MY 2021 PUBLISHING ANNIVERSARY!

It seems like more than four years have gone by since the release of my first book. Having re-visited the last three anniversary posts, I discovered that while the tune has changed, the dance remains the same. Progress? Undoubtedly. Frustration? By the bushel. Pleasure? Enough to keep me addicted. Desire to continue? Yes! Before looking ahead, allow me to share some snippets from the last three anniversary posts.

2018

“l wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.” Unfortunately, this wish is yet to be fulfilled. I’ve always had difficulty making friends and am not very good at putting myself out there. I haven’t the foggiest idea how this will ever happen, short of a writer’s conference or something similar, and I lack the funds and confidence to ever attend one!

“Other than sales, I find motivation in two things: I love to write, and readers enjoy my work.” Thankfully, this is still true! While sales are encouraging and provide the resources to continue publishing, I continue writing because I have stories to tell, and people want to read them. It’s encouraging to note that my skills improve with each new book, confirmed by increased sales and reader feedback.

2019

“I intend to focus on shorter works rather than novels and will probably set aside romances for more sci-fi and fantasy.” The grand experiment of shorter works kept me going during a financially lean year. I posted a series of five stories on my blog in serial fashion, which took most of the year, and finally published them as Rise of the Draman in 2020. While the book garnered wonderful reviews, it’s a tough one to market. Sadly, I can’t afford to write only what I want (yet) if it doesn’t bring in enough income to pay for itself. So, for now, I remain busy with romance and plan on other genres in the future.

Incidentally, readers have been asking when I will write more Sci-Fi. Truthfully, I don’t know. It’s not for lack of interest, and I have some creative and exciting ideas to explore. Aside from no time, one issue is that many sci-fi readers are difficult to please, insisting that only hard science fiction is TRUE science fiction and anything else is garbage. I vigorously disagree, but those same readers have no qualms about bashing authors with scathing reviews if they happen to pick up a story that doesn’t meet their expectations. While I have no desire to paint a target on my back, I refuse to let them win.

2020

“Despite personal setbacks, financial concerns, and the pandemic, the last twelve months have been fruitful ones.” Oddly, the pandemic helped me focus and brought new readers who were locked in at home with nothing to do! I enjoyed seeing increased output and a significant upswing in sales, giving me a much-needed boost during trying times.

“Last year’s goals never materialized for various reasons.” I’m afraid this trend continues, as only one and a half of my five goals were reached! I did manage (sort of) to set up one of my titles for print-on-demand. I started the process last December, and it’s still ongoing due to the pandemic’s impact on the printing industry. My other books will have to wait until the world returns to some kind of normal.

The one goal I achieved—to focus on writing new material—resulted in publishing two books last year and writing a significant portion of another. In June of this year, I released my tenth novel!

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Moving Forward

Currently, I am working on a new romance series based on major holidays featuring bear shifters and their human mates. Meanwhile, if time allows and my creative juices provide good plot ideas, I intend to write one or two more Gladstone Shifters stories. My hope is to move on to other projects in the next couple of years.

At present, I have one simple goal – WRITE. Write to the exclusion of almost everything else and publish as many books per year as possible. Each new release creates a sixty-day frenzy of excitement and sales before dropping off. If I can increase from two book releases per year to three or four, it gives my brand that much more exposure and boosts income. Meanwhile, I learn more about the craft and incrementally improve my skills. Everybody wins this way, and I don’t stress out over all the things I’m supposed to be doing.

Even with this stripped-down focus, it’s very difficult to address some of the goals on my wish-list, which include wider distribution beyond Amazon, a newsletter, an updated website, membership in writer’s groups, print-on-demand for my backlist, and the introduction of audiobooks. Unfortunately, all of those things require either time, money, or skills I don’t possess—so they have to wait while I focus on what I can do.

As I said back in 2019, “Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal.” While that would be wonderful, I’m not counting on it! I believe realistic goals and persistence will eventually get me where I want to be, and I’m looking forward to another great year!

My Publishing Anniversary – Three Years and Counting

It’s time to celebrate!

Somehow, another year has come and gone and I’m still doing what I love. Despite personal setbacks, financial concerns, and the pandemic, the last twelve months have been fruitful ones.

