Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back to writing

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing a lot of marketing and promotion for my nine novels and it has paid off. My main blog, ALWAYS WRITING has reached a milestone 250,000 + page views, and the other sites that I post blog articles have reached a combined 150,000 + page views. Not bad for the twenty months they have been in existence.

Now that I’ve reached a comfortable level of exposure it’s time to get back to the business of writing books. I did manage a 20,000 word outline of a planned six book dystopian series, and also broke out an old manuscript from last year; a YA literary fiction novella about teenage drug abuse in the 1980’s. The manuscript only took six months to write so if I don’t think it’s worthy of publication it’ll go back into the drawer. It wouldn’t be the first manuscript collecting dust in that drawer and it won’t be the last. I believe readers deserve a rich, storytelling experience and I won’t publish a book that I don’t think possesses those qualities. 

I’ve never written one book at a time. What I usually do is write two or three beginnings to different projects and then spend a few hours plotting out the gist of each. I’ll then write an intro paragraph for each one and continue on with the concept that most hooks my interest. I’ll write until a rough, first draft is complete (usually about a month). Then I’ll put the draft aside and start the process all over again with new ideas.

When I’ve got two complete rough drafts, I’ll work on both simultaneously, writing one in the morning and the other in the early afternoon. When both novels are nearly complete, I’ll choose one to work on exclusively until it is perfect (perhaps, another two months).  Once that novel is finish to my strict and insane standards, I send copies off to my editor, formatter, and cover artist to put the book into production. 

As the chosen book begins marketing and promotion, I’ll start the novel-seeking process all over again with three new story ideas. The remaining, nearly complete manuscript will sit in the drawer until I finish the first draft of my next new project. Then that one will sit and maturate while I spend time fixing the previous manuscript. This method allows for one heavily edited, thought-out, and finished manuscript about every six months, which is about pace with what I’ve achieved over the last two years.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Keeping up with the world

Two years ago, after amicably parting ways with my literary agent of four years, I decide to take destiny into my own hands and publish my books in eformat. I had a huge collection of completed and professionally edited novels and decided that publishing one every three months seemed feasible. So, that’s what I did.

Little did I know I was on the cusp of an indie publishing revolution. My books were available at the right time, for the right audience, and at the right price. Kindles and Nooks were the new “it” device to have, and readers who were once against reading a story electronically, suddenly realized the ease in which they could purchase and carry along their favorite books. My sales went through the roof.

I’m not saying I was a bestselling author, but my books all ranked in the low thousands for a time. Then something strange happened, my sales started to drop. I wasn’t doing anything different than before. I still spent an average of two hours a day marketing my titles, on top of the two hours a day I spent writing new material. Yet, my rankings kept slipping.

I decided to look deeper into this new age of publishing and what I discovered is frightening.

It seems anyone who’s ever written anything is now publishing it on the internet. Last year, Amazon reported about 20,000 new titles being published a month. This December it was over 80,000. That’s a lot of competition! And these new publishing folks are savvy marketers even if they’re not great writers. They’re using Utube, and audio conversions, and video’s, and social media, and a thousand other techno resources to peddle their stories to the masses. 

So, where does that leave the introvert, artist, novelist who cares about his books as if they were his children?

As I get older and more experienced in my writing, I’ve come to realize that it is the story that is most important. It is eternal once written. To create something that effects people, or entertains, or changes their perspective about life, is what any real writer hopes to achieve. Sure, there are gimmicks and tricks, and social media, and threads to artificially raise awareness of your book, but if it was written as a piece of merchandise just to have out there, chances are it will fail.

Last month, I researched much of the latest trends in marketing (seo optimization, book trailers, keywords) and it made my head spin. Whatever happened to a good story selling itself? It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the world.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Novels may die

I’ve been writing 50,000-70,000 word novels for a while now and to do it properly takes a lot of time. My fastest writing ever was last year when I finished a 60,000 word novel in eight months. And I do believe there will always be readers who want to immerse themselves in a long, detailed story. However, I also believe that a new wave of reading experiences will take over the future. What are these, you ask?

As our lives become busier and busier, it’s harder to find time to sit and just read a book. People have shorter and shorter intervals of spare moments; a twenty-minute bus commute or a ten minute wait in a parking lot to pick up your kid are the norm. We need quick, exciting stories to pass the time.
I believe readers and writers will see a new trend of the reading experience evolve. I think shorter series novels will take the place of long, epic ones. These stories will hook the reader immediately and satisfy the escapism bug without delving too deeply into page upon page of subplots, characterization, and long, overly developed plots. Like a quick shot of whiskey to loosen you up instead of a whole evening of drinking.

Gone will be the days of $2.99, $1.99, or even $0.99 ebooks. These short, series novellas will cost a quarter, or a dime, or maybe even free to hook an audience into the series. Fans will alert others when a new novella is released and the viral effects will be staggering (assuming you can write a good story).

Authors will have to be extremely prolific in the near future to keep up with the demand of writing a dozen or more series novellas a year. But the big corporate pressures of the past to create a perfect, profitable, publishing package will go extinct. Readership will decide what series are worth their time, not a table of executives sitting on a high floor of a skyscraper in New York City.

That said, I have nearly completed the first novella in my planned six-book dystopian series. Each book will be priced at $0.99 and end with a killer cliffhanger (much like the television series’ LOST and THE X FILES always did) hooking the audience to purchase the next book. Bring on the future of book publishing and readers. This is the most exciting, innovative time ever to be an author.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What if?

I just got back from a three day trip to the casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I brought my laptop but got little creative writing done. I did pretty well playing at the blackjack tables and also threw a few bucks into the slot machines. It was while playing the progressive machine that my mind began to imagine ‘the what if’s’.

The jackpot was for 1.2 million dollars. What if I suddenly hit it big? What if all the right symbols lined up and bells start ringing? How would my life change?

As I spun, I fantasized about buying a big oceanfront house and a fancy sports car, and taking vacations in warm, tropical climates. I imagined myself luxuriating on a hammock beside a crystal clear pool while Bob Marley thumped from waterproof speakers. I also imagined the best perk of this illusory sudden wealth; more time to write my novels.

Even as a child, I couldn’t fathom enjoying anything in this material world if writing wasn’t involved. While other kids dreamed of lying on a beach enjoying the sunshine and rolling swish of wavelets, I dreamed of lying on the beach with a pen and pad and writing books. It has always been the central focus of my existence as a human being.

To not be able to write would be like taking away a painter’s ability to see. I’d be handicapped for life.

As I hit the spin button on the progressive slot machine a final time and my numbers still didn’t come up, I was okay with the fact that I’m not yet spending my days immersed in complete creativity. I still have to play the game of the world for a while longer. Though I haven’t hit the big time in authordom at the moment, each day I sell more books and get a little closer. I’ll keep at it until my numbers do line up.