Tag Archives: marketing

#ROW80 Update and Sunday Mashup

My goals this week were to get the book launched, survive getting the book launched, and to not babysit my stats. We’ll call that a 2 out of 3. While I haven’t been as bad about it as I was last time–I haven’t been refreshing Amazon hourly–I need to stop. It’s already at the point where I’m dropping about 200 points every time I look and I don’t need to watch that. The launch peeked almost as soon as it started, got within about 50 points of the top 1000, but I didn’t have the customer base to get a foothold and stay there. While I made it to page two of my category bestseller list, I probably didn’t have enough ratings and reviews yet to entice browsing customers to take a closer look.

So what happens now should be a drop in rank concurrent with a trickle of sales, and then I’ll need to hope that the book bloggers who have responded to my offer of an ARC, and the fans who were excited enough to snap up the book in these first few days, will be able and willing to enthusiastically recommend it and give me a push back up to visibility again. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll have to come up with something else.

Mostly I just need to write the next book, and then the next book, and wait for my time and some more luck, though surely I’ve already had my share of that.

I don’t mean to sound bummed out here. Mostly I’m just tired. Getting back in touch with some of the fans of the series has been great. I had girls write to me who snapped up the book as soon as the links went out, read it that night, and had to drag themselves to school the next day. Hopefully learning absolutely nothing between being sleep-deprived and thoughts of Joss and Dylan. (I mean, they’ll be okay, look how I turned out.) After two weeks of crazy work toward this launch, I’ve just hit that point where it feels like it’s over already and it’s time to reflect and see what I’ve learned.

I’ve lost another 3.5lbs. Let’s all party because I just weighed in like it’s 1999.

Recommended Reading

Konrath gets lucky
So I’m on Twitter and @jakonrath tweets: “Konrath on How to Succeed: LINK.” And I’m like, Oh yeah? What’s that post going to be like? “Do the work, bitches. The End.” And it pretty much is, only much funnier. And it’s really worth reading because it ends with a sincere and important message. (via Twitter, @jakonrath, but I also subscribe)

Your writing is interfering with me reading this story
I can’t tell you how often this is a problem for me, to the point where I start to think: maybe it’s just me and I’m picky and being a bitch. But then I find this post over at KidLit.com. That’s what I’m talking about. Sometimes I just want to say, “Relax, find your own voice, stop trying to sound like your favorite book–I think it was from the 80s anyway and that’s not working anymore. I think there’s a great story here, I just need to hack away the metaphors, complex sentence constructions, and fifty-cent words to find it.” Anyway, I find this post dead-on and nicely instructive. (via @JamiGold on Twitter)

Have I ever mentioned practice = good?
I dunno how much I harp on it on the blog, but I totally believe in it. Dean Wesley Smith has an awesome article on how many writers tend to think about practice. As usual I think he totally nails it. Now he talks a lot in here about not reworking the same piece, but mailing it off or self-publishing it and then moving on to the next one. While I agree with the moving on to the next one, I’m not sure how I feel about inflicting something on the world that may be best shoved in a drawer. But hey, it’s a free world (void where prohibited). (via @dlmartin6 on Twitter)

Ticket to ride.
I’m going to try to get back on the Flylady wagon. Last year I was totally out of control with everything and it hurt my ability to get stuff done. If there’s anyone who reads my recs who feels like they can’t write (or [insert life thing]) and keep up with their home at the same time, check out the program. You don’t have to agree with everything she says, you don’t have to manage your stuff exactly the way she lays it out. But there’s a lot here worth learning. I’ve already opened up a #flylady column on TweetDeck; it would be nice to see some of my friends there. (I am a former Flybaby and know this helps.)

I’m still trying to get my head around this one.
Lastly, a post from Kristen Lamb that I found very complex in the fact that it is just chock full of an overwhelmingly large amount of helpfulness. Kristen says, again, that we need to stop being so…homogenous. Just go out and make friends with normal, non-writer people. Yeah, that’s so easy. But then she explains how to find them on Twitter. Oh, yeah, Twitter. I know Twitter. Okay…so maybe this is doable after all? Let’s go get sticky. (via subscription)

What I’m Reading

I read a lot of stuff I never talk about on the blog for one reason or another. So I thought maybe I’d start mentioning what’s at the top of my TBR pile at the moment.

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All About You on TweetDeck

I<3 Tweetdeck. I couldn’t manage on Twitter without it.

This post is going to be about how/why I use it and a specific column to add, but to get the basics out of the way, TweetDeck is a desktop application (or you can download other versions for portable stuff) that helps you manage your TwitLife. If you don’t use it and you want to get started, here’s a nice tutorial video. TweetDeck organizes the tweets in your stream into columns so you can concentrate on one thing at a time, so now that I’m going to talk about columns, you can have an idea what I’m talking about.

My favorite columns that I display where I can watch them are:

  • Favs
  • #amwriting
  • All Friends
  • Mentions
  • Susan Bischoff

Favs is a must. I auto-follow. I got to a point where it just seemed like having to read bios and go to Twitter to click follow every time someone added me was just taking up too much of my time. It’s not like I’m innundated with followers, people, but those little bits of time add up. That does mean I end up following a bunch of people I’m not actually interested in following, but with TweetDeck this is absolutely not problem.

I maintain a list of people who interact with me and whom I actually want to follow. You can do this by clicking the + (Add Column) button in the upper left and choosing Groups/Lists in the box that pops up. TweetDeck will then show you all the people you follow and you can choose the ones to add to this list. Save it when you’re done. This way, you never have to exclude someone by not following them back. (You never know when someone who tweets about their business is a reader interested in you and your writing!) And when you feel like you need to cull some followers, you can cull them from your list and not lose someone awesome because they’re just learning or they’re away for a while.

I don’t go around keeping track of who follows me and who doesn’t, and I don’t un-follow people just because they don’t follow me, BUT it does really irritate me when I go to send a DM to help out someone I’ve talked to several times and feel friendly with, only to find out I can’t because they don’t follow me. WTF? But it’s probably just a result of a limited follow policy they’ve made to keep things under control. But possibly possibly alienating people in this way doesn’t need to happen and I think lists are a better way to go.

