Monday, August 1, 2016

The goals for the year ahead

Usually around this time of year, I take a moment to breathe: I’ve cleared my desk of certain projects that have lingered for the time being, and I’m doing a bit of a cleanse, shall we say. I also take a moment to take stock in what I have accomplished in the year, and I also re-assess the goals I have set for the next 12 months or so.

(You can take a look at what I’ve said I would do in past years here and here. Some of it, I've followed through. Other stuff, not so much.)

We are slightly halfway through 2016. I’ve attended my first convention, and I’ve released two books so far. Through seven months, I’ve sold 459 books. Sixty-six books a month is a decent average, but not outstanding; to compare, my friend Daniel Arenson announced this morning that he sold “tens of thousands” of books in July. While I am incredibly happy for Daniel’s success, I want to have that success, too. I am desperate for that success.

In addition, my mailing list, after a thorough cull of spam accounts earlier today, is at 37 subscribers. In all, those are not great numbers.

The crazy thing about this: I know I can do better.

I am determined to do better.

That said, here’s what I’m planning to do over the next year:

First, everything I’ve written needs to be in print, via the old fashioned ink-and-paper delivery system.

As I explained Sunday, I had hesitated in bringing a great variety of physical product to the convention, not knowing how much I would sell, for starters: I didn’t want to be burdened with loads of stock, and I didn’t want to feel like the old “self-publisher selling books out of the trunk of his car” adage. But when I was asked, “Where’s the rest?” by several attendees on realizing I have 24 novels out, it makes me look inward and say, “maybe I really should have had more of a variety with me.”

The problem is this: the first four AGENT novels have the old covers on them, not the newer covers from two years ago. Also, The Lone Bostonian and several other books are not in ink-and-paper. Why? For me, my thinking over time is that I’d make them available if there’s a demand for them. I’ve only sold 180ish ink-and-paper books, and only 16 ink-and-paper books in 2016; most of my sales come via ebook. Suffice to say, there hasn’t been much call for ink-and-paper books.

But if I want to do more conventions, if I want to get out and meet more people—more potential readers—I need to have the books on hand, and in order to do that, I need to dedicate time and energy to making sure the books are formatted for ink-and-paper, and are formatted properly. I also need to release single versions of the books in The Obloeron Saga in both digital and ink-and-paper, and those need covers. I also need second-edition AGENT paperbacks for the first four books, a second-edition for Zombie Showdown, and I need to put the novella in print, too. I need all of this done by November, in time for Christmas.

Secondly, I need more ebook bundles.

I’m seeing loads of authors having success with ebook bundles. Right now, the only ebook bundle I have is for The Obloeron Saga, and that is six novels with three short stories woven into the prose. I need to get the Small Town PI mystery series into an ebook bundle, as well as the first seven Jaclyn novels into an ebook bundle. That needs to be done ASAP.

Third, I need to write a new series.

At present, I just don’t know what that new series will be. My next book is a follow-up to a book I released last year, The Long Crimson Line (ebook and ink-and-paper, and hopefully we’ll be in audio soon), and I plan on starting to write that book next week or the week after. That will make TLCL a duology instead of just a standalone. I’m going to try and stay away from writing standalones for the foreseeable future; they just don’t sell, at least not for me. That gives me a few months to come up with something, another series, before I start plotting out JJ9.

I’m also considering writing that new series under a pen name. I did it with Jaclyn under my real name after sales under the John Fitch V name slumped.

Fourth, I need to get Furball and Feathers back out, with new cover art.

This one isn’t as imperative as the others, but one I need to exercise patience.

I’m not the best artist in the world. I admit that. I did sketch out and color the horse cover for the third book in that series, but it needs a massive overhaul, art-wise. I bought a sketch pad a few weeks ago, and I’m hoping to ferret some time away to design a whole new set of colorful covers. I miss that children’s world!

And finally, do better convention prep.

Better signage, a Square credit card reader, book stands… and more product. Yes. My next convention will be better.

Simply put, I as an author need to be better.

You as my readers deserve better.