Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: We Blinked and it's Gone!

Wow! 2016 is over. Like that! *snaps* How did it turn on the hyperdrive engines anyway? I mean...seriously!

I feel like I should have accomplished so much more, but there seemed to be so many stumbling blocks, multiple "I just need to get through this" projects, and mini-catastrophes along the way that my creative time got whittled down to nothing.

Or did it?

I received this saying in an email and it struck a chord with me:

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on,
with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."

Hmm, I thought. That's so true. As one year rings out and another rings in, it's really not a ending or a beginning. It's a continuation. Though I may have been short on time and accomplishment in 2016, I realized I had learned so much. These are just a few highlights.

What 2016 Taught Me

I'm free, I'm free! Hey, wait a sec...
Somehow retiring the end of February didn't bring the 50+ hours of productive time per week I was counting on. It's like a quantum theory of its own: The more free time you have the more demands on your time seem to pop up and the less you have to actually work on your To Do list. (Now I ask you, is that fair?)

Having this plethora of leisure actually forced me focus on developing better time management and goal setting skills. Now to put them to good use in 2017!

The Portals Project -- A SFR Gateway
Early in the year, Pauline Baird Jones had a fantastic idea to create several volumes of science fiction romance first chapters as a way of introducing new readers to the genre and to each author's story, style and prose. Each volume would be branded with an identical but color-altered cover, and contain the beginnings of at least ten works by ten different authors plus additional story information and links to purchase the books for readers who wanted more. And they would all be FREE. I signed on to help with the project, and we quickly had plenty of SFR Brigade authors interested in participating.

My part was not only to contribute the first chapter of Inherit the Stars, but also to act as one of the coordinators, along with Pauline and Veronica Scott. As part of it, I learned how to create a central Portals Project site to provide information and make announcements about each volume as it released or hit a high mark on Amazon (there were many). Co-blogger Pippa Jay also taught me the technique for including links under image for each volume and how to add social media buttons to blog posts. Great for Portals, but even better for my blogging education overall.

The initial volumes were so successful that three more were added to the line-up, resulting in seven volumes with over 70 different SFR story introductions by nearly 70 different authors. We even named our Portal Keeper and wrote an introduction for readers in his POV. (Thanks to author Lea Kirk for creating the original draft.)

The Portals volumes are still doing well on Amazon and continuing to carry out the mission to transport new readers "through the portal" to the wonderful universe of Science Fiction Romance as a free offering. And what a wonderful way of supporting the SFR Brigade's motto: Conquering the Universe...One Story at a Time. You can find the complete list of Portals volumes on AMAZON or links to all of the various booksellers on the PORTALS SITE.

Pets in Spaaaaaaace
In the early spring of 2016, Pauline Baird Jones (yes, again--she's a powerhouse of great ideas!) mentioned an idea she had for doing an anthology centered around pets....in space. Now I love-love-love pets and I love space, and the two combined just seemed like an idea that shouted *ding, ding, ding* WINNER! But I told Pauline I just didn't have a story idea that included a pet. Hey, wait! < lightbulb > Did I?

I'd been kicking around the idea of giving the captain of a future novel a sort of working mascot for her ship--basically an evolved mongoose. Could it work? I told Pauline, "You know, I think I just may have an idea for the pet anthology after all. Let's call it Space Weasel for now. And I'm in."

When I started doing research, my "space weasel" quickly evolved into a StarDog--a genetically engineered dog/cat/weasel/mongoose--and a star navigator and spaceport street vendor took the stage as the hero and heroine, with my future captain becoming a central character in the story. Then I found out who some of the other authors were, and I literally panicked. NY Times and USA Today bestselling author S. E. Smith? Bestselling author Cara Bristol? O!M!G! Bestselling author, RITA winner, and personal idol Susan Grant? Monkey brain ensued. What if my story wasn't good enough? What if it didn't measure up? What if I couldn't even finish it?

Not to worry, Grasshopper, my muse told me. You can do this. And so I did. A new novelette was born. After input from trusted critique partners and multiple editing passes by the amazing Danielle Fine, StarDog took shape as a story I was not only confident to submit, but darned proud of. It was also a perfect addition to my Inherited Stars universe, and an introduction to both Inherit the Stars and future novel Inherit the Vengeance.

The Pets in Space authors also committed to donating a percent of the books' first month profits to the amazing Hero-Dogs, an organization that provides service dogs to veterans. That donation was tallied at approximately $2000. I was also very proud of that. *beams*

During the process I learned galaxies about marketing, marketing plans and book promotion from the amazing Narelle Todd of GetMyBookOutThere.com who'd been brought on to advise the team. Pets in Space went on to make the Amazon Hot New Releases list, become a Top Ten Seller on three lists and as high as #2 on Amazon Romance > Science Fiction list. It garnered 75 reviews and was named one of the Best Books of 2016: E-Originals Fiction by LibraryJournal.com. All-in-all, the project turned out to be a huge win-win and a major contributor to my "edumacation." Not to mention an incredible experience!

