What Should I Write and Publish?

As an indie writer, decision making is both a blessing and a curse—I get to make them all and I have to make them all. Making decisions at any time does not come easy for me. My current one concerns what I should publish next. And beyond that I’m trying to decide what I should be writing now and in the future.

questionpandaBefore Amazon’s Kindle Press published High Tea & Flip-Flops, I self-published two novels of women’s fiction. The Brevity of Roses once hit #3 in the Kindle contemporary fiction category on Amazon, but that was only because it was FREE during a promo. But I had no hope that it or An Illusion of Trust would ever rank in a Top 100 Paid category.

Though it thrilled me to know people were reading my work, in the world of publishing my books were invisible.  As such, I didn’t feel the need to brand myself as writing a particular genre. I felt free to write whatever I wanted. I figured a few hundred readers would find my books, mainly during free or discount promos, and some of them would eventually get around to reading and maybe even reviewing them.

Those expectations changed with High Tea & Flip-Flops because Amazon has the means to make sure many more than a few people know about that book. Kindle Press published it on 28 July and by the end of August 916 people had bought or borrowed it. I won’t see the actual numbers for a few more days, but I expect that total doubled by the end of September. And because Amazon selected it for their October Kindle Monthly Deal promotion, I predict the number of sales and borrows for the third month will equal the first two months combined.

As I write this, High Tea & Flip-Flops sits at #26 on the Top 100 Paid list in the Kindle Store’s Women’s Fiction > Humor category—not a nothing category. It’s also on the Top 100 Paid in Contemporary Fiction > Romance (#69) and just shy of the Top 100 Paid in Women’s Fiction > Romance (#115) both major categories. Plus, borrows and sales have picked up on my other novels. Yes, I’m still far from being a known author, but I’m no longer a completely invisible one either.

If I’d been thinking like a career-oriented writer, I would have had another romantic comedy written or at least started before I submitted High Tea & Flip-Flops to the Kindle Scout program. But I’d surprised myself by writing one romantic comedy and certainly never intended to make a career writing them. HT & FF was a gift of sorts. One I definitely needed, considering the health problem I faced this summer.

But the truth is I didn’t really expect Kindle Press to select High Tea & Flip-Flops. I figured I’d self-publish it and write whatever I wanted next. So now I find myself conflicted.

To capitalize on the success of HT & FF, I feel I should publish another romantic comedy next—or at least a romance.  As it is, I haven’t even written the first draft of a romance or women’s fiction novel. What I have in the final stages is psychological suspense with romantic and supernatural elements. That’s what I wanted to write.

Would it be smarter to publish another book soon, even if it’s a different genre, or not publish anything for several months while I write and polish another romance, humorous or otherwise?

Do you have an opinion on this to share with me?

Linda

Writing at the speed of ???

I realize this is only the end of November, but I know from past years I won’t get much writing done in December, so I think I can predict this year’s work results. I certainly won’t have three ready-to-publish books as I’d hoped. I expect to end the year with one publish-ready manuscript; another stuck in revision, and one incomplete first draft.

quill

Writing, editing, revising, and polishing a manuscript in one year is a first for me. If I’d worked only on the completed romantic comedy, I’m sure I could have cut that time by a couple of months. Yet, according to indie book marketing advice, even ten months turnaround time is not competitive. Sigh.

Now, as I work through a final polish on that romantic comedy, I find myself doubting. This is my first time to write a book that falls squarely in the romance category—maybe even crossing over into older New Adult romance. It’s also my first attempt at comedy. So I guess I’m entitled to a few doubts. The coming months will show whether those doubts were justified.

Another concern about this story is whether I should publish it under a different name. My first two books are serious women’s fiction—book club fiction, if I may call it that. My half-finished manuscript will be the same. By publishing this under the same author name, would I risk receiving bad reviews from readers expecting this next book to be the same genre as the first two?

Yes, of course, the cover, book description, and preview will make it obvious this book is a different genre, but unfortunately, not all readers pay close attention before they buy. Then again, is it worth creating a pseudonym for just one book? Though I had a blast writing this one and would love to write another or more, as yet, I don’t have an idea for a second romantic comedy.

Oh well, I have time to decide. When I’m done with this polish, I’ll have to write a book description (pure torture) and create the cover—which looks fantastic in my head.

I hope you’re feeling good about the first eleven months of this year and the last month will put the cherry on top. For those of you in the U.S.—Happy Thanksgiving!

Linda

Kindle Unlimited and Other News

If you haven’t heard, Amazon has started Kindle Unlimited, a new ebook subscription service that some are dubbing “Netflix for books.” Right now, they’re offering a free 30-day trial. I’m anxious to see how this works out for authors whose books are part of this new service. Since my books are enrolled in Kindle Select, they’re automatically available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. So if you haven’t read The Brevity of Roses and the sequel An Illusion of Trust, take advantage of the free trial and download them now.

The Brevity of Roses: A man discovers himself through the two women he loves.    AIT_welcome_14

And speaking of those books …

You know those times when you think a task will be simple and quick to accomplish? Yeah, I don’t usually have those. It seems I operate under a different rule—Murphy’s Law maybe? About ten days ago, I got this bright idea to update the interior files for my published books. I wanted to update the cover designer’s name in one book and correct a typo and a punctuation error. No big deal … except.

Except that I can’t take the html that Word creates and upload it directly to KDP or even convert it as is to mobi or epub because I like to use my own CSS style sheet, which has to be fiddled with for each book. Except that I chose a new program to convert my customized html to epub, and I had to learn how to use it first. Except that I couldn’t get the table of contents to work the way I wanted in either ebook. Except that, after conversion, I decided to substitute a different scene break “ornament” in the ebook version of one book. Except that … nah, I’ll spare you the rest. Eventually, I completed the task.

