Friday, January 30, 2015

I read my bad reviews and so should you

Allow me a minute for business, if you will. I just wanted to let you know that my monthly newsletter will be going out this weekend AND it will have two, yes two, alternate POV scenes from Rite of Rejection. Ultimately these will find their way to the public sphere, but if you want to see them first, get thy name on my subscribers list!

Now, let's talk reviews.

Obviously, I'm a big fan of the five star variety. I'd have to be the world's worst liar if I even tried to say otherwise. Glowing reviews are the little sugar nonpareils that get sprinkled on top of the icing that is someone taking the time to leave a review. In this analogy, someone reading the book is the cake, but maybe we should quit while we're ahead. The point is, those reviews are fantastic and can do wonders to feed an author's soul.

Then it would stand to reason that reviews that fall toward the other end of the spectrum are little black holes that eat happiness for breakfast and then hold out their bowls for more. And they absolutely could be, but only if we let them.

This idea that we shouldn't read our reviews is a bit odd to me. In almost every other consumer driven market, the powers that be pull out all the stops in order to get customer feedback. At tons of restaurants they offer you the chance to win anything from free food to cold hard cash for giving your feedback. Last night I gave a presentation at my local library and they asked me to fill out a comment card to help them improve services. There are entire corporations that exist only to call and solicit feedback from customers about their experiences with everything from products to health care.

So why are we so afraid of our reviews as authors?

I get it. Harsh reviews can be tough to read. No one likes to hear that they didn't measure up. But a reader telling me exactly why they didn't like my book might as well be passing out bottles of liquid gold. As writers, what better way to improve at our craft than to hear right from the readers' mouth what isn't working.

I read in several of my reviews that readers wished there was more information about how the world of Rite of Rejection came to be. That was shocking for me. I originally had all the history included, but took it out because I thought it slowed down the story and would be boring. While I stand behind my decision to cut it, now I know that I need to find a way to work in at least some of this information into the next book. So thank you, reviewers. Not only does that knowledge allow me to give readers more of what they want, it makes me think about the kind of information I include in my other work.

Look, negative reviews are never going to be fun. You'll never see me fist pump and bad dance over a two-star review. But I'm not going to ignore it either. Instead, I'll put on my big girl pants, strap on my thick skin and dig in. 

Readers want top notch stories and I want to give that to them. Listening to my readers and working to improve my craft gets us all a little closer to getting what we want.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Agency Lessons: Not all eBook publishers are created equal

Publishing is an ever changing beast, and I mean all the time. The cards were just shuffled again last week with the announcement that Egmont USA would be closing its doors, eliminating yet another avenue for writers to get their gems in readers' hands.

With all these changes, new opportunities spring up all the time. One of the more recent (as in the past decade) additions has been eBook publishers. Some love them for their streamlined, low overhead results. Some decry them for being fake publishers. But just like everything else in publishing, not all eBook publishers are the same.

 Here are a few of the different types of eBook publishers out there and my thoughts on the good and bad.

1. eBook first from major publishing houses
Almost all these contracts contain clauses that allow the company to print physical books, either once you hit certain numbers or in conjunction with your eBook release. In addition to top notch editing, cover design and layout, you get the promotional/marketing clout that can only come from the big guys. You're not going to get the huge contract that is more common with the older imprints at these companies, but you will end up with a quality book and the backing of the biggest names in publishing.


2. Niche market publishers
Some genres or sub-genres are just not cutting it in paperbacks yet. M/M romance and erotica is an area I can point to without even thinking. Customers just aren't buying these physical books in big enough numbers yet, which means if you want a publisher you'll almost definitely be going ebook. But don't let the smaller scale full you. These guys know their audience and they are committed to giving them the quality books they calling for. Many of these niche publishers are creating brand loyalty. Readers know what to expect from these publishers and are seeking out the books they publish. These guys don't have quite the clout of the big players, but they more than make up for it in quality and commitment.

