Sunday, June 24, 2012

Catching up, and a guaranteed way to get more work done

I just realized it's been a while since my last post. Wouldn't want anyone to think I dropped off the face of the earth or anything. Ha. Ha. Ha. If you've been reading my blog lately you might see that I've had a lot of issues staying motivated. Not just with writing, but with life. It's often very difficult to stay positive. However, I've found something that really works. Stay off the internet and don't watch the news. Seriously.

I've been spending drastically less time online and I feel fantastic. I see just enough news to know what's going on in the world, and then I turn it off. I log in to Facebook maybe once or twice a day (this is a lot less than usual for me), but I don't read every post. Why? Because many are negative and they will only bring me down. That may sound rude or harsh, but you gotta look out for yourself.

I've also been checking my email from my phone. It makes the process simpler and I'm not chained to the computer.

This strategy has so far helped me start a garden, clean my yard, write more words per week, and spend quality time with my son.

When I turn off the computer and write by hand, it amazes me how much better my work is. By the time I turn on the computer to type it all up, I have even more to add and embellish. It's fantastic!

On another positive note, I've been working out more. By turning off the computer, I'm not wasting so much time on things that really weren't helping me get any work done. Now I'm getting into better shape AND I've got a novella that's coming along nicely.

Oh, and my pumpkin garden is looking great! If you can't tell, I love fall. October is my favorite month, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I spend all year looking forward to that first hint of fall in the air. *sigh*

Here are the varieties I'm growing this year. Blue moon, Atlantic Giant, and Moonshine. Of course, there will be regular Jack-O-Lanterns as well as some mini-pumpkins called Jack-Be-Little. As of right now, I've got 73 healthy plants.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Get up swinging

As I sit here in the middle of the night, unable to sleep (obviously Ha. Ha.), I started looking over my recent blog posts. I gave more than a little thought to ... well, my thoughts.

It's time I stop complaining and worrying about things I can't control. No matter what I do, I really can't control sales. I can't control the reactions of other people, personally or professionally. Those things are out of my hands just as much as the weather. Well, I do know a pretty good rain dance, but you get what I'm saying.

The only thing I have complete control of is me and my reactions. I'm tired of worrying and complaining. It makes me feel weak and I don't like that either. If there's one thing I'm not it's weak. I'm a fighter. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it as many times as I need to in order to remind myself to get off my ass and get back to work.

A new story idea came to me yesterday evening. I made a few notes, but this new idea won't shut up. I'm going to put my current book on hold (because I've made notes through the ending already) and I'm going to work on this. The new idea looks like (from my notes) that it might be a novella. I've got some pretty sexy things going through my head, and I'm going to write the shit out of them.

One of my trainers, years ago, taught me something very important. Well, he taught me a lot. But this one thing has so many applications besides combat. He said that if you hit the ground for any reason, whether you're knocked down, or you fall down to avoid a hit, you better get up swinging. You never know when one of your punches is gonna land. And you never know when that one hit will be all it takes to finish the fight.

I've had some books that have sold and continue to sale very well. But I'm still looking for that one hit. The book that takes me and my work to the next level. Here I go again, getting up swinging.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What actually works to increase book sales?

The truth is (in my best Sherlock Holmes voice) I haven't the foggiest. As I try desperately to manage my time more effectively and not write myself to death, it turns out I'm worrying myself to death. You wouldn't believe all the factors that run through my head about why a book may or may not appeal to my audience. I'm tearing my work apart and that is never a good thing.

I can tell you for sure what doesn't work, everything I've tried so far. Advertising in every form I've tried thus far has been absolutely pointless. I haven't seen a definite increase in sales from any one thing. I've seen a temporary jump here and there that might be because of an online ad, but who knows. There isn't any way to know for sure. Print ads have been the biggest waste of money so far, especially if you hire someone to format your ad, and then (of course) you have to pay for the ad space. A very small ad in a magazine that targeted my audience and got good circulation cost me about $220. My sales on that book for the quarter were only around 300 copies. There was only an increase of roughly 50 copies more than usual. Not worth $220.

I keep doing my best to write quality stories. I know that I put the work in and I have faith in my work. I write the kinds of things that I would enjoy reading. That's got to be worth something, right? At least I'm not turning out crap and expecting people to buy it. I'm putting my heart and soul into my work ... and sales are down. But hey, at least I'm selling a product I believe in.

Lately, that's all I've got. I try to share advice here that I think will be of value to other writers. The truth is, sooner or later, you're going to be hitting your head on a brick wall too, wondering why your books aren't selling.

