Mid-year Writing Summary – 2018

 

I believe the greatest pressure applied to an indie author is from within—as should be the case with any self-motivated person. We must have a heartfelt desire to produce work to the best achievable standard. This sets the tone for this post.

Each year, I end with a summary of my writing achievements and near-misses (I try not to class anything as a failure—except my one-time attempt at writing for children). I tend to start the new year with my targets for the year ahead, but it occurred to me to produce a mid-year summary.

This year has already served me with mixed fortunes in my writing.

Codename: Nightshade, a standalone thriller has for several reasons not developed as well as I would like, and will remain a Work in Progress.

Czech Mate, a second standalone thriller has likewise cost me time and effort but I’m unsatisfied with the direction—a second tale to leave on the back-burner.

One Man, Two Missions: and other stories is my next anthology of mixed-genre tales and they are coming along well. Several of the stories started life a long time ago—and we are talking years; not weeks or months. Due publication in summer/autumn 2018.

Lisa: and other short stories by C I Lopez was a collection I felt privileged to assist the author to produce. This is Carmen’s second selection of stories from her wide-ranging files full of short stories. As I did with her first anthology, I provided three ‘bonus’ tales to support the book. This author may be new to some of you, but her work is worth checking out.

 

Curious and Camping: An Erotic Journey developed rapidly from two different ideas, and I believe it worked. In May 2018 it became my second erotica novel. As usual with this genre, good to see early sales, but reviews are hard to come by.

Quiet Night Inn: and other erotic stories is another by-product of not throwing away ideas and has resulted in the successful completion of my second erotic anthology. These tales have been redrafted several times over a long period. Publication – June 2018.

To find out more about my erotica work please visit: Tom Benson – Erotica

 

Paperback conversions had been beckoning me for a couple of years and I’m pleased I postponed the task—and a task is what it is. Of course, I’m suggesting that it’s hard work, but my intention was never to simply copy the eBook files and have a cover designed.

I reworked Amsterdam Calling from beginning to end and apart from reducing the word count and altering the style to cut dialogue tags, I believe the writing is an improvement. The cover was designed by my professional cover designer Aimee Coveney and made to measure.

Having learned many lessons, I followed up with Ten Days in Panama and performed the same disciplines. Once again the job took weeks rather than days, but the end product is pleasing to the eye—in my humble opinion.

What’s next?

I had intended the next paperback project to be the Beyond The Law trilogy, but again, for various reasons, I’m putting that job on hold. I may write a post in a few weeks to explain my rationale for those who are interested in such information.

A Life of Choice, my military, fact-based fiction series-novel is by far my most successful work to date. This story has resulted in my book sales being daily and not sporadic. My page reads (KENP), have for some months been in the thousands rather than the hundreds on a regular basis.

Requests to have the story in the paperback format are sent to me at least twice weekly, which to my way of thinking is a ‘demand’ worth meeting.

Again, it will not be a straightforward ‘conversion’ of digital to paperback. I will have five books to revise, but to make all five books worth the price set by Amazon I intend to move chapters to increase/decrease volumes to keep them at a uniform size—which is appropriate.

My poetry collections had never been a consideration for a paperback, until recently when I thought it might be a good idea to combine all five anthologies as a single bumper edition (250) of my rhyme. It will be a project to keep me occupied when I’m taking time out from other work.  

My writing journey began seriously in 2007. From the outset, although at first, they were of a low standard I dabbled in short story writing. I kept titles, ideas, introductions, passages and whole stories. As my writing has developed I revisit those old snippets and occasionally it takes only a title or a phrase I’ve used and I feel the urge to get a story written using those old fragments.

I am a great believer in a writer never throwing away material, and this has proved an asset and helped my steady production of titles.

During January 2018 I increased my Facebook visibility by creating Tom Benson – First Pages. My intention was always to attempt a daily post and when I felt the page was established, give publicity to other indie authors.

For three months I plugged away, highlighting an excerpt from one of my books. As April got underway I introduced Monday and Thursday as Review days to show my reviews of fellow indie authors’ work.

I don’t know how much notice is taken of the reviews I feature, but I have noted an uptake on my titles over this time. On week-ending 20th May, I stopped all activity on the page—my intention, to leave it dormant for one week. I’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.

The internet and social networking are wonderful aspects of our modern world, but occasionally I indulge in a partial or complete detox. Over the past week I’ve deliberately kept a low profile and for me at least, it helps recharge my creative batteries.

Thank you in advance to all those who indulge me with a visit here.

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Refreshing …

Banner 151115It might not appear so at first, but ‘refreshing’ items for a writer is a wide and varied area of responsibility. Refreshment is important – because it is for the writer’s personal benefit.

