Tuesday, December 11, 2018

BookBub happening on December 26, instead of 25th.

For some strange reason, the people at BookBub don't want to work December 25th, so my "Featured New Release" for Deadfall Ridge is happening on December 26.

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about BookBub and it was exhausting. Not so much the BookBub itself but all the things they do tangentally. They started throwing around jargon about different methods and I didn't have a clue.

The amount of work and thought these authors put into promotion is mind-numbing. I mean, I get it. I don't think writing is enough. You have to play the game or you won't score.

Fine. I mean, I'm willing when the opportunities arise. But it sort of reminds me of how I've had to handle certain product lines in my store over the years: either you're all in, or you may as well get out. The moment you start slacking or backing away, the whole thing falls apart.

Some projects require complete immersion.

What's weird about writing--and probably most of the arts--is that you have to be totally immersed in the art, and at the same time, totally immersed in the promotion of that art.

There are not the same thing. They are two different worlds.

As I mentioned yesterday, it's really the equivalent of taking on a full time job. Not even counting the writing.

I keep having these unexpected advances in my career. That is, I do put myself forward when I see a chance, but I'm not thinking about it all the time. Who knows, maybe as I learn more, I'll do more.

The other thing happening is that many of the promotional  techniques that have worked in the past no longer work. It's changing all the time, as new players get in and old players change the rules. If something works and everyone does it, then it no longer works. And so on.

Like I said, it requires complete immersion and constant monitoring to keep track.

My timing was a little off. If I'd jumped in the pool about three years sooner, it probably would have been a bit easier. Or, as another author mentioned, if you weren't established by 2000 you have a much higher hill to climb.

I swore I wouldn't get hung up on this stuff. I mean, the writing is the thing. As always, I want my publisher to do well, I want them to make their money back.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

What I want, when I want.

It's funny. Here I am, probably about to sell the most books I've ever sold, and I'm not currently writing. I'm reassessing my writing "career." (I had a book promotion a few years back for Led to the Slaughter, and it got several hundred downloads in a few days, but that one was free.) I hope Book Bub comes through for Crossroad more than anything.

But it got me thinking about what a "career" means. Thing is, I came back to writing to prove to myself, if no one else, that I could do it. Finish a book and put it out in the world. The secondary goal was to write a "good" book. The actual sales and reviews were more or less a third goal.

So the writing took off enough that I needed to fulfill some commitments. I needed to finish the Vampire Evolution Trilogy. I need to finish the Tuskers Sage. I wanted to keep the Virginia Reed Adventures going.

Even that felt a little bit like an imposition. I mean, I loved all those books and I enjoyed writing them, but it was still done with a bit of the "need to be done" about it.

So from the start, I've told myself to write "what I want, when I want." And that has been very freeing. Strictly speaking, I haven't been that concerned about strategy and or tactical placement. For instance, choosing better selling genres or settling in on one lone series, both of which are proven techniques of growing an audience.

I did start writing thrillers because the mainstream publisher I was dealing with didn't want to do SF, Fantasy, or Horror. But that was OK because I wanted to try that anyway. Thrillers are mostly what I read these days.

The mainstream publisher bought a thriller from me, as a ghost written book. This was definitely strategic in that I thought there was an implied promise that they would accept another book from me under my own name. Two thrillers later and no response--Not a rejection, but No Response--I gave up on that idea. (Meanwhile the ghostwritten thriller I wrote three years ago, which was extremely topical when I wrote it, has now become almost dated. I am flabbergasted by the lost opportunity...)

So that road was one I never really contemplated. I was invited in. The editor got in touch with me and asked. So what the hell--I thought thought something might happen, but I was fully aware it might not. My previous experience with New York publishers back in the 80s had been disillusioning. I'm not surprised the same thing has happened.

But that's what drew me back to writing. The wonderful opportunity to ignore the big guys and still find an audience, no matter how small.

So my goal was relatively modest.

And that has brought me to a realization. A full-blown "career" in writing means being fully engaged. Not in writing--I'm perfectly fine with that--but with everything else involved. I mean, if I can write "what I want, when I want" and it takes off and I'm allowed to keep doing "what I want, when I want," it, that would be a fine career.

But I don't think it works that way.

