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Business Plan 2021

It looks like that time again. I try to prepare a business plan for my writing career every January. These have been some of my most popular posts over the years, but that isn’t why I write them. I feel like everything is better with a little planning.

I’m sure this is no surprise, since I’ve posted both here and at Story Empire about my storyboarding method for plotting out my stories.

Mostly, I write these to keep myself honest. I refer back to them throughout the year to see how I’m doing. Let’s dive into it.

A few years ago, I decided my best promotional move was to write my next book. I’ve gotten discouraged with advertising that fails to produce, social media that sucks time, but doesn’t seem to do much else, so I write.

Honestly, it seems to be working. I can’t explain it exactly, but if someone were to pull up my Amazon page, it appears that I’m somewhat seasoned and in it for the long haul. Perhaps people are more willing to take a chance on me more than someone who only has one book. No idea, but it makes some sense.

It’s not that readers pick up everything I write. If someone likes paranormal tales, I have a few. Same thing for science fiction and fantasy. Some are like me and read all those genres, but I can appeal to the specialists now, too.

For the last two years, I’ve published three books per year. It’s kind of a grueling pace, but it was worth it.

This year, my goal is two publications. I want to complete my Lanternfish trilogy and get it out the door. I’ve already started on the final volume, but it’s been slow going. Too many holidays and not enough quality time.

The other book I’m working on is a continuation of The Hat series. Since this is an ongoing series, I don’t feel as much pressure as I do with Lanternfish. I have a couple of storyboards for volumes beyond the one I’m writing, and a few solid ideas with notes started.

Last year, a couple of things changed for me, and forced me to make a decision. My cover art and Lisa Burton promotional pieces took much longer than I was used to. I kind of overwhelmed my critique group, too. My choices were to start another project while I waited to publish the completed ones, or take a break. I took a break.

I know this doesn’t seem like me, but I needed it and I imagine my critique partners appreciated the few months off, too. I didn’t exactly kick back during this time. I spent it getting ready for two extensive blog tours. I make all my promo stops unique, so writing ahead was a good idea.

Timing of publications continues to vex me. I would like to hit one right before school lets out in the Spring, and the other around Halloween sometime. I’m not sure I’ve ever hit the Springtime target before, but have been moderately successful in the Fall.

By publishing two books instead of three, maybe that will simplify a few things. Maybe not, because Grinders in late Winter went off without a hitch.

I intend to use any spare time I have drafting something new. I don’t know what that will be yet, but I could go on the African adventure, maybe the post apocalyptic piece that’s set in the swamp, or something set in outer space. That last one seems to want to be a trilogy again.

The idea of another trilogy kind of drags me down, and excites me at the same time. For one thing, I could do things differently this time. I could hold the entire thing back while I finish it, then go for quicker releases after it’s finished. This would make it my side project for a couple of years.

Lanternfish was only intended to be a stand-alone story. Comments and feedback convinced me to turn it into a trilogy. With one already on Amazon, the others have to come along as they can.

I need to make some decisions on how to promote Wreck of the Lanternfish. I could promote the book, the whole series, or a bit of both. I could go on two different blog tours; one for the book, then months later for the whole trilogy.

I might be able to use some discount days or free days to promote with, too. James is clearly the main character, but Serang has become a co-main character along the way. Her origin story has never been on sale and walks readers into the trilogy. I could do something similar with Voyage of the Lanternfish, or both.

Promotion is like dowsing to me. I’m open to suggestions here, so don’t be afraid to speak up.

Last year, my blogging goal was to post two to three times per week. This came after years of posting four times per week, because Lisa Burton Radio was always on Thursdays. With retirement of Lisa’s show, it should have been easy to meet. I failed completely.

This is the one thing I will blame on Covid. Many of my posts are a slice of life. With all the lockdowns, working from home, and all the rest, there wasn’t much life to share. I’ve been lucky to make a weekend post for the last few months. I don’t know if this will change, so I’m not setting a goal here. I will keep updating Entertaining Stories, and meet my Story Empire assignments. Anything beyond that will have to be an extra.

Then there is social media. During my summer break, I kind of bailed on it. It never really has produced anything for me, and I spent some time changing out my pinned tweets and all the rest. I changed it almost weekly when I promoted the Experimental Notebooks. My blog automatically feeds to most of them, and I still share all of your things when I can. I just stopped actively participating.

Prior to my break, I used to go through my feed and retweet all of your posts, share the bigger things on Facebook, etc. Now it’s mostly posts from your blogs.

Older rules were that we had to be active on social media, because that’s where readers find us. It made perfect sense, but I never really saw it function in real-time. Interest in blogs seems to be slowing down, too, but it’s about all I have left. It also seems to be the only thing that will sell books from time to time, so I’m all-in here.

My goals aren’t as severe this year. Two publications that I already have partial manuscripts for. Keep the blogs up, and dabble in social media. Spend any spare time drafting something new.

Weigh in today. Teach me your promotional tricks. Do you prepare a business plan every year, or is that just me?

They say all posts perform better with a picture, so here you go. Frankie likes to help Mom make the bed, particularly when the bedding is warm from the dryer.

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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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Crisis of faith

This post could probably use a photograph, but since I don't have the real one, I'm not looking for a free one online.

