goals

January Bonus Bundle, Stone & Song Edits, and New Dream World Collective Excerpt (FREE!)

Yesterday’s goals were big. I knew it going in. So I’ve got good news and bad news.

I did finish Kitchen Adventures, the hardest part of my patron-only January Bonus Bundle. And it turned out hilarious. Among other things, Otto coined the term (or maybe it’s a real one he knows and I don’t) gruemelliere, which he alleges is French for gruelsmith. Maybe you had to be there.

In any case, that’s done but I still have to finish Sushi’s character sketch and an episode of A Modest Contribution on the history of the moustache—my rule for these is that I can’t do any research beforehand, nor can the characters. History is written by the quick-witted.

The really good news, though, is that I finished the entire manuscript edit for The Stone and the Song, including a few key plot tweaks and clarifications and about 20,000 words of editing. Brilliant! The editing is usually quick with me, as I have a pretty good eye for it and tend to write fairly polished prose anyway, but I was nervous about the plot fixes and not sure how much time they’d end up taking.

Today I don’t have as much time to give to writing work, but I’d like to at least knock out the rest of the bonus bundle. That’s about 1,000 easy words for A Modest Contribution plus a pretty unpredictable word count and formatting time for Sushi’s excerpt. Stretch goal is to also finish the CTAs and Dream World Collective excerpt for Stone & Song. If I can get that done I could conceivably have the book up for pre-order tonight. Tonight! We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s the latest from the Dream World Collective: Dream World Collective, Ch. 46-51

(Or click here to start at the beginning.)

Enjoy!

—Ben

Patron Perks, Stone & Song Edits, and a Prototype

I’ve got a few exciting production updates and goals today. Here’s what I’d like to finish by the time I go to bed.

Patron Perks for the January Bonus Bundle

It’s time to deliver the January Bonus Bundle to my wonderful patrons! I still need to finish some of the writing and get the post-production completed. Today I’d like to finish all 3 parts:

– The History of the Moustache (A Modest Contribution #2) – These are short, funny bonus episodes hosted by the Dream World Collective’s resident geek, Otto. Always sure to be highly edifying and inaccurate. Tons of fun to write. Should be about 1000 words.

– Character sketch of Sushi Vasquez (3 sections) – $3+ patrons also get a peek at my character design sheet for Sushi. This one should be easy to finish, but the original was lost with the theft of an old laptop long ago, so it will still involve some rewriting. Guessing this will be 500-750 words; the outline-ish format will make it easier, as will the fact that I know most of the content already.

– Kitchen Adventures #1 – A cooking show with Summer (also from The Dream World Collective). This is the first one I’ve created and I’m unusually nervous about it. Maybe because it has to be funny but also end up with a recipe that (more or less) works. Otto’s the guest on this one, which should help. This goes to $5+ patrons, so currently has a very small potential audience, which may also contribute to the jitters. Best guess is 1000-1500 words, but I’m going to play this by ear. Could be shorter if the focus ends up more on the recipe than the adventure by which they get to it.

The Stone and the Song Preliminary Edits

So I’ve committed myself to a very quick turnaround on this (cf. my early experiences setting up an Amazon pre-order). I need to finish all my edits, proofreading, and post-production (including any CTAs and the Dream World Collective preview I’m including) and upload the final manuscript by midnight Wednesday 2/11/15. Not sure if that’s midnight at the beginning or end of Wednesday. I suspect the former. Will be done Tuesday night just in case. I committed to this before I’d really even previewed the manuscript to see if it needs any rewriting or just proofreading and tidying up.

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

The Stone and the Song, coming Feb 21, 2015 (!)

It’s only about 30 pages and I finished preliminary edits on the first third or so yesterday. Today I’d like to get through at least proofreading and formatting on the rest of the manuscript. I think at least one scene needs a minor content revision. If I can get that done too, so much the better. Tricky thing there is that it’s based on a possible minor plot glitch, so I may actually need to figure out what’s going on (unseen to the reader), which can take an unpredictable amount of time.

A Prototype!

I’m really excited about this one. For February I’ve got a really fun scheme in mind. I’ve developed an elegant little mechanism for folding a single sheet of paper into a mailable letter with just a few folds: no cutting, adhesives, or envelope required.

Idea is to create little fill-in-the-blank notes and letters that you can print out, fill in, fold up, and pop in the mail to someone you love (or like, or know, or don’t). I’m kind of going to shanghai Valentine’s Day and take it beyond romance, because love comes in all sorts of forms and people are valuable.

Only problem is that I think the current version ends up about half an inch too small to fit USPS machinable mail guidelines, so I’ve got to rework it a bit. Here’s a preview in the meantime.