3. The start-up
My advice, don't be first. Honestly, anyone (and I mean anyone) can hang out their shingle and call themselves a publisher. With POD and eBooks, folks can do it with almost zero investment. So before you agree to anything, take a hard look at the books they are putting out. What do the covers look like? Are they professional? How many reviews do those books have on the big sites (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads)? Is anyone reading them? Have you heard of any of their authors or titles? Every company has to start somewhere, but that doesn't mean you have to let your baby be their guinea pig. Some of these publishers are going places. Plenty of quality houses started out as small eBook publishers, but their dedication to quality have made them publishers that writers can trust. Give the new guys time to work out their kinks. Either they'll get it right and you'll see the results, or they'll simply fade into the night.

4. The frauds
There are a lot of vanity publishing houses still out there, but many authors have wised up. In an effort to draw first blood, some of these houses have re-branded themselves into eBook publishers that offer the full package (at the cost of your right hand and first born daughter). I actually met a woman who edits for one of these companies. Despite having no experience in cover design, they occasionally ask her to use Photoshop to create covers for their customers (which I'm sure they charge exorbitant prices for). Please, please be careful. Remember that in publishing, even with an eBook publisher, the money should flow towards you, not the other way. If a company wants to show you their publication packages, run. Run far, far away.

5. Your average eBook publisher
So I'm going to be honest here. Most eBook publishers don't have the market position to be a good solution. There is nothing wrong with these publishers. I'm sure they provide wonderful service to their authors and many of them offer generous terms that far exceed the big guys. And yet, I'm still not a huge fan. To me, this feels like giving away a permanent portion of your revenue in order to avoid paying the upfront costs of editing, formatting and cover design. I get that publishing a book on your own can come with a hefty price tag. It's not one that everyone can afford. So working with an eBook publisher may be your only recourse. When considering an offer like this, make out a list of exactly what you want from a publisher. Keep track of what this publisher can and cannot provide from that list and determine if the royalty share they keep is reasonable for the "can" items on your list. Only you can answer that.

Keep in mind that these are generalities. Everyone's path to publication is different, and if you're happy with yours then it was the right path for you. These are exciting times in publishing and authors have more choices now than ever before. Just make sure you know exactly what any publisher can and cannot do for you before you sign.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Weighing in on Netgalley

Netgalley has long been one of those special places that was only accessible through a major publishing house. Not because Netgalley is rude or anything. It was just cost prohibitive.

That recently changed with some new rules that allowed for co-ops. A co-op allows authors to share in the cost of listing books by splitting up the number of listing and how long each stays available. If done well, this is a low cost option that opens door for Indie authors that were previously locked.

I opted to use a co-op organized by the lovely ladies of Patchwork Press. My book was available to reviewers both in the month before and after release. Now that it's all said and done, I want to do a follow-up post to give you my thoughts on this new marketing opportunity.

Cost
For the co-op I used there were several options available. I decided to go with a two-month package since I was a debut author. That way, reviewers who might be hesitant to give me a try would have a bit longer to think about it after the early reviews started coming in. For two months, I paid $80. Compared to the thousands I would have had to pay to do this on my own, I felt this was more than fair. Plus, the co-op handled all the uploading, reviewer approval, and feedback chain. After sending them the digital files for my book, I literally didn't have to do anything else. With so many other moving pieces to my marketing plan, this was a real blessing.

Numbers
The listing for my book was viewed 2257 times. That's new eyeballs seeing my book. I got 409 requests, 205 of which were approved. Like, I said, the co-op took care of weeding out the folks who never post reviews, don't run blogs, aren't librarians, etc. Basically, the folks who just want free books. As of the end of December there were 59 reviews submitted on the site, with several more that have come in after that.

Exposure
I tried not to read all the reviews, because honestly, that's asking for trouble. However, I did note that many of them posted reviews on their own blog sites so that is an added bonus. Also, several of the reviewers self-identified as teachers or librarians who would be adding the book to their collections. Yeah win. I have to imagine that some of these reviewers went on to post their thoughts on other sites such as Amazon and Goodreads, but I really have no way of knowing that.

