Tag Archives: publishing

Back on the editing effort

I spent several hours this morning going over a chapter of one book before switching to another. I wound up with one chapter that required some serious rewording here and there. I’ll need to give this process another good shift, but I’m making some real progress.

The best sign involves Lizzie and the hat. These are short novels by design. I feel like their brand of humor works best in small doses. I completely finished this pass on their story. That leaves me to bounce back and forth between the other two books.

I still have additional passes I want to make, but this version is the hardest one and I’ll be happy to get it finished.

I really need to be thinking about cover art, but we’re constantly broke in this era. I’ll have to earmark funds to get that done. I’d like to publish “Once Upon a Time in the Swamp” sometime before summer. There have been a ton of releases lately and I know of more coming soon. Just have to jump in when I’m ready and let the fates decide.

I want to keep sharing some of my Pinterest boards with you. These are great references for me when looking for something for specific stories. This board is mostly just a bit of whimsy. I shared one of the big ones last time.

While there was a wagon like this waaaaay back in my book, Panama, I haven’t written anything like it since. This board makes me want to take a slow vacation somewhere, and maybe drag Stevie Nicks along for the ride. https://pin.it/1xzBVZw

Maybe you’ll find something to inspire one of your stories.

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My 2023 Business Plan

Now that all the resolutions posts have come and gone, it’s time to share my business plan.

This is one of those posts that always seems to draw attention and good comments. I write one of these out every year and share it. Keeps me focused.

2021 and 2022 were brutal. This caused me to set realistic goals last year, and the theme will continue into 2023.

Everything needs an edit, but I have book one of a Space Opera finished. There is another Lizzie and the hat book in the same status. I’m very close to finishing Once Upon a Time in the Swamp, a stand-alone title.

Setting the bar at two publications seems realistic enough. One Hat story and the solo title should work out well. There is still one draft to finish and a lot of editing, but it sounds entirely possible. I could have a third one, but that will be gravy above and beyond the goal.

Most of my focus is going to be on drafts. I have another fun Hat tale ready to go. I have years of material for that series. I need to write the second volume of the space opera and that’s really my target project.

Aside from that, I want to work on some storyboards for new things. I tend to plot years ahead, but admit to not always making a storyboard for the hat stories. I dwell on some of this stuff so long I don’t always have to map it out.

With these new tales, I’d feel more comfortable with a good storyboard. One of the things I’ve done with The Hat Series is keep the POV with my main characters who are not witches. We get glimpses that can make readers think, but not a deep dive into my witchcraft world. One of my new ideas is tentatively called Dash Goodman and the Last of the Mud Men. Dash would be the main character and readers would get a closer look at the magical world. Don’t get too excited, because this might be two years, or more, out.

I already know what kind of airplane Dash will steal, who his sidekick/girlfriend will be, and even a familiar that he’s going to summon. I can introduce some Native American culture into this one. This one requires some mystery boxes and ties that I haven’t quite gotten nailed down. It will cover several things that I’ve alluded to in the main series, but haven’t gone into detail.

I have another one that ties much more loosely to the Hat world about two kids in Detroit. My idea is to get a bit of Indiana Jones style while exploring abandoned homes and businesses. Ultimately, one of the items they recover would lead one of them to become a magical adapter. In the main series we’ve touched upon a tiny bit of that. My bigger intent would be to have a fun adventure story. I’ve already discovered the Maguffin from a bit of American history. Less committed to this one, but it has potential.

I had a new character come to me almost fully formed and I want to explore what she might have to offer. She feels like she’s reaching her expiration date, has an upper teenage son, and a dead end job. She’s a reporter who is only allowed to do fluff pieces and gossip articles. She wants to do more, but her whole organization avoids hard news because people want fluff, character assassination, and gossip. Somehow, this one feels like uncovering proof that aliens visited Earth at some point. Not completely sure about her, but she’s a fun character with some interesting quirks. I kind of want her to look up a discredited former reporter to learn the ropes, but he was revealed as a workplace womanizer and has a really bad attitude. I already have a bittersweet ending for it that works for this era.

Main Goals:

1.) Publish Goodbye Old Paint and Once Upon a Time in the Swamp.

2.) Draft the second book of the space opera and another hat tale. (Probably the one with the Headless Horseman and the horse racing world.)

Gravy Goals:

A.) Draft another story. Maybe the Red Pill/Blue Pill tale for Lizzie and the hat unless the Space Opera takes on some momentum in my mind.

B.) Storyboard my guts out on these other tales.

C.) Consider if my African Adventure tale could be valid.

