Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Final Preps for The Great Fiction Writing Challenge

The Great Fiction Writing Challenge - Final Preps 

Final Preps for The Great Fiction Writing Challenge

Less than a month now to the grand kickoff.
This is a record, as all these posts are, of what I’ve been doing and what I intend to do.
The biggest problem has been losing focus and not having key habits installed.
I’m a straight-ahead guy by habit. Since I quit my last boss, I’ve been able to experiment with schedules and production as much as I want. Need a nap, take a nap. Need some fresh air, go take a walk.
This isn’t necessarily the most productive approach, but I’ve had a whole life of “needing” to be productive to suit someone else’s job requirements.
Now, I “work” for myself.
The backbone of this is being able to afford to do anything I want now, since my passive income has become stable.
Checking with other successful public-domain (PD) publishers confirmed the approach I’ve taken. (The short hand: best income is from non-fiction PD paperbacks distributed to Amazon and Ingram. Second runner-up is non-fiction PD audiobooks. Losers are PD fiction in any form. CreateSpace is also there.) Both of the other guys I checked with make far more than I do, and have each over a thousand titles in distribution as I do. They have made more income than I as they’ve endured the prejudices and trolls of Amazon, both having their accounts summarily cancelled due to Amazon’s fickle nature. I quit dealing with the trolls and have made more than enough income to live on from PD books which aren’t subject to their approval lines. (And those lines I’ve talked about earlier. See the Author Freedom Guidebook, course, audiobook coming soon.)
All that long paragraph means I have the freedom to do what I want.
The idea is to test this all out and refine it so that you can, too…
This Challenge is just a test of both the areas of self-improvement and authorship, where I’ve concluded that I have all the basics and no longer need to research much in these areas. Simply as the same answers are coming back. These simply confirm that the basics are in place. The next step is to test the road-maps I’ve advised these last few years during the research. And then refine them as I go.

To Go Somewhere, You Need Somewhere to Go.

Simple enough to state. A challenge to achieve.
While my income goal will remain private, my achieved income will be published each month, as well as expenditures.
To achieve that income, I am embarking on writing original fiction as an unknown. A pure acid test of this.
There is an upcoming book, with the working title “Feeding the Beast”. This book lays out the core discovery that needs testing.
The core discovery is that, as usual, what authors are being told to do is not necessarily what they should be doing.  The ideal is to quickly build a livable passive income from books alone.
However, most of indie publishing has been infected by the false standards that corporate (traditional) publishing established. Apparently, that was based on their earlier model of publishing impressive hardbacks first. The thicker, the better. That action of needing to pad out books with extra wordage made the books worse, unless they needed to actually be that long to tell the story.
Our modern indie publishing approach is closer to the “old” days of pulp fiction. Magazines would bring work by new authors to their paid/paying subscriber base. The champion of this model in modern publishing has been Dean Wesley Smith, who recommends adopting the idea of “pulp speed” to your writing. Essentially, writing a couple or three thousand words every day of the week and of the year.
The essential point is that this is now viable as a production line for any author. This was confirmed by Geoff Shaw in both his Kindling Course and his Udemy Courses. There are ebook readers out there who will buy and read shorter works. Because that is all the time they have, and they want that relief of being transported to another place for those 5-10-15 minutes.

Corporate (Traditional) Publishing Arbitraries

Corporate publishing has created this arbitrary minimum of a novel being 80K words or more. For an indie author, the math of this means the average author will publish about three books a year. And that means it will be several years before you have enough backlist so that you become profitable. Since you are writing in your spare time, you will be keeping your day job much longer. (Hope you love it already.)
And, worse, there are many people who make money from selling their services to authors. These people recommend you spend thousands per book in order to make sure it’s “sufficient quality” to succeed in the marketplace. As covered elsewhere, that makes you certain to keep your day job in order to finance your creative writing. (They recommend spending about $3K per book, yet the book will only make about 250 sales at an average of $2.50 per book royalty. So you are $2375 in the hole for each book created this way.