The Sting
The folks requesting books on Netgalley are hard core readers. They do not mess around. As such, they aren't going to pussyfoot around issues they had while reading. I will say that not a single reviewer was nasty or posted anything that wasn't 100% related to the book. I can absolutely respect that and was really pleased by how professional everyone was. Still, it was a bit of a shock when those first reviews came in. Nothing crazy, but not the flood of 5* reviews I was hoping for. Just a fair bit of warning that you need to have thick skin if you want to pursue a Netgalley listing. It all evened out in the wash, but those first few days had me pretty nervous.

Bonus Exposure
I can point to Netgalley as being directly responsible for one additional marketing opportunity I received. My review on the USA Today Happily Ever After blog only happened because the fabulously friendly woman who reviews for that site found my book on Netgalley. I didn't even think to send it in to them directly since the book is Indie published, but having the book listed gave me the extra exposure I needed to catch her attention.

Overall, I can say without any reservation that I will absolutely post future books on Netgalley. The cost is low enough that it isn't going to break the bank and the extra exposure is priceless.

In regard to how to maximize your Netgalley listing, here are a few tips:

1. Cover is key
Readers are giving lots and lots of options and their initial view is based on cover alone. They can see the description and other info once they click on the cover, but they have to get there first. If your cover is bland, unprofessional, and easily overlooked, it probably won't get much attention on the site. Viewers can up or down vote covers on the site and I was tickled pink to see that the cover for Rite of Rejection was a real crowd-pleaser.

2. Share
Once the book was live, I received a direct link to my listing. So long as it is done sparingly, I think it's fine to post this on social media or share it with your newsletter.I actually didn't share this as much as I could have and this is something I will definitely do more of next time. I did, however, let all my blog tour reviewers know about the listing and asked them to pass it along to any other bloggers they knew that might be interested. Several of them thanked me and let me know that they did pass it along.

3. Follow-up
Now that most, if not all, of the reviews are in, I'll be going back through them and looking for one specific area. Reviewers are asked if they would like to connect with the author. For those that said yes, I'll be reaching out thanking them for their review and offering to do a guest post or interview on their blog. This is a great way to meet more readers and keep up marketing efforts without going overboard.

If you have any questions about using Netgalley, feel free to ask in the comments. If you're interested in signing up for your next book, be sure to check out the awesome folks over at Patchwork Press.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Marketing by the numbers

Quick marketing vocabulary lesson.

ROI (AKA Return on Investment): This is a business term used to detail the amount of money you make compared to the amount of money spent on any given activity.

Example: If I spent $50 on a paid advertisement and am able to directly correlate $300 in sales from that add, then I would say I have a 6:1 (read six to one) ROI on that ad because I made $6 for every $1 spent.

When we run marketing campaigns it's important to track this ROI as best we can so we know what does and doesn't work for us. In order to do that, we spend a lot of time looking at the numbers of it all. And while that's important that we understand this so we don't waste money, it's also important to know when to stop looking at the numbers.

Because, as authors, there are so many places to go looking for numbers. So many places. Here's a short list that I cooked up off the top of my head:
1. Blog visitor count
2. Adds/Reviews on Goodreads
3. cover up votes on Netgalley
4. number of reviews
5. Star ranking of reviews
6. Amazon sales rank
7. Number of sales
8. Page listing on "most requested lists" on Netgalley (this might win for the weirdest)
9. Number of email subscribers

Seriously, it could be a full time job bouncing from site to site all day checking out where we rank on this list and how many stars we have over there. And I'll admit, I've spent my fair share of time staring at sales charts and trying to over-analyze every piece of data available. It's just right there, in my face, and I NEED TO KNOW.

But the truth is that I don't need to know. Not every day. Because staring at the numbers isn't going to change them. They won't fall apart if we don't keep an eye on them. Those numbers are going to do their thing regardless of how many times a day we refresh the page.

