A Snail-Mail Letter a Day in February

From Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog (courtesy of Mur Lafferty):

When was the last time you got a letter in the mail? December sees a lot of mail and you remember that sense of delight when the first card arrives. You can have that more often.

I have a simple challenge for you.

  1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

All you are committing to is to mail 24 items. Why 24? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again.

Feeling intimidated? It’s fewer words than NaNoWriMo and I know how many of you do that. Join me in The Month of Letters Challenge.

It’s an interesting idea. I don’t know if I’ll send letters all 24 days (what with February starting tomorrow and all,) but I might send a few. I used to live for letters back in high school (you know, in the far distant past of the 1970s.) It might be kind of cool to send and receive them again. For a while. Until I get writer’s cramp and run out of stamps.

Think you’ll try it?

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Writing As Investment

Dean Wesley Smith offers an interesting new perspective for writers:

An Indie Publisher Investing Plan

Step One: Set a Goal to Publish Something New Every Two Weeks.

— It could be a short story or your latest book. It could be a collection, whatever. Just put into print one new item every two weeks. (I know of very few writers who haven’t been working for a time that don’t have backlist as well to help with this. If you hate the story and think it sucks, put it under a pen name.)

— Give yourself one week to miss, so you will have 25 books, stories, collections up in one year. (Even if you miss for three full months you will have 20 books, stories, and collections up. Not bad.)

— This investment plan will also keep you writing new work.

Step Two: Consider Each Publication a Deposit into Your “Future Investment Account.”

— So instead of turning into an “Author” with every new published item, consider each new published book or story an investment in your future. Just like putting $100.00 into a 401(k) every two weeks. Think of it in the exact same way.

— Just as you ignore your 401(k) statement most months, ignore how your sales are going. Focus on the writing of the next thing.

— And if you really want to use your writing as an investment, just let the money sit in an interest-bearing account as it comes in each month from your sales. You might be stunned at how fast that will grow as you keep writing and publishing. (I know some writers are already doing this with their indie publishing accounts.)

— Take the long-term approach. Think out five and ten years, not two weeks. (I know, impossible for beginning writers to do, but again, you are investing in your future. It’s all an attitude.)

I like the idea of thinking of my writing output as an investment account. It provides an incentive to write more and to spend more time polishing what I’ve written. This approach reminds me of advice I’ve heard given to salespeople: Rather than think of cold-calling as a chore, think of it as a source of earnings. If it takes on average 20 cold calls to produce one sale, and each sale produces an average of $500 commission, then each cold call is worth $25. The thinking goes that, if the salesperson approaches a cold call with the thought that it will earn $25, cold calling becomes less of a chore.

I’m not a salesman by trade and I think I would hate having to make cold calls each day, but I like the thinking behind this. I am a writer, however, and there’s nothing stopping me from adopting Smith’s attitude toward writing production today.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think of this approach.

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Podcast Extra — Jennisodes Episode 79: Marketing

This podcast is essential listening if you are a writer, illustrator, musician, artist, or any other creative content producer who is trying to reach an audience. It’s from the Jennisodes podcast, which I discovered a couple of weeks ago. It’s quickly become one of my favorites, added to my already too-long list of podcast subscriptions.

In this episode, she interviews public relations professional Joshua Logan Seideman. Some of you may know that public relations is one of the many hats I wear at my day job, so I was especially interested in this one. The conversation surrounds the topic of marketing a game (Jennisodes is a podcast devoted to role playing games, after all,) but his points are valuable to anyone who is trying to get their work noticed. I listened to it once yesterday while walking my dog and driving to work (not at the same time,) and I plan to listen to it again when I can scribble down some notes.

Whether or not you have an interest in RPG’s, I highly recommend Jenn’s podcast simply because every week she gets fascinating guests to interview. This week’s episode features the two attorneys who do the Law Of The Geek podcast. Again, the talk was about the legal aspects of game design and marketing, but they made some very interesting points about contracts with illustrators and other outside content creators. As someone who is contemplating self-publishing, I had not given this any thought, which is especially bad since I spend much of my time on the day job reading contracts. Even if you decide not to bother with a formal contract, you should be aware of the implications of that decision, so I strongly recommend you give that show a listen.