Most of you guys are writers, and you'll understand. I've been beating myself up for a couple of days now. This stems from the preparation of tax documents and what they reveal about my writing career.

It probably goes without saying that I spent more than I made in 2015. Something tells me I'm not the only one, and I don't expect you to chime in. I actually expected this, and planned for it to happen. Then when it happened I got myself all worked up.

I actually made four times what I made last year. This should be a good thing, right? It is, but it took me a circuitous, mopey route to get there.

First I had to look up other writers and count reviews. Turns out, I'm not doing bad on that front either. I still don't have a book with the magical 20 reviews, but a couple of them are close. I think it's reasonable that one of them will hit that mark in 2016.

I'm going to completely deviate to tell you another story. Stay with me here. I grew up in Nevada's Great Basin… A loooong time ago. This was the era of DDT and other pesticides. As these things got banned and things recovered, we had a few bald eagles show up. The first time I saw one was magical.

I lived in tents for two whole summers, and my family camped more weekends than not. This includes frost, snow, and mud. I'm pretty close to the Earth and the wild things.

Every time I've ever seen a bald eagle, I wound up accomplishing my goals. This includes some pretty tough goals, but if an eagle showed up it worked out every time. It doesn't work with golden eagles, which are common.

Tonight, on my way home from work, a huge bald eagle soared over my truck. He was fully mature and looked stunning against a clear blue sky. I would have pulled over and watched him, but you just don't do that during the commute.

I really don't have a detailed goal right now. That worries me a little bit. My goal for writing is to have fun, and eventually make something at it. I have been having fun, but a little more success would be nice.

I'm sure the eagle is a sign of something good. I just don't know what. I'm glad he showed up, I kind of needed him about now. I don't have a detailed goal, but I feel something good in the air.

I was going to skip posting tonight, because I have a guest tomorrow. She's awesome and will carry the banner for Entertaining Stories for a day. Then the eagle showed up and I decided to share. Make sure you come back and support my guest tomorrow.

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We Pause for Station Identification

I started this blog to promote my novels. I’ve never made any suggestions otherwise. I try not to inundate everyone with constant whining about buying my books. Blogging became something more than an advertising platform, and I’d keep blogging today without a story to market.

Still, every once in a while, I reserve the right to market my novels. And today is that day. I got a really good review for Arson. Arson is the most recent story, and hasn’t gotten a ton of action so far. Today I got a wonderful four star review. Hopefully, it’s the first of many. (Thanks Lorraine.)

Rather than quote from the review, you can read about it here. I’m doing this, because after you read this wonderful review you might want to buy your own copy. Right after the review went up, someone borrowed it. I can’t tell whether it’s from the lending library or the Kindle Unlimited program. This is my cue to remind you that you can read the book for free on these programs.

We now return to your regularly scheduled blog.

My goal for 2014 was to get four of my older novels published. If I can get The Cock of the South published, this goal will be complete. That gets me to thinking about what’s next.

Will ‘O the Wisp will be the first newer story. I really like this one, and it should get some kind of push effort.

I’ve never done much promotion on my novels. As my next group of stories come out, I may have to grow up a little bit as an author. I may have to explore these blog tours I see everyone partaking in. I should probably arrange some advance reviews. I may need to look into some of the paid promotional services too.

I’m also thinking about revamping this blog. I would like to find a theme that allows me to post cover images and links without the huge sidebar. As much as I love the Pilcrow theme, maybe there’s something better available. Maybe I need a separate book page, but I have my doubts whether anyone would look at it.

These are internal thoughts for right now. The first project is to get The Cock of the South live on Amazon. After that I’ll probably experiment with a few things. I reserve the right to ask my regulars for their opinions too, of course anyone can chime in when I’m ready.

I suppose my idea for tonight is that it’s time for a writerly metamorphosis. As one goal is met, it’s time for a new one.

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Some Christmas Wishes

It’s Friday night, snowing outside, and Clarence is about to earn his wings on TV. We have family coming on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to that.

I’m thinking about my writing as all this Christmas surrounds me. I’ll blog sober, then find some kind of Holliday cheer to wash it down with.

I wish all you writers out there every success in the coming year. Some of you will seek traditional publication, some will opt for ebooks, and others simple personal gratification. These are all worthy goals and I hope you meet yours.

I wish you all a special writing place. I call mine the writing cabin. When I’m in the zone, my imaginary cabin comes to life and the words just flow. If you’re of a different mind, you can have a penthouse, cave, mausoleum, tower keep, or a culvert. I won’t judge.

I hope you all find your Muse. Mine serves me well. It may come to you as a bag of magic powder, a unicorn, or even The Green Fairy. (She was fun, in her own way.)

I hope everyone develops a critical eye, in a positive sense. No matter what level we’re at, we can always improve. I have many lessons to learn, and a raven named Doubt to teach me. If you want to borrow him for your blog, let me know. I just have to get him back before Lorelei finds out.

In an attempt to sew this all up, I wish you all the writing time you desire. I know it’s hard to come by sometimes. I’m a weekend warrior, others go with a daily word count. Write all you want, but take time for the other things life has to offer.

Merry Christmas!

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