Tag Archives: business of writing

’Tis the season to slow down

I haven’t been on social media much lately.

Likewise, my email responses have been somewhat sluggish. I haven’t attended any events over the past few weeks either.

Because I’m a small business owner—and admittedly a little anal retentive—I track all of my hours in a spreadsheet, and let me tell you, the weekly average took a plunge about a month ago.

Yours truly and Marvel the Wonder Pup (aka Marv)

Excuses could be made. But even without a new dog in our home (see adorable puppy pic to the right) and even if a family member weren’t riding a most un-fun roller coaster in a nearby hospital, I know my productivity would have dropped like thermometer mercury at this time of year.

The December doldrums are a thing…

Then again, you likely haven’t noticed my absence because you’re busy also.

Shovel-worthy weather, holiday hoopla, cumulative exhaustion from your own Year of Yes—whatever the factors, the final month of the year is the perfect time to scale back a bit and, ideally, recharge before 2019 comes charging onto the scene with a slew of new goals.

Since I don’t have time to write a long blog post and you don’t have time to read one, this handful of links to stuff I did in the not-too-distant past will have to suffice. If you have a moment between obligations to click, go for it!

If not, I completely understand.

  • Fellow author and good friend Mark J. Engels and I were interviewed for Read.Write.Repeat. Listen to the podcast!
  • I was also featured on Author Showcase and talked about being an “authorpreneur.” Watch the video!

I doubt I’ll be posting to this site before the new year, so I hope you all enjoy your respective holidays.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue my valiant struggle to make significant progress on the final (yes, final!) edits to If Dreams Can Die, Book Three of The Sleep Cycle.

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Cover reveal: If Sin Dwells Deep

By auspicious happenstance, my 100th blog post coincides with another milestone: the completion of my next book’s cover.

Behold!

If Sin Dwells Deep will be published as a paperback and for Kindle on Oct. 2, 2018. The Kindle version will be available for preorder at the end of the month IS AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER NOW!

Here’s the back-cover text to tide you over until then:

Even good girls have secrets.

When straight-laced Allison sleeps, the rebellious goddess Syn wakes. Having a fling in the dreamscape may seem like harmless fun, but when a sadistic predator learns her true identity, the fantasy begins to bleed into real life.

If Sin Dwells Deep—a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep—exposes the hidden world of dream drifters and explores the war between gifted government agents and those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and that which lies beyond.

Because I’m up to my elbows in pre-release book marketing tactics (which will likely include penning some guest posts), I’ve elected to use the rest of this article to highlight some of my favorite posts from this blog.

Without further ado, here’s my Top 10 blog posts…so far:

10. Celebrating a writing milestone? Listen up!

About three years ago, I created a soundtrack for a novel I was working on. The songs all—directly or indirectly—tie into the plot and characters of If Sin Dwells Deep. (Available soon!)

9. It’s a…business!

This short but significant post announced the birth of One Million Words LLC, my indie publishing company. The business, now 2½ years old, resembles a toddler today: lots of unexpected fun and requiring constant supervision.

8. How to make a person

No, this isn’t sex education. I once used this blog to share writing tips, and this post featured a series of interview questions to get to know your characters better and transform them from two-dimensional ideas to full-fledged human beings.

(Pro tip: I recently used these same questions to flesh out my new D&D character.)

7. Why sci-fi and fantasy?

I get asked this question a lot.

6. What every writer needs

Spoiler: it’s an audience. I followed this post up with three others related posts: What else a writer needs to succeed (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). While I think this series could be helpful to other writers, I’m including it here because it also gives readers a glimpse into a writer’s journey (and psyche).

5. The Good, The Bad, and The Ungrammatical

The odds are I’ll never make a video game about grammar, but what I love about this post is the reminder that writing doesn’t always have to be a serious and that writers should always have a dream or two in their back pockets.

4. ‘Who is your book about?’

I composed a “Meet the Renegades” blurb as far back as fall 1997, when I was drafting the first chapters of what would eventually become Rebels and Fools. That guide was meant for the English instructor reviewing my chapters for an independent study class. It was with great excitement that I introduced the rest of the world to Klye Tristan and the gang.

3. Friends and family of writers, beware

Another common question from readers: where do you get your ideas from? The answer: just about everywhere, including the people closest to us.

2. Why writers groups still matter

I wrote this treatise on the importance of writers groups more than five years ago, and I still believe strongly in the message. In fact, a fellow Allied Authors member and I tackled this very topic on the Read.Write.Repeat. podcast, which will air later this month.