So much to listen to, so little time…

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Last Christmas Post, I Promise: Drabblecast 228

Drabblecast Episode 288 coverOkay, I know I said I’d stop the Christmas posts awhile back, and the holiday season is over, but last week’s episode of The Drabblecast was just too funny not to share. I played the intro and the drabble for my sons last night. As a rule, they don’t quite get my affinity for podcast fiction, but even they laughed when they heard this. So, if you’ve returned to your cynical self post-holidays, I’m reasonably sure you’ll enjoy this. And if you’re not already a Drabblecast subscriber and supporter, check out some other episodes and listen to what you’ve been missing.

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What Will Happen in the Publishing World in 2012?

Happy New Year! At this time of year, we get a lot of “year in review” and “predictions for the new year” blog post. As someone who greets every new year with renewed hopes of getting a book published, I found this post from Dear Author pretty interesting.

The following are my bold and not so bold predictions for publishing in 2012.  My boldest prediction will be that Amazon will buy Goodreads in 2012.  The most unlikely to happen prediction is Number 10.    What are your predictions for 2012?

1.  More authors will self publish than in 2011.  I suspect that nearly every author will try his or her hand at self publishing new and previously unpublished content, either in novella or full length book form.  After 2012, I suspect that there will be a retrenchment in self publishing and authors will look to digital first arms of traditional publishers or digital first only publishers as they realize that a) self publishing is difficult and b) they’d rather write than focus on the business aspect.  However, there will be a rise in the number of self publishing success stories and the quality of self publishing will increase as supply increases.  Along with this prediction, we will see the rise of publishing service companies and indie communities of publishing service providers akin to Penguin’s Book Country and HarperCollins’ Authonomy where editors, copy editors, graphic artists will be able to offer their services and be voted on by the community.

There is a fair amount of discussion about this in the comments section of this post. As I’ve discussed here before, I’m giving serious thought to self-publishing one or both of my podcast novels this year. I know people who have self-published ebooks, and they haven’t described the process as terribly difficult. If any of you have a different view, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

3.  Readers will gravitate to lower priced books, those priced 3.99 and under, so long as the book has a good hook and a decent cover.  These books will be substitutes for traditionally priced books.  In looking back at Bookscan, authors sold well if they had an established name.  Breaking out as a new author is more difficult than ever, particularly from traditional publishers.  I suspect the new books that readers will be talking about will come from the $3.99 and under price range and those books will be available to readers around the world.  That’s the discovery price range.

I’ve heard different opinions on what the sweet spot is for ebook pricing, anywhere from $2.99 to $6.99. I’ve heard of several authors selling well at $4.99, so I’m not sold (no pun intended) on $3.99.

4.  I think the price of most digital books will be $3.99 and that $.99 fiction will fall into either short fiction price (under 25K words) or will be promotional.  Publishers will experiment with book pricing and readers will be more hesitant to buy older titles at full price, hoping for a lower price deal.

If you agree with point #2, then this makes sense. The $0.99 price point for shorter works I think is already pretty much the rule. Some of my peers like Abigail Hilton, Jennifer Povey and Phil Rossi have priced their short stories this way.

5.  There will be a Steam-like publisher offering resellable digital books, available only in the cloud.  This is being experimented with by Austrialian publishers Book.ish and ReadCloud.  This might be offered by a romance publisher, but I suspect it will be a small press publisher for SFF or maybe comic books or a textbook publisher that would allow students resell ability of their digital texts.

If my sons could buy digital textbooks for a reduced price and resell them after the semester ends, I’d buy them Kindles tomorrow. I’m curious as to how this would work. Anyone have any experience with the two Australian publishers she mentioned?

