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2012 – A Year of Big Goals

2011 Business Plan in Review

Start up publishing company

Check! Doing it was easy. Finding a name for the publishing company was hard. It took almost two months of thinking, putting up ideas on a dry-erase board, and researching domain names before I settled on “Star Catcher Publishing.”

Set up Distribution and Retailer Accounts

Again, rather easy and straight-forward. This took maybe an hour.

Publishing Goals

Then came the plan of what projects to finish and publish. This was a short list of three novellas and one novel. Good news is that I achieved this goal.

The better news is that I also achieved the second-year goal, and most of the third and fourth. This was good for business, no question, but it made me thing about what the goals should be going into 2012.

New Types of Goals

The one thing I’ve learned this past year is the need to be flexible in the writing business. Sometimes one or another project is working better. Sometimes another project needs to be brought forward because of increased interest in a sub-genre. Sometimes a cover is ready for one but not another.

I kept this in mind in deciding the goals for 2012.

2012 Writing Plan

2012 Business plan

Writing Goals:
500,000 new words
250,000 revision words

Publication Goals:
12 new releases in 2012.
Get out paperback versions of the novels.

Nice and simple. I did not define any of the goals down to the point of naming exact books or series. I did not decide it would be so many novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories.

Nope. I kept it at overall word count for both new words and revision words. Doing it this way I can keep going without guilt. Work on the projects that need to be worked on. Bring projects forward in the queue if I think they need to be. Push back books that are having problems.

At the same time, I’m also stretching myself. I’ve never tried 500,000 new words in a year. For the second half of 2011 I was able to write 300,000 with the help of NaNoWriMo, so I have high hopes of achieving the goal. Even if I don’t make it, I’m sure to come out of 2012 with a heck of a lot of new words!

I’m not as fast at revision, so I’m working towards a lower goal on that with the hopes of building up so that the new words and revision words will eventually be the same each year. In 2011 I’ve taken great strides in it, which is what happens when you practice something a lot. Here’s to 2012 being even better! :clink:

2012 promises to be a year of stretching the writing wings, trying new things, continuing to learn to be flexible, and most of all, telling ever more stories. I can’t wait!

____________________

J.A. Marlow

Coffee Cup Dreams

She wasn’t supposed to wake up when dead…

During what should have been a simple operation, Tish Douglas died. And yet, she also awoke… in what the doctors called a ‘psi event.’

Despite having no memory of the incident, it means she’s required to go on a life-time course of debilitating drugs designed to reign in her supposedly new psi gifts. She’s left with the option of existing on Earth in a drug-haze, or leave the planet.

When an opportunity for a good paying job on a space station known as Redpoint One is offered, she jumps at the chance. Even though she doesn’t have any experience as a ‘maintenance engineer.’ Even though the station sits in the middle of nowhere, a still-operating construct of a long-gone alien species.

Between pirate attacks, intelligent repair robots, and maintenance emergencies, Tish must find a place for herself.

All complicated by a growing attraction to the one person on the station she can’t have: boss Arthur Getty.

A stand-alone 48400 word, 193 page (approximate), science fiction romance novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords


The Writing Business Plan and NaNoWriMo

I once had a business plan. I worked several days on it, refining and tweaking various goals. Then I got to the list of the books.

And I’ve already finished and published most of them.

I knew going into this that once I got going I would probably move forward a bit faster than expected. I did not expect just how fast.

The reason?

This whole process is absolutely addicting, but in the most marvelous way. I’m writing all the time. Stories are at all stages of completion and planning. More stories are waiting in the wings, tapping their feet in impatience for my attention.

Then there is what pushed this all into overdrive. The ability to take those stories and get them out into venues where they might find readers. Without having to wait months or years for it to happen, *if* it ever happened.

I went into 2011 hoping to have 8 projects up and available. Right at this moment I have a total of 16, and we still have over two months to go in the year! Yikes! (but that’s a good Yikes!)

I’ve learned a lot, from writing more polished first drafts, to faster revisions, and the final publishing side. It has been a steep and fast learning curve, and I’ve loved every minute of it. All of it has pushed the writing further than I thought possible. It’s amazing what a little hope can do for the motivation. I really don’t think I could have come this far in such a short amount of time without having the ability to find readers.

