2012 Resolutions & Goals
December 30, 2011
I almost didn't put these up here, because, well, it's really none of your business, right? Anyway, here they are, broken into 4 categories of sorts.
1. Earn $80,000+
It's do-able, I've done it before, and it solves a lot of money problems when I make that much. But I also remind myself that if I spend all my time working on projects I don't enjoy just because they're big money-makers, I'm on the wrong path.
2. Publish 3 reports re. Terry Communications, LLC.
A couple years ago I tried newsletter publishing and found I didn't really have the time for it (or financial resources). Last year I spent some time on some web-based things, but didn't follow through because my heart really wasn't in it. This year I'm thinking of publishing a couple reports directly and selling them myself and/or via various e-publishers. These would be the types of business reports I write for clients already. We'll see how this goes.
3. Write a nonfiction book proposal.
Almost didn't put this one down. I wrote one last year we didn't sell. I'm not 100% sure what I want to write about, although I have a couple ideas. Once I settle on an idea, I need to do research. But it's on my radar, so again, we'll see.
I've separated this for the first time from business.
4. Finish THE SINS OF THE FATHER and market and/or publish it.
5. Finish short story, "Humanitarian Aid" and market it.
6. Finish another novel and market and/or publish it (CRYSTAL STORM, CAPITOL SECRETS, A PLAGUE OF STARS or something else).
7. Write another Derek Stillwater novella and publish it with DIRE STRAITS.
Health & Fitness
8. Lose 18 pounds.
9. Run 2 or 3 organized 5Ks
10. Run/walk 7 or 8 miles at least once.
I haven't numbered these because I don't see them (except the last one) as an actual goal, but rather more of a focus for the first part of the year.
CBAs (combined basics advanced): Work in particular on San-Go and San-Ju.
These are combinations and they both, not surprisingly, involve a fair number of kicks. San-Go, for instance, is 3 kicks, front, back, to the side, all without putting your foot down in between. These two CBAs I feel are my weakest, so I'm going to put special emphasis on them for a while until I either get sick of working on them or feel like my improvement has reached a temporarily acceptable level.
Forms: Work in particular on Empi-Uraken.
I know all the steps, and there are always other things to work on, but Empi-Uraken is one that eludes me most in terms of "why am I doing what I'm doing?" Parts of it I understand. But there are some spins that I'm not terribly proficient at and I'm also not clear on why I would want to do them and when. I could just ask, of course, but in my experience that gets me only partway toward where I need to get; I need to experiment and work on it and then I see things as possibilities. Also, I need to practice the spins to the point where I could actually imagine doing them in a real-world situation without having to think about them.
Kata: Learn the entire choreography to Sanchin-San.
I've been a shodan for a little over a year. There's no rule that I'm aware of that says you need to learn Sanchin-San to get to nidan (2nd degree black belt), but Sanchin-San is essentially the first kata (technically second, but anyway...) and I've worked on it and probably know the steps of about the first 2/3, although it's not clear to me how accurate what I know actually is. As the thing I wrote about Empi-Uraken above might suggest, knowing the moves and knowing the applications are two different things. This year I want to learn all the steps to Sanchin-San (About a hundred or so). Learning what it's all about, well, that's another 20 or 30 years of practice and study.
P.S. One thing I've learned over the years is two-fold: 1) Sometimes I don't meet my goals and resolutions for a number of reasons - sometimes because they require involvement of other people and... 2) Sometimes my priorities change. With #2 and #3 I can imagine that happening fairly easily, simply by deciding they're interesting ideas, but I don't have the time or enthusiasm needed to actually make them work. I would point out also that #2 and #3 are the ones I have the most doubts about anyway. Well, except #8. No doubt it's a great idea, but...
Evaluation 2011, Part 2
December 29, 2011
So yesterday I talked about my goals and resolutions for 2011 and how I did. Today I wanted to look back over the year and bring up some things that occurred that I didn’t expect, not all of them writing-related.
