Every year, I try to do an assessment of the year that was. I follow this up with something I call a business plan for the new year. This is my assessment of 2017.
I always have a few goals, and 17 was no exception. I wanted to release The Enhanced League, and The Yak Guy Project. I’m going to declare victory, but it rings kind of hollow.
I released The Enhanced League around the time of Major League Baseball’s Allstar Break. It was a little bit off from the Opening Day release I had planned. Honestly, it sold like crazy… for about two weeks. Then it completely died. I haven’t moved a single copy since the end of July.
Reviews of Enhanced League were all positive. I don’t like throwing a lot of money behind my 99¢ specials, because my royalty is about 34¢ per copy. I view my short form stuff as a way to drive readers to take a chance on my novels.
I knew a fictional baseball league would have a limited audience, so I was aware this could happen. I also know that baseball returns like Spring flowers, and it could have some longevity over the years. (I count down opening day like others countdown Christmas.)
The Yak Guy is a finished book and has been for several months. (Yeah, you can’t read it yet, but I’m looking for something positive about 2017.) I drug my feet here, for a lot of reasons. I waited for a couple of my favorite beta readers to have an opening, and took their advice to heart. I also wanted to submit it to a publisher. This caused me to hem & haw and drag my feet. Yeah, I’m a procrastinator.
I waited for openings with these readers, because I lost my critique group. We held on for years, then everyone kind of drifted away. I found the process very helpful, but there is nothing I can do about it now.
Yak Guy is the story of a spoiled and lazy young man who winds up in an alternate world. He has to learn a thing or two to even survive, let alone thrive. This is the one I based upon the Fool’s Journey from the Tarot. Yak Guy meets many mentors along his journey, and astute observers might recognize them from the Tarot.
I fiddled around for a month or so, then submitted it to a publisher. All I have to do is wait around and see what happens. It’s one of those where they don’t reject you, they simply don’t respond at all. I sent a nice cover letter and a synopsis. About two days after I sent it away, I realized they wanted the synopsis in the body of the email. Mine is an attachment, so it’s probably an automatic rejection. How do you do a cover letter if that isn’t the body of the email?
Aside from that Quantum Wanderlust is the the only other thing I had cooking. This involves one short story, Swift Wings, that is part of a larger anthology. I even did a small bit of promotion and commissioned some Lisa Burton artwork to help things along. It seems to be holding its own, but reviews have been hard to come by. There are some fabulous authors in this collection, so you might want to check it out.
That’s my entire 2017 publishing file. One actual book, and one short story.
My blog stats are stagnant. I have almost exactly the same number of views as I did in 2016. In past years, my stats grew exponentially every year. This concerns me, because this blog is the heart of my presence online. There were referrals from all of the popular social media sites, so that’s good. The biggest referrer was Flipboard. Flipboard is kind of strange, because one post can go crazy there, the others can be completely ignored. Facebook and Twitter are more stable.
The majority of clicks on my site were on media. I checked it out and they are all Lisa Burton art. I wish they were my books, but I can handle this. It has to do with that tiny bit of subconscious recognition. Ya’ll come back, there will be more art and you might decide to read something too.
Lisa Burton Radio grew by leaps and bounds. I was nearly able to post every week. The only gaps were ones I caused, and I can live with that. Children’s books appeared for the first time, and overall they were really popular posts.
There are some things I do here on a sporadic basis. The Idea Mill posts and my October event called Macabre Macaroni. These continue to be popular, but not overwhelmingly so. A lot of authors visit here, but not all of them are speculative fiction authors. To them, the Idea Mill might be amusing, but it doesn’t exactly relate to what they write. I’m going to keep doing these, because I enjoy them. I think I’m allowed a bit of fun on occasion.
The Macabre Macaroni that got the best response was the one about the comatose lady who imagined life with the daughter she lost. I never know which one is going to be the favorite from short story to short story.
I’ve been around long enough that my old posts are getting regular action now. This is a good thing. They aren’t all gems, but it’s nice when a few of them have longevity. I like to think I have a chance of gaining followers when they search for something and find me.
Story Empire is a group blog I helped create. This site is growing like crazy, and I’m honored to be part of it. It started smaller, so it’s easier to gain growth. (It’s easy to get 100% growth when you have one follower; that theory.) It’s doing very well. We did a group promotion we called the Bookmobile, and it was a rousing success for me. All we did was post on each others’ sites, but I moved more copies during this event than any other time of the year. Unfortunately, it was the only group promo we did. I hope we can cobble something together again in 2018. (Hint, if the rest of you stop by.)
On the writing front, it wasn’t great. Flat blog stats, only one book release and it was short lived, and one anthology story. The anthology is still selling, so there’s that.
On the personal front, 2017 pretty much sucked. Part of this was the 2016 political landscape. It felt more like the line from Ghostbusters than anything else. “Choose the form of the destroyer.” Nice to have a choice, but a destroyer none-the-less.
We thought we were doing a good thing by adopting two bulldog puppies instead of one. We wanted to save a tiny baby from a cargo flight to Florida. With their short faces and breathing issues, it was a coin toss as to whether she would be alive at the other end. We brought home Frankie and Nyx. Nyx died in my arms on the Fourth of July. She got heat stroke in a shady back yard with access to plenty of water. My son swears she was only outside for about fifteen minutes. I guess she would have been better off trying to go to Florida. There isn’t a day that passes without my thinking of her.
