Sunday, July 17, 2016

Write-a-lution - Let's Begin at the Beginning

Hi.  My name is Kate.  And it's been 21 days since I published a book.

So, there's a reality to this indie publishing thing that most people don't like.  They don't like it one bit.  They will wail and gnash their teeth and shake their fist at the sky.  They will swear up and down that it effects quality and no one can really write that fast and produce good work and blah blah blah.

Doesn't change the truth.

The truth is you have to publish something on Amazon every 90-days or your sales go into the toilet.

At 30-days there is a cliff where your sales are cut in half.  The reason is that your book is dropped from the hot new releases list.  Your sales will be cut in half again at 60-days.  And then will be cut in half again at 90-days and go into free fall.  It happens overnight and there is no chilling fear quite like seeing that point on the sales chart drop by 100 sales while you slept.

Now, if I was a publisher publishing books by a lot of different authors, this would be no problem.  Shoot.  Most publish a book a week.

As an indie author, I'm a publisher.  I mean, just of me.  But just because I am a single, solitary writer cranking all of this out with my own ten little fingers doesn't mean I get magical rules to make it easier.  I have to have my product compete in the same market as the big dogs.  So.  Every ninety days.  Four times a year.  Whatever makes it less scary.  I gotta do that in order to maintain my status as a full-time writer.

And it is 21 days since I published my last book.

So, it is time to get cranking.

When I look back at my choices as an author, I chose to get distracted by the new and shiny, by the lure of opportunities and other worlds, instead of sticking with my main series.  I would say this was one of my mistakes from a business standpoint.  What other business would have people pounding at the door before opening, demanding more of that unique caramel ice cream, and then provide cheese?  And then be surprised when the audience grudgingly takes the cheese but keeps saying over and over that the reason they are here was for the caramel ice cream.

Give the people their caramel ice cream.

If you're just starting off, learn from my mistakes and write books in a series.  Release in that series regularly.  Keep focused on one world, young grasshopper.  And if, after three books, the series doesn't take off?  Wrap it up and move on. Wrapping things up and moving on is the about-face I made in my business this year.  I ended all of my other series, declined generous offers from lovely people whom I would love to work with but wanted me to bring their worlds to life instead of my own, and decided to devote my time to caramel ice cream... well... with a few other projects on the side for pure fun...

So, Maggie VIII must be conceived today!  The germ of the idea must take shape!  How the heck does a person do that?!

There are two methods writing - pantsing and plotting.  Plotting is just what it sounds like - you outline your ideas and spend about three mind melting days figuring out who your characters are and what happens chapter by chapter, but once you're done, you can write at amazing speeds.  It is a pure joy writing from plot point to plot point.  I think my best was about 8k words in a single day.  And when most of my books are between 50k - 65k words long, it's a GREAT way for chewing through that first draft like a wood chipper.  I wrote my O'Hare House and Dark of Twilight series that way.


I highly recommend, if you're interested in learning speed, to pick up the book 2k to 10k.  There are other books out there, but this is the one that helped me the most.  And I gotta say, too, don't be afraid to try different methods.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Back when I sang, one of the things my teacher would say is that you have to work out the limits of your upper range and your lower range, because it makes your normal range stronger.  The nice thing is that if it doesn't work for you?  You just ditch it.  And if it does work for you?  You have this magical new tool.

Maggie, though, is pantsed (insert the sound of all my UK friends tittering.)  "Pantsed" means writing by the seat of your pants.  You sit down at the keyboard and just let your fingers fly.  Maggie was my second published book and I wrote it before I knew about plotting, and I feel that it is important to stick with the recipe that has connected with readers.

My top speed as a pantser is about 4k words a day.  Usually I'm much closer to 2k... or 1,200... or 600...  and editing is slower...

But pantsing  means you cut a lot of words out.  A lot.  I usually cut 20k words from my first draft.  HUGE swathes of story are axed as I find out what the thread of the original story is.  But it isn't lost work!  I keep a file for future Maggie adventures and when it is time to begin the next book, I flip through that folder and see what I've got.  BOOM!  Insta-20k words.  Only 30k to go.  Okay, so it isn't really that easy, but I have a head start.