So here I go back to my real career as a small bookshop owner. I made this choice 35 years ago and fully committed to it--at first just trying to survive and pay off the loans, and then to make it work, and before I know it, I had a "career." Somewhat accidental, but I had put the work in. I'd done all the things I needed to do, whether they were things I wanted to do or not. I made the choice--and did the necessary things.

Over the years, I've often had people say to me--"Oh, I've thought of doing that as a sideline." Whether it be a game store, or a comic store, or a bookstore, or Magic, beanie babies, whatever.

And my ready answer was: "Do you believe that I could do your job as a sideline and make a go of it. Not put in the amount of work and effort and stress that you do?" And the answer, obviously, is probably not. Those kinds of jobs--that ones that don't actually lose money--require full-time commitment. (Another little saying I have: "If you aren't trying to make money, you are going to lose money.)

I've been in this game long enough now to observe full-time writers and their careers, and I can see how much work, effort, and stress they are putting into it. Lots of interaction with their fans, online and in person, lots of tactical decisions, lots of promotions, lots of planning and working.

And this doesn't even count the actual writing!

Well, that makes sense, the same way the commitment I made to Pegasus Books--and still so--makes sense.

So the truth is, if I was presented with the opportunity of a "career" and all that demands, I'd have to take a step back and go, "Whoa..."

The answer is yes---but only if I can keep doing "what I want, when I want." I mean, hey, maybe that will work. There are probably a few writers out there that get away with that. But taking it on with the kind of energy I gave to Pegasus Books? That probably isn't going to happen.

I guess I'm hoping that I can keep on doing "what I want, when I want," and have it all work out. But I know that would probably be a miracle.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The only trick I've learned about bad habits is to give myself a break.

It's almost impossible to change in the moment. But if you break away, think about it for an extended time, figure out what and how you want to change, then fix a future date and prepare for it, that seems to work.


I remember way back when I was trying to quit smoking. I read something about sometimes it's better not to keep failing. So I quit trying to quit, but thought about it, figured out all the mistakes I'd made, then pinpointed a date to make a "real" effort.

I've gone through different approaches to employees over the years, and I've been pretty terrible about it sometimes. So during those times when it all fell apart and I couldn't afford employees, I had a chance to think about what I'd done wrong and to try and correct it. Each time, I've gotten a little bit better.

When I quit writing in 1984 I had so many bad pernicious habits that it was overwhelming. Over the next 25 years I thought about it, tried to figure out how to fix them. Frankly, if I'd come back to writing too soon I probably would have got it wrong.

When I finally did dive in, I had winnowed it down to one rock solid rule: Finish the book before engaging in re-writing.

Once I started writing, I found a freedom to write more often than I'd ever contemplated before. I wrote what and when I wanted, and gave myself permission to "do it all."

So now I think I've reached a point of diminishing returns. I want to take another step upward, but I'm not sure how to do that. So it is probably time to give myself another break, even if it's just a few months. I have actually identified things I should do--researching, outlining, and planning, rewriting--but "in the moment" I haven't been able to install these new habits effectively. 

I've written a lot of words over the last six or seven years. Each book has been different. It's often been a case of three steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes the improvements are hard to identify, and sometimes a book just doesn't work. I'm not sure this can ever be fixed.

But I can identify my strengths and weaknesses, refine the process, and try a fresh start. It's a little messy. I have unfinished projects I want to finish. I'm in the middle of a book (See above #1 rule.) But I'm kind of working toward one of those breaks, giving myself time to absorb it all, and come back with a sharper focus.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

Dorothy Parker

I don't actually completely agree with this. I like writing, but I do love "Having Written."

Linda is on book four of my Tuskers series. She turned to me and said, "I'm glad Paco is alive. I thought he was dead."

That got me to thinking about the complexity of this world I created. I'm amazed. It's a weird feeling of "I Did That!"

So I don't know if this is egotistical of me, but I'm impressed by what I've done. I mean, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, or what kind of reviews I get, or how many I sell--I'm amazed that they came out as well as they did.

What I'm saying is--these books are better than I thought I could do. I had a jaundiced view of my abilities. I still do. I still think I could do so much better. I read other writers and think, "I could never do that."

But I measure this view of my writing with what is actually out there and I think, "Well, that turned out better than I expected."

