Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Project Management for the Writing Business (with bonus Heartstrikers 3 sample chapter reveal!)

Hello everyone!

I'm up to my neck in work all of a sudden, so we're taking a quick break from Prose Summer Camp. Travis has come to the Writing Wednesday rescue with an AMAZING post about how to manage your writing schedule like the pros (or at least these pros) do.

Before we get into that, though, I've got a treat for you. As you know, the third Heartstrikers novels, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, comes out on August 5! I realize that's very far away, so I've put together a little something to tide you over. How about...sample chapters?!

You can also preorder the book right now. You know, just to be safe. Bob says it's dangerous to go alone. Take this.

And with that, I have to go back to the word mines. I really hope you enjoy this sneak peek, and I know you're going to enjoy Trav's crazy awesome post about project management!

For real, if you want to be a writing professional with a reliable timeline (or any kind of development professional since we got all of this from our joint background in programming), this stuff is gold. I was really blown away.

And with that, take it away Travis! 


Hi Folks,

Rachel and I sit down from time to time to plan out the writing schedule. Today I'd like to talk about the process and tools we use to generate our calendar with. This is a non-trivial question for a writing business, so I hope you'll find this info handy. It's all methods that I've learned from years of working in the programming industry, which is surprisingly similar to the book writing business.

Bonus: I'm going to post a spreadsheet that you can download and use to do this for yourself!

Project Management for the Writing Business

How many days can a full time writer write if a full time writer can write full time?

It's not 365
This is a question that all managers in all businesses have to learn and, in my experience, end up learning the hard way. Why the hard way? Because it's a lot less than anyone ever thinks it is and it's not intuitive. For example,

there's not that many writing days per year!

Looking at this, a very diligent author can optimally cram in 234, eight-hour work days of writing. That's only 2/3rd of the year. This isn't the whole picture though, the number is actually much lower.

Toss in the overhead of full time work life as well as running an author blog and now we're down to basically half of the year for writing. I'm not done yet though! How much of this time is actually spent writing?

Later on, I'm going to link you to my Book Timeline Estimator spreadsheet. Right now though, I'm going to use it to give you an example of how much time goes into a sample Rachel Aaron novel.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Guest Post: Loss Leaders, or How I learned to Stop Being Poor and Love the $0.99 Book

Hi Folks,

Last Monday, I talked about why 99c should not be your go-to regular novel price. We got a lot of good feedback on this post! The best counter-point was from USA Today bestselling author Annie Bellet, who has graciously agreed to do today's guest post.

Annie Bellet is the USA Today bestselling author of The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, which Rachel loved and is free right now! So check it out.

Her other notable works include the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division and the Gryphonpike Chronicles series.

She holds a BA in English and a BA in Medieval Studies and thus can speak a smattering of useful languages such as Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Welsh. Which is pretty darned cool!

Her interests besides writing include rock climbing, reading, horse-back riding, video games, comic books, table-top RPGs and many other nerdy pursuits.  She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a very demanding Bengal cat.

This is a great guest post ya'll as the comments on my anti-99c post were mostly all about loss leading. So today is going to be very on point!

(Just a quick word. I realize in hindsight, that maybe I didn't setup my post properly. Long and short, I was talking about people who do things like price entire series at 99c, price book 3 at 99c, or otherwise use it as a long-term, regular price for too many of their works. It wasn't meant to say, "never use 99c".)

But while I could have been clearer, I'm very happy it lead to such a great conversation! So, are you ready to look at the loss leader strategy and how you can rock out with well-done 99c pricing? Here's Annie Bellet!

Guest Post: Loss Leaders, or How I learned to Stop Being Poor and Love the $0.99 Book

Pricing. It’s a scary part of self-publishing. What is a book worth? You’ve put dozens or even hundreds of hours into a work. You’ve (hopefully) paid for editing and wow-factor cover art and smooth formatting and your book looks like a million bucks to you. It’s weeks and months or years of blood and sweat and tears.

I’m going to tell you something scary but first a little caveat. This is all my belief and based on my own experiences and what I’ve observed after six years of self-publishing and putting up over forty titles. It is not the last word nor a 100% script that everyone can or should follow. Nothing works for everyone all the time. Nothing. Anyone who says “this is the only way” is either deluded or selling something. The following is just my experience and based on my own data and data I’ve gathered. Take it as such.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Anatomy of a Scene

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Prose Summer Camp!