It may look like a lot, but there are only two main goals. (Okay, each of those has two commitments.) I think that much is realistic, and anything else that happens is gravy.

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Crisis of Confidence

I never got to write at all last weekend. We never had a drop of rain from May to October, and when we finally did, the skylights decided to leak.

This led to getting on a contractor’s list, and waiting our turn. The house is over twenty years old, so we decided to replace the roof and skylights rather than make repairs. It was time.

They started last Friday and had about six guys on the job. Two elected to work Saturday, but didn’t finish. It snowed Sunday, and that killed Monday. I had to take Tuesday off, because they needed inside. Somehow they’d lost one of the roof vents. I get it, they removed the part, slung the underlayment and lost track of it. That all got sorted out and the job was finished on Wednesday.

It snowed again Thursday, so I’m grateful, and the roof looks awesome.

I managed to add somewhere around a thousand words to my WIP, but my mind has other things going on.

I tried to fill this with a bit of storyboarding. I have one idea that’s going to require magic and artifacts and putting them in the right order to make a discovery. A storyboard is needed. My brain is still focused elsewhere.

I’m going to write about it here. Maybe it will get some of these thoughts out of my head. Maybe it will help me reach some conclusions.

I typically do a yearly wrap up post, followed by a new year business plan. It’s time to be thinking about this, but my thoughts aren’t good.

Both of my 2022 publications performed dismally. Reviews seem to be down, too, and I’m trying to draw some conclusions. Add a few of what I call drive-by one-star ratings, and I may never sell another copy again. You know the types, they never bought the book, never read it, but drop a one-star rating, because it amuses them. Amazon is so picky about reviews, and heaven help you if a family member gives you one, but some random stranger who never read the story gets to destroy your rating and they leave that up.

It’s hard to draw conclusions here. I was getting a majority of five-star reviews three years ago, but not now. I’ve either gotten worse at this, or I’ve worn out my welcome. Don’t know how else to take this.

It’s possible that people are sick of Lizzie and the hat. There are millions of choices out there, so I understand.

I listened to my first dramatic podcast recently. Something to fill the commute time with. It was pretty bad with pregnant pauses and poor dialog, but the story was so compelling I’m going to listen to season two next. Tells me that small foibles aren’t enough to put someone off. There’s also a book, but I wasn’t going to pay $16 for an ebook. Price does matter at some arbitrary point.

Giving up isn’t an option for me. I love writing and will always do it. Publishing, on the other hand could be on the chopping block. I already feel like most of my readers are there because of me and not any deep interest in the story or my creativity. My readers mean a lot to me.

I also need to assess my membership at Story Empire. I’m the guy who watches the stats and most of my posts perform well. I struggle to come up with fresh content over there, and now I’m wondering why anyone would pay attention to a guy who can’t get his own books out of the cellar.

I’ve known many an old timer who makes beautiful things, but really doesn’t have a place for them. Old men still whittle, and grannies keep knitting afghans, even though they’ll never wind up at Christie’s Auction house or in the Louvre.

Going wide, and trying to make everything free has limited merit. Amazon is still where all the action is, and Kindle Unlimited is only available if the work is exclusive, so I’m torn on this.

Blog tours used to be my bread and butter, but those failed, too. I know why, and it’s hard to change. It’s complicated. I sold more books by announcing the publication here, than I sold on the subsequent tours. Maybe I’ll blog about new publications, then forget about them. Birds and turtles leave the nest and are on their own. More turtles hatch in a year than I can publish books, though.

The financial difference between selling 500 copies and 5 copies is negligible. Neither situation is going to pay for a week of groceries.

If I stop doing a lot of promo, I don’t really need Lisa Burton anymore. I love commissioning her art, but it was all for promo purposes. That offers some savings, and it matters. She’d probably look good in post apocalyptic armor, or floating around at zero-G with Percy the space chimp, but to what end?

We’re in a phase of getting everything ready to start living on a fixed income. There are a few years left, but that promo money could be directed to paying things off, and doing deferred maintenance on our house.

I need to figure out what I’m going to do moving forward. While it would be nice for my year end posts, that’s not an absolute requirement either.

I’ve been sharing Pinterest boards and people seem to be enjoying them. This one is about promotion, but it’s not my promotion. I call this one Friend’s Books. Check it out https://pin.it/QrAhbO1

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Something stupid, but I fixed it

I’ve been a little disappointed in the performance of Wreck of the Lanternfish. There were a lot of people who loved the first book and encouraged me to turn it into a series. Book two did fine, and Serang picked up a lot of fans of her solo story. Why didn’t the final volume draw those same readers?

