Nano Crazy 2012

So, I finished Avarice: Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division Book 1 and it is currently going through edits.  It’ll be up sometime in early November I think.

The good news is that I’m writing again.  I still feel weird and a little rusty after the accidental break I took, but so far my first readers are saying Avarice is really good, so at least my feelings aren’t reflecting on the writing quality too much.

So I’m getting ready for NaNoWriMo.  I have a couple of novellas to finish up this week so I can get the first Gryphonpike Chronicles omnibus out, but then I’m going to switch to writing a few short novels (pulp length- 35k-45k) for NaNoWriMo and beyond.

And because I love covers and they help me focus on what I’m doing, here’s a preview of what I’ll be working on:

The Dying of the Light: military fantasy about a non-combatant who carries the banner of the king (art by Katerina Romanova).

A Prince Called Courage: fairytale fantasy/romance about a cursed prince, a quest, and making the right decisions (art by Claudia McKinney).

Mayhem: fantasy about a girl living on an archipelago who accidentally releases an evil power into the world and must stop it (art by Tiziano_Baracchi).

So that’s what I’ll be working on during November (along with maybe a couple more, but I don’t have covers for those yet and I might not get to them until December anyway).  It works out to about 4,000 words a day or about 3-4 hours of work daily to finish these.  As usual for my Nano Crazy, I don’t expect I’ll get everything done, but the nice thing about aiming for lots is that even getting half or more done means getting a lot finished.  Anything I get finished will be edited and available to read by the end of the year, so if any of these look cool, make a note. :)

A Little Update and a Lot of Cover Pr0nz

I’ve been battling some health issues as well as a loss in my family which has led to some pretty serious writer’s block in that I just haven’t been writing much. Or doing much of anything.  I’m on the road to recovering, I think.  I’m writing again, which is the best part for me.  I don’t feel good when I’m not writing.

I am having to re-order my goals for this year due to things that have come up.  Right now, I’m planning to finish the first 20 Gryphonpike novellas (so the first 4 omnibus versions, essentially, more on those in a moment) and the first four books of the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division series.  I’m not sure when exactly each will be posted, part of my journey toward health is not putting too much pressure on myself.  But they’ll all be up by December, that much I can promise (barring further life rolls).

Meanwhile, here is the promised cover pr0n.

First set are for the omnibus versions of the Gryphonpike Chronicles.  Each will contain five novellas.  The art for all of them was licensed from Kerem Beyit and the text done by my friend Greg.

These next two are for the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division novels, books 1 and 2.  The artist is custom courtesy of Nathie via Deviantart.com and the text done by my friend Greg.

There. Cover pronz. Those will be coming out this year. Now… back to the writing I go. Many pages to go in order to fill these covers with awesome stories.

The 2011 Wrap-up (with graph!)

And so the year ended and we come to the point where I need to look back on 2011 and draw some conclusions.  2011 was a roller coaster year. Both my husband and I dealt with health issues, we also had to deal with sudden unemployment and loss of income and insurance, I had a death in my family, and then there was Clarion, which disrupted the entire summer as well as being another unexpected expense.

I’m going to do the writing stats and talk about that for a bit, then I’ll get to the ebook stuff.  This year was not the greatest year for my writing. I spent a lot of it feeling very unsure of my skills and where my writing was going. Part of this was because I think I took some pretty big leaps in skill, but inconsistent leaps.  In April, I attended Dean Wesley Smith’s Character Voice workshop, and afterward everything I’d written before it looked weak and terrible.  I’m not sure that was Dean’s intention, but it is, in the end, a good thing.  I learned more during that 8 days about craft and writing than I’ve learned in the last 20 years.  I took that study forward into Clarion and I think it helped a ton.  Let me put it this way: last year I got very frustrated because I kept getting “this is beautiful writing but” rejections and I wanted to know what I had to do in order to hit the next level of skill, to get past that and sell.

The Character Voice workshop showed me. I’m still working on getting the stuff I learned in that workshop through my fingers and into my unconscious writing brain so I can do it automatically.  But this year, I sold stories.  Two of the sales came directly from stories written at Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith workshops.  Of all the learning experiences I had in 2011, those workshops were definitely the most valuable.  I believe that having Clarion after those didn’t hurt, of course. It gave me a chance to network, meet awesome people, and put the learning into practice while I had the captive audience of 19 or 20 first readers.

So, the writing stats with my 2011 goals and if I met them:

Word Count: Goal was to write 900,000 words. Total actual words written:  438,777.  I beat 2010’s word count, so not terrible.