Three books published, for a total of nine

Added a new genre (fantasy)

More interaction with readers

New author biography

Improved marketing and sales

Added “the writing of” and reading samples to each book page on my website

Records reveal that in the last three years my books have sold over 52,000 copies in thirteen countries (96% FREE), along with over 917,000 kindle pages read, generating 59% of my income. Though the numbers look great, I’m not making much money, and all of it goes right back into publishing and promoting. I’m fine with that for now, as the goal is to build my brand and a broad reader base (hence all the FREE books). It feels as though I’m turning a corner here as my backlist grows, and I’m excited to see what it means for me professionally.

Last year’s goals never materialized for various reasons. My new ones, I hope, have a better chance of being accomplished.

Focus on writing new material

Three to four new releases

Set up my books for print on demand and broaden distribution

Make some author-to-author connections

Join at least one writing group or professional association

With each new book, I incorporate what I’m learning about the craft, marketing, and a thousand other things. My long-term goal is continued growth, better writing, and a broader reader base. I’ve seen some encouraging progress lately and anticipate another great year!      

The Writing of Abundant Moon

I never intended to write this story. Book three of the series was supposed to be Forbidden Moon, written right after publishing book two in February of 2019. I hadn’t counted on the mental fatigue resulting from an arduous writing journey of nine long months. In short, I was sick of the series and desperately needed to do something else for a while.

I’d been toying with the idea of trying my hand at short stories and had a really cool idea regarding a little orphan boy and a dragon. Just what I needed – something quick and different to focus on before diving back into the series, right? Nope. The sneaky little kid and his dragon friends got into my blood and I couldn’t stop writing! The result? A five-story collection published as Rise of the Draman in April of 2020!

Meanwhile, 15 months had gone by and I’d been receiving polite demands from readers, pleading for book three – the one I should have published already. What to do? If Forbidden Moon also took nine months to write and publish, my readers would have skinned me alive! I decided on a shorter, interim story to plug the gap, and then start working on the full length novel I’d promised so long ago.

After rereading books one and two, I decided to write about the birth of all the babies conceived towards the end of Traitor’s Moon. Perfect! Throw in a romance with a new character and you have Moon Pups – Book 2.5. However, once I got working on the manuscript, the story developed into a novel of its own! So, I changed the name to Abundant Moon, designated it as the new book three, and buckled down to write the thing as fast as I could. Three months from beginning to end is warp speed for me, and required many changes and personal sacrifices to get it done.

Part way through the manuscript, I hit a bump in the road which slowed me down. It also scared me! At first, I wasn’t sure I could fix it without starting over completely. You see, Robert’s character, who is involved in the major romance of the story, simply wouldn’t work the way I’d planned. He needed drastic changes to his personality, career, attitude, and integration into the pack. A ripple effect caused adjustments to other story threads, requiring a lot of rewriting. I’ll admit, the end result is much more pleasing and fits the overarching idea of the book better.

This story was intended to be less heavy and emotionally charged than the first two books, allowing Gladstone a bit of a breather. My characters and their experiences needed to match the happier themes of family, pups, and new mates. Fortunately, balancing this with essential drama and action wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be, and the book contains all the elements my readers have come to expect. The wild journey between books two and three is one I wouldn’t enjoy repeating, though I’m happy with Abundant Moon and believe my readers will be too.

The Post-Pandemic Future of Fiction

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We don’t know what the real future looks like yet, but it’s almost certain the world will not return to the way it was. What effect is this going to have on writers of fiction? I suppose works considered “contemporary” would almost have to reflect what’s really going on in our world, but should they? Must they? How do authors in the middle of a series handle this crisis? Do they incorporate current events or continue the series as originally planned?

I assume some readers will actually prefer stories that make no mention of the pandemic and it’s wrenching and unwanted effects on our lives. Most people read to escape reality for a while, and with the pandemic literally everywhere, there’s little stomach for more of it in their reading material!

Admittedly, I would be hard-pressed to craft a compelling story where everyone is trapped at home, can’t meet face to face, or really do much of anything without fear of dropping dead! (Well, Stephen King could probably come up with something even more frightening, but I would have no interest in reading it.) On the other hand, how can I get away without at least mentioning the life altering affects of the virus in my work?