Today, we're going to be taking a look at the workhorse of fiction, the scene. But first, announcements!

First, on Monday, Trav had a great post about why you shouldn't price your novel at $0.99. For the record, I absolutely agree with everything he says, but (as we always say around here), our way is not the only way. Case in point, after we posted the article, the awesome and very successful Annie Bellet contacted me on Twitter to tell me that she and several other authors have had fantastic success pricing at $0.99! This lead to a great discussion which I begged her to put into a post, and she gracious obliged. So, next Monday we'll have a guest post from Annie about why you should price your novel at $0.99! I've already read it, and it's going to be awesome.

Secondly, we've added a ton of new posters to the shop! Including this little beauty...


Folks, I've got one in my hands right now, and it is gorgeous! The colors are so much more vibrant than on screen. We've also got posters for the covers and art for One Good Dragon Deserves Another (finally) and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished as well, and they look just as good. You need more dragons in your life, right? Head on over to the swag shop to take a look and get some special Heartstrikers art for your walls!

Now that's out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks, with...

Prose Summer Camp: Anatomy of a Scene

So far in this series, we've talked about the small, technical details of good writing like improving sentence structure and how to write good sentence level description. We even had Bob come in to help us with dialogue

Now we're going to zoom out a bit and take a look at a larger, but still fundamental, aspect of good novel writing: the scene. As always, though, a disclaimer:

**This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. If you don't like my writing style, knowing how I plan my scenes might not be useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you.**

Now that's out of the way, let's talk about what a scene can do.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Let's Talk Numbers: Why You Shouldn't Price Your Novel at $0.99

Hi Folks,

We're back from Colorado, so that means our more regular posts can resume. Thank you again to Kameron Hurley for filling in for us with her amazing gust post about hybrid authorship! (Seriously, go read it if you haven't! It's good!)

Today I have a short one about pricing. Let's talk about pricing a full length novel at 99c as a standard, not sale, price and the horrible problems that can create.

For this post, please keep in mind that I'm talking about full length novels. Short stories, serials, and novellas definitely have different pricing rules and this discussion may or may not apply to those arenas.

Why You Shouldn't Price Your Novel at $0.99

Every now and then, we see people doing this. They have a a shiny new book, a full length novel no less, and they release it for sale at a $0.99 cover price. Rachel and I cannot help but cringe when we see this happen, because we understand the faulty logic that's happening behind the scenes here.

Why would someone do this? There's basically three kinds of authors who put up full novels at what is a discount price.
  1. Those who are part of the book mill brands who write a book a month, don't edit or copy edit it, and just go for quantity over quality as a publishing strategy.
  2. People who are trying to build readership, often desperately so.
  3. Folks who don't think their books are worth full price.
It should come as no surprise that Rachel and I disapprove of the book mill approach. We don't think that it's good for the industry in general. Worse, the people we've see who pursue this kind of business model often talk about how soul killing it is, so y'all can see why we dislike this practice on many levels.

Now, people who are pricing their books at 99c as a means of building readership faster, those people I want to talk to the most today. For insecure authors, I'll be hitting on that topic near the end of this post.

Most everything I have to say about pricing low to build readership can be summed up simply as,

Using $0.99 as your regular price point is trading long-term gains for short-term ones.

Starting out, new authors need to build readership. It's the first and last item on their agenda besides writing the next book. Additionally, most people understand that lower price = greater volume so pricing to move is the logical tactic.
"Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat"
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Persistent bargain-basement pricing is engaging in grievously short term tactics without really considering their impact on the future (ie the strategy for a healthy long-term career). There's three major issues with using $0.99 as a regular price point for full length novels.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Writing Wednesday GUEST POST! with the amazing Kameron Hurley

Hello from COLORADO!

Yes, I'm standing by a frozen lake. Yes, I am wearing shorts. 10,000 feet, baby!
As you've probably surmised from the pictures, we're on vacation this week. Fortunately, this works out in your favor because we've got the amazing (and Hugo award winning!) essayist, author, feminist, and all around whipsmart lady Kameron Hurly here on the blog to talk about making the jump from trad to self-pub and back again!