1. Storytelling can take many forms

Predating my life as a writer, I told my stories by other means. Before the cast of The Renegade Chronicles made it to the page, they were LEGO minifigs. As a nod to my humble roots, I transcribed the characters from If Souls Can Sleep into the same medium, bringing my fiction full circle.

I’d like to thank all of my readers over the years. I hope you’ll enjoy not only my next book, but also many more blog posts to come.

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My year of yes

While watching a hardscrabble soccer game with my son, I proffered this platitude:

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

Cue the eye roll.

My 10-year-old swiftly informed me there were posters proclaiming that very notion scattered throughout his school—three of them. Cliché though the expression may be, it’s nonetheless true that you can’t succeed if you don’t try. And probability suggests the more often you try, the better your odds of achieving.

I didn’t realize I was taking my own (borrowed) advice until I caught Yes Man on HBO the other night. That’s the one where a play-it-safe, stuck-in-a-rut loan officer makes a covenant with himself, promising to say yes to every request and opportunity.

In the movie, operating in an affirmative absolute yielded comical results. But this is real life. Unlike Jim Carrey’s character, I’d never blindly agree to everything. Lately, however, I’ve started forcing myself to come up with reasons to do something rather than not doing it.

As a result, 2018 is proving to be a year of trying new things and taking chances.

Destabilizing events

It began at the end of last year. While updating my business plan, I made the decision to attend more events. Why? My records showed I sold more books face-to-face than through any other marketing tactics in 2016 and 2017.

As a result, I earmarked a handful of conventions, conferences, and occasions where one might peddle one’s literary wares. Some were repeat appearances, but I also added a few new events, including Lakefly Writers Conference and WisCon.

So far sales have varied greatly from venue to venue. However, I’ve also realized networking can be its own reward.

Destination: collaboration

I was fortunate enough to meet two other fantasy authors at Lakefly. We had fun trading stories about our individual writing, publishing, and marketing experiences before the the doors to the vendor room opened as well as over lunch. Those conversations continue today via group chats.

There’s certainly value in learning from the successes and missteps of other writers’ “yeses.”

The biggest thing to come out of meeting Malinda Andrews and Rebekah K. Bryan, however, was an invitation to contribute Rebels and Fools to an e-book box set comprised of six complete fantasy novels.

In fact, Sixfold Fantasy became a reality earlier this month. Buy it here.

The play’s the thing

Sometimes opportunities pass us by without our even knowing. That almost happened to me a week ago when an email that looked suspiciously like spam popped into my inbox. Thankfully, I took a closer read before banishing it to my junk folder.

Lo and behold, it ended up being an invitation to participate in something called the 24-Hour Theater Experience. This October, a handful of writers will be given a theme, number of characters, and nine hours to write a 10-minute play, which will then be rehearsed and performed by the local community theater troupe at a swanky Fond du Lac venue—all within in the span of a single day.

Turns out someone recommended me to be one of the writers. (Thanks, Dusty!)

Now I don’t fancy myself a playwright, but I do have experience writing scripts for commercials and other videos. It’s always a thrill to see actual people speaking the words you put on a page.

Comfort zone? Looks like I’m gonna exit stage left.

Action affirmative

Here’s another adage: man plans, and God laughs.

I try to keep my production calendar as flexible as possible. Some projects—such as a comic book collaboration codenamed ONE-SHOT—started out as a “yes” but collectively became “no, not right now.”

On the other hand, I just finished writing a short story that was decidedly not part of Plan A and am contemplating publishing an e-book anthology of my shorter works—though not until 2019.

Yes, 2018 has already put plenty on my plate!

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100 agonizing words

I recently spent five excruciating hours at my keyboard and have less than 100 words to show for it.

Granted, they are some of the most important words for my next novel—second only to the title, I’d argue—but the fact that so much time yielded so little leads to believe that blurbs are the blight of the publishing world.

OK, I may have griped about the challenges of various writing exercises over the years:

Today, however, I’m prepared to go on record as saying all else pales in comparison to penning the dreaded book blurb.

Not to be confused with a full-fledged synopsis (the bare-bones summery generally reserved for agent and publisher queries), a blurb is a relatively small chunk of text tasked with huge responsibility: selling the idea of the book to readers.

Blurbs are often found on the back cover as well as the product description page of an online retailer. Working in conjunction with an engaging cover art and a snappy title, the successful blurb hooks the shopper, converting a prospect into a customer.

Long blurbs run the risk of revealing too much. (Technically, revealing the protagonist, antagonist, and main problem should suffice.) Conversely, if the blurb is too concise or vague, an amazing plot could come off as uninspired.

It’s a balancing act even tightrope walkers fear.

Cropped out book blurb from the back cover of If Souls Can Sleep

Here’s the book blurb from If Souls Can Sleep.

