Monday, August 20, 2018

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 33 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge - Week 33 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 33 Results

Steady on wins the day. Of course not everything gets done – but it’s the journey that’s more enjoyable – if you’re looking for it…

Metrics

Published Words Fiction:
– free –0
– paid – 79494

Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – 2276
– paid – 1530 (Medium)

Subscribers:
Mailerlite: 1 (non-IF), MailChimp: 4 (from Gumroad), Instafreebie – 707
New Total: 3521

Book sales this week:
Amazon – 2, Draft2Digital – 2, Gumroad – 4 = Total Week’s sales – 8

Books (pre-)published this week:

(That last also updated “Tales of the Lazurai“)

Total fiction books published:
64 (Should be at 66 by now to make 100 by year end.)

Analysis

Overall, I found that the less mailings you do, the less unsubscribes show up. But I always send an automated welcome, so that generates a few. I’m back to bi-weekly right now, which is giving me about the same response as weekly – not as great as it used to be, but that’s the learning curve. Total numbers hitting my site is back up, so that it the key metric.

Plus, it resulted in four direct sales this week.

IF Conversion Headaches

This is where there is no manual and no one talking about how you take freebie seekers over into regular buying fans.

Just giving away more free books doesn’t – obviously – work. I adjusted my “free-books” page to now be a “New Releases” page, and the three new “Genre” pages also have releases at the top of them. Sending out bi-weekly meant that this last week I had seven new books up there. Instead of messing with creating seven more mini-descriptions, I just slapped all the covers up there as a test. They then click right through to my local book page for the description. (Sure, I’d love to have a pop-over on each cover, but try to figure out how to create these for each book as I crank out 6 per week? Ain’t gonna happen…)

The drive has to be to get them into my Advanced Reader membership. And with the writing I’ve been doing, this takes considerable time away from organizing my backend. A trade-off…

By studying up on other’s recommendations on emails, it seems I need to communicate more about what I’m doing as an author and my lifestyle, so they have a personal touch-point. I know the few emails I always open are like that. And the authors I do follow (very few) have useful or useless stuff in there about I-me-my. The balance is in how to be personable, but also give value.

All that said, I’ve started simply deleting anyone who hasn’t ever opened an email after I’ve sent them a half-dozen. They should have at least opened the first one. Later this week, I will send out a “Still Interested?” email to people who haven’t clicked or opened anything in 90 days. This usually gets about 10% back into the fold. Then I delete the rest. I’m already paying enough for my email service and webhosting.

IF Verified Status Brings More Emails

I was very surprised by this. And haven’t gotten an analysis done on it. People are opting in to my list by me being an organizer for giveaways. In huge amounts: 78 from my books and 237 from everyone else’s. (About four to one.) And those are optional opt-in’s. I just extended that giveaway (so I can catch up with my own promoting) and so won’t have real analysis on this until two more week’s time. And I have another giveaway going at the same time in a different genre, with that opt-in locked out. That will give me a substantial comparative.

As hinted above, this is making me work extra to keep in the top 10% of these giveaways as IF requires. The verified status is also bringing in a better class of authors. In this particular giveaway, no one approached the amount of claims that IF had, by something like 4 to 1. In other giveaways, I’ve had a couple of authors do better.

The overall scene with IF giveaways is that you may never get your list to be more than simply bargain hunters. But they’ll go to IF and bring back more for you.

Right now, the IF giveaway subscribers are over 99% of my list. (About 30 to 1.) Over the other people who are on my list – now that doesn’t account for people who are on both. A quick segment research produced a list of over 400, which brings it up to 30 to 4, or 7.5 to 1…

As mentioned – needs more research (in all my copious spare time.)

To Do Last Week

(Adding a discussion of what I was planning to get done and what my progress and lessons were this week.)

  1. Get in my schedule of writing in the am, then business, then watching/reading fiction. – Closer, anyway.
  2. 3-4 short stories written/published (Check into Brower Anthology above.) – Yup
  3. Update PubD and SL publishing flow, update all books2read links while I publish all these backlist books (about half of them, I estimate.) – Some
  4. Publish two books to both Wattpad and Medium. – Nope
  5. Finish and open the ARC membership. – Nope

Taking these one by one:

1. Schedule and book writing –

I like to write flat out and finish when the book does. Sometimes its a single day, sometimes three. That also depends on interruptions. And includes putting a book off until I know I have a great starting point. It’s not enough for me to have a great setting. You might have seen this in “Our Second Civil War”, where I simply took the rescue of one girl from certain slavery instead of addressing the huge conflict between urban extremists and less-urban “live and let live” populations. The story took 8K words and could have been a massive 100K like “Gone With the Wind” was.

