Assessing 2016

I managed just under 2000 words this morning on my novel. I've reached a point where I need to decide whether he goes through the next section alone, takes up a sidekick, or gathers a small band. This means I need to think about it for a while. I'm leaning toward the sidekick, because it prevents his talking with the yak who is his mentor. It also provides someone to protect and worry about. I know where he goes, and what he faces, but any extra tension is always welcome.

Because of this, it's time to work on my 2016 assessment. This is kind of a personal “good, bad, and ugly.”

I wanted to read more mainstream stuff in '16, but never read a single one. Independent fiction kept me pretty busy, and I need to change that. Branching out is always good for learning, and inspiring the muse. I did manage one graphic novel, and enjoyed the heck out of it. Graphic novels don't exactly qualify as mainstream in my book though. I want to get back to Jim Butcher and Cheri Priest.

I wanted to expand my footprint into Facebook. I did this in the form of a Lisa Burton profile, and an Entertaining Stories page. Lisa is more popular than my page, go figure. I try to keep them a bit different, and a few Otto videos went on the Entertaining Stories page that Lisa never got. I'm still learning here, but I'm having a good time. It's a great way to find old sci-fi artwork, classic cars, inspiration for Lisa Burton posters, and bulldog images.

As far as the blog goes, my number one post was a short fiction trick. I wish I could repeat this, because it has over 3000 views and counting. In fact, the subsequent post about how Flipboard drove most of this traffic was in my top ten posts. My third most popular post was “We go Spying With Lana, on Lisa Burton Radio.” (1200 views and counting.)

It seems like anything with Lisa is a popular post. I don't even have to include a graphic, and the writing cabin type posts are popular. It probably means nothing from a promotional standpoint, but it makes me think I must be getting her strong personality into the posts.

I've heard from the more chatty folks that Lisa Burton Radio produced a spike in sales for them. This is kind of a plus/minus for me. Lisa has a hell of a time getting enough guests to keep her interviews going. Places to promote books seem to be getting more scarce, and these interviews are the only ones like them that I know about. I want to keep them going, but need authors who want to take advantage. I'll just mention here that it's absolutely free, and I share them on Stumbleupon, Flipboard, two Facebook sites, and I tweet them out frequently.

An interesting observation is how popular posts involving the Rave Reviews Book Club were. My Block Party stop was the eighth most popular post of 2016. (I'm a fairly prolific blogger so that's a great number.) My top twenty is filled with posts I hosted as part of blog tours associated with RRBC. The obvious thought is that RRBC drives traffic, and they support. If any of you are inclined to make a 2017 business plan you ought to consider joining us.

Sales were about the same as last year for me. While this isn't bad, it includes two new publications and much more promotion on my part. It appears I'm working harder to accomplish the same thing. Is this just the market, the volume of available titles, my perspective getting tired, what?

A big part of my promotion kind of fell together and grew into something I never expected. A group of authors and I formed Story Empire as a way to mutually promote our paranormal themed books in October. It's grown into much more, and has potential for more growth. I'm looking forward to seeing just how far we can take it. I have a theory that we'll expand to more than just paranormal.

My pals and I at Story Empire went on a massive paid blog tour for our paranormal titles. This involved giveaways of Amazon gift cards, and in my case two book blasts. Quite frankly, I could have sold more books on a friends and family tour. Most of the host sites appeared to be dead zones that only host blog tours. Nobody is going to follow a site that never offers anything but blog tour posts. There is no interaction, and very little action happened beyond the authors thanking the host for having us.

I was impressed with one of the book blasts, and might consider them for a tour host in the future. More research is required for blog tours these days.

I also wasn't impressed with the giveaways. Turns out there are people out there who chase gift cards. They have no interest in the wares being promoted, only getting into the contests. In my mind, the contest is to add a little fun to the tour, and possibly increase the interaction. This isn't the way it worked out. I have a new plan for contests from now on.

I got invited to participate in an anthology. I'd never done anything like this, and it was educational. There is no money in it, but the exposure is pretty good. This is something I'd like to do again, depending on the theme. I'm probably not going to write a Valentine's Day love story, but if a group wants to do some science fiction or something, I would consider it.

I did a bunch of giveaways, 99¢ sales, and Amazon advertising with mixed results. All of them moved books in varying degrees, but they didn't seem repeatable. Whatever worked once, failed six months later. This might be because of timing, the quality of the advertisement, or the marketplace. I probably need to keep trying these.

My short fiction during October, called Macabre Macaroni, is also hard to assess. Maybe it's because I don't want to admit what I'm seeing. Every comment was encouraging, even those who thought I ended the first one too soon simply wanted more of a good story. The odd thing is the number of views. They started strong, then went down with every subsequent post. This can't be about the quality of the stories, because I'm tracking views not likes or comments. Viewers didn't show up in the first place. What it could mean is that people are just tired of them. Maybe some thought it was just the same story trucked out over and over because of the Lisa art.

The Idea Mill. These aren't nearly as popular as I would like. These posts don't even show up until I get to number 81. I love them, but maybe it's time to retire them. Many of my followers are writers, but not as many are speculative fiction writers. There were a lot of textile posts both from antiquity and in modern science. There were also a lot of primate observations. I featured one cryptid, and a railroad line that carried the dead. All of the comments are positive, but they're all from my regulars too. Asking for shares might help, maybe I need a new thing for the blog.

I finally found a way to make Twitter functional. When you follow too many people, the stream of information is like trying to drink from a firehose. I learned about pinned tweets, and am trying to keep them relatively fresh. When I check my notifications, anyone who appears to be supporting me causes me to share their pinned tweet. Not everyone has a pinned tweet, but it sure is handy. I find a lot of them that are six months old though. In that case, I delete my tweet, then immediately retweet it. My hope is that it goes out fresh in the timeline of my followers. Everyone should be using pinned tweets if they have books to promote. Remember to keep them freshened up though. I think I'll freshen up mine right after this posts.