I've read many of the essays from Geek Feminist Revolution and I love them. She has a ton of essays featuring deep, critical thought on geeky topics up for free all over the internet. It's a type of deep introspection genre that's very hard to find in genre fiction especially, and as a member of the SFF community, I absolutely love what she does with and for my genre. I'd be super stoked to get her on the blog for any reason, but she is especially perfect for today's topic, and let me just say, we are ALL in for a treat.

So, without further ado, here's Kameron to talk about the business of taking an indie project to NY!

How to Repackage a Self-Pub Project for Traditional Publication

Hello, everyone! And thanks to Rachel for hosting me. Today I’m going to talk about my recently-released essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, and how my agent and I worked to repackage and pitch content which had already appeared around the web into a traditional publishing deal.

As a general rule, unless a self-publishing project sells a lot of copies, it’s difficult to get traditional publishers interested in them. I know! It sucks, but you’ll hear this a lot from agents and publishers. It really has to be a legit phenomenon to stir up interest, especially now that there are so many more self-pub success stories. Even essay collections like the one I pitched can be a difficult sell if more than 20% of the content you propose for the collection has been previously published online.
So how did we do it?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Simple Strategies to Vastly Improve Your Sentences

Another summer Wednesday, another Prose Summer Camp! Hooray!

Don't sue me, Forest Service!
Before we get going, though, for all you Heartstrikers readers who might have missed last Monday's post, I'm going to be writing a special Heartstrikers short story in which (not to be too spoiler-tastic) Bethesda is going to be asked many questions. Rather than make up all these questions myself though, I thought it would be fun to open up the floor to you, the readers!

So if you have any questions you'd like the Great and Terrible Bethesda to answer, head on over and leave them in the comments! The best ones (that won't be answered in upcoming books) will be posed to the Heartstriker matriarch herself, so ask away! (And wear flame retardant clothing!)

Now that's covered, back to the post!

Writing Wednesday: Simple Strategies to Vastly Improve Your Sentences

*Disclaimer: This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. Some of the rules I lay out below are universal, others are stylistic choices. Either way, if you don't like my writing style, seeing how I write my sentences might not be very useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you. Enjoy responsibly!**

So far in Prose Summer Camp, we've talked about how to write better sentence level description and how to write properly formatted, compelling dialogue (with help from everyone's favorite seer!). This week, we're getting even more fundamental with a detailed look at how to buff up actual sentence level writing.

Surprisingly complete. Thanks, internet!

The ability to write a good sentence or paragraph is something that gets brushed over way too often in the genre community. This isn't to say there aren't amazing lyrical writers in genre, there absolutely are, but all too often I see genre writers focusing all of their improvement efforts on the big picture elements--plot, character, world building, all the things that make genre fiction amazing--while ignoring the most basic aspect of good writing: the sentence. It's as though we think that, just because we're not writing literature, bad prose is somehow okay.

Now I'm not saying your paragraphs have to be a staggering works of heartbreaking genius to be good (Lord knows mine aren't), but bad prose is like a dirty bathroom. Sure, the sink might be amazing and the showers might use waterflow methods hither-to unknown to mankind, but if the mirror has toothpaste spit marks on it and there's hairballs on the floor, that fancy stuff doesn't matter. If it looks a mess, no one is going to want to spend any time inside.

This is such a shame, because--like everything else we've covered in this series--bad sentence level writing is one of the easiest problems to fix. I can't tell you how to have better ideas, but I can show you how to write a sentence that reads well, clearly communicates what you're trying to say, and (most importantly) don't distract your reader from all the stuff you wrote this book to talk about in the first place.

Ready? Let's get started!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Upcoming Q & A with Bethesda!

Hello, everyone!

Rachel here, commandeering Trav's blog day to ask you folks for a little help. As you might have heard from a few previous posts NO GOOD DRAGON GOES UNPUNISHED is coming out in just a few weeks (preorder it here!). I actually just sent the final version of the text to the proofreader, so that means it's time to start doing fun bonus book launch stuff! Yay!