I edit this column regularly, whenever I need to add someone new because I feel like we made a connection and I need to watch for their tweets. Once the column is on your screen, hovering around the top of it will make an edit button appear.

#amwriting is good example of a hashtag conversation. Trying to follow one of these can have its annoying moments because not everyone thinks of hashtags in this way and will drop a lot of junk into the conversation. Adding a column and putting #amwriting or another hashtag into the search box causes a new column to pop up that will be updated anytime someone uses the hashtag. TweetDeck is awesome for this. I’ve found a lot of interesting links via #amwriting, and I like to send out the occasional random tweet to a writer I don’t know who needs encouragement or deserves a pat on the back.

All Friends is where I have all those tweets scrolling by from everyone, so fast that I would certainly miss everything if this was all I had to go by. I try to glance at this every once in a while to discover awesome people I’m already following so I can follow them more closely on my Favs list.

Mentions is pretty obvious, but that’s a column that updates when a tweet contains @susan_bischoff. It’s important to keep track of when people are speaking to you directly or going out of their way to mention you in a way they know you’ll see. That’s why this is one of the columns TweetDeck makes for you automatically.

Susan Bischoff is the one I really planned to talk about today. Sometimes people just talk about me. Either they don’t want to point out to me that they’re talking about me by using @, or maybe they don’t even know I’m on Twitter. In this column I find things like “I just read Hush Money by Susan Bischoff and it was awesome!” or when people link to my blog, it pops up in this column, I guess because my name gets embedded in the link somehow? I don’t know, but it happens. When people use Goodreads’ auto-tweet feature, I get links to reviews or reading updates.

Links to my books for sale on some sites pop up in this column too, and that’s why this column has been on my mind as an important thing to talk about. Because the two times I’ve found someone selling my book illegally, it’s been via this column. It’s not like they’re going to tweet, “Hey, I’m selling @susan_bischoff’s book, come check it out!” But they do use my name to sell my book, so I sometimes see it on TweetDeck before I get it from Google Alerts.

I know a lot of this is will be old-hat for a lot of you, but I hope it’s useful for someone.

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Writing to a Niche

So again this morning I find myself clicking from an Etsy newsletter to an article, and in that article finding so much that seems to pertain to us indie authors. I should probably have some kind of Etsyish Publishing category or tag on the blog.

Anyway, 4 Ways to Make Your Products More Niche on the Crafting an MBA blog is a great article for indie authors to read because it carries some of those same messages we read all the time: you can’t be all things to all readers, write the book you want to write and you’ll find the readers like you who have been waiting for just that… So click on that title and give it a read-through. Will just take a couple minutes, and as you read, think of parallels to what you’re trying to do as an indie author.

My early designs were average and unimaginative.

How are we going to stand out and get found? That’s a big thing with us, and it’s part of the reason I continue to click on these Etsy articles, because I know from

Everyday jeans and tees for an everyday doll earned me low wages and only a few very kind fans.

experience that it’s a big thing there too. When I started on Etsy, I really had no direction, except that I was going to make doll clothes, starting with Barbie. I knew they would be better quality than most of what was out there–because that’s part of what handmade is–and that they would fit well, but in terms of design I was very much average in my thinking.

My Blythe doll

When a friend pointed me at Blythe, showed me the doll’s increasing popularity, the higher price points for the indie clothing that was coming into the market, and finally sent me a doll to get me started, she was sending me into a niche. After all, I’d wager that most domiciles in this country have

I moved into the Blythe niche, but my designs were still nothing to get excited about.

seen at least one Barbie doll within their walls at one time or another, while most people still don’t know what a Blythe is.

My early designs for Blythe were boring, just like what I’d done for Barbie. I made more money per piece, because of the niche. A dress for Barbie could get $3. A similar dress for Blythe could get $10, and was more likely to sell (eventually). This was due to the increasing popularity of the doll (or genre, if you will), the demographic (adult collectors vs. children), and the lack of Blythe-sized clothing on the market.

So already I’m hoping that you’re seeing similarities. When you’re selling just another epic fantasy or just another apocalyptic thriller, it may be hard for you to get found. And this is true even if you move into a hot, trendy niche, as I did with Blythe or you might do with vampire romance.

Since Blythe was a growing trend, my friend wasn’t the only one who noticed the premium prices people were paying for her clothing. Soon, more and more Blythe-centric clothing shops opened up on Etsy. And this is very much like with indie publishing: anyone can try to do it. So we saw people who knew how to sew (write) who had been sewing completely different items like baby quilts and children’s clothing (writing in a completely different genre), buy dolls and start turning out Blythe clothes. We also saw Blythe enthusiasts who were just learning to sew opening up shops and trying to sell work that just wasn’t ready for a pricetag (and we’ve all seen those indie writers too).

All those listings flooded the Blythe market on Etsy. Literally thousands of items tagged Blythe or coming up in a search. Even if you were doing quality work,  putting out nice items at a reasonable price, how were you going to get seen in the deluge?

I was enjoying creating for Blythe, but I wasn’t making any real money at it. It was worth doing because I love to sew and play with my dolls, and even if I made $20 a month, it was $20 more than I had before. And then, and I know I’ve talked about this before, so just bear with me, I wanted to do

My first commissioned order.

something different. Something kind of crazy. I wanted to see if I could smock in miniature and make a smocked dress for Blythe. This was taking an embroidery technique that is usually done for babies and very young children on an area say 12″ x 4-6″ and reducing it to an area of about 2″ x 1″, and then crafting that finished embroidery piece into a garment that was somewhat more complicated in construction compared to most of the handmade Blythe garments being sold at that time.

I was really nervous about this. This won’t be much of a surprise to my regular readers as I seem to be nervous about every damned thing, but really, I was actually scared to put out something so different. In retrospect, I see what a ninny I was, but there’s a certain level of comfort in doing what everyone else is doing.

Overindulgence was my most expensive design ever.