The next thing I do is I set up my goal calendar.  I decide when this book HAS to be done.  The ninety day mark is September 26th.  I write this down and work backwards.  My proofreader can turn things around in a week, but it is much kinder to give her two weeks.  My editor has turned things around for me in 48 hours, but if I want to maintain that friendship, it really is nicer if I give him two weeks, too.  So that means I need to have a finished draft by August 29th.  I usually do three drafts.  There is the big, ugly first draft, the second draft where I make all of the huge cuts and smooth out the plot lines.  And the third draft which is a final read for any glaring inconsistencies.

So knowing my habits, I need to start the 1st draft today.  I need to start the 2nd draft August 19th.  The 3rd draft by August 25th.  And have the final draft done by the 29th.  There are 33 days between now and August 19th.  Sounds scary?  That's three days more than NaNo speed!  (Yes, funny that you mention it, NaNo IS how Maggie came to be.  The next National Novel Writing Month begins in November and you should TOTALLY do it.)  I aim for 45k words in my first draft, knowing that I will expand and cut and shift things around and eventually end up at 55k to 60k words by the time I'm done.

SIDENOTE:  Industry Standard Lengths

Flash Fiction:  Under 3000 words
Short Story:  Under 7500 words
Novelette:  7500 - 17,500 words
Novella:  17,500 - 40,000 words
Novel:  40,000 words

/SIDENOTE

So, 45,000 words divided by 33 days gives me my daily wordcount goal of 1363 words.  That's not too scary.  The average page is 250 words, so that's about 5 1/2 pages a day.

I then open up my Excel word count spreadsheet and plug that in.


And then, this might seem a little silly, but you know those chore charts that kids have?  It turns out those methods work for adults, too.  I have a wall calendar and I write down what I should be doing each day.  If I make my goal, I highlight the task (and I color code it.  Maggie, for instance, is orange.  Plays are blue.  Acting is green.)  And then I circle if I've reached the end of a goal (and add little star shine squiggles if I finish it before it is due.)  If I don't make my goal (even if I work on it), I don't highlight it.  It's like giving myself a gold star.

But by color coding, it allows me to see at a glance what I'm spending my time on, if I've set reasonable goals (I reevaluate every Friday and reset goals for the week), and how much time I'm ACTUALLY working on something vs. the lies my brain will tell me.

 


And THEN I start filling my brain with inspiration.  But we'll tackle that in the next post...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Amazon Prime Day!

Hey Everyone!  Today is July 12 and marks the annual Amazon Prime day!  A bunch of us authors are giving away books at prices so low, you'd think it was a fire sale at a car dealership at the end of the month.

Off we go!

So, you can grab all three of my first in series for FREE today!

  

And then just a reminder that Maggie Book Seven: Maggie Reloaded is now available, too!



Already have all of these?  Of course you have!  That's because you're awesome.  So how about some deals from some of my best buddies in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy/and Sci-Fi world?






Grab some books!  Share the deals with friends!  Enjoy more from Amazon Prime Day than $1 off detergent!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Win Nine Free Books!


Love free books?  Win a stack of fantastic urban fantasy books by entering the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Maggie Book Seven is HERE!!

The wait is over, my friends!  Maggie Reloaded (book seven in the Maggie MacKay: Magical Tracker series) is HERE!


Maggie and Killian may have prevented Earth's destruction, but the Other Side is not looking too good. The queen of the elves is dying and when she goes, everyone goes. Even worse, Maggie's got to move in with Killian.

Time is running out to save the queen and the situation is serious enough for Maggie and Killian to start a ragtag resistance team with Father Killarney and Xiaoming. It's going to be one hellish ride through the Dark Dimension, especially since their mode of transportation is a horse whose riders tend to be of the more headless variety.

WARNING: This book contains cussing, brawling, and unladylike behavior. Proceed with caution.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Write-a-lution Manifesto

So, there's this great guy named Bruce Lazarus who heard me share at the Dramatists Guild National Convention on my self-publishing journey and he insists that what I'm doing as an indie author is pretty special.  I'm afraid I suffer from imposter syndrome, though, because the voices in my head shout things like, "Sure,things may be fine now, but it will all come CRASHING DOWN AROUND YOUR EARS ANY SECOND NOW.  ANY SECOND!"

But I took a look at the Author Earnings report the other day and it turns out (much to my surprise) you could fit all of the authors who are in my bracket in a large Broadway theater.  Say... Hamilton's theater... you know... if anyone is looking for ideas on where to hold a club meeting...