6.  Sites like Goodreads will become more popular and thus more powerful.  Goodreads currently has over 6 million users.  Membership at Goodreads is increasing on a daily basis. Publishers are attempting to break into that market through Bookish, the as yet unreleased website backed by Hachette, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, but I suspect that Bookish and sites like it will wither on the vine mostly because they won’t be reader oriented but book oriented which I think are two very different things.  My boldest prediction is that Amazon will purchase Goodreads for the community and its recommendation engine.  (Amazon already owns Shelfari but back in 2007, Amazon purchased DPReview.com, the premiere digital photography recommendation site)

As a reader, I love Goodreads; as an author, I have to put it to better use this year (see my last post on marketing.) Not everyone sees a potential Amazon purchase of Goodreads as a good thing. Check out the comments after her original post. Do any of you have thoughts about this?

7.  Digital book sales will represent 50% of trade sales by the end of 2012.

I’m not so sure about this one. Undoubtedly, digital books will continue to grow in popularity in a big way. However, I still hear more people say that they prefer physical books than the other way around. Predictions of a 50 percent share next year may be premature.

9.  BN will continue to move toward offering non book content. BN will allow large store leases to expire and relocate into smaller locations. The larger locations will decrease the book content to half of the retail contents.  BN will begin to carry more toys, house ware goods (like cooking supplies to go with the cookbooks and craft supplies to go with the craft books), and other celebrity designed products ala Target’s pairing with Moschino and Jason Wu.  BN already has Vera Bradley paper goods.

I’ve already noticed how much floor space my local B&N stores are devoting to toys, puzzles and games. Not sure I like it, but this prediction rings true.

10.  There will be an innovative print on demand machine that non bookstores will install.  Maybe it will be something you see in department stores.  The new print on demand machine will print mass market or trade versions of books.  (This is probably something more that I would like to see than what may happen, but I do believe that print on demand technology will increase dramatically in the next few years. There will be a high demand for it.)

Cool as it sounds, I don’t think we’ll see this this year, especially given the continued weakness in the economy. I just don’t see retailers gambling on an expensive, unproven machine when they’re under so much pressure right now. We daydreamed a bit at a meeting of one of the two library boards I serve on about how cool it would be to have a machine like this in our library. The price tag brought us back to earth in a hurry. Employee benefits and pension costs are cannibalizing our budget, and there will be no room for something like for a long while.

So, what do you think of these predictions? Eerily prescient or utter hogwash? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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The Key To Marketing Your Writing

I really like this post by Rob Eagar from the Writers Digest There Are No Rules blog, especially this quote:

Marketing isn’t about striking it rich with every activity you do. That’s an unrealistic expectation. You can’t expect perfection, but you can expect success. Therefore, your marketing goal should be to build a “body of work” that generates momentum over time and draws readers to you and your books. Think of the process like building a large magnet that begins to consistently attract people. Your objective is show up where your reading audience congregates numerous times and in numerous formats. You want people to think, “Everywhere I turn, I seem to bump into this author’s material, advice, stories, or resources.” Does it take a little more work? Yes, but this magnetic approach also produces larger results over a longer period of time.

I should print this out and read it every day, because I recognized myself in a lot of what he wrote here.

Have any of you done any of the following?

  • Sent out a few query emails, then stopped after you received a few “no” responses or “no responses”?
  • Written a bunch of blog posts, then slowed down to a crawl when you noticed you weren’t getting a lot of comments on your posts?
  • Released a couple of novels as podcasts, then followed up with…nothing?
  • Groused about how no one ever asks you to be in their podcast productions, even though you never announced you were available?
  • Wondered why you don’t get invited to be on con panels, even though very few people know about your books?

Yep. I’m guilty on all counts.

