La Riposte

Sunday, January 29, 2012

ROW80 and Promotion Update...

Well, it's been an interesting week on many counts - I spent most of my time in Beaufort, South Carolina, which is where I will be living come this summer. Found a house to live in, and the seller's accepted my offer to buy it, so 30 days from now, I'll hopefully have another house in my name.

On the writing front, I have finished the proposal letter and sample chapter of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Indonesian", so I'll be sending that off to Penguin to see if they'll pick it up as their next language learning guide. Hopefully I will hear back from their editorial team within a couple of weeks.

My ROW80 focus will then turn to editing my translated Indonesian book, and getting another short story ready for publication - although I now have a couple more fiction projects (one short story, one novel) where the Muse is demanding a bit of my time.

Finally, a bit of book promotion news. First, Lindsay & Jane's Views & Reviews has reviews of both Seven Lives to Repay Our Country and Happily Ever After up on both their website and Facebook page, so readers, check them out, and writers, consider sending them a copy of your latest work to review.

Second, as part of my continuing experimentation and exploration into successfully marketing short stories (to be documented in an upcoming "how-to" guide) I'm taking Ever After PR's "featured author" program for a test-drive in February. Therefore, the majority of February promotion for Happily Ever After will be done through them - 3 guest posts, a sidebar ad, several Tweets, and constant FB presence. My "control group" will be Seven Lives... which I'll promote with Tweets through Novel Publicity's "Karmic" program (see below) and the WoMen's Literary Cafe, book reviews, and efforts to improve Listopia rankings on Goodreads.

Finally, for authors I recommend checking out Novel Publicity's "Karmic" programs on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. These are quick and easy reciprocal drives to increase your follower/fan/friend base in social media while exposing you to what your fellow authors are up to. I experienced a 60+ follower jump on Facebook and gained 20+ friends/fans on Goodreads last week.

Wishing everyone a great week,


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Muse vs. Mechanics

This Wednesday Thursday Blog Hop / ROW80 update post will touch briefly on the question of Muse vs. Mechanics, which I deem an appropriate subject for a week where, on the surface, few of my writing goals were met.

I’ve seen several fellow ROW’ers who appear to use methods that appear rather mechanical to generate writing – word sprints, goals driven by word counts, etc. And while I’m hardly in a position to judge, I must say that I’m not sure this method would work for me. I tend to write the core material for most of my projects “as the spirit moves me,” rather than because I’ve sat down with some deliberate goal for X number of words in the next Y hours.

This week is a good example. While I have done very little on my planned writing projects (about 5 pages of translation, but that’s it) I have written 6000 words of a historical fiction novel, as well as completed a bit of research and framed the plot. This was for an idea that has been knocking around for some time, but had never been put to paper.

Does this mean I’m abandoning my ROW80 goals? Not at all! It’s just been one of those weeks (on the road, sick, etc.) which made rigid adherence to planned activities difficult to encompass. The “goal” projects are still important, and I’ll look forward to reporting progress on them this Sunday, but I’ve gotten a lot farther this week following the Muse rather than the Mechanic.

Curious to know your thoughts on this subject, and wishing you a great and productive run-up to the weekend.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

ROW80 Update and News of the Week...

So, since Wednesday, I have made it around the world with a bit of luck, a lot of patience, and about $300.00, so this update comes to you from South Carolina, where I'll be for the next 2 weeks doing some training and looking for a house to buy in anticipation of my transfer here in June.

On the ROW80 front, the good news is that the proposal material for The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Indonesian is finished, and I'll send it off next week after giving it a final editing.

A bit behind on the goals for my non-fiction book release, and my article for Current Intelligence, but I think I can catch those both up this week between classes. Looking forward to being able to provide a more thorough update on Wednesday.

In other news, I'm using the month of February to test the efficacy of Ever After PR's "Featured Author" package; you can look forward to a report here sometime in March detailing the results of that promotion. And finally, Happily Ever After is being translated into German, so I'll be looking forward to releasing that on next month, and then working on getting a French translation done as well.

Best wishes to all,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Blog Hop, ROW80 Update, and a Question...