I get the draw, seriously, I get it. But as authors, we need to stop letting those numbers control us. We can't let our mood, desire to write, or confidence be affected daily by and up or down tick in one day's worth of sales. It's enough to drive a lady insane.

Yes, check your numbers when you need to. Keep track of your ROI. Have a general idea of where sales are going. You need to do this to be successful at know how and when to launch different marketing efforts for your book. But keeping track doesn't mean checking your stats five times a day. How often you take a peak will depend on what your marketing efforts entail and how time sensitive they are. But don't tell yourself you need to check every hour when you're running a static 3-day sale.

I imagine this gets easier the longer you've been in the game and the more books there are to keep track of. Please, someone tell me this gets easier. But in the meantime, try to keep your focus on areas that you can control, like churning out more words for your next book. Focus on what you do best, and let the numbers take care of themselves.

If you have tips for staying away from those pesky, tempting numbers, I'd love for you to share them in the comments.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Agency Lessons: I'm too ugly for a book deal

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
  
I broke one of my rules over the Christmas holiday. I was reading some publishing article (the subject of which is now long forgotten) and for some unholy reason I scrolled down to read the comments. I know, I know. I can only figure I was momentarily possessed by a publishing demon.

Anywhere, here's what I saw:
 "I am not famous. I am not beautiful. I don't have the world's most interesting back story, and I am not young. Therefore, I will never get a traditional publishing contract."
 GAH!

I shouldn't need to say that this is possibly the biggest load of horse poop on the internet, but just in case you are the random guy who wrote this..."This is the biggest load of horse poop on the internet!"

Let me break this down.

1. Being famous, beautiful and young and not prerequisites to getting a book deal. They just aren't. But coverage of new author deals makes it look that way. Because it's big news if some A-lister signs a book deal. Also, it's a news story if a 19-yr-old gets the book she wrote during study hall signed. In general, it's not news when another middle aged mom or dad signs a book deal. It's super cool for that person and it happens more than the signed A-lister, but it's not news. 

When I am working with an author, I am concerned with their ability to tell a frickin' amazing story. After that, I'm concerned with their ability to work with editors, take criticism, etc. And finally, I am looking at their ability to be a part of the marketing efforts. Areas I am not looking at include: recent appearances at the Oscar's, birth certificates, and glamor shots (is this still a thing that people do?). I could care less if you are a wrinkled old man who just celebrated his 80th birthday if you can write a book that knocks my socks off. End of story.

2. Everyone has a back story. You didn't jump into this life at the age of 40, fully grown. You went through life and had a completely different experience than anyone else on this planet. You are completely unique. On the surface you might think your story is a lot like everyone else's. As a writer, you need to dig a little deeper and identify the part of you that set you apart. If you can't sous out your own unique story, I question your ability to tell some else's story.

3. Boo hoo, life is hard...now get over it. Look, publishing is not an easy business to break into. There are a ton of hard steps and obstacles on the way to getting your book on the shelves. Don't be another obstacle. This list of "reasons" you aren't getting published isn't a group of set in stone exclusions. It's a list of excuses. Easy outs for why you haven't reached your goals. Excuses like I'm not the right kind of writer, or I don't write erotica, or you have to know someone to get published have no place in your publishing journey. Don't give them head-space. A negative attitude is only going to hold you back.

Instead of focusing on all the made-up reasons for why you aren't published, keep your attention on what you can do to get closer to your goal. Work on your manuscript, seek out advice from other authors, take a class or attend a conference, workshop your query, and the list goes on and on. Focus on the steps you can take to reach your goal and leave the moaning to internet commenters.

Friday, January 16, 2015

There's no business like show business (or local media)

I've talked before about how you've got to start local if you want to get major press coverage. By adding clips and references to your media kit, other outlets will have something to go on when you approach them.

But some authors might think it's better to skip this step. If you don't have any intentions of contacting major media outlets, you could be tempted to forgo your local radio, tv, and newspapers.