Newsletter 101
One of the many educational side benefits of Pets in Space is that I created a Mail Chimp account and began learning how to author my own newsletter. I've now sent seven different issues--both regular and special news mailings--and my subscribers have grown from a handful to nearly 1,500. Each new issue grew a little more sophisticated as I built on a skill set of how to format and populate each issue and created my theme--Escape to the Stars. Because, hey, isn't escaping to the stars (or other dimensions or other times) one of the great things about science fiction romance? I also read that it's important to include something of value to readers in each edition, so I try to do that, whether it's a fun recipe, an excerpt, exclusive news, a freebie or a drawing. If you're interested in getting my newsletters, you can sign up on my Author Laurie A. Green website or by clicking the following link > Escape to the Stars Newsletter Request

My Old Kentucky Home
The Saddling Paddock at Churchill Downs
I also got some education in the non-writing arena. I'm a huge fan of Thoroughbred horseracing and my husband and I even are in the business of raising Thoroughbreds on a very small scale. So usually the first question out of everyone's mouth is, "Have you been to the Kentucky Derby?" No. And to be honest, I'd never even had the pleasure of visiting Louisville or Churchill Downs. Until October.

Tagging along for a few days of David's week-long business trip gave me a whole new insight into the capital of the Sport of Kings. We went to the races at Churchill Downs--and even got to see retired-then-unretired multiple Derby-winning jockey Calvin "Bo-rail" Borel ride in a race...and win it! We visited the Kentucky Derby Museum, rewatched "New Mexico's" Mine That Bird (with Calvin "Bo-rail" up) win his historic Run for the Roses, again witnessed the near miss by Lion Heart (2004) who is the sire of our mare Soulful, saw the fabulous new American Pharoah exhibit, rode mounts in a couple of virtual races, visited Barbaro's gravesite and memorial, and learned SO much about the industry and the wonderful, lively, historic town of Louisville. (Like, for instance, everything I ever wanted to know about Bourbon!) Fantastic trip. We'll definitely be back.

The Outer Planets
My second novel turned into a major learning experience. Although the story won several competitions and was a Golden Heart finalist, commercially...there were issues. My editors explained how the various plots and subplots were too long, complex and convoluted, there were too many POV characters (seven!), plus a major character arc that didn't work, and the timeline (five years) resulted in terminal pacing issues. I first had to devote a couple of months just to rethinking the plot and character arc before I got to work. It's been a huge undertaking finding ways to address each issue, cut nearly 10,000 words from the manuscript and basically rewrite three quarters of the novel, but it's also been a tremendous learning experience. Look for The Outer Planets later in 2017.

Me and....well, Me, Against the World
So as I close out this year, I have a big change to announce. After more than four years, my agent and I have decided--very amicably--to part company. I'm extremely grateful to her for helping me get my start in the publishing world and handling all the chores and details that I just didn't have time or patience to deal with while holding a more than full-time job. Though we have been mulling this over for well over a year, we both agreed it seemed a good move. And the New Year was probably as good a time as any to make the change. So as of 12:01 AM on January 1st, I officially became a fully independent author. Is it scary? Yes. Rattling? You bet. But since I've learned so much this year, now I can put that knowledge to work for me and expand on it. I'll get by with a little help from my friends. Seriously, they're telling me I can do this ~ and I'm really starting to believe them.

So bring it on, 2017!

So with all the "on the job training" I received in 2016, here are just a few items on my "Plan of Attack" for next year:
  • Publish at least four new titles
  • Take online courses to learn the skills necessary for an indie author
  • Learn more about SEO
  • Acquire more promotion and marketing savvy
  • Begin building an Inherited Stars Series website or page
  • Learn more about developing marketing plans and book launches
Have a wonderful week and a great start to your New Year!

New signature image. Check it out! :)

8 comments:

  1. Great post, Laurie. I know what you mean about having all that time I used to work full-time get filled up with other "stuff" or frittered away. I admire your goal for this year. 4 books! Wow. Go for it. Best wishes for a great 2017.

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    1. Thank you, Diane! I'm really looking forward to a productive 2017. I just ordered a Panda Planner that I hope will go a long way toward keeping me on track and focused. Best wishes to you for a great year, too.

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  2. Congratulations on becoming an indie author Laurie! You are already well on your way to success, and your 2017 plan can only add to it.

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  3. Thank you, Riley! I'm hoping I can put everything I learned to use in a big way. It's also going to be a time to re-exam my priorities and how I use my time.

    And we're off...just 363 more days to go!

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  4. Wow! That's a lot of changes for one year, huh? Worthy goals, and I know you can do it if anyone can! Good luck in the new year as an INDIE AUTHOR!

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  5. Heck yeah, Donna, it's no wonder the year flew by. (I didn't even get into the major home renovations or other multiple side projects for the sake of post length.)

    Thanks for the good wishes. It's daunting but a little exciting, too.

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  6. Congratulations on your big step, Laurie! I have no doubt that you'll manage it all very well.

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. I know I'll be much better off gaining the knowledge and experience, but right now it feels a bit like standing at the bottom of a giant tree before attempting to climb it (the same analogy you once posted long, long ago. Remember? Yeah, THAT feeling.)

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