Of that 900k, 240k was supposed to be novels. That goal was met. In fact, most of my 2011 wordcount was novels or novellas. I only finished 20 short stories in 2011.  I finished 3 novels and 80% of a 4th novel, plus more than half of two novellas.

Other 2011 goals included writing consistently, which I failed. There were weeks in 2011 where I didn’t write at all. This is a goal I will carry forward to 2012, along with not deleting entire sections of work, and finishing everything I start.

Short stories sold in 2011: 6 plus 1 reprint.  This is what makes me happiest when I look back on the year.  I feel that this is an indication that what I’m learning has started to show up in my writing and that my skills are actually improving.

Rejections: 97, over half personal.  Less rejections than 2010, because I submitted fewer stories this year and sold more of them on their first or third tries.  As I move forward into 2012, I’m focusing even more on longer work, so I think my submissions to magazines will fall even more. Oh well.

Other notable achievements this year: I sold too many pro stories and disqualified myself from the Writers of the Future contest. My final entry sneaked through the door right before the disqualifying publication.  Here’s hoping it is the magical Hollywood finish and I win, right? *grin*

I also qualified for SFWA membership, though I haven’t joined yet.  I’m still debating if it is worth it at this point in my career with what I’m doing and where I’m going.

So… on to the publishing side of things.  One of my goals for 2011 was to dip my toes more fully into e-publishing.  That goal, I met. I wanted to put up at least 15 more works as ebooks.  At the start of 2011, I had 3 short stories up under another pen name and the results were just enough to convince me to try with more work.

I ended 2011 with 18 works available in three different categories/genres (and under 3 different names).  Two novels, two mid-length (what I’m calling novelettes and novellas), four short story collections, and ten short stories published as singles.

Total ebook sales for 2011: 1174  (*these numbers are not final, because Smashwords hasn’t reported for some of the places it distributes, so I only have some December numbers)

Of those 1174 sales, 657 were sales of short stories, 94 were from mid-length, 167 were from collections, and 256 were from novels.

Amazon accounted for 1020 sales, Smashwords Distribution Channels and Direct accounted for 89 sales, and B&N accounted for 65.  I also sold 6 paperbacks of the one novel available as a trade paperback, bringing total self-published sales to 1180.

How did sales distribute by month? Let me show you! (I did promise a graph, didn’t I? Click image for bigger picture)

This graph shows some interesting trends.  One is clearly that sales grow when you put up more work.  As my husband was helping me put together spreadsheets, he asked “What happened in May?”.  Well, I put up three new short stories (one of which went on to be my best and most consistent seller).  Other things that boosted sales were offering something free for a short time (a week to ten days).  As far as I can tell, interviews, reviews, blogging, all that stuff does very little for sales.  New work and offering free work for short periods are what boost sales noticeably.

Of course, there is December, which broke the trend of up in my sales.  I was doing well the first couple weeks, and then sales fell off a cliff.  We’ll see if they rebound in 2012. I’m trying new things this year, including putting up many more novels and putting up books in series, as well as putting out work in three more genres.

As for the money, well, my total earnings from my writing in 2011 came to just shy of 3,000.  A nice bump from 2010, for sure.  I have not been paid on ebook earnings for November or December yet, so that is not in the 3k.  Nor are two of my short story sales, which have not been published yet and the magazine pays on publication.  I only count money when it is in my hand.

2011 was an interesting year full of surprises and a lot of learning experiences.  I hope all of that will carry forward into 2012.

 

Goals for the New Year (2012)

It’s that time of year again, I guess.  I’ll be doing a summary of this past year around the 30th or so, along with a look back at least year’s goals and how I did.

But as the year draws to a close, I am looking forward and planning what I want to do next year.  This last year has seen a lot of changes in my life, in my writing, and in how I am approaching my career.  My goals for next year reflect those changes, I think.

One of the shifts is going to be away from sending novels to publishers.  I’ve decided to not send anything this next year and instead focus on publishing my work myself.  My preliminary experiments with self-publishing this year have been pretty good (much better than the nothing I expected) and I want to see what happens when I make it a focus.  I’ll be continuing experimentation, of course, including putting up a few things in the new KDP Select program.  I also have some genre and length experiments planned.

Another shift is going to be toward longer work and away from short fiction.  This doesn’t mean I won’t write short stories, but many of the ones I have planned this year will go up as ebooks instead of out to markets.  I do have a challenge planned for May which is all short fiction.  I’ll get into that later.  While it is cool to be eligible for SFWA and nice to collect the checks that come with selling short stories, I don’t see them paying my rent.  My goal for the new year is to keep 10 stories on the market at all times, a big drop from my submitting high of nearly 40.  I figure 10 is enough to stay visible and keep up the habit of sending work out without requiring much time or upkeep on my part.