That means I write while the iron is hot, and quit when all the ironing is done (to mix metaphors painfully.) Saying that I can keep a schedule is mostly a joke.

This week was worse, as I realized that I had another book ready happened when I was in the middle of the first one. Fortunately a compiled book (“The Hooman Saga: Book One” – 67K) doesn’t take as long as a brand new 8K book. There was substantial editing to do in order to arrange it chronologically, as well as introduce most of them so that I could bridge the gaps.

Funny enough, I had to write a new story to bridge one of those gaps, which then updated yet another (growing) anthology – “Tales of the Lazurai” from last week’s output. And that also lead to the other story this week, which today brought me a third story built on those two.

I write at the whim of my muses. But I also asked for it.

(OK, that’s really two…)

2. Update SL and PubD publishing flow –

I did get into these just yesterday, as I didn’t want to start yet another book, knowing that I had this post to start on Monday, regardless.

StreetLib (SL) and PublishDrive (PubD) are alternative aggregators to use, especially to get International sales. They both go to all the major outlets, but also to more in the UK and elsewhere. PubD is out of Hungary, and StreetLib is out of Italy. But they each have connections such as eSentral in the Phillipines and Gardners in the UK. Plus over a hundred (yes hundred) other smaller regional EU online stores.

PubD has recently started cracking down on public domain (PD) books, which can be a pain due to the spammers using them. (Much like they’ve been trying to influence the Romance genre recently. Where there is the GRQ mentality, there goes the neighborhood…)

Over the past few years I’ve been into these, I haven’t made a concerted effort to get all my books everywhere. Checking into their expansion showed that they have now seemingly pulled all the main cherries off the sundaes and haven’t added many new outlets to their lists.

PubD has a very nice way to filter your outlets automatically. Streetlib has just a huge checkoff list. And that gives you a pecking order, where you build a filter for Streetlib and publish to PubD after you get your book there. Both pull (most) of the meta-data from the book itself, but you meanwhile keep everything in Calibre locally to fill in where they miss. Neither are perfect, but both allow you to go much wider.

I stopped publishing my original fiction to them at a certain point, and now have catch up to do (about 37 titles.) After that, or sometime this next year, I’ll get back to updating and publishing all my non-fiction to them, then pick up my PD and PLR books which (used to) sell well using Lulu as an aggregator. (The short story to this is that some individual got their knickers twisted about my account – and the resolution became to only use them for paperbacks now. This is as their limited meta-data entry forms haven’t been updated since they got into ebooks back in 2006.) No one, but no one does paperbacks and hardbacks better than them – and I’d have to say that ebook aggregation on Lulu seem to be an add-on that hasn’t worked out as well as their POD.

Draft2Digital continues to be my recommended first aggregator for original fiction and non-fiction. Then create a local digital version with Gumroad. Lulu for paperbacks if long enough, then SL and PubD in that flow. I still have to work in Medium and Wattpad, which will have to be after all the aggregators, as they are a different flow.

Amazon KDP goes in right after D2D as I put everything on pre-release/pre-order now. (And KDP doesn’t let D2D put things on pre-order, while literally everyone else is fine with pre-orders from D2D.)

I continue to be no fan of Amazon KDP or Amazon in general. They treat authors like crud compared to other dedicated and service-oriented companies. Nickle-and-diming has never been a way to make even casual friends and influence people. And my browsers (I use as many as five different ones) each always jumps down to their “also recommended” bar by default. Can’t wait for the Kobo-Walmart scene to explode with better service opportunities…

3. Publish my backlogged backlist –

Got a couple up to test on SL and PubD separately. SL needs the special Amazon version of ebook, while PubD will simply take my D2D version and remove the links in their backs. While it might make sense to get all my books up there first, then download their final version for use on both Amazon and SL – as I love D2D’s way of listing all the other books available by that/those author(s). And that idea just came to me with this writing…

4. Publishing to Wattpad and Medium –

Nothing really new on this front. Again, this is looking more like a wish list than action I can take. I don’t want to push publishing into a two-day cycle for each book. The syndication to those two looks to be something like I orginally said should happen on a Sunday or a Friday between books, and catch up that week’s books (except anthologies) and maybe a couple more.