Next thing you know, I had more interest in my work than I knew what to do with. My inbox was flooded with compliments and special requests. I had a waiting list of at least 20 special order clients for months, even though I was asking more than twice as much for these dresses as I did for the original smocked design.  I had started out making quality yet boring dresses for Barbie for $3, and these dresses were earning me an average of $45-$50. The most expensive dress I ever did went for

The design had 6 of these detailed floral spray embroideries

$120, and making the second one of that ridiculously detailed dress just about killed me. Let’s retire that design!

Why did this dress and all the others command such high prices, and why was there so much interest in my work? These were doll dresses for Heaven’s sake. Because I was in a popular niche, yes, but doing something that no one else was doing (people started referring to me as “the crazy smocking lady”) and doing it well because it was something that I loved.

I’ve wanted to write the Talent Chronicles because for years I’ve been loving the superheroes and having to sit back and say: That would have been awesome if they hadn’t screwed it up. The kinds of stories that I really wanted just weren’t part of the genre. Hell, the format that I wanted to work in–novels–really hasn’t been part of the genre. The book category is NOT Comic books, Graphic Novels, and Superhero Novels. There’s no place for me there. Which I’ve decided is fine. I don’t think I really belong there.

Your niche doesn’t have to be something that no one’s ever done before. I certainly didn’t create meta-humans. I want to come to be known for superhero romance, but I didn’t come up with that idea either. Superheroes have had all kinds of love stories, just mostly the kind where someone ends up dead or abandoned. And I’m certainly not the only one working on this. So you don’t have to re-invent the wheel here.

But there are tons of books out there and there are going to be more and more–because anyone can do it now. So now, more than ever before, I think we really need to think about what makes our concept different from everything else that’s out there, and we need to think about how we’re going to use that difference to market our fiction. And if you can’t come up with a difference, maybe you’ll want to take a harder look at what you’re working on. (Maybe not. Your call.)

Same sh!t, different doll. Oh no, wait, that's the same doll too.

Your story is so very special to you. Even my boring dresses and t-shirts were special to me because they were lovingly crafted and I spent a lot of time on them. But I look back at these photos and I can totally see how uninspiring they are. Part of why a lot of indies get angry with traditional publishers is because the publisher says they just can’t see how this is going to stand out and sell. And they know that it’s not enough to have a good book, you’ve got to get some people to read that thing. It’s not enough for us either. We have

My special sh!t for a special doll

to have some sense of what we can say about this book, about what makes it different and better than the sea of books already out there, in order to get people to look at it.

Maybe the hardest thing to accept about a niche is that it’s often small, and that often means small growth. It also means that we’re not always going to be able to make reasonable comparisons between our successes and those of our peers, when our peers are writing for a different audience.

I honestly think I’m writing for the same people who read Twilight (whether they loved it or not), and are still talking about Buffy. But I write vampire-free (I’m thinking of starting a tagging trend on that, btw), so I’m never going to get seen on the Vampire Romance Bestseller List on Amazon, and I’m never going to get found in vampy tag searches. I don’t even have any kind of normal demon/angel/shifter/witchy paranormal anything in my books, and how many people are out there searching “superhero romance”?

Not a lot.

Yet.

Hey, I’m just sayin’.

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Running At An Artificial Pace

At the top of the email it reads, “To: Susan”

These emails I get from Holly Lisle, I so often wish that I could find them and link you to them, because they’re so often very wise. And, of course they are. Holly’s been putting out great books and teaching writers for how long now?

Since I can’t show it to you and I can’t copy/paste it for you, I’ll give you the gist. Once upon a time, Holly decided, based on some extrapolation of daily page count and faulty thinking, that she would be able to write 12 books a year. An agent whom she queried with this plan shot her down, explaining that he wouldn’t rep anyone who wrote twelve books a year, because they would all be crap.

Now it is true that everyone writes a different pace, and I think that a lot of people can write more than the one or two books a year that NY will publish for you. Some people can write twelve good books a year, witness Amanda Hocking with 6 out of 12 in the Kindle top 100, last I checked.

And you know, that’s what I wanted to talk about. They’ve been talking a bunch around the indie blogs lately about what some are even calling the “Amanda Hocking Effect.” (Poor thing, I wonder what she thinks of all this.) I first heard this theory from Kait, and then the term itself a few days later from Zoe. The basic idea is that one of the ways to climb quickly and build a very excited, involved fan base is to keep feeding those fans new work. Amanda hasn’t let two months go by without a new release. She doesn’t have to worry about her fans forgetting about her, and when she comes out with something, it goes to the top of the list for those fans because they’re still reeling from the last Hocking book they loved.

So in addition to having a backlist available, feeding your readers new work without too much time lag between releases now goes into our theory about how things work.

Since that came up, a bunch of indies I know are talking about ways to do that. More short stories and novellas, the possibility of serialization. I don’t like serials. Cue Queen: I want it all, and I want it now. I don’t read many short stories. I like novels, I understand the…physics of novels, and that’s how my brain works. And yet this recent talk has made even me think about these things. I don’t know if that’s me being open-minded, or just plain wacky.

But this was all still stewing in my head when I read Holly’s email because I’m just trying to remind myself that it has to be good. I know everyone who’s thinking about doing shorts knows that. We all know that. But I needed to remind myself that it might be better to play to my strengths. There was the idea that maybe I could dash off some shorts and that would take some of the pressure off, make it easier to ask people to wait for the next novel.

And then the Gin Blossoms came in and said, Susan,

How you gonna ever find your place, runnin’ at an artificial pace?

I know, it seems odd, but people be showin’ up to tell me all kinds of stuff all the time. It’s part of why nothing gets done.

Do you know what occurred to me the other day as I read my piece on Hush Money at 6 months?

It’s only been 6 months. It seems like so much longer to me, but it’s only been 6 months. Jesus H. Washington Christ, what I have I been flogging myself for for the last few months? I’m totally new at this. I set myself an unreasonable deadline. I made a mistake. Criminy, how long am I going to make myself pay for that?

I’d guess that most trad authors get at least a year to write book 2, and probably longer than that to get it all polished up and ready to go. I dunno. It just seems like Holly was giving me a wake up call. Wake up and listen to what you friends have been trying to tell me.

The top of the email reads, “To: Susan,” and it’s like she wrote it just for me.

