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.

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?

 

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.

The Bride Quest

As I told you recently in Exciting News, the rights to my original Bride Quest trilogy have reverted to me. The trilogy includes The Princess, The Damsel and The Heiress. This means that I’m in the midst of creating new editions of these books for publication, which means that they need new covers.

The Princess, book #1 of the Bride Quest trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix  The Damsel, book #2 of the Bride Quest trilogy of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix  The Heiress, book #3 of the Bride Quest trilogy of Scottish medieval romances by Claire Delacroix

I decided this was an excellent opportunity to update the covers of the second Bride Quest as well—The Countess, The Beauty and The Temptress—so that the whole series has similar graphical branding.

The Countess, book #1 in the Bride Quest II trilogy of Scottish medieval romances, by Claire Delacroix  The Beauty, book #2 of the Bride Quest II trilogy of Scottish medieval romances and a NYT bestselling title, by Claire Delacroix  The Temptress, book #3 of the Bride Quest II trilogy of Scottish medieval romances, by Claire Delacroix

As of today, the house has removed their digital editions from sale, so it’s time to move forward!

My plan is to relaunch the first Bride Quest in August. I’m in the midst of removing the digital editions of the second Bride Quest trilogy from sale, so that I can relaunch the whole series with shiny new covers and updated interiors.

The new covers will be revealed in my May newsletter.

So, if you’re looking for these titles, don’t think your eyes are deceiving you. They’ll be back!

 

Pre-orders, Placeholders and Final Book Files

I’ve decided to make some changes in how I work, which will be mostly invisible to you. The one thing you’re going to notice is a little gap in new books being released. What’s happening is that I’m switching the order around.

Here’s why.

To date, I’ve listed books for pre-order (and shown you the covers) when they were still being finished. The idea is that when you finish book #1, you might like to order book #2, so I’ve made those links available for you. Even though I leave what seems to be enough time, plus a buffer, schedules have been getting tighter and tighter over the past year. The reason for this is pretty simple. The vendors I use are very good, which means they’re getting busier. They have more clients and tighter schedules. Everything works as long as everyone keeps to deadline—not just me, but ALL of each vendor’s clients. If someone gets sick, or there’s an unexpected development in their personal life, the domino effect kicks in. When vendors are less busy, they can move things around, but I’ve noticed in this past year that it’s become much harder for everyone to be flexible.

In a way, indie publishing is becoming like traditional publishing: when one deadline is missed in the production schedule, the domino effect might mean that the book’s publication date has to be moved. Each step in the production process is scheduled for a certain date, and the book can’t just move a week down the schedule because there’s another book scheduled for that time.

The Crusader's Vow by Claire Delacroix, book #4 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances.Another thing that’s been happening this year is that portals have been delivering the wrong file to readers. How can this be? At some portals, a pre-order can only be made available with a book file. Of course, if the book isn’t done, the correct book file isn’t available. The best solution is at iBooks, which doesn’t require a placeholder file at all. There’s no chance of confusion there. (This is called an asset-less pre-order.) At other portals, it’s common to use a placeholder file—for example, the placeholder file for The Crusader’s Vow at Kobo is a single page, which says that if you receive this file instead of the book, you should contact Kobo customer service. I like this solution, as there’s no chance of confusion, but it doesn’t work elsewhere. At Amazon, for example, the page count displayed on the product page is derived from the book file—if I upload a single page like the one at Kobo, the book will be listed as having one page and I will receive many emails complaining that a single page book shouldn’t be priced so high. (I know, because I’ve done this before!) The book will also automatically appear in a lot of quick read categories based on the size of that file, which would be wrong. So, the placeholder file for The Crusader’s Vow at Amazon is the final file of The Crusader’s Kiss. I had expected the two books to be about the same length (but actually Vow is longer). The benefit of this strategy is that it will be immediately obvious to a reader if the wrong file is delivered to them. Since B&N requires a book file and has been delivering the wrong file a lot this year, there has been no pre-order or placeholder file for The Crusader’s Vow there. The book will be listed for pre-order only when the final file can be uploaded.

There’s a deadline, of course, for providing the final file at each portal. Once the final file is uploaded (and uploaded on time) the portal should deliver it to the customer on the on-sale date. What’s been happening this year is that the placeholder file is being delivered instead. As you can imagine, this creates a huge mess. (If this happens to you, btw, please contact customer service at the portal in question. Please do not leave one-star reviews for the book or send hate mail to the author. Neither of these actions will get you the right book file. Of course, it’s frustrating, but only the portal can deliver the book you’ve paid them to receive.)

