Category Archives: Novel

Writing is like Owning a Mall

For a business owner, one of the hardest goals to achieve is to duplicate your income. For brick and mortar stores, like fast food restaurants or furniture stores, the only way to double your income is to duplicate your location somewhere else.

Like franchising.

The great thing about being a writer is every book you write is akin to another franchised storefront. Some of them will generate more income than others, just like some fast food joints are more profitable than others.

Yet, writing is a bit different. It’s even better. It’s not only like you’re opening another store, but, because of the collective nature of your work (people often read authors as much as they read stories), it’s as if you’re opening more stores in your own mall.

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When people visit your site with a list of books, or Amazon (or other ebook retailer) and see your author page, writing a number of novels is like opening up more shops in the same mall. While the customers are checking out one your “stores,” if they’re interested, they’ll stroll over and check out the one next to it.  And, if you write a novel series, its like creating a series of restaurants located one after the other in your mall, all designed, as a whole, to give you a complete and satisfying meal.

Thanks to the advent of ebook readers and reading apps for phones, there has never been a better time to be a writer in human history. And, because of the availability and freedom associated with the current business model, there has never been a better time to generate “franchisable” income from your work.

Now I just have to finish writing that first novel so I can open up the first of many stores in my mall.

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Inspiration – A Tour of Safety Harbor

Author Pete Bauer gives a tour of Safety Harbor, the small town that he used as inspiration for the setting of the novels.

 

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The Cost of Independent Publishing

Independent publishing is substantially cheaper than its ever been.  With Amazon and other distributors offering to distribute your ebook for a small fee and print your print book on-demand with nearly zero up front costs, publishing your book on your own has never been easier.

However, to be taken seriously in the market and compete against other high quality traditionally and independently published works, it is still going to take an investment, like any other business.  Two must-have items you hear over and over again are quality editing of your manuscript and a professionally designed book cover.

Thanks to the explosion of independent publishing these two necessities can be outsourced to professionals willing to do the work.  But, that has a cost.

In very general terms, book covers can range between $300 – $800 depending on whether or not you want an ebook cover only or a print book cover as well.  It also depends on the designer, how good they are and how busy they are.

editingThe cost variance in book editing is even greater.  First, there are many different types of editing options (proofreading, copy editing, developmental editing, etc.).  Each of these involve different work efforts by the editor and therefore have varying prices.  That being said, for a standard novel (50k – 65k words – which are short novels BTW), it can cost anywhere between $500 – $3,000, depending on the editor.

Let’s take the middle ground of those two very broad ranges, meaning your book cover could cost about $550 and your editing $1750.  That’s a $2300 investment per book.

You sure better be ready to publish and then be VERY patient on getting a return on your investment.  Why?

At the current Amazon 70% return on each ebook sold over $2.99, if you offered your ebook for that price, you get about $2 per sale.  That means you have to sell 1150 books to break even.  For some people, that may not sound like a lot .  For others, that may sound impossible.

To put it into perspective, the average self-published book sells under 200 copies.  That leaves you $1900 in the red.  Granted, most of those self-published books have crappy editing, awful book covers and zero marketing effort.  The numbers are daunting, none-the-less.

Now, some people have contacts or talented friends that can help and you may be able to reduce the cost, but, whatever you decide, do NOT reduce the quality of the end result at the same time.  Writing is an art, but publishing is a business.  You need to go into it with your eyes wide open and with realistic expectations of cost and return-on-investment.

I will say this.  If I have to invest $2300 in my first novel, you can bet your ass I’ll be marketing the living crap out of it.  Otherwise, my Chief Financial Officer (i.e., the wife), won’t allow me near the credit cards again.

I haven’t decided on an editor or a book designer yet, but I’ll let you know when I do and how the process worked for me.

If you’ve had any experience with either editing or book design, please share your insights in the comments section. We’d all love to hear from someone whose been through it.

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Podcast 13 – Marketing and Finding Your Voice

Pete Bauer and Dorothea Bauer talk about the various marketing research and strategies they plan to employ with the release of their first book.  They’ll also talk about the process of finding the correct voice for a novel and how that impacted the other work.


Running Time: 32:27

  • Writing Systems
  • 10 A.M.
  • Don’t Waste Inspiration
  • Approaching from Plot vs. Character
  • Production Schedule
  • Marketing Phases
  • Marketing Strategy
  • How are your Customers Interacting with your Product
  • – Problem Recognition
    • Marketers are Problem Solvers
    • Customers Search for Problem Filler
    • Customers will Research
    • Customers will Try out Product
    • Customers will do their own Evaluation
    • Creating a campaign for each of your Market Segments
  • Bridging those who have Aged Out
  • Marketing Validation, Awareness & Growth
  • Marketing Research & Testing
  • Finding Your Voice
  • Novel Approach
  • Character Introduction
  • Purgatory

 

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The Ampersand Dilemma

Now that we’re turning the novellas into novels, we’ll have to change some of the titles.  Here’s why.

ampersandThe original titles of the five books included an ampersand.  The first two are Water & Blood and Shadows & Lies.  For marketing purposes, we’d want to make all of the titles consistent, so we’re going to change the novellas to include the ampersand as well.