I had a very eye-opening experience at Dragon*Con last summer. I was hanging with Starla and Scott Huchton and their friends, and at some point in the conversation I mentioned something about one of my podcasts. Starla said, “I keep forgetting that you’ve podcasted novels, because you never talk about them. Ever.” ZING! Those books are on my mind all the time, but apparently I’ve done precious little to make others aware of them. If Starla, who is an active participant in the podcasting community and a sought-after narrator (see her fine work in Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge) doesn’t think I’m promoting my work, then clearly I’m not.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but this year I have to make a schedule for promotional activities and stick to it. That means writing down a plan for regular blog posts (and interesting topics) at the beginning of the month. It means a numeric goal for queries each week, both for my fiction and my freelance work, which has slowed to a crawl. It means becoming a regular poster in the Facebook Podcast Community and letting the folks there know that I want to play roles in their podcasts. It means getting assertive about telling people that I want to be on panels and do readings at cons.

And when I do all that, I have to keep this Writers Digest blog post in mind. Not everything I do will have an immediate payoff, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. I go to the gym four or five times a week, and though I don’t yet fit into size 32 jeans or have the physique of Tom Cruise in Top Gun, I keep going because I know it will pay dividends in the long run. So it is with promotion. Every activity helps build the brand, which will hopefully make people interested in listening to or reading my books.

Next Dragon*Con, I want Starla to say, “I’m f**king sick of hearing about your books.”

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Merry Christmas

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Free Download: ‘Santa Claus Got Eaten by the Kraken’ by Pandora Celtica

Regular readers of this blog are well aware of my propensity to gush about the music of a capella Celtic group Pandora Celtica. Now, just in time for Christmas Eve, they are offering a free download of a song from their CD On Thin Ice. The song is Santa Clause Got Eaten by the Kraken, and it’s one of my favorites on the CD. As you might guess from the title, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. Give it a listen and have a good holiday laugh.

If you like this song, please share it with your friends and anyone else you can think of who would like it. I’d love to see them get more widespread exposure. Enjoy!

“Frosty’s slowly melting watching episodes of ‘Lost’…”

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More Christmas Listening: ‘The Christmas Mummy’ by Heather Shaw & Tim Pratt

Last Christmas, I posted Mur Lafferty’s story Merry Christmas From the Heartbreakers in my feed because I love the story and wanted you all to have the chance to enjoy it, too. This year, I want to share another terrific holiday story, one that ran a year ago on Podcastle. It’s The Christmas Mummy by the husband and wife team of Heather Shaw and Tim Pratt. This is a funny but heartwarming story that the whole family can enjoy. It features an average American family with average American kids, average American ninjas, an average American mummy, an average American eccentric uncle, and said uncle’s arch-nemesis.

Here’s the beginning of the story, as posted on Podcastle’s site last Christmas:

Trish led Nate from the room, into the hall — their parents’ door was
closed — and onto the stairs. She could hear someone moving down
there. Trish crept down the carpeted steps. The only light in the
living room came from the bright Christmas tree. Even the yule log in
the fireplace had burned down.

Two men, dressed in black pajamas with their faces covered, were tying
a big red ribbon around a crate that was bigger than the couch.

“Ninjas?” Trish whispered to her brother.

Christmas ninjas,” Nate said.

One of the ninjas pulled up his mask a little and ate one of the
cookies they’d left for Santa. He drank the milk, too, leaving a white
mustache on his ninja mask when he pulled it back down over his mouth.

I hope you like this as much as I did.

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Holiday Special Podcast: ‘A Christmas Carol’

Are you sick of me blogging about Christmas yet? I promise I’ll stop in about a week. Until then, I’m happy to unveil a little project I’ve been involved with. Douglas Welch of the Podcast Community on Facebook organized a group reading of an abridged version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I have a part toward the end of the story.

Here’s the description from Douglas’s Web site:

The Podcast Community on Facebook has come together this season to record an audio version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This reading is based on an edited version of the story created by Dickens himself for his own live readings.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Listen to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Our cast includes:

Produced by Douglas E. Welch and WelchWrite.com

Interstitial Music and Sound Effects provided by Michael Lawshe of Eclipse-1 Media

Join the Podcast Community on Facebook


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