Business Plan

"All things are possible. Who you are is limited by who you think you are." Egyptian Book of the DeadThe Memorial Day holiday two weeks ago tomorrow kicked off the unofficial beginning to the summer season in the US. So it hasn’t been terribly surprising to me that responses to job applications have been slow to come. But making contingency plans for an extended period of day job-less-ness has had me thinking about my other job. I’ve started writing my sixth novel, my eleventh title. Dean Wesley Smith kicked off this month with a duo of posts about writers quitting, positing that that’s the only way we derail our writing careers. And the New York Times had a thoughtful piece about how quitting (in a day job context) is sometimes the only way to get ahead.

Today, then, I ran across an author who described the process she went through to develop a business plan for her book-writing endeavor.

I’ve written business plans for hubs’ acupuncture practice, for business ideas we’ve had, and for my MBA. I haven’t done one for my writing. I’m not sure exactly why, though they are a pain to develop properly, and take time I’d prefer to dedicate to “real” writing. Yet I’ve treated my writing as a business from the very beginning, following the accounting templates Gayla had originally developed, being careful to note real costs versus actual income, and balancing promo opportunities against costs already incurred.

Since I’ve been dipping my toes into promotion much more this year than I have in the past–and I’ve been seeing an uptick in my sales in recent months–I might have to replicate Denise Grover Swank’s process for myself. In broad strokes, my goal has always been to release 2-3 titles per year… indefinitely. My assumption, based on other authors’ experience, is that at about the 20-title catalog mark, I should be seeing sustainable monthly income. My goal, given life’s vicissitudes, is to have a variety of income streams so that if algorithms change, or the economy changes, I have fallback options. Ensuring that my stories are available in audio, print, and ebook formats is one way to guard against risk.

Doing marketing, even for old titles, is another. There are a wide variety of highly respected book promotion options: Booksprout, The Book Promoter, and Hidden Gems Books are three I discovered this week. I’ve had good luck with Booktastik, Itsy Bitsy Book Bits, and Totally Talented Promotions. I’ll be working on putting together an actual plan to see if I can find the mix that works for my writing business.

Part of thinking about the business side of creative writing also means being specific and intentional about your audience. So an article in The Guardian asking why we don’t see middle-aged women on our book covers hit me between the eyes. This is my demographic. And my target demographic. My characters are intentionally middle aged. While I occasionally (rarely) still dip my reading toes in YA stories, I’ve lived beyond enjoying them as much any more. I want to read characters who’ve LIVED. Who’ve accumulated experience and perspective and worked hard to develop skills. So that’s what I’ve been writing. In researching some of the demographic details for characters in my newest book, I discovered Nigerian immigrants to the US are currently the most successful ethnic group here. And I learned about asexuality. The self-awareness it takes to put either of those character facets into context takes years of living, of being challenged by people who don’t understand you, of accepting who you are. That’s more interesting to me than children who are still largely unformed on the far side of that curve.

In any case, all online business options have the uncertainty of the Net Neutrality repeal going into effect tomorrow hanging over their proverbial necks like Damocles’ sword. Lucky are those who live in New York, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, where the politicians aren’t quite as craven as those at the national level, and have created local laws ensuring undifferentiated web speed tiers survive in at least a few outposts.

Apart from all this, I’ve been helping a friend whose relationship was derailed after 18 years. We’re choosing to channel that change into a cascade of changes that will culminate in a new animal rescue option for her town, so expect to see me promoting that fundraiser in the not-too-distant future.

Hubs and I have been keeping up with our daily walks, to the tune of 4,479 steps/day average last week, combined with an average of 8 hours and 27 minutes of sleep per night. There is definitely something to be said for being on hiatus/taking a sabbatical. I feel more relaxed and happy now than I have in quite a while, and will have to work to make sure these adjustments “stick” once I return to the working world.

On the other hand, we haven’t been keeping up with our shows that well–though we did binge the first three episodes of Season 3 of The Expanse. We’re thrilled Amazon has decided to pick up the show for a fourth season, too. Now that the Capitals have won the Stanley Cup, I’m sure we’ll get back to our more accustomed patterns.

In the meantime, this Round comes to an end in 11 days. I’ve reduced my blogging cadence to every two weeks to focus on research for word herding and job hunting, so my next check-in is most likely to be for setting goals for the next Round–pending any other unexpected announcements. In the meantime, look at everything my cohorts have accomplished.

Cover Reveal: Team Alpha

Team Alpha (Planet Seekers book 1), by Tonya CannariatoExciting news this week: I have a new cover to reveal. Kelley York once again provided something SHINY for me to chase. And Liana is helping me with a pre-write consult to make sure I don’t jump directly into a plot hole.

