The Plan

How’s The Plan going?

Hmmm, yes. The Plan boiled down to hitting an average word count and finding better ways to publicise my work. The Aim, separate from The Plan, was to make enough money to fund trips abroad and other mini adventures which could double as research for future stories.

So how am I doing?

Terribly, if I’m honest.

The target was to average at least 500 words a day, preferably 1000, over the year. As of today, before I do any writing, the average is half the lower target (253.9, to be precise). For a while towards the end of February, I broke through the lower boundary. That was whilst I was working on Slashed, when I had a fairly good idea what needed to be written.

Since finishing Slashed I’ve not really known what to write next, and have had a couple of false starts. It’s become a bit more obvious in the last couple of weeks where the two front-runners, both Irwin tales with similar themes, should go. You And Me Against The World started out as a rambling piece of naughtiness about a dirty weekend then became a tale about baggage from past relationships wrapped up in grifter shenanigans. Throw in some espionage and MI6 style witness protection and I had a reason for Irwin to get involved. Art For Art’s Sake (previously A Death In Didsbury, a title I’ve gazumped for a different story) features characters from So Much To Answer For a few years down the line, getting mixed up in art theft and smuggling, forgery and murder. Again, Irwin doesn’t instigate any of the shenanigans but comes in to lend a hand, strictly off the books of course.

I’m researching art theft and smuggling for Art For Art’s Sake at the moment, then I’ll have to find two scams big and complicated enough for You And Me Against The World. Then, hopefully, I can hit my writing stride again. Beyond that I’ve thrown a few scene notes and background into yWriter for the next Garth Owen project, working title Post, which will flip a few of the zombie/virus outbreak tropes on their heads. I’m also planning to do a few stories in the universe I created for the Mongrels mini comics I did a few years ago, starting with a novelisation of Who Let The GODs Out?

So, when I get writing again, I have plenty of projects to get on with. As I recognised a long time ago, it’s the promotion where I need to work out what I’m doing. I’ve looked into getting business cards, or maybe bookmarks printed up, though the latter don’t really work when most of my publications are electronic. Getting mentioned on Daily Cheap Reads last week didn’t have a huge effect upon sales, though I guess it is one more link to my books to help them get found. I’ll keep trying to get onto other people’s blogs to build up a presence, but I don’t hold out a lot of faith in the effects. Press releases to the local press and contacting the local libraries will carry on as well.

I have come a long way from when I first formulated The Plan. I’ve written two novellas and published them and a bit of my back catalogue. Sales are in double figures, which isn’t much but is far more than if I’d just sat back and waited for something to happen. All the books are out there for as long as I want them to stay available, so when people start searching for me there’s a far larger rack of books for them to find. And that rack is going to continue filling, though maybe not as fast as I’d like it to.


The cupboard exploded

I’ve been in my flat just under a year, and there are still boxes which I haven’t looked in- let alone sorted- since the move. I have devoted several hours over the last few days to remedying that. It is, after all, part of The Plan.

The cupboard under the stairs has given up most of its secrets. The morning was punctuated by a slightly mad voice emanating from the alcove saying something to the effect of “Oh look, MORE Transformers and GI Joes!” and than laughing nervously, every time I opened another box. Most of the crates have come out, making the flat even messier than normal, to at least have their contents looked at. I’m going to have a really nasty bruise on the shin from the one which ambushed me outside the living room as I tried to navigate the hallway in the dark.

But it’s all just a step on the road to less clutter. I’ve emptied several cardboard boxes and got a fair amount of stuff ready for binning. All the GIs- but not their vehicles- are now in one crate, just, and Transformers and sundry robo bits occupy another two. When I return them to the land under the stairs there should be a lot more space left over. I could use it to shift some of the boxes from the hallway.

Or I could try to empty those boxes……

The Plan (first draft) 2

I’ve been, jokingly, telling people I’m having a mid-life crisis. It’s to comfort them when they get confused at my recent burst of planning. And myself. I’m a little discombobulated by it as well.

Every few years I have a crisis of some form, something which sets me off reassessing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. The turmoil in the last year has mostly affected people around me, but it’s been impossible not to be affected by it. All in all, I was due a re-evaluation, and it hit me at the end of last month.

I was pushed into action by a couple of things. Harry is planning to cycle around the country in December, visiting all those places he’s always meant to see (with luck Harry should be posting about his cold cycle adventure, and the build up to it, here soon). And I got a book called The 4-Hour Work Week from the library. Harry reminded me that I had things I wanted to do which I was putting off until some unspecified point in the future, 4HWW showed me how one person had gone about reorganising their life to do more of the stuff they wanted to by wasting less of their time on the stuff that didn’t matter.

