2019, I’m calling it a success

I always try to do a year end assessment this time of year, then follow it up with a business plan in the new year. This is the assessment post.

My goals for 2019 were to step back from social media a bit and to explore sequels in my stories. In this, I was successful. I used to make custom tweets and make time to share them, make the occasional post on all the other formats out there, but honestly, they accomplish nothing. I keep these formats, and this blog auto-feeds to them, but the main goal is to point people here.

Currently, social media is for my own entertainment, but I try to share favors. Meaning, if someone tweets about my books, I try to follow and share their pinned tweet. I like finding out about all the baseball trades, bulldog pictures, and simple stuff on Facebook, but that’s about all it’s good for. I joined a big group event on Facebook that was promoted like an online trade show. It was a total failure, and I won’t make that mistake again.

I stopped paying for Facebook ads and Amazon ads last year. They never really did much, and the last few times they did nothing. My promotional efforts these days are in the form of blog tours, and a promotion company. Even then, I don’t always hire the promo firm.

When I released The Hat, the promo company really paid off. I got a bunch of early reviews, and sales were great. Things really tapered off after that. I used them for Viral Blues this year, and got one review from the NetGalley portion of the bundle.

As far as exploring sequels and series work, I count it as a major success. Success means different things to different people, so some explanation is in order. I’ll include covers and links, but I’m skipping the blurbs. This isn’t about promo, but assessment.

The first thing I published was Voyage of the Lanternfish. This is a crazy pirate fantasy with magic, monsters, and gunpowder. I’ve heard the term Flintlock Fantasy thrown around, and that might be a reasonable description.

It’s important to note this is not a sequel to anything. It’s the original book in what is destined to become a series. I published it on New Year’s Day, so it counts as 2019.

This book sold fairly well, and the comments I got on it led me to the trilogy idea. Reviews are lagging, so I’m a bit concerned.

Something else came up in a lot of the discussion. Two characters clicked with people, and they came up a lot. One isn’t so much a character as a collection of root monsters. I count them as one, because they function in swarm capacity during the action scenes. In my mind, they were just a bit of silliness to fill in the corners while Lanternfish was on a long sea voyage. Kind of like how Scrat fills out the edges of the Ice Age films. However, people loved them. I even had one ask for a root monster stand-alone book.

I don’t see that happening, because some of my over-the-top characters are better in small doses. A little is wonderful, too much can lead to brain damage.

Once I decided this could fit the classic trilogy format, I panicked a little. It would take at least a year to produce the next volume, and likely more than that. How am I going to keep fans interested during that time? This is where the other standout character came into play.

Lanternfish is set in a fantasy environment, mostly because I want to avoid comparison with Pirates of the Caribbean. There are some parallels to real world places, and it isn’t hard to understand that Serang is from pseudo-China. Her character, and this part of the world, made it easy to write her story.

Serang was raised by monks, then fled the country to become a pirate – kind of. This is a stand alone title, but it supports the Lanternfish environment. My hope is that Lanternfish fans will learn more about Serang by reading her book, and that it will tide them over until HMS Lanternfish is ready in 2020.

There is also a chance that people will read Serang first, then follow her into the Lanternfish stories.

Honestly, I dropped the ball on promotion of Serang. I released her story about 60 days after Viral Blues, and did an extensive tour for it. (More on that later.) When Serang published, I worried about my regulars suffering from tour fatigue. I took her on tour, but cut it short as a business decision. I also did not use the promo company for her story.

As of this writing, she only has four reviews on Amazon. This is partially because Amazon won’t let some people post reviews. They can still post on BookBub and Goodreads, and she’s doing better there. It seems odd to me, because these people review a mountain of books. It isn’t like they’re all shills for C. S. Boyack, but there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

I think she deserves better, and all of the reviews have been glowing.

The third book was a true sequel. My first one. It’s called Viral Blues, and is the follow up story to The Hat. The Hat sold incredibly well, and is the best reviewed book I have. Because of this, I thought Viral Blues would do better than it did. I paid the promo company for this story, and pushed the hell out of it around the Halloween season. It did well, but maybe I expected too much.