Letterfold – Blank (Prototype 1)

And So Much More!

Oh my gosh. So many things going on right now. I also need to get the patron-only preview of the next section of Dream World Collective up so I can post it publicly over the weekend.

And I need to get the landing page for the letterfold project up. (By the way, is calling it the Share The Love event too cheesy? Any better ideas?) I’m also setting up a proper mailing list host and possibly even an autoresponder. Really should get that going by the Stone & Song release date at the latest so people who read it and love it have a good way to get in touch with me.

I’m really excited, though. This is a time for pushing hard to lay a ton of infrastructure, which should really help as the first couple novels reach completion.

Thanks for being in on the journey with me! What are you reading/writing/working on these days? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Cheers!
—Ben

365 Days. 365 Posts. 1 Nerd. [Edit: Now With Additional Nerd!]

As usual, I love the way bookshelfbattle thinks. This post is well worth reading if you’re interested in goal-setting, finding readers, or developing a writing practice. Before I send you on to the original post, a few thoughts and responses:

1. I love that this is concrete, actionable, and attainable. You can’t decide whether someone follows you, but you can decide whether you’re going to post; make your goals in terms of things you can do.

2. Quantity and consistency are worthy goals. It seems there’s some debate about whether it’s worth pushing for quantity instead of quality. My stance is that if quality is your goal, quantity is a great path to it.

3. I like that bookshelfbattle isn’t shy about trying to get readers. That’s the whole point. Writers want readers. And readers want good stuff to read. If you don’t think your stuff is worth reading, write better stuff before you go public.

If, however, you think your writing is worthwhile, why would you not want to give it to as many people as will benefit from it? Applying strategy and focus does not make this evil, it makes it effective.

4. I’m joining in, but more cautiously. (Caution™! Putting the boring back into success!)

I’m planning to post every weekday, holidays optional, through the first quarter of 2015. I’m still figuring out where blogging fits into my overall career strategy as a writer, but I’m enjoying it so far and I think three months will make a good baseline.

Also I really appreciated bookshelfbattle’s willingness to share stats, so for the record:

  • After about 2 1/2 weeks of posting consistently, I currently average something like 10 visitors a day, with about 40 people following.
  • End of March will be (let’s see…math math math) 42 more days of posting, so by then I’d like to see at least 100 following, with 25-30+ visitors a day.

Really what I’d like to see is more people reading my stories, so in addition to posting I’ll probably be experimenting with new ways to make those more visible and fun.

Anyway, enough from me. Enjoy. And if you have any thoughts on what you’d most like to read about here, I’d love to hear it, so leave me a comment and let me know.

Cheers!
—Ben

PS – It will be especially hard for me to write quick posts without worrying too much about quality. I think that alone will be a useful discipline to develop.

Bookshelf Battle

If you have the time, you can check and see that every day in the month of January 2015, I made at least one post per day.  I’ve been thinking about challenging myself to making one post per day on this blog in 2015, but wanted to get through one month before committing to the idea.

So, consider me committed.  And frankly, for agreeing to do this, I should be committed.

My theory:  Daily posts = more readers = more site traffic = an overall stronger platform.

Your theory probably = do less posts, idiot, and the posts you do, make them quality.  Quality is better than quantity!

And it is!  I’m not disagreeing.  A great feature of Word Press is that you are allowed to schedule posts in advance.  Many of my short posts are written and scheduled to appear on different days.  I write a bunch in…

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The Problem of Writers Writing About Writing to Get Readers

Oh, man, guys. Bookshelfbattle just put it perfectly.

Sometimes with all of the blogging, twittering, and social media-ing, I just wonder if all writers are doing are talking to other writers. It’s like we’re all door-to-door salesmen, knocking on a door, “Wanna buy my book?” And the person answers, “No, but do YOU wanna buy MY book?” [link]

This made me so happy! It’s exactly right, with a brilliant mental image thrown in. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially as I’m getting into blogging properly for the first time in a while. I’m already slipping into writing as a writer for writers to attract writers to my writing blog so they’ll read… my… stories? Well, that’s no good.

My real goal is to find a huge band of brilliant friends and fans who love reading what I write and talking about things I’m into and doing cool stuff to make the world a better place. So I start writing about whatever I’m currently obsessed with to draw the people that will align with it. And I’m obsessed with writing, self-publishing, generous marketing, etc. And other stuff, but it’s taking a strange degree and style of discipline to get into other headspaces in the context of blogging.

So I end up writing a blog for writers rather than readers. Which might work out, because writers are mostly thinking people who love great stories and read a ton, so that’s cool. But even so I’m engaging them as writers trying to get better at writing, not as readers looking for a good story.