If you’re a writer and do not get Holly’s newsletter, please consider doing yourself that favor.

That segues pretty well into this week’s

Recommended Reading

Why I’m a Fandrew
Actually, I’m not just any fan of Andrew Mocete, I’m Fandrew #1. And if you want to see an example of why, check this out. Andrew’s writing a Love Series on his blog, about loves that have shaped him as a writer. Who gets the first spot? His wife. In a charming and heart-felt post, Andrew talks about the importance of support, how rare it is, along with some good ideas about why it’s so hard to find in My Wife: Love Series Part 1. (found because you know Fandrew #1 subscribes)

I’m a speshul snowflake too!
Ok, this is a bit of ramble, but stick with it, because it’s full of sincerity, and drizzled with beauty. It may inspire you a bit, and open up your brain a bit, as Larry Brooks so often does for me. Writers, Give the Gift of “Getting off the dime” is Larry’s answer to that every-person who casually says “Yeah, I’d like to write a book someday.” (found via subscription to the Storyfix blog)

I don’t wanna sully my art by doing what I love in any way that’s less than…
If you’re on the fence about going indie because of the stigma factor, here’s a post to think about. Another from Larry Brook’s Storyfix blog, this is a guest post by Carol Tice. (via subscription)

ROW80

I’m a bit backwards this week, and I’ll admit that ROW80 hasn’t been much on my mind. I wrote a lot on the short piece this week. In both the stories I’m working I’m now at a point where I will have to break down and write an action scene on something. Damn.

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Hush Money: 6 Months and 10,000 copies

I’m a real boy!

As I begin this post, a few days before it will go live, days before Hush Money turns six months old, I’m still looking at the number on my spreadsheet. Marveling at it. Recording the numbers from the previous day is usually one of the first things I do in the morning. Seeing how many potential readers I gained overnight is generally a pretty awesome way to start the day.

So let me tell you why I’m posting this, even though I said I wasn’t going to share numbers anymore. Let me tell you why this is a special occasion.

Deciding to self-publish isn’t easy for most people. Even for someone like me who was more or less “it’s indie or nothing” because I didn’t feel like I wanted to get involved in the traditional industry, even for someone who believes in the tremendous potential of independent publishing, etc, etc, it was hard. It was hard to get over that concern of being called a “fake author.”

Now I’m a nice person (right?) and probably,  hopefully, no one’s going to say it to my face. But they’re out there, saying it, saying it about us. And even if it’s not directed at you, you know, you still kind of carry that.

You ask yourself, “Am I going to regret this use of a manuscript that I believe in so much? Am I going to wish I would have at least tried to shop it in a traditional manner?”

So something I did was I picked a number. (You may not agree with my number. You don’t have to. It’s MY number.) They say that many books don’t earn out their advances. I looked around and figured my advance as an unknown would be $6k. I had read that with a standard royalty, authors generally earned about 64cents per copy. So… 10,000 x .64 = more than a $6,000 advance. And that’s how I picked the number of books I wanted sell by the time Hush Money was 12 months old.

That was the number of books that would make me know that I wasn’t a fake author. Because sometimes, the hardest person to convince is yourself.

Now there will be some people who will come across the post and say, ten thousand copies in six months? Why are you even bothering to mention that? Have you seen the cavalcade of stars Konrath has been parading on his blog?

Yeah, I have. And I admire those authors. I’ve loved reading their stories. They’re selling more in a month than I have in six, and I couldn’t be happier for them. They’ve earned that. Maybe when I’ve earned that, I’ll get there too. But this post, this goal, wasn’t about out-performing anyone else. This is about me, something I hoped to get for myself, and how incredible it is to not only pass that mark, but to do that in half the time I thought it would take. No one else’s success takes away from that.

(Dudes, every time I write else’s–and I do that a lot–spellcheck hates me. Is that not a word?)

So that’s where I am today, feeling like Pinocchio, Version Shrek 2, flying through the air yelling, “I’m a real boy!” and waiting for something to strike and turn me back to wood.

Meanwhile, I owe you a ROW80 update, so here it is:

My goals were to spend at least an hour a day in my world and write at least 3 scenes per week.

I’m still spending lots of time in the Talent Chronicles world. Not a problem. I’ve written a number of scenes and thousands of words.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I wasn’t writing. But I wasn’t terribly worried about that. I said that when I was ready to write, I would write, and the words would come. And that was pretty much true.

Something happened this fall as I worked, or didn’t work, on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, as I let my mind fill up with the personal problems that cropped up, and then tried to squeeze in a brand new full-time career as an indie author in on top of that. I tried too much, pushed too far, and pushed those words right out of my head.

I know that there are a lot of people out there waiting. I value all those readers (I know there should have been a paragraph above thanking all the readers and friends and stuff, but if you guys don’t know by now how grateful I am, then I just don’t know what to with you!), and I’m sorry to have to keep saying that it’s just not ready, and no, I don’t know when it will be. But I do know that since I really owned that, since I made up my mind that it’s okay for me to say that and to work on my own schedule, it has been so much easier.

My ROW80 update for this week is that I’m finally starting to feel like when I’m ready to write, the words will be there.

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#ROW80 and Thoughts on Blogging

So life here is slowly returning to what passes for normal. Last week wasn’t terribly productive as I had a lot of catching up to do in a lot of areas and needed a lot of staring dumbly at the wall time. If you have little kids and a low tolerance for chaos, you know what I’m talking about. But things are better now and this week I found myself faced with the fact that I REALLY have to actually work.

This resulted in a lot of procrastination. But since I had decided to give myself a freakin’ break all around, I was able to allow it to be productive procrastination. I think that when I decide I have to work on JUST THIS AND NOTHING ELSE BEFORE THIS, I end up with more stress and less productivity overall.

I’ve recently been spending more time on my blog. I’m always going around in circles about what I want to do with it and getting it “right,” and like you really care. But I finally came around to some ideas of things I want to cover. I do want to talk about writing and self-publishing because most of you who visit on a regular basis are interested in those things, and often seem to appreciate those posts. Even though they aren’t things that readers are into, and even though they’re not the kind of thing that would draw a reader in or get her to subscribe to the blog, I have no doubt that sharing my experiences and opinions about what works has earned me a lot more support than I can measure. So I’m going to keep up with the posts about writing and self-publishing.