Fortunately, the second novella, Lost & Found, already had one.  The third novella, Tears & Miracles, had one as well.  So, it comes down to renaming novella one, The Homecoming Incident, and the fourth one, Skyway, into ones including an ampersand.

What is frustrating is I love both of those titles, however, when looking at it as a marketing strategy, you want the same look and feel for all of the books.  Like Koontz’s Odd Thomas books, for example.

So, we’re hashing out ideas for what the stories will be retitled as they grow into novels.  The only thing we know for certain is that an ampersand will be in the middle of it.

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Word Count and Finding Your Voice

I finished the first draft of Lost & Found this week and the writing process for this novel allowed me to finally find the correct voice and tone for all of the Gabby Wells novels.  It was weird to me that it took two novels (that have since been trashed) and three novellas to find the voice for the overall storyline.  But, that’s just what happened.

When I was about half way through Lost & Found, when I was making Gabby’s life miserable to biblical proportions, it started to feel right.  When I was actually tapping the words on the keyboard, all of the elements started to coalesce and I felt a creative momentum building.  When I was done with the draft, it made me realize two really important things:

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The first was that I had to now match the tone with the other novellas.  It actually won’t be that hard in Skyway.  But The Homecoming Incident was much lighter and would need to grow darker and more gritty.  I have some ideas which will help and they tie into the second thing I realized.

The second thing was that my brother Paul was right and all of these novellas should actually be turned into novels.  That means adding an additional 10-20k words to each one.  With the new tone and approach, it makes sense that the scope needs to widen and it would need to get darker.  I also want to do a better job of layering in the spiritual elements Gabby deals with too.  Not in a preachy way (I hate that) but in the overall world of the story.  It’ll make more sense if/when you read the books.

This continual shifting in approach does bring with it a level of frustration, however.  I feel like the novels are like a bathtub with the plug pulled and no matter how much I write, the words still spin down the drain.  It’s like I’ll never get finished.  But, I have to move forward because these decisions are the right thing to do.  I just want to be able to check off “done” on one of these manuscripts so I can move onto the editing/book cover phase and get them to market.

And I’m sure, at some point, years from now when all of the novels are completed, people will comment on how it all seemed so planned out from the beginning and I’ll just laugh and send them to my blog entries which show the continuous alterations we’ve made since starting this process years ago.

I just have to keep plugging along.  I have some time over the holiday weekend and I haven’t decided whether to start on the third novella or rewrite The Homecoming Incident first in order to be able to check something off my list.  My heart tells me I should start on the third novella Tears & Miracles, but my impatient brain is telling me to rewrite the first one.  I’ll let you know what I came up with.

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Writing as a Business

Whether you are independently published or traditionally published, the majority of the ownership for your success falls on your shoulders.  It is up to the author to write good stuff, build a fan base, establish beta readers and street teams and marketing plans.

It’s why real writers treat writing as a business.  It’s where the term authorprenuer comes from.  If you treat writing as a business, then your books are your product.  They require planning, time to execute, and a marketing plan.  There should be sales goals, expenditures, statistics, and analysis to know whether you are hitting your mark.

In an attempt to take what I have in my head and turn it into something tangible, I threw together a production schedule.  It’s aggressive.  It’s a rough draft.  It’s more of a what-if than a real plan.  But, by doing so, it put into sharp focus just how much work lay ahead of me.

sample-schedule

From the sample graph, you can see I’ve documented in fiscal quarters which month I will write, which month(s) marketing research needs to be done and when each subsequent marketing phase would occur.  I also added time for research and overlapped the release of the beginning of a new series in the middle of the release of the first series.  I don’t know if that’s a good idea, but I know I don’t want to wait until one series is over before kicking off the second one.

However, by performing this simple exercise of playing around with what-ifs… if I release the novellas three months apart and the novels six months apart, I’ll have 20 novels in seven years.  And for that to occur, I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

Let me say that again.  I have to write everyday for the next seven years.

If anyone ever tells you being a writer sounds easy, show them a schedule like this and let them fully digest the work involved.

As I mentioned, this schedule is a draft.  A guess, at this point.  But, it was eye-opening to do it, to see how much time I’d have to write a novel, when I could be writing two at the same time, and added research time frames as well.

