Nov 162016

beachchair_01This week I have taken a few days off from my day job, giving me a leisurely eleven days of freedom to do whatever I want.
Initially I was planning to use this week to write parts of the How To book my friend Eva and I are co-writing, but we’re still in the plotting phase of that, so I needed something else to do.

Marketing Course
Luckily there was still Nick Stephenson’s marketing course Your First 10.000 Readers, of which I have so far only done the first two modules. Well, only…
Each module exists of about four to six videos, each between 15-20 minutes long, packed full of information that the student, me in this case, can implement right away. And instead of watching all the videos in one go, I decided early on to take it a step at the time to avoid getting inundated with information and loosing track (and will-power) along the way.

The fun thing of Nick’s course is that students can join a member’s only Facebook group, where they can ask questions and support each other. Nick often joins in the conversation on Facebook, giving more in-depth information, also about his own experiences as a successful indie thriller writer.
Many students on the group have shared that implementing the whole course took them close to a year, so I am feeling I’m doing the right thing by taking it slow and doing the homework as I go along one video at the time.

Existing Books
So far, my writing career has produced five non-fiction books in two very different genres. Over the last few months I have tried to implement a few of Nick’s marketing ideas for those books, but last weekend I had a brainwave.
Interesting as those books are, and proud of them as I am, at this point in time they are not going to help my author-entrepreneur business. The first two books are sold out and near impossible to turn into ebooks, so there’s no money in that. The last three book need additional editing, specially as the dialogue in them is quite bad. But is that worth it at the moment?

I thought about this for a while and realised that no, it’s not worth it at the moment. Editing those books and re-publishing them would take a lot of time, on top of which they are in a very specific niche, which will never sell hundreds of books a day. Also, I know that I will in all likelihood never write another book in that genre, so why should I want to build a mailing list for them?
Again, fun as those books are, they are too nichy to help me further my business at the moment.

Mailing List
Setting up and growing a mailing list is the core of Nick’s course. In actual fact, it should be the core of any business.
Last Saturday I watched the first video of Module Three, called: Convert traffic into subscribers. In other words, how do you get readers to give you their email address, so that we can contact them again about the new books we have written?
Video One of Module Three was all about setting up a so-called book funnel, ‘trapping’ readers and asking them to give you their email address for some extra exclusive content.

I thought perhaps I could to implement this with my existing non-fiction books, but then realised it wouldn’t help as they are too nichy and I don’t need mailing lists for them.
I realised that what I needed to do was setting up a funnel for my new cosy mystery series, of which only Book 1 is written, but still in the editing phase. Luckily I have enough feeling for marketing that I knew I should implement this book funnel as soon as Book 1 comes out in May 2017, so that I can reap the rewards as soon as possible. But how?

Book Funnel
Book funnels are often used by indies who write series to draw in more readers. But those people have existing series of five or more books.
In such a case they make the first book in the series cheaper, or permanently free, and offer the second book for free to anyone who joins their mailing list. But my Book 2 isn’t coming out until December 2017, so that means that if I used Book 2 as a ‘reader magnet’ for my book funnel, it wouldn’t be set up until then.
And that is out of the questions, as I want my funnel to start as soon as Book 1 comes out.

magnetShort Story
I soon realised that I needed an extra story, a relatively short one, set in the same world, that I could write within a few weeks and publish at the same time as Book 1. This short story would then act as the reader magnet, attracting people to my mailing list, after they have bought Book 1 for only 99 cents. On top of that the short story would only be available to the people who subscribe, so not actually be for sale on Amazon. It would be exclusive content that not everyone has and therefore more appealing to acquire by surrendering an email address.

I have always envisioned that Book 1 would be sold cheaply, and when more books come out, become permanently free, so realising that I could use it as a book funnel together with a short story, wasn’t that much of a shock.
What of course was a shock, was that I needed to write an extra story pronto, so that it can go through the proper channels of editing etc. before being published alongside Book 1 in May. Suddenly I realised what I would be doing with my week off from my day job. Where I thought I would get ahead with Nick’s marketing course, I now realised I would again do more homework; this time writing another story.

It’s now Wednesday and I have five days left until I go back to my day job. So far the plotting of the short story is coming along nicely and I hope I can start the actual writing this weekend. It seems that Module Three couldn’t have started at a more opportune time and I’m going to make the most of my holiday in the coming days.

