Over the next few weeks, things may look wonky as we work to implement a store on the site where you can buy signed print copies and other merchandise. Please be patient! I’ll be writing like a mad person during this time too since I have 3 stories due 10/1, AND will be traveling to St. Louis next weekend.
But it’s going to look great once everything’s up!
If you’ve been waiting for news on Checkmate… My goal is to have it ready the week of August 27th!
If you’ve been with me for long, you know that my writing process is usually pretty slow in the middle. I might start a book like gangbusters, but sometimes getting 10K, then 20K, then 30K… can take FOREVER. Then I finish the last HALF of the book in like a week.
That’s what I’m hoping to do this week. Yes, I’m at the halfway mark, but I’m still announcing that I want to release on August 27th or within a few days of that (for sure by the end of the month if at all humanly possible). I feel the tides shifting inside me. Now. It’s time. The words are there. The parts of the book I had to feel my way through are written.
I have some “fun” scenes to write that I already know. Then the big showdown. The End. Easy, peasy, right?
Of course, it’s not really that easy and I’m sure there will be a few more hiccups along the way, but I’m riding the wave now and picking up speed. I may crash and burn on the other side, but it’ll be one hell of a ride.
To avoid chaos this time, I’m going to set a very brief pre-order period once I have the final book back from my editors. That way there’s no mistakes with the incomplete file going out (because it’ll be THE file) and everyone will know when the book will drop. Again, it may not be exactly the 27th depending on timing, but it should be that week.
Then…. What’s next? Well, I’m not going to tell you that, yet, because I want it to be a surprise.
(I’ve been playing with making lots of graphics. Isn’t she pretty!?!?!)
I’ve taken a bit of time off lately to refresh and get my mind back in shape for Queen Takes Rook. Switching gears to The Treasurekeeper (Shamrocked) was a fun change of pace. But now it’s back to blood and steam and vampire war as I tackle Shara’s next book. I’m behind of where I wanted to be by now, but the time off was nice. I even got some pleasure reading done!
I took two of my kids to my dad’s farm over spring break last week. I intended to get allllll the words, but ended up resting (good), saw my sister (even better), and did something else shocking. I rode horses! When I was in high school, I rode ALL the time. But after getting married at 18 and going to college, I probably only rode 2 times in nearly thirty years. Now I really feel old.
When all 3 daughters go to the farm, Papa doesn’t have enough horses and saddles to go around for me to ride too, but since Middle stayed home to work (yes, she’s old enough to have a job now!), we had the available horse, and the saddle… and my girls begged me to ride with them. They took it easy on me and only rode the 4-mile loop…. hahaha yeah my entire lower body was miserable by the time we got home.
But it was sooo much fun that I rode again (the 4-mile loop backwards!) a few days later and wasn’t nearly as sore. It’s definitely something I want to do more of and I’m hoping to make lots of trips to the farm this summer.
I upgraded my laptop and finally splurged and got EXACTLY what I wanted: a new 15″ Macbook Pro! I’ve drooled over Macs forever but couldn’t justify the cost. But I want to format with Vellum (the Cadillac formatting software that only runs on a Mac) and I had the money, so I walked in and told the guy exactly what I wanted. No dillydallying or settling for something cheaper. It was very empowering. I rarely ever spend money on something for “me” even when it’s writing income, so I’m trying to change my mindset and make smart investments. This time it was also a smart splurge and I love it so much the girls keep telling me I love it more than them. Of course I don’t. (pets the new laptop)
Business wise, I’ve been playing with a lot of new techniques. I’ve started some AMS ads, fine tuned my mediocre Facebook ad knowledge, read some books, and signed up for some classes. I’d like to maybe open a store eventually and sell books direct, at least signed print ones, but the amount of work is daunting. It’s the sales tax that makes me hesitate the most. I am also interested in moving my website and newsletter to Wix, so I’ll be doing some research and testing out some possibilities.
This writing gig isn’t just stringing some words together and calling it good. At least not any more. I’m hoping that I can build my ad skills (especially AMS) and keep my income up in between releases, or at least somewhat steady, so I don’t kill myself trying to release every 30-45 days. That’s a brutal pace I really can’t keep with the Evil Day Job and everything else.
I’m far from an expert, but learning all the time.
Get Shamrocked this St. Patrick’s Day! Enter my giveaway to win a Celtic set of nail art from Color Street and signed print copies of Their Vampire Queen (3 books – though I’ll switch out for Rook when it’s available if you already have Knights).
Stephanie Christine asked if I was still using a bujo for writing and the short answer is YES.
I actually filled up an entire notebook! Okay, this might seem like a dumb thing to be proud of — unless you saw how many notebooks I have with 10% (or less) of the pages used and then it’s stuck on a shelf, never to be used again.
