Stayed tuned to this page to follow developments involving Whelan, Larsen, Stensen, Kirkland, Thomas, Almeida…and Christie, Levell, McCoy, Maksym, Federov and others in the Sleeping Dogs trilogy. CAVEAT: I'm not a daily, or even weekly, blogger. Unless I believe I have something of interest to share, I don't spam my own blog site.
As you read Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening, were you just a little surprised that the bad guys were being financed by Russia? Did you think, Hey, wait a minute! The Cold War ended years ago with the old Soviet Union on the losing end. Take another look. Russia, under Putin, is still a third world country, but it's steadily gaining control of international geopolitical affairs. Who is building military bases in the Western Hemisphere? Who chased Obama out of a role in Syria? Who is Iran's strategic partner? Who has reclaimed parts of Georgia and the Ukraine for Mother Russia, and rattles its sword at the Baltic States and other former USSR territories? Who thumbs its nose at the West and defies it to challenge Russia's spreading worldwide hegemony?
Is it just a coincidence that the U.S. is vastly weaker than it was when Ronald Reagan left office? Is it just circumstance that the administration refuses to facilitate this country's new found superiority in fossil fuels and other natural resources, that it insists on "leading from behind" in world affairs, that it continues to reduce and weaken our military—our single greatest deterrent to foreign aggression?
Maybe Levell and the others in the "Society" really are on to something. If so, we really do need that deadly hunter-killer team—the Sleeping Dogs. I'm just saying. Food for thought.
The last few posts mentioned that I undertook a complete editing and revision of the first book in the Sleeping Dogs trilogy. And that I published the revised version at the beginning of this week. Now the emphasis is on marketing the book. With something on the order of 1 million books published every year, unless you're an established writer, you're just the proverbial needle in the haystack. You have to differentiate your book from the mass. Among other things, here's what I'm doing.
I described the Kindle Select program in the most recent post. This enables me to offer the eBook version for free for a specified period of time. It also enables me to promote it on a number of websites and blogs that cater to thousands of Kindle users. I know that not all eBook readers use Kindles, but it's a large majority of the market in eBooks. To have my book promoted to many thousands of readers offers an opportunity to move a lot of copies. That's critical because it moves the book up the charts. Select also makes you eligible for the Kindle Owners' Lending Library in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan. That's something on the order of $2.50 each time your book is borrowed.
The more people who become familiar with your work, the more word of mouth spreads the news, and the more copies you might sell. Afterall, the freebie is only a 2-day affair. The Kindle Select program also offers the opportunity to do a graduated price arrangement. For example, the book might be $0.99 on Day 1, $1.99 on Day 2, $2.99 on Day 3, and back to it's normal price of $3.99 as of Day 4. How did I settle on $3.99 as the everyday price of the eBook? An article in the Wall Street Journal mentioned a survey that determined that more books sold at $3.99 than at any other price level.
Another method for generating interest, particularly from the industry, is to build a social media platform. One plank in that platform is Twitter. One tip I found suggests identifying writers in your genre who are active on Twitter then go to their profile and click on the "Followers" link. Scroll through the list ignoring business accounts, accounts with no photo of the tweeter, and accounts with the words "social media" anywhere in the tweeter's bio. Click the "follow" button on the others. I know what you're thinking: this makes you a follower, when what you're seeking is people following you. What you will discover is that most of the people you follow, will also follow you. When they do, be sure to tweet them a "Thanks for the follow!"
That noise you hear that sounds like a great gust of wind actually is me sighing in relief. I've published the edited and revised versions of Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening. This is a shorter, tighter, crisper version, and less pedantic politically. My editor advised that even leftwing loonies will read the book as long as you don't try to pound your political philosophy down their throats. I also changed the cover, as shown on the right. While the original cover was arresting, with those angry blue eyes, I suspect some prospective readers may have thought the book was about dogs, wolves, or werewolves. The new cover fits the plot better: an attempt to assassinate the president on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
The print version of the new edition now is available from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble via Ingram., as well as the printer, CreateSpace.com. I made some changes in the distribution of the eBook this time around. I enrolled it in Amazon.com's KDP Select. One of their requirements is that the eBook can't be available at any other site. So, I "unpublished" it at B&N, Smashwords, and iBooks. I did this because Select allows you to offer the book free as a promotional device as well as offer it over a period of days with a gradual escalation in price, also a promotional device. FYI: The freebie days are March 14 and 15.
As you can see, I'm now in the promotional/marketing phase with the book. I've arranged with several online services and blogs that cater to the Kindle community to plug those free days. There still are a number of promotional and marketing ploys ahead. One of them, hopefully, will be a signing at the Paradis book store in the airport. It was approved by the company some time ago, but then I decided to edit and revise. I'm in the process of seeing whether that offer still stands.
