May … I continue with projects

 

In the next few days I’ll be reading / reviewing which will take me to a new month.

May update - five

As this year got underway I made a list of ten targets, so I thought with one third of the year out of the way I’d revisit my list to check progress. As I hit 2016 the five titles above were at various stages of completion.

1. Publication of A Life of Choice: Part One – job done and, now has reviews.

2. Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm (Mali) Beadle – a detailed critique / suggested edits which took a couple of weeks. Manuscript is now back with Mali being redrafted.

3. Revision of my present novels – Ten Days in Panama – job done and, now appearing on Amazon categorised under Romance.

4. Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories – job done.

5. Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology – job done.

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What else is going on?

Since January, apart from my personal workload and, working on Mali’s book, for fellow authors I’ve beta read three short stories and, two novels.

A Life of Choice - Part TwoA Life of Choice: Part Two is in the final stages. I’ve heard from one beta reader and, in the next couple of days I’ll hear from the other, who is one of our IASD authors. I’ve printed the manuscript and, by the coming weekend I’ll be performing a red-pen edit, line by line.

  • No music and, no interruptions.
  • As usual it will be me, the manuscript, the red pen, my perpetual diary, character profiles, cast of characters, a plentiful supply of black coffee and, a notepad for worries, queries and, thoughts.

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Did I mention I’ve set up two more pages on Facebook?

I set them up without any grandstanding to see if anybody would come across them and, I’m delighted to report I’ve got a couple of likes by IASD members and it’s much appreciated. I’d noticed several authors had set up pages for individual novels, but I decided to go with my writing categories. I now have:

Tom Benson – Writer

Tom Benson – Short Stories

Tom Benson – Poetry

Tom Benson – Erotica

I look at extra Facebook pages as a passive marketing tool. I may not produce many regular entries on them, but they’ll add to my online presence. I felt I needed to demonstrate diversity by not using a single page with disparate genre spread throughout. Temptation (2)

As ever, I’ve got projects listed in my Work in Progress section. Some of these ideas have been planned for a while, but now I’ve added a new and, for me, exciting project. If you want to know what it is, you’ll have to look for the clue.

One of my latest projects is Temptation: and other stories. It will be another collection of short stories, but with an open theme.

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I’ve now decided the Beyond The Law series will end as a trilogy. The original idea was intended as a single story. I like to think of it as my signature style and, I don’t want the stories to become formulaic. The original tale is re-titled as Beyond The Law: Formation, the second is Beyond The Law: Retribution and, the final title will be Beyond The Law: Consequences. A lot of background material has been written and, the story will start taking shape in the summer.

Beyond The Law - pair

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Following the successful conversion of Ten Days in Panama to the Romance genre, I am intending to perform a similar conversion with Amsterdam Calling. Once again, there will be little change to the storyline, but I know where it needs to be adjusted.

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I’ve now made inroads into my two short stories for IASD anthologies. For the Indies for Charity anthology my story will be Taken for a Ride. My story for the Horror anthology will be Dark Places.

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I’ve got a bit of reading, reviewing and, writing to do guys, so if you’ll excuse me … oh, and, thank you for dropping by. It is much appreciated.

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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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Work in Progress ?

My fuel tank ... and a message.All writers have them, but it’s down to the individual if it is a shelved idea, or a work in progress (WIP).

What’s the difference?

Like all topics I post, this is a matter of personal opinion and experience – and not the result of a deep, and prolonged survey of thousands of hours of discussion. I believe there is a stark difference in this case.

Editing - Amsterdam Calling

What do I consider a shelved idea?

As I tend to do, I write about what I know, including my blog articles.

The following are ‘shelved’ as opposed to WIP.

1 – I have an abundance of titles – yes, only the titles.

2 – I also have around 20 short stories which have been started. This doesn’t mean I’ve opened a file and given a title – it means I’ve written at least an intro paragraph, or more in some cases.

3 – The shelved ideas category also includes the ‘ideas’ which are still in my head. I don’t like to think of myself being busier than anybody else because I’ve got a head full of ideas.

Every writer should have a head full of ideas.

What do I consider a work in progress?

At the time of writing (31st October 2015), here is my WIP:

1 Beyond The Law: Retribution.BTL Retribution

This is the sequel to my most popular title so far. Understandably, I’m working hard to produce my best.