In November of 2010 both my oldest son, Ian, and I, received our black belts (shodan, i.e., first degree) in Sanchin-Ryu karate. Typically before they let you teach a class you undergo a year (or so) of apprenticeship with a higher-ranking sensei or master. For reasons still not completely clear to me, Ian and I were given a class to teach in the spring of 2011. (Ian continues to apprentice with a 6th-degree master.) During the summer it became a combined class at a different location, and this fall continued back at our original location. Teaching karate has been both a joy and a pain in the ass, often simultaneously, and I’ve found it to be a very enriching and educational experience. I suspect I learn more than my students do.
Yes, I organized, edited and published a collection of short stories, DEADLY BY THE DOZEN
. An interesting experience that I enjoyed, for the most part, although from a financial point of view it’s been something of a mess. Still, I enjoyed working with the writers. I also self-pubbed FREELANCE WRITING FOR A LIVING,
which also has sold almost no copies, and THE FORTRESS OF DIAMONDS,
which also has sold almost no copies. Hmmm. Well, as I’ve figured out, it’s good just to have them out there and you never know, they may make money someday. I don’t regret writing or publishing them.
Friends convinced us to take part in a bowling league. Neither Leanne nor I are particularly good bowlers. The league we’re in has been described as a “drinking league with a bowling problem,” which seems to me to be a completely accurate description. So every other Saturday night we bowl. And drink. And often go out and eat and drink afterwards. I’m still a crappy bowler, but I’m having fun and meeting a lot of new people in town, which I believe is primarily the point. Now, if the scoring in bowling was only more like golf – low score wins, right?
I’ve been exercising a lot the last five or six years. It seems to have solidified into the things I most prefer to do: weight lifting, biking, running, karate. That's probably one more activity than I really need, but life's short and I enjoy and benefit from all of them for different reasons. I also walk the dog a lot and kayak in season. I lift 2 or 3 days a week, bike 3 or 4 days a week, run 3 days a week, teach karate one day a week, typically visit another class one day a week, and do my own personal karate workouts a couple days a week. It’s a mood enhancer, if nothing else. I could give up running if the right motivation to do so came along, but I persist for reasons that I don’t completely understand. I do think I’d be a far better Sanchinka if I spent more time on it, but it’s also a constantly receding horizon, because the more karate I do the more I seem to have to learn. Hence, martial "art," I suppose.
Did some article ghostwriting.
I mentioned this before, but I worked as an article ghostwriter/collaborator with a physician and a health information technology consultant this year. I don’t know how much more of it I will do, but it gave me some entrée into some publications I hadn’t been able to break into alone, so it was worthwhile. And collaborating can be an interesting thing to do. On the other hand, it makes you dependent upon someone else who has different priorities than you do and that annoyed the hell out of me. So if the right opportunities come along, great; if not, well, that’s okay.
I’d done a tiny bit of this before, but this year I did a lot and expect/plan to do more in the future. It’s rather like making a living writing college research papers, but it’s lucrative and interesting and I’m good at it.
Spent 4 or 5 days on a trip to New York City with the high school marching band. I blogged about this. We did more in 4 or 5 days than many New Yorkers do in their lifetimes, it seems, and it was a really wonderful trip. Now I look forward to returning to NYC without a herd of teenagers and being able to wander the Met without a time limit or touring The Intrepid or tons of other things.
So, overall, a pretty good year.
Evaluating 2011, Part 1
December 28, 2011
Well, since I insist on creating resolutions/goals etc., for upcoming years, I suppose this is the time to look at the ones I made at the end of 2010 and see how I did.
1. Lose 12 pounds.
No. I didn't. Probably enough said. I exercise more than ever, am probably in the best shape of my life in many ways, but I eat too much and I eat too much of the wrong types of foods. An ongoing struggle.
