Tracking Word Count

I’ll be doing my Thursday posts about writing and publishing again, although they’ll be less about changes at the portals now and more about resources and strategies for indie authors. They’ll now be tagged Author Resources instead of Wild West Thursday. We’re in the midst of a fabulous time for writers, filled with both opportunity and challenge. I find it exciting, but sometimes overwhelming, too. So, on Thursdays, we’ll talk a bit more about that.

There’s a new tab on the menu bar called Author Resources. I’ve added two tutorials there, as of now: one explains how to create an Excel spreadsheet for tracking book sales by month, year, etc., and the other explains how to create an Excel spreadsheet to track the results of a shorter promotion. Of course, there are other ways to track both of these items: I’m just sharing my method (mostly because writers in my local group asked me to do so.) You need Excel or another spreadsheet program to set up either or both, and a little bit of time.

Of course, there are more things to track, and one of them is daily word count. How long does it take you to write a book? This is a particularly important piece of information to have when planning a publication schedule. I’m in the middle of planning the next few years of work, since I’m finishing up a lot of series.

Earlier this year, I recognized that my idea of how quickly I write was formed when I was writing for traditional publishers, which meant I didn’t have all the extra jobs of being my own publisher, too. These days, I can spend an entire week updating files or metadata or websites – especially when republishing a backlist series – and not write one word of new content. That happened with the republication of the eight Dragonfire novels and the three Dragon Diaries books. Even on a daily basis, there are publishing crises to solve and jobs to get done, all tasks that distract from the business of creating new stories.

It was clear that I needed to recalibrate my expectations. How fast do I write, in this new situation?

The easiest way to do this is to – surprise! – keep track of daily word count in a spreadsheet, then total the word count of the month. Since there will be variations over time – as I attend conferences or have other obligations outside my office – it’s best to track over a number of months, then average out the results to get a more accurate picture of what’s happening.

I started to keep track in the middle of May, and am pretty tough about counting only net word gain. If I chuck 4K words and write 5K, my count for the day is only 1K.

My results look like this:
May – 37,000 (a half-month)
June – 33,000
July – 43,000
August – 40,000
September – 37,000

That gives me an average word count per month of 38,000 words, and I’ll use that as a working number, even though May was only a half-month. I used to write closer 50,000 words a month – plus I spent a lot less time in my office – so that’s a big difference.

There are two things that shake out of having this number. Let’s talk about the first one today.

1. Now, that I have a number and it looks pretty consistent, I can use it to plan my production and publishing schedule for the year(s) ahead. 38K words a month is about 450K words per year. That’s five 90K novels or nine 50K novels – or eighteen 25K novellas. You get the idea. I can look at my book plan and decide how many titles I can realistically write per year.

I also can balance out my content. I know, for example, that you all prefer my longer books. I know this because they sell better and have better reviews. And the truth is that I’d rather write a short story of 5K to 10K or a book at 90K to 100K, and not mess with the lengths in between. This market is skewed to more frequent publication, so there’s a balance to be struck. If I write five 90K novels and nothing else, will I lose visibility (especially if they’re divided between author brands)? How can I do a fast-release launch of a new series with this productivity level? I’ll have to stockpile books until I have a few completed. Hmm. Can I balance long and short stories in the same fictional world?

Should I write in fewer fictional worlds? This is the inevitable question, but I like writing all the things. I think it keeps me fresh creatively to move between sub-genres, so you can see that there are other considerations as well as raw word count. Planning a publication schedule is not for the faint of heart, but when you know how quickly you write, it’s a lot easier to make a plan you can keep.

The other obvious thing to talk about is how to improve current productivity. I’m going to save that for a separate post, since this one is pretty long already. Next week, I’m going to tell you about an exciting book I’ve just read, so we’ll talk about improving word count in two weeks. Happy writing!

Novelists Inc 2018

©Deborah A. CookeLast week, I attended the Novelists’ Inc conference, which is held each year. This year (as in many recent years) it was in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida. This conference brings together a lot of incredible people and is a terrific gathering of ideas and energy—plus it’s at the beach.

These beachy pix are from recent years. This year, I didn’t take more because they would have been similar, but also there was a red tide. This is an algae bloom which is detrimental to fish near the beach and I believe it had begun after hurricane Florence. At this particular point on the beach, there weren’t so many dead fish—they do clean them up every day—but a lot of dead crabs. While it was intriguing to see how many kinds of crabs there are in the gulf, it was sad to see them when they were dead. There were also a lot fewer birds, probably because the death of the fish meant there was less (or nothing) for them to eat. I love seeing the pelicans and they were a bit scarce. I didn’t see any dolphins this year either, but that might have been timing – in previous years, I saw them in the afternoon or early evening. I walked first thing in the morning, and the smell from the red tide wasn’t too bad. Mr. Math suggested that the algae needs the sunshine and warmth of the day to bloom, which would explain why people had troubles later in the day with eye and throat irritations.