This means I need to take a serious look at the 1, 5, and 10 year writing business plan. What I once had is now out of date after only eight months. I now have an inkling of what is possible and what pace I can set.

This has changed my view of “National Novel Writing Month” when it comes to my own goals. I knew I would be working on first drafts with the intention of using the results for next year’s releases. After looking over the old business plan the fire burned even hotter.

This Nano I’m hitting it hard. I’m going to write a variety. Enjoy the process. I’m curious to see if what I’ve learned in the past year will translate into even better first drafts (I’m guessing it will).

I want to smash my all-time Nano high word count of 160,605 from 2009.

Can I do it?

Nano Planning

I go into Nano with outlines. This way I’m not bogged down with “What comes next?” It’s just the story, the words, and me, baby! Here is the list so far in the order I think they will be written (yes, it could change at the last minute):

A Turn of the Pipes
Science Fiction Romance set in the same setting as “Coffee Cup Dreams” and taking minor characters in that book to star in their own.

Rachel Henderkito finds unexpected romance with Ignacio Manetti after fishing his newt out of Redpoint One’s plumbing system, but a series of station system failures, and the newt itself, might destroy any future together.

Salmon Run
Science Fiction contemporary adventure/mystery. Yes, the series continues!

Secret Illusions (Book 4)
When the aliens reveal themselves to Zach and Sasha’s families while asking for help it comes with a catch that could cost the Callahans their lodge: a trip to Bermuda.

Spectre of the White Death (Book 5)
Survival training for the Callahans and frantic ship prep for the aliens collide on an Alaska mountain top along with one of the horrors of winter: Avalanche.

Aurora Equinox (Book 6)
Hawk insists on visiting the local aliens after the equinox aurora affects Zach’s translator just when the Bermuda Imperium spacecraft heads north, leading to a deadly secret resting within the Japan Triangle.

Taskforce Zero
Science Fiction Action/Adventure. Yes, this is a new series, this time set in the StarBlink Universe!

Rise of the Syndicates (Book 1)
Crime syndicates battle over turf in the Alliance of World’s capital when a new deadly syndicate arises, employing technology to rival Taskforce Zero’s with the potential of tipping the balance into lawlessness.

A Matter of Jeopardy (Book 2)
Taskforce Zero rushes to protect a newly discovered anti-matter generator from the many crime syndicates who want it, but will an diplomatic adversary from Jei Valtera’s past jeopardize everything?

The Ultimate Jack (Book 3)
Taskforce Zero races to keep an ancient lost fleet from the power-hungry Bellime royal family, but everything hinges on the Team Jack being able to solve the secret of the ships themselves.

Cubes of Memory (Book 4)
Shot down over Newton 3, Taskforce Zero director Gregory McKinley finds himself trapped between the demands of a lost secret and a Kahn Syndicate conspiracy to control the Jump Gates themselves.

———-

After the end of November I plan to take a look at what I accomplishes with Nano, and then revisit the business plan. 2012 promises to be exciting and I want to have a solid foundation going in.

Meanwhile, it’s time to start revving the writing muscles!

Anyone else working on their business plan for the 2012? Or have big plans for Nano?

____________________

J.A. Marlow

Coffee Cup Dreams

She wasn’t supposed to wake up when dead…

During what should have been a simple operation, Tish Douglas died. And yet, she also awoke… in what the doctors called a ‘psi event.’

Despite having no memory of the incident, it means she’s required to go on a life-time course of debilitating drugs designed to reign in her supposedly new psi gifts. She’s left with the option of existing on Earth in a drug-haze, or leave the planet.

When an opportunity for a good paying job on a space station known as Redpoint One is offered, she jumps at the chance. Even though she doesn’t have any experience as a ‘maintenance engineer.’ Even though the station sits in the middle of nowhere, a still-operating construct of a long-gone alien species.

Between pirate attacks, intelligent repair robots, and maintenance emergencies, Tish must find a place for herself.

All complicated by a growing attraction to the one person on the station she can’t have: boss Arthur Getty.

A stand-alone 48400 word, 193 page (approximate), science fiction romance novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords


NaNoWriMo: Writing For the Digital Bookshelf

The Indie Author. So many challenges, so much to learn. So much to watch out for, so much to take responsibility for.