I’ve been thinking for a while that the best strategy is to only ever upload one book file.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, a Regency romance novella by Claire Delacroix and #1 of the Brides of North BarrowsTo give it a try, this year I set up a pre-order for a book that was already done. Something Wicked This Way Comes was written last summer and published in the Spellbound anthology last fall. I have the right to publish it on its own in March, so in December, I put it up for pre-order. I had the final book file, commissioned a cover, had it formatted and put it up for pre-order with the final book file. This has been a wonderful experience. Not only does the book have a nice volume of pre-orders because it’s been available longer as a pre-order, but its publication has been completely stress-free. I’ve even forgotten about it a couple of times, then remembered that I should make some memes. I want all of my book publications to be this easy!

Addicted to Love, a contemporary romance by Deborah CookeSo, my strategy going forward is going to be listing the book for sale only after it’s done, when the final file can be uploaded.

There’s one last asset-less pre-order out there—it’s for Kyle’s book, Addicted to Love, and is only at Kobo and iBooks. I’m going to write that book next and get it all loaded up early. When you see the Amazon pre-order, you’ll know Kyle’s book is done!

It will look to you as if I’m not writing much for a bit, but things will be busy behind the scenes. Once we make the transition, the publication schedule will look as busy as ever and ALL pre-orders will be for completed books.

I’m looking forward to it.

New Series Mailing Lists

I’ve been creating some new automated sequences in my mailing list.

Addicted to Love, a contemporary romance by Deborah CookeDon’t worry if you don’t know what that means. Two months ago, I didn’t know either. This is a pretty cool thing. An automated sequence is a series of emails that are set up to be delivered in order, and are triggered by some action. My first automations were added in November and are “onboarding” sequences. These two automations welcome new subscribers to my newsletter with a series of four emails. The emails talk about my books and series, tell where to find me on social media, etc. An onboarding sequence familiarizes new subscribers to bring them onboard. It’s an “automation” because once it’s set up, it just rolls. It doesn’t matter when someone subscribes to the list, their email is added to the onboarding sequence whenever they do subscribe. Twenty-four hours later, they’ll get the first email. The second, third and fourth are delivered at seven day intervals, then those new subscribers are added to my main newsletter list. There are two different sequences which are slightly different based upon what link the new subscriber uses to sign up for the list.

How cool is that?

Wyvern's Warrior, #3 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah CookeWell, it gets even better. Once I had my feet wet, so to speak, I decided to add some sequences for people who shop in my online store, to follow up on their purchases. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make this work for a while – the store has the ability to follow up, but allows a single follow-up for all purchases and products. I wanted the follow-up to be specific to whatever the customer downloaded. If, for example, you download the sample of Wyvern’s Warrior, it makes sense that you’ll be most interested in the full book of Wyvern’s Warrior. The Selz people helped me to figure out a way to do that, by using a new integration with a service called Zapier.

Now, I can set a specific sequence to trigger on any product. Ha! I’ve grouped the products into series and created new mailing lists for each series of books. The idea here is that you might not want to read all my news every month to learn what you want to know. You might not even want to read all my paranormal romance news. You might just want to know when the next Dragons of Incendium story is available—either for you to download a sample or for you to buy.

The Crusader's Bride, a medieval romance by Claire DelacroixAnd here’s the super-cool bit—you might even be interested in getting it on sale. One of the wonderful things I can do in my online store is create a discount and offer it to specific people. The discount is targeted, rather than being available to everyone who shops at Amazon, for example. On these series lists, subscribers are being offered discounts on the books in the series, either in digital or in print editions. It stands to reason that the subscribers on the list might be interested, since the only way to get on one of the lists is to download a sample from that series or buy one of the books in my online store.

If you’ve downloaded samples for Flatiron Five or the Dragons of Incendium series, you’ve probably received at least the beginning of one of these automated sequences already. I’ll be adding more series lists in the new year – next will be the Champions of St. Euphemia.

If you want to be added to the series newsletter lists, all you need to do is download a free sample of one of the included books. You can find all the book samples in my online store right here.

If you have any troubles with the sequence, suggestions for improvement or comments about it, please let me know!