 

For my last book, If Souls Can Sleep, I limited the blurb to five sentences: two for an enticing headline, one to tease the protagonist and plot, and two to introduce the world of dream drifters. Because that blurb received praise from reviewers, I took a similar approach to Book Two of The Soul Sleep Cycle.

Without further preamble, here is the still-in-progress blurb for If Sin Dwells Deep:

 

She swore to defend the dreamscape.
But who will save her from herself?

When her mentor goes missing, straight-laced Allison must rely on her alter-ego, the rebellious goddess Syn, to rescue him. Trusting anyone at Project Valhalla could cost her her life, but fighting alone might damn her very soul.

 


 

If Sin Dwells Deep — a parallel novel to If Souls Can Sleep — exposes the secret world of dream drifters and the classified government operation charged with protecting the collective unconscious from those who would use their abilities to corrupt life, death, and what lies beyond.

 

Given how important these 100 words are, I welcome/encourage/demand feedback. Would that blurb motivate you to flip open the cover or, better yet, add to cart? If not, why?

Thanks in advance for your comments!

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2016 vs. 2017 (vs. 2018)

While numbers don’t lie, they don’t always cast the clearest reflection of reality.

Take 2017, for example. When comparing my business plan’s projections to what actually came to pass last year, I find that One Million Words and its president, publisher, and author—in other words, yours truly—have come up short:

1. Officially, zero books were published.

2. Two short stories were slated for publication in 2017, but neither released.

3. My Pun-a-Day Calendar campaign on Kickstarter proved unsuccessful.

4. Sales forecasts for The Renegade Chronicles dwarfed actual units sold.

5. While I did write the second draft of an existing novel, as planned, I did not achieve my goal of starting a new book.

On the surface, 2017 was fraught with failure. Digging a little deeper, however, I find I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished last year:

1. Although I didn’t publish any of my novels, I set aside time to help a friend publish his memoir, That Wonderful Mexican Band. Production-wise, I also got If Souls Can Sleep 99% of the way to market and made it available for pre-order during the 2017 Christmas shopping season.

2. Short stories “Ghost Mode” and “The Lake Road” are now expected to appear anthologies planned for 2018. Let’s call that a delayed success.

3. Was I disappointed that my Pun-a-Day Calendar campaign failed? Sure. Did I learn a lot in the process? Certainly. Scrapping this project also meant I was able to work ahead on If Souls Can Sleep so that it will release months ahead of time. (Jan. 30, people!)

4. The Renegade Chronicles’ sales have slowed to a trickle. It’s difficult to put a positive spin on that, but then again I didn’t put much money or time behind marketing the series in 2017, choosing instead to invest in the production and promotion of my next series, The Soul Sleep Cycle.

5. I guess writing my best-selling YA fantasy novel will just have to wait. Having said that, I did spend some time working on a clandestine collaboration that allowed me to flex my creativity in new and exciting ways. (I hope to share more about this project later this year.)

Analysis

Call it an obsession with stats—or maybe just a penchant for oversharing—but here, for the record, is how things shook out in 2017, compared to 2016.

If numbers aren’t your thing, go ahead and scroll down to the next section.

Bar graph showing breakdown of hours worked in 2017

Books published

  • 2016: 5
  • 2017: 0

Books sold

  • 2016: 164
  • 2017: 60

Total hours worked for One Million Words

  • 2016: 691.00
  • 2017: 603.75

Breakdown of time

  • 2016:
    • Writing: 190.00
    • Publishing: 183.00
    • Marketing: 185.00
    • Passion projects: 35.00
    • Business day to day: 41.50
    • Research and other random tasks: 56.50
  • 2017
    • Writing: 194.75
    • Publishing: 104.25
    • Marketing: 125.75
    • Passion projects: 93.50
    • Business day to day: 46.50
    • Research and other random tasks: 39.00

Looking ahead at 2018

Author vs. Publisher

I created One Million Words not because I wanted to become a publisher, necessarily, but because a publisher was needed to get books from my personal computer out to the masses. In a perfect world, I’d spend the majority of my time writing and editing novels, and playing the part of publisher would be a small but very necessary evil.

Unfortunately, my publisher hat must remain firmly in place for the time being.  Perhaps it’s only fair, since I wore my author hat for years while writing the first three books of The Soul Sleep Cycle. Those novels aren’t going to publish themselves.

Because I’ve decided to publish all three books within a relatively short amount of time—six to nine months between releases rather than a more typical twelve to fifteen—that doesn’t leave me much time in between promoting the launch of Book One and beginning the production schedule for Book Two.

