My first NaNoWriMo

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Off the top, I have to say this: I won!  My first time out and I won 🙂

Backtracking to my trip to Surrey

Before I even left, I was considering NaNo. The municipal liaison came out to the Sudbury Writers’ Guild meeting in September to promote. My leave would be until November 18, 2013, so I thought I’d probably have a chance.

While at SiWC, I heard several people talking about NaNo and how it had really helped them get their ideas down, break through writers’ block, built their confidence, and so forth.

By the time I got back, I was determined to give it a try.

I chose a project that I had outlined years ago. I’d had a little bit written, but I hadn’t touched it in years.

I was going to start over in any case.

The power of planning

I knew I was going away for a few days to visit some friends, and that I’d be going back to work before the month was out. I started out by front loading the work, trying to move ahead quickly at the beginning so I could coast a bit at the end if I needed to.

Still, when I went back to work, there were a few low count nights. I was worried.

To make time for my writing in the evenings when I went back to work, I tried using my smart(er than me) phone to keep track of my email and social media.

I got up a half-hour earlier than usual to check Facebook, WordPress follows, and my Feedly follows and share the interesting stuff on Twitter and Google+.

The pilgrim’s progress

Here’s a convenient table for you:

Day Count Total + or –
1 2161 2161 +494
2 2284 4445 +1111
3 2325 6770 +1769
4 travel 0 6770 +102
5 2122 8892 +557
6 travel 0 8892 -1110
7 1877 10769 -900
8 2168 12937 -399
9 2190 15127 +124
10 1675 16802 +132
11 1721 18528 +191
12 2284 20812 +808
13 2008 22820 +1149
14 1699 24519 +1181
15 1684 26203 +1198
16 1894 28097 +1425
17 1668 29801 +1462
18 1727 31528 +1522
19 return to work 1181 32709 +1036
20 549 33258 +82
21 507 33765 -1242
22 1822 35587 -1087
23 1814 37301 -1040
24 1707 39008 -1000
25 1731 40739 -936
26 1677 42416 -926
27 1692 44108 -901
28 757 44865 -1811
29 2232 47097 -1246
30 3802 50899 +899

What I learned

I don’t think I could do this working full time.

Having said that, it was fantastic to know that I could pull a 50000+ word draft together in 30 days. It was interesting to me because my first novel took me a year to write, working in the evenings and on weekends.

It gives me hope that if I do end up getting a deal for my work at some point and am asked to pump out sequels in swift succession, I should be able to do so. Also, if I end up going the self-publishing route, it’s always good to have moar material out there. If people like what I write, I can potentially supply the demand.

While my Samsung Galaxy Note II is quite lovely, I don’t think that I could manage my social media long term using it alone. Some of the information so easily accessible on my desktop is not so convenient to find in an Android app version of the program. Also, some things don’t translate well. Though the Feedly app appears to allow FB mentions in a post, it does not actually include them when posting to FB.

I have a few strange-looking posts over the last couple of weeks, and was not able to keep track of anyone’s birthdays on my phone, so apologies to anyone I may have offended or missed as a result.

Again, it’s good to know that I can do a minimally good job of maintaining my social media from my phone if need be.

Today, except for these blog posts, I have not written. I’ll get back on that horse shortly. I’ve also had to let a few submission deadlines slide because I just couldn’t manage to do it all. Everyone has their limits.

Coming up

I’ll be blogging in the future about my writing plans moving forward as well as a little about work. Interesting times I live in 😉

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

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Mark Leslie workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild

This past Thursday, November 28, Mark Lefebvre of Kobo, who writes under the pen name Mark Leslie, conducted a workshop on self-publishing for the Sudbury Writers’ guild.

Mark spoke a bit about his experience with self-publishing first.

Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie with members of the SWG and Barnaby

His horror short story collection, One Hand Screaming, was published using Lightning Source (now Spark) from Ingram.

For his anthology Campus Chills, Mark and his friend Steve formed Stark Publishing (Steve + Mark). They used the Espresso Book Machine, which got its name because in the time it takes to make an espresso, the machine could produce a book.

At the time, Mark was working for a university book store and convinced the store to invest in the machine. He made the venture a paying one, producing all kinds of books for various groups in the university and surrounding community.

Mark is also an editor, editing North of Sixty, and Tesseracts Sixteen.

More recently, he compiled stories with background research for Haunted Hamilton and Spooky Sudbury, which he co-authored with Sudbury journalist Jenny Jelen. Both books were published with Dundurn Press in Hamilton.

One of the things to keep in mind is that traditional publishing can get you into places that you could never get into alone, for example, Costco.

Now Mark works for Kobo (which is just an anagram of book, by the way).

Why authors choose to self-publish

  • For the new author, it’s a way to break in to traditional publishing, make a mark, get noticed.
  • For mid-list writers, it’s most often used to resurrect their backlist. As copyright returns to authors, they format for self-publication and keep their work in circulation longer than their traditional publisher were willing to.
  • For the NYTBS author, self-publishing offers control.