To that I say...Big Mistake.

Why?

Because you never know who's watching.

Back in December I sent a brief intro over to our local station and asked if they would be interested in featuring a local author. They were more than  happy to have me on. So I went down, did the filming and I had my 60 seconds of fame later that night.  Super fun and exciting, but I hardly expected a rush from the local market to go buy my book.

I also didn't expect an email from a professor in the English graduate program at our local university. I never expected to hear that she wanted to assign her class my book this semester. And I couldn't have expected the department head would invite me to come speak to their program.

Nope, I didn't see that coming. But it turns out this English professor did see the news and jumped at the chance to include a local author on her syllabus.

Look, I'm not saying that if you get on local media you'll start pooping glitter rainbow opportunities. I recognize all the galactic Jenga pieces that had to fit together for a professor looking for a book to see my news spot. But I do know that if I had not taken the fifteen minutes to send off an introductory email, none of that would have happened.

So don't overlook the smaller opportunities because you can't see the obvious, in-your-face payoff. You never know who's watching.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sales Update (AKA show me the numbers)

Rite of Rejection has been solidly out in the world for a little over a month now so it's about time I give an update on how all my marketing efforts have paid off so far.

But first, I want to announce the winner of my blog tour giveaway!

Congrats, Chelly Pike! An awesome reader survival pack full of awesome swag will be making its way to you shortly. Also, I held a secret giveaway for a second awesome reader survival pack for all of my awesome blog tour participants (see the full list of tour folks here). Congrats to Jaclyn of JC's Book Haven and thanks again for all your help with my debut release!

Now, on to the update.

My first goal post publication was to get 50 Amazon reviews in the first month. Because this book is indie, I don't have the official stamp of approval from a traditional publisher that lets people know this is a quality book. Though, technically, I do have that approval since I did get an offer, readers on Amazon or other distributors don't know that. Instead, I need reader validation to give these readers peace of mind.

Fifty is just the number I felt would make a statement. A book with a good rating and 50 reviews is one I would take seriously as a browsing book buyer. I didn't base this on any algorithms or book buying studies (though I would have if those were available). I just want to put that out there so authors don't assume something magical happens at 50 reviews. It doesn't. It just makes me feel good.

And the good news is that I hit my magic number with a few days to spare! Yeah, cake and ice cream for everyone (bring your own). I'll be talking more about reviews in the future, but there's no room for that here. Stay tuned.

My next goal is to recoup my initial investment in three months. This was a scarier goal for me since I have less control over it. I can keep asking a million people to leave reviews until I hit my 50 and hand out free books to reviewers until I'm blue in the face. I can't force people to pony up and actually buy the book.

More good news, people are actually buying the book. I have to assume that eventually the thrill of seeing sales numbers daily will wear off. I'll let you know when that happens. The best part is that at this point, I know that all the people who were going to buy the book because they are my friends and just want to support me, already did it. So now, the sales coming in are from strangers. Just people who think it looks good (and feel safe because of all my review) laying down a few bucks to buy my book. If you've yet to publish, let me just assure you that this might be the best feeling in the world.

Well, second best. Fan mail (I've gotten a few) is maybe slightly more awesome.

Anyway, payments run behind a month on Amazon and several months behind on Smashwords, so I've only gotten one check so far from the sale of the paperbacks that went live before the release date. But I can see an unofficial accounting and I'm a good two thirds of the way toward hitting my goal. I'm hesitant to call that ahead of schedule since trends aren't necessarily predictive when it comes to book buying. Still, I'm getting there and sales are steady. I'm not blowing anyone out of the water yet, but I'm also feeling good about where I'm sitting.

My last goal was to sell 1,000 books in my first six months. Again, this is so hard to tell because I've only got a little over a month of data to go on and who knows what my sales will look like months from now. Also, I can only see a very limited view of my non-Amazon sales right now (some ebook retailers only) so there's no telling what those sales are like. Still, with what I can see I'm over 1/4 of the way there. This sounds good, but I also have to imagine that the launch created a big push that might not be duplicated in the following months. I hope to have a better picture of this in February and will, of course, keep you posted.