And it certainly means I won’t be authoring the first draft of a brand-new novel before mid 2019.

The Renegade Chronicles vs. The Soul Sleep Cycle

They say an author’s back catalog is one of his greatest marketing tools. That’s a very good thing since I have neither the time nor the capital to invest in further promoting The Renegade Chronicles. Here’s to hoping that readers who stumble upon that trilogy give my new one a shot and vice versa.

Of course, I’ll continue to sign and sell copies of The Renegade Chronicles at upcoming events, but 2018 is going to be all about marketing If Souls Can Sleep and then If Sin Dwells Deep in the fall.

Why step away from The Renegade Chronicles? For starters, the success of If Souls Can Sleep will greatly impact the success of the new series as a whole. So if The Soul Sleep Cycle is to have any chance at finding its audience, I can’t afford to be splitting my efforts between rebels and dream drifters.

Introvert vs. Extrovert

I won’t lie: I’m far more comfortable sitting behind a computer screen than taking my show on the road. The author in me bristles at being pulled away from the narrative to navigate real-world obligations, though the publisher in me understands that publishing without selling is pointless.

I do a fair amount of marketing from the comfort of my own home—including writing these blog posts—but there’s no denying the fact that I sell more copies of my books at events than I do through other marketing channels. Which is why I already have four appearances scheduled for 2018, including the If Souls Can Sleep book release/signing on Feb. 10.

Keep an eye on my Facebook Events page to see where this introvert will turn up next.

Work vs. Play

Passion projects are good because they give one the opportunity to step away from the norm and try something different—and possibly help others in the process.

Too many of these diversions at once, however, are detrimental to productivity on all fronts.

With that in mind, I’m committing my One Million Words time to a single side project in 2018. Admittedly, this secret initiative is a just-for-fun kind of endeavor—yet my inner businessman is quick to point out that the project might one day turn a profit.

This isn’t to say that editing, publishing, and promoting my novels isn’t fun, but I have to admit it’s nice to cleanse the palate every now and then, especially when I have a dozen months of publishing and promoting ahead of me.

So that’s the plan. And if anything changes along the way, I’m sure you’ll read about it here.

If Souls Can Sleep cover displayed on a tablet and as a paperbackPsst!

My new novel, If Souls Can Sleep, is coming Jan. 30.

Preorder it here.

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Some bad news about my brand

What is the digital equivalent of schizophrenia?

Whatever it is, my website has it. More specifically, my brand suffers from it. That’s right, I have a brand. Every author does. Except I ended up with two brands because I bandied about the phrase “One Million Words” for years and then finally formed One Million Words LLC in 2016.

On paper it seems so easy: David Michael Williams is an author, and One Million Words is a publisher. But at this point, OMW publishes only the works of DMW, so the two identifiers are irrevocably interwoven.

Should one-million-words.com redirect to david-michael-williams.com or the other way around? One could argue they should be two separate websites, but it would be ridiculous to maintain two websites with near-identical content.

The professional marketer in me bemoans the fact that OMW has taken a backseat to DMW. After all, a legitimate company should have its own logo, website, LinkedIn profile, and so forth. But if I’m being honest, One Million Words LLC is nothing more than a string of words created expressly for the spine of my self-published novels.

Until the company produces works by other authors, it really doesn’t need to be more than that.

Don’t worry. Even if the One Million Words brand disappears someday, I’d never make my name into a logotype.

I have a bigger problem on my hands, however: David Michael Williams, as a brand, is broken.

Nota bene: Marketing is my day job. I’ve worked with countless companies and organizations on branding exercises, so I’m no stranger to concepts like positioning statements, brand platforms, target audiences, as well as the formal guidelines that govern all marketing communications. And while a solitary novelist differs from corporation in many key aspects, the same fundamentals apply to any entity that sells a product.

The root of my dilemma—my identity crisis, as it were—is that David Michael Williams, the human being, is inconsistent.

If I penned only sword-and-sorcery fantasy books, it’d be much easier to market myself, my novels, and my company. But I also write sci-fi and other subgenres of speculative fiction. You might be thinking, “No matter. Many authors publish fantasy and science fiction. They’re close cousins.”

OK, but I co-wrote a children’s chapter book too. There was also a certain stillborn pun-a-day calendar. And I can’t promise I won’t attempt an interactive storytelling experiment at some point in the future. (Anyone wanna play a grammar video game?)

Some may argue that an author should use a different pen name for each genre he tackles. There’s wisdom in that, but at the same time, I can’t get enthusiastic about juggling additional aliases. I’m one guy with a lot of different ideas who doesn’t want to limit his possibilities; is that a crime?

No, but it can be confusing to consumers, which negatively impact profits.

