Weekly Update – December 10, 2019

 

The year’s winding down, so everyone’s productivity — mine, my editor’s, my cover artist’s, my audiobook narrator’s — will be in low gear until January, but then things will start up again in a big way. To wit:

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Awaiting editing.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Work has begun on a penultimate draft. Editing should be wrapped up in January, which means I’m looking at a February release.

Action Figures – Issue Ten: Unintended Consequences: First draft is underway!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Audiobook in final processing, release pending.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Audiobook reading copy is prepped and ready to go. Should be ready for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Ready for editing! Tentatively set for an early 2020 release.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Book five is in the plotting stages. Tentatively scheduled for a late 2020 release.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – December 3, 2019

I know, the Black Friday through Cyber Monday shopping period is over, but I’m extending my sale by two more days!

That’s right, the Kindle editions of the first books in the Action Figures and Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot series and the Well-Behaved Women trilogy will be on sale for 99 cents through this coming Thursday! You can buy any of these books now as a gift and schedule them to be delivered to the recipient on Christmas Day (or any date you choose).

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Awaiting editing.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Beat reader feedback is coming in, and the cover art is almost done.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Third draft is finished and it’s almost ready for editing.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook edition is done and it’s now in final processing!

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

So You’re Participating In NaNoWriMo

This is a re-post, slightly updated.

***

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is all about getting creative writers motivated to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, is ending today. If you’ve been participating in this, awesome. Go you.

NaNoWriMo

Seriously, good for you. Whether you’re doing this for the first time just for the fun of it or you’ve always wanted to take a serious crack at becoming a novelist — via traditional or self-publishing — and you’re using NaNoWriMo to light a fire under your ass and finally get it done, I hope you find it an exciting and rewarding experience.

Now comes the “however” part…

I’ve known a few people who did in fact attempt to parlay their NaNoWriMo product into a published novel and failed hard, and what I’ve gleaned from their efforts is they made a critical mistake of thinking that once the novel is completed, all they have to do is run spellcheck once and that’s it — their novel is finished.

No. No no no. Your work has only just begun.

First of all, 50,000 words is not necessarily a proper novel; depending on your genre, that might only be a novella — which isn’t a bad thing, but if you plan to seek an agent or traditional publisher for your work, you might want to think about going beyond 50,000 words (and, honestly, 50,000 is a great goal to aim for, but I’d advise you not to hamper yourself by insisting that you fit the story you’re trying to tell into a 50,000-word box if it’s meant to be longer).

This piece by Chuck Sambuchino is a great reference for typical novel lengths, and you’ll see that once you start writing for any adult market, 50,000 words isn’t going to cut it as a “novel.”

Conversely, you shouldn’t pad out what you have just to meet a word count benchmark. Chances are you’ll edit that out anyway as superfluous fluff (more on that in a minute). Tell the story and don’t worry so much about the word count. Just be aware it will affect how you market the book, whether to an agent or publisher or, if you go the indie author route, to readers.

If November is National Novel Writing Month, December should be National Novel Revising Month. This is when you take your finished first draft, read through it, and recoil in horror at how truly not finished it is. You’re going to find spelling errors, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, continuity gaps, plot holes, inconsistent characterization, clunky dialog — all manner of major and minor screw-ups. Suddenly, the literary masterpiece you think you wrote will turn into a steaming pile of crap that will make you doubt your talents as a writer.

Welcome to the world of writing.

First drafts aren’t about producing a finished work; it’s about getting the ideas out of your head and onto the screen. Second drafts are about replacing or scrapping entirely everything that’s wrong with the story and strengthening everything that does work. Since you’ve given yourself a month to do this, take your time. Go through the manuscript a few times and keep fine-tuning it.

No, you’re not done yet, because January is National Novel Test-Reading Month. This is when you send your manuscript to some trusted friends to look it over and tell you what you think. Four to six people is a good number of beta readers, but make sure you choose people who will be brutally honest with you. You don’t want their praise, you want their criticism. You want them to tell you what still isn’t working so you can fix it in February, which is National Novel Revising Month – The Sequel.

