Starting 2013 at a Sprint

Posted on 1 January, 2013

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December was occupied almost entirely with an extensive rewrite of Tooth & Nail, the sequel to Perishables. I had to make any of a number of changes and expansions and those bumped it up from being ~55,000 words to over 80,000! Yowza! That’s, like, real-novel-length there!

(Also, check out the shiny new sharing buttons down there! I’m experimenting with plugins.)

A big focus for me with The Perishables Project over the last six to eight weeks has been trying to come up with ideas for marketing and promotion that don’t cost money, or at least where money is not spent to promote. One of the ways I’ve done so is by using the Project itself as a vehicle to talk to people about Perishables, even if only tangentially. Last month I was invited to participate in a meetup and series of flash talks hosted by opensource.com.  You can read my slide deck if you like; I’ll link to the video when it’s available, which should be soon-ish. In doing so I offered attendees a copy of Perishables for free, using a coupon code generated for the event. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve recently received was to generate distinct coupons for as many different means of publicizing or communicating about Perishables as I was willing to track. I now have a spreadsheet of coupon codes and where I’ve posted them. I’m amused to note that despite receiving a genuinely enthusiastic and welcoming response from the opensource.com event, zero persons have used that coupon code. Heh! Sometimes talking only tangentially about a book does not, it turns out, sell that book.

I’ve been trying to stick to John Ward’s advice that more stories sell more stories. To that end, I have recently spent money on something that will, at a couple of degrees of remove, potentially sell more books: an editor for Tooth & Nail. I have many friends who have generously offered to be readers and editors for me and I know my own nature as a touchy, criticism-hating writer sufficiently well to feel it would be a terrible mistake on my part to take them up on those extremely and sincerely generous offers. Gregory Lynn, who was one of my first readers and my very first (enthusiastic!) reviewer for Perishables is working with me on Tooth & Nail. I just – like, five minutes before starting this post – sent him the full manuscript and the initial payment. He plans to get cracking on it tomorrow.

If all goes well I’ll be publishing Tooth & Nail the last week of January or the first week of February.

I did all the editing of Perishables myself, so why go with a third party this time? That’s easy: because we are all almost always blind to our own failures. Being the writer, I remember what I was trying to do with a scene and it is entirely too easy to mistake intentions for results. If I know I wanted a scene to be creepy then I, when I later read it, am extremely likely to think it’s creepy even if it isn’t.

I also wanted to have Gregory Lynn, in particular, be the editor for two reasons: he “got” Perishables right out of the gate and Tooth & Nail is in many ways a very different book. It has its light moments, yes, but for the most part it’s much more a story of horror and dark ambience than it is a laff riot the way Perishables on occasion tried to be. If he reads it and still “gets” me then I will feel a lot more confident about the other people who might read it.

I’m also seeing if I can get a foot in the door as a panelist at any of the conventions I’ve already planned to attend, as those would be no additional cost. I’ve submitted inquiries or applications, as appropriate, to OutlantaCon, ConCarolinas and Dragon*Con. I realize those are almost certain to be turned down but the only way to be absolutely certain is never to inquire or apply in the first place. The worst thing that can happen is that I’ll never know I was laughed at by someone I’ll never meet. I’m keeping an eye on the website for ConTemporal as well. I’ve purchased a membership to IllogiCon, which is just down the road, as it has several panels over the course of the weekend that appeal greatly: self-promotion on the cheap, for instance.

In the meantime, I’ve got two short story ideas that would make nice follow-ups to Tooth & Nail. I plan to start working on the first of them a week from now and get it banged out in a few days, then start on the other. My plan right now is to do the following:

  • publish Tooth & Nail at $2.99;
  • simultaneously set the price on Perishables to 99 cents;
  • publish the two short stories for free; and
  • release a free version of Part I of Perishables.

That will, in short order, vault me from having one thing available to having five things available, four of which are distinct/unique and when read in order produce a coherent set of interrelated narratives.

This is also the last semester of my post-baccalaureate certificate program, so I’m going to be juggling that along with everything else. I have pretty high hopes, though, that this class will be covering material sufficiently familiar to me that I can do some writing work at the same time. Working hard on classes last semester and trying to edit Tooth & Nail on an impossible and entirely self-imposed deadline turned out to be a real slog and I kind of hated it. An important part of this, for me, is remembering why I started reading and writing in the first place: because it’s fun. I am not writing War & Peace over here and I don’t need to get my art out to save humanity from itself. I find it entertaining and I enjoy it when other people are also entertained. If I stop having fun then it is, right out of the gate, a total failure.

Oh, and year in review? I “sold” about 135 copies of Perishables. I put quotes around it to emphasize the caveat that many of them were given away via coupons on Smashwords. That has, by far, been my most important sales channel and my most effective promotional effort.