😀

The premise for this one: WWIII happened in 2020. By 2120, humans are finally figuring out a way to get off-planet to escape the nuclear destruction, led by India and China, who were spectators to the world war. Taoruti 3 might be the savior for the remnants of the Earth’s population. It’s up to a select team to clear the new planet for terraforming and colonization, but nobody has ever done this before—and the team carries within it the toxic politics that led to WWIII a hundred years previously.

Mostly… I’m hoping I’m not predicting something dire for the next few years.

Today, Gayla sent me the rough outline of another Katarr story, too, so I have more than one story percolating–even though I swore I wouldn’t do that to myself again.

Actually, in the process of cleaning up my bookmarks this week, I rediscovered the online service where I had kept story ideas in the past. There are quite a few stories in there that have not-insignificant beginnings to them. I’m getting to the point of most authors I know: More ideas than I know what to do with, or time to write them all down.

Which is an interesting irony given the ongoing saga of #cockygate. And even more interesting given one of my new favorite reads author, C.E. Murphy. I stumbled across her Walker Papers series in my library’s eBook listings and spent a couple days reading the first couple in it. It struck me forcibly that here’s another half-Native female mechanic protagonist, which, on the surface description makes you think the author’s totally going to rip off Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson work, but the characters are so unique it doesn’t even matter that they’re both realized in a PNR/UF genre. It made me unreasonably happy that both versions exist, and as far as I can tell, there’s no animus between the two authors for having had similar ideas at similar times. Strangely to me, Murphy’s story was actually published first, even.

In any case, I’m glad to see authors out there who are, truly, just focused on producing their next book.

The interesting reflection on that was an article I ran across urging readers to quiet their egos. In some ways, that also tied to the old articles I re-read recently, one on how to do emotional labor, and the other on practical steps men can take to support feminism. The article I can claim for research for my new novel, though, talks about “eyeball planets” and what it would mean practically to try to live on a tidally locked planet.

On the promotion side of my author work, I have sent my Red Slaves books out on an Itsy Bitsy Book Bits book spotlight tour for the next two months as well as reduced the price for book 1 through the end of this month. I’ve definitely noticed that having more books out means an increase in income and sales overall, though I’m still incredibly small potatoes (only three of my titles have sold more than 100 copies), but it’s motivating me to keep going. And to invest a little in some of the promotional stuff I’d always previously eschewed.

And I’m in talks with a company about the possibility of selling them some of the rights to some of my stories. Once the final agreements have been inked, you can be sure I’ll let you know the relevant details. {{smile}}

Apart from all that, I’ve been diligently applying for jobs, and hubs and I have been walking the doggies enough that my phone says I averaged 3,941 steps a day last week. And 7 hours and 44 minutes of sleep per night. With all the binge reading my new library card has afforded me, I’m already 85% done with my Goodreads reading challenge for the year, but that also means I haven’t kept the date night with hubs. Given he’s wrapped up in the Capitals’ unlikely run at the Stanley Cup, I guess that’s maybe also my own self-defense.

😀

Meantime, Round 2 for this year is about two-thirds done. I’ve actually done pretty well with my goals this time around, but I’d like to see if I can get more into the writing groove this week. While I work on that, I encourage you to see how the other ROW80ers are doing.

Balancing Act

Life is often a balancing act between worry and fear and not giving a shipootie about anything...So you know all that research about how stress compromises your immune system? I lived that the past couple weeks. Evidently our visiting friends brought some kind of toxic stew of germs because both hubs and I were down for the count for a good week, and we’ve been slow to recover from whatever upper respiratory bug we were dealing with. Not that that kept me from worrying any, but at least we caught up on some of our sleep.

Making sure a new release coincided with a review roundup seems to have helped ensure the word got out about having a new book out. Not my best release statistics, but also not bad considering how poorly book 2 had done on the sales front.

Which means I’ve been pondering what I want to write next. I’ve had the good luck to have gotten to talk to Gayla more now that my schedule is a little less constrained, and we’ve been kicking around ideas on another After the Fall story.

But what finally started sinking its teeth into me yesterday was a story about a sentient planet, and Planet Seekers from Earth in about 100 years who are looking for a new home for humanity. For once, I’m starting with an actual list of antagonists and am tentatively outlining the conflicts in the story before I start. It got me excited enough last night that I couldn’t sleep.

It’s been a long time since one of my own story possibilities kept me awake all night.

As frustrating as it was, it was also exciting to let my imagination play. And not just with imaginings about what my dogs might be seeing that I can’t see. Or how the new voice-driven AIs cross the line into creepy-ville. Or even the newest speculation about where crystals might have been mined from.