Looking at this I’m both excited and daunted, both of which make me feel like my head will explode.

There’s a 99% chance the actual production schedule won’t look anything like this.  But, you have to start somewhere and, looking at the next seven years, I’m glad I got started sooner than later.

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Life After Gabby

The completion of the Gabby Wells storyline will take me some time.  A couple of years.  Not including the time it took to convert screenplays into novels that have since been tossed, just getting the novellas written, edited and published will probably take a year in total.

We’ll release the novellas, one at at time, every three months.  That will give me a year to write as many of the Gabby Wells novels as I can, and we plan to release those every three to six months, depending on how fast I can write them.  If I could have all of those novels written by the time the first novella is released, that would be great.  That’s a lot of words in a short period of time, but that’s the goal.

But, I do plan a writing life after Gabby Wells.

Gabby-HeaderUp until my adventures in novel writing, I expressed my creative storytelling through screenplays.  I did that for over 20 years and many of those stories I plan to turn into novels.

The first non-Gabby story I will probably write is based on a screenplay I wrote called Redemption.  It’s a horror story and my wife’s favorite thing I’ve ever written.  I plan on that being the first in another series of books that involves a nun and modern takes on horror themes.

Plus, there are non-series stories I’d like to tell too.  I have another screenplay called Martyrs that I would love to turn into a novel.  It involves a young girl stuck at her father’s office as it is overrun by terrorists.  And a novella from a screenplay called Forgiven, about a young woman driving across the country who happens stop at a gas station while it’s in the process of getting held up.

And there’s more.  A lot more.  Many, many stories.

I just hope I have time to write them all.

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Pressure

Something important occurred to me this weekend.  Something that placed a crap ton of pressure on me.

As I fleshed out the plot for the second novella, Lost & Found, I realized it is the single most important book in the entire series.  Why?  Because, we intend to give the first novella The Homecoming Incident away for free, as soon as we are able (it takes time to move it from .99 to free in the Amazon world).  So, we’re hoping a lot of people will check out The Homecoming Incident for nothing and be inspired to take a chance on Lost & Found.

If they take that chance and don’t like Lost & Found, then they’re not going to invest any money in the remaining three novellas & five novels in the series.  That’s another eight potential novels/novellas that won’t be read.  And that’s a lot of work not being seen.  Hundreds of thousands of words.

So, this second novella became a hec of a lot more important.  And telling you only adds to the pressure to succeed.

It’s a good thing, though.  I should approach every story as if it’s imperative to the success of the series.  It was just that “Ah-Hah!” moment that kind of jolted me from “let me see what I can flesh out” to “Good Lord, years of work are now waiting for my timid fingers to type something brilliant.”

Only time, a good editor and reader’s opinions will tell if I’m successful or not.

No pressure…

 

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Impatience

One of my continuing challenges I have is my impatience.  I am impatient with my career.  I am impatient when I read.  And I am impatient when I write.

One of the things I have tried to temper when I began writing novels were my expectations.  Ignorance is a bad guide and I have learned from past experiences that hoping to accomplish something is very different than knowing how to accomplish something.  Basing expectations on hope will set you up for failure because it is not tethered to the real world.

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So, I spend a lot of time learning how a thing should be done before telling myself when I should accomplish that thing.  That being said, I’m still behind schedule.  If I had stuck to my original (and ignorant) plan, I would be publishing my first novel this week.  Gabby Wells: Water & Blood was originally scheduled for release on June 4th.

Then I started learning more and more about self-publishing.  I started reading a lot and listening to about ten podcasts a week and learned about sales funnels and permafree and mailing lists and building tribes and street teams.  That led to the idea of writing a novella as an entryway to novels.  That led to writing five novellas.  And that has altered my expectations.

All of the changes have been for the right reasons, but my impatience doesn’t really care about that.  It wants to be done.

I’m also an impatient reader.  I fight the urge to skim through in order to find out what happens next.  I must force myself to digest every word because, now writing novels, I know how much time and effort each of those words represent.

But my impatience doesn’t really care about that.

It is no surprise, then, that I am an impatient writer.  In my first draft I am very much a heads down, get from A to B as directly as possible so I can move onto the next thing that happens.  Only after the plot is complete do I go back and look for the many ways I can elaborate character or intention.  All of those layers take time.

But my impatience doesn’t really care about that.

So, as I am knee deep in daily writing, fighting to go straight from A to B, I force myself to try and be patient.  I know what is supposed to happen in all five novellas.  I know what is supposed to happen in all five novels.  I just can’t wait for them to be done.  Unfortunately (actually, fortunately) those pages are waiting on me, an impatient writer, to fill them with the stories I see in my head.

As much as I remind myself, my impatience doesn’t really care that.

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