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Let’s make a list …
1.     Project list
2.    Website, blog, and social networks
3.    Personal bio and author photo
4.    Book covers
5.    Book supplementary content
6.    Book pricing
7.    Appointments
8.    To be Read (TBR)
9.    Work in Progress (WIP)
10.  Take regular breaks

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1.  Project List                                                      

As a priority, we must strive to maintain separate writing and domestic ‘to do’ lists.

A good way to deal with this is to differentiate between domestic and writing.

Refer to domestictasks,’ but writing ‘projects’.

In the domestic tasks list add in a heading – Writing Projects. To the right is an example of my present Writing Projects.

It’s a good reminder to treat it as a different part of the writer’s life.

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2.  Website, blog and social networks

In my articles I use my projects to give examples, and this is a recurring project for me.

Update one ... update all

Update one … update all

I write an update for my author website every week. I write an update for my secondary website every month, and I write a blog post when a relevant topic comes to mind – like this one.

Remember if you have an Amazon Author Page – update it too. If you haven’t got one – get one organised.

In the last few weeks I’ve completely overhauled my secondary website and it’s had a few compliments. I’ve also given this blog a facelift and consolidated the main menu.

I updated my two Amazon Author pages, and my profiles at Bookbub, Independent Author Network, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. A few weeks ago I ditched my LinkdIn account.

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3.  Personal Bio and author photo

Here are items that many writers have issues producing. My suggestion would be to read up on the topic, and compose a bio. I have different bios, because I’ve found it useful. One is 50 words – when brevity is required, another is 100 words, which is sufficient to create a good personal writing history.

In my opinion, the bio for a website can afford to be longer, depending on the purpose of the website. A key point to keep in mind is – your writing bio should be clearly about your writing history and accomplishments – it is not about your granny, your rabbits, or your last holiday abroad.

If you’d like your writing to be taken seriously, take your profile and author photo seriously. My bios are both less than one month old, and my present photo is three months old. I don’t go to the extent of a ‘professional’ photo, but I trawl through several recent shots to get the best I can – and in cases like mine, that can be a task!

Practise your bio and give yourself a word limit. Produce two, three, or four so they can be adapted for a variety of purposes. If in doubt, send a copy to a fellow author you trust and ask for an opinion.

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4.  Book Covers 

 Was ... and ... Now

Was … and … Now

If you have a title out there which isn’t performing well, but has had a handful of good reviews, the lack of performance could be down to many things, among which is the cover – if you have any doubt – change it.

A few days ago I changed the cover of one of my books because it was stagnating. Within 48 hours of changing the cover, it sold again.

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5.  Book Supplementary Info

From ToC of Beyond The Law: Retribution

From ToC of Beyond The Law: Retribution

In the back pages of all of my eBooks I have supplementary information which includes: a short bio, and other titles.

We must ensure our bio is updated in all of our work as we produce another title, and we must ensure our latest title has all the others at the back.

Why at the back?

If you’ve published an eBook it will give more of a sample for prospective readers (customers), and the information is irrelevant if the prospective reader doesn’t buy.

This is marketing by stealth.

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6.  Book Pricing

Yes, we all love writing and we’d do it even if we weren’t paid. The flip-side of the coin is – while we can be paid, we don’t want to lose out. I abide by certain simple rules.

I have several titles out there covering a variety of genre and types of writing. I don’t consider myself a household name, so I price my work accordingly. Don’t set a high price on your first book, and don’t think a few five star reviews means you’ve made it and you can ask whatever price you like.

Keep in mind, there are thousands of e-Reader users who only download books which are free, or up to a certain price. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘everyone has their price’, and it’s no different in the world of eBooks.

A few days ago I amended my pricing across the entire range of my catalogue. Always remember, it’s better to get 100 shares of a low price – rather than 2 shares of a high price.

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7. Appointments

Whether you made them or somebody else made them – keep them. At one end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be the date you’ve set to promote a book with a low price. At the other end of the scale an ‘appointment’ might be a phone call or meeting with somebody who can influence your success – or failure.

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8. To be Read (TBR)

I’m well known for my methodical approach. Tom's Kindle

On my Kindle I have a TBR – 1, and a TBR – 2. Apart from those, I have a TBR diary/journal which has all of the TBR 1 and 2 listed with genre and author name.

TBR – 1 is my priority list for reading and reviewing. TBR – 2 is my list of titles which I’ve collected as a matter of interest, but I’m in no hurry to get to them. Using my TBR journal I can decide which genre to switch to after a recent read. I tend never to read and review the same genre twice in succession.