New Pulp Fiction, the Hero Riding to the Rescue

The pulp fiction route is to split that book in to smaller chunks and sell them each for slightly less, but investing nothing in these books more than you can really afford. You still will sell few of these titles at the outset, but you’ll build a backlist of books faster. These short books build up to a collection that is the final book. You’re publishing weekly instead of every three or four months. And readers can find your other works quickly and support you as an author.
Also, you publish in all possible formats through all possible sale outlets. Right from the beginning. It’s now possible to publish short audiobooks as well, then collect these up for sale at higher prices as well. Enabling people to sample your stories in short versions, at low cost, helps them decide whether you are an author worth following.
Again, this is a pulp fiction idea, where you like the short story of a certain writer and look on the newstands or bookstores to find other works by that author. Same idea that runs the online book outlets now.
And this is all in that upcoming book, which I hope to publish before Christmas holidays hit, with all those interruptions.


Any challenge has a goal. The ones I’ve settled on fit this production model. During the last few months (since about mid-summer) I’ve been testing the various ways to get regular writing done. While I was able to consistently produce between 2500 and 3K words per day, it was taking the rest of the week to edit these into working shape, able to be published.
Frankly, the mass amount of work I’ve produced still isn’t ready even at this point. I have somewhere around 50-60K words in two book collections that are all-but ready for publishing. They are still hanging on getting them recorded. Because the ideal is to publish in all possible formats to all possible outlets.
Some of this was testing (and disproving) the concept of being better to record your book and then edit the transcript. After a week of doing nothing but extensive editing, I trashed that idea and went back to simply typing. It is useful to talk your story out, especially on long walks. But these recorded stories are seldom decent enough quality to be transcribed simply. It seems the only real option for this is to invest in Dragon Speaking software or send it out to be transcribed. ( is in between these two, and still requires you editing your own talking.) The discipline of learning how to read a story out of your mind is beyond being able to simply type it out to begin with. And ended up with a 2500 word story, that could be typed in a little over an hour or two, taking four to five hours to produce. Meaning you essentially cut your average wordage down to maybe 500 words per hour.
This showed up also that the emphasis needs to be on publishable words. 20K words in a week sounds great. But it might take you another week or two to edit and record those words into publishable format.
The idea then, becomes to publish two titles per week. And these can simply be chapters or serials toward a much longer work. Short stories which add up to the final collected work. You work up two short-read stories that can be published and then do so. Publishing one title per week quickly builds a backlist and collected works, satisfying both the short- and long-read audiences. Your short-read audience supports you as you build those longer works to attract the long-read audience.
The emphasis on publishing in all formats then gives you the ability to finance your work. Potentially, you start making money from the first week. Realistically, your first work isn’t going to be your best. But your true fans will later come back to scoop these up, or you can run giveaways with these to encourage more subscribers.  The main point is to start now, publish now, and have something out there.

Write Short, Publish Long.

This was the breakthrough with “Feeding the Beast.” While you create two publishable books per week, you publish them at one per week. This allows you to start putting books far into the future on pre-sales, which is more profitable than simply dumping everything you can out there. The recent Smashwords analysis confirms that pre-orders are income makers. Somewhere in this is a balance of setting books out for 90 days in advance and publishing right away.
I love the story about the author who worked for a year creating four novels and published them all at once at full price, turning the conventional wisdom on its head. Essentially, she created an instant backlist of books, as if she was an established corporate/traditional author who had simply re-acquired rights to her earlier titles. Made a ton more money than other approaches.
Add to this the dead zones of corporate publishing that exist in January and late summer. These are the times that “bestseller lists” will take much fewer sales during a week in order to include those books on their lists. Corporate publishers push out Christmas season books and let staffs take holidays in summer. Indie authors can pre-schedule around those times to release books readied in October for January publishing dates. (Then take three months of writing-editing-recording to release all at once during August, pre-scheduled as you have them ready.)
If you’re up to cranking 10K per week (two 5K titles), then three months of work will give you 120K worth of books up there. All as short works and collections, all released within a couple of weeks of each other. Amazon then promotes these for a month and they then give each other a boost on the rankings, as well as promoting the other books that are available for pre-sale.
I go over some of this in the “Feeding the Beast” book, but it’s really just a creative approach to publishing.

