Monthly Archives: March 2015

At Home—Getting Ready to Launch

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Writers launch new books, or stories at least. But what does it really mean “to launch”?

To answer that, I must give the preceding questions: What is being launched and how long is it? And, will the project be an e-book or go the traditional route? I’m going to deal with only e-books and self-publishing here.

The project in question is of paramount importance. If it’s a short story, chapbook of poetry or fiction, or essay/article, the writer may or may not prefer to have the manuscript go through a professional copyeditor and formatter, before it’s uploaded and released for public consumption on Kindle, Nook, or Apple, or other devices.

stack-of-books-on-white-background-vector-illustration_z1m6_xvdLengthier projects, such as novellas, complete books of short stories poetry, and novels are usually regarded as needing professional treatment. Copyeditors and formatters are very necessary for those going the traditional route and for longer projects for e-books.

In the case of my small flash fiction chapbook, I don’t necessarily need or want to spend the extra money to have it formatted by a pro. I can do the copyediting myself on this, too.

My chapbook has stories carrying a common thread. The first three stories hover at approximately 500 words. The last story, written specifically for this effort, runs twice that length. Call it an anchoring story. As a sample of my style in macabre flash fiction, these give the reader a taste of my slightly darker side. This is only one example of what’s possible.

Long before editing is complete and formatting has begun, the writer needs to create a marketing/promotion plan. This Sales Or Marketing Directions On A Signpostcan be as simple as telling all of your readers, friends, and family that you’re going to put out a new book on X-date and would they please have a look at it. It can also get complicated, far-reaching, and expensive.

Think book cover before all else. Why? Because it takes some time to decide if you’re doing your own or having one made for you. That’s when you get to find one you like. Once you have your masterpiece image, start showing it to everyone. The more people who see it, the more serious you’re taken.

Consider creating a book trailer for YouTube, your website, and social media release for any project that will be close to or full length books. Post it everywhere you can and ask others to post it for their readers. Never underestimate the power of contacts.

Professional promoters and publicists are available for a fee. If the writer doesn’t want to deal with the additional headaches of promoting their own work, or are on a very limited budget, there are other avenues to pursue to get cheap or free publicity to the masses.

3d-web-mail-icons-set_M1yerad_However, guest blogging will get your work in front of readers who wouldn’t normally know anything about you. Getting yourself interviewed on other writers’ blogs will have the same effect. Paying a monthly membership fee for services, such as HooteSuite, can allow you to set up automated postings on group sites, Facebook, Google+, and Twitter at regular intervals without getting frazzled.

Other options for promotion are also available. There are groups on Facebook who promote writers and writing. Most social media avenues have such groups. There are also specific online media promoters. Author’s Marketing Club promotes both e-books and print, which are offered for FREE for limited days. Their subscriber list is extensive.

Indies Unlimited is another resource which can offer opportunities for promotion on a limited budget/free. Author and Book Promotion, http://www.author-promotion.com/newsletter.html, has a regular terrific newsletter. Another site is “Off the Shelf” at https://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/how-to-sell-more-books-start-a-national-awareness-day-with-flash-fiction-writer-calum-kerr/

Many more are available for those who do a search on “promotion for writers”. Don’t forget sites like Goodreads.

004-stock-photo-oChoosing when to launch for a self-published effort is strictly up to the writer. You can set a deadline for completing the writing, another for editing and formatting, and still another for uploading.

The key is keeping all of your ducks swimming in the same direction at an even pace.

Once you’ve chosen a deadline, remind everyone again that the launch is happening on X-date. Then, meet that deadline.

After your initial launch, you can decide if you want to use free promotion-sales days on your e-book. If you do, you can leave those freebie days until a month or so after launch to give sales a boost and to remind readers that it’s worth reading.

Work In Progress Sign Held By Construction WorkerNow you’re off and running. If you’ve chosen to use services like HooteSuite, which is affordable at approximately $10 per month,  you can set regular reminders about your book(s) to post to whatever site/group you’ve got on your list of promoters. All you have to do now is the rinse and repeat phases for the next project.

Me? After I get this one out, I have several more sitting in the wings waiting their turn. I’m going to be busy for a while. And no, I’m still waiting for my cover art. You can now see why I emphasized that angle.

Good luck making your choices and in setting up your new writing lifestyle. Let me know how things are going for you. I really am interested.

At Home—Issuing Yourself a Challenge for April

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Today marks the final nine days of March. I don’t know how your month began—whether lamb or lion—but ours was a mixed bag. And that goes for my writing world as well. Feeling like I’m working with gears fused, something’s got to give.

Oh, yes, the challenges continue. Studies top that list, along with the completion of Dreamie’s Box and readying a chapbook of flash fiction for launch.

Participant-2014-Web-Banner (1)Next month is the new NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Challenge. My write-in group is participating again. April is also the Poem-A-Day Challenge from Poetic Asides and probably another hundred poetry challenges to boot. I won’t be taking it on this year, which will be the first one missed in a long time. April has much to recommend it on the internet and beyond.

Yet, along the gauntlet of rival competitors and challengers are quiet moments for this writer. In preparation for the race, I paused. Reflection on what needs doing doesn’t come in flashes. It takes calm planning. In one of those moments between set competitions, I counted up how much work I had on the brink of “finished” and needed to either submit for publication or launch as self-published.

Jewel box on whiteIf you write, you probably have the same situation. On your hard drive or up in the clouds, you have stories, poems, bits of memoir which only require a revision and final edit to have ready for a reader. Instead, they sit, slumped in obscurity, waiting to be remembered. Each is a potential gem waiting to be lifted into the light and shown off.