Don’t undersell the importance of this step. By now you’ve gotten a little too familiar with your novel and aren’t seeing a lot of flaws anymore. Outside eyes will catch the problems you’re no longer seeing. And don’t dismiss this as “art by committee.” Just because your readers make suggestions, you’re not obligated to heed them (though you’d be foolish to ignore them out of hand. Think about their critiques long and hard before you make a decision one way or the other).

While the book is out with test-readers, you can consider whether you want to try and pursue a traditional publishing avenue or go the indie author route. Each approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so consider what you need, want, and hope to get out of putting your book out there, and see which path fits better. Personally, even if you decide to go with self publishing, going through the process of preparing your book for submission to agents and publishers is a good experience. It’ll help get you in a professional mindset, you’ll learn how to concisely describe your book and pitch it to a prospective reader — something you’ll have to do a lot as an indie author — and who knows? Maybe you’ll get picked up.

You can find an extensive list of publishers and agents in the Writer’s Digest market guide, along with many helpful hints for putting a submission package together. I’d also advise checking out the SFWA Writer Beware page, especially if you go looking at small presses.

If and when you decide to pursue indie authorship, this is a good time to start hunting down editors and cover artists — two things you do not want to skimp on. You want someone with a professional eye to review your finished manuscript for any lingering errors and perhaps make final suggestions for tweaking this or that, and you want a real artist to put together an eye-catching cover that will attract readers’ attention.

Services such as Kindle Direct Publishing can help you put together a prefab cover that looks decent, and for little to no money, but if this what you choose to do, tread carefully, and never assume your skills as a graphic artist are sufficient to the task. Chances are, they’re not.

An aside: yes, these people will cost you money. It’s worth the investment. If you can’t pay for them out of pocket, crowdfunding may be your salvation — but again, do your research to find out what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign or you’ll hit a brick wall pretty fast.

Assuming you’ve managed to stay on-schedule so far, dedicate March to preparing everything while your editor does his/her thing. Get your submissions list ready — or, if you’re self publishing, make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with your chosen platforms, because preparing a novel for publishing is a major undertaking in and of itself. Prepare your cover/query letter, synopsis, and any other required submission materials. If you need to, go back into your manuscript and fix any lingering problems, even if it pushes your timeline back (unless you want to be embarrassed by putting out a novel that isn’t ready for public consumption).

Once all your ducks are in a row, once all the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, it’s time to face the scariest part of the process: pulling the trigger and actually submitting the novel to agents/publishers or releasing it via your chosen self-publishing platform. Trust me, it’s terrifying, but take the leap. The worst you can do is fail, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There’s a LOT more to do once the book is out there — marketing, promotions, publicity, etc. — but that’s a dissertation for another time. For now, it’s time for you to get back to work. Go write something!

Weekly Update – November 26, 2019

Thanksgiving is two days away, and immediately after that, the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear. Well, who am I to not engage in crass commercialism?

That’s right, the Kindle editions of the first books in the Action Figures and Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot series and the Well-Behaved Women trilogy will be on sale for 99 cents beginning on Black Friday and through Cyber Monday! Remember, you can buy any of these books now as a gift and schedule them to be delivered to the recipient on Christmas Day (or any date you choose).

I’m also participating in a cross-promotional effort with the Superhero Fiction Authors group, so go here to check out other superhero novels that will be on sale during this period.

But wait, there’s more! I’m also part of a cross-promotional effort with the New England Speculative Writers group, so here are even more great books on sale for 99 cents!

Hey, speaking of the superhero fiction group I belong to, we’re holding a cover art contest. Nothing major, mostly a fun thing to direct traffic to the site (and our books), but the cover of Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling From the Wreckage, created by Patricia Lupien, is in the running, so if you’re of a mind, go show my awesome cover artist some love!

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Awaiting editing.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Beat reader feedback is coming in, and the cover art is almost done.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Third draft is finished and it’s almost ready for editing.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook edition is done and it’s now in final processing!