Free stuff?! THIS. IS. RACHEL'S BLOOOOOOOOOOG! (so yes)

One of the projects I have in mind is going to be (hopefully) really cool, but to make it even cooler, I wanted to ask for your input. Without letting the dragon out of the bag too much, I'm going to be doing an...interview of sorts with everyone's favorite terrible mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker! So if you ever had a question you wanted to hear Bethesda answer about her children, her clan, dragons, or her life in general, please ask it in the comments below.

Bethesda, she's not as bad as she looks! She's actually way worse.

I'll be picking the best ones (or at least the ones I can answer without horribly spoiling the series) for her to answer in a special Heartstrikers short story that will come out before the release of book 3. YES! EARLY HEARTSTRIKERS! WOO!

This story will be free and made specially for you guys, my awesome fans! So if there's a question you desperately want to see Bethesda answer that I haven't addressed in the books, ask it below, and let's have some fun!

Thanks as always, and I'll see you guys on Wednesday for more Prose Summer Camp!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Writing Wednesday: "Hey, Rachel!" the readers cried. "Can you do a post about dialogue?"

Ah, summer. The sun's out, the heat is oppressive, and there are UNINVINTED GUESTS in my house. Clearly, the only thing to do is to break out the swimwear and dive into the nitty gritty details of writing at the prose level. It's,

A badly photoshopped sign using stolen Park Service fonts! No, wait, I mean it's...

Prose Summer Camp!

Yaaay! Today we're going to be focusing on dialogue. Not how to come up with good dialogue (for that, see this post), but how to actually write the stuff in a way that reads well and makes sense on the page. 

Now this might not sound like a big deal, but I can't tell you how many books have been ruined for me by, shall we say, unwise dialogue and dialogue tag choices. Even if the dialogue itself is decent, it's hard to appreciate witty banter when you're trying to figure out how someone can gesticulate a word (are they using Sign Language?). I know that sounds nit picky, but when you're talking about your book, these are your nits to pick. Voice in a book is made up of thousands of nit picky choices just like this. 

Choose well, and no one will notice because they'll be too busy paying attention to your characters and plot. Choose poorly, and the little bad decisions will be all your readers notice. It's like a big old scratch in the paint job of a brand new car. Sure it might not actually change how the car runs, but no one wants to buy a new car with a scratch on it. If you're going to sell that thing, it has to look its best, and this kind of attention to detail is one of the ways we get there.

It should also be noted that these sort of decisions are often considered a stylistic writing choice, which means unless you're really murdering the grammar, no copy editor is going to fix them for you. (And if you are murdering the grammar, you shouldn't be depending on a copy editor to fix that in the first place.) You're the writer here. It's up to you to write well, so let's dig into how we do that.

But first, a disclaimer:

**This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. Some of the rules I lay out below are universal, others are stylistic choices. Either way, if you don't like my writing style, seeing how I make my dialogue choices might not be very useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you. Enjoy responsibly! **

Now that's out of the way, onward to...

Writing Wednesday: How to (Actually) Write Dialogue

Rachel clapped her hands and looked around the virtual room. "Okay," she said, positively vibrating with grammatical excitement. "Let's talk about writing and talking, my two favorite things! Dialogue in text is one of those writing things we assume everyone just knows. After all, we've all read books before, which means we've seen proper dialogue in action. But seeing isn't always understanding. To truly get what's going on, we have to understand why these authors made the dialogue choices they did."

"And I suppose you're going to tell us?"

Rachel looked up in confusion to see Brohomir, Great Seer of the Heartstrikers, sitting at the back of the room, feeding his pigeon from the tray of complementary snack crackers. "What are you doing here?"

"Shameless self-promotion," Bob said with a grin. "The third volume of my adventures comes out August fifth, and I wanted to make sure everyone in your audience knew they could preorder No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished."

"I don't see how they could have missed it," Rachel said, pointing at the long line of announcement posts, tweets, and other various public declarations. "But since you're already here, how would you like to be my example?"

Bob sighed. "Why are you even asking? You're the writer, and I've already foreseen the end of this little mise en scène. Even if I say no, we both know you're going to make me do it anyway."

"But of course," Rachel said with a cruel grin. "That's the price of being a fan favorite. When the author needs people to pay attention, you get pressed into service." Her smirk widened. "Characters exist to be used."

The dragon seer arched an eyebrow. "Careful," he warned. "Your Bethesda is showing."