So that's where I am with my goals. I am still working on marketing though not as much as the initial push. It's important to know when to promote your book and when to ease off so your followers and fans don't get sick of you. I do have some exciting efforts lined up that I'll share with you guys when the time gets closer.

I'm also hard at work on the next book. I finally figured out the emotional angle that was missing from book two over my Christmas break so I'm doing a bit more finagling with the outline and hope to finish this one up soon. Ideally, publishing book two will bring in some new readers which lifts book one sales and brings me closer to my goals. You know, in theory. Don't mind me crossing my fingers over here.

Then I really need to figure out what I'm going to do with a book three. Seriously, I have no idea. I'm the opposite of JK Rowling who always knew from the very beginning what the last line of her last Harry Potter book would be. I'm like, hmmmm...book three, book three. Any ideas. Any ideas at all.

Never fear, courageous readers, we'll get there somehow.

So that's it for now. My goal in sharing this information is that it helps all of you get a picture of what publishing looks like from behind the scenes and determine what marketing efforts you want to invest your time and money in. Plus, it's just interesting. I don't have tons of date, especially this early, but if there is something else you'd like to know, just ask.

Also, since 2014 is in the books, I'd like to open up the comments today to anyone else who published in 2014 to share their book with us and let us know how it's going for you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Agency Lessons: Updating your query lists

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
 
If you've been in the query trenches for any amount of time, it's likely you have some kind of database for all the agents you have already or someday plan to query. For those of you who've been around the blog for a while, it will be no surprise to you that during my querying stage I had a massive color coded spreadsheet broken down by project. For the newbies, I adore spreadsheets because I am weird.

Anyway, these spreadsheets or notebooks or online databases (like query tracker) are wonderful. They help you stay organized and somewhat sane during what is by nature a really stressful process. Plus, once you've got a good list of agents going, you can likely go back to this list if you find yourself querying another project, or another, or...you get the idea.

This is good. You don't want to waste hours upon hours building an agent list from scratch every time you go out with a new project. As an agent I do the same thing with my editors list. I have (surprise) a huge spreadsheet broken down by age and genre preferences and this is always my starting point when it's time to pitch a new project.

But there is a danger in these spreadsheets. As slow as publishing may seem, changes are a constant presence. Agents switch house, editors get promoted, new people come on the scene and all of it happens usually without much fanfare.

It's fine to use the same spreadsheet, but you have to keep it updated. This week, as our agency re-opened from the holiday break we received two queries for an agent who has not been with Corvisiero for almost two years. Two Years! That author is using a seriously outdated list. That or they saw an old blog post and decided to query without even checking the agency website (always a bad idea).

I'm not saying you need to do a full write-up on every agent on your spreadsheet every time you query. However, at a minimum, you should check their agency website before you send off that email to make sure they a) are still an agent with that agency and b) are open to queries. Yes, for a list of 50 agents this is probably going to take you an hour just in the time it takes to look at each website. And that stinks. And I'm sorry. I wish there was a better way to do it, but there is no master database that is updated in real time with every agents status. I wish there was because I would contact the same designer to make one for editors.

It stinks, but you still have to do it. Because not doing it is a sign of a lazy writer and no agent wants to work with a lazy writer. If you send a query to an agent who left in the last few months, no big deal. No one expects you to update your lists monthly. Sending a query for an agent who left two years ago, big deal. It tells me you are in a query rut and are putting in the bare minimum effort when it comes to selected your agent. It tells me you aren't being picky and would literally sign with anyone who thought about making an offer.

Don't be that author. Take pride in your work and be meticulous in your business dealings (because that's what a query letter is). Sometimes being a writer means handling the monotonous, no fun work like updating your agent list. That doesn't stop when you sign with an agent and it certainly doesn't stop once you have a book deal. Best to get used to it now.