So then I figure I need to be writing stuff my (potential and actual) readers would enjoy. Not content about creating content. Just…you know, content. Except I write novels, and that’s not great in blog format. So I can write supporting bonus materials and behind-the-scenes stuff.

Tricky bit there is that only a few dozen people are familiar with my work at the moment, so if I give excerpts, backstories, fun tidbits about the story world, character profiles, and that sort of thing, nobody will know what I’m talking about, and if I talk about other stuff it’s a different form of the original problem. I’m just talking to game-lovers about games or communal people about living in community or spiritual people about our invisible friends, and I can occasionally tack on a mention of my books and people might read them, but it’s still not really engaging with readers as readers.

I’m still figuring this out. The easy first steps are to be very generous and to actively be a reader, not just a writer. At minimum this opens up a dicey little quid-pro-quo with you other aspiring writers where I’ll try out your story and read/buy/love/recommend it if I like it, and maybe in a few cases you’ll try mine out too. But I don’t really enjoy that arrangement. Setting aside the fairly low readership numbers it’s likely to garner, it also just feels a little fakey and weird. I love reading peoples’ stories, but I don’t want it to be so they’ll read mine and I don’t want to feel pressure to respond a certain way because I want them to like me and I don’t want them to feel obligations and all. At best, it’s a strange and roundabout way to find one of the aforementioned brilliant friends.

More fundamentally, I want to get better at providing all kinds of cool things that I like and that my aforementioned brilliant friends would like. Sometimes writing, sometimes game design, sometimes kerning or sea monsters or metaphysics. And sometimes my actual stories, either bonus materials or just actual chunks of story. And sometimes exciting announcements that the next book is out or that I have a cool bundle of fun available. (Speaking of which…)

What’s scary about that is it means constantly re-breaking the mold. I’m theoretically all for losing readers rather than redirecting my writing to cater to a perceived audience’s perceived expectations. But already, a few posts in, I find myself hesitant to write posts that are much shorter or longer than what I have, or in a different format, or about a different kind of thing, because I’m already finding really cool people who like what I write about writing, and if I write about sea monsters maybe it will break the spell and you’ll all leave. (Which is irrational, of course, because who doesn’t love sea monsters?)

So all that to say, this blog isn’t going to just be writing tips. Might be a little while before I get it out of my system because the art and business of writing are what I think about for dozens of hours a week. But there might also be tea and mythical beasts at some point. Some of you find that exciting, not disappointing, and I’m really, really excited that you’re here.

Thank you, bookshelfbattle. Really great phrasing of an important situation. Everyone else, do you want to buy bookshelfbattle’s book? I think you should buy bookshelfbattle’s book. (Bookshelfbattle, do you have a book? Blast. Should have thought this through.)

But seriously, at least check out the blog. I’m enjoying it a ton. Finally someone who’s putting out engaging ideas for discussion, not just writing writing tips for writers writing for writers.

Cheers!
—Ben

Measuring Success as an Indie Author

Figuring out when you’ve “made it” as an author can be tricky. Perhaps the easiest measure of success is signing a publishing deal, though in reality that’s far from indicating any lasting literary or financial success. Still, it’s a convenient benchmark.

Unless you have no interest in getting a traditional publishing deal. My goal is to make a full-time living as an author, and, in broad strokes, I’m convinced self-publishing is the best route for that. So I don’t have the convenience of a literary establishment to give legitimacy to my work.

So maybe it’s about sales numbers. But what’s enough? 100 sales per month? 1,000? 10,000? It feels totally arbitrary. There’s always going to be someone selling more than you, and as soon as you’ve sold any books at all you’re in a pretty high percentile among aspiring authors. And there’s such a smooth gradation in between that I don’t think I’d be satisfied by reaching any particular number; it would just be time to bump the number up and start again.

Same goes for income. I do have a specific target income in mind that would allow me to quit my day job and write full time, but even there, how long do I need to sustain that income before it’s justified to make the leap? And who says that means I’ve made it? If I give in and write crappy 30,000-word self-help books with SEO’d titles that will sell like hotcakes and get me there faster have I really won at writing?

Is it enough for my family to barely scrape by on my writing income, or do we have to be marginally comfortable and secure before I’m really successful? Or do I need to be able to buy nice things or rent an office or something? Past a certain point, income is just another number. No, my financial goal just marks when I get to go full-time, not whether I’m succeeding as a writer.

In the end, I have settled on two measures of success. To measure my success as a writer, I always turn back to this:

1. Am I crafting worthwhile stories and ideas that only I can put into the world?

2. Did I substantially add to my word count today?