I’m presently reading it aloud, line by line, and using a red pen to highlight minor issues before final tweaking and formatting.

Publication date is 7th November 2015.

 

2The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories.

The WelcomeThis is not a single title of course, but a collection. I will be supplying eight of the stories. Four other stories will be supplied by guest authors. If you’d like to take part, please see the recent, relevant post:

(The Weclome) – plus details of the invitation to add a short story to an anthology.

Three of my stories in this collection have been published previously in other anthologies. Another three are new and completed, while the final two are completed, but I don’t like the endings – yet.

Of the four stories coming in from guests, I have two firm and in my file, one being reworked, and there is no show as yet from the fourth.

I’m determined that any anthology I publish will have at least 12 titles, so if necessary I will write another title to make up the shortfall.

3 A Time for Courage: and other military stories.A Time for Courage - 1

This is another anthology, for which I’ve invited at least four guest authors. The offer is still open.

Three of my stories in this collection are previously published elsewhere in anthologies. The other five are at various stages of completion. A satisfactory ending is paramount for me with a short story, so it’s an area that will affect a completion date for any of my work.

4A Life of Choice – Volume 1.

This is a coming-of-age story with a difference.

ALOC - Vol 1It is a fictional tale, but based on my life. The story started as my autobiography many years ago when I could type … but I couldn’t write. I’m now fairly confident in my ability to do both, although how good a writer I am is not for me to say.

Instead of one book, this story will now be written as a series, which will allow me to take it into the years after the military career.

I believe the post-military character of a person is as important to understand as the boy-to-career soldier.

Much of what will be in the various volumes will be true events, where only a name or two have changed, but some scenes will be completely from my imagination.

I’m always working on this series in the background, but until I’m happy with the first three volumes, there will be nothing published from the series. (Volume 1 should be out by March 2016)

My theory is that I have to know if the idea is worth the effort. To be fair to readers and give the project a healthy chance, I feel I must give at least a good bite of the cherry – or in this case, three volumes, all at low prices.

Well, there you go my faithful, and possibly some new followers.

In a nutshell, if it’s a work in progress (WIP), to my way of thinking – you are ‘working’ on it.

Thank you once again for putting up with me and my theories.

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PS. I’ve used a little bit of artistic license. I am in the bottom picture of A Life of Choice, but I’m not a recruit. 😀

Come what? May … Results

Sales and Borrowing

I posted on 10th May to say that I was intending to conduct one of my regular experiments. Before I continue, I should say that the only ‘regular’ thing about my experiments is their frequency. I don’t believe indie writers learn anything by sitting still, observing, and waiting for the world to come to them.

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What was I up to this time?

My personal challenge was to refrain from daily promotion of my books for the remainder of the month, which effectively would mean 20 days of not using any of a variety of platforms to ask people to check out my work.

Contrary to what some folk might think, I’m not an ‘in your face’ type person, so the whole ‘self-marketing’ idea was alien to me when I started out as an indie writer. I learned with my debut title that if I didn’t shout about my work, then nobody else would.

I got on with it, and it produced results. Okay so moving on, nothing mind-boggling, but after a change in my attitude to the sometimes embarrassing act of self-promotion I had a few sales, and I realised the truth – if I waited silently, nothing would happen.

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Did I have work in progress during May?

Having a variety of projects on the go at the same time is my preferred method of working. As May got underway I was already working on two novels, and making notes towards the commencement of a third.

I had to attempt a couple of things to make my idea work:

1. Restrict my visits to social networking sites to a couple of short visits per day.

2. Compel myself not to check my sales and lending figures on a daily basis.

3. Remind myself that I was trying this thing for more than one reason.
a) Primarily, it was to free up more writing time.
b) Secondly, it was to see how much effect it would have if there was a lack of daily promotion.

Apart from my own interest, both of those targets were for the benefit of any fellow indies who read my posts, either as subscribers, or by extension when I offer my thoughts on social media.

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How did it go with social networking visits?

I managed for the most part to keep to two or three visits per day. There was an anomaly in this area, because I continued trying to keep up to date with the first charity anthology by the Indie Author Review Exchange group on Facebook. I’m proud to be both a member of that particular group, and a contributing author to the anthology.

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What is that very important collection of stories?