The whole point to both of these is to simply use them to build audience, and this is best done by being prolific. The idea with short stories is to link their parts together. Wattpad means building all those parts on a single day, posting one, then the next part, then the next. Medium allows pre-scheduling, so you can lay those stories out over a week – or even further out when you lay them back to back as series and serials. But you do all your publishing to these two on a single day, using Medium to enable you to split the text, then copy/pasting each serial section into it’s separate Wattpad post.

There’s a lot of advice about how you only post to Wattpad once a week.

Our use is to create the full book, and then post the completed book, along with its “buy” links to both Wattpad and Medium. The key with each is to keep it about 2K words per post. Of necessity, I have to post to Wattpad in sections so it’s readable, but post the entire 3 or 4 parts the same day, each in their own post. Just the way it is.

I just can’t arduously wait to post my next 2K words the following week – when I’m cranking out around 18-24K per week and have two or three books to post, plus the backlog to whittle down. That’s four or six books per week to post. The only reason to break them down is so that people only get short smartphone-ready pieces.

I’m looking forward to keeping my next and future Sunday(s) clear for this.

5. ARC Membership –

I haven’t had enough time to get my head around what a membership is and should be. This is being built on Rainmaker, which isn’t the easiest platform to use. Their roadmap to build one of these frankly doesn’t make sense from the best reader experience. And they instantly expect you to build a sales funnel to complement it. So you can see where they are coming from.

Sure, that is something to master, but right now I’m content based, and trying to enable people to find my books rather than leveraging an email list for recurring income.

I’m just about ready with it, but have to set aside some time…

To Do This Week:

  1. 2 or 3 books written and published.
  2. Get SL/PubD both into this loop, incorporating PubD versions into the Amazon/SL inputs.
  3. Medium and Wattpad publishing for all the books this week.
  4. Find some time to get that ARC membership going and open the doors to it.

Luck to us all…

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Recent Lessons In Writing Fiction

Recent Lessons In Writing Fiction

Recent Lessons In Writing Fiction

Looking over some books on writing, as well as looking over my own earlier writing (just edited into a new anthology release – Hooman Saga: Book One) and got a good look at my progress over the last six months.

Then compared it with a real master (Heinlein) who cut his teeth on the short story (and had to trim his 12K stories down to 6K – saying that this taught him more than anything else.)

And found out some fascinating things worth dropping everything to tell you.

The books I picked up recently were Orson Scott Card’s “Characters & Viewpoints” and Mort Castle’s “On Writing Horror” – both incomplete at this writing but worth relaying the useful data I’ve found so far.

Using MICE to Train Your Author Craft

Card has this “MICE” acronym that stands for four types of stories, and four elements within each story’s telling:

  • Milieu,
  • Idea,
  • Character,
  • Event.

Per Card, they also define what your character will need to become. Because your characters tell the story, usually.

The point I got out of this is that the bulk of my short stories are idea-based, rather than devoted to the worldview (like Tolkien) or character-centric (consider Harry Potter) or event-driven like most thrillers and the early pulp fiction.

The great part is that you don’t spend a lot of time on characters or setting in an 8K story. But the pissy part is that my characters have been doing a lot of talking about their ideas (telling, not showing.)

Now, one key point of Castle’s book for me was found in a short republished interview of Harlan Ellison. Here Ellison made a few great points –

  1. Writers should learn to write in many genres, so they improve their art (and also become more profitable.)
  2. Writers control their destiny.
  3. The secret is staying a writer. Which is hard, and means to keep growing, be flexible, and be able to recognize when the world has gone on and changed without asking your opinion.
  4. You don’t become a writer, you stay a writer.

The Trap of “Writing to Market” Vs. Trusting Your Muse

This is the point where I quit learning from DW Smith and Geoff Shaw and even Chris Fox. They all talk about how to write to market. And emphasize that as a way to get started. Smith’s wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, had a different take from Smith in her own course about writing the short story. Her take: you write the story and then find where it fits to publish it. In our day and age of ebook publishing, this is as simple as working out the category you should publish it in.

Of course, you can dress it up with covers and descriptions that fit its major genre most closely. Ellison had a different view of Horror writing – that he wrote “fiction of the macabre.” And in that phrase you see that he’s writing closer to Rusch than Smith. Look up Smith on Wikipedia, and you’ll find he’s most known for his Star Trek books. I got onto his courses (which is what he seems to be mostly concentrating on now) because he is advertised as prolific – and I wanted to learn more efficiency in my writing. His courses are pretty good. Once I quit learning, then I was gone. (It was when I could see the difference between his own opinion based on his experiences of what worked for him – and what I could learn by just reading more broadly and continuing to write.) Shaw and Fox both tell you to figure out what the market wants and then write that. Just that. Lots of good tips. But they only take you so far.