I’ve been trying to blog too frequently, I think, and I just write up a post when I think about it and hit Publish. Now I’m hoping to jump in and write up that post and hit Schedule. And keep those writerly posts for Mondays. Maybe that will keep it from being so feast or faminey around here.

I do absolutely agree with Kristen Lamb–and how can you not?–that readers don’t want to read about writer stuff, and the way to attract readers is to talk more about the kinds of things that readers like in your fiction. Well, it’s easy to get caught up in that expert knowledge trap we talked about the other day. I’ve probably mentioned before that I was caught in that for a long time with regard to the Talents. There’s that bit of wisdom, and it is wise, that says you need to read a lot in the genre you want to write in so that you understand the rules and reader expectation. So I thought that to write about superheroes, I needed to become an expert on comics. Even when I put that aside, I still felt under-qualified to blog  about superheroes on a regular basis.

Just like it was hard to blog about writing before had a book out there to point at and say hey, here’s how I put this into practice. Lately I’ve come to realize that my best posts aren’t the ones where I try to be an expert, they’re the ones where I really personalize what information I have to offer, wrapping it in my own perspective, and feeling less like it’s my turn to stand in front of the class for the oral report and more like we’re all sitting around getting caffeinated and I’m the one sharing for a few minutes before the really hot guy painting the storefront across the way takes off his shirt and I lose your attention.

So in the one day a week reader-oriented (hopefully) posts, I’m talking about what I love in fiction: superheroes, heroism, and/or romance. Those are the things I tend to pay attention to when I read or watch. This may lead to me feeling like I’m reviewing some stuff, which I don’t like to get into, but I’m more trying to think of it as discussing my perspective on a particular facet of the fiction in question, and if I have to include a paragraph or two to gush or whine about the overall fic in general, well, you guys are used to OT babble, so…

We’re in ROW80, and rounds of that are planned throughout the year. So I’m also looking at two more days on the blog for updates. On Sundays, I’ll be combining my update with list of recommended online reading for the week. I don’t have time to read a whole lot of blogs, but sometimes something really stands out and you just think others should read it or might enjoy it. I keep a file on my desktop to make note of those when I read them.

Wednesdays, in case you haven’t figured this out, are for me to be even more self-indulgent than usual. A free day to include in the ROW80 update whatever happens to be on my mind, or not include anything else at all. Today the bloggy stuff is on my mind, along with the fact that our bus driver just told us she’d be coming over 45 minutes earlier starting tomorrow which is going to add more time to my work day (good) and cause less sleep, more morning stress, and take some getting used to (bad). Anyway, a me me me babble day. Witness the babble.

So back to the update: This week’s productive procrastination has allowed me to try out the schedule I had tentatively set for myself, and I now have posts for my topic days scheduled through Feb 4. I’m still spending a lot of time on writing blog posts. I posted the schedule, tinkered in my sidebar a little, gave some thought to what people are looking for when they come to the site, if they can find it, what I’m trying to present and what they see, etc, and I’m pretty satisfied with what I have right now.

Goal #1 has been to spend specific amounts of time on the work. Recently I’ve been suck and fail at that, but I didn’t change my goals because it wasn’t about scoring, it was about continuing to strive for that. This week I’ve been excessive as far as time spent working on problems in the Talent Chronicles world and in Heroes ‘Til Curfew specifically.

Goal #2 has been 3 scenes in Heroes per week. I wrote the first of those three yesterday. I also finished listing everything that was supposed to happen from here forward so that I could identify all my holes and logic problems. A loose outline that allows room to move around is important. But it is amazing to me how it can seem like a solid story and then you get to that part and it’s like–well, that doesn’t really make sense. Why would he do that? Why wouldn’t she just…

Meta-humans are fascinating, but their abilities cause all sort of dilemmas.

So I’ve made copious notes and written all my WTF? questions in pink, and hopefully I’ll be able to draft some of my buds to help me kick ideas around this week because talking things through with someone else really helps me focus, and I often lack focus even though there are no shirtless painters in my neighborhood.

Today’s ROW80 Linky.

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Filed under me me me, ROW80

The Next Level? What’s an indie to do?

Today I feel like my brain is going to break. Like, moreso than usual.

It all seems pretty straightforward when you start. For the beginning stuff, information is pretty abundant.

Write a book. Well, okay, I’ve read a lot about doing that. Got lots of books on the shelf, have read countless advice on the internet. Been processing all that and practicing for years. Let’s sit down and write a book. Okay, done.

Edit the book. Well, okay. I guess I can pretty much go back to those books and articles and all the practice, and hopefully come up with something readable. Okay, done.

Format the book. Hmm. Well, okay. New searches, new articles, talk to some friendly people. Seems pretty step by step. I think I can do that. Okay, done.

Publish the book. Okaayy… Read the instructions, ask a few questions of the friendly people. Click, click, okay done. Finally. Now let’s sit back and…

Oh, no. Go market that book. Oh, right. Marketing. Okay. More books, more articles, social sites, lots more being friendly. Some comfort zone issues, but also a lot of fun and rewarding. So that’s cool. And oh, look, sales are starting. Awesome!

Write the next book. Sure, okay, did that before. Oh, no wait. This is a sequel. Okay, that’s different. But okay, I can do this. Because of the reading and the practice and stuff. It’s just going to take some different thinking and some more time.

Time. Well, there’s less of that. Nothing is going right. And we need things to be just right. Plus, you know, got all this other stuff to manage. Got all these new friends to follow and get to know and remember all their stuff and want to read their books and check out their blogs, but also gotta keep learning stuff, and gotta reply to comments, tweets, emails. Don’t want to miss anyone. Need everyone to know they’re appreciated. Don’t ever want anyone to feel slighted because I can’t keep up. But my inbox won’t stop refilling itself. Is it possessed? Is all this really necessary? Of course it’s necessary. If they take the time to say something nice, they deserve a thank you. If they ask me a question, they deserve an answer. Does the answer have to be hundreds of words and take the whole morning? Well, maybe not, but I want to be thorough. These are people, and they deserve attention.   But so does my family, and my home, and that poor, unfinished book that those people are waiting for.