Now that I’ve updated already published novels, it’s time to get back to work on the ones I’m writing now. I had hoped to have the first draft of my romantic comedy completed by the end of this month, but that would take a miracle to accomplish. This month has been more family-focused than usual. I don’t know about you, but I’m at my most productive when I have long stretches of time to settle into writing mode and then keep the story simmering on the back burner during breaks. My usual daily life supports that, but when my routine changes every few days, as it has this month, my creative side retreats.

And since we’re playing hoteliers to three dogs (plus our Maggie) this weekend, I doubt I’ll get much writing done, but for the last few days of July and on into August, I’ll be playing catch up. I believe I said in January that I wouldn’t publish anything this year, but that may not be the case. I might be ready to publish one book before the end of 2014 and then another (or two) in 2015. Maybe I’ll publish some short stories, too. It’s time for me to make a louder noise in this publishing game.

I hope your July has run smoother than mine.

Linda

Garbage writing?

Several weeks ago, I felt myself slipping into melancholia. It’s my nature and I accept that, but I try not to give into it for long. This time, reading what I shouldn’t triggered my dark mood. I’d read a couple of blog posts that made ol’ low-confidence me want to remove my books from the market and disappear from the virtual world.

garbageOne of those posts advised indie writers not to subject readers to garbage work—and I agree with that. The problem was that they defined garbage work as any writing that hasn’t been professionally edited. The bottom line: if you can’t afford to hire a professional editor you don’t have the right to publish.

The other post advised publishing only professionally edited writing—with this stipulation: if you do have the audacity to publish work not professionally edited, you must make it permanently free. After all, how dare you expect someone to pay for what is undoubtedly garbage!

I hung my head.

I hadn’t hired a professional editor for my first two books, but I didn’t have the heart to take them completely off the market. They’re exclusive with Amazon, for the time being, so I couldn’t make them permanently free, but I considered lowering the ebook prices to 99-cents and withdrawing the print version.

For a while, I was sad, sad, sad.

And then I said, “Hold on. Who says?”

Unfortunately, I didn’t save the posts, but if I recall correctly, someone affiliated with traditional publishing wrote one of them, and a professional editor wrote the other. So, yeah, consider the source.

No matter how much self-confidence I lack, no matter how hard my perfectionist nature judges my writing, this I know: my writing is not garbage!

For reasons I’ve stated before, I don’t think traditional publishing is for me, so having access to a professional editor that way is out.

The other option is to spend my entire month’s income to hire a freelance professional editor. Unfortunately, I’m too fond of running water, electricity, and food to make that sacrifice.

So I won’t be hiring a professional editor for my next book—unless I find one willing to volunteer their services in exchange for a testimonial or a money miracle occurs (not holding my breath for either.)

Instead, as before, I’ll write, edit, revise, seek feedback from capable writer friends whose writing is strong where mine is weak, and then edit and revise again, as many times as it takes to assure the result won’t be garbage.

I guarantee: My books won’t change the world or likely ever bear the New York Times Best Seller banner or may not suit your particular reading taste, but they’ll never be garbage.

Linda

My salad days, when I was green in judgment . . .

Research the origin of the phrase “salad days” and you’ll discover, especially in the U.S., it’s currently used to mean being at the peak of one’s abilities. That’s not how I’m using it. I use it as did William Shakespeare when he coined it in 1606. “My salad days, When I was green in judgment …” is from Anthony and Cleopatra: Act I, Scene 5 and Cleopatra speaks of her youthful naivete.

salad_mI’m a long way from my youth in life, but not in novel writing. In the fall of 2008, I was in the midst of writing the first draft of my novel The Brevity of Roses. Concerning the publishing business, I was not only hopeful that I’d be a success, I was confident. Ah, yes. I was “green in judgment.” I was naive. But I felt alive.

When I finished writing that novel, I queried it to the big name agents, none of whom broke the sound barrier in their haste to send me a contract. I revised my query letter and sent it to other agents. I received some, but not a lot of response. My confidence took a big hit. My hope waned.

Then, a major change in my life circumstances made the idea of self-publishing attractive. In hindsight, I see how “green in judgment” I remained. I am not naturally suited to indie publishing by personality. But I was even less suited to it after  the agent querying process eroded my confidence. Since publication, some lovely positive reviews have helped restore a bit of that, but I fear I’ll never regain it completely.

I know I can’t fully return to those salad days. It’s unrealistic to think I can retain naivete and gain experience at the same time. But my Muse, jaded by reality, misses the exuberance of her “youth.” I’m having a devil of a time shutting off that publishing/marketing voice that questions every aspect of what I’m trying to write now.

To say I’m stressed is putting it mildly—and stress, for me, always takes a physical toll. Before I published my first novel, I was a few pounds overweight, but otherwise mostly healthy. Now, I’m more pounds overweight than I can bear to say, and I’m beaten down with health problems. In some sense, I have to find a way back to those “salad days” of writing.

I really don’t want to make the decision not to publish anything more, but I do want to write without distraction from publishing/marketing concerns. I need to recapture some of the innocence that made my fingers fly over the keyboard, thrilled at the story unfolding before me. I need to throw off these chains of stress and depression by believing once again that the story I’m writing is wonderful and the words flowing from my imagination will speak to readers in the way I’ve always dreamed.

So, I rescind my statement in a previous post that I hoped to have two books ready for publishing by the end of 2014. I don’t know if I’ll have even one ready. Right now, publishing is off my radar. I want to write. Further marketing of what I’ve already written is not something I can deal with, either. I want to interact in social media simply for the fun of it, like I did in my salad days … but maybe with a little less greeness.

It’s time to quit frowning and start smiling again. It’s time to feel alive again.

Linda