So here are the writing goals:

Novels:  Five crime novels (Books 2 and 3 of one series, Books 1-3 of another), one fantasy novel (Remy Pigeon book 1), and books 2 and 3 of the Lorian Archive (Casimir series).  I will also finish serializing the first Lorian novel (Casimir Hypogean).  I’ve got a cool surprise planned with those and the full series should be published by June.

Novellas: Four YA romances and seven adult contemporary romances.

Short stories: 50 total short stories written.  31 of these will be during the month of May.  In May I turn 31, May has 31 days, so it is fate, really.  I’m going to write 31 in 31 for my 31st b-day.  Sounds fun!  These stories will be a mix of SF/F which I will submit to markets and romance/erotica which will go straight to ebook.

That’s it. Much of this will be under pen names, of course.  Officially, Annie Bellet is only writing maybe 25-30 short stories and 3 novels this year.  It’s fun running multiple careers, if a little crazy-making at times.  Thank god for spreadsheets!

The crime novels will run between 65k and 75k words each. The Remy novel will be about 80k words. The Lorian books will be between 80k and 90k.  With the novellas, I’m aiming for 25k to 30k words apiece.   Short stories will count as long as they are over 2k words minimum and under 15k maximum (anything over 15k will get put up as an ebook novella).

Total predicted word count: 1,112,000 words.

Which looks terrifying.  It isn’t. Let me break it down.  I write about 1,000 to 1,200 words per 45 minute session (if you don’t know what I’m talking about with the sessions, see my post on productivity here).  My word count goal for 2012 works out to about 700 hours of work.  Not insignificant, but not terribly much, either.  For perspective, if I worked 40 hours a week, it would take 18 weeks or so to finish those 700 hours of work (yep, people with a full-time job work more than 700 hours every 5 months).

But I’m lazy. I love to read, play videogames, hang out with friends, and I tend to need time to myself to let writing stuff sort its self out.  I don’t want to work 40 hours a week. I don’t want to work everyday either.  So I made a plan which allows for over two months off. I’m planning to write 290 days out of the next 366 (woo, leap year!).   I’m allowing myself plenty of days to be stressed out, for life shit to happen, for me to get sick or get stuck (though that rarely happens when I’m working on multiple projects).

So how hard will I have to work on those 290 days I do choose to show up to my job? I’ll need to average about 3900 words a day.  That’s 3 hours of work (4 “sessions” with my hourglass) most days, maybe a little more if I’m starting something new or going through a tough spot in  the murky middle of a novel.

There is my plan.  I debated taking a picture of my calendar (I print off calendar pages and do a color-coded goals thing for each month so I can visually see when stuff is due), but I don’t think I could get the whole thing into a frame. Probably for the best, too, since while I’m fairly sure I’ll finish the things I want to finish, I want the freedom to move projects around if I get stuck on something or if something cool happens.

November Summary

November was a bit of a mess for my writing. I tried two different starts on the novella I was working on before deciding to switch to working on The Raven King.  The bad news is that I didn’t finish anything.  The good news is that I finally found a stride in this book and it will be done shortly and likely out in January as I’d hoped.

The novellas are percolating in my head and I think I’ll be ready to make a third run at them as soon as I finish this novel.  That’s the benefit of working on multiple projects at once.  When I get stuck, I can just switch to something else and work still gets done.

All right. Here are the numbers for November.

Short stories sold to magazines: 1

Words written: 39,078

Ebooks sold: 226

My husband has been compiling my ebook sales data into spreadsheets for me and making nifty graphs. I will have a giant data-filled post for the end of the year, hopefully with visual aids and stuff.

In happy news, I just published a Remy Pigeon short story.  Ever have one of those characters who just storms into your head and won’t leave? That’s Remy for me.  I have two novels planned with him to be written in the next year or so and I’ve already written three short stories about him.  After many near misses with the magazines, I have decided to publish one of them myself.  So here is the cover for Flashover, a paranormal mystery short story.  I hope others will love Remy as much as I do.

Description: Creole gentleman Remy Pigeon has a gift, or a curse. He can touch objects and read the past from them.
He prefers to stay away from trouble, but when an attractive red-head with a serious problem and a supernatural secret wanders into his house on a hot summer day, Remy knows that trouble has just found him.

It isn’t live yet  for Nook, but it is on Kindle or all formats are available via Smashwords HERE.

I also have discovered a very cool new way to organize my writing time. I think it deserves its own post, however, so I’ll work on that this week.

