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2020 Business Plan

I just recapped 2019 (Link) and consider it a success. It wasn’t exactly profitable, but I learned some things and was able to publish three titles last year.

One of the main things is that I can write more than one story at a time. I call the secondary one my side project and chip away at it when my main project bogs down. I’ve been known to park my brain for weeks dwelling on a plot issue, then hit the keyboard after I’ve worked it all out. It’s worse while working on my trilogy.

By having a side project, those lost weeks are pointed elsewhere, and somehow the main problem works itself out anyway. My side project jumps ahead, and when it’s time for it to emerge from its cocoon as the main project, I may be 50K words into it.

It’s kind of like how I keep multiple storyboards going. I always have something ready to start.

I intend to keep doing this in 2020. I don’t have a side project right now, but once HMS Lanternfish hits somewhere around 50K words, I’m going to start another one.

I finally wrote that cyberpunk story I’ve been bringing up for years. It needs a cover, a final read through, and formatting, but it’s very close. I enjoyed taking modern problems and poking them with a stick to see how our world might look in a hundred years. It’s called Grinders, and will be coming your way in early 2020.

With an incredible stroke of luck, I could release it for Chinese New Year. This is the Year of the Rat, a big part of the story goes down at the parade in San Francisco, where it is also the Year of the Rat, and a couple of rats play an important role in the story. Yours Truly is also Year of the Rat. That’s some serious juju right there, and I’d like to publish it then.

I don’t think it’s a deal killer if I don’t hit that target, the best laid plans of rats and men, etc.

Grinders is my stand-alone title for 2020. Sequels will eat up the rest of the time. I can’t seem to give up stand-alone work, and it’s something I really enjoy.

As far as sequels are concerned, I need to produce the next Lanternfish tale in 2020. I’m working diligently on it, and would love to have it available before the schools get out. My track record at that deadline is horrible. I don’t seem to have any luck with summer releases, so I dream of having it ready before then.

Another loose target is the Halloween season. I have this earmarked for the next story about Lizzie and The Hat. They are finally going to face actual vampires. This won’t be anything like you’ve seen before, and will take place mostly in the country music environment. They’re going to have to stalk their enemy across rodeo dances, county fairs, and such. There are some fun scenes already planned out, and Lizzie is going to tire quickly of this kind of music.

There is also a new character that I can’t wait to bring into the tale. I see him as a possible recurring character. If you’re old enough, you remember how James Garner always seemed to have that one smarmy guy show up in his work. My new character will fill that role, and could fit into future stories. Besides, he has a speech impediment that The Hat will make fun of. That brings out Lizzie’s “social justice warrior” and adds a few fun interactions.

This story will be the side project once I nudge Lanternfish along a bit. After it moves into the main slot, I might start another side project. This one would be a post-apocalyptic story with many earmarks of a western. I will also return to first person POV in this one.

This is an ambitious year, but I think I can make it happen. I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve after last year. First is that Grinders is already written, much like the first Lanternfish book was. Second is that stories about Lizzie and The Hat are generally short novels. If it works, the post-apocalyptic thing could be ready prior to 2021.

I have one problem that I’m trying to sort out. Maybe you can help me with that. I’m convinced that my best promotional effort is to publish the next book. Being a self publisher is a numbers game. I’ve been around long enough to see people fade after a book or two. I’m not one of those people.

Readers could take authors more seriously with a number of titles under their belt. That’s pure theory, and they would have to be good stories. I feel like I’ve reached that level, and could attract new readers by having a decent catalog of titles.

The problem arises in timing of those releases. I ran into a problem of releasing two books sixty days apart. Viral Blues did well enough, but I think Serang suffered because of this. This is a complex problem, but here are some of the factors to consider.

• I have a personal phobia of the summer months for a new release. I’ve never done well during summer, but that limits me to the nine other months. That becomes a book every three months during the sweet spot.

• Promotional fatigue is a real thing. It hits my blog followers, online circle, and it hits me, too. I will need to identify many more sites to promote my work. I don’t want to wear out my regular group of hosts. I like my hosts and regulars. I want to balance being a friend, offering my space to them, and being able to promote my own projects on occasion.

• Lanternfish is a trilogy. I don’t expect much fanfare for the second book other than from those who loved the first one. In my imagination, book two may sell better after the trilogy concludes. With this thought, could a summer release for book two serve just as well? That would help spread things out around the year. Am I selling the second book of a trilogy short?

• Could a blog tour with two or more books on the same tour have any benefit? This would cut down the number of promo posts, but each title would have to share stops along the tour. Is there a way to use pre-release sales in this scheme? You can have one book right now, and the other will be delivered in 60 days?

• Does the crack dealer method still work? Meaning does a giveaway for book one help move sales for book two or three? It used to work, but has that also changed?

