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Friday, 19 December 2014

Joanna Penn and Booktrack in Auckland this week.

A large group of indie authors gathered to hear UK writer and entrepreneur Joanna Penn speak at the Auckland Central Library this week. The event started out as Joanna emailing a few writers to see if we'd like to meet for a coffee when she visited Auckland, but the burgeoning writerly grapevine sprang into such vigorous life that over a hundred replied! The result was a two-hour talk and Q&A session sponsored by Booktrack that brought together a whole heap of local authors who hadn't met before.
You can see the content of the talk here on Joanna's website, and you can find out about Booktrack here. It's a site that allows you to add background music and subtle sound effects to deepen the reader's immersion in your ebook.
But perhaps the most useful outcome was finding another place where local writers can meet up to share advice and information in this fast-changing business of ours, by joining the New Zealand Indie Authors Facebook Page(Note that you will need to ask to join the group)
I see this as a huge step forward in gaining the notice of book sellers and libraries. United we stand and all that! And the author community is full of such amazing and talented people that great things will come from letting them interact.
I'm excited to see what 2015 will bring!
Wishing everyone a safe and happy Christmas and (dare I ask) a prosperous New Year!
Best wishes,

Friday, 12 December 2014

Erin McKechnie on giving birth to a new book

The Christening
Most of you will know that I self published my first novel ‘Cissy’ in the middle of the year. Maybe with your first book you indulged in the same feelings I did: an incredible, overwhelming feeling of awe and wonder at your own magnificence as you stroked for the first time that glossily covered, exquisitely designed and presented work of art. Cissy’s arrival meant the world will never be the same again.
Do you remember how slow and painful the passage was for this delicate embryo of the heart and mind? For me and Cissy the journey posed challenges of the most personal nature. As she grew, I dithered, beset with doubt; should I express what we wanted to say so bluntly, expose my feelings and be vulnerable to ridicule or rejection? The potential to be misunderstood was enormous.  If I was more restrained, would the immediacy and honesty be lost, would readers have any awareness of the complex dynamics in play which created Cissy’s environment?
Along the way Cissy, encased in the cloth of golden prose I had created for her, was sent out into the world to be edited. It was a cold, harsh experience. The first editor didn’t like the book, said it was far too explicit. Demoralised, feeling small and that Cissy was tarnished, I revised many of the passages so that they were less likely to offend the sensibilities of her potential readership. In the process Cissy became a tame and inhibited version of the real thing, lacking frankness and vitality.
A couple of beta-readers gave Cissy and me a shot in the arm, kind and encouraging in their acceptance of her for what she was, a beginner feeling her way in the world, but with good bones. I felt stronger as I sent her out to meet her second editor, the cloth of golden possibility restored from around her ankles to drape gracefully across her shoulders.  Although the second editor liked her well enough she thought Cissy lacked detail.  The subtle references to passionate interludes and flaming exchanges were not explicit enough, she wanted specifics. In short, her opinion was completely the reverse of the first editor.
And so I learned a valuable lesson:  ultimately I must hold onto my own  voice, I must send my darlings out into the world wrapped in the best cloth of gold I can give them, and editors’ opinions are just that, they are not the word of God.
And then that magical moment, when the first beautiful books arrived on my doorstep at seven o’clock in the morning. The tea and toast went cold as I mooned over those gleaming manifestations of the most creative achievement of my life. Maybe you more experienced writers with numerous titles sustaining your sense of well being no longer feel as I did then, but I admit freely, the satisfaction I feel whenever I look at a copy of Cissy is as rich as it was that first winter morning.
It was not enough. Cissy had not been presented to the world, was not Known. I felt bereft; as if one of my precious children, created with so much of my own life force, deserving of acknowledgement, was being ignored. Circumstances precluded having a launch at the time the first books arrived and as time went by it seemed that Cissy might miss out. But – last week I passed through the last rite of passage for a new book – the Launch. Once again others expressed their opinion, pointing out launches are a waste of money and sales don’t compensate for the outlay. They didn’t understand, did they? A launch is not a money making venture. This was a celebration of the transition of this work of art from being a dream in my mind to being a tangible entity ready to go out into the world and create a life of its own. 
I see this book as being rich with promise, blessed with the love and good wishes of all those who attended the launch, as a baby is by those who attend a christening. Finally, unequivocally, it is real.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Randy Ingermanson (The Snowflake Guy) shows how to plan your year.

