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Year in Review December 19, 2011

Posted by shannonmuir in blog tour, Books, ebooks, epub, fiction, indie, indie publishing, Kindle, marketing, NaNoWriMo, Networking, NOOK, novels, poetry, promotion, publishing, Smashwords, Writing.
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This blog is going to “go dark” for next week between Christmas and New Year’s, as well as January 2nd, in terms of Mondays. Sample Sundays will also be suspended until after January 2nd, though I will probably do some other entry the first full week of January in place of my usual MentionMonday piece.

So, since this my last MentionMonday post of the year, I decided to take a look back at my adventures in writing over the year – the good and the bad.

My adventure actually starts in February 2011, though most of you reading this blog probably don’t know that.  The paperback of my 2005 National Novel Writing Month attempt, TOUCH THE STARS, was released to absolutely no fanfare and advertising. This was intentional, in part because I was not in a position to really advertise my work (had to do with where I was working at the time, for a variety of factors) and also I wanted to quietly learn what I was doing.  I had not heard about any of the networks for indie self-publishing in depth, just as occasional references from my fiance’. I spent money on three proofs of the paperback of TOUCH THE STARS. In the end, there are definitely things that could be improved – but truthfully, that can be said about a lot of works. We all have room to grow.

I encountered the Indie Book Collective for the first time on the Memorial Day Blog Tour de Troops, but not because of the blog tour. My fiance’ really mentioned liking a particular book by a particular writer on the tour and by going to her site I then learned about the tour. I visited a handful of the sites, commented as I could where I felt I could make relevant comments, and received books from those authors. Overall the tour impressed me and this was the bar that set my expectations.

Fast forward to mid-July. All of a sudden I found myself let go in a layoff after over three and a half years where I was. So I threw my focus back into writing, which has been a passion for me since my early years. Even though I searched for – and continue to search for – a full time job every day, I needed to anchor myself somewhere and find that sense of purpose. By the time the dust settled in early August, I heard about an opportunity through the Indie Book Collective that given my situation felt like something I just needed to do. Despite published and produced credentials in non-fiction textbooks and animated television, many people didn’t know of my interest in fiction writing. I knew I needed to change that. As much as I have many friends who are agented and belong to organizations such as the Science Fiction Writers of America and the Romance Writers of America, which you cannot get into with indie self-published works, I knew I had a mountain of a perception problem to climb and to take matters in my own hands would be the only way. You run your risks and pick your battles.

Note at this point I hadn’t assembled an ebook before in my entire life. I’d started reading through the Smashwords guide, and working on practicing on what would become the SEARCH FOR A WOMAN anthology but hadn’t the foggiest how to do the Kindle yet. The Indie Book Collective announced their first Book Blowout to happen over Labor Day, which was great timing for me and at a price I could afford a lot easier at that point. The big problem for me was that I needed to have a book turned in to them in under three weeks as I recall. I had two choices at this juncture. The first was to finish SEARCH FOR A WOMAN and  offer it at 99 cents which already had been the plan (since it consisted of quite of bit of previously written material); the other would have been to back up and figure out how to get TOUCH THE STARS done in time. I went with the former, and since it was featuring books all at 99 cents it seemed appropriate (I didn’t understand until during the event the intent was to reduce books normally meant for 2.99 and above to be reduced… if I had I would have gone all out to redo TOUCH THE STARS at that point).  So SEARCH FOR A WOMAN became the featured item of the Labor Day Book Blowout, and since there weren’t many in my category I purchased every one of the books and then engaged on a read and review marathon of them over the course of the whole weekend. Man was I tired at the end! However, I made a lot of interesting contacts. I also used August (when I had to have SEARCH FOR A WOMAN ready for in advance for the the Blowout) to finally learn Kindle formatting and also did Kindle formatting for TOUCH THE STARS.

Another thing near and dear to my heart is a webcomic I’ve worked on as co-writer and poetic “lyricist” called Flying Glory and the Hounds of Glory. It had always been my plan to do something for our 10th anniversary year which began in June 2011, but being unemployed gave me the freedom to put the wraps on the project. Again, several proofs in paperback were involved on this one because the webcomic artist and co-author (also my fiance’) created a cover for the first time versus me doing something in Photoshop or using the cover generator provided by Lulu (my paperback publisher). Right at the end of September, FLYING GLORY FLASHBACK appeared in print and Kindle. iBookstore took several weeks later, but for reasons still unexplained we have had issues getting placed at NOOK (maybe they think it’s too niche?). Anyway, as of December 16th, FLYING GLORY FLASHBACK – featuring full lyrics from everything over the last 10 years, along with a history of the webcomic storyline – is available at Smashwords comaptible for all other formats – NOOK, Sony, Kobo, Diesel. The delay on this was admittedly very frustrating but we are both glad everyone can access it now.