My New Planner

As I’ve mentioned to you before, I took it as a challenge earlier this year to find better ways to  manage my time. By last spring, it seemed as if I was working all the time and that my work was running my life, instead of the other way around. Part of this is certainly due to my decision to indie-publish my work. There are a lot more tasks that are my responsibility, since I’m both author and publisher. Not only have I had to learn how to do them or find subcontractors to do them, but I’ve had to fit them (or their delegation and management) into my schedule. A couple of weeks ago, I completely forgot one of them. Fortunately, the portal in question sent me a reminder and everything was done on time, but it was a good warning that I need to be even MORE organized.

I belong to several writers’ groups and in one such group, there’s been a lot of discussion about planners and organizing tools. Many of these aids are printed books or sheets, and while I like the tactile experience of organizing on paper, I wanted a more fluid tool. I also want to be able to easily move a missed task from one day to the next. I was officially on the hunt for a digital planning solution. That way, when something goes wrong or unexpected obstacles appear, I’ll be able to re-adjust the schedule more readily.

The first thing I did was start a spreadsheet of what had to be done, and when. I listed all my upcoming projects, from those that are already scheduled and available for pre-order to those I’m dreaming about. I listed the projected length of the finished project (long book of 100K words, short book of 75k words, long novella 50K, novella 25K, short story 10K). I then set up a formula in the next column to calculate the number of working days it would require to complete this project. I took a low estimate of my daily word count to allow a little bit of wiggle room. Presto- each project had a precise number of days required to write it to completion.

Mr. Math pointed out to me that Excel has a multi-page calendar template. How wonderful! I created a calendar for 2016 and one for 2017. You choose the year, and it automatically populates the calendar so that the right date is on the right day of the week. Here’s what the page for January looks like, after I changed the template colour. (The other months are on separate tabs.)

Calendar Template from ExcelThis looked like a good solution.

Before I filled in the jobs for this year and next, I made some basic rules:
– no more working on Sundays
– I’ll work only every second Saturday
– there are other days like family birthdays and holidays that I won’t work
– I’ll take one day to clear my mind between writing projects
– each day that I write, I’ll write in the morning and do other tasks in the afternoon
– I’ll aim to have two tasks per day, a writing goal for the morning and an admin or publishing task for the afternoon.

Next, I marked out my travel days for next year. Even though I always have good intentions of working on airplanes or in hotels, I never do it. I blocked off the dates for the conferences I’ll be attending, added a travel day on each end and an organization day right after I get home. If there are booksignings associated with those events, I added a note to order books 60 days before the event, and another to post a pre-order form 150 days in advance.

Then I began to fill the calendar. The first tasks I had to fill in were the projects that were already listed for pre-order which aren’t done yet. I had to count back from the publication date to ensure that there’d be enough time for editing and formatting. I had to make some choices in November to fit them in, but nothing too drastic.

For new projects, I scheduled the writing first. Because I’ve worked with my editor for a while, I have a good idea of how long it will take her to turn a project around and send it back to me. I also know how many days I’ll need to do the edits and revisions. I counted out from these dates to establish publication dates. When I added in the second project, I had to skip the days when I’d be writing and editing the first project. I wiggled things around a bit to ensure that the publication schedule for each series was reasonable. I have some backlist titles to republish. Checking the files and packaging the books again will take some time (but not as much as writing a new book). I thought about release strategies and added those books to my schedule. I also intend to commission new covers for some books, which means that there are some admin tasks associated with updating them. I looked for gaps in my schedule and strategically placed those rebranding projects.

Then I put the production dates in. There are a lot of guidelines and hard dates. For example, the final file for any book has to be delivered to Amazon 10 days before the book goes on sale. A pre-order can only be set up at Amazon 90 days before the publication date. Kobo and Apple allow for pre-orders to be longer, so I marked them on my schedule for 180 days before publication. That means the digital cover needs to be done 180 days before publication, which means I need to contract a cover artist or contact an existing one 210 days before publication. Many of you like the free downloadable samples of my books, and I can upload them to Apple, so they should be done when the 180 day pre-orders are loaded. I’ll need the first chapter of the book done in order to create that sample. I set up the print edition of the book after the edits are final and the digital edition has gone to formatting. Once I have the final page count, I order the print book cover from the artist, upload it and proof it. I moved back and forth through my schedule, filling in these tasks for each book.