And so much fun!

One big plus to the Indie movement is the ability to write what you love instead of writing to editorial or marketing department demands. This means the readers are finally getting the variety of novels they have been craving for years but that traditional publishing has failed to give them.

However, with this comes responsibility. A responsibility we, as authors, have always had: TO WRITE!

Find those words. It’s time for the storyteller in you to go into overdrive. You now have an avenue into which to release your work, but first the work must be created.

One way to create new product for your digital bookshelf is to join in various writing challenges. One of the biggest around is “National Novel Writing Month.” Every year authors from around the world join in a challenge to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days in the month of November.

For those of you who love math, that’s an average of 1667 words per day.

And, for those of us who are jumping into Indie Publishing as a business, we already are trying for regular word output, right? Is 1667 words that far above your current goal?

It doesn’t matter if it is. NaNoWriMo is loved (and hated) for many reasons. One of the big things I love about it is the creative energy of joining in on a big challenge with a lot of fellow authors. Wow, what a rush. I can do things I might have trouble doing at other times by myself, such as high wordcounts.

Or, how about the deadline? So much time to get so many words. Of course, those like me have goals higher than 50k, but the deadline is still there. How many drafts can you finish?

This year is the first year I’ll be participating in Nano while also in the publishing business. In a way it hasn’t affected how I view and want to use Nano, but in other ways it has. I have several goals:

1. Have a LOT of fun.
2. Tell a few great stories.
3. Produce several first drafts for eventual publication.

I now have several series published, with more in mind. That means a lot of stories and characters to continue. Using Nano I can nail those new stories and get first drafts finished and ready for revising in 2012. Series typically sell better once 3 or more books are published in them. The more the better. It means a reader who finds and likes the series can go ahead and sink their teeth into sequels without having to wait on the author producing more.

Using Nano to produce is a win-win for me on the Indie side, and a win-win for the readers.

Included in the Nano project list is a new series, which I’m working to outline the first four stories in. Doing something new is important to me, as it will keep this Nano fresh and fun. It won’t be only about previously started series. It will also be about new!

It’s time to do the serious brainstorming. Time to get out the outlines and virtual corkboards and index cards of Scrivener. Time to discover new adventures.

I can hardly wait.

Other Nano News: I’m not the only one gearing up. Lazette Gifford, is the author or the wonderful ebook “Nano for the New and Insane,” a venerable Nano guide that has helped many writers succeed in the Nano challenge of achieving 50,000 words in 30 days. For 2011 she has newly edited the ebook and added several new sections. It’s available for free download in multiple ebook formats at Smashwords.

Lazette’s latest blog post: Zette’s Take: Why Nano?

__________________________

J.A. Marlow

Welcome to Salmon Run, Alaska! A place of wild animals, wild land, and wild inhabitants…oh, and native legends come alive and an inter-planetary alien conflict at their backdoor.

Zach Callahan and his father, Hawk, arrive in Alaska to begin a new life. Anxious to arrive at the lodge crazy Uncle George left them, they find the first challenge is just getting to Salmon Run.

While still in Cordova, an old prospector declares the two greenhorns unprepared for the realities of an Alaskan winter. Sasha, a young native girl, attaches herself to Zach, much to his disgust. A failed sled-dog won’t leave Hawk alone, giving rise to an old phobia. They think they have it made once they get to the Solar Express, the unique train that will take them through a dark road-less wilderness to their new home.

The same night a massive display of the Aurora Borealis lights up the sky.

The Solar Express shuts down, stranding its passengers in the middle of nowhere. Hidden beneath the snow and ice, and under the path of the rescuers, an alien spaceship also feels the effects of the light show.

Cut off from the rescuers and trapped inside the spaceship, Zach and Sasha must ally themselves with a pair of aliens before either the malfunctioning security systems or the native Alaskan wildlife kills them.

A 37800 word stand-alone Novella in the Salmon Run series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords


Writer Project Files and Production Schedules – SQUIRREL!

Kris Kathryn Rusch wrote a great post called “The Business Rusch: Popcorn Kittens!” about the exciting possibilities of going Indie. That the writer can write to what they and the reader wants, not to what an editor, agent, or publisher wants.