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9.  Work in Progress (WIP)

When did you last look at your list of WIP?

I know there are many, who do as I do and work on various projects simultaneously, but we must set ourselves a time to remind ourselves what else we have and any ‘due dates’.

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10. Take regular breaks

Yes, obvious isn’t it – but do you do it?

I work in retail part-time, so many of my days are hard-working, writing days. I enjoy a coffee while I work, but I am disciplined regarding breaks.

On an average writing day: By 7am – I’m already writing. By 10am – I’ve taken out an hour to deal with my first pass on social networking, so I take a 15-minute break (away from my writing). At 12noon – it’s lunch-time (for one hour).

At 3pm – I take my 15-minute afternoon break, and if my head isn’t in another world, I make a second pass on my social networking. At around 6 – 6.30pm I stop for dinner. I make a third pass on social networking in the evening.

Yes, that is the perfect day, but there are anomalies. I have the occasional coffee while I work. I will invariably come back to writing for an hour or two in the late evening, and I occasionally use a ‘break’ to catch up with social networking.

My fuel tank ... and a message.

My fuel tank … and a message.

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So my friends there we have it – we all need some refreshment in our writing lives.

I hope I’ve reminded, educated or inspired in some small way. As always, comments are appreciated and all will be acknowledged.

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Are you a Writer, or a Blogger?

News and Projects - 120715
Are you a blogger who writes, or a writer who blogs?
If I had to make a choice, I would know instantly where I stood.

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What’s the difference?  

To my way of thinking, if somebody told you that you could only do one or the other, then you’d fall into one of two categories:

* The writer will take about three milliseconds to glance at the title page of their blog. They’ll have several images of the links to their favourite online friends and recollect a few wonderful articles and images as they say a fond farewell to all of it.

* The blogger will look at the title page of their blog. They will have a lot of images of the links to their favourite online friends and recollect an abundance of wonderful articles and images.
The blogger will have fleeting memories of stories, articles and posts they’ve written, then have a tea or coffee as they ponder what is most important to them – writing, or blogging?

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Is it really that simple – that brutal?

Yes, dear reader, I believe that it is.

You don’t think so? Check the title of this post.

What was your immediate response?

liebster_award[1]

What’s my point?

I’m dealing with a journey where the only baggage is emotional.

I’ve been on a long trip, and there have been two stages of revelation recently where this subject came clearly to mind.

The first revelation was when I elected to take part in a blog-related promotion. Having said I would take part, I then felt I had to step back from it. That was regrettable – mainly because I’d broken my word, but also because I had originally wanted to be involved.

Why did I abandon the blog promotion?

I re-evaluated the time I’d spend away from two major writing projects – and I had to be true to myself.

The second revelation was this morning as I re-worked a passage whilst updating my author website. I arrived at my destination, checked over my baggage and found the following items:

* One large case of wishing I had more time to respond to the lovely people who follow this blog.

* A small bag of regret that there are still those folk out there who will follow a blog, simply to be followed.

* A portfolio of online conversations with like-minded souls who write for many reasons, and who on occasion get in touch to apologise for not reading and commenting on my blog often enough.

* A trunk full of guilt for the number of times when I start scrolling through the list of fifty blogs that I follow, only to find myself abandoning the cause to get back to that chapter I wanted to rewrite.

* A satchel full of notes, ideas and headings for blogs that I might never write, because I’m too busy completing a story.

On my trolley of baggage there are many more containers, but the detail of their contents would only become boring, so you’ll have to trust me on that score. It’s a heavy load.

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Are those who blog not also writers?

Yes, but they are writers who have chosen a different path. They are writers by the very fact that they maintain a blog.
They are not primarily storytellers. For the blogger, those activities are a secondary activity.
The blogger looks at their blog as social media.
The writer looks at their blog as a marketing tool.

An Amazon Author Page

An Amazon Author Page

Will I continue to blog?

Yes, of course I will, and hope that at least some of those I do work hard to follow will understand my motivation – the need to produce stories, much more of the time than I spend checking out the thoughts, opinions and dreams of others.

Yes, that is a selfish attitude, but what more would you expect of a person who spends the majority of their time in their own company – through choice.

Don’t worry, that was a rhetorical question.

image1[2]

Later today, I will once again set my timer and attempt to read about ten of the fifty blogs I follow.
Thank you as always for the patience it takes to negotiate one of my literary rallies.

Any comments are welcome.

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Charities, Chapters, and Changing direction …

If I wanted to be accurate I should say another handful of chapters – six.
On 10th May I posted to say that I would not be promoting my titles for the remainder of the month. I have stuck by that idea.