The big news in the writing world was an author who trademarked the word “cocky”. And then started sending cease and desist letters to people who had that word in titles that had come out before the trademark was issued–and before even that author’s work had been published. I particularly liked Jami Gold’s response regarding the absolute need for a community of authors, so nobody else gets sucked into that vortex of shortsightedness.

Of course that meant that I found Book and Main Bites, and had to set up a profile there. (Though I haven’t yet created any bites of my books…) This, on top of the profile I have at AuthorsDB and the one at Goodreads and the one at Amazon and Wattpad and the one at IAN the one I’m considering setting up at Indie Authors Support Network. I’m pretty sure there’s one I’m forgetting, but haven’t dug through my bookmarks yet to rediscover. At a certain point, while I know it’s SEO best practice to cross-link as much as possible and it’s important to do everything you can to increase your discoverability, there is just a lot of time that needs to be invested in keeping each of those up to date.

I still need to finish the print layouts for books 1 & 2 so the formatting matches across the redesign of all four books in the Red Slaves series.

Hubs and I also got to see Infinity War. In fact, we went twice, because it was so big and overwhelming and well-done, it deserved the repeat. We also averaged 3,678 steps daily the past two weeks. And I averaged 8.5 hours of sleep a night the past two weeks. So I’m doing pretty well on a lot of the self-care bits that had been getting short shrift. I still don’t have anything definitive on the day job front, though. So my days are largely focused on trawling all the various job sites I know of and reminding all of my friends and former colleagues of my credentials and availability. I hope I haven’t crossed into the realm of being annoying, but the new day job requirement deadline is coming up fast, so I’m leaving no stone unturned. Until next week, then, check out what the other ROW80ers are up to.

Release Day: Fire to Dragon

RED SLAVES: Fire to Dragon, by Tonya CannariatoIt’s been a few years coming, but I’m proud to say that FINALLY, the Red Slaves trilogy is complete. Not without a bit of drama, as my newest laptop decided to crap out last night in the midst of my final editing push. Luckily, I’m an avid DropBox user, so the majority of the edits I’d done prior to that fatal “can’t find boot drive” error had already been saved to the cloud. My older, super-slow-mo laptop was able to pinch hit for me, and an all-night marathon resulted in the shiny, new story being available in Amazon,  iTunes, and Kobo as of this morning, with links underway at B&N, Scribd, Overdrive, and Tolino.

(It’s also now available for reviewers for free via the Reviewer Roundup.)

This has been a several-year odyssey for me, but I’m thrilled to cross this huge task off my ROW80 to-do list.

🙂

Apart from the heavy focus on editing, I read two articles related to my writing efforts. The first was from Vox, “This is what love does to your brain” and talked about how brain structures and chemistry around love are some of the most well-developed of that system. The other was a blog post from one of my favorite authors who blogs about writing, Jami Gold, who had a guest blogger writing about realistic ways to redeem your story’s villain.

Then there was the Rolling Stone interview with Janelle Monae, on the occasion of her latest album release. She is so thoughtful on the topic of love connections and other things that inspire her, she gained a fan. On the horrifying side of the ledger, I read an article about companies in Japan that are hiring highly educated women to perform mere menial women’s tasks. In a related trend, Chinese tech start-ups are hiring “programmer motivator” ladies who are intended to help relax the developers who are doing the heavy lifting for those companies.

More in line with my career trajectory was an article on LinkedIn about Agile learning as a mindset.

With all of that, hubs and I averaged 1.8 miles of walking per day and over 9 hours of sleep.

To make up for the hard push at the computer for job search and editing, we’re going for a late-night date night to see Avengers tonight. So I caught up with the complete MCU timeline to prepare myself. I’m already guessing I’ll be wrecked by the ending. I think this week we’ll focus on catching up with The Expanse, season 3, and Lost in Space, before I consider starting on my next story. I still need to do all the print lay-outs for the three novels in my series… and hope that my laptop can be easily fixed, so there’s plenty to keep me occupied.

In the meantime, enjoy Red Slaves, completed in eBook versions, and check in with my ROW80 cohorts.

Plot Twist

When something goes wrong in your life, just yell "plot twist" and move on.As the observant among you might have noticed, it’s been a month since my last blog post. In that time, I managed to finish the edits on books 1 & 2 in my Red Slaves trilogy, as well as get a decent start on edits for book 3. I’d hoped I would finish those this weekend, but needed to clean house in preparation for guests this week.

Book 3 should be out this week. Mainly because the whole trilogy is included in a Review Roundup event that ends on May 5th, so it needs to be available to those readers, too.

😀

However, the reason I’ve had the time to do all that work is a source of great sadness for me. After almost three years with my current employer, the company went through a restructuring process that made my role redundant. Friday was my last day at the office. I’m now officially on a full-time job hunt. Again.