It's not just my self-pub titles either. Sales are down with my publishers as well. And from the other authors I speak with from time to time, it's the same for them. So, I can take a great big breath and calm down a little. This doesn't mean I suck, right? No, I really don't think so.

I have no idea what to think. I'm going to keep plugging away on my weekly word count goal and try to figure out my next move. Should I proceed to self-pub my next title like I was planning? Or would it be helpful to try submitting it to a large publisher? If they offered me a contract, would that help me gain more exposure? It's possible, but there's no guarantee. Then again, my titles on Amazon could sale like crazy overnight. It happens all the time for no apparent reason.

As you can see, I have no clue what to do next. The only thing I know for certain, is I'm going to keep working on this book.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Time management for writers

If you're anything like me, the hardest part of writing (many times) is finding the time. There all of these other things on your list. People who need you, things you need to do for yourself, etc. The hardest part about time management is learning what is and is not a good use of your valuable time. That's another key step, realize that your time IS valuable. You provide a valuable service. You, as a writer, entertain people. You help us escape for a few hours. You give us a ticket to our mental vacation. Make no mistake, that is a very valuable service.

Hopefully, hearing some of the things that are helpful to me in managing my time will help others. It seems like I got more accomplished as a writer when I worked another full-time job. Why? Because I didn't feel as compelled to do everything around the house. Plus, people assumed I was tired when I got home. Ha. Ha. Ha. Sad but true. When you work from your home, many times others will assume you aren't busy or haven't had as tough a day as they've had. That's just the way it is. Perceptions vary and there's nothing any of us can do about it.

I struggle with time management, but I finally feel as if I'm starting to get somewhere. This is what I've been working on lately.

I'm currently (right this moment in another window) leaving all the yahoo groups from which I receive no benefit whatsoever. Why am I doing this? Because I'm tired of sorting through all the digests in my email. When I got my first publishing contract, I was thrilled about sharing my excerpts and news in yahoo groups. I made the mistake of thinking these groups would be as awesome as the old MSN groups. Nope. While I will (of course) remain in my publisher's groups (because I DO benefit from those), most everything else, I'm leaving. I have yet to find that posting excerpts or even participating in general helps sales in the slightest. I have studied this closely over a period of years and listened to what others had to say on the subject as well. The end result: Yahoo groups don't help you sell more books. Therefore, I have determined this is not a good use of my time. I mean no offense to anyone running a yahoo group. This is a business decision, not a personal one. I think I'm also going to delete my old group or turn it into a mailing list or something.

Online forums besides yahoo - While these can be fun, I've also found no concrete benefit here either. It would appear that my posts in other places of this nature get less and less views. I'm remaining on one of my favorite forums simply because I like the people I've met there. I've severely limited the time I spend on this because (usually), I am the only one there.

I've also left Triberr for the same basic reason. I saw no real benefit. No increase in sales or anything else. While I've heard others say it worked for them, the majority of people I hear from have experienced similar results. It is difficult to find a tribe that is suited to the interests of your Twitter followers. Many times the members of your tribe won't even post your stuff. Not to mention, some tribes add nothing but extra drama to your life. I don't know about you, but I'm not looking for drama unless I go to the theater.

I am active on Facebook, but not to the extent I was before. It's important to keep in touch with friends and to make yourself available to readers. But you don't have to live there.

Playing Castleville is NOT a priority. HAHAHA!! Seriously, I've battled with this one. I still play, but once again, I've severely limited my time.

I've done hours and hours of research, trying to find what magically makes books sale. Many people who read ebooks (my primary format) no longer read print magazines. Even when you find an online magazine that reaches your target audience, whether or not your ad will lead to sales is a shot in the dark. Obsessing over this was NOT a good use of my time. The only thing I can control is putting out another quality book. THAT I can handle, so THAT is where my focus is.

Scouring the net for any and all mentions of me and my work was also NOT a good use of my time. So, I stopped. Cold turkey. There is negativity everywhere, no matter what your profession. You will encounter enough without any help whatsoever. Don't go looking for it.

Exercise is a must. Make time.

Doing things with my family, is a good use of my time. (Like that pumpkin garden I love so much.)

Mowing the yard is a good use of my time. So is writing my next chapter. Do one or the other. Make a decision, do it well and stop obsessing over the one you didn't choose.

Another thing that has helped me is to set a word count goal for the week. I've only been doing this for a few weeks now, but it has helped tremendously. I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I make that goal AND get my house clean.

All these things are continuing to help me manage my time. Since I can't afford a national ad campaign, the only thing I can do is write my next book and make it a good one. Until I figure out what advertising works best, I can no longer afford to experiment.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to work on meeting that word count goal for the week.