©Deborah A. CookeAnd then there was the conference itself. As always, NINC brings together an amazing group of workshop presenters, but this year it was particularly hard to choose between sessions. There were four tracks and it seemed that I wanted to attend two workshops in every time slot. I learned a tremendous amount and made a huge To Do list (this is typical). Highlights for me included David Gaughran‘s workshops – because no matter how often I go to his workshops, I always learn more. (Plus he has a wonderful Irish accent 🙂 that would be easy to listen to forever). He taught about BookBub ads and more about Amazon’s algorithms. Joanna Penn taught two fantastic workshops, one about content-based marketing and the other highlighting global English-language markets for books and strategies for reaching them. I learned a lot in Mark Dawson‘s session on strategies for AMS ads. A surprise hit for me was Dr. Jennifer Barnes and her workshops about the psychology of fiction and of titles. Representatives were also in attendance from almost all of the portals, and all of them had interesting information to share. It’s a fantastic conference to discover new opportunities and strategies.

Jewels of Historical Romance at the Novelists Inc conference September 2018The truly fabulous thing about this conference, though, was that this was the first time I attended as one of the Jewels of Historical Romance. This fantastic group of historical romance writers invited me to join them last spring, and I was thrilled to do so. Although I knew most of them from online, I hadn’t met many of them in person – and there was going to be a big confab of Jewels at this conference, so I went. Here are nine of us at the gazebo in the hotel courtyard. From the back left, that’s me (not smiling. LOL) then Erica Ridley, Lucinda Brant (who came from Australia), and Cheryl Bolen. In the front from the left, Lauren Royal, Darcy Burke, Tanya Anne Crosby, Glynnis Campbell and Cynthia Wright. Brenda Hiatt was also at the conf, but isn’t in this picture. Kimberly Cates and Jill Barnett were the only two Jewels not in attendance this year – there are plans for all of us to make this conf in 2020. Meeting these women in person and having the chance to not only get to know them better but to plan some joint promotion for the future was certainly the highlight of the conference for me.

And then there was karaoke night… This is the second year that Draft2Digital has hosted this event, and it wrapped up the conference this year. It was such a success that I suspect they’re going to need to do it every year.

I suspect I need to go to NINC every year, too.

Writer Resources

Once upon a time, I wrote a lot of blog posts about writing and publishing. When I went indie in 2012, though, I wasn’t sure how applicable those posts would be to our new world (which felt a little wild for a few years there.) This past weekend at my local writers’ group, though, we started talking about resources and I realized that a great deal of that information would still be useful to writers.

I’m sifting through it in my spare time (ha) and making it live again.

I will also be doing more teaching next year, and have started to muster my support materials. I use Excel spreadsheets a lot to track results, and I don’t want to spend workshop time walking through the set-up of each one. So, I’m creating some tutorials here on the site. These aren’t the only way to do things: they’re just my way, and might be useful to other writers.

All of this lives under a new tab called Author Resources, which you can find on the menu bar. You can also search in the blog for posts in the categories Wild West Thursday, Indie Publishing, Publishing, and Writing. There is also an archive here of the blog posts I did for the writer-in-residence program at the Toronto Public Library in 2012. You can find those in the Writer-in-Residence category.

ORWA Workshop in 2019

Update – this workshop has been cancelled.

Ottawa Romance Writers AssociationI’ll be teaching a workshop at the Ottawa Romance Writers Association in Nepean, Ontario on May 5, 2019.

Switching to Glide:
Join Deborah Cooke for a workshop on targeting opportunity, managing back list, and ensuring your own productivity to create a steady revenue stream from your writing. Whether you’re indie, hybrid, traditionally published or an aspiring writer, you can use these techniques to plan for success.

This is exciting, since I haven’t taught for a while. It’ll be a totally new workshop.

Visit their website for more details about this group and their meetings.

The Plan for One Knight Enchanted

One Knight Enchanted, book #1 of the Sayerne series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

One Knight Enchanted, book #1 of my new Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances, will be published January 9 at Amazon.

The publication of this book is where marketing plans from 2017 collide with marketing plans for 2018. 🙂 Right now, One Knight Enchanted is set to go into Kindle Unlimited immediately, which was last year’s plan for historical romances. A number of you have contacted me, though, saying that you’d like to buy it at a portal other than Amazon. And my 2018 plan involves making my books available to you first through my online store, which can’t happen when a book is in Kindle Unlimited (because those books have to be available exclusively at Amazon.)

But I have a solution! On January 9, I’ll have the option to remove the book from Kindle Unlimited. I’m going to do that. I’ve also made it available to you today through my online store (as well as at Amazon) at the same price as Amazon. (Those are the rules). The delivery of sales from the online store will be handled by Book Funnel, so that you can be sure to get Rolfe and Annelise’s story onto your device of choice. You’ll have two weeks to buy the book in my online store.