Two new publications. I released The Playground, a novel, and The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack II, a collection of short fiction in 2016. The novel was just a blip on the radar. I'm disappointed, because I really like it and I think the style added something to this kind of story. Playground also produced one of the most fun characters I've ever written, and my first anti-hero. The second Notebook exceeded sales of the first one. I have some evidence to show that it produced a few sales of the first one after readers finished it. This is great news. Now what to do with the information? Is one title simply better than the other? Is short fiction making the surge I predicted last year? Is human interest leading us away from novel length works? I don't know, but will probably keep producing both.

That's 2016. Some things worked, some didn't. Some did nice things I never expected. The idea is to keep what works, and do new things to replace what doesn't work. Sometime in the first week of 2017, I'll put out a business plan. It's always nice to have a roadmap.

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “Assessing 2016

  1. This post is helpful to me, because I too am struggling with promo/sales and with what does and doesn’t work. I’d love to hear more about Flipboard. I’ve only ever heard of it through you. I signed up, but I don’t have a clue how to use it effectively. I’d like to hear about your new ideas for blog tours, too.

    In any event, I’m glad you found some things that worked for you. And I’m truly grateful to have been included in the Story Empire endeavor, as well as thankful to Lisa for hosting me this year. It’s been a pleasure working with you on all fronts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Staci. Surf through the Story Empire stats, and look at how many referrals we are getting from Flipboard. You can even pull up stats for the whole year, and look at more general numbers. I need to work on alternate things today, and may start my business plan. I should probably start my 01/08 post about tension too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well I’ll be darned. I never knew about “pinned Tweets.” How cool is that?! Thanks to you I just created one and re-tweeted yours while I was at it. Thursday just got more fun, thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m working on one of these types of post for my blog as well. I always like to look back over the year. It puts things in perspective and helps with plans for the new.

    Like Staci I need to know more about how to use Flipboard. I think that would make a great SE post at some point. I’m sure most aren’t familiar with it, or how to use it to their benefit.

    I would miss your Idea Mill posts and Macabre Macaroni.
    Oh…and on Twitter. Have you created Twitter lists to help you sort your followers? Once you do that, using Hootsuite or a similar program really helps you keep on top of what people are tweeting.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. With you on the giveaway lesson. A lot of people dive into the contests for the prizes and simply to say they won. I used to do a bunch of Goodreads giveaways with my books and might have seen only 1 review. Back when I started, the trick was to claim that you’re a book reviewer and ask the indies for stuff. Then you just put it in your collection and not touch it, which seems to have evolved into this. So strange.

    Very cool that the RRBC is working out. I see stuff from them all the time on Twitter and blogs. They seem to be working out great for people. I think with so many promo sites collapsing, they’ve become a port in the storm.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s a lot of reflection.
    I love the Idea Mill posts, but then, you’re right, I’m not using them to write. I’ve shared you here and there and people have liked the shares, but I don’t know if that translates to sales for you.
    A lot of non-author Twitter has older pinned tweets to increase hearts and RTs, or to give an idea of brand, so you know, whatever works for you. Most of my Twitter wouldn’t RT a new version of an old tweet.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I would enjoy learning more about Flipboard. (if I have a vote)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ll second (third / fourth?) learning more about Flipboard.
    You mention Twitter. I have mixed results with Twitter. I regularly Tweet whole stories / sections of stories. I get a fair few retweets, but it doesn’t translate into anything. My pinned Tweet comes into play when people choose to view my profile (tiny percentage of the time), and of those clicks, only a tiny percentage click through to my website.
    I get fed up of all the ‘buy me’ links and steer away. As a way of name recognition, i suppose it could be useful, but beyond that, i’ve yet to be convinced.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I like these reflective bits too!! I haven’t looked back at mine yet. I thought I would have more time on this Christmas/New Year’s break but so far, time is lacking. I’ve only been aware of your blog for the latter half of the year, but from what I’ve seen, you’ve got a great mix of things going on!! You’re always interesting, informative, and give me ideas, which I LOVE!! Please continue to do these mix of things, I may not catch as soon as you post but try to as the days go along. You’ve introduced me to some wonderful people on here and I appreciate that as well. Going into this Indie thing makes me nervous but with all of you to ask questions of, it helps a LOT!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Well done! Have a happy and successful New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. If Lisa is one of your most popular features, maybe you should have a talk with Lorelei about an actual story for her.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Based on the blog tour I just finished, I agree with you about the contests – and you also reminded me to change my pinned tweet, so thanks, Craig! BTW, if Lisa needs interview subjects, I’m game.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I love your Idea Mill posts and Macabre Macaroni. The fall was strange for sales, sometimes great, sometimes not. In fact, the internet seemed oddly quiet. Perhaps that accounts for the lack of views of Macabre Macaroni. I was thinking of doing some sort of end-of-year post, but honestly, it’s crunch time for me. I’ve been tucked away for a while and not doing much of anything besides writing (other than Christmas with friends and family, and now, New Years). That said, I do think it’s smart to reflect on your progress. Maybe I’ll do it sometime in Jan. Always the non-conformist. LOL Happy New Year, my friend. May 2017 be your best year yet!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. carmens007

    A busy and productive 2016 as it seems. Yes, a post on Flipboard would be nice, thank you!
    As about Tweeter I agree with Steve. Nothing came out of it, except, perhaps getting my name out there. I don’t have a FB page but I am also active on Pinterest/Goodreads/Niume/ Readres’legacy, but again bo sales due to it.
    Well, Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

    Liked by 1 person

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