Lizzie and The Hat are back, but so are a bunch of old favorite characters. I’ve gotten some nice comments about Lisa Burton returning to a story, and admit she’s kind of a scene stealer at times. I’ve also gotten some great comments on Clovis. Both of these characters came with existing fans, so it was fun putting them in a new tale. Lizzie and The Hat carry the story, but it’s kind of like a superhero team-up.

I doubt there will ever be another story like Viral Blues, but it was a blast to create it. Lizzie and The Hat will go on, but it will be in their own adventures. These stories are paranormal with a lot of dark humor and snark.

I don’t want to jump ahead to my Business Plan, but I have some fun ideas for Lizzie and The Hat.

My goals for the two series are different. When it comes to Lanternfish, a trilogy almost demands prerequisite reading to carry on with the story. Stories about The Hat, can be read as stand-alone volumes with more available if you enjoyed the one you picked.

My Story Empire friends helped me scratch out some branding ideas for the series. With Lanternfish, there is no mistaking that figurehead. If it appears on all the covers, that should be good enough. When it comes to The Hat, I commissioned a small badge I can include on all the subsequent tales. It’s Lizzie playing her upright bass. It’s just a small icon that will let readers know it’s part of the series.

When it comes to the other parts of writing, some things changed. With three publications, they almost had to. Writing all those tour posts takes time, even if they are excerpts. All of my tour posts are unique, so I don’t wear people out when I run out a new story.

***

I didn’t return to blog posts about the writing cabin until late Autumn. This was a mistake. It’s easier to blog about what I’ve been doing than it is to fictionalize the same information and converse with Lisa. However, my stats clearly demonstrate that readers prefer interaction with Lisa.

I didn’t post as many Idea Mill posts this year, and they performed well. I need to step it up on that front. All of us need ideas for our stories, and sharing the oddball things I stumble across is kind of fun.

I also skipped Macabre Macaroni this year. I was neck deep in promotion for Viral Blues during October, and didn’t have time to write scary micro-fiction for the blog. Honestly, it passed without much notice. It’s one of those things people love when it appears, but don’t seem to miss if it doesn’t. No idea what to think about this.

Lisa Burton Radio slipped a bit, too, but that was on purpose.  Here’s a bit of my thought process. Feel free to disagree with me, but I’m just being frank. As an author, I know how hard it is to find good free promotion. Even then, there is only so much you can do. Talk about your main character, maybe your antagonist, plot. Sometimes share an excerpt.

I created something unique, in that Lisa interviews the character of your choice. It’s different enough to draw attention, and they are always popular posts. I started out asking people to give me a chance. I even advertised on various sites to get guests. I wound up posting weekly without much gap for two years. We moved some books, too.

However, there is a downside. They take a lot of work to put together. This is a collaborative effort, and it eats into my time. Many times, the guest author never even shows up, or publishes one comment to the group in passing. These posts work when the author pushes the hell out of them. I have one guest who still tweets out his older post from a year ago. That’s how it’s done.

Lisa Burton Radio is still available upon request. I’m not begging for guests any more. It’s a choice slot, and you get out what you put into it. I’m using the time I gained to write my next book. If you’re interested, Lisa will be happy to talk with your character.

To close the year out, I did something I swore I’d never do again. I held some Amazon free days for one of my books. The Playground is an older title, but several characters from this book made an appearance in Viral Blues. It also has a loose Christmas theme behind it. Honestly, we moved a crap-ton of books. My stats even showed it reaching single digits on one of the categories. I could call it a best seller at 100, so at number 9 I was kind of impressed. What I’d like to see as fallout are people following Clovis and/or Gina over to Viral Blues. A few reviews would be nice, too.

It isn’t lost on me that Serang, Voyage of the Lanternfish, and The Hat could make timely free books when the sequels are ready for publication. Watching the fallout from my Playground promo closely to figure this out.

Obviously, there is more to life than my author career, but this is a writing blog. My life has health issues, pets, relationships, and a 40 hour-per-week job, too. This post is an assessment of my 2019 success and fumbles as an author. My goal has always been to entertain people for a few hours. It’s even the name of the blog. With that in mind, I think 2019 goes in the win column.