Well, it's Wednesday again, which means a short post to welcome visitors from the Blog Hop, provide a quick update on my ROW80 goals, and try to keep the conversation interesting by posing a question for my visitors...

Question first. Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Steven King all released novels in serialized form; what do you think are the advantages or disadvantages of a novel being released a chapter at a time in electronic form these days? Here are some specific issues: Free, or paid? And if paid, a one-time up-front fee, or a per-installment fee? What about format? Would you read it if it was released as a blog (readable online or on the Kindle, for example) or do you have another suggestion for formatting? And finally, interval... One chapter per week? More or less material, more or less often?

Am very curious to hear your thoughts on the subject. As an author, I think a serialized release would help keep me focused on on track with the writing of a novel, and might help build publicity in advance of the full release. Now, a quick update on ROW80 (if you don't know what that is, click here for details) - highly recommended for all writers!

Finished one overdue item on my book proposal, and hit a fitness goal (run a 6-minute mile) but still overdue on completing the sample chapter for the book proposal, and now overdue on editing the 100-some pages of my translated non-fiction book.

So, still running behind on the book proposal front, and will be dangerously close to missing more deadlines soon. Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of a round-the world trip (writing this from Tokyo) and the preparation for that has thrown my writing schedule a bit off. Nonetheless, I'm confident that I'll be on track at the end of the 80-day period...

Looking forward to seeing how everyone else is doing, and hearing your thoughts on serialization.

Best regards,

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Round of Words Check-In, 1-15

So, one week down, and what a week it's been! Rescued 3 tiny kittens and found them all new homes (two are still with me until Monday, the little scamps) finished several online courses that were prerequisites for the training that I'm doing back in the US in the next few weeks, and have booked the flights that will take me around the world during January and February for training in South Carolina and Rhode Island, rugby in Las Vegas, and a wedding in London, among other things... Also scored a try in the Jakarta Komodo's opening rugby game of the new year, and sorted out boots and jerseys for the 14 orphans that I'm sponsoring to play junior rugby.

Despite the overall busyness of the week, I'm happy to also be able to report progress on the writing front, thanks to my ROW80 goals set last week. I've only listed the ones that are due, overdue, or completed.

1. Submit 1 book proposal

  • Finish Description: 9 Jan
  • Finish Market Overview: 10 Jan
  • Review and describe competition: 11 Jan
  • Write Outline of Content: 12 Jan - Overdue
  • Write Sample Chapter: 13 Jan - Overdue

2. Publish 1 non-fiction book.

  • Translate all material: 10 Jan

I did miss the Wednesday check-in, which is too bad, because that is a regular blogging day for me, though it's usually tied to a blog hop that I participate in. I think that I can roll a ROW80 update in during future weeks without much trouble, though, so look for my first Wednesday ROW80-related post next week.

A reasonably good week; although I fell short on 2 goals, I did make progress on both - about 50% complete, and with a bit of luck, I'll be able to finish them both tomorrow.

A trend I noticed last week when I went around other blogs was that people are using ROW80 to motivate and track other goals, including health, fitness, and networking. I think that's an admirable and very useful approach, so I'll sketch out a few similar goals here and update them along with the writing projects in the weeks to come.

5. Health & Fitness.

  • Bench Press 100 kg : 23 Jan
  • Gain 5 kg: 10 Feb
  • Run 6-min miles: 31 Mar

6. Learn French.

  • (sub-tasks to be described later)

Well, that's it for me tonight, as it is late night in Jakarta. Time to give my kittens a bedtime snack and tuck them in, then do the same for myself.

Best to all,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wednesday Blog Hop Topic: The 99 Cent Question

Welcome to my fellow Blog-Hopper's and other readers. In an attempt to answer Melissa Foster's question, today's post looks at the math behind why I believe that 99 cents is the right price for self-published short fiction, but not necessarily for other e-books.

I recently did a survey of 25 magazines that currently solicit short stories for publication. These range from well-known magazines such as Asimov's Science Fiction, Harpers, and Women's World, to smaller 'zines offering with a religious, local, or literary theme.