Heady freedom, but it comes at a price. As she mentioned:

“Each time I realized I could write this project, I got distracted. Then a moment later, I realized I could write that project, and I got distracted all over again.  This weekend, a writer who hadn’t heard the popcorn kitten analogy described the experience using her dog as an example:  She’d be working along and then—squirrel!—she’d get distracted like her dog would outside and then — squirrel! — she’d get distracted all over again until her brain became squirrel, squirrel, squirrel.”

This happened to me in early 2010. I might have even mentioned it on this blog.

The possibilities. They’re almost endless! And if a writer isn’t careful they can get caught up in the possibilities SQUIRREL! and not actually write. To become paralyzed because there are so many directions to go.

How does one make a decision on what direction to go? What is a writer to do to tame the squirrels?

That’s right, it’s time to plan a little and take control.

For me the solution was a hybrid project file/production schedule. I started an excel file and put in the following columns:

  • Project Status (planning, outlining, writing, first draft finished, revising, ready to publish, published)
  • Title
  • Series
  • Number in Series
  • Universe
  • Universe Stage
  • Intended Publishing Order
  • Intended Publishing Date

Some may not need columns for Universe, but as I write in 4 different universes, it was a useful reference and filter to have.

Once I had the above put in and started populating the fields I realized what a good quick resource this was. So easy to see information about each story. So, I added the following columns to make it even more informative:

  • Story Length (short story, novella, novel, and so on)
  • Length (finished wordcount only, to be updated once revision is finished.)
  • Genre
  • Subgenre

For a long time the above kept me on track. I looked at the “Intended Publishing Order” and “Intended Publishing Date” and off I went!

Started on project one. Finished. Then started on project 2. SQUIRREL! As each project went through the various stages of completion, the “Project Status” was changed. If needed, I could filter by series or universe and see what other books I had planned and add those to my 1 1/2 year publishing schedule.

Then in February I started publishing and realized this same sheet was just as useful in keeping track of other key data. And so the following columns were added:

  • Date Published
  • Published by? (for those who may work with more than one publisher, as I sometimes do)
  • ISBN assigned

Again, a valuable reference. It is concise, can show at a glance what projects are at what stage, allowing the writer to make good decisions on story project priorities. Such as if a new idea comes out of nowhere SQUIRREL! and is written fast, meaning the production schedule needs to be changed. What other stories are near its completion status? What can be put off so it can be brought forward? What are the intended publishing dates of the other projects?

The project file can help you determine all of it.

It takes a little time to set up for the first time, to gather all the information and bring it together in one spot, but once it is finished it does not take much upkeep.

Has it worked for me? Oh yeah! I always know the next 2-5 projects I’ll be working on. It’s kept me so focuses that with some stories, I was able to publish them 3 months early. I’m having to adjust the production schedule of other works as I now have openings in 2011.

I hope the above will help a few other writers gain back control and avoid writing paralysis.

SQUIRREL!

____________________

J.A. Marlow

My latest novel, The String Weavers (The String Weavers – Book 1), is now available at online retailers everywhere.

Kelsey Hale thinks she’s just a typical mixed-up teenager. Everyone feels that way, her teachers assure her. Yet, strange things happen to her, like food disappearing before she can eat it and hearing music no one else hears.

Then a giant flaming bird drops an alien at her feet. Well, good grief, how can you ignore something like that?

Abducted from Earth, the only planet she’s ever known, Kelsey finds herself thrust into the middle of a deadly conflict among alien worlds and parallel universe. She must not only survive herself, but also find a way to rescue her father from a dangerous group with unknown motives.

In the process, she’s confronted by a hidden secret about herself which will shake the very foundation of who and what she thought she was.

And connecting it all are the mysterious Weavers.

A 97,100 word science fiction novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords


Cover Design – Planning

A cover is one of the most important marketing tools for a book. Humans are visual creatures. We love color, movement, action, mood, shadows, and shape. Each of us is personally drawn to a different combination of the above.

But for book covers certain aspects seem to work more consistently. Hehe, for the most part. There is always an exception for every rule.

And this is an area where authors suddenly have a lot more control by going Indie. I’ve read a number of books where the cover had nothing to do with what was inside. As a reader I was very disappointed, as the cover helped make the sale (I’ve had this trouble with back-of-the-book blurbs before, too).