The mentors are out there – but courses and books about writing don’t replace the necessary doing.

My writing only “works” when I’m true to the story. Otherwise, it’s drudgery. You have to trust your muse. You have to write what you love and what you’re personally interested in. And I attract the stories that hold the ideas I want to explore. Some are pure romance (“The Ghost Who Loved“) and others are mystery-detective (“The Case of a Cruising Phantom“). And I’ve worked with a larger story that was just continuing action events (“Two Ghost’s Salvation“). The rest have combined elements of romance, mystery, and action through them.

I pick up and work out mastering those three physical plot structures in a way to resolve the ideas I’m struggling with.

And study each of them as a purer form to improve my writing.

Binge Watching TV Series Vs. Reading to Improve Craft

So far, I’ve been pretty content with just watching/listening/binge-ing TV series to see how the characters develop. Or procedurals like “Murder, She Wrote” that become tediously similar every show – you have to simply take a break from them. “Angel” is a nice break, as this is all about his angst. “Buffy” (where his show spun off from) was OK up to the fifth year, where they made her a tragic hero in the finale. (And the last two years sucked after that.) So I don’t know how Angel will come out. For now, it’s decent to watch the character arcs, much like “Star Gate” and its “SG: Atlantis” spin-off.

But I picked up a Robert Heinlein story tonight (“To Sail Beyond the Sunset”) and saw instantly what I’m missing in my prose. Within the first two pages, the heroine spit out enough clues to have you entranced and wanting to figure out the mystery she was involved in. Two pages. (Essentially, escaped an imploding star ship with her cat while seeing a person with their arm blown off, only to wake up nude next to a dead man in a strange hotel room.) Instant murder-mystery. And I don’t know where the detective is on this – yet.

That’s Ellison’s point. If you read typical murder-mysteries, you are usually starting it from the sleuth’s viewpoint. But not Heinlein.

Needless to say, I just pulled my collection of Heinlein ebooks up and sorted them by word count to see how he writes short stories.

Ellison had another worthy quote in that Castle book:

“…there are occasionally writers who deliver something good enough to make wading through the crap worthwhile.”

Shades of Sturgeon’s Law: “90% crud.”

While Ellison was talking about Horror writing, I’ve found that I drop nearly all the books I read within the first couple of chapters. That said, I recently stumbled across a half-decent YA romance preview that is giving a much better example of how to talk through the two lover’s viewpoints than the bulk of the 90210 series I’ve watched/listened to. (The only long-running “romance” TV series that wasn’t also a comedy. But the first year is mostly about teen melodrama and their family angst, so it needs to get to decent romance in the second year, or…)

Learning From Perennial-Selling Books, Not Just “Bestsellers.”

This goes back to finding the perennial-sellers again. The ones that never go out of print. In Western’s, this is L’Amour, Max Brand, etc. Detective-Mystery goes to Poe, Doyle, Rinehart (who also had some short stories). Action is easier – Doc Savage series and the various non-procedural TV series. But the reason for reading is to improve your prose. Anyone can duplicate the six-part hook/four-act-plot/teaser screenplay that is common on TV. But how to get the same pathos, logos, ethos in 8K words is a different skill.

Mastering your craft is continuous per Ellison and others. But the craft goes beyond simply mastering what the current market wants. There is a reason that L’Amour’s books never went out of print in his own lifetime. He mastered his craft into a timeless form – and then continued improving it.

Sure, I liked every story I ever wrote and published. But now I can see where I’ve gotten a lot better than just a few months ago. That’s the core reason for focusing on being prolific. And in writing short to begin with.

A Decade of Writing Forges the Author’s Iron into Steel

I’d say that a decade of writing will prove that you (and I) know what we are talking about. DW Smith made that point – the real pulp fiction writers stayed with it for decades. As have the routine big name novelists. I’ve already seen some “authors” turn over to marketing courses full time when they saw how much more money they made. Just in the past ten years I’ve been self-publishing.

Not that I’m going to continue writing my fiction at the pace I have and will for the rest of this year. Not that I’ll ever quit being prolific, but I have a lot of non-fiction to write and convert into courses. Because this site (where this article originally appeared) is devoted to the system of living sensical. Being able to write and publish viable, profitable content is just one part of one-quarter of that. And is just this year’s challenge. Writing fiction and learning this craft meanwhile.