Some claim this will be over soon enough and relegated to the dustbin of history. If so, it might be unwise to focus on the pandemic in our current and near-future books. Instead, we could offer a mix of fleeting references alongside the familiar setting of  a world in which life as we knew it still (mostly) applies.

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It’s right for us to ask questions, yet I don’t claim to have the answers. Only time will tell what readers want and expect, and of course, the new normal is evolving as we speak. Going forward, perhaps book descriptions should include a content label such as “Pre-Pandemic” or “Post-Pandemic”  to help readers make an informed decision before they purchase. Realistically, what works today may not fit the world of tomorrow at all. By  “dating” our books amidst a very fluid and quickly changing situation, we risk publishing stories with what could be a very short shelf life.

As a writer, what changes will you be making, if any, to your stories or the way they are marketed? What about a series already in progress? Will the pandemic and it’s effects show up in your writing – a little, a lot, not at all?

As a reader, what do you expect your favorite authors to do in response to recent events? Do you vote for escapism, realism, or something in between? How might this affect your decision to purchase?

This is an issue we cannot ignore. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

PS – until things have settled down, I don’t plan to incorporate the pandemic into my writing, including existing series. 

Weekly Roundup – CELEBRATING INDIE AUTHORS!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

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Sunday, October 13 is Indie Author Day – something well worth celebrating! While I have a great deal of respect for authors who choose the traditional publishing route, it requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and tenacity to land a book deal. Frankly, I can’t imagine ever joining their ranks, so indie author it is! Here’s what it means to me:

Exposure – I have the ability to actually publish my work right now, instead of sometime, maybe, in the future. Am I where I want to or need to be yet? No, but I have the freedom to grow and improve as a writer while putting my stuff out there. Traditional publishers aren’t going to allow that!

Control – This is important and I’m not willing to give it up. The work is mine and I choose what to write, when to write and publish, how to market it, and at what pace I can produce new work. With traditional publishing, the author has to relinquish an enormous amount of control to conform to someone else’s ideals, timetable, and goals.

Responsibility – Going it alone carries a heavy weight of responsibility. I consider it the price I pay for being an indie author, and yes, sometimes I wish I had the money to hire out some of the more onerous tasks. But you know what? The joy of publishing my work and receiving feedback from readers makes it all worthwhile.

I have a simple theory regarding who I am as an author and what kind of books I currently produce. There are three categories: Walmart, Target, Macy’s. Right now, I’m a Walmart author, but getting better with each book. Within a couple years I expect to graduate to Target, and if I keep at it long enough, I may reach the Macy’s level and we can talk about a traditional publishing deal. Meanwhile, I’m happy with who I am and what I’m learning. The most important thing is that I have a creative outlet for my stories and readers who enjoy my work. Being an indie author makes it possible, and I’m more than OK with that.

Want to join in the celebration? Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy an indie book. You’ll encourage the author and perhaps find a new favorite.
  • Leave a review. If you normally skip ’em, make an exception for indies.
  • Send an email. You have no idea how much it means to hear from readers.
  • Spread the word about your favorite indie via social media, bog posts, book share sites, or word of mouth. 

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What I’m working on:

  1. Dragon Rescue (book 5 in the series). Yep, I’m still trying to finish up the manuscript. It’s turned out to be much longer than anticipated, and may end up as a novella. The difficulty is my writing time has been severely curtailed by long work hours and exhaustion. Plus, I’m gearing up for another move in early November. As with the first four books, Dragon Rescue will appear in serialized format on my blog as soon as I can manage it.

 

  1. I have a great idea for a gay romance series involving senior characters! Everybody celebrates youth, vigor, and hot action between the sheets, but the reality is there are many older gay men looking for love. They still have a lot to offer the right person, and I want to address that need with a series of humorous stories with HEA’s. I think they would be well received.

 

  1. The collection and refinement of ideas for a new fantasy series is an ongoing process. While each installment will be novelette length, I intend to publish them as collections. I can’t tell you much more without revealing secrets, but this project will probably follow the publication of  Rise of the Draman.

 

  1. Somewhere in the murky future I want to release my books as print on demand through Draft2Digital. I can still do that and remain in Amazon’s Kindle Select program for eBooks. Do I expect to make a lot of money? No, but giving readers a paper option is important to me and broadens the reach of my books a little more. I don’t have the time to deal with it right now, but I’ll get there.