2. Earn $80,000+ with my writing.
No. Not even close. 2011 was one of my worst years, very close to 2009 in terms of being shitty financially. 2010 was my best year ever. If I average the three years, then I'm quite happy. So the key might be better financial management. I was also hit in 2011 by a non-paying client and a client that had me to do work, then went out of business. Although they claimed they would honor the invoices, nagging hasn't gotten me any money. Also, a third client, whose work is ongoing, hired me and a bunch of other writers to revamp a corporation's giant website. The corp was wildly impractical in terms of their timeline, so although it looked like I would make upward of $8000 on this gig in 2011, I've made about $2000 or so, although I fully expect to make the rest and more in 2012 as everyone's expectations about the size of the project and the timeline starts to merge with reality. I also did some reports that either are totally royalty-based (something of an experiment) or partially royalty-based, so I won't see monies (if I do at all) until sometime in 2012.
3. Finish SINS OF THE FATHERS and get a contract for it.
This is the 5th Derek Stillwater and no, I haven't finished it. I don't know if Oceanview will be interested in it when I do, or if I will even show it to them given that they expressed no interest in looking at the partial earlier in the year. I'm working on it, I will finish it, and it will be published, either sometime in 2012 as an e-book and trade paper, or at a later date in various formats by Oceanview. I just plain don't know yet.
4. Finish A PLAGUE OF STARS and start to market it.
Um, no. This is an SF novel I've been working on for a couple years and it's stalled, although it's on my to-do list for 2012. I'm also working on a short story with the same main character and in the same universe.
5. Finish FREELANCE WRITING FOR A LIVING and e-pub it.
Yes, I did this. To-date, this wildly successful nonfiction book has sold two copies. One to myself. Go me.
6. Make all my current e-books available on PubIt and in paper.
Yes, although not completely. But some of them. This is a slow and ongoing process, but I give it a "qualified yes."
7. Finish CHINA FIRE and begin marketing.
Um, no. And maybe never. Hard to say. But out of several WIPs, this one's not on my radar. Sorry, Natasha. Maybe someday.
8. Get at least one more book contract signed.
Well, yes, although not the way I expected. The point of this was to get a contract for a novel or nonfiction book. That didn't happen, although I self-published several books this year. More about that in tomorrow's post, I think. What did happen was I was contracted by FierceBiotech to write an e-book and it paid quite well, even though the timeframe was murder. These are not really books in the way we think of them, they're really a series of interconnected articles on a single topic and run maybe 5000 words. But I did it, got paid for it, it got published, and got contracted for another one due at the end of January, so I'm happy, actually.
9. Get a ghostwriting gig.
Again, I did a fair amount of article-based ghostwriting this year and although I was thinking of bigger money for book clients when I wrote this resolution, it was an interesting experience overall and I made some money and connections with it.
10. Write a nonfiction book proposal.
Yes, I did this. Probably one of the most intelligent resolutions I have here, because it was under my control. I wrote it, got an agent for it, she marketed it some, it didn't sell. Still, there it is, I have a relationship with the agent, and I think in 2012 I'm going to cannibalize parts of the proposal and try to sell the parts to magazines in the subject area. And it's a nice addition to the portfolio and was a good experience.
11. Run a 5K.
I did. It was both horrible and glorious. I'd injured myself a couple weeks before and was just starting to recover, but having paid for it, I ran it with my youngest son, Sean (who damn near lapped me), and I pulled a muscle pretty badly in the first half mile or so, but kept stumbling through the course. It was a sunny, clear and cold day and the course was through woods and farmland and dirt roads and hell, as painful as it was, I'm looking forward to running more of them. I've got my "elitefeet 34" big number on my wall in my office.
Tomorrow I'll look at things that happened in 2011 that I didn't plan for but that I think were good.
December 27, 2011
I've been thinking about "sustainability" a lot recently. Particularly in terms of the so-called e-book revolution. A number of writers have been touting how traditional publishing is dead and the future is self-publishing e-books and they've been showing how much money they've been making doing so. I think everyone reading this will recognize the names: Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Scott Nicholson, Lee Goldberg, Blake Crouch, etc.