You’re Not Alone by Ian D. Moore and friends.

To be published as an eBook on 11th July 2015.

An anthology of short stories produced to raise funds in aid of the Macmillan Nurses

An anthology of short stories produced to raise funds in aid of the Macmillan Nurses

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Apart from that, how did I get on?

Otherwise, I feel I did well. I avoided getting tangled into the threads on Facebook, forums on LinkedIn, or keeping up with comments on Google+. I have to be honest and admit that Twitter irritates me, so although I use it, I cannot spend good time reading bite-size chunks and random thoughts.

Now having said that about Twitter – I do actually stop and check out books that are advertised on Twitter, which is why I still use it myself, obviously thinking that there might be like-minded souls out there.

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Were there any sales, lending, or slumps?

Yes, and there was no discernible pattern or reason.
— I had sales of various levels except for five days.
— I had lending except for six days.
— There was a two day period when there were neither sales nor lending.

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Did I learn anything else?

Yes, and it’s for the benefit of those indie authors who presently have one, or even two titles out there and are feeling a little disheartened. I’m not a big name, but in only a few years of self-publishing I can say that without a shadow of doubt – more titles means more sales.

That might sound simplistic, but in a blog next week I’ll elaborate on that area. What I have to say in that post may be of interest not only to those of my peers with one title, but also those with low sales figures.

What else have I achieved with my latest experiment – if anything?

1. In that period of 20 days when I was abstaining from advertising, reading mind-numbing messages, and getting involved in conversations and debates – I completed the first draft of seven more chapters of my latest crime thriller, Acts of Vengeance.
If you know how hard I work at my craft you will appreciate that was a feat.

2. Those chapters might not sound too remarkable, but to put them in perspective, I also started work on and completed the first two chapters of my first erotic novel, Give and Take.

3. Again, it may not seem like much, but the exercise has given me a boost in confidence in my own brand. I know there are those who do not believe that an author’s name is a brand, so for you guys, please think about this question:

Would you consider any of the following as brands?

Wilbur Smith, Jackie Collins, Stephen King, Lee Child, Katie Fforde, or James Patterson.

It was just a thought …

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Where do I go from here?

As I assess the positive and negative aspects of my trial, I have to say that I’m happy that I tried such a thing. My initial thoughts are along the following lines:

1. Maintain my writing output as best I can. I’m in the enviable position of only working in a ‘day job’ for three days per week, so I can feasibly get in at least three writing days.

2. Get back to self-promotion, but only on a weekly, or possibly twice-weekly basis:
a) Promotion on Facebook groups which exist for the purpose of reading, reviewing and self-promotion.
b) Promotion on Twitter, because it is done automatically by the Independent Author Network, of which I am a member.
c) Promotion on Google+ because I’m a member and I check out other members news.

3. Blogging activity:
a) Try to write at least one blog post per week.
b) Allocate time to read other blogs. I supposedly have 140+ ‘followers’ but I tend to mainly visit those who I know make an effort to visit mine. It may not be often, but I do get there.

4. Continue to read and review as many Indie Author Review Exchange members’ books as possible.

5. Maintain a ‘maximum of 3 x 15-minute visits per day’ policy for social purposes on Facebook. There is a tendency to get involved in discussions on social networking sites, but time disappears when we’re in touch with those that we regard as friends.

There is a slight twist in that previous comment. I admit openly that I do not socialise in the regular sense these days, and have not for some years. The term ‘friend’ is used freely on social networking by many, but that is effectively where any of my present friendships exist.

Yes, since leaving the military in 1992, I have become something of a social hermit, but I don’t mean that in a pathetic way – it is fact, and through personal choice.

Thank you as always for taking the time to visit and check out my musings. I appreciate all feedback.

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Oh yes, there’s a P.S.

In the last 24 hours I completed the first full draft of Acts of Vengeance. I will now let it ‘rest’ for at least a week. While that manuscript is resting I’ll be active with some more chapters on Give and Take, my secondary work in progress.

I will also be reading, editing, and critiquing work for my peers. One of my favourite background roles is acting as mentor for a fellow writer.

I know it’s still early days, but I already feel that if you enjoyed my anthology Coming Around and other erotic stories, you will enjoy the novel Give and Take.

Thanks again for reading my posts.

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