This is for my readers who have been wondering where Whelan, Larsen, Christie, Federov, Stensen, Maksym, Levell and the others are. On the face of it, or prima facie, as my former colleagues in law are known to say, the boys have been gone for a while. Not to worry. They're all alive and well in my imagination and anxious to complete their next venture into the world of techno-political thrillers.
The delay has been caused by a couple of factors—all of them legit, although time consuming. One of those factors is the demands of my career. The real estate market in Southwest Florida has recovered completely from the effects of the recession. There is virtually no inventory (1.1 months) in residential units, and commercial developers are scooping up the office and retail sites. As an investor and developer, my hair is on fire trying to capitalize on opportunities.
The second factor is the unexpectedly large demand on my time for editing, revising and rewriting Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening. I mentioned in an earlier post to this blog that I had hired a professional editor to do a complete line edit and developmental edit. She did a terrific job, but it took time. When she was finished, I spent weeks, even months, going over her notes and comments, then revising. I finished that task this morning.
My goal now is to republish the revised and updated version within the next few days. Then, I'll launch a marketing campaign. But I'll save that discussion for another post a few days from now. It's safe to say, however, that the cast of characters is "alive and well" and itching to come to life in the next book. Take heart—he draft of that book already is 32,000 pages long.
Sooner or later, most writers seem compelled to opine on their personal "formula" for writing. Most of them claim to write first thing in the morning. All of them demand that a minimum number of words be written each day, usually between 2,000 and 5,000. That's ridiculous. Even if you have no day job requirements, family responsibilities, or outside activities or interests, it still would not be realistic to expect to achieve a minimum daily word count.
I write techno-political thrillers. The stories include the use of cutting edge technology and weaponry, and take place in various spots around the world. I have to research the technological devices and weapons. I have to read materials detailing the language, history and culture of areas I haven't personally visited. I have to study maps and aerials of these places, determine distances between points and often convert them into kilometers or other system of measurement. I have to research the surnames and given names of people in foreign lands to be certain I don't give a Polish name to a Lithuanian character in a novel. Sometimes, I have to interview people to get the information I need for a storyline.
Unless you're writing your memoirs, the effort to write accurate, believable fiction requires a great deal of research. Some writers, like Jim Rollins, claim to do most of their research before writing the novel. In that instance, perhaps you can set a goal of so many words per day. My experience, however, is that new elements surface throughout the writing process that require additional research. And it can take up an entire day or more, thus eliminating any word productivity for that day.
My advice: don't set yourself up for disappointment by trying to meet a daily word goal. But do make it a point to work on the book in some fashion everyday.
Sometimes, people ask me what it's like to write books. They want to know if it's difficult. The short answer is "no". Writing really is the easy part. Just step up to the keyboard and start logging hours—it's all about discipline. BUT the real time consuming efforts come after you've finished the draft of the manuscript. You send it to beta readers and review it yourself several times. Then, I suggest you engage the services of a professional editor. But do it with an open mind—you're going to see all the mistakes, inconsistencies, and other shortcomings you hoped weren't there. Based on that, you're going to spend considerable time rewriting (over and over again).
But wait! You're still not ready for prime time. If you hope to have any success in selling your opus magnum, you'll need to work on the marketing aspects. Done correctly, this will involve days— probably weeks—of research as you compile a virtual calendar of activities leading up to, and following, the actual publication of your book.
Sadly, despite all that time and effort and expense, there is no guarantee that your literary efforts will be recognized by a grateful world. But if you don't follow the steps described above, failure is guaranteed.
In my last post, I opined that a book should be ready for publishing only when the author is (reasonably) satisfied that the book is grammatically correct and tightly written. I also mentioned that I had been editing and rewriting Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening for a considerable period of time in order to achieve this goal. When I believed I reached that point, I turned to the subject of marketing the book. As I reviewed my considerable materials on the subject and further researched it at length, I realized just how time consuming and complicated marketing can be; especially if you're an indie publisher and you want the book to have every opportunity for success.
The bottom line is I ended up compiling a (thus far) six-page Word document in table format that has four columns: Date, Action, Status, and Comment. I'm sure it's still not a complete marketing guide, but it's a good start. According to this "guide", publication (relaunch in the case of Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening) is scheduled for March 17. Yep, St. Paddy's Day. That seems appropriate for a novel that's main protagonist is an Irishman. The point is that every day between today's date, January 9, and March 18 is filled with marketing tasks and follow ups. March 19 is plugged in as the date I resume writing the second novel in the Sleeping Dogs series. Note: I wrote the first 32,000 words last summer before turning to the editing and relaunch of the first book. I can hardly wait to get back to it.
So, aspiring writers, be forewarned. The writing is the easy part. The editing/rewriting and marketing efforts are where the real time and energy demands are.