My point here isn't to criticize any of them. I've met Joe and Barry and like them both. I have a lot of respect for what they're doing, and when they speak, I listen. I've never met Lee although we've occasionally had reason to email back and forth and I've been an active participant on his blog for years. I don't know Scott or Blake. I think one reason these folks get mentioned here and in other places is they have been the loudest (and occasionally shrillest) advocates of e-book self-publishing.
And you know what? I'm not one to talk. I currently have these books available as self-published e-books:
The Devil's Pitchfork
(which was originally published in paper by a legacy publisher)
The Serpent's Kiss
(also originally published in paper by a legacy publisher)
The Battle for Atlantis
The Fortress of Diamonds
Freelance Writing For A Living
Deadly By The Dozen
I've also got a few books out that were traditionally published, are only available in paper, and two that are available in both through the legacy publisher (The Fallen
and The Valley of Shadows
If you went back about a year to 18 months, most of the above-mentioned writers were rolling in money, reporting $50,000 and $80,000 and $300,000 a year sales on their e-books. Awesome!
That's like a license to print money.
Except what I noticed was that a few months ago Joe, Scott and Lee all mentioned that their sales had dipped ... dramatically.
It's entirely possible that this dip is just that, a dip. They'll come out with new books and the numbers will increase. And as they (and I, for that matter, though far more quietly) say, the shelf-life of an e-book is infinite (I might argue with that actually, but another day), and forever is a long time, so over time the sales will be greater than they would if they had gone out of print in paper. Also, it has been pointed out, because the books are out there, they can gain an audience at any time.
Both are true, I think. I know that paper books get returned pretty damn fast from bookstores and although they're generally available for some time through online retailers. Therefore, even if an ebook sells modestly (how modestly, he wonders?), if it continues to sell modestly for 5 years, it will sell far more than it would have in 6 weeks in a bookstore. My only caveat to that is the "how modestly?" question. Some of the folks who are the biggest advocates of e-book self-publishing have been selling hundreds and thousands of copies of their e-books each month. They envision that continuing.
Those of us who have had e-books that sold 4 copies a month can envision that continuing, too, but so what? That's desirable? Even with the $2 royalty on a $2.99 copy, it'll take me 2 or 3 years just to get into the black from the modest expenses for cover art and layout. And believe me on this, a LOT of people's e-books sell like that.
This month, for me, has been quite good. I've probably sold a total of 800 or 900 e-books total. The two top sellers are The Devil's Pitchfork and The Serpent's Kiss, each of which have both sold over 300 copies to-date in December. But it's worth pointing out that some of the others have sold 3 or 4 or 5 or 20 or 30.
Hey, I'd be totally amped if Pitchfork and Serpent continued to sell over 300 copies a month for an indefinite period of time. But having been on the other end, the 3 or 4 copies, then the 8 or 9 copies, then the 12 or 15, then 20 or 25 copies end of things, I'll wait to crow about how sustainable it is.
As for being able to gain an audience at any time, yeah, I agree with that. My December sales are ALMOST completely directly related to my legacy publisher offering THE FALLEN for free for the month of December. It worked. (And recently a relative asked me if Amazon was paying me for those free books. Um... no.)
That said, my sales had picked up in November before that happened and I'm not sure why. I suspect that my online publication of DIRE STRAITS helped. But I don't really know.
I would point out that the primary difference I see between the sustainability of an e-book self-publishing career and a career writing books with legacy and/or traditional publishers seems to be control. A legacy publisher can (and will) dump you with very little reason and with precious little explanation. They have short attention spans, and even if a book makes a modest profit, they may still dump you. Most writers who've been around for any length of time have had it happen to them. Bad sales, not a surprise. Slow sales that still make a profit ... well, that happened all the time. A publisher would look at an authors' body of work and say, "Well, after the initial big push was over, sales have continued to increase by 2% each book. But we want it to be 10%, so we're dropping the writer."
That's business. Too much supply, not enough demand. Finite resources on the part of publishers.
You can read far more into it than that, but that's really what it comes down to. A publisher has finite resources and if sales don't grow the way they want or expect, well, there's always other writers to try. If the e-book self-publishing trend has proven anything, it's that there's a hell of a lot of "product" out there, - thousands and thousands of people who write books. I'm not going to even go into quality.