The results are as follows. First, the odds of a story getting accepted by any of these magazines? Only 3.3 percent. Then, if a story is accepted, it's an average* wait of 9.5 months before the story is published. And finally, there's the payment; about $173 per 3000-word story.

Contrast that to a short story such as Seven Lives to Repay Our Country, or Happily Ever After. In each case, they were 100% certain to be published, and there was no wait time. The payment received is 35 cents per copy sold, and reviewing my sales figures for both books, the sales figures show that I can expect to sell 5-15 copies per month, with little or no effort at promotion.

This means in the 9.5 months I'd be waiting for a story submitted to a traditional magazine to be printed, I'll earn around $32 - about 20% of the what I would have made by selling the story. Within 3-4 years, I'll have earned more than I would have made by publishing through a traditional magazine, while still retaining all rights to the story.

So, from my perspective, 99 cents is a perfectly reasonable price for a short story, from a business math/statistics perspective. It's also a sum that most people are used to paying for a single "chunk" of entertainment value - a song download or a movie rental.

On the other hand, let's say I write a longer book, or aggregate several short stories into a collection. In that case, I would never considering selling such a work for 99 cents, because it would have the effects of causing readers to ask "Why should I buy one short story for 99 cents, when I can buy a book with 4 stories by the same author for the same price?"

For novels, story collections, and how-to guides, I believe the $2.99 price point is perfectly reasonable for self-published authors; and I do believe there's a maximum level beyond which e-books should not be priced, as well. The cost of electronic distribution is extremely small, so why should I pay $14.99 or more for an e-book? I believe that pricing e-books between 99 cents (for short works) and $2.99 - $9.99 for longer works would give customers great value, and still allow best-selling authors to be rewarded at a greater rate for the same word count as a less notable writer. I also believe Amazon should do away with the $2.99 price point to determine royalties (books below $2.99 only net their authors 35% in royalties, whereas those priced at or above yield a 70% payment.)

I would be interested to hear your thoughts, and if you know any writers who might be interested in the mathematical analysis shown above, please share this post with them. As always, word of mouth being the best advertising, I'd ask that you Tweet, Like, etc - and I'll be sure to return the favor!

Best always,

*The term "average" used here actually refers to the "median", which is the "average of the average," and adjusts the output to reduce the effect of "outliers" - very high or very low data points. Sorry, fellow math geeks, but I used the term "average" because more people will understand it in that light.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Round of Words Check-In, 1-8

My progress for this first check-in consists of having sat down, put on my "project management" hat, and sketched out actionable sub-goals with deadlines to achieve my targets. For people who have goals that are more vague than "write x number of words", I think this is a good idea. My results are:

1. Submit 1 book proposal

  • Finish Description: 9 Jan
  • Finish Market Overview: 10 Jan
  • Review and describe competition: 11 Jan
  • Write Outline of Content: 12 Jan
  • Write Sample Chapter: 13 Jan
  • Review: 16 Jan
  • Submit: 21 Jan

2. Publish 1 non-fiction book.

  • Translate all material: 10 Jan
  • Edit all material: 15 Jan
  • Publish: 16-21 Jan

3. Publish 1 non-fiction article or essay online.

  • Finish draft: 20 Jan
  • Submit for editing: 25 Jan
  • See published: Mar issue “Current Intelligence”

4. Publish 1 more short story on Amazon.

  • Finish draft: 1 Feb
  • Editing: 7 Feb
  • Cover art: 10 Feb
  • Trailer: 13 Feb
  • Pre-publication promotion: 14-21 Feb
  • Publish: 21 Feb

As you can see, some of these tasks are running parallel, and some sequentially, as certain items (such as the book proposal) have a waiting period associated with the post-submission results, and others (such as the non-fiction book) strengthen the case for subsequent tasks, i.e., the book proposal.

Looking forward to your thoughts / questions,


Friday, January 6, 2012

A Round of Words in 80 Days...