When the writing and the production were covered, I began to think about promotion. I usually send out my newsletter on the date of a new release. I can look at each month and choose a date for my newsletter. I can also see what other items to feature in that month’s newsletter. I often put the first book in a series on sale when the third or fourth book in that series is either on sale or available for pre-order. Those sales take about 30 days advance notice to set up. I looked through the calendar and noted when I should be setting up a sale and for which title. Right now, I keep Post-it notes reminding me when to return a sale book to its regular price. I added those dates to my schedule instead.

I was walking the dog when I realized I could add even more things to my schedule! There are still a few of my books under publisher control that will be eligible for reversion requests in the next year or two. I added those dates so I don’t forget them. I could add notations for payments or for sales reports, but Mr. Math tracks a lot of that for me. He can keep it on his schedule. 🙂

I’ve been using my new planner all week, and it works well. Looking at the tasks for the day first thing in the morning gives me focus, and that seems to ensure that I get them done. I also realized the spreadsheet opens to the month I last looked at—so, if I update  the spreadsheet at the end of the day to mark what’s done and save it, tomorrow, it’ll open right where I left off. There isn’t a checklist for completed tasks, but I’m just typing DONE or moving what’s undone to the next day. It’s already proven useful for working with subcontractors—both my editor and formatter asked for estimated dates for upcoming projects and I just looked them up on my planner. Perfect!

I still have a few stray Post-It notes on my desk and some details to corral, but by the end of November, I’ll be completely reliant on the planner. I’ll also have my pre-orders up for 2017 in good time, with complete confidence that the delivery dates will be met.

How do you stay organized? Are you a planner or a listmaker?

Just One Day

Earlier this year, I started to wonder how I had so little time to write even though I felt like I was working all the time. I started to keep a daily log of what I was doing, and made some changes to my routine. I thought you might be interested in seeing a typical day in the indie author’s life.

Here’s my day, on September 20 of this year.

The Scoundrel, book #2 of the Rogues of Ravensmuir trilogy of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix6:00 AM – Rise and shine! Let the dog out. Update pages on my website with new covers including the Rogues of Ravensmuir (5 website pages) plus the Prometheus Project (6 website pages). Fiddle to make the old covers display better. Create two new banners for the website (one for each of the above series) and install.

7:30 – Breakfast. Review plans for the day and meals with Mr. Math.

8:00 – Daily email triage. Daily sales check at online portals. (I publish directly to Amazon, Apple, Kobo, B&N, All Romance, GooglePlay, LSI, and Createspace. I check sales on the first four every day, the others less frequently.) This is an on-sale day for Wyvern’s Prince, so check product links on all portals, verify that pre-orders have been posted. It’s also an on-sale day for Spellbound, but I’m not the publisher on that series. Have a peek at the product pages all the same. Social media quick-stop because tick tock, time is passing and there’s a lot to be done.

Abyss, #4 of the Prometheus Project of urban fantasy romances by Deborah Cooke9:00 – Real life interval. 🙂 Shower, make bed, fold laundry from dryer, empty dishwasher, make tea.

9:45 – Crisis and challenge management. There were several portal issues in the midst of resolution, which was the morning’s focus. Crises change by day, but here’s a typical sample:

• I’m updating the interiors of backlist titles and had a glitch at Ingrams on the upload. They said it would be fixed by today. It appears to be fixed, so submit four titles in the Coxwell series for final file review.

• I’m participating in a promotion on September 28 with a free title. I’d requested that Amazon match Apple’s free price point, they said that they would do so by today, so I verified that the price change had been made.

• Also, Amazon had  incorrect prices on two other titles, I requested they be corrected which was to be done by today. They are now correct.

• A GooglePlay price is incorrect so I fixed it by logging into my dashboard.

• I have several books that have been miscategorized at Apple, they say a fix is in the works, so I checked on them. That change is still in progress, so I’ll check it daily until it’s done. I was accepted for two Kobo promotions, declined for another and invited to participate in a new one. Flag that application to be done later.

Arista's Legacy, #2.5 in the Dragons of Incendium series of paranormal romances by Deborah Cooke10:00 – 12:00 Begin review of final edits of Arista’s Legacy. My editor always asks such good questions. (grrr!)

12:00 – Lunch! Take the New Girl for our daily walk and think about the answers to my editor’s questions.

1:30 – Details, details. Register two copyrights. Compose and send two “new release alerts.” Check that monthly newsletter is being delivered in batches as scheduled. Talk to agent about an errant check. Check in on social media and retweet, share, etc.