Personally, I don’t like the idea of giving my work away. If $2.99 is going to break someone’s budget, they’d be better of paying the power bill. I have to admit, there might be a strategic advantage to some freebies. There used to be one, but things change so fast I don’t know anymore.

As far as titles that could serve as the gateway drug to my writing, The Playground kind of leads to Viral Blues. The Hat leads to Viral Blues and any other book in the series. Serang and Voyage of the Lanternfish could serve the same purpose for the Lanternfish trilogy. Honestly, 2020 might be too soon for this concept, but I’m open to suggestions if you have them.

I want to keep blogging two to three times per week. Yeah, it’s a place to talk about my work, but it serves its own purpose, too. I like chatting with you guys. I’m not afraid to talk about my writing efforts, but sometimes you get bulldogs, sourdough bread, camping trips and other things that add a bit of quality to life.

Otto is helping Dad today.

Story Empire has been a good thing for me, too. It challenges me to come up with appropriate topics, and while I don’t always pull it off, I come fairly close to the mark. I don’t know how much more I have to share there, but there are always new writers coming along, so revamping some things might be possible. That usually takes me a couple of times per month, so I’ll be seeing many of you over there during 2020.

These are ambitious goals, but they are within reach. I might not hit all of them, but I intend to give it my best effort. I hope you guys will come along for the ride. Do you ever make a business plan for the year?

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2019 Business Plan

I skip the whole New Years resolutions thing. If you enjoy it, have at it. What I like to do is outline my plan for the upcoming year. I’ve been known to look back at it here and there to see how I’m doing.

Last year, I pledged not to take on yet another social media platform. I signed up for Book Bub anyway. I like it as a presence for my books. It doesn’t require a lot of my time, and it gives me a nice place to post reviews of the books I read. I’ve transferred over a bunch of old reviews I wrote for people who are also there. I see they’ve done the same thing for me. Technically, there isn’t really a social aspect to it, but I put it in the same category.

Google Plus announced they are going away, and they won’t really be missed. About all I did with it was autofeed my blog there. I monkeyed with it for a few months, but never enjoyed it, or found any value.

The point is that social media has only produced minimal sales for me. I never really noticed a difference in my bottom line. Some of my author friends are even quitting Facebook now. I like the occasional Far Side cartoon, or bulldog video, so I’ll keep mine. With their advertising changing so frequently, it’s become kind of worthless for book promo.

Pinterest I really enjoy. Not for promotional purposes, but for ideas. I have images to inspire characters, paranormal art, science fiction, all kinds of things. I’ll keep my presence there, but for different reasons. It’s nice to forward a few images to my artist when I want a book cover or a new Lisa Burton poster.

Last year, I decided that my best promotional tool was to write my next book. Voyage of the Lanternfish is available as of a few hours ago. This is a pirate fantasy, with all the black magic and monsters you might expect in one of my stories.

I lost my critique group in 2016, then started relying upon beta readers. I like this process, but you have to find people who are willing to kick your butt. (Behind the scenes, of course.) In 2018, I lost my beta readers. This was devastating, but the end result was good.

I’m now part of a new critique group. While there is a difference between critique and beta, they both serve somewhat the same purpose. As a bonus, I get to hang out with a very talented bunch of people who are willing to kick my butt when I need it. (Behind the scenes, of course.)

These people have all written series, and are encouraging me to do the same. My own reading preference is for stand alone books, but I admit to enjoying a series on occasion. I understand the drill, hook them with the first one, then sell them additional stories in the same environment.

I’m still up in the air about writing stories where a previous book is a prerequisite. If I can pull it off, I would like any subsequent stories to be enjoyable even if you haven’t read the previous book. Honestly, I haven’t written a book where someone didn’t mention interest in a sequel.

Having said this, 2019 is going to be my year of the sequel, and possibly the prequel. I intend to write at least one more book in the Lanternfish environment, plus a prequel for one of the supporting characters.

In addition to all that, Lizzie and The Hat are going to make a return. The Hat is my most popular title, and I have multiple ideas that would be fun to explore. One at a time though, and with some dependence on whether the next one is popular too. The next one promises to bring back a few other old friends, and I’ve already started writing it.

That’s a big list, but I may be able to release three titles in 2019. Things would have to fall into place, but it could happen.

In a perfect world, I’d be about to start that cyberpunk novel I’ve been talking about for a couple of years. This one is intended to be a stand alone title. It went on the back-burner again, because I really need to explore the advantage of sequels.

Finances are a big concern. Book covers and promotional art are one thing, but advertising is getting expensive too. I would like to hire a promo company at least during the time around the book’s release. This is a push on multiple fronts in addition to any blog tours I might set up.

My mentality is to bounce around a lot. When I read, I change genres with every title, and I like that. When I write, I do the same thing. I’m starting to realize that many people are not like me. An author sparks their imagination with either a character or world building, and they want more. I intend to deliver some of that in 2019.