This truth finally made me acknowledge my head is full of idiots.  As such, I've decided to stop listening to them and start listening to the advocates and champions in my life who keep dragging me, kicking and screaming, into the light.

I am a successful author.  I consistently make six-figures.  I make more as a writer than I ever did in an office.  There were other authors ahead of me that shone the light and taught me how to do it and, you know, gosh darn it, it's time for me to return the favor.

This blog has been stagnant for awhile, but I'm going to start sharing more about how I do what I do so that YOU can do what you want to do.  The biggest joy I have as an author is watching other's grab a hold of their writing dreams.  I want you to do that.  I'm going to start taking time out of my writing day to share my journey so that YOU can start YOUR journey.  Take what works for you and leave the rest.  I am not the end-all-be-all, but I've done it and I hope my mistakes and victories can give you the courage to give your dreams a fair shake, too.  It is not an easy path.  The market is getting more and more complicated.  But it is possible.  As the old saying goes, "When you find a job you love, you never work a day in your life."  Welcome to the party.  Viva la Write-a-lution!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Maggie VII Coming at You Next Week!


Maggie VII will be coming at you next week!  One of the scenes is located in a kids' playground located in Orange County.  Here's a picture of the ACTUAL playground it is based upon.  And want more pictures?  Here you go!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eyduck/albums/72157623060621157/with/4264888088/

Available for Pre-Order:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Queen Mab Audiobook

UPDATE!  Queen Mab is LIVE!  Grab your copy on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

_____________________________________________________________




I am so pleased to announce that one of my favorite actors in the world is locked in a studio right this very moment and is being forced to record the upcoming Queen Mab audiobook... erm... wait...  I mean, he graciously agreed to lend his dulcet tones to bring my book Queen Mab to life.

I've been a huge fan of Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing, The Hour, Blandings, Banished) for years and if you're lucky enough to live in the UK, you get to hear his voice regularly on BBC Radio.  Lucky ducks.

A little history of this project: as many of you know I'm a hybrid author with titles both traditionally and indie published.  Back in 2013, a wonderful publisher made a five-figure offer on Queen Mab. I ended up turning it down.  Since then, my feelings on that decision have fluctuated between "best decision" and "worst mistake" of my life.

What it came down to and the reason I walked away, though, was the issue of creative input on the audiobook.  These things last forever.  These things will be what my great-great-grandnieces and nephews share with their children and say, "This is what your dead ancestor did with her life."  You don't think about these things when you sign your first contract.  But you start thinking about them rather seriously when you begin to understand, viscerally, what signing something over until 70-years-after-your-death means.

In 2013, I had no power.  In fact, that's sort of a running theme for authors in the publishing world - very rarely do we get to say, "I like this cover" or "I want this voice."  And let me make this clear, the publisher who made the offer is actually one of the better ones out there and even so, couldn't guarantee me a say on the narrator.

And so I politely declined and decided to sit on this project until the day came where I could get it done in such a way that I could be proud of it.

Enter ListenUp Audiobooks.  A little over a month ago, I received a notice from Kobo that they had teamed up with ListenUp Audiobooks to make self-publishing possible.  I had a phone call with their team and the conversation went like this:

Me:  I'd really like Julian Rhind-Tutt to narrate this book.
Them:  FYI - We do have some narrators in house that sound similar.

(NOTE: This is where the conversation usually breaks down with a publisher.  Usually they decide someone "similar" is good enough.  I have come to believe, though, that audiobooks are an art form. I believe they should be more than "not terrible" or "did the job" or "well, they were willing to do a royalty split on ACX."  They should make you feel something - like going to a play or listening to music.  I believe the voice is actually even more important than my words.  And so, I believe audiobook talent should be more than a line item and the role of the narrator should be awarded to actors and artists who are experts in their field rather than to a "similar, yet more cost effective" voice.)

Me:  No, I'd really like him.
Them:  Cool!
Me:  *stunned silence and shock, waiting for the other shoe to drop*
Them:  We got your back.

And they made it happen.  They made what several Big 5 publishers were not willing to make happen.  They arranged international contracts with his agents, studio rental across  The Pond, and today?  This actor I have admired so much is speaking my words into a microphone, words that will last 70-years after my death.  I could not be more honored to have his voice be the legacy of this project.  Look for it in July.

Godbless this digital age.