So that is what I learned recently about fiction writing.

Talk to me in another 10 years and I’ll be able to give you a more refined perspective…

 

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 32 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 32 Results

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 32 Results

Nothing like distractions to test your resolve. However, it only resulted in more breakthroughs…

Metrics

Published Words Fiction:
– free –0
– paid – 14456

Published Words Non-Fiction:
– free – 6806
– paid – 3429 (Medium)

Subscribers:
Mailerlite: 1 (non-IF), MailChimp: 1, Instafreebie – 390
New Total: 3223

Book sales this week:
Amazon – 7, Draft2Digital – 0, Gumroad – 0 = Total Week’s sales – 7

Books (pre-)published this week:

The Lazurai Returns
https://calm.li/LazuraiReturns

Tales of the Lazurai (anthology)
https://calm.li/TalesOfLazurai

Total fiction books published:
62 (Should be at 64 by now to make 100 by year end.)

Analysis

Chief reason for positive growth is that I didn’t send out any emails this week, other than automated welcomes. Still, those generated 26 people who refused to open even that welcome email. (And those I delete without qualm.)

Main point this week was covered in my two posts this week:
A Beginning Fiction Writing Plan – for New and Old Authors: https://livesensical.com/beginning-fiction-writing-plan-new-old-authors/ and
What You Should Know to Get Started Writing Fiction: https://livesensical.com/know-get-started-writing-fiction/

Main key points are these –

  • Use your first year of writing fiction to simply learn your craft and find your audience.
  • Put all your books on pre-order out to the depth of Amazon allowing you to (90-days.)
  • Only consider real marketing after at least the first six months.

Missteps (in hindsight) –

  • Spending money on subscribers (even as low as Instafreebie) instead of getting them through reader magnets.
  • Putting off Wattpad and Medium publishing up to this point (6 months.)

Basic takeaway in a nutshell –

Write short and narrow, publish long and wide.

(Meaning: write stort stories and learn the genres you most like to write in, and your audience wants you to write in – and – publish wide to all possible outlets, and publish in anthologies where you can afford to advertise.)

Other Writing Lesson

Stick to your inspiration and quit trying to force it to do its job. Get inspired, yes. But once you are writing “into the dark” as WD Smith calls it, don’t go back to try and plot your book out. Your inspiration will simply clamp up.

I’ve got a huge series of stories to write following C. C. Brower’s “Hooman Saga” into it’s next part – and that will have romance and adventure and mystery in it. But I’m not going to write them if I keep rejecting what my sub-/un-conscious is giving me to write.

I was bugged until Sunday am, nothing but a couple hundred words written. Then I just dumped all the planning I’d done and started writing on an earlier book “The Lazurai” where I had assumed the heroine had somehow ended her existence to save the hero’s wife. I got this “what if” that said she went into Brower’s universe and started a romance with a detective. Of course, it was supposed to be a detective-mystery, but that’s the way it goes. Girl with deadly superpowers saves dying detective and falls in love.

That then gave me enough copy from the two stories to publish a paperback, which is where “Tales of the Lazurai” came from. Of course, I can also have additional stories here. Because in that universe, the cities haven’t yet ruined the planet and unleashed a plague that kills most of humanity. There, the Lazurai would actually become heroes. In other words, I just added in new characters to the first book. And the thought came to me to build an anthology of the stories I’ve already written about this time period. Factually, I may only have this anthology represent those times. Not bothering to write a big sequential history like I did for Book Two, Part One.

And this is just unfolding as I write this.

To Do Last Week:

  1. Get in my schedule of writing in the am, then business, then watching/reading fiction. – nope (had relatives in and repeated cow escapes from pastures – exhausting in this August heat.)
  2. 3 short stories written and published. (one original fiction, one anthology)
  3. See if I can publish my backlist to PubD and SL. (started this test, as they’ve both made changes.)
  4. Publish one of my books as paid on Medium (first installment free.) – nope
  5. Get my ARC membership built and running. – started; more work needed.

To Do This Week:

  1. Get in my schedule of writing in the am, then business, then watching/reading fiction.
  2. 3-4 short stories written/published (Check into Brower Anthology above.)
  3. Update PubD and SL publishing flow, update all books2read links while I publish all these backlist books (about half of them, I estimate.)
  4. Publish two books to both Wattpad and Medium.
  5. Finish and open the ARC membership.

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