2:00 – Back to Arista’s Legacy. Finish edits and finalize file. Tweak file of  Wyvern’s Prince for continuity. Deliver both files to formatter. Update print-on-demand interior file for Wyvern’s Prince (which includes Arista’s Legacy). Since the cover is already done and uploaded, submit book files for technical review. Update Createspace product page, and update my website with Createspace link. Ask Amazon to link the print and digital editions of Wyvern’s Prince on their website.

The Crusader's Bride, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix5:00 – Confirm details of upcoming BookBub ad. (The Crusader’s Bride on October 2.) Sign up for an author signing event in 2017. Review and sign contract amendment with Blackstone Audio for wider audio distribution on two audiobooks. Deliver new audio cover for The Rogue to Blackstone and to ACX, and upload it to Soundcloud. Hand off audiobook review lists to new VA, review protocol and history so she can manage it going forward.

6:00 – Make dinner with Mr. Math and eat. 🙂

7:30 – Interior files for the Coxwell series POD updates have been approved on the technical end at LSI. Review proofs digitally for all four books, approve the files and put those books back on sale.

9:00 – Read a bit while Mr. Math loads the dishwasher.

10:00 – Sleep.

Rinse and repeat.

This was actually a pretty productive day, as I did about five hours of what I consider to be my real work—writing and editing. That’s progress! Just for the sake of comparison, ten years ago, I would have written 3000 words on a new ms before getting those edits done, and I would have been done by 4 PM. I would have had no responsibilities in terms of publishing my books, but also (there’s always a downside) just about no control over the way my books went into the world. I’m happy to take on the extra hours to have that control.

It is a question of how many hours, and of finding a productive balance, though. At the other end of the spectrum, for several years up to last spring, I would have spent the entire release day on social media stuff and admin stuff. I would have gotten no editing or new writing done at all. (I might not have gotten any writing done the day before or the day after, either.) I decided last spring that I needed to spend more time writing each day. I’m pleased to see my progress in the right direction.

So, there you go. That’s the view from my desk. Was it what you expected or not?

Walmart & Print Books

Walmart in the US is now selling indie-published books from their website. I’m guessing that authors whose books sell well on the site will have upcoming titles considered for in-store placement, which is pretty neat. It’s wonderful that they’re also welcoming indie-published titles.

The frustrating bit is their search engine. First, you have to put the author name within double quotes in the search field – “Claire Delacroix” or “Deborah Cooke” – order to get results.

The second thing is the search engine itself.

If you search on “Claire Delacroix”, the results will be The Princess, The Mammoth Book of Irish Romance and To Weave a Web of Magic. All traditionally published titles. If you search on “Deborah Cooke”, the results will be Kiss of Fire, Kiss of Fury and Kiss of Fate. Again, these are traditionally published titles.

The Beauty Bride, first book in the Jewels of Kinfairlie series of medieval Scottish romances by Claire DelacroixBut where are my indie titles? I did a little experiment and searched on my publisher name, “Deborah A. Cooke”.

Bingo. There they are.

This is recent because the cover for The Beauty Bride available from Walmart is this one, on the left, which only went live in June.

On the one hand, it’s great that all the new Claire Delacroix titles are available from the Walmart website. On the other hand, I think it’s pretty unlikely that people will find them there without any help.

So, here’s a tip. One place to easily find the publisher name on a title is on the Amazon website – and yes, it’s strange to go to one portal to find the information you need to shop at another portal, but Amazon has always been an encyclopedic reference for books. The publisher name is in the product details. Scroll down on the page for The Beauty Bride, and you’ll find this:

How to find the publisher name at Amazon

It’s not highlighted on Amazon. I just did that here for you. 🙂

I also realized that the True Love Brides series and the Champions of St. Euphemia series aren’t being returned in any of these results. Hmm. I licensed the print distribution for these books to a company called EverAfter, but they have thousands of books. I searched by title for “The Frost Maiden’s Kiss” and there it is:

The Frost Maiden's Kiss by Claire Delacroix at Walmart

So, searching by title might be a good plan when you have a specific book in mind.

I’ve asked if this data can be updated, so it’s possible there will be changes. We’ll see.

Having indie books available for sale at Walmart is a good thing and an exciting development. But, remember when you’re looking for an author’s books there to be persistent!

Edited to add – not all titles are there, as of today. I’ve added Walmart buy links to the pages here on the site for the books that are available from Walmart’s site. Maybe they’ll be adding more. (?) Look for my “Buy at Walmart” icon here on my site: 

Buy at Walmart