It's more a matter of "I finished this Marathon at a faster pace than I expected," than "I won the Marathon!"'

I reached my goal and exceeded it.

When I wrote my first three books, I could never read them without seeing all the flaws. Now I read one of my books and think, "Hey, not bad." I see small things I would change, but mostly I think they came out the way I wanted.

My books being judged for the quality of "The way I wanted" is different than being judged for a book that isn't "The way I wanted," if that makes sense. 

I'm at a point where I've written so much, I'm starting to rest on my laurels, which is probably a dangerous place.

But it does spur me to try to think more about the next book, what I can do to improve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A couple of days of not writing.  I got all excited about the Bookbub thing. (Buy Deadfall Ridge on preorder for 2.99--it all counts on the day it is released, Dec. 18...)

I've decided these breaks actually serve a purpose--my subconscious is saying, "Wait a minute..."

So today, as I picked up my computer, I realized that I need to figure out some things. I'm 10K words in, and I like the characters and scenario, but this morning I realized it was missing a few things.

1.) I need a Big Bad--someone who is behind the Strike and the berserk robots.

2.) There needs to be an urgent reason for Ruby to get Antony to Kunlun Mountain. Some kind of time limit.

3.) She needs to be chased. The Bad Guys know who she is and what she's got.

So I need to ponder those three things. I'm not going back and rewriting what I've written. I'm proceeding as if those things were there from the beginning.

Later: Figured out that the start of the book could come with a messenger telling them these exact same things--followed by an attack. After that Ruby is on the run.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Snagged a Bookbub.

So it appears that "Deadfall Ridge" will be a "Featured New Release" from Bookbub on Christmas Day. It will be under the "Action and Adventure" category, and this is a pretty big thing.

So what's Bookbub?

It's the premier book promotion site.

So I probably should explain a few things. The "Featured New Release" is a newer thing for Bookbub, been around about six months. It's a "Featured" thing, that is it must go through a submission process and is curated. But it is not the famous "Featured Deal," which Bookbub is most known for.

This is more about being "New" than being a "Deal," though Crossroad Press has lowered the price to $2.99. 

The Daily "Deals" go out to millions of readers. Authors submit established books at lower prices, usually free or .99.

In return "Featured" books usually get tens of thousands of downloads. Bookbub charges a significant amount for it--based on the genre--but from all accounts, even though the book is often free or very low priced, the author more than evens out from extra sales.

The real problem is that is almost impossible to get accepted by the "Deal." Less than 5% are accepted, or something like that, which may not sound that impossible--but remember, included in that 5% is every author you've ever heard of.

My understanding was that it was easier to hook up with Bookbub if you were a new author five or six years ago. But with their success has come the major authors.

Bookbub has recently started the "Featured New Release," which is similar to the Deal except that it refers to new books, and isn't required to be discounted.

It is still very hard to get into: only about 20% are accepted, according to their own website. Its costs are similar to the Deal, but because heavy discounting isn't required, it probably doesn't need the tens of thousands of downloads to break even.

So this is validation of a sorts. I think "Deadfall Ridge" is a good book, and it's nice to see it accepted by some tough gatekeepers. I'm also proud that Crossroad Press has enough faith in my writing to take the risk.

Christmas Day is interesting. Not sure how that will work out. But no matter what, I'm proud that this is happening.

"Deadfall Ridge" is already available for pre-order on Amazon, and the paperback is already published (I'll have it in my store in the next few days...)

The preorder is now only 2.99 and the preorder determines the all important rank of the book on day one.


Friday, November 30, 2018

I guess I need to just treat this as a diary, which was my original intent. Not much of marketing tool, that's for sure.

Wrote another chapter of "Ruby Red and the Robot." This is a purposely light book, pretty much a young adult novel.

I've arrived at a very simple, straight-forward style. I think there is nothing wrong with this--in my rewrites I often want to add more, but I'm wondering if that is necessary. Clear up some of the continuity problems but leave the writing mostly alone.

Or maybe I'm just lazy. I do know I enjoy the inventing, the telling myself a story.

I'm not feeling any urgency, and I think the seriousness of purpose I had those few few years probably propelled my writing. Now...I'm just enjoying it, dabbling in it to some extent, so the pace has really slowed down.

I have books lined up for publication, so it's not like it's a problem.