Do you have a great tip for keeping your query lists updated? Share it with us in the comments so everyone can learn together.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Agency Lessons: Translating rejection letters

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today I want to talk about rejection letters. The agency reopens to queries today and that means I'll be reading and responding to a ton of hopeful authors this week. As many of you know, I try to personalize all my rejections. As an author I can appreciate how frustrating it is to get a no without any reason attached to it.

But I'm a little concerned that for some writers, these lines of feedback might be more hurt than help. Let me lay out a scenario.

I read a query (including the pages and synopsis). The writing is just not there. The opening is lacking a direction, the dialogue feels stilted and the tone isn't age appropriate. I want to be helpful, but I can't give every query a detailed rundown of everything they need to fix. Plus, I'm only reading 5 pages here. I don't know what else needs work beyond that.

I send a pass letter praising a unique premise, but pointing out that the opening pages failed to draw me in and the dialogue needs work.

Most writers would see this and (after getting feedback from others) go back and do another round of edits on their manuscript, checking dialogue throughout.

But some will not. Some will add three lines to their opening in an attempt to draw in the reader and change a line or two of dialogue. Without looking at anything past those 5 pages, they resend it to me stating they edited based on my suggestions assuming that now I will request pages because I did exactly what they asked.

And that's where the problem is.

A query response is just that. A response to a query, not a critique of your query (or pages, or synopsis). An agent may offer a suggestion or two, and that can be a great nudge in the right direction. But those suggestions should not be taken as a substitute for a critique. And they can't be assumed to be a complete list of all an agent's thoughts.

So next time you get a query response, keep in mind that there is always more to the story than what's on the page.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Big plans for 2015

It's the first week of January so it's time for the obligatory goal post. Since we are talking goals, this is a good time to review the SMART method of goal setting. You can read a full explanation of SMART goals, but here's the quick breakdown:
S- Specific
M- Measurable
A- Actionable
R- Realistic
T- Time Sensitive

Here's what I'm looking at for 2015.

1. Publish book two of the Acceptance series (tentatively titled Rite of Revelation) by late spring/early summer.

2. Publish book three of the Acceptance series (title TBD) by the end of the year.

3. Earn enough from Rite of Rejection to recoup my initial investment by June 4th (six month goal from release plan).

4. Sell 1,000 copies of Rite of Rejection by December 4th (one year goal from release plan).

5. Form a street team for the Acceptance series before publication of the second book.

6. Get my final amazon reviews before Monday, January 5th to hit 50 (I've got 5 to go, hint hint).

When I write it out like this it all looks so simple, right. Just six goals. Six little sentences I have a whole year to accomplish. But you and I both know just how much work is included in those six little sentences.

To tackle all that work I'll need to make a list of all the mini-goals I need to accomplish in order to check off my big five. For example, in order to publish book two by early summer I'll need to finish the first draft, get it to my editor, hire out the cover design, etc. Not to mention all the marketing efforts. Six little sentences very quickly grows to hundreds.

It can become overwhelming and that's where too many authors either give up or start cutting corners in order to lighten the load. Neither of those is a good option. My advice, don't get too far ahead of yourself. I don't want to wait until two weeks pre-release to plan out my marketing strategy, but I don't need to worry about it when I'm still writing the first draft. Breakdown the steps that are most needed to give yourself hard deadlines and then add more as you accomplish the items on your list.

Once I have my first sequence of goals set, I'll bust out the calendar and mark out some deadlines. I've found that these self-imposed deadlines are key to meeting my goals. Without them, it's too easy to let a goal pass by, and then another, and then...well, you get the idea. It's less about the date and more about staying on track.

The last step for me to keep my goals moving forward is to make them public. By posting them here, I've got them in writing where others can see them (and call me on the carpet if I don't meet them).

Now it's your turn. What are you writing goals for 2015? Share them in the comments and let's help each other stay accountable.