So, thanks to my friend Shah Warton from WordsInSync who suggested this "writing challenge" to start the New Year. (Note that Shah actually has two blogs - this is the link to her new "author's blog")

The idea is simple - choose a set of measurable, personal goals for one's writing, then accomplish them with the positive reinforcement of other people who are going through the same process. It's quite sensible, really, and dovetails with the sort of planning I regularly use in other aspects of my personal and professional life, such as weight training, running, and language studies.

If you're a writer and you're interested, click here to read more about it and get started...

As for me, my goals are modest (I am fighting my tendency to bite off more than I can chew!)

1. Publish 1 non-fiction article or essay online.
2. Publish 1 more short story on Amazon.
3. Publish 1 non-fiction book.
4. Submit 1 book proposal.

That's one big thing every 20 days, roughly, so considering the amount of travel and volunteer work I'll be doing in the same period, I think those are goals that are attainable, but will require some work. Of course, I'll still be working on some of my on-going projects, including documenting the process of self-publishing short fiction, writing language study guides, etc.

Looking forward to seeing what others are up to and hearing your thoughts on my plan.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Blog Hop Wednesday, Number 1

There's lots of things that I could write about this week, but today I'm putting up another little note about blog hopping. A big thank-you to Sharon over at Beck Valley Books with her Wednesday blog-hop, which I've done a few times since starting self-publishing.

One of the reasons is that when I'm going through the blog-hop links on Sharon's site, about 50 percent of the time I'll land on a page whose leading post isn't about the blog hop, and it can feel a bit awkward, as sometimes I don't feel it's relevant to post a "Hi, I'm your newest follower!" comment on a completely unrelated post.

That said, I've seen some lovely, fun and inspiring leading posts in my explorations today - thanks to the Nelsens (Heather & Matt), and Dawn for making my "best of" list this morning!

Anyway, whenever I do the Wednesday Blog Hop, I plan to try to put up a page like this, which while not strictly focused on the subject, ties in to some extent, and offers new viewers a friendly "landing site" to start their commentary from.

So, for those who are writers, or are interested in this writer's thought process, why blog hop? Like other forms of promotion, it is an expenditure of time, time that is not spent writing or doing other things, which begs the question, is it worth it?

As one of my goals in the course of releasing my latest short stories, and several more in future months is to discover the best (and worst) things a self-publishing short story author can do, (so that I can write a how-to guide on successfully self-publishing short fiction in the e-book era) it's a reasonable question to consider, since few of us are full-time writers, and time is our most limited and valuable possession. You may win a monetary lottery, but you will never be granted an extra million days to live.

So far, my answer is, yes. I have made a few virtual friends so far, and expect that I will make many more. I have gotten a really amazingly insightful review from Mel at The Reading Life that allowed me to engage with his readers and inspired me to read Ibuse Masuji's "Black Rain" - an account of life after the bomb in Hiroshima, which all Americans should read to appreciate the truly horrific nature of our Nation's twin nuclear attacks on Japan. And finally, I have made the acquaintance of TToria, my favorite fun Brit book blogger, who has been really helpful in promoting both of my current stories, "Happily Ever After" (FREE 'til Friday here for UK Kindle readers, and here for US Kindle readers) and "Seven Lives to Repay Our Country" 99 cents on Kindle in the US, or £0.86 for the Kindle in the UK.

Thus, for those on the fence about whether to hop, or not to hop, my advice is to emulate frogs, bunnies, and kangaroos everywhere.

Have a great week,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Story Released for Amazon Kindle!

Well, it's been a few weeks since my last post, but just to catch you up, I was traveling most of the month of December, and have spent the last few days editing and publishing a new short story, which is now available as a "Kindle Select" title, which means it will only be available electronically through Amazon for the next 3 months.

You can read more about this slightly twisted fairy tale on its book page (here) which includes a link to a sample, but for the next 5 days it's FREE on Amazon (click this link) - so feel free to grab a copy and be sure to tell your friends!

This will be my first experiment with using the Kindle Select program, and judging from some of the things I've read, I'm not certain how it will work out, but we'll see. This will be part of the research going into my project on writing a guide for other authors who want to self-publish short fiction as e-books.

Best New Year's wishes to all!