Waiting. Right. Two people–more?–are still waiting on interview questions to be answered and sent. Gotta get those done. How many people have I promised giveaway copies to? Are those due yet? I hope they follow up with me, because I don’t have a way to be organized with this stuff.

It’s just those emails got buried under the barrage of alerts I got, and flagged for follow-up, of places advertising my pirated book. Well, what to do about that? Just shrug it off? Say oh, that’s ok, because it probably doesn’t hurt sales anyway and maybe we’ll find a way to make us think it’s actually a good thing. Maybe. I don’t know. It seems wrong. Especially those guys who are trying to sell it for $4 and haven’t offered me a cut. So do I just ignore it? When in doubt, we have to ask ourselves: WWHRD? What would Howard Roark do?

Um, well, when Howard Roark lost control of his work, his designs, he blew up Cortland homes. So…maybe not really. Perhaps we should just go with the lesson that we should make an effort to do something, if only to say look, this is mine, I made it, and it’s not okay for you to give it away without asking me. I’m pretty generous with stuff. My photography isn’t great, but still, a lot of it’s got Creative Commons licensing on it in case it’s useful to someone. I try to blog a lot of useful stuff, information that I might have been able to compile and sell. I try to share what I can and keep back some particular things for myself. So it kind of sucks when someone takes them. I don’t think that’s okay. Not trying to start a movement, not holding a rally or screaming and whining about it. But if I believe in doing what I can to protect my own property, I have to follow the leads, find the files, find the hosts to contact, write and file the proper notices, and this is all stuff I have to learn and do. (And thank goodness I found an awesome friend who has been very generous in helping me get started learning this stuff. Even though a lot of it is still over my head and dealing with me requires a lot of patience.)

Do I want to license out some of my other rights, stuff I can’t do on my own? Umm…well, yeah, I guess so. I mean, really? That would cool. But wait. Is this for real? Is this legit? Google Google, seems okay. But…I have concerns. I need more information. But how do I ask? Is asking for more unprofessional? Will it make me look like I don’t know what I’m doing so I can be taken advantage of? Is this just how it’s done? How is it done? I have no clue, I need help.

But…no one seems to know anything. Google Google, not really getting exactly what I’m looking for. I need to talk to someone who’s done this. Ask a few indies who are farther ahead than I am. Answer: get an agent.

Well, okay, that’s an answer. That would be someone who’s done this. Someone who has answers. Didn’t occur to me that I would need an agent for what I was going to do, or at least need one in the first year with one book out. Didn’t think THAT would come up. But one of the indies I wrote to basically said, paraphrase: if this is coming up now, it’s probably going to come up more.

Couldn’t I learn to just DIY? Um, yeah, I guess. But damn, look at how much DIY I’m already not able to deal with. Having someone to help me, to not go through these mornings of Googling and trying to piece information together, to have someone to go to answer my questions, someone I wouldn’t feel like I was imposing on…that sounds pretty freakin’ good right now.

Does that make me less indie? I don’t know. I kind of don’t see how, and I kind of don’t care. For me, part of independence is that I get to decide my own crap, not have it decided by the indie purist committee because this isn’t the junior high cafeteria.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still on the fence. After all, what the hell good does deciding to look into getting an agent do me this morning when I have this big red flag in my inbox needing attention right now? It’s not as though I’ve been approached by an agent. From what I’ve GOOGLED (omg I’m as sick of it as you are) there’s nothing for it but to start the process from scratch, as though I were going trad, with the added interest of trying to make them not see me as damaged indie goods.

Excuse me, what? Okay, let’s just skip that part. So should I add read/learn/practice the query process to my to-do and start the process politely asking, in just the right way, for the privilege of being allowed to audition for the person I’d like to hire to help me out with this? I understand, I really do, that there are reasons why the process is the way it is. But it just seems way backward to me, I don’t know if I want to get into that, and I don’t see it helping me deal with today.

Today I just want school to reopen, my house to magically clean itself, and to sit in the quiet and write my book. Write a book. Simple and straightforward, like it was in the beginning.

Should I be apologizing for the level of whining insanity self-disclosure lately? Does anyone else feel just totally overwhelmed?

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Filed under self-publishing

2010 in review: The story of Hush Money

So I need to do the look back at the year thing. I’ve kind of been waiting to see what the end of the year numbers were. When the month rolled over, it seemed like I lost some PubIt sales. They finally showed up again, and then they found a few more stragglers over the next few days. I mean, I realize the report itself is always 2 days behind and you have to add those separately, but mine kept changing after that. This makes me a little nervous about them…

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s been a really big year for me, so I thought I’d try to talk about where I started and where I ended up. Be warned, this post is incredibly long.

Prologue

Some of you know that, when I started Hush Money, it was after a period of not having seriously written for a lot time. The only thing in my idea file that really interested me was my Talents, but even though I worked some on their stories and new characters showed up all the time, I couldn’t really bring myself to get a real story going. Part of that was a matter of motivation. Even if I finished one book of the Talent Chronicles, the idea of shopping it didn’t appeal to me, for a lot of reasons. I thought about, maybe, just starting to write it myself and putting it up on a website somewhere. You know, for fun. But writing is pretty emotional for me. I love creating this stuff, but most days…it is not fun. That idea wasn’t motivation enough.

Act 1: The world before

But Kait, my writing buddy and best friend going on, what, four years now? kept after me. Because of her, part of my mind was always in the writing world. She’d send me articles, talk about writing and bookish topics, and of course we worked a lot on her various writing projects.

And then, of course, there were books. I’d run of out room for books, had to feel guilty about any new book I brought into the house, but ebooks bought me back to book-buying and collecting big-time. I found myself getting passionately pissed off about availability issues, format incompatibilities, and DRM, and did a lot of reading and research on ebooks. Part of that was reading some of the stuff that Konrath was saying about ebooks vs. paperback; ebooks, DRM, and piracy; and then he was talking about his ventures in self-publishing.