No conclusions other than sustaining a writing career is hard. It was hard before and it's hard now. The writer has more options now - good - and more control - very good - but is anything guaranteed? If you write the book and put it out on Amazon/B&N/Smashwords/iBooks et al., will they come? Will readers find it, read it, recommend it, will sales grow?
My answer: not necessarily.
But who knows?
Labels: careers, e-book publishing, e-books, fiction writing
Me, Me, Me Part 6
December 24, 2011
I don't know if the final part is tomorrow or not, but here's Part 6.
Me, Me,Me Part 5: When the Write Way is the Wrong Way
Me, Me, Me Part Troi: On Rabbits and Chromosomes & Part 4: Angels
Me, Me, Me Part Deux: When Red Eyes Blue
It's Me, Me, Me Week!
December 19, 2011
I'd actually forgotten all about this, but I wrote a 7-part series about me and my writing career for Novelspot, which begins today
You Might Be Curious
December 16, 2011
So, my publisher, Oceanview, offered last year's Derek Stillwater novel, THE FALLEN
, for FREE on the Amazon Kindle. It moved its way up to #1 for a while on the Amazon bestseller lists (for free) although it's dropped down to about #51 overall, although as of today it's still #3 in the Action/Thriller list. Great advertising that.
In that I get no money from this (nor does my publisher, presumably), the question becomes: Did it do anything for your other books? I have no answer to that in terms of the paper versions of THE FALLEN or any of the versions of THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS.
I do, however, have some data on how it affected e-book sales of my other titles on Amazon. So, keeping in mind that today is the 16th and due to Amazon's silliness they didn't actually get the price down to $0.00 until about the 5th or 6th, here's what happened to my other titles to-date.
|1||DEADLY BY THE DOZEN||B004OA6KFQ||3||0||3||0|
|3||Freelance Writing For A Living||B004XNKWSA||1||0||1||0|
|6||The Battle For Atlantis||B003QHZ7V6||10||0||10||0|
|7||The Devil's Pitchfork||B003LSTW3E||231||3||228||0|
|8||The Fortress of Diamonds||B005HVZ96M||3||0||3||0|
|9||The Serpent's Kiss||B003NUQRA6||204||2||202||0|
Clearly we can see that the incentive increased interest in THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and THE SERPENT'S KISS. How much? Well, sales were increasing in November anyway for no completely identifiable reason, although I suspect the blog-publishing of DIRE STRAITS had something to do with it.
It's having some effect on HOT MONEY
, which is gratifying, and on EDGE
. THE BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS
sells about that many copies each month anyway. The other titles, well, they haven't budged much. Typical sales of PITCHFORK and SERPENT prior to November were something like 20 to 30 copies each. So clearly something has happened, and just getting onto the Kindle lists probably has a lot to do with it. I've always argued that the best advertising in the world is actually getting onto certain bestseller lists, and this seems to confirm that.
So, I'm happy about it. I'm not confident in the sales' sustainability, but I'll get a nice deposit into my checking account at the end of the month that will help me somewhat offset my Christmas spending. I would generally have preferred THE FALLEN show up in the Top 10 of the list on December 25th so a million or so people who found Kindles under their Christmas trees would download it, but, as they say, timing is everything. Hopefully it'll still have some legs in a week.
As for how this compares to my Nook sales and sales via Smashwords, well. Last I checked (yesterday), I had sold 2 copies of Pitchfork and 2 copies of Serpent this month, and nothing else. On Smashwords, hell, I haven't sold anything on Smashwords in months.
After a dry blogging period, I'm hoping to do some semi-regular posts from now until the end of the year that will address publishing and e-book sales and writing in general and what I'm thinking about 2011 and 2012.
Labels: Amazon, Derek Stillwater, e-book sales, e-books, Nook, novel marketing "The Serpent's Kiss", publishing, Smashwords, THE FALLEN, The Valley of Shadows
THE FALLEN - #1 Bestseller