Pre-order eBook for January 9 delivery:
Amazon

Buy eBook directly from Claire (Available January 2 – 15)

Order a signed Print Edition from Claire.

On January 16, One Knight Enchanted will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and be available only at Amazon.

 

Home with Lists

The exciting thing about attending a conference like Novelists’ Ink is that I always end up with so many action items. Novelists’ Ink is also unusual among the conferences I attend because it’s only for published authors, most of whom write genre fiction. (A high percentage of members write either romance or mystery.) So, there are no reader events like booksignings during the conference (although Jodi Vaughn and I made an exception and met with some readers for lunch on Saturday. It was such fun – Jodi is lovely and it turned out that her fans were also some of mine!) So, NINC is about the business of publishing. In this still-changing market, there are not only new options available, but better ways evolving to get things done. I always end up making lists on the flight home. You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes.

You’ll notice some changes happening as a result of what I’ve learned this past week, although a number of them will happen behind the scenes. For example, I need to review my notes from Erica Ridley’s wonderful session on newsletters, and decide what to improve first with my monthly newsletter. (There are LOTS of things to be improved there!)

Wyvern's Mate, book #1 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeI’ll also be changing the numbering of the Dragons of Incendium series. Amazon doesn’t allow incremental numbers on series pages and I’ve been stubborn about changing my idea of the book numbers to fit theirs. 🙂 In talking to other authors, though, it’s clear that there are tangible benefits to having all of the books on the same product page. I’ll make them the same at all portals once they’re reformatted. The short stories will be given whole numbers in this arrangement, so the book order will become:

  1. Wyvern’s Mate
  2. Nero’s Dream
  3. Wyvern’s Prince
  4. Arista’s Legacy
  5. Wyvern’s Warrior
  6. Kraw’s Secret
  7. Wyvern’s Outlaw

Love Potion #9, a paranormal romance and romantic comedy by Claire DelacroixI’m going to commission new covers for my time travel romances, and probably move Love Potion #9 over to the Deborah Cooke side of things. It is a contemporary paranormal romance, after all. I do love the cover image, but it doesn’t communicate the subgenre clearly enough to do its job well – if you love this cover and want a print copy, grab it soon!

There are dozens of other tweaks and changes to be made. I attending workshops with tips on productivity and on strategies for publishing. I learned about conferences that I haven’t attended before and revisited the idea of attending some others again. I’ll let you know when any of these items impact what you see on your end of the publishing biz.

The second exciting result of going to conference is meeting new authors. I always meet some authors I haven’t met before and learn a bit about them during the conference, then come home with a huge shopping list so I can become acquainted with their books. No matter how avidly I read, there are always new voices and new fictional worlds to be discovered – that I’ve sat with the author in a workshop or had lunch with him or her is icing on the proverbial cake. I’ve already added a dozen books to my reader and am looking forward to digging in. When I find some I particularly love, I’ll share them with you here.

The third and maybe the biggest benefit is creative. Walking the beach is certainly a contributing factor, plus I went offline for the week. I came home from NINC recharged, with my imagination full of new stories. I did a lot of plotting, which surprised me but that’s all good. I also have more ideas to connect my existing stories with each other. I have started to do this (as some of you have seen in A Duke By Any Other Name) but the possibilities multipled for me when I gave them the opportunity.

Whisper Kiss, #5 in the Dragonfire series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeIn the Midnight Hour, book #3 of the Flatiron Five series of contemporary romances by Deborah CookeFor example, I need a tattoo artist based in New York for the Flatiron Five series and realized that Rox’s tattoo shop, Imagination Ink, which we encountered first in Whisper Kiss, is in NYC. Rox has a partner and friend named Chynna (as well as one named Neo). I decided that Chynna would be perfect. She’ll turn up at F5 in Damon’s book, In the Midnight Hour and become a continuing character in that series. Flatiron Five doesn’t have any paranormal elements, but Chynna isn’t paranormal. Even Rox isn’t paranormal herself—she’s just partners with Niall, a dragon shifter. This kind of cross-pollination between series is particularly fun—I went back and read what I’ve said so far about Chynna and got excited about the possibilities. I remembered writing a scene with Chynna that didn’t make it into the final book and had to hunt it down. I posted it as an out-take right here so you can meet Chynna. (She doesn’t actually appear in Whisper Kiss.)

There are wonderful plans in the works already, and I’ll share them with you as soon as I can!

Since we’re talking about conferences and reader events, tell me whether you attend any reader events. If you don’t go to reader conferences or events, is there a reason why? (Some readers like to save their money for books, which is good, too.) If you do go, where are the events located? Do you attend for workshops or signings or both? What’s your favorite part?