There's an old saw that "Time flies when you're having fun." Truth is, time flies whether you're having fun or miserable as hell. It's simple physics. Fortunately, I haven't been miserable as hell. But it hasn't been all roses either. I've been absent from these pages for a month because I've been up to my eyeballs trying to finish a major rewriting of Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening.
Why the rewrite? I've asked myself that question a time or two over the past several weeks. The answer is based on my perception that there are two basic ways to create a successful career as a fiction writer. One is to edit-polish, edit-polish ad nauseam until you have an extremely well-written novel, a masterpiece of modern prose. The other is to produce a prodigious volume of work—dozens of novels. The problem with the first method is that you probably will go to your grave with a single book to your name. And, most likely, you'll never reach the point where you truly are satisfied that it's "perfect". The danger in adhering to the second method is that you may produce a bunch of pulp that really isn't very good, with no real reason for anyone to read any of them.
I'm a slow learner sometimes, and it took me a while to recall something I read years ago in Robert Pursig's masterpiece, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Essentially, we occidentals exist in an environment founded on dualism (on/off, right/wrong, left/right, good/bad, etc.). But the reality is that there usually are more choices than simply selecting which horn we'll let the bull gore us with—the right or left one.
So, it eventually dawned on me that there was at least a third path to pursue as a writer of fiction, and it incorporates elements of the first two. I now believe success as a writer requires a volume of work product. But that it should be predicated on a very solid, well-written first book. The key is to recognize when that book has reached a point where it tells a compelling story, polished and tightly written, where the continued polishing enters the realm of diminishing returns. In other words, you must realize the child has reached the age of consent, and send it out into the world while you focus on the youngsters coming up behind it.
I took a break from writing/editing/revising last week. It was time for a break. Writing is a profession, like practicing medicine or law. It requires your full attention. The myth that writers sleep till noon then tickle the computer keyboard for a couple of hours in their pajamas before enjoying cocktail hour is just that. A myth. Physicians and attorneys, like everyone else, take a break from the daily grind too.
I had just finished several editing and revising efforts on Sleeping Dogs over several weeks. So, last week was a good time to tune out the Muse and do something else. I was engaged by ULI-The Urban Land Institute to teach a one-day program on land development with my business partner, Dave Farmer. The site of the course was Washington, D.C. That gave me a great opportunity to have dinner with my old friend Jeris White. Yes, the same Jeris White that struck fear in the hearts of QBs all over the NFL. He was an outstanding cover corner and won Super Bowl XVII with the Redskins.
We always have dinner when I'm in D.C. We would meet either at Kinkead's or Acadiana. Unfortunately, Kinkead's has closed. Hard to figure - it was always packed (with notables) and the food was incomparable. But having to meet at Acadiana is equally as enjoyable.
Now the week is over and I'm back at the word processor pounding my way through the next revision. I believe I'm close to having the product I want, and looking forward to publishing it soon.
The late John Lennon noted that life is what happens to us while we're busy doing other things. One of the truisms of the writing life is that writing is something that has to be squeezed in around the other demands in the writer's life. At least until the writer becomes successful enough to quit the proverbial day job and focus primarily on his or her craft. Most of us, if not all, have commitments and responsibilities in addition to our consuming desire to write. Things like paying bills and earning the funds to pay those bills, or spending meaningful time with our main squeeze, kids, other family members and friends, or maintaining our homes, shopping for groceries and other necessities, and participating in our communities as responsible citizens. For most of us, these things pretty much fill up our days - including weekends - and much of our evenings too.
The challenge for those who have yet to reach the level where our literary efforts are financially viable, is how and where to find time to write on a consistent basis. There is no universal, or one-size-fits-all, solution. Many writers choose to rise early in the morning before the demands of the day are imposed upon them. This might mean 5a.m. or earlier. Many successful writers occupy their morning hours with their writing efforts. But this is not an absolute. Some writers don't hear their Muse until later in the day or evening when they've cleared everything else out of the way. This, for example, seems to work best for me. The point is it's your schedule, your menu of daily demands, and your Muse.
Another question is how often should you write. Should you compose parts of your current novel very single day? Some writers probably do, but that seems unrealistic. There will be days when the juices just aren't flowing or something else presents a greater demand for your time or you don't want to write because you're on vacation or otherwise taking a break from the grind. But the biggest challenging to working on your next novel is the endless editing and rewriting required of the novel you've completed but which isn't ready yet for publishing. Granted, rewriting is a form of creative writing, but it isn't the same as creating a story out of whole cloth. And if you don't go through this process of tightening and improving your manuscript, your chances of finding a market for it are slim at best. Why waste your time writing novels if you're not going to try to earn a return on those efforts?
The bottom line is: it's tough to find time to work consistently on creating a new manuscript - even for financially successful writers. But don't get discouraged. Things always seem to take longer than you originally thought they would. But stick with it. Ultimately it's personally satisfying. And, besides, that Muse won't shut up anyway.