Shortly after that, their older brother Otto hurt his back. He literally crawled around using his front legs and dragging his hind legs for over a month. He woke up in the middle of the night screaming on more than one occasion. Fortunately, many dollars and drugs later he is back to his active old self.
I feel for him more than you know. I did something to my own back in early December, and missed a week of work. There were times when I needed help to get out of bed or to lift the toilet seat. I had my own drugs to help things along, and am still not perfect. I missed an occasional work day even after the first week.
Somewhere along the way, we lost half of our annual income. My goal was to pay off as much as we could before this happened, but it landed about four months early. We’ll be okay, but it is a life changing set of circumstances. On the bright side, we had that income when Otto was in pain. I shudder to think of the choice I might have been forced to make had the resource dried up back then.
I wound up getting some kind of flu on a working trip during the summer. On a positive note, it led to Marissa Bergen to write a song called Vending Machine Imodium. Marissa completely made it worthwhile.
So overall, 2017 didn’t have much to recommend it. I’m going to take it for a walk in the desert. Just look at the flowers, 2017. What? This revolver is for protection from coyotes.
My 2018 business plan will post shortly after the new year arrives, and it’s going to be a lot more positive. I try to assess the year honestly, but my outlook is unfazed.
Let’s talk about blogging
I admit to not being the best blog friend lately. In my defense, I've been kind of busy. One of the things I did was to create a list in WordPress. I follow over a thousand blogs, but those who interact went in that list. When I'm pressed for time, I limit myself to that list.
Blogging seems to have slowed down from my point of view. I've been at this since the Fall of 2013, and I suppose that makes me an old timer. People come and go, and I've gotten used to that. I had many friends who simply disappeared for various reasons. It seemed like new bloggers came along, but lately that isn't the case.
Maybe I should clarify a bit. New ones are out there, but they seem to be different. This is reflected in the stats: My views are up, but my likes and comments are down. I miss the interaction.
I've discovered a few new blogs over the past year. I tried courting them, but I get nothing back in return. Maybe you know this game. You comment on an interesting post or two. Maybe you get a “thanks,” or a comment like. They never visit my blog.
This doesn't make the person's blog any less interesting, but interaction is important to me. If I get interaction, I'm likely to keep up and leave comments. If it's a one way street, I don't have time for that.
I find it odd that the likes have gone down on my blog, but the views are way up. I had a couple of posts this year that did phenomenally well, but they never made it onto my top ten posts.
For the top ten, I use a WordPress widget. I had it set to track likes as the criteria. The post about Spying With Lana had thousands of views, but didn't get the 45 likes to make my top ten. This is odd, because the percentage of likes to views has changed.
My post about writing a short story went crazy thanks to Flipboard. Again, thousands of views. Never gained enough likes to make the list. There were more commenters than likes.
Recently, I changed the widget to track views instead. This screwed everything up to be honest. The post about my PSA and prostate warning should still be in the top ten. My “about me” page should too. Spying With Lana should show up too, but doesn't. This setting seems to only track the last week of posts for some reason. It said it takes about two days to fully adjust, so I'll monitor the situation.
I still get a few people who like every post, but never comment. I always assume they like it from the WordPress Reader, but don't actually read the posts. I know everyone gets a few of these, and don't give it a second thought.
The fact is that I've noticed a change in blogging. This is data, and it probably means something. What can I do with the data to move my writing career ahead?
I love blogging, and the friends I've made here. I have no intention of giving it up. My readers come for various reasons, but I have a small loyal crowd.
Is it time for me to look for an additional platform? It isn't just the followers and friends. This is an author site, and I want to build interest in my books. Is there something extra I should be doing?
I've had private conversations with some fellow authors, and the consensus is that fewer bloggers are willing to help these days. This is a limited group, but it concerns me. Authors need hosts for cover reveals, promotions, excerpts, and more. I've always helped, and intend to keep helping, but again… This is data, and it means something, even if I don't know what.
When I asked for beta readers for The Playground, I had two people take me up on it. This is in stark contrast to The Experimental Notebook where I started turning people away after seven volunteers.
I will always need beta readers, but if I have to start paying for them, I might stop publishing altogether. My writing journey has never been about the money, but I need to break even. I still get the journey of self improvement without the worry of promotion.
I admit these are limited observations. Maybe a bigger view would produce different data. So I have a few questions for you as bloggers and as authors.
My views are exponentially higher than 2015. This is great! My likes and comments are down, and that's odd. What does this mean? Are people just stopping by to collect new Lisa Burton art? They're welcome to it, of course, (I use them for iPad and iPhone backgrounds too) but a comment or two goes a long way.
Could it be that I'm reaching more people beyond WordPress, and it isn't simple for them to like or comment? If so, that's great. I've run into that problem myself, and understand.
Are fellow authors having a harder time getting help with promotions, hosts, and pushes?
Have I missed the newest form of social media somewhere, and need to jump on the bandwagon?
Do you prefer interaction, or would you rather have people read and move on?
Has anyone else courted an interesting blogger, but the relationship never happened? Maybe I'm strange that way.
In any case, I'm on vacation for a few days, and hope to get some writing done. Today was all about errands, and those are out of the way. I'll probably post a little more frequently this weekend, and I'll try to catch up on some blog reading. I promise to like the posts I read.
Filed under Blogging
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