I mentioned both here and at Story Empire that most of my action has been via pages-read on Kindle Unlimited. Sales are kind of rare these days, but readers love being able to read for free.

I don’t check Amazon stats all that often, but I cruised through the other day. A friend said he was enjoying The Hat, and I thought I might find a review eventually. That’s when I noticed my error. Wreck of the Lanternfish was not available via Kindle Unlimited.

I don’t have any idea why not, I always try to set my books up there. Admittedly, some of the older ones aren’t, but Lanternfish absolutely should be. It is now. If you’ve passed this one up because of this, never fear.

Look at the sidebar.

Click on that cover and enjoy a bit of piracy. I have no idea how this happened, maybe the root monsters were “helping” me that day.

In other news, I got a manuscript back from my formatter. If I can glean it this weekend, I could publish at any time. I’ll take some time to write promotional posts, and I have to consider three new Lisa Burton posters that should be shared somewhere.

Here’s a little hint as to what might be coming…

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A busy day today

I just finished my interview on Voice of Indie. I had a great time, got to talk about my process and published work. We even talked about the two I recently finished that are coming soon. The show is over, but will be available in the archives at this link https://www.blogtalkradio.com/voiceofindie1/2021/07/22/voice-of-indie-episode-051

I set up two freebies to announce on the show. They promoted this in their newsletter, and the results were phenomenal. Check out these images.

Grinders peaked at #3 in its category. It’s still free for another 24 hours, so if you would like a copy take advantage of this promo. http://mybook.to/Grinders

Serang peaked at #2. Same rules apply. Free for one more day. http://mybook.to/Serang

Old What’s Her Face and I went to Zoo Boise this morning. I wanted to do this as soon as they announced their new Stellar’s Sea Eagles. This is because I designed the Omcrom from HMS Lanternfish from them. Covid took care of that for me, but today I visited them after the fact.

Sea Eagle

These guys are huge. They were a bit snotty and stayed where I couldn’t really see them until their misters turned on. This guy hopped right down to enjoy his shower and gave me this image. They are bigger than our bald eagles or even the golden eagles around here. Very impressive.

Lisa with the Omcrom

I also saw several varieties of hornbill. Their cages aren’t the best for photography, but I took some anyway. I used these guys to design the anvil bird from Lanternfish. I added the ability to speak and a bit more color, but this is the root creature.

Lisa with the anvil bird

We saw all kinds of things, but they were as hit by the heat as we were. Most were shaded up and sleeping. The red pandas were out, but we mostly saw a bushy tail hanging from their nest.

I got to see the gibbons which also excited me.

The blond one hung out on the ground and took advantage of the shade. This one was accommodating. I have something in mind for a gibbon in a future story.

It involves a comic book character called Special Agent Golden Gibbon. In my story, a couple of my characters are impressed with this fictional character in their world. One will be inspired to take some risky actions based upon what Golden Gibbon would have done.

This is me being weird again. My fictional story has a fictional creation inside it. I might even write some outtakes from the comic into the story once I start drafting it. How many layers of fiction is that???

We had a great time, and even picked up gyros on the way home. After all that heat, I took a short nap, then it was time for the radio show. It wound up being a great day.

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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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My Annual Assessment, 2020

Well, here we are. We all know what this year was about. Political strife, a global pandemic, and seeing humanity at its worst, with glimpses of us at our best.

With the Christmas holiday, I kind of checked out. We went to our son’s and spent time with the grandkids. Our daughter was here for Christmas dinner, and we’ve been watching movies. I enjoyed myself, despite the restrictions we all face.

This is supposed to be about my annual assessment, so I’d better get on with it. Some of you are probably expecting some doom and gloom, and nobody will blame you, but that’s not how I see my year.

It all started out with such promise. 2020 was the Year of the Rat. I was born on the Year of the Rat. My first publication came out on Chinese New Year, and it features a couple of rats and the parade in San Francisco. It seemed like the table was all set.

Grinders did okay. It has some great reviews, but could use some more. Reviews seem to be harder to come by these days. I think it’s some of my best work and would like to get it to a few more readers.

Performance and reviews are kind of going to be the subject for a few paragraphs. I had an ambitious schedule and succeeded in publishing three books. The next two were continuations of series, which is something new to me.

HMS Lanternfish is book two of a trilogy. It sets up some things that will happen in the final volume, which I’m writing currently. I don’t know what it means, but HMS Lanternfish has less than half the number of reviews than Voyage of the Lanternfish.