Organization: Make Your Annual Plan Now

Nothing is more important to your writing business than making an annual plan.

Even if you don’t follow it completely. (You won’t.)


Even if your year takes a drastic left turn. (It will.)


Even if you bite off way more than you can chew. (You greedy dog, you.)


Those pesky motivational geeks constantly tell us that “if you don’t have a target, you’ll never hit it.” It’s a platitude, but they’re right, curse them.


It may take you five years to do all the stuff you foolishly cram into your annual plan. That can be frustrating, but so what? Life is full of frustrations, and then you die. Being frustrated is better than dying, so don’t sweat the frustrations.


First Things First


There’s one thing you should do before you make that annual plan for next year. Haul out the one you made last year (if you made it), and look at it. Read the whole thing. 


What went right for you this past year? Was that part of the plan, or was it one of those serendipity things that fell into your path? 


What went wrong? Was that something you could have predicted, or did it just come out of left field?


Did you achieve everything in last year’s plan? If so, then bravo. If not, then you may have aimed too high. That’s not so tragic. Aiming high is a good thing.


Did you make a reasonable effort to execute your plan? How many hours did you actually put in? (If you don’t know, then now would be a good time to set up some kind of tool to track your hours. A lot of writers use a spreadsheet, and that works pretty well. I use an online tool at that makes it easy to track my time and pay myself an hourly wage for every different kind of task. This costs me $9/month, but I think it’s well worth it.)


Looking back at 2014, I see that I only accomplished a small fraction of the things in my plan. But they were the right things. I edited and rereleased three books from my backlist and wrote one new book. As a direct result, my writing revenue for 2014 shot up rather drastically over 2013. I averaged about 90 hours per month on my writing work, which was more than I averaged at my day job. 


I’d rate the year a success, even though I only completed 4 of the 14 items on my list. The important thing is that I worked hard and felt happy working on the projects I chose. It’s a bonus that my revenue took a leap upward.


One Thing to Remember


Bear in mind that there are things you have control over and things you don’t.


You can’t control whether some publisher somewhere decides to buy your work. (This is why indie authors like being indie—they don’t have to depend on what a publishing committee decides.)


You can’t control how many people are going to buy your book.


You can’t control sickness, family problems, and all the random stuff that happens to you.


You can control (mostly) how many hours you put into your writing. 


You can control what projects you work on. 


You can control what sort of marketing plan you make and whether you execute it. 


Now Make Your Plan For Next Year


Let’s keep this simple and shoot for the sure thing first. Write down the answers to the following questions:


  1. What’s the one fantastic thing you’d like to achieve next year that’s actually in your control? 
  2. What sort of outcome do you expect from it? (That is, will it likely earn you money and if so, what’s a reasonable amount to expect? It’s okay to guess here.)
  3. How much time and money will it reasonably cost you to achieve this goal?
  4. Do you actually have that much time and money available in the year? If you have time and money left over, then go ahead and repeat the above questions as many times as you want, until you’ve run out of time or money to execute them all.

That’s your annual plan for the year, in a nutshell. It won’t hurt to write it up in a document. It won’t hurt to put your major goals on a sheet of paper and post them over your computer, so you see them every day.


I did the above steps just now and immediately saw that I was hoping to do far more than is humanly possible next year. I can’t do ten major projects next year. I can do two. 


I also realized that my #2 project has a predicted return on investment that’s massively higher than the ROI for my #1 project. 


So I’m rethinking things to move the bigger revenue-generator closer to the beginning of the year. Money is time. The more money you earn, the more time you free up to do what you love doing most. 


In 2015, track your progress and review it monthly. Are you putting in as much time as you thought you would? Are things taking longer than expected? 


If you do your annual plan now, well before the New Year begins, you can hit the ground running on January 1. And have a great year.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author. You can read the full piece here.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 10,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit