2012 – A Year of Big Goals

2011 Business Plan in Review

Start up publishing company

Check! Doing it was easy. Finding a name for the publishing company was hard. It took almost two months of thinking, putting up ideas on a dry-erase board, and researching domain names before I settled on “Star Catcher Publishing.”

Set up Distribution and Retailer Accounts

Again, rather easy and straight-forward. This took maybe an hour.

Publishing Goals

Then came the plan of what projects to finish and publish. This was a short list of three novellas and one novel. Good news is that I achieved this goal.

The better news is that I also achieved the second-year goal, and most of the third and fourth. This was good for business, no question, but it made me thing about what the goals should be going into 2012.

New Types of Goals

The one thing I’ve learned this past year is the need to be flexible in the writing business. Sometimes one or another project is working better. Sometimes another project needs to be brought forward because of increased interest in a sub-genre. Sometimes a cover is ready for one but not another.

I kept this in mind in deciding the goals for 2012.

2012 Writing Plan

2012 Business plan

Writing Goals:
500,000 new words
250,000 revision words

Publication Goals:
12 new releases in 2012.
Get out paperback versions of the novels.

Nice and simple. I did not define any of the goals down to the point of naming exact books or series. I did not decide it would be so many novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories.

Nope. I kept it at overall word count for both new words and revision words. Doing it this way I can keep going without guilt. Work on the projects that need to be worked on. Bring projects forward in the queue if I think they need to be. Push back books that are having problems.

At the same time, I’m also stretching myself. I’ve never tried 500,000 new words in a year. For the second half of 2011 I was able to write 300,000 with the help of NaNoWriMo, so I have high hopes of achieving the goal. Even if I don’t make it, I’m sure to come out of 2012 with a heck of a lot of new words!

I’m not as fast at revision, so I’m working towards a lower goal on that with the hopes of building up so that the new words and revision words will eventually be the same each year. In 2011 I’ve taken great strides in it, which is what happens when you practice something a lot. Here’s to 2012 being even better! :clink:

2012 promises to be a year of stretching the writing wings, trying new things, continuing to learn to be flexible, and most of all, telling ever more stories. I can’t wait!

____________________

J.A. Marlow

2012 - A Year of Big Goals

Coffee Cup Dreams

She wasn’t supposed to wake up when dead…

During what should have been a simple operation, Tish Douglas died. And yet, she also awoke… in what the doctors called a ‘psi event.’

Despite having no memory of the incident, it means she’s required to go on a life-time course of debilitating drugs designed to reign in her supposedly new psi gifts. She’s left with the option of existing on Earth in a drug-haze, or leave the planet.

When an opportunity for a good paying job on a space station known as Redpoint One is offered, she jumps at the chance. Even though she doesn’t have any experience as a ‘maintenance engineer.’ Even though the station sits in the middle of nowhere, a still-operating construct of a long-gone alien species.

Between pirate attacks, intelligent repair robots, and maintenance emergencies, Tish must find a place for herself.

All complicated by a growing attraction to the one person on the station she can’t have: boss Arthur Getty.

A stand-alone 48400 word, 193 page (approximate), science fiction romance novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

A New Year, Pondering A New Writing Plan

Wow, it’s amazing what a year can do to plans. Way back in December 2009 I created a business plan for writing which included writing and submitting multiple novels to publishers in order to increase the odds of hitting the right editor at the right time. 2010 increased the writing, and also took advantage of new distribution opportunities. The writing of the novels hasn’t changed, but the choices for a newly created novel have.

The 2010 plan was an ambitious one. Each month had listed a project to complete, with a total of 10 projects set out for the year. As of December I’m at 19 projects. Yikes, how did that happen!? It’s a good “yikes” but I still find it amazing.

So, what is the plan for 2012? The Squirrels have hit again, with every potential writing project jumping up and down, waving their hands, and yelling “Me! Me next!” It’s so hard to choose between them!

But, I will. The 2012 writing plan is in progress along with what projects to produce in what order (a flexible order). 11 more days to figure out the January project… hmm… I better get that figured out!

Out of curiosity, are any other writers out there preparing a writing or business plan going into 2012? Let me know in the comments if you are.

Thank you, readers, other writers, and supporters, for an amazing 2011. I hope 2012 will be even better!

____________________

J.A. Marlow

A New Year, Pondering A New Writing Plan

The String Weavers (The String Weavers – Book 1)

Kelsey Hale thinks she’s just a typical mixed-up teenager. Everyone feels that way, her teachers assure her. Yet, strange things happen to her, like food disappearing before she can eat it and hearing music no one else hears.

Then a giant flaming bird drops an alien at her feet. Well, good grief, how can you ignore something like that?

Abducted from Earth, the only planet she’s ever known, Kelsey finds herself thrust into the middle of a deadly conflict among alien worlds and parallel universe. She must not only survive herself, but also find a way to rescue her father from a dangerous group with unknown motives.

In the process, she’s confronted by a hidden secret about herself which will shake the very foundation of who and what she thought she was.

And connecting it all are the mysterious Weavers.

A 97,100 word, 389 page (approximate), science fiction novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Amazon Ebooks and New Page Count Feature

With ebooks we run into one very big difficulty: reader understanding how long or short a story is.

Some retailers understand this dilemma. On Omnilit and All Romance eBooks, there is a field in which to put the the word count of the work. Smashwords estimates the word count of the entire ebook when it converts your Word file into all the various ebook formats.

An ebook doesn’t have pages as physical books do. At the most they have ‘locations’ and then story separations such as chapters. As writers, we are accustomed to keeping track of word count for several reason. For queries, they are needed to let the potential publisher know how long a work is. For writers they are often used to quantify writing progress per day, week, month, and year.

However, word count means nothing to the average consumer.

Because of this, I have been placing in the product description not only the word count, but also the approximate page count using the standard 250 words per page in a manuscript. This way I could communicate to possible readers exactly what they are getting.

Today I noticed something interesting:

Amazon Ebooks and New Page Count Feature

I’m not sure how long it’s been there, as I don’t go to my book’s product pages all the time, but there it is. An estimated page length on all of the ebooks.

I do wish this information would be repeated down in the regular ebook information (and in larger type), but I can see why they put it on top. It’s seen the moment a browser hits the page.

I still intend to put the length information in the description, as I believe this small typeface could easily be missed. Also, I estimate the page length of the story itself, and not everything as it looks like Amazon does. By everything, I mean not only the story, but also the title page, acknowledgments, dedications, copyright pages, and so on.

By the way, as shown in the screenshot, “Glint of a Suncatcher” is available free for a short time. Grab it while you can!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | iBookstore

Thoughts on the Amazon Select Lending Library

Amazon has announced a special ebook lending library for Prime subscribers. In the past several days they have sent emails out to the authors and publishers who use their KDP platform inviting them to join.

“We’re excited to introduce KDP Select – a new option dedicated to KDP authors and publishers worldwide, featuring a fund of $500,000 in December 2011 and at least $6 million in total for 2012!  KDP Select gives you a new way to earn royalties, reach a broader audience, and use a new set of promotional tools.”

At first it sounds like a great idea, as a way to get added exposure for your books. Until you start looking at the details…

Borrowing Details and Ebook Pricing

Each Prime member can borrow only one book per month. If you, as a Prime owner, could borrow only one book and you had a choice between a $.99 book and a $12.99 book, which would you borrow? Or even $2.99 and $12.99?

The better value from the borrower’s point of view will be the higher priced ebook. Lower priced books (which are typically Indie) have a disadvantage in this program.

The Select borrowing program might be a way to target the Prime demographic through the browsing area, but unless you are lucky, don’t count on a large number of borrowers or making money…

Money

Amazon has set up a monthly ‘pot’ from which to pay for any books signed borrowed. Please note that no money goes to an author or a publisher for simply enrolling a book. For December, this fund is $500,000. How much is paid out on a specific book depends on what percentage of the total overall loans are made on a particular book. (The TOS for the Select program also includes an unexplained passage about Amazon deciding “the criteria for determining which borrowing events qualify for this calculation.” You would think a borrow is a borrow. Apparently not.)

For instance, if your book accounts for 1.5% of the total loans for December, then that book would earn $7500. There are already tens of thousands of books included in the program. Start doing the math. It gets ugly really fast.

The problem is the sheer numbers of other books also in the program and the fact that each Prime member can only take out on loan 1 book per month. Only one! Yes, you might be one of the lucky ones to get a high percentage of loans for a particular month and receive a good payout. Most likely, you will get a pittance.

“I have to go where the money is,” is something else I’ve heard said. Ahem, there is no guaranteed payout per book, and for this you are giving up diversification? No one knows if there is money in this yet for the average enrolled book!

Which brings us up to:

Exclusivity

“When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.”

For those curious, the above is an exclusivity and non-compete clause all in one. (Please note that I am not a lawyer nor am I giving legal advice. This blog post contains only personal opinion) First we’ll tackle the Exclusivity:

If you sign up a book for the Select program it is for 90 days. No backing out early unless you want a lot of trouble. 90 days in which that particular book is available to no one else who may need or want .epub or some other ebook format. This 90 day exclusivity contract automatically renews unless you opt out ahead of time.

I have an issue with this. I have readers all over the world, some of them in areas where Amazon charges a $2 surcharge (which Amazon keeps to itself). As a consequence, I sell on venues such as Kobo, Apple, and Smashwords. Unless I am being compensated for not serving those customers, I have a huge problem with leaving them out. Heck, even with a good wad of money involved, I have a problem with it.

I truly believe that diversification is good for the author (eggs not all in one basket) as well as for the readers. It prevents business strangleholds. It allows the books to be seen by different demographics and geo-locations.

Amazon is asking for an exclusive license of one of my copyrights. FOR FREE. I would be losing money from other channels, and the only compensation is a lottery-type setup where you might be a big winner, but most likely will get nothing or a small token ‘winning’?

Think about it.

When a publisher asks for exclusive rights to a specific book, there is typically an exchange of money. You are no longer able to make money from it in that specific area any longer for the term of the contract. There should be compensation for the granting of that license to that portion of your copyright.

If Amazon wants to pay me for the exclusive right to use a portion of my copyright, I might consider it. It would depend on how much they offered and the terms.

I don’t like the payment method Amazon has set up. Instead of providing at least a guaranteed token amount for each ebook loaned out, Amazon is instead limiting their money liability by creating one big pool of money each month that cannot be counted on to come to you individually. All while, at the same time, preventing you from making money or gaining visibility elsewhere.

By the way, I’ve seen some suggest adding something to the end of the ebook or adding a deleted scene and call it a ‘new edition’ that can be enrolled and leave the old version for sale through other retailers. Don’t do this. Really. The contract language gives Amazon all the power here, and you don’t want to give them the right to close your account and take all your owed royalties.

Non-Compete Clause

Authors, have you heard of the outcry among authors and the warnings from people like Dean Wesley Smith, Passive Voice, and so many others about avoiding career-crippling non-compete clauses in publishing contracts?

Well, Amazon has one of their own:

“During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.”

There is much concern over this clause, as it’s rather open ended. This could mean other works in the same genre or sub-genre. It could mean anything in the same series or the same universe. It could only mean the story itself and this clause disallows ‘special editions’ that add content to the ebook. Or prohibit collections or omnibus or anthologies. Or, or, or…

Oh, and if you interpret it wrong? Amazon can close your KDP account and you forfeit any monies owed. Ouch.

Please note that I am not a lawyer nor am I giving legal advice. I only thought I would point out this particular item, and it’s something that I personally as a publisher and author am worried about. (Yes, I know I’ve said this twice)

The Good

About the only real carrot I see is the ability to allow the book to go to free on Amazon for 5 days out of that 90 day period. Could this lead to a crackdown to those of us who use the price-matching feature to get books put up for free in order to make the service more attractive? Who knows at this point, but it’s possible (I fully admit that is a bit of a doomsday thought, but decided I would say it anyway).

As mentioned before, the Select borrowing program could be used as a pure promotional tool targeting the Prime demographic through the browsing area. A Prime user might then go and buy your book, or possibly borrow it.

The Bad

The sneaky and annoying redesign of the KDP dashboard. Authors and publishers, be careful about what you select and boxes you check! Amazon is making it too easy to mistakenly sign up. If you want to opt out, you are in for a lot more time and hassle when putting up a new ebook.

The exclusivity of distribution and selling, limiting an author or publisher from making money elsewhere.

***

Overall, this is a good move for Amazon ONLY. They are increasing the numbers of books available to Prime members which is another advertising point to use for their Prime program. They needed to do something after the big publishers started opting out and raising a ruckus if they were included without their permission. They limited the amount of money they are going to pay out for the Indie books, which is good for only their accounting.

Not ours.

In another 3 months, I would love to hear the experiences of anyone who participates. It would be a nice surprise if more than a few handful do very well at it. Who knows, it might have unexpected benefits. It would be wonderful if it did, since it would help off-set the minuses to the program.

For me, for now, I will continue to make my books available to everyone I can, no matter what retailer they prefer to purchase at or what ereader they prefer to read on.

____________________

J.A. Marlow

Thoughts on the Amazon Select Lending Library

Coffee Cup Dreams

She wasn’t supposed to wake up when dead…

During what should have been a simple operation, Tish Douglas died. And yet, she also awoke… in what the doctors called a ‘psi event.’

Despite having no memory of the incident, it means she’s required to go on a life-time course of debilitating drugs designed to reign in her supposedly new psi gifts. She’s left with the option of existing on Earth in a drug-haze, or leave the planet.

When an opportunity for a good paying job on a space station known as Redpoint One is offered, she jumps at the chance. Even though she doesn’t have any experience as a ‘maintenance engineer.’ Even though the station sits in the middle of nowhere, a still-operating construct of a long-gone alien species.

Between pirate attacks, intelligent repair robots, and maintenance emergencies, Tish must find a place for herself.

All complicated by a growing attraction to the one person on the station she can’t have: boss Arthur Getty.

A stand-alone 48400 word, 193 page (approximate), science fiction romance novel.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Nano 2012 Results And Things Learned

I want to smash my all-time Nano high word count of 160,605 from 2009. Can I do it?”

The verdict for 2011 “National Novel Writing Month“?

The 2009 record has been broken!

Bad news: it was broken by more of a whimper than a smash. 😛

For the first part of the month the writing was going great, despite some problems with the outlines. I hit 50,000 words in a personal best of 6 days. Yay!

Then November 17th hit. Ow, what a hard wall, and there were walls everywhere I turned. The momentum was never the same after that.

It was more than simple momentum. I also realized that the outlines had problems. Many nights I would have to stop to re-outline a problem area. This wasn’t just on one outline, it was on all of them.

This Nano became more than a simple word count challenge. It became a Nano for learning. Before I get to that, here are the final totals:

Total 2011 NaNoWriMo Word Count: 180,415

Projects completed:
A Turn of the Pipes (A Redpoint One Story)
Secret Illusions (Salmon Run)
Spectre of the White Death (Salmon Run)
Aurora Equinox (Salmon Run)
Breakup – Alaska Style (Salmon Run)
The Great Salmon Run Cake Fiasco (Salmon Run Short Story)
From Alexandria to Andromeda (Short Story)
Vaulted Career (Short Story)
The Doppleganger Accountant (Short Story)
Wolf Dance (Short Story)

(Note that Taskforce Zero is not on the above list. Why is explained below.)

A piece of good news is that all the projects started in November were finished in November. I didn’t have to carry any project into December.

The bad news is that the outlines weren’t as good as usual going into November and the writing pace really suffered for it. A series of Nano planning Workshops in late September and all through October probably didn’t help with the outline situation, as I was focused on helping other people. To top it off, I released a new short story in October (Flying Dutchman of the Spacelanes) and then finished the copyedits for “The Phoenix Eggs” so that it could be published in November.

This meant that the time spent on the outlines was not what it should have been. There were whole scenes and sections either thrown out or replotted on every single one of the five longer works written during November.

Ouch!

When I realized that the outlines were a mess, I made the decision to drop the Taskforce Zero books off the writing list. I want to take my time and go through those outlines again to make sure they are as strong as they need to be. The four books I have outlined will be the start of a series, and I want them to be as strong as possible.

Because Taskforce Zero was dropped off the writing schedule, I needed something else to write for the remaining days of Nano. I switched to short stories and made it a goal to write one new one every single day.

I do not view the problems as something to be depressed about (although I found it depressing when the realization first socked me in the middle of the forehead). Instead, I view this as a learning opportunity:

  1. I can hit 50k in less than a week if I’m really concentrating.
  2. I now know I can write one short story a day. I’d never done that before, so this was a great thing to find out.
  3. I need to take more time for myself pre-nano to make sure my own outlines are ready to go. I waited too far into the summer to start. Next year I start earlier!
  4. 200k is doable if I have good outlines, as I came really close this year. Now I just need to do the needed pre-prep and get to it! (watch out 2012 Nano!)
  5. I’ve come to really enjoy writing several books in one series all in one month. It helps on so many levels: keeping true to the characters, to the world, to the plot, carrying through small details and plot hooks. In fact, I get so immersed that it’s hard to bring myself out of a particular series, which is why the first short story was a Salmon Run story.
  6. Having fellow writers to commiserate with and to RAH you on is the greatest advantage any participant in a writing challenge can have. So, thank you to everyone at Forward Motion Chat for all your help, positive words, word wars, 100-word jumps, and simple support. It meant a great deal and got me through the worst of November.

In summary, November could have gone better on the writing front, but it also could have gone much worse considering the state of the outlines. I view it as successful because of the things I learned. They will help me become a stronger writer in the future.

Learning is always a good thing.

____________________

J.A. Marlow

Nano 2012 Results And Things LearnedBefore I forget, here is the November release I spoke about:

The Phoenix Eggs (The String Weavers – Book 2)

Growing up has never been easy, but most girls don’t have the added complication of having thought she was human only a couple weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Kelsey Hale struggles to find a place for herself among a group of String Weavers assigned the duty of stopping a madman bent on obtaining as many Phoenix Eggs as he can. What he wants with them, no one knows, but considering the raw power contained within it can’t be good. As if that weren’t enough, there’s no time for her training, resulting in a horrific event that jeopardizes her whole team.

Oh, to be only a typical teenager dealing with high school.

So much for that!

A 96200 word, 384 page (approximate), science fiction novel by J.A. Marlow.

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