What else have I avoided?
Apart from checking up on and commenting on the Indie Author Review Exchange anthologies I’ve tried to keep my Facebook visits down to two or three per day.

The two anthologies being collated and compiled by the group are to raise awareness and funds for charity, so I don’t want to miss anything important regarding them.

On that very topic, ‘You’re Not Alone’ by Ian D. Moore and friends now has a release date:
11th July 2015, so if not already noted in your diary for eBook purchase – please do so now. The paperback version will be along a little later, but there will be plenty of us giving out reminders.

Have I cut back on other social networking sites apart from Facebook?
Yes, and without going into detail on the names, the exercise has already paid dividends in one main way. I have been writing more – much more.

Where is the progress?
Primarily the progress has been with Acts of Vengeance, my sequel to Beyond The Law. Not only have I written more chapters, but I’ve done so without the frustration of stopping for lengthy periods to get into ‘discussions’.

My other stream of progress is with one of the stories I have running in the background. When I hit a stumbling block with my primary project I don’t make a fresh coffee and stare at the screen – I make a fresh coffee and get on with a different story.

What is the other story?
I know it isn’t to everybody’s taste, (which is also true of oral sex), but I’m writing an erotic novel titled, Give and Take. On the subject of taste, the first two chapters are available on my main menu to give you a flavour of the story. Look under the heading of Work in Progress.

Why am I writing such a thing?

The first reason is because I was asked by more than one person after they’d read my erotic anthology, Coming Around and other erotic stories.

The second reason is quite simply because I can. How well I’ll do the job I don’t know, but I want to give it a try.
For those who ‘enjoyed’ the Fifty Shades series I’d like to prove that there is more to the subject than a rich guy licking his lips and a virgin who doesn’t know what the initials BDSM stand for.

For the record, I read the first of the Fifty Shades books and I reviewed it on my blog. No, not because it was so good – but because I was incensed by how bad it was.

Now with all those lovely thoughts in mind, I’ll move over and let you get on with your day.

Thank you for the visit and any feedback.

Come what? May …

Come what? May …

Well, it’s the month of May, and I’ve decided to try an experiment, as we indie authors are known to do on a regular basis. This particular indie author is always experimenting.

I’ve just returned with my wife from a week in the Netherlands. I would say Amsterdam, but we are in the habit of getting out and about, so although we spent a lot of time in the beautiful city in which we were based, as usual, we ventured further afield.

Delft - the Netherlands

Delft – the Netherlands

Anyway, I digress.

Whilst away, I spent at least an hour every day working on my latest novel. I wrote several new passages and reinvented one of my fictional abodes. I also introduced a new character for the team of bad guys, so I was pleased with my progress.

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What else came to mind?

What else indeed. There were four main things:

1. Like any indie author, constantly promoting their own brand, pushing their back-catalogue, their latest release, or keeping up with social networking – I lose a lot of actual writing time.

2. The result of the constant marketing activity may be tedious to the author concerned, but I believe that it is as we often refer to it – a necessary evil. I consider social networking to be a promotional activity, although to a lesser degree.

3. There are occasional comments on social networking sites that demonstrate quite clearly that there are some dissenters concerning the self-promotional posts. It may be one comment, or one comment that prompts others to voice an opinion, but they will always be there.

4. I wondered about ceasing my promotional activity for the remainder of this month. When I got home after my break, I checked social networking contacts and my Amazon sales activity for the most recent 30-day period.

There were some surprising results.

a) I had in excess of 90 Facebook notifications, (of which, at least 30 posts involved me). I’ll refrain from including Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, emails, etc.

b) In the week up to 9th May, I had a book on promotion; reduced to half-price – but it sold less than my other work.

c) In the month up to 9th May, I have only had two days where I have had no sales or lending.

d) My sales over the most recent two months are only marginally higher than my lending rate. Keep in mind, if books are borrowed there is still a royalty payment.

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My intention now is to concentrate on my writing for the remainder of May, which will mean 20 days without self-promotion. I am a member of the Independent Author Network so as part of their agreement with authors they will promote my brand occasionally on Twitter, but as I don’t believe Twitter is an effective platform for book promotion I’m not concerned about that area.

I will of course continue to pay one or two daily visits to social networking sites on the off-chance that there is a conversation in which I would benefit from taking part.

Instead of a regular update on the topic here on my blog, I’ll leave the next three weeks to run their course and then I’ll write a blog post to report on my findings.

Now at the risk of repeating the title of this article….
Come what? May….

As always, I appreciate any views and comments.

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