was making mostly credited to free coupons I had given to a select group of people, but I had gotten a severe reduction in my normal first-day page views compared to other day-one titles (again, specifics coming in November). I was beginning to think my chances at this self-publishing game was drying up before I’d ever hit my stride. Ouch.

So, I said “screw it,” and last Wednesday night (just under 48 hours after release), I decided to make it free…temporarily.

“Sales” over the next few days spiked in a tremendous way. Let’s just say my readership value multiplied by about 2500% from that move. The Computer Nerd, as of this writing, is now ranked #51,299 at Barnes and Noble, which is not impressive to the big picture, but a personal best, and I know it’s due to my making it free…temporarily.

(As a side note, John Grisham’s The Rogue Lawyer, which I hyped in my blog post from October 19th, is ranked at #5. I’d like to think my hyping of his book has led to its impressive rank, though I’m willing to bet his name brand has had some hand in it. At any rate, it’s obvious that book readers everywhere took my advice and chose to read his book over mine, not due to quality of the read but due, again, to the name recognition. Given the average review it’s getting, that might’ve been a bad call.

Just kidding, of course. I’m not delusional. He doesn’t need my promotional help. I’m assuming.)

Anyway, I had planned on tacking the price back onto The Computer Nerd tonight, with an increase from $.99 to $2.99. But, my 2015 goal is to gain readership, not income, so I’m keeping the price free as long as the momentum continues. Once it dries up, then I’ll put the price tag back on.

What does this mean to you, the reader? It means you should snag your copy at any of the available retailers now, while it’s free without a coupon, and then tell everyone you know to get their copies so that the momentum can continue and the price can stay free. So, how long it stays free will depend on popularity. That means its freedom depends on you!

Shallow, maybe. But regardless of what the price may communicate, I care about my books, and I want people to read them because I think they do speak to people in ways that maybe they can relate. So get yours today. And read it, too, while you’re at it. It’s good. Personal opinion, of course, and you’re welcome to tell me differently if you disagree. It’s a detail I’d probably need to know. But I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

The official page has links to the stores that carry it. If you don’t have anything to read it on, you can read it on your computer. Smashwords has an online reader, and Adobe Editions and Kindle both have PC-friendly apps you can download and install to read .EPUBs and .MOBIs respectively. Kobo also has a nice reader available, if you’re interested in purchasing books from them. They actually have my favorite of the reading apps. But stick to what you love.

If you get your copy, please be kind and leave a review, either at the store you bought it from, or at Goodreads. Thanks. And feel free to comment on it here, or on the official page if you want to discuss it.

Crisis Mode

October 8, 2015

So, Smashwords tells me I have to have the final version of my e-book, The Computer Nerd, uploaded ten days before its publication date. That means I have to be done with it by Saturday. That means I’m in the eleventh hour and have to scramble to get it in perfect shape.* That means I cannot spare any time on anything else. I must get this done.

*There’s no such thing as perfect. I’m convinced of that now.

This has been my mindset for the last week. Crisis mode had officially begun last Friday. So, I thought it would be fun to show what my crisis week has looked like:

Friday (October 2, 2015):

I work until 3:30. Then I spend the rest of my day setting up scheduled posts for the promotion of this book, including chapter reveals and announcements to release at timely moments (but not including this announcement). I’m too tired to actually edit anything once I’ve scheduled the final post.

Saturday (October 3, 2015):

A friend calls me while I’m still in bed (I sleep in on Saturdays, so it’s already late in the morning) to see if I want to go to the gym. I tell her sure. I arrive thirty minutes later, leave an hour after that, then go to the beach to get some pizza and Pepsi and basically undo everything I just did. Run into another friend I haven’t seen in three years, talk a little. Then I go walk off the pizza. Then I walk over to Starbucks. Then I go home with a splitting headache. Headache goes away by about 10 o’clock. I begin to edit. The season premier of SNL starts at 11:30. I watch it. I laugh a few times. Then I set up book pages for two novels due out in 2016. No more editing today.

Sunday (October 4, 2015):

I catch up on Screen Junkies’ Movie Fights (a funny program I watch on Youtube on Sundays). Then I set up a book page for a third novel due out in 2016. Then I play catchup on my DVR, devoting about three hours to it. Start editing about 9:00 or so. Get maybe a chapter or two edited. Give up for the night.

Monday (October 5, 2015):

I work until 2pm. Then I come home for a nap. Actually make time for editing in the early evening. Get roughly to the halfway mark. Can’t remember any of the feedback that one of my coworkers had given me earlier. E-mail another potential reader about progress. He hasn’t had time to read anything. I tell him thanks anyway, maybe next time. Done editing for the night.

Tuesday (October 6, 2015):

I work until 3pm. Then I take a quick nap. Then I get my haircut. Then I get ready to meet a friend at the movies. Then I go to the movies. Then I go to the beach for some pizza (twice in one week, but a different beach, and a much different time of day). Come home in time for bed. No editing today.

Wednesday (October 7, 2015):

Work until 3pm. Come home. Take a nap. Catch up on news and unimportant things. Get some editing done. Manage to edit up to Chapter 14 (out of 23 chapters).

Thursday (October 8, 2015):

Just like I’m back in school, I use my day off to go into crunch time and knock out the rest of the book. Change a few light bulbs in between, play a casual computer game for a few minutes, and catch up on Facebook and other news, but other than that, I punch out the edits for everything I had left to do. Upload final draft (I hope it’s final) to Smashwords. Come here to post this blog. Keep telling myself I’m gonna go to the gym, but it’s already close to midnight. Maybe I should let it go for the night.

Friday (October 9, 2015):

That’s tomorrow. I can’t predict the future. But I’m probably gonna photograph the cover for Sweat of the Nomad after work, if I can arrange the time with the person I had asked to be in it. Has nothing to do with this book.

And that’s what my crisis week has looked like. For the record, I had edited up to Chapter 8 as of last Friday. I’m not very good with my time management. But I’m done, so maybe I don’t have to be. Just like college all over again.