Over half of 4 Hour Work Week didn’t, I felt, apply to me, but I’m going to shamelessly nick some bits from it. Specifically some of the ideas in the first few chapters. Basically, you can’t achieve your goals until you’ve defined them properly. Basic project management, I’m sure, and not a great revelation, but I’ve got to start somewhere. As Joe Jackson put it, You Can’t Get What You Want Till You Know What You Want.

When I announced that I had a plan I said I wanted to go Interrailing next year and then move to a foreign city for an extended period. I hadn’t quite figured it out for myself, but neither of those aims is the real plan, just things to do when the plan works out. The plan, simply put, is to be able to afford to do these things independently of being employed by someone else. More specifically, to make enough money from my writing to fund the adventures which will serve as inspiration and research for further stories. I know this is essentially what I’ve been trying to do for as long as Spinneyhead has been running, but a lot of stuff has changed this year to make it easier to achieve. The market for authors publishing independently has finally caught up with where I wanted it to be in 2001. The growth of the market for ebooks is the main reason for this. Amazon’s Kindle is the market leader, and it became possible for authors outside the USA to publish for it at the start of the year. I didn’t notice this development for a while, so I’m about six months behind where I should be. Never mind.

So I sat down last week and started mapping out what I should do to achieve my goal.

First a little maths. The average UK wage is £25,400. Now there’s no way I expect to go from nothing to that in a year, so let’s set a more realistic target, £15,000pa for instance. One of the good things about Kindle sales is that, in the UK and US markets, any book over $2.99 gets the author a 70% royalty. Other territories, and lower prices, return 35%. There’s a bandwidth charge based upon the size of the book, but it shouldn’t be more than cents. So a $2.99 will make me around $2.09. Taking the pound to be worth $1.70 and doing a bit of spreadsheet formula twiddling it looks like I need to average 34 sales a day of $2.99 books (or equivalents- 4 x $1.99 or 6 x $0.99) to make £15,000 in a year. That is 34 sales every day, but the beauty of ebooks is that once they’re published they carry on working for me whatever the day and whatever else I’m doing.

One of the important distinctions I’ve been able to make was between targets I can achieve and ones which I cannot directly make happen. I can’t make 34 people every day buy my books, but I can do various things to make sales more likely. So that minimum number of sales is a desired outcome, I should set some targets to hit which will help me achieve it.

Starting with an obvious target, I have milestones of averaging 500, and then 1000, words a day. This may not sound like much, but 500 word a day is 180,000 words a year, which is a big book. Or lots of smaller ones, which is what I’m considering. It’s also proving harder than I’d expected, especially as I’m a bit writer’s blocked on A Death In Didsbury, the next planned Irwin tale. The average includes days spent proofreading and editing, which will bring it down as well.

The writing is the easy part, the job that’s going to prove tricky is the promotion. I know that I’m really awful at self promotion, I’d much rather be making the stuff I’m supposed to be selling. Good at the sex, crap at the seduction, as I’ve put it before. I need to work out how to get better at selling myself and my work, learn to be more of a slut, if you will. More and better press releases, review copies, fliers, etc. I’ve got to try them all until I find a combination which works.

Which brings me to a more clearly defined deadline. I have a competition planned for the launch of the new look, and new to Kindle, Sounds of Soldiers. I’m building a small diorama which I will photograph and use for the cover artwork. For the first month of release- provisionally November 5th until December 5th- people can enter a competition to win the original art, the model, for the cover. Entries will be based upon buying or promoting the book, in a similar manner to that used by Zoe Winters in the competition she ran to launch her last book. Her competition only lasted a week, but she has an established readership to kick start the promo, I’ll have to build mine.

After setting milestones and a few firm deadlines there should also be some more open achievements to aim for. Stuff without a due date, though they can be broken down into “do as soon as possible” and “do when it is possible”. One of the ASAP aims is to learn how to create EPUB format files. Various programs will automate it for me, but so far I haven’t managed to get anything which the uploader at will validate. I may have to do it all by hand. Something to do when it becomes possible might be paying someone else to do the conversion for me, it would save time and more likely be correct.

This has rambled a bit, and not covered everything I planned to cover. It’s also taken a week to finish. Another thing to add to the list- become better at writing long posts clearly and quickly.