Which was really interesting because Kait’s friend Zoe was also self-publishing. I was one who thought self-publishing was great for niche-markets and how-to books, I’ve got a bunch of self-pubbed how-tos, but I had been less than impressed with some of the fiction I’d read, and my opinion had been pretty negative. However, the more I read about it from the writer’s perspective, the more I started to think about it the same way I thought about crafting.

I’d had a good run selling intricate and pricey items on Etsy, and I was burnt out on that. But for a while there, I’d been having a blast, being creative and having my work sought after and appreciated. (I really thrive on that shit, but who doesn’t?) Etsy took crafting for money to a whole different level. It no longer mattered if there was a market for what I wanted to make in the place I live. I wasn’t going to have to try to make a bunch of inventory to try to sell batches to local shops or try to do shows to reach more customers. I could just do what I wanted, at my own pace, in my own home, and reach that niche of customers around the world who were interested. Freakin’ awesome.

I started to see indie publishing as the exact same thing. And, for the first time in a long time, I started to get excited about the idea of writing a novel.

Kait decided she was going to go ahead and do it. I was totally encouraging because, hey, she’s good at learning all the stuff, and if it went well, I could totally benefit from her knowledge later. Kait published Foraken by Shadow at the end of March. And people bought it. With money! And it was freakin’ awesome.

I really wanted to do it too.

Act 2: Into the story world

I got my outline together. I’d been studying story structure via Larry Brooks’ Storyfix blog, and suddenly, planning a story from beginning to end seemed so much easier! In fact, all the writing books and articles I’d been reading over the last few years seemed to be coming together in my head, like everything was just there waiting for me to get started.

I had a startlingly positive attitude going into Hush Money, that if I would just sit down to do the work, of course the words would come. Words had never been a problem for me, unless it was having too many of them. I was going to start the book, I was going to finish it. I was going to make it good, and then I was going to see what I could do with it.

But I was up against a ticking clock. It was already May, after all, and there weren’t that many more days of school. Soon my daughter would be with me to destroy any hope of concentration or immersion in character and world. I had get moving.

I wrote the first draft of Hush Money in 30 days. That last week or so, school was out, but Vacation Bible School filled the gap. When I might have gotten scared of the end and stuck in a slump, I pushed forward, knowing I only had a few hours a day for one, more, week. I would drop her off at the church, rush home, write like a maniac. Then go pick her up, go to McDonald’s, wolf down a double cheeseburger and write at least another one or two thousand words while she played on the playland with other kids.

After that week, I was almost at the end. I wrote the last several scenes in one day. I asked my mom to have my daughter over to play so that I could work on getting my first draft finished before my upcoming visit to Kait’s house. I wrote thousands of words that day.

I’m still very happy with the way the book ends, but the biggest criticism of the story is that the ending is somewhat abrupt. Maybe I was just exhausted.

Act 3: In which the Wanderer becomes a Warrior

Well, I’m not sure Susan as a protag will ever be considered a warrior, but certainly there was a lot of self-doubt to be overcome. I had to get 11 beta readers with overwhelmingly positive responses on Hush Money, before I started to believe that it was good enough to put a price tag on it.

I was editing a manuscript, something I’d never really done before. I’d finished a few things, but nothing I’d ever loved enough to want to make it better. And I was learning about formatting and all the other stuff that goes into publishing an ebook.

During this time, I’d finally hooked up with Zoe Winters one-on-one instead of going through Kait. It was fun and exciting to talk to her. She was in the crazy period of having released Claimed and Mated and having incredible success with those. Kait was having record sales of Forsaken by Shadow. Evenings would go by, with both of them in separate chat windows, both of them giving me their stats, rankings by the hour, in stereo.

And I was waiting for Hush Money to return from 11 betas and feeling absolutely desperate to join this party. By the time I had to leave my original cover artist and hire a new one at the end of July, I was crazy obsessed with getting my work out there to see how it would do.

Act 4: The exciting climax sequence

Finally, at the beginning of August, I was finally ready to get this thing out there! I uploaded on August 2nd, and the book started to go live all that week. First on Smashwords on the 3rd, then I think the Amazon listing started show up on 4th, with a buy button by the 5th.

And then commenced the crazy. I had to start doing that which I had dreaded. Marketing. I had to go back to blogging. I had to active on Twitter. I had to try to learn Facebook. And it was hard to find the time for all that because I had to check my stats EVERY. FREAKIN’. HOUR.

The week after Hush Money was released, I went to Disney World. While I was there, Kait sent me a text to let me know I’d made my first Amazon bestseller chart.

I had to check out Goodreads. I did the ebook giveaway event there, got great response, and had people reading my book.

In August, I “sold” a total of 113 copies.

36 of those I gave away.

I was also very busy researching print-on-demand and trying to figure out the best method for doing that for my non-existent budget and attention span. I chose Createspace. The print version of Hush Money was released on September 24th.

Hush Money was finally finished, I was getting started on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, and by the time the second month was over, I’d sold four times what I’d sold in the first month.

Epilogue

Five months later, I still struggle with making this sequel happen. Just like I’d never liked anything enough to do serious edits (though at least I’d edited for others!), I’d also never tried to write a sequel.

Hush Money continues to do incredibly well. I went into this with no idea what to expect, hoping, perhaps, to reach 1000 copies by this time. I’m astounded to be able to tell you that I was able to reach well over 6000 copies by the end of this year.

I can’t begin to tell you the joy that sharing this story has brought me. I’ve met so many incredible people this year, made so many wonderful friends. At least a few times a week I experience the wonder of finding that someone has taken the time to contact me, by email, or by leaving a comment on my About Me or Talent Chronicles pages, or somewhere else, just to tell me how much they enjoyed Hush Money. I get fan mail! Internationally!! I have been thanked countless times for doing something that I loved doing. And I’ve been damned, numerous times, for the sins of keeping someone up past their bedtime or making them remember how it feels to be a teen.