Related blog posts:

  1. Help! I’m Writing a Short Story
  2. Making a Full-time Living with Writing
  3. Learning a New Craft


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Oct 152016

tomboySTORY ENGINEERING – Mastering the 6 core competencies of successful writing
By Larry Brooks

While maybe not entirely my how-to-write-bible, Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is one of my favourite books on the subject of fiction writing, and I learned a lot from it.

Story Engineering is a plotters dream. In six topics Brooks takes the writer past the most important parts of how to set up a story. He calls them the Six Core Competencies.

  1. Concept
  2. Character
  3. Theme
  4. Story Structure
  5. Scene Execution
  6. Writing Voice

While not every writer is a plotter, I firmly believe that more writers could benefit from a bit more knowledge about story structure and character building. If not just for the benefit of the story (it will have a better flow), but also for the speed of creating and writing it.

Being a rather structured and organised person myself, I found the in-depth chapter on Story Structure in Brooks’ book the most helpful. I now live by the 4-Act structure and try to write the precise amount of words to end up with equal quarters in my books, interspersing plot and pinch points at the right places.
I must confess I even check other people’s books when I read them, to see if they have their plot points in the right places…

Another very helpful chapter was Brooks’ explanation of Character, where I learned that to create interesting heroes and bad guys, you simply need to give them three dimensions; what they look like, how they think and what made them what they are today, also known as backstory.
I had a very enjoyable time setting up the main characters for my Jacob Hick Murder Mysteries, thinking up things that could have happened to them in the past. Things that likely never make it on to the page, but that hopefully have created three-dimensional characters.

While Brooks’ chapters are very in-depth and full of information, he does have a bit of a tendency to waffle on about baseball in his examples. But it’s easy to read past that and take out whatever you find the most helpful.

I recommend Story Engineering to anyone who wants to or has written fiction, whether they are plotters or pantsers. I know that the confirmed pantser will scream at the thought of having to structure their thoughts and writing, but if you only think you’re leaning that way, it might well be worth it to test Brooks’ methods. You might even come to the conclusion that you’re actually <gasp> a plotter.

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Sep 012016

TrackIn a recent podcast Joanna Penn looked back on her indie career in steps of four years, like Olympic athletes do. This because moving forward with self-publishing often doesn’t happen in a year, but lots of things can change in four years.

Inspired by this I thought it would be fun to see how my own ‘Olympic’ career as an indie author has changed over the years and look forward to the future.

2008 (Bejing Olympics)

In 2008 I lived in York, England and worked part-time at a local delicatessen shop. I had self-published my first book, Romans, Vikings, Churches and Chocolate in 2007. Ebooks didn’t exist yet in those days, except in PDF-form, and I had done a short paperback print-run of 3000 copies. Consequently in 2008 my house was still full of boxes! I had managed however to get my book into all the local bookshops, including Barnes & Knoble and Waterstones and, it being interesting for tourists, in all the museum shops as well. In 2008 I sold my 1000th copy, so at least some of the stockpile was going down.
Early 2008 I wrote my second book, From Dissenters to Fire Engines and did a short print-run of 1000 copies. This added to the pile of boxes in my attic again, but later in that year, I moved back to the Netherlands and all the boxes moved to my distributor’s house. She took over the distribution of my books, sending me my royalties every so often.

2012 (London Olympics)
In 2012 I was back in the Netherlands and worked part-time as a receptionist at the town hall. In 2010 I had written my third book, Time Zones, Container and Three Square Meals a Day. This book was published as ebook and also available as paperback in Print on Demand, saving me from having a house full of boxes again. By now my distributor in York let me know that Romans, Vikings, my first book, was sold out.
I had written and published a sequel to Time Zones in 2011 by the name of More Stories of Time Zones and Containers. This book was available in the same way as Time Zones, as ebook and Paperback.
In 2012 I translated Time Zones into Dutch and next to having it published as ebook, I did a short print-run of 250 copies.
Although I didn’t make millions with selling my books in 2012, I was able to pay some monthly bills and even give myself a tiny ‘salary’ as well.