In those moments when I have some perspective on the experience, and in particular on the one colleague who precipitated these changes, I have to marvel at the parallels between my editor’s complaints about my chronic lack of viable antagonists, and the real-life lesson in knowing a person who thinks they are a good person and yet is able to create this level of havoc in my life. In the six months this process has been underway, I’ve had stomach issues and insomnia to the degree that I’ve finally managed to lose 20 of the pounds all the fertility treatments had packed on. It’s a life lesson on as many levels as I can unpack.

I had to laugh when I saw reporting on Japanese Macaques that indicates their use of thermal springs helps reduce glucocorticoid metabolites. In other words, spa days have a measurable impact in stress reduction. It might be a message I should heed.

Another cogent article relates to giving the “how are you” question a make-over. Reframing that to something more like “what’s the best part of your day today” avoids non-answers and helps focus people on why their existence is worthwhile.

I’m grateful that I have a little time to recover my health and refocus on my creativity through this transition. And if it so happens that anyone reading knows of a company looking for a senior manager who has successfully managed more than 20 staff, 10 sub-contractors, and $22 million in annual contract value, and has the required credentials (MBA, PMP, CSM) to be listed as key personnel on government contracts, I’m available.

As part of my work transition, I caught up on my continuing education requirements for my PMP, but also read a few articles about the Pandora’s Box of Artificial Intelligence. The Economist wrote in depth about the strategic moves cloud services providers are undertaking, while big consultancies buy up small data analyst firms. Similarly, the New York Times wrote about tech firms trying to address privacy and hacking concerns by incorporating the other buzzword technology that’s been in the news recently: block chain. The counterbalance to these technologies is Edward Tenner’s interview breaking down what he calls the efficiency paradox. Tenner points out there are some things computers do very well, and others where it’s best to rely on humans. To me, the key quote in his interview is this: “By removing so much trial and error and productive mistakes, platform efficiency can lock us into existing patterns.” He’s particularly concerned about the impact on artists in our relentless pursuit of efficiency.

Which makes a neat segue to the other category of articles I read. One outlined a whole cadre of female fine artists and pondered the bias against retrospectives for them. Another considered some of the take-aways for writers from the successes Ready Player One has enjoyed. Finally, there was an article by Molly Ringwald about her rear-view mirror perspective on having been an actor in The Breakfast Club. Her view on what it was to be recognized as John Hughes’ muse and her take on the exploitation that represented a strong undertow in the industry were framed with the phrase: “I have felt the need to examine the role that these movies have played in our cultural life: where they came from, and what they might mean now.” It was a thoughtful approach to the era, but also interesting commentary on how societies evolve. And in particular, what impact and role art has in that process.

Finally, there were multiple articles about Barbara Ehrenreich’s newest book. In it, she explains that she finally feels “old enough” not to go for all the tests and do all the preventive things and in general follow the dictates handed down by western physicians. The review in The Atlantic, by Victoria Sweet, written from the perspective of one of those western physicians, was the one that stuck with me the most. It centers on the fear of dying that drives most of these interventions. In another strange reflection of my editor’s critique of my work that brings us back to the starting point for this blog entry, there’s a particularly gripping quote regarding agency–the ability of a being to choose to act:

Researchers are now finding this same agency everywhere, Ehrenreich reports—in fruit flies; in viruses; in atoms, electrons, and photons. Such discoveries must mean that agency, the capacity for making decisions—electrons jumping up a quantum level or not, photons passing through this hole in a screen rather than another—is not the rare, and human, prerogative we once thought.

That ability to make choices, on a micro and macro level has far-reaching implications. I’m still pondering them. And having this mindset is making my revision process interesting. Everybody has something driving their actions; whether those choices make sense to the rest of us drives whether our observations label the person making those choices a good guy or a bad guy.

All of this, and I still averaged 4,596 steps so far this month, according to my phone, as well as 7 hours 20 minutes of sleep at night. And hubs and I started watching the remake of Lost in Space. So far, I love it, though it’s a little more adrenaline-fueled than what I usually enjoy. But the action is leavened with flashbacks and characterizations that make the characters’ responses to each next catastrophe compelling.

Also, even though I’m late, I still need to outline my goals for this Round. I’ve already accomplished the first two–revise and re-release books 1 & 2. Here, then, are my goals for the remainder of the Round, which I think runs until the end of June:

  1. Find and start a new day job.
  2. Edit Fire to Dragon and release it.
  3. Blog weekly with my ROW80 updates.
  4. Decide on which plotbunny to follow next, and begin writing my 11th book.
  5. Walk at least a mile a day.
  6. Sleep at least 7 hours a night.
  7. Keep the sanctity of my weekly date night with hubs.

Until next week, then, I have plenty to keep me busy. I recommend you do as I do and keep tabs on the others participating in ROW80 until then.

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