40 Comments

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40 responses to “2019, I’m calling it a success

  1. By all measures, I would agree this year was a success for you. Happy next.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have been thinking that 2019 wasn’t that great, but if I look at it your way, as a whole, it starts to look better. 2020 can and should be better with a bit of luck…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve accomplished a lot, Craig, you should be proud!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been really impressed with your year. I’d count it as a big win. My friends and I are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but that’s a slippery slope:) One of them tried the international BookBub ad a few months ago and had decent luck with that, so when I finish the next Muddy River, I want to give that a try. It’s a lot cheaper than the U.S. version, but they’ll probably turn down my book. They look for a lot of reviews, and I’m just not getting them on Muddy River. But I think you’re on a roll. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay for one in the Win column! Hmm, I don’t know what Macabre Macaroni is, but it sounds like my kind of, um, dish.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • They were Halloween stories during October. Something had to give, so that was the failure point. I may do more some day. I might even edit them and bundle them as a 99 cent special eventually. 2019 was good. It wasn’t winning lottery ticket good, but I’ll take it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Three great books this year! A very successful year based on my enjoyment of your work. Keep it coming.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think you had a successful year, Craig. I had Viral Blues on my TBR to read next week but I have just purchased Serang and will review her first. Do you think maybe you published two books to close together? I thought that the three anthologies I participated in in October and November were a bit much from a marketing perspective?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is possible. I don’t know how to avoid the summer months and release three books without them being close together. It would be nice if they could both be Lanternfish tales, but that isn’t going to happen. I’m glad you want to read both stories. Hope you enjoy them.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’d say by any form of measurement, 2019 was a roaring success for you Craig! Your observations are most interesting. I love your writing cabin posts. As a writer, that is my biggest dream – to have a remote physical place, cut off from the world to focus only on my story. Of course, it would help to have a robot girl to take care of coffee and other assorted chores. 🙂 You got some great results from your Playground giveaway. I may try that on one of my older books at some point when it has relevance. At any rate, I enjoyed all three of your new books and look forward to what you bring to the table for 2020! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m positive about 2019. Growth comes slowly, but it is coming. The giveaway was good in the first phase. I’m watching to see if anything happens because of it. Free books that go unread don’t help me. I found a guy on Goodreads who’s going through my entire back catalog. No idea who he is, but that’s the kind of reaction I like to see.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I count it as a win as well. Lots of live and learn, as that is the way of doing things.
    I didn’t have time to read Macabre Macaroni — so if you’d written, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to it until turkey time, but you’re right, I do enjoy it when you write them.
    Idea Mills, I do actually miss, but the thing is I don’t need pressure to blog, so I won’t be one to harp on it. Just know I do so enjoy those finds.
    I kinda laugh about Scrat and the root monsters — Scrat is my favorite, soooo…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for more oddities to share. They are fun posts. 2019 was a winner in my book. I don’t feel that way about all years, so I’m grateful for it. The success of the root monsters surprised me. It’s a happy surprise and I’ll take it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sounds like a pretty successful year to me. Great to hear, and I look forward to seeing what’s to come in 2020! 🙂

    Honestly, I could officially post more of my reviews on Amazon as well as Goodreads and my blog. But navigating Amazon is a headache for me, so I tend to not bother most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a UK version that never seems to reach the main Amazon store. Sometimes I check it and find a review I never expected. You would think Amazon would want to make this easier for everyone. I will write out my 2020 plan after the new year. It’s nice to have a goal or two, and a place to look back at them.

      Like

  11. Congratulations on a successful year. It sounds like you have so much going on, but I think you have a good handle on all of it. I wish you an even more successful 2020!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sounds like you had a very productive Year! May 2020 be just as good or better!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’d say 2019 was a successful year for you. Best wishes for an even better 2020.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: 2020 Business Plan | Entertaining Stories

  15. That was an awesome assessment. And you really kicked but with the free promo on The Playground. I hope you pick up new readers and a ton of reviews as a result. And seriously—you accomplished a heck of a lot in 2019. Maybe 2020 be even better!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Good you can call the year a winner. You got a lot done.

    Liked by 1 person

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