Three Habits – Thrice as Hard as One

Getting into writing daily can be a monster chore of its own. You have to deal with the discipline of training your inspiration to work when you are able to.
The other habits are promotion and reading.
Promotion also has to be done daily. And this is finding place to promote your books. Too simple. But it has to be done. This has been a consistent weak area of mine. Being content-enabled (prolific) doesn’t mean you’ll make any income from it, or very much.
This model is designed to make the prolific able to earn a livable income.
The basic theme is a to write short and publish long. What’s missing here is the promotion step. That will then make the theme work as an equation. Add “promote daily.”
Stephen King was channeling other authors who have long held that reading and writing daily are two habits any author should adopt in order to succeed. Adding to these are promoting daily and publishing weekly (in all possible formats to all possible outlets.)
Beyond that is D. W. Smith’s mantra he has pinned above his monitor, “Trust the System.” (His other mantra is “Write Episodes” and that fits our approach exactly.)

A Note on Reading

From experience, watching movies doesn’t fill the bill. Because you need to train yourself as a wordsmith. Even reading the film scripts wouldn’t really bring you up to speed. Movie watching does train your subconscious into how the basic plots work. Reading gives you examples of the words that create the emotional (glandular) response you want to be able to create through your own works.
One of the keys I’ve run into recently is the ability to involve the reader from the first sentence in a story, to transport them instantly deeply into another world and keep them there. A lot of how this effect is produced in movies is done with visuals and music. Writers only have words.
Just to speed this up, I’ve been downloading PD short stories (singly and in collections) to master this writing format. It’s a matter of getting up to speed on how to quickly dive your reader right into the story and only let them come up for air when you are done. They have no real choice in this.
Words are what you need to program your subconscious (inspired mind)  with. Your conscious (editing mind) already has a grasp of these. You want to have the ones with emotional content plugged in as part of your integral capacities. These can only be embedded by lots of actual reading. Sure, you can catch up on popular and classic movies, but ensure you are also reading daily.
All that said, you need to love reading short stories if you are going to write them. And your reading needs to be down this line, at least to start. That’s the key to succeeding in this write short and publish long model. Sure, you graduate up to chapters with plot-shifts and twists that act as serial hooks to the next part. At the beginning, you are going to start with simply writing episodes. So you want to read short stories. At worst, you can read the books which were originally published as serials. But reading these is where you take a break and digest that particular part.
Dorothea Brande says in the eighth chapter of her “Becoming A Writer” to read each story twice. The first is for enjoyment. Then you write a critique of what worked and didn’t work for you – and why. Then re-read it critically to see how the author could have done it better. That’s how you study short stories. And that’s how you study the serial chapters. Read, dissect, study each individual chapter, or the section that was serialized.
As you do this, you’re preparing both your editor (conscious) mind and also your writer (subconscious) mind. The key point is that you really need all three habits to improve your writing. You read for inspiration and training. You write as practice, each story written as good as you can. You promote to get feedback on what you’ve written.

Weekly and Other Quotas and Metrics

I’ve covered a few of these that I’ll be starting with.
  • Two titles published every week. Ebook, print (if long enough), and audio.
    3 promotion actions every single day.
In addition to that, I have courses to build and also will be maintaining and updating my mailing lists every week. The other action will be reviving collections of pulp fiction short stories from the 30’s to 50’s. Not too surprisingly, some of the best short stories came out of this era. And many are in the public domain. So every week, I’ll be creating collections of these books and publishing them as a magazine. (No audio, unless I can link to existing Librivox recordings.) Subscribers will get these for free. And that’s the idea. Build my subscriber base. Every week I should be able to enable another download for sale. (And probably make these advance editions before they come out anywhere else.)
The additional metrics are then:
  • Course parts added. (Another publishing metric.)
  • Weekly PD collection published
  • Broadcasts to each of my lists. (Promotional metric.)
And it’s not like I fail if I don’t get those done. But that is the bar I want to set. Each week, I’ve created and published three books, talked to each list I have to keep them involved and rewarded as fans, and promoted 21 times that week.
As I accomplish those weekly goals, I’ll then be creating a sizable amount of work that is exchangeable for the commodity known as money. As the backlist becomes established, then the income will increase geometrically for each new subscriber/fan (as I continue to improve as a writer.)