I know Voyage has been available for a year longer, so that makes some sense. I also know that it’s a small dataset. Hard to draw conclusions with those kind of numbers.

Rumor has it that with trilogies sometimes the sales pick up after the whole trilogy is available. Some readers have been burned by authors who never finished the job. I understand that, but am working on the concluding tale.

Then there is the Ballad of Mrs. Molony. This is the third entry into the world of Lizzie and the hat. These have all been well received, but nowhere near as popular as the original volume. This is my open ended series, and I intend to keep it going for a few more years. I’m also currently working on volume four of this series.

It’s important to remember that reviews aren’t the same thing as sales. Most books sell more than what they garner in reviews and mine are no exception.

I also took most of the summer off. Three publications per year, for two consecutive years, got kind of draining.

I wanted to post at Entertaining Stories somewhere between two and three times per week. The year started off that way, but in the last month or so I’m lucky to get one weekend post put up.

I will blame some of this on Covid. My blog includes a slice of life along with the antics of Lisa Burton, or my word metrics updates. With Covid, there hasn’t been much of a life at all, let alone a slice worth sharing with the world.

Another excuse is also blog tour fatigue. When promoting three publications, there are a lot of blog tour posts. They fatigue me, and my readers. I keep every post unique, so they’re worth reading, and that is a bit draining.

The Story Empire blog is another pet project. I kept my end of the bargain and covered all my assigned days. I write this every year, but I’m wondering how much more I have to offer over there. I love helping others, and will keep chipping away at it. There comes a point where I have to rewrite and repackage some of my content. New writers are always showing up, so it kind of works. I already have my first January post written and scheduled.

To wrap all this up, I think 2020 was successful. There was a lot to overcome, and we’re all still dealing with it. However, I published three books, interacted with many of you, and met all my goals. In a different year, I might whine a little about low success, but in 2020 I’ll take it.

Once 2021 arrives, I’ll trot out a business plan and we can all converse about that.

Talk to me. How did your business year play out?

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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, 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.

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Writing on my flex day

It may sound like work, but don’t buy into that. I write for relaxation, and I got plenty in today.

I planned on hitting it hard because I have company coming this weekend. This time, I don’t even regret losing the writing time. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house and do something else.

This morning started like every other one. I intended to sleep in, but at 5:00 my bladder reminded me that it was still present. Since the dogs are used to getting up at 4:30 they wanted breakfast. — of to the races.

Coffee and food later, and I did my social media surfing. Everything except for blogs. Those take longer, so I held them for early afternoon.

I opened a new document and started writing. A mysterious ship named the Blackwall sailed into the harbor at Tusconi searching for the owner of the largely abandoned Lanternfish.

It took me some effort to put together the gap in time for my characters and reveal bits about this period of their lives. A big part of it involved moving the pieces around to deal with Bonnie Philson, now Cuttler.

James spent an entire novel rescuing her, and I can’t just abandon her to start this yarn at sea. She also doesn’t fit the mold as a pirate, so it took some effort.

I still haven’t hit all the characters yet, and only mentioned a few of them without any page time. This is a large cast, so I can’t just shove them all in the first chapter. Character soup is something I can’t stand. Besides, in theory someone could start here without reading Voyage of the Lanternfish. They deserve to get walked in.

I ended the day at just shy of 7000 words. That’s a good day for me, and while I have hit higher marks, I haven’t done it many times.

It occurred to me that because of this book, which I am calling HMS Lanternfish, I am currently working on four different books right now.

I received my corny graphics for Viral Blues, and manipulated them into the manuscript. Since this is a sequel to The Hat, I wanted to keep the same style.

I made cover sheets for Serang and Viral Blues last weekend, plus, I have one I’m dabbling with that I haven’t even mentioned in public yet.

The main focus for 2019 has always been subsequent titles. My group convinced me to try series work, so that’s where I’m going. Lanternfish will be a trilogy eventually, with Serang as a supporting tale. Lizzie and The Hat will be an ongoing series that won’t have prerequisite stories before you can enjoy them.

Me, being me, I can’t just give up on stand alone titles. The one I’m dabbling with is a bit of science fiction. I learned I can draft more than one story at a time if they are different enough. Somewhere between Lanternfish and science fiction they ought to be different enough. The advantage is that when the well runs dry on one story, the other one lets me get new words down.

I still have to figure out blog tour posts and get all of that moving. My target is to have Viral Blues out in time for the Halloween season.

Look over yonder, in the sidebar.

If you haven’t picked up Voyage of the Lanternfish, it makes for a great summer book. There will be more coming, so those of you who want to explore more of this world can do that.

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