In general, self publishing offers higher royalties and faster payouts than traditional publishing.

Epub format is the industry standard.

Mobi is the Amazon standard.

Self-publishing is good for long-form journalism. (Mel’s note: we had a fair discussion of this. For those who don’t know what long-form journalism is, it is the full version of the article with bonus research materials. The print article may be a thousand or so words. The long-form version may be five or ten thousand. Think academic essay, but more accessible.)

It’s also good for publishing collections of short stories. If the stories have already been published elsewhere, then it can be seen as a kind of validation or pre-screening, and the collection may have a ready audience.

Services:

  • Kobo
  • Kindle
  • Nook
  • iBooks
  • Smashwords

Kobo started out with Reading Life for their ereaders, and then developed Writing Life for their authors. The Kobo dashboard allows the author to see stats, earnings, and sales figures globally at a glance. (Mel’s note: Hugh Howey used, liked, and promoted Kobo Writing Life.)

You can format your work in Word or OfficeLibre (formerly Open Office). Use Sigil, or Calibre to tweak formatting, and Kobo even has a native WYSIWYG editor which will be familiar to WordPress users.

Follow the formatting instructions of your chosen platform carefully.

A word on DRM: it only hurts paying customers.

Branding

It’s not just about your name.

Mark takes his skeleton, Barnaby, on the road with him wherever he goes. He puts a t-shirt on Barnaby and sets him up outside the bookstore. People wandering by sit down and have their pictures taken, post them on social media. It’s free publicity.

Vistaprint is a great source for promotional materials. Pens, mugs, and t-shirts are just some of the swag you can buy to give away and promote your work.

KDP and KDP select

KDP select is Kindle’s exclusivity line. You can only publish with KDP select, no one else. You can only price books for free on KDP select, but only for five days out of every ninety.

You can work around it. Just publish using KDP and also on other services. Price the book for free on Smashwords or elsewhere, and Amazon will price match if one of your fans reports the competitor pricing.

Diversifying is better. Get your work out there and into the hands, or ereaders, of your fans. Let them choose the service.

Price is a verb

$2.99 seems to be the sweet spot (right now). The lower you set your price point, the more your royalties will be reduced.

You have to know who your audience is.

$1.99 seems to be the price point of doom. Currently, no one knows why.

$.99 is good, as are $3.99 and $4.99.

Authors can experiment. One author change the price of her ebooks from $4.99 to $5.99 and saw sales across all platforms except Kindle increase slightly. Kindle sale went down initially, but within two weeks, they levelled out again and all was well.

The two biggest complaints from marketing about ebooks are:

The cover sucks; and

It’s priced too low.

Free can work as a gateway to a backlist.

It’s a wrap!

There is so much more to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) than I wrote about.

Yes, there were a tonne (that’s metric, eh?) of sessions that I couldn’t get to, everything from self-publishing, to social media and platform maintenance, from screenwriting to non-fiction sessions, and marketing sessions.

And yes, I may have mentioned things like the blue pencil and pitch sessions with the agents. Those keen on these could sign up for multiple sessions.

There was a professional photographer there to take head shots as well.

Where would I fit it all in?

But I didn’t mention the Master classes that preceded the conference. They required an extra fee, but I hear they were well worth it.

I didn’t mention Michael Slade’s Theatre of the Macabre, in which Anne Perry, Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, and KC Dyer did a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart,” replete with music and sound effects.

I didn’t mention the book fair, author signing, or writing group get-together.

I didn’t mention the excellent food served at the lunches and dinners.

I didn’t mention the annual tradition of Jack Whyte singing the Hippopotamus Song.

Really, this is a conference you need to put on your writer’s bucket list.

We’re all time travellers

Since British Columbia is three hours behind the Eastern Time zone, I thought I would experience jet lag. I did, but not until I returned.

While I was in Surrey, I typically stayed up late to check on social media and do a bit of transcription of the notes I’d taken during the day. Although I stayed up until about 11 pm (2 am, my time) I woke up every morning around 5 am. Again, I used the time to prepare for the day and get in a little transcription.

When I flew back, I did so by the “red-eye” flight. It departed Vancouver at 10:30 pm. I tried to sleep on the way back, but I should have spent some money on one of those neck cushions. I woke up every hour or so and attempted to ease the pain in my neck and find a more comfortable position to sleep in.

When I finally got home, after an early morning layover in Toronto, the connector to Sudbury, and a hectic shuttle ride back to town, it was about 10:30 in the morning.

Needless to say, I spent a good portion of that day in bed 😉

I thought about time zones and jet lag again the following weekend when Daylight Saving Time ended. I’ve described the time change as self-imposed jet-lag, and I’ve never agreed with the continued practice. While it’s not so bad in the fall, it’s murder in the spring when we lose an hour again.

Really, though we can’t leap forward or back, we’re all time travellers. We all travel through time as we wake, work, eat, and sleep our way through life.

It was a philosophical moment 😛

Thanks for following my reportage of the conference, and I will be getting back to my regularly scheduled ramblings forthwith.