Some have argued that covers don’t make as much difference in the e-world as they do in a bookstore. After all, most ereaders are still black and white and when you start reading you typically don’t see the cover anyway. Besides, a reader can’t touch it.

Evidence proves otherwise, and for a very good reason. The same reason they are so important in a bookstore: visibilty.

If the book isn’t visible to the potential buyer then the book is unlikely to sell. It doesn’t matter if they can’t touch the cover, they can still SEE the cover. As I said before, we are visual creatures, and that fact should not be underestimated.

There are two main ways to find a book on online stores: browse and search.

Both methods will typically result in a display of grids consisting of the thumbnail of the cover, the title and the price. Those three things must push a potential buyer to the next step, which is to click through to the product page where the book description and sample might incite them to buy.

So, cover is still just as important in the ebook world as it is in the physical book world. In the initial steps of browsing or searching, the cover, title, and price are going to combine to create interest. The general buying public still very much ‘judges a book by its cover’.

Those who ignore this generally pay for it in loss of sales. For fun, google the bet J.A. Konrath made with Lee Goldberg on the importance of covers and titles. It was a bet Lee was happy to lose.

I wanted to make sure the cover for “Night of the Aurora” represented the interior of the book, so that the reader had some idea of what they were buying. But at the same time, it needed to be enticing.

Not easy things to balance.

Then I made a list of the major elements of each of the books. Did anything in that list make sense for a cover?

The mental images started popping up. Some I tossed aside as too complex. Some would take too long. I needed images that were somewhere in the middle, but still represented what the books were about.

The above step is important, even though to some it might seem silly. You wrote the book, you obviously know it. Right?

Well, yes, in a way. But some of the elements might be lurking only in your subconscious. It doesn’t do much good back there. You can’t pull it out and play with it when it’s back there.

It needs to be brought into your conscious mind. Only then do you truly see it, can the rest of your mind play with it, can it become an active part of the design.

Making a list can help bring the things lurking in the back of your mind to the front of the mind where they can actually be used.

From previous research I knew of several things that have worked well for Indie Authors/Publishers:

* Clear and striking main image with only a few main design elements. Know and play up the focus of the cover.

* Sharp colors

* Clear typeface for both title and author name

* Author name should be large, to help build the author name brand.

* Shrinks down well to a thumbnail with title, author name, and graphics still easily seen.

* Avoid white backgrounds (The cover won’t show up well in the searches as a thumbnail).

With the above as a base, I started off with research. I pulled up the ebook categories I mentioned before and made notes on the top 100 paid listings.

Any themes present? Subject matter? Colors used? Any colors not seen? Design elements that appeared used more than others, or that caught my eye and held my attention longer than a brief scan? Typeface? How did the title and author name stand out?

Whether doing your own cover art, or hiring a contractor to do it, all of the above is important. A graphic designer doesn’t have time to read all of the books he/she designs covers for. They need good information from the author in order to do a good job on the cover.

That means the author needs to have some idea going in on how they want to market it. Answering all the questions up above (and more) so they can articulate to the designer what they want from the end result will result in a good cover with a minimum of frustration and money.

The more information you are able to pass on, the better chance the designer has of hitting the mark.

NEXT: The Cover Design

_______________________________
“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!
I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

If you find this information useful or interesting, please encourage others to come on by and visit.


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Writerly Progress

2014 Yearly New Words
24.34%  121700 of 500000
2014 Yearly Revision Words
20.6%  103000 of 500000

Archives

Free Serial: Zerralon

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Available Ebook Formats

The works of J.A. Marlow are available in a wide number of formats including DRM-Free. Below is a list of a few of the retailers the various formats can be found at.

Mobi (Kindle compatible): Amazon, Drive Thru Scifi, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Epub (Nook compatible): Barnes & Noble, Drive Thru Scifi, Google Play, Kobo, Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii, iBookstore

PDF: Omnilit/All Romance Ebooks, Smashwords, Xinxii

Palm DOC/iSolo (Palm compatible): Smashwords

RTF (Rich Text Format): Smashwords

LRF (Older Sony Reader format): Smashwords

Plain Text: Smashwords

Online Reading (HTML): Google Play, Smashwords

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