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – November 19, 2019

Next week, the Kindle editions of all three first books in my three series — Action Figures, The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot, and Well-Behaved Women — will go on sale for 99 cents!

Action Figures and Well-Behaved Women will also be part of cross-promotional efforts with several other authors, and I’ll have more info on those next week!

On another note, mostly of interest to other indie authors…

Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in a multi-author event, but I declined due to what I regarded as an exorbitantly high table fee — $125, which got me a table for four hours of a first-year, one day, eight-hour show. For context: Arisia charges $120 for a table for its entire four-day weekend (early Friday evening through early Monday afternoon).

I later learned that the table fee was greatly slashed to, according to one author who attended, $45 — still for only a four-hour block. I also learned from a number of attending authors, that wasn’t enough of a reduction to make the show profitable. One person said they made their table fee back, others said they ran at a loss — but they “had fun,” “got to network with other writers,” and “got some decent exposure,” so it was all good, they said.

Excuse me a minute while I set up my soapbox…

If you’re an author with designs on making a career of your writing, full- or part-time, you have to adopt a businessperson’s mindset, which means you have to always consider the dollars and cents of doing an event at which you’re allowed to sell books.

Basic rule of thumb: if you don’t make a profit, or at the very least break even on your expenses, the show is not successful.

Quick aside: in business there is something called a “loss leader,” which is typically a product sold at a loss for the express purpose of attracting customers. This is an established and, under the right circumstances, viable approach to lining up future sales.

The problem I often see is when authors who take a bath at an event brush it off, claiming that they got good exposure and a lot of people said they’d buy the book online at a later date.

Here’s the problem: people say a lot of stuff they don’t mean, especially at conventions and fairs at which people sell their wares. “I’ll be back later” is one of the greatest customer lies in the convention scene. It’s code for, “I’m not going to buy anything but I don’t want to say so to your face, so here’s some false hope for you.”

As for authors who do see an online sales spike after an event, claiming cause and effect strikes me as wishful thinking. Sure, an increase in sales via Amazon (or whoever) following an event could be directly connected (in effect, the aforementioned loss leader). It could also very well be coincidence, and it’s damn near impossible to prove which scenario is true.

In any case, it still doesn’t make the show profitable or break-even. You didn’t meet or exceed the cost of being there, ergo the show was not successful.

Now, having said all that, I know authors who do shows fully expecting to walk out in the red — authors who have some other reason to be there, usually. They’re on panels or doing readings or conducting workshops — things that are much better loss leaders than standing at a table in the vendors’ area. There’s active engagement with potential customers who will learn something about the authors and what they have to offer.

If your goal is to have fun and network, go to events as a patron, but if you’re there as a businessperson, do your research to determine whether a given event is likely to yield positive financial results. Don’t enrich someone else at your own literal expense.

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Awaiting editing.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Third draft is almost finished!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook continues.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year. Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – November 12, 2019

Not much to report, because The Big Move to Oxford took up all of my weekend, and then some. I’m working on getting the new writing space in order.

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Second pass is finished, and now this one goes on the back burner for a while so I can focus on other things.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: Third draft has begun!

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook continues.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.

Weekly Update – November 5, 2019

It’s been a hectic week or two due to our Big Move to Oxford. We closed on the house last week and started moving stuff over right away. I also started setting up what will become my writing office! This weekend is The Big Move, when we haul over all the major furniture, at which point the moving part will be complete and we can get down to setting up the house.

 

WRITING PROJECTS

The Action Figures Omnibus – Volume One: Second pass continues.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Hell Hath No Fury: Draft two in review with beta readers.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Sworded Affairs: The beta readers have spoken, but I’ve yet to sift through their notes due to the move.

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Recording of the audiobook continues.

APPEARANCES & EVENTS

  • Arisia 2020 – January 17 – 20, Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel. I am confirmed as a vendor for next year! Now I’m waiting to hear about any panel assignments.

The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss any news from me, remember that I have a weekly newsletter that features some of the stuff you see posted here plus new, newsletter-exclusive material. Click this link to sign up.