2016 (Rio Olympics)
In 2016 I still live in the same town as in 2012 and still work part-time as a receptionist. By now my second book in York is sold out, while the three books I had in 2012 still sell as ebooks and paperback. In 2014 I decided to try my hand at fiction and via a certain set of circumstances, I reconnected with my friend Eva, who became my developmental editor. She helped me develop my fiction into a cosy mystery series, of which the first book, Don’t Feed the Rat! is now finished and in the editing stages.
In the summer of 2016, I decided to properly set myself up as an author/entrepreneur, a process which is in its early stages, but moving along by leaps and bounces.
During our ruminations over my fiction, Eva and I developed a new writing technique, which we decided was special enough to share with the world. So currently we are co-writing a How To book, which will be published in June next year. Just before that Don’t Feed the Rat! will also be published.
The rest of 2016 I will be busy setting up my writing business, and plotting Book 2 of my cosy mystery series, currently going by the working title Sewer Mayhem.

2020 (Tokyo Olympics)
By 2020 I have implemented my author/entrepreneur plans and am quite far along in being able to earn my keep with writing and publshing. I am nearly finsihed with writing the nine-book cosy mystery series and perhaps am contemplating a new series.
Of course the How To book I wrote with Eva will have done really well and we both will have become experts, having co-written a sequel. We are both blogging about our writing technique and perhaps even have set up an online course for people to buy.
I hope that by 2020 the Dutch self-publishing world has matured and is now taken serious by Dutch athors, who flock to my website for advice on self-pubbing and marketing. This has therefore become a third stream of income for me, revolving around a number of How To books that I wrote about the subject and perhaps some more online courses.

So far my Olympic career. What suprises me most looking back is how much the self-publishing world has changed in a relatively short period of time. Hard to believe that Amazon launched KDP as a self-publishing platform in 2009, which is only seven years ago!
This gives me hope for the future as a lot can change in four years time, so my predictions for 2020 don’t sound that farfetched at all!

To hear Joanna Penn about her own Olympic career, listen to her podcast of 29th of August 2016.

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Aug 242016

000014-0020-000001Five weeks ago, I wrote about my plans to become an author/entrepreneur and a lot has happened since then. It’s quite amazing how fast things can move, once you set your mind to something.

To get a better grip on how to turn myself into an author/entrepreneur, I am now following the steps in Joanna Penn’s book Business For Authors. How To Be An Author Entrepreneur.
I have set up a business plan, in which I have broadly sketched what my plans are for the next five years. Time for a little update.

Plans for 2017
In 2017 I want to publish Book 1 and Book 2 in my cosy mystery series, start podcasting about self-publishing for the Dutch writing market and publish a ‘How to self-publish’ book for that same Dutch market.
Unfortunately the Dutch market is stubborn, so after talking to my developmental editor Eva (who happens to know a lot about the Dutch writing market as well), I set myself a maximum of two years to make some inroads there. After those two years, I will review if it is still feasible to continue my efforts to penetrate that market, or if it’s better to focus on other things.

Co-writing new How To book
In the meantime, Eva an I have embarked on an exciting new project, which will give both of us some scalable income (read: a book to sell)!
During the last two years that Eva has been my developmental editor, we have created a new fiction writing technique together. We both have tried and tested our method for our respective writings and feel that the technique could help other writers plot and write their books easier and faster. It’s not a technique we have come across in the hundreds of books and blog there are on writing, so we truly feel we have developed something unique.
We are currently working on writing this book together and plan to have it published in June 2017.
This is a new venture, which I now have realised also fits perfectly into my author/entrepreneur route.

Online courses
Besides all this, I have started doing two online courses.
First a course to learn how to use the writing software Scrivener. I bought Scrivener about four weeks ago, as one of its features is that it can be used to compile ebooks in different formats, like e-pub and mobi. I have always found it quite a drag to create ebooks and in Scrivener it’s supposed to be a breeze, thereby making my life as an entrepreneur easier.
The second course is about online marketing and how to build a mailing list even before you have any books published. This is an in depth course and I am expecting to learn a lot.

Both courses cost money, but I am willing to pay and invest in myself. In my current day job, I also at times have to follow courses, which in those cases are paid for by my employer. In the case of my author/entrepreneurship I am my own employer, and spending money on becoming an expert is a must.

For the rest of 2016 I have the challenge to find a new balance between my writing on one side and the courses, blogging etc. on the other side. I have a good feeling about it all. As long as I still have time go to the gym and watch the odd sit com on TV for leisure, it will be okay.
Busy, but exciting times ahead! :)

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Jul 172016

InputSometimes several things happen at once, making you see things in a different light and reconsider where you are. This happened to me in the past week.
I started reading How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More by Joanna Penn, while at the same time hearing that my current day job will quite likely end on 1st January 2019.