Now’s your chance to give them the life they deserve. Create your own April challenge. Resolve to pull at least one short piece from obscurity each week. Revise or rewrite, edit and format to a designated set of guidelines and send it out into the world.

Do you have bits and pieces; fragments of stories that sounded good at the time the idea sprang to mind? If you do, you also stock-photos-2-027have the possibility of taking each of those and creating a great piece of flash fiction. Pull them out. Like buttons, sort them by theme, and take each theme to work on individually.

Give yourself the month of April to get that group of stories finished and ready for viewing. You are, after all, working on several stories—for instance, five longer pieces of flash fiction of up to 1000 words or ten shorter ones of 500 words each. That’s a good month’s work. Once they’re ready to read, format the chapbook for Kindle and launch.

It’s a gamble, I know, but what do you have to lose? A little time? No, you won’t be losing time. You’ll have readable stories waiting for a home. Don’t stock-photos-2-026want to launch a Kindle with them? Fine. Submit each one to a magazine or journal, or the whole lot to a contest. DO something with them.

What did I find when I went looking? I found three chapbooks worth of themed flash fiction. I can launch one with shorter pieces of period fantasy in April, one of longer contemporary flash stories in May, and others of still longer fantasy in June.

I’m tired of them constantly glaring at me from my documents library. They need to find another home. That’s a good enough reason for them to go out into the world and start working for themselves.

Perhaps you, too, could find jobs for your neglected backlog. Try it and see. You might find all sorts of opportunities once you start looking for them. As you go along, drop in and let Work In Progress Sign Held By Construction Workereveryone know about it. Drop you announcement into a comment. Sending something out is something to be proud of, and share your process or readying for launch or submitting for publication.

I’m off to begin final work on my chapbook now. Have a fabulous rest of the week. I’ll see you all soon—maybe with excerpts of what’s going out. Who knows?

At Home with Goals Pressure and Accomplishment

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You make goals for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether they’re for a week, a month, or the year. You’ve made them and you’re determined to see them through.

Terrific! Now what?

Well, if your life is anything like mine, those goals hang like giant water balloons, just waiting for the pin-prick of inattention to drown you. Aspiration doesn’t get a job done. Goals don’t get the job done either.

Only hard work completes the project and sets it up for success.

I should be talking, right? My past year has been one of broken goals and drowned intentions. Life has a way of doing that to a person.

One reason why I don’t let this truth doesn’t get me down is that stubbornness painted a large stripe down my spine at birth. Being a realist has advantages. It may lead to more pessimism at times, but it also allows for idealism to blossom among the weeds.

5b6-052714-akpFebruary’s writing/revision challenge was a success. All the revision goals were completed and then some on Dreamie’s Box. A few new twists were added along the way, and the overall story was strengthened by the group experience of the write-in.

Now, I’ve got to deal with those twists. A new character addition always makes for changes. The hint of a new, previously unplanned murder can shift many scenes and relationships, not to mention all those tiny continuity issues that must be tracked down. In all, pleasure has come with the new work. Everything will be completed soon and ready for the copywriter and then the shopping experience.

On the sidelines for a long time has been the coursework that keeps giving me jabs from the bench. I actually have two courses, a year-long workshop, and a short, do-anytime workshop which clutter my calendar. I also have three separate projects for these courses. I’ve decided to get sneaking about those projects, too.

004-stock-photo-oMarch promises to be the beginning of a long push. For those who’ve witnessed my recent burn-out, don’t begin the lecture. I’ve got things set up so that I only work on courses/projects for one to two hours a day, five days a week. The life lesson was learned well. After looking at what I wanted to accomplish and how many days a week I was willing to work, a workable/doable schedule was created.

DSC_0165It can be argued that goals are like nuts or jewelry. You can’t set just one goal. One nutmeat never satisfies the stomach or the taste buds. They’re always taken in multiples.

004-stock-photo-iAnd like jewelry, one goal is never right for every occasion or event. A goal to write an article for The New Yorker can’t be reused on a fantasy short story for Tor Books. They just aren’t the same. You need more than one gem.

Therein lies some of the pressure put on us by our goals. We focus our attention and intention to get something written for a specific purpose—say a competition, magazine, publisher, etc.—and work toward those intents. If something gets in our way, frustration ensues. If we get balked due to over-scheduling, we take it out on ourselves, as if it were a crime.

That’s where real mistakes are made. The more we allow self-punishment, the worse the situation becomes. The solution, though, is very simple—even for an over-achiever like me.

Schedule half as much work or less each day as you’d really like to get done. Do everything on the schedule that day. When you get to the end of your scheduled work day, reward yourself with something you really enjoy.

007-stock-photo-pThe reward can be anything from social media time to reading a book you put aside three months ago and didn’t get back to. Or, perhaps you’d like to take an afternoon for lunch with friends and a bit of window shopping. Then again, maybe you’d like to take a long nap. The specific reward isn’t as important as the gifting to yourself.

That’s been my biggest lesson in the past months. I don’t guilt myself anymore about not getting something done “on time.” The only deadlines I have at the moment are ones for competitions and open calls for submissions. I’m concentrating on those and my studies.

Everything else is gravy.

So, tell me, are your goals dictating your work, your time, and your emotions? Or, have you developed a plan to sidestep the pitfalls and sail through to whatever port you choose with fair skies and calm seas? Let me know in a comment.