This will probably be the last time I talk about numbers for a while. Certainly, for me, the subject will always inspire excitement and a measure of awe. In the beginning, I really did believe that sharing these numbers was helpful for those who might be considering indie publishing and might want some ideas what to expect. But sometimes more is just more, and I don’t want to invite negativity into my life by having anyone take my sharing of this information in a different spirit than it’s intended.

What I hope I have managed to express, in this post and in this year, is the profound sense of gratitude I feel for everyone who’s helped me. Toward everyone who has (in no particular order) reviewed the book at a retail site, left a review on Goodreads, talked about it in a forum, voted for it in a poll, tweeted about it, blogged about it, told a friend, written to me, asked me a question about it, longed for the sequel, encouraged me during the many times I get nervous and feel like I’m losing my mind, bought it for someone else, sent me interview questions, and, hey, bought it and read the freakin’ thing.

Thank you all for making 2010 an absolutely amazing year for me.

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Filed under Hush Money, Talent Chronicles

Karma points, what should I spend them on?

Ever have points from some promotion or other, and get really uptight over actually spending them? Because you need to find just the perfect, best thing, because it takes a lot of time to save up this many points, and you don’t want to waste them… (This makes me think of games like The Sims and saving up weeks of wages for a new +10 Comfort bed, and then not wanting to spend it because there’s always something else. Thank goodness for the money cheat!)

Does Karma work like that? Or does even asking for stuff negate one’s whole ability to cash in on any mystical positivity they’ve built up because the point of doing good is to do it with no desire or expectation of having it returned? Meh, I guess I’ve more of a Magnificent Obsession mindset.

Anyway, this is called babbling.

I’ve gotten a few of these emails from Goodreads lately, to vote in the Goodreads Choice Awards in various categories. Today was the first time I saw my title in the list of answers in the email, though, in the Debut Author category. I guess my title hasn’t gotten enough votes to actually show up in the covers.

If you really liked Hush Money and it was, by chance, your fave amongst books by debut authors you read this year, I’d love it if you’d go over there and drop me a write-in vote, in the Debut Author category, or in Young Adult Fiction or Fantasy, Cover Art…wherever you think appropriate. Who know what might come of it.

Speaking of Karma, in our last episode I directed you to Andrew Mocete’s blog on which he had posted about some writers in need this holiday season. His most recent post is about the fantastic response he got for that post as a new blogger. So for any of you who went by and checked that out, took steps, promoted those causes in some way, thank you. And it’s not too late to do it now, nor to do it again.

I’m on vacation. My daughter is off from school and will be into the second week of the year. I’m trying to rest up and get rid of some of the serial illness that has bogged me down lately, and generally trying to clear cobwebs for a reboot. I actually read a freakin’ book all the way through, watched all my Netflix discs which included Camp Rock and Letters to Juliet and I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Style Savvy for DS. When did working retail get fun?? I’m completely addicted to this freakin’ thing, and Dominic’s totally interested in me, I can tell.

So…posty things I can think of that are probably coming up:

  • I’m going to be talking about ROW80, my goals for that and how it’s going to completely change my life (or else)
  • Probably going to be giving you my impressions of the first few episodes of Buffy Season Eight, as well as some thoughts on comics in general (No, giving them to you. Not doing impressions. Do I look like I’ve got the energy to start doing impressions?)
  • There will have to be a year-end wrap-up on how this indie author thing has gone (preview because I suck at waiting: I’ve passed 5k copies of my one little title)

Oh, and one more link. Thirteen-year-old Corey of CoreyReads posted a nice review of Hush Money. If that’s your thing, maybe you’d drop by there, compliment his excellent taste, and encourage this next generation book blogger?

I hope you’re all having wonderful holidays. I have to go now and pick out cute clothes for anime girls with way too much money who are ALWAYS polite.

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Filed under Laws of the Universe, writing

Giveaway: Kindle Kisses of Day of Sacrifice

Today I have 5 copies of the Kindle edition of Day of Sacrifice by Stacey Wallace Benefiel, the author of the Zellie Wells trilogy that starts with Glimpse.

Note: Although this is the Kindle edition, it is DRM-free, and so can be converted with a program like Calibre to be enjoyed on a variety of devices.

With only three days left until her twenty-first birthday, her Day of Sacrifice, Flora Hamilton should be living it up. But when another Supernatural family puts a hit on her she’s forced to go into hiding with Julian, her gorgeous new Guardian Angel. Sometimes running for your life isn’t so bad.

Day of Sacrifice is a short story of approximately 15,000 words. It is intended for adults due to language and sexual situations.

I’ll be using Random.org to choose 5 winners from amongst the entries. To enter:

Step 1: Copy and Tweet the following statement:

I want to read Day of Sacrifice by S.W. Benefiel http://amzn.to/e1kch0  #books #kindle @Momjeans1975 @susan_bischoff

Feel free to use the tweet button below and replace the suggested text.

Don’t tweet? You can also make a status update for Facebook, or add the book on Goodreads and leave this statement as a temporary review.

Whichever you do, get the links to the Tweet, Facebook update, or Goodreads review, and…

Step 2: Leave your links in the comments.

You’ll get one chance for the comment (no addition promo necessary) and one chance per link; limited to one prize per person. Comments made after 9am on December 15th will be excluded. The prizes will be sent out tomorrow morning using Amazon’s Gift as a Gift feature and the email address associated with each winner’s comment.

P.S. To get the link for your tweet, click its timestamp. A new window should open that displays the single tweet. Copy the address from your browser’s address bar.

P.P.S. Helen Smith is trying to get the word out about a BUNCH of giveaways she’s doing on her blog this week. If you’d like to score some free reads, why not check it out? And if you’re blogging this week and have some space to spare, tell your friends. I understand that if you send her email and tell her you blogged about it, you’ll be entered to win an Amazon gift card.

P.P.P.S. Sorry, the post-scripts are getting ridiculous. But this morning I read a fabulous article by author Holly Lisle. Especially for those of you waiting to get your hands on Kristen’s social media book (see yesterday’s post), many will enjoy this article on “Your Online Presence” and the theories behind how Holly works to create one of the most engaging fiction sites out there. It’s a long article, but it’s all worth reading.

5 Comments

Filed under Contests