I have been an indie author since 2007, but so far I never really envisioned that I could truly support myself with my writing. Of course I have dreams of becoming a millionaire once my cosy mystery series comes out, but I know that this is unlikely to happen.
Yet I have always taken my journey as an indie very serious. I see it as a business. I’m registered at the Chamber of Commerce, have a business bank account, pay taxes over my income from book sales and invest money. Even so I assumed that I would always be reliant on a day job for income as well.
I love my day job, so that’s not really an issue, but now that it is likely that I will lose it, things have changed.

While reading Joanna Penn’s book, I started wondering if I could manage making a full-time living with my writing. What if I could? Wouldn’t that be great?
According to Joanna a few things are needed to make it happen.

  • I need to think as an entrepreneur. This I already do, so no worries.
  • I need a scalable income. This is an income where you have once spend the time creating something, which then keeps selling. Like an ebook. Joanna calls it ‘intellectual property assets’. The more of these assets you have (read: the more books you have for sale), the more you earn, with a chance that one day will be enough to support you. I have written five books, three of which are still for sale. Furthermore I am creating new books, so I am already growing my intellectual property assets.
  • I need multiple streams of income. Not just income from book sales, but also from my blogs. This is a little trickier, as Joanna is not just talking about a blog, but also of things that evolve from that. Speaking opportunities, sale of courses, freelance writing etc. What knowledge do I have that is interesting and inspiring enough for people to pay money for?
  • I need to think globally, digital and mobile. Meaning writing in English and taking advantage of everything that the digital age has to offer. I do write in English, but I could do more to embrace new things.
  • I need to find out what my definition of success is. At the moment I must say that this is that I want as many people as possible reading and enjoying my books, particularly the new series that is still in the making. Not just for the money, but also to entertain people and bring a bit of humour and diversion in this otherwise rather bleak world we live in. I know I can do that by writing so-called genre fiction. Mysteries in my case. I don’t need to win literary prices or receive critical acclaim from people who decide what is good and what is not. I just want to entertain people and make some money while I’m at it.

Much of the above I am already doing, though perhaps not as fervent as I should. But then again, I never really thought about living of my writing full-time, so there was no point in being fervent.

But now I think I can do it! Why wouldn’t I? I have nine years of experience as an indie, why not build on that? Create more assets, think digitally and look at other streams of income than just selling books. It’s possible!
It’s not something that will happen overnight, I am well aware of that. It will take a lot of hard work and perseverance. It very likely will not happen before I lose my day job in two-and-a-half years’ time, but if I start today I will be further along in the process, have more experience and therefore more chance of making it work.

interviewFinding other streams of income is the biggest challenge of what I need to do, but I have some ideas. The English indie world is full of blogs and websites about how to self-publish, but the Dutch world is not. It’s as if the Dutch writers are stuck in medieval times.
For the last year I have started to put myself forward as an expert about self-publishing via my Dutch language blog where I give tips & tricks and answer the odd question. I also hang around on a Dutch writers’ forum, where I answer questions about self-publishing.
It’s not easy to convince the Dutchies to publish ebooks as well as paperbacks. They are suspicious and sceptical about ebooks, but I am sure that even they will have to relent to the ongoing digital age someday.
And that day they need an expert who has been blogging about self-publishing for ages and that will be me!

Joanna Penn does podcasts. I like listening to her and learn a lot. It’s also a way to keep up to date with the industry. Perhaps I should start doing podcasts about self-publishing on my Dutch blog? Build up my expertise and show future Dutch indie wannabees that I am the person to turn to. Then they will ask me to speak at a book club or conference, which is the ultimate goal, as I can ask money for that.

Am I dreaming when I say all this? No, I don’t think so. If I keep writing books, fiction and non-fiction (the Dutch indie wannabees need books about self-publishing…), and keep profiling myself as a Dutch indie expert, I might very well be able to generate enough income to live on.

In any case, I’m doing this. I’m not trying it. I am doing it! I live by Yoda’s words ‘There is no try, only do’. I am very excited that as a nearly 47 year-old, I am doing something new. Something that might change my life.
My journey might be an interesting one, you can bet I’m going to blog about it!

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