I’ve written some pretty strange things over the years.
Just last week, I wrote the text for a sell sheet that compares website services to automobile maintenance—despite knowing next to nothing about cars. Years ago, I scripted a mock press conference starring the chancellor of a public university and the ice-cream-cone mascot of a local burger franchise. Once I even dedicated a newspaper column to the topic of dust.
Subject matter aside, I’ve had the privilege of producing a wide array of written works throughout my professional life, including journalistic articles, press releases, text for various marketing brochures and websites, ad copy, scripts for television and radio commercials, and a job posting modeled after the inscription on Tolkien’s One Ring of Power.
But few things pushed me farther outside my comfort zone than the business plan I recently put together.
That’s right, soon One Million Words will be more than just an informal brand for my fiction. In the next few months, I plan to start my own business to better coordinate my writing and publishing efforts.
Last month, I struggled with the question “What now?” I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to jump into the next book of my current series, revisit some of my older works, or explore something completely new. Before I could determine my next steps, I needed to map out my goals. And if I were really going to treat my writing like a business, the numbers had to have a say in the solution.
In other words, if I wanted to survive, I needed a source of income.
While I remained (and still remain!) hopeful my agent will be able to sell the first two books of The Soul Sleep Cycle, I couldn’t bank on that—given how slowly the traditional publishing industry moves.
Which meant I needed to find another revenue stream in the meantime.
The Renegade Chronicles—a sword-and-sorcery series I wrote years ago—was the obvious low-hanging fruit. My goal is to self-publish those books in paperback and as e-books in the first quarter next year to maximize my sales window in 2016.
As much as I’d love to plow forward into Book 3 of The Soul Sleep Cycle, I now find myself contending against an admittedly aggressive deadline. There’s a chance that in between editing and proofing The Renegade Chronicles, commissioning cover art, refining my marketing plan, and publishing that trilogy, I’ll be able to crank out a character profile or two as well as a chapter outline for If Dreams Can Die, but if not, it will have to wait until April.
These past few days, I’ve been spending as much time staring at spreadsheets as Word documents. As much as I crave the chance to sink my teeth into something more creative than business planning and editing, the left side of my brain thrives on organizing tasks and timelines.
It’s a lot of work—and a far cry from my carefree approach to fiction back when I first penned The Renegade Chronicles—but no one ever said living the dream would be easy.
Truth be told, I’m quite pleased with how the business plan turned out (and sincere thanks to Denise Grover Swank, whose business plan at The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing served as my model). While it’s intimidated to see a list of 50-plus to-dos staring back at me when I open my spreadsheet, it feels damn good to have a destination.
And now I must return to a task that’s at least as daunting as writing a business plan: coming up with better titles for the three Renegade Chronicles books.
“If Dreams Can Die”…love that title! That alone sold me on #3. Well done. We agree that Titles Are Hard, but I think you’ve got that one all figured out. I suppose having success in that will propel you toward your title search for the Renegade Chronicles (which I can’t even say without hearing Tommy Shaw’s voice at the opening of a certain Styx song.)
Misery loves company. While my own #1 is being read by our esteemed mutual acquaintance, I’m working on #2 by going back and updating the ginormous chronological outline you’ve heard me talk about. Yeesh. Incorporating my own improvement ideas and vetting suggestions from my A-listers has been brutal, tedious and eminently time consuming. But I know, for me the practicing engineer and “plotter” poster boy, it needs must be done. I’ve also gone back to my first novels chapter outline and started charting all the events therein with an application called Aeon Timeline (only $40 after the trial period, still a deal at twice the price) which revealed, er, shall we say, areas I need to give due consideration. Ultimately I think this will make the existing work stronger and the next works easier to develop. With more than a vague idea of what happens to whom when, I look forward to focusing on how to deliver the story rather than developing it as I go. (And for those people who can do both simultaneously, More Power To Ya.) Yes, there are those who might submit that “planning ain’t writing, only writing is writing”. I counter architecture isn’t building either, but when the builder goes to work after the architect finishes his he accomplishes much more than if he were left to his own devices.
“Measure twice, cut once” so goes the English proverb, although the Russian idiom suggests measuring seven times. Note to self…sit down with tea in front of me when I write and skip the vodka!
Full speed ahead, Davido !!
Wishing you every success in your new venture.
No more day job?
I still work at the agency, but my role has changed; I’m now a content specialist.
More about what that transition means for my fiction (and, consequently, my future business) here: http://david-michael-williams.com/2015/08/06/living-and-writing-the-dream/