October became the month to release THE HEART’S DUTY, originally in a shortened form on Goodreads as a mini-story at the start of the year, but I’d had to abandon due to work constraints. The driving factor here was I needed the book ready in time for a November promotion. I also ended up  formatting TOUCH THE STARS via Smashwords to end up on Sony, Diesel, and Kobo once I found out that was the only avenue to reach those platforms. Lulu struck a deal with Barnes and Noble that got the book on NOOK as well as iBookstore, so that was handled. I also started assembling more short pieces – stories and poems – for a second anthology, but a final pass and formatting wasn’t a priority. Pieces of my works in progress were shared as part of #SampleSunday on Twitter.

November showcased for me what many other authors embark on, National Novel Writing Month. My goal was to knock out a first draft in 30 days or less for the seventh year running. Still being unemployed, I pulled this off before Thanksgiving, a first for me. Also in an unusual twist of promotion, Smashwords – although not an official sponsor – allowed books in NaNoWriMo to be uploaded as Works in Progress. I uploaded my work roughly every day or every other day, warts and all, allowing people the opportunity to be betareaders as things were happening and maybe change the course of things if feedback warranted (I did not get any such feedback, in fact I got no real feedback this way, but it was an interesting experiment). This left me in an interesting predicament, as I knew a number of people downloaded throughout the month and it remains though not by much my highest downloaded item on Smashwords as of this writing. Did silence mean apathy or that they simply had no comment? After some aggressive Twittering for feedback over the next couple of  weeks as I madly rewrote and re-evaluated, I went ahead and published HALF TRUTH AND FULL LYE to Amazon and Smashwords. It does not have a paperback version planned at this moment; possibly in the new year but I have priorites.

Because I couldn’t focus on HALF TRUTH AND FULL LYE 24/7, I also wrapped up the end of the month doing final formatting on my second anthology, AT THE END OF INNOCENCE’S ROAD, which released to Amazon and Smashwords only on November 30th. It has  just now made its way through Smashwords distribution channels to places like NOOK.

Also, in the middle of that, came the Veterans’ Day version of Blog Tour de Troops. I’d been so impressed on Memorial Day I signed up as soon as I heard about it. THE HEART’S DUTY became the book that I signed up for this promotion and led to the hard and fast date for its completion. I gave away over 80 copies of the book with a matching number going to support troops. Also, it turned out to be an incredible opportunity to talk about veterans with my father, who was a career Navy warrant officer when I was growing up. My email interview of him, posted as my blog entry for the tour, elicited a lot of positive response.

As I said, December not only completed with finally getting FLYING GLORY FLASHBACK in a format for ebook readers that don’t use Kindle to be able to enjoy it, but the 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS INDIE BOOK BLOWOUT sale is still going on the day this blog is being written through 12/24. In a strange way of coming full circle, TOUCH THE STARS has been my featured book in this sale, offered in the Mainstream area for 99 cents. It will return to 2.99 after Christmas. So if you want to grab this chance to take a look at my earliest indie self-published fiction work for a reasonable price, there’s no better time than now.

As of this blog, I’m still looking for full time work as I am currently not in a position to live solely on my writing, as much as I’d love to.  It’s been an interesting year. I’ve much to offer, and also much to learn. I’m still amazed at the things I’ve learned to do in just this short time, how many varities I’ve made available (the novel, the short story, and the poem/lyric), the genres I’ve tried, and that I’ve become proficient enough in this short time to format ebooks that other people have hired me to help with their works – such as Richard Mueller for DEATH ON THE PRAIRIE,  and to a lesser extent, Kevin Paul Shaw Broden and THE CLOCKWORK GENIE.

Most of all, it’s been the greatest adventure. Here’s hoping 2012 will bring even more.



1. J. Landon Cocks (@JLandonCocks) - December 19, 2011

Wow, pretty cool year. I’m thinking that 2012 will be much the same for me; I’ll be epublishing two books in the spring and am looking forward to learning all the things that you did this year! It’s great. Good luck to your continued growth and success, maybe I’ll end up hiring you to help me…


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