Social Media Revisited

Mostly, I tell people to stay completely off social media. The exceptions are three (depending on how you classify things.)
We are after getting the attention of the uber-readers. These people can read a novel each day if they want to. And those readers are the ones buying my books. These people are the ones who made the current boom in ebooks. No one really knew they existed before ebooks, except the librarians who checked out their books. Now they are driving down the price of books in Romance and elsewhere because of the demand they’ve created for new content.
The social media they use isn’t Facebook or Twitter, particularly. They may go there as well, but they go places where there are lists of books they haven’t read yet. Simple. So these are Wattpad, LibraryThing, and Goodreads.
Otherwise, we are publishing on our own blog and also on Medium. Medium and Wattpad are where you can get reviews. Medium allows you to get paid.
Some have blogs and Medium as social media. Fine. I consider them places you can publish. So Wattpad is also a publisher. LibraryThing and Goodreads are places you can make lists and give away copies.
Now, subscriptions will be gotten through the links in front and back of the ebook, and otherwise getting to your blog where they can sign up.
This is also the reason for giveaways. So the networking part of this is to get into Instafreebie and other group giveaway sites and get your work out there. Promotion is getting in front of someone else’s audience and inviting them into yours. That’s the whole reason for being in all these various places and also the reason for publishing in all possible formats through all possible outlets. They all have different audiences. And those audience likes different versions.
Other than time constraints, I’d also get into video. But I don’t see how to tell stories in that format simply, so I’ll skip it for now. I’ve got plenty of work to do.
If I start running out of time, I’ll only post these stories to my own blog (that also ports to Medium) and Wattpad. But come back and then update the lists on Goodreads and Library Thing. Publishing is more important than anything else. And writing-publishing two short stories and a collection every week is beyond what anyone considers possible. But if you don’t reach for the stars, you’ll never hit the moon.

How Is This Possible?

I’m prolific.
Too simple.
I’ve been publishing for years and can get any ebook with it’s print version up in a half hour for both (a little longer for the audiobook.) To all major and minor book outlets online. My old joke down this line is that it get’s easier after the first hundred books.
Writing is also very simple for me. (This was supposed to be a short post and it’s already over 3200 words.)
All I’m adding is recording my third proof in order to make the audio book. Editing that recording into shape will add some hours to each book, but looks to be a very valuable addition.
The trick is also in using pen names. By doing that, you can fail multiple times and completely wreck your reputation as an author over and over until you get it right.
Pen names also allow you to master various genres with no penalty.
The ultimate idea is probably to have at least three pen names, each with their own mailing list. Then co-author these pen names with each other and so expose the readers to other genres (and backlists) of the second author. I have a huge section of this in “Feeding the Beast” where I grid this all out. And it took some three or four iterations before that grid worked even on paper.
The Recipe:
  • Write (short) daily,
  • publish (long) weekly.
  • Use pen names.
  • Do three promotions every day.

Where’s the Advertising?

Not here. Before you can advertise, you have to have something to offer. Well, not exactly, but I hate arbitrary deadlines. More than that, I hate ads. My life is already interrupted enough. All my browsers block ads to some degree. And I never interact on Facebook, Twitter, or mostly anywhere else. I publish content and send out inspirational quotes daily. Flipboard is about as social as I get.
I wouldn’t treat you like I don’t like to be treated in return.
Maybe I’ll get into advertising later. Right now, I consider that getting interviewed on podcasts and radio shows is some of the best promotion I can do, other than getting my titles into bundles with others.
This plan is content heavy. That’s what I’ve found to be the underlying basic to succeeding as an author.
Look up the million-book sellers. Average out how many books they’ve written and work out how many of these were written each year. The top writer was a lady who wrote over 5000 titles in 60 years. And that’s nearly a hundred titles each year. Other top writers who created novels had an average (from the Wikipedia page that listed these) of around 160 novels each. If they wrote for 40 years on average, then that’s at least 4 novels per year. Long novels, usually.
Your best promotion is also your next title.
Yes, I may get into advertising. Probably when I can hire someone to do it for me. And they’ll get paid by how much increased income they bring in. Or I’ll get someone else until I find someone who can. Advertising should be positive ROI for ebooks. And my best work right now is getting a body of work created that can be advertised. Meanwhile, I’ll promote through my writing and through interviews and through giveaways. All those will give me my number one metric: subscriptions.

Now You’re Up to Date

Join the list below to get on the weekly mailings of this progress. And you’ll get pre-release copies of my latest works as well as the collections of them and some great classics.
See you up the line.
The post Final Preps for The Great Fiction Writing Challenge appeared first on Living Sensical.

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