I’ve bounced around with promotions in much the same way. It all becomes somewhat like Whack-A-Mole after a while. My blog will remain my main focus, it will auto feed to other sites, but if you really want me you can find me here.

It’s all kind of calming to make these decisions. My focus will be on production of good fiction. There will be blog tours to help promote, and even some new Lisa Burton posters. I’m not going to spend time making graphics for Twitter, or figuring out how often to make Facebook posts about my stories.

I hope your 2019 is productive, positive, and enjoyable. I think mine will be too.

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Planning for 2016

Today seems like the logical day for a post like this. It may get lost in a sea of New Year's Resolutions, but that's okay.

I can't let go of 2015, without sharing this tidbit. There were a lot of great comments on my post about family, pets, and whatnot. It occurs to me that we all have similar things in our lives. It doesn't do any good to dwell on some of this, because I can't do anything about it.

One fun thought occurred to me. 2015 is a lot like the Disney movie, Old Yeller. It was a great year, but it didn't end well. It's time to shoot it through the head and move onto 2016, like the new puppy at the end of the movie.

Things that worked in 2015 will stick around in 16. That means more trips to the writing cabin, more of Lisa Burton and others I write about regularly. Lorelei will certainly be back, I may write about Doubt the Raven, the left side of my brain, and we may even see Red Herring the traveling salesman again.

I want to use the street team concept again to announce any publications I have. This worked well, and I don't see any reason not to repeat that. I'll probably do another paid tour or two, plus another Amazon promotion. I'm going to write up some promotional pieces for volunteers too. These can be from either Lisa or me, and may include artwork with Lisa about the books.

I need to expand my footprint, and Goodreads didn't do enough last year. I won't abandon it, and it certainly didn't take much time, but I need more. This is the year to put the phobias aside and tackle Facebook. I may try another one too, but Facebook is happening. They are the largest social media on Earth. I've seen a handful of sales via Twitter, and Facebook can probably lead to a few more. It might even drive folks to my blog where all the real fun is.

I like a loose business plan for my writing, because I still look at it like a hobby. If I drive myself too hard, it may stop being as much fun. That means Facebook could happen next week, or next November, but it is happening.

I want to release two novels this year. The Yak Guy project is well underway, and I'm closing in on 20,000 words as of this morning.

The Playground is written, and I'm still finding some editing time too. I think late Winter seems about right for its release. I need a cover and will need some beta readers in a few weeks.

The Playground this winter, and Yak Guy next fall feels realistic. I'm still writing short fiction, and love it. There may be another Experimental Notebook, or something similar. There are already 4.5 micro-fiction pieces, and I want some actual short stories to go with them. I'm keeping this idea pretty loose, because it is a second string project. Experimental Notebook sold well, and it worked as a great promotional piece because of its price. How could I not repeat the process?

I also want to start another novel. I roughed out four outlines this summer, and it won't take much to get another one started. It will probably be my science fiction piece, tentatively called Grinders.

Reading has to be part of the plan too. I've benefited from a lot of supporters, and try to return the favors when I can. This means I want to read more of your stories, but I also want to read stuff I pick for myself. On top of that, I want to read another “how to” book. There is one on my iPad right now, and it doesn't look terribly long.

I want to host people, and I want to make guest spots in 2016. There are some fun guests coming soon on my site. Keep me in mind if you'd like to promote something even if it is a service you provide. Maybe a budding cover artist would like to talk about that field over here, or an editor of some kind. Maybe you want to put together an anthology and need writers. (I know some.)

I would ask guests to keep an open mind to the idea of me visiting too. I have stuff to promote on occasion, and will custom write a piece if asked. I wrote one from Lisa Burton's perspective about characters, and another one about my editing tricks last year so keep that in mind. I'm a little bit like a creature from the netherworld. You have to invite me inside.

I need to start at least one more outline too. This doesn't mean it has to be perfect, but something rough. In order to do that, it has to be an idea capable of carrying a novel. I'm writing Yak Guy, I sort of killed the African Adventure because of PC issues. If Grinder is on deck, that only leaves the fantasy about the guy who starts wars for money. I need another big idea to start roughing out.

While all of this is going on, I need to have a life too. This means camping, grandchildren, and being able to drop everything and run out the door on a whim. Having too many goals will interfere with that, so I'm going to stop here.

2015 is in the books. 2016 has a loose business plan. Right now there is a channel running a Twilight Zone festival, and another one with Hitchcock all day. This is like candy to the weird person I am. I have nearly everything on DVD, but not The Birds. Maybe another few chapters of editing, then The Birds around dinner time. I have a micro-fiction about magpies that might benefit from watching this one again.

Happy New Year everyone. Do you have a business plan for this year?

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