September and Sundry

September was a stressful month.  I was still recovering from the summer and Clarion (and all the other travel I did).  I was also doing a lot of sitting around and trying to figure out what I should be writing and where my energy should be going.  I think I’ve  got that sorted at least, though it means writing in other genres.  Science Fiction just doesn’t have the large readership I want to tap into, so I’m expanding my horizons and testing new waters.

Ebook sales started out amazing and then died off almost completely until the very end of the month.  I don’t know why but I wasn’t the only one seeing the Kindle sales fall like a stone, so who knows.  I put up another short story collection and a novel in a different genre under a pen name.  Over the next six months or so I’ll be putting up quite a bit of work under pen names, so Annie Bellet probably won’t have much new (other than The Raven King which is coming this winter at some point, I promise).  My Clarion project book is also in the works and that will be up in the next month or two.

Here are the stats, such as they are:

Ebooks sold: 102

Paper books sold: 0

Words written: 11,206

In other news, Daily SF got SFWA qualified, which means that if I can scrounge up 80 bucks, I, too, can be a full SFWA member.  At the moment I’m super broke, so I won’t be joining.  But I will before WorldCon next year, probably, even though I’m more or less leaving NY publishing behind and focusing my efforts on publishing my own work.  I am still going to write and (hopefully) sell stories to magazines, so it might be useful to be an SFWA member.  We’ll see.

I will be a panelist at the Portland, OR convention Orycon.  I’ll post my schedule closer to the convention.

So that’s the news with me lately.  Chapters of Casimir Hypogean will still go up each Monday and I have many new victims for my Neo-pro Interview series, so look for those on Thursdays.

Do More

This post is brought to you by not enough sleep, 4am, and the letter R (for rant).

I don’t know if it is the boards I frequent, the blogs I read, or what, but lately I see a lot of  writers who put up an ebook or two and then bitch and moan when they don’t sell much or aren’t instantly successful and rich.  I don’t get it.

I mean, I get the frustration.  You take a book or some short stories that have been vetted, either by industry professionals (in the case of previously published work) or by trusted peers or professional editors you hired or what have you.  You put it up. No one buys it beyond those three guys that live in your basement and drink your beer (or is that just MY three guys? I dunno).  So then you throw up your hands and declare that no one can make any good money by self-publishing ebooks.

What I really, really don’t understand? Often times these are writers with publication history.  They have spent years if not decades in the trenches getting rejected over and over as they struggled to get to a point where their work sold reliably.  They know what perseverance is.  They know what hard work is.  These are writers who wouldn’t dream of only ever writing one story, sending it out to a single market, and then throwing up their hands and saying “oh well, I guess this doesn’t work” and quitting writing.  Because the writers who make that decision are the ones you will never hear about.  They don’t get published because this isn’t a business for quitters.

And yet, that is what I see, over and over, among professionals who decide to test the ebook waters.  They take a single work, put it online (often with a terrible cover and boring blurb), and then throw their hands up and cry all over the net how only selling to big publishers works because no one but the very very lucky can make any money at this ebook thing.

W. T. F.  I’m serious.  I don’t get it. Why would people who should KNOW better do this?  Writing as a business isn’t easy.  It is, however, very simple.  Heinlein’s Rules haven’t changed and they still work.  Write. Finish. Get it out there. Keep it out there. Rinse. Repeat.

Ebooks are no different.  Make them as damn good as you can.  This means studying the covers, blurbs, prices, etc of the books that are like the ones you are selling.  Put up a good product. Do it again. And again.  Keep writing. Keep writing books that people want to read.  If you aren’t selling, write better books, write better blurbs, get better covers.  You know… work at it.  The same way we all do going through the traditional publishing trenches.  We slog through the rejections, the crits, the workshops, the endless query-go-round.  And when we sell a book, we rejoice.  But we don’t expect a single sale to solve all our problems forever and that we can instantly be rich and famous and awesome.  Instead, the next day, we start another damn book.

So if you have put up a single work (or even two or three) and are sitting there whining about how you don’t have the time and energy to properly market, that you don’t have the budget to do what a big publisher can do for you, that no one will buy your book, that this ebook thing is failsauce… well… look at yourself. What are you doing? Are you pinning your hopes on a single work? Would you pin your hopes on a single book bought by a trad publisher? Or would you go out and write the next book? And the next. And the one after that. Would you take a single no for an answer? Or would you examine why a story/book/whatever got rejected and figure out how to do it better?

This is the same game as it was before.  Why let one failure stop you?  You wouldn’t let a single rejection stop you.  Come on, guys. Be smarter than this.  Fail better.

(This said, I need to go write some more books. Because winter is coming and I bet there will be millions of new e-reader owners all looking for awesome, well-packaged books to read.)