Or perhaps I’m oversimplifying things. There are plenty of professionals who straddle genres and/or media. Some of my favorites include Robert Kirkman of The Walking Dead fame (though I like Invincible much more and am excited about the recently announced movie); the Decemberists, whose talented fingers touch projects ranging from music and visual art to children’s novels and board games; and the insanely brilliant Neil Gaiman, whose entire career I’d love to clone.

Given those folks’ success, it would seem that a diversity of creativity can be something of a brand in itself. That does give me hope, though in the short term, it won’t make building a fan base any easier. Because as much as it would streamline things, I can’t focus on just one aspect of storytelling.

I won’t.

Which means regardless of whether my website banner says “David Michael Williams” or “One Million Words,” visitors are going to get a messy, mixed bag of imagination.

Related posts:

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Countdown for my Pun-a-Day Calendar

pun-a-day-calendarI never thought I’d have to raise $10,000 in 60 days.

In my defense, I expected I’d have longer—at least four months to mobilize a small army of bakers. But instead of securing an average of, say, $83 a day, I’m now looking at a goal of $167 per day.

And I’m already behind.

I’m referring to the Kickstarter campaign I launched last week. In between attempts to increase the sales of my published novels and preparation of new books for publication, I decided to pursue a new revenue stream: a Pun-a-Day Calendar featuring my wittiest wordplay.

(What, you thought I was joking when I mentioned this possibility in January?)

Here’s the blurb:

Start your day with a dose of wit you won’t find anywhere else.

When I’m not writing and publishing novels, I post puns on social media. I get more likes and followers with #wordplay than any other kind of post. Which leads me to believe there are others out there whose minds appreciate and perhaps even crave puns.

To appease this underground — punderground? — faction, I’m creating a page-a-day calendar featuring my off-the-beaten-path brand of wordplay.

The Pun-a-Day Calendar chronicles several years’ worth of wordplay. These are original creations. If you’ve heard it before, you won’t find it in my calendar (unless you’re already following me on Twitter, of course). Topics cover all manner of miscellany, from food and folk songs to comic books and the Bible.

Since I didn’t have $10,000 of startup capital just lying around for the print run of 500 calendars, I thought I’d give Kickstarter a shot. For those who don’t know, “Kickstarter helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality.”

It works like this:

  • Someone—let’s say a writer—comes up with an idea to create something, but he needs funding to move forward.
  • So he creates a campaign at Kickstarter to see if there is any interest and, ultimately, to drum up investors.
  • He comes up with the price for the product (e.g. $20) and creates pledge tiers, adding extra prizes and incentives to encourage people to pledge more.
  • He chooses somewhere between 30 and 60 days (but not 120) for the lifespan of the campaign.
  • Then he does whatever he can to spread the word about the campaign, hoping that enough people pledge and that he reaches his goal before deadline.
  • If the campaign is successful, the writer gets to complete his project, and everybody gets what they ordered. But if the campaign fails to meet its goal, no one pays anything and nothing gets made.

If I do not reach my goal by April 15, no one gets the Pun-a-Day Calendar.

Which is why I need your help in spreading the word to anyone and everyone who likes puns, quips, and wordplay. Teachers, writers of all kinds, and other creative types seem to fit this category, but no need to limit it to just them. The more the merrier!

If you’re interested in supporting my dream of flooding the world with wordplay, there’s a lot more information about the Pun-a-Day Calendar here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1620958229/pun-a-day-calendar

Wait, what do I need to do?

If I’ve learned anything about Kickstarter over the past week, it’s that many people don’t know much about it. If you’re interested in backing my Pun-a-Day Calendar campaign, here’s all you need to do:

  • Scroll down and click the big green button that says “BACK THIS PROJECT.”
  • Now you’ll have four options for backing the campaign:
    • You can pledge money for no reward.
    • You can pledge $5 or more to get the e-book version of my fantasy novel Rebels and Fools.
    • You can pledge $20 or more to get the Pun-a-Day Calendar itself.
    • You can pledge $35 or more to get the Pun-a-Day Calendar as well as e-book versions of Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters.
  • No matter what option you choose, every dollar goes toward the project’s $10,000 goal.
  • Next, you’ll need to create a Kickstarter account and enter your credit card information. (But remember, you won’t be billed unless/until the campaign reaches its goal.)
  • On April 15, you’ll be notified whether or not the project got enough backing. If it does, you’ll get your calendar and/or other prizes in the months to come. If not, your credit card won’t be billed.

Not too difficult, right? Anyway, life is full of new experiences. And if this campaign proves successful, I’ll be learning even more as I publish my first calendar.

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