 

Kindle Unlimited and Medieval Romance

Heartbreakers:Three Medieval Romances in one bundle from Claire DelacroixI’ve launched another experiment and wanted to let you all know about it. This summer, I’ve seen a new trend in my sales at various portals. My medieval romances always sold best at Amazon, but over the last few months, the percentages have shifted even more. As a result, I’ve decided to give Kindle Unlimited another try. If the books are mostly selling at Amazon, I might as well take advantage of the exclusivity offers there.

So, I’ve unpublished three series from the other portals and enrolled them in KU. The Rogues of Ravensmuir, The True Love Brides and The Champions of St. Euphemia, as well as the upcoming bundle Heartbreakers, are exclusively at Amazon and mostly enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

The Crusader's Bride, a medieval romance by Claire DelacroixThere is one straggler—The Crusader’s Bride is in a promotion at Kobo until the end of August, so it will be unpublished from Kobo after that. It won’t be going immediately into KU because it’s going into a special KU bundle. I’ll tell you about that as soon as I can, but it’s an exciting project.

The registration period for Kindle Unlimited is 90 days, so we’ll see how this goes and I’ll reassess in November. In the meantime, if you’re a KU subscriber, here’s your chance to read a lot of my medieval romances!

I’ve also been moving the print distribution on these books from Createspace to KDP. This seems to allow lower pricing, probably because the books are only available to Amazon, and I like getting my trade paperbacks to $9.99 or $10.99US (instead of $14.99 or $16.99US).

Of course, they all remain available in Ingrams editions which are distributed everywhere, so if you don’t shop at Amazon, don’t worry! You can still buy print editions of my books. 🙂

Edited to Add – I’ve added a menu item for Kindle Unlimited so you can easily find links for the books that are enrolled in that program.

For Libraries

My books are available to libraries!

Digital editions of my books are available to libraries through Overdrive and Bibliotheca. This includes my new releases, as well as new editions of many backlist titles. I used to upload directly to Overdrive, but now am using Pronoun (a Macmillan company) to deliver to both of these library portals. Their interface is easier for me, so new releases will appear more quickly on Overdrive than they did before. I also like their version control better.

Print editions of my books are available to libraries through Ingrams. Some of my books are also available in hard cover editions from Ingrams. You can find them on the Collectors’ Editions page here on the site.

My audiobooks are available to libraries through Overdrive and Blackstone Library. Blackstone makes physical cd’s of my audiobooks for libraries, as well as offering digital download licensing.

Quiet in the Office

Notice how quiet it is around here this week? That’s because I’m in the middle of several nitpickity jobs.

I’m weeding and mulching my garden – when it’s not raining.

The Princess, book #1 of the Bride Quest series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixAnd I’m preparing the book files for the republication of the Bride Quest. This is the first time I’ve worked with scanned book files and it’s been an interesting process. I had the books scanned, which means that a single copy of each book was torn apart and put through an OCR scanner to generate a Word document (and a PDF, too, but I’m not using that.) The thing is that the scanner tries to recognize characters, but it’s not smart at all. It doesn’t look at context or grammar or anything beyond trying to identify each character. As a result, you end up with a file that’s mostly right but has some characteristic quirks.

I’m developing a system. 🙂 The scanner interprets the end of each printed book page as a section break in Word, and those section breaks have to be taken out. Page breaks at the end of each chapter have to be added in. Scene breaks are odd little interpretations of the dingbat used by the publisher, and can vary each time. The same is true of the drop caps at the beginning of each chapter. All of that gets addressed in my first pass through the book.

The Countess, book #4 of the Bride Quest series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixThen there are the misinterpretations. For example, the scanner might perceive rn as m. Fortunately, Word has a seach and replace utility, and I have a growing list of words that get mucked up. Burn might appear as Bum; ruin might appear as min; corner as comer. It might decide that I is 1, that an m is a w (we instead of me) or present a double quote (“) as two single quotes separated by a space (‘ ‘). We won’t even talk about what happens with italics. Each time I think I’ve found everything, I find something else to add to the list. Spellcheck has helped to find some things, Grammarly has helped with others, and I’m sure the proofreader will find some more.

I think it’s saving time over retyping the books completely but at the end of each day, I do wonder.

Two down, four to go.

What are you doing this week?

ACX for Canadian Authors

Today’s the day so many Canadian indie authors have been waiting for! ACX is now open to authors in US, UK, Canada and Ireland. 🙂

ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is a portal that helps indie authors create audiobooks of their work and distribute them. There are many many (many!) voice samples there from narrators all over the world, and you can request auditions – that’s when narrators read a sample of your book, so you can hear their interpretation of it. You can contract for the audiobook through ACX and once the book is done, distribute it to Amazon, Audible and iBooks.

ACX has a blog post today about this new opportunity for Canadian and Irish indies: you can find it right here.