Here’s proof that I filled up an entire notebook! You can see the word count stickers I continued to use all the way to the end, plus random notes to myself as I needed it.
My only complaint with this method was cutting out the word count stickers. They were just a hair too long to fit into my notebook without hanging out, and it annoyed me when it hung off the side or got crooked.
The Etsy shop where I bought the Tomoe River notebooks (Paper Penguin Co) had a new notebook they intended to be used as a monthly calendar/planner. It was so colorful and artsy with the watercolor splashes that it inspired me to give it a try, even though it’s not the super nice paper I like. I got the grid version, and now instead of having to cut out the word count stickers, I just color in the grids under each day’s totals. It’s not dated, so if I want to skip days, or need to go over to another day, it works perfectly.
(You can see those massive weekend counts I had in order to finish!)
My only slight gripe is that it bugs me that each day isn’t symmetrical. But I’m trying to just go with the flow and not be anal about one day having more space than another. It’s actually great (if I’d just get over my appreciation for symmetry) because I can’t write as much during the week as I can on the weekend, assuming That Man stays out of my hair.
I’m still using my other Tomoe River notebook that I customized a bit. For example, when doing my first pass edits, I make a scene list, a timeline, and a fresh character list, along with a master list of any questions or things I want to consider changing that involve more thought. It also has all my research notes in it. I know a ton of Maya mythology after the Bloodgate series – but did not know quite as much Aztec mythology as I needed for Queen and I had to look a bunch of things up. There are *many* similarities, but unique items too that I had to document.
I’m also using a combination of several planners at the moment – but I haven’t settled into a routine with them yet. I picked up both the New Release Planner and the Book World Domination planner from Nicole. There are pieces of each one that I like a lot and have printed out, but I keep forgetting to use as much as I need to. These are especially helpful for planning out release schedules. I need a calendar to do that – and I don’t want to have to draw one in my bujo.
That’s one thing I’m still adjusting to: lead time. I have pre-order dates to set, coordination with the formatter, cover artist, editor, beta readers, etc. It’s not just MY date I need to keep track of. I’ve already had one release go out with my crap temporary cover and it was my lack of enough cushion in the schedule to get other people’s things in place. I’m also struggling with the best way to keep track of the various promotions I try, for which book, how much it cost, and what the ROI was. I’m getting better at this with the New Release Planner though the sheets provided are for a single book – not across all my spending each month.
AND yes, I bought a different downloadable planner that is focused on tarot: The Biddy Tarot Planner. This one is more weekly and monthly focused with spreads to help you tap into your intuition. I’m behind on it already, but I’ve been trying to pull a card each day and think about what it may mean. It came with a cool printable tarot card set that’s the perfect size to stick into the planner for the card of the week. I printed them on sticker paper! However now I’m back to having to cut things out, which yeah, I find annoying (I can’t cut straight and back to the symmetry thing again).
For each of these downloadable planners, I printed out the pages I liked and used an ARC system to make my own pseudo 3-ring binder. I’m reusing the cover I made ages ago because I love how it looks – even though I get annoyed because things slip around.
So what has all this tracking accomplished, you ask? The numbers speak for themselves and you can see exactly when I started to shake things up and get some traction after a disappointing 2016.
May: 2,324 words
June: 49,281 words
July: 19,888 words
August: 3,589 words (a bit of a hiccup here with school starting, Princess went to college)
September: 29,851 words
October: 38,265 words
November: 41,194 words
December: 17,711 words (this would have been way larger if That Man hadn’t planned an Eureka Springs trip on my week I’d taken off from the Evil Day Job to write)
2017 was a stinking pile of burning trash in a giant Dumpster for many reasons that I’m not going to rehash or get into here. I’m going to concentrate on only WRITING and mostly GOOD stuff.
Between Samhain drama and my Carina series getting canned, I wasn’t in a good place. In 2016, the only new material I’d managed to finish was a short novella. I felt stuck in many ways. Then I had surgery at the end of the year. Up until May of this year, I wasn’t writing in 2017 either (at least not with my normal drive and determination). It was looking like another really bad year and I thought about walking away from publishing for good. Who would notice, honestly? (That’s what my brain was telling me. I hadn’t had a new release in so long I might as well have dropped off the face of the planet.)
But a few things happened in 2017 that set the wheels in motion for bigger and better things.
Samhain finally officially closed and I got all my rights back.
I took Becca Syme’s Write Better Faster workshop in May. (I talked about it here)
I could write paragraphs about how each of these bullets cascaded into new opportunities and challenges but I don’t want to write a book in this post! So I’m going to let the numbers speak for themselves.
Achievements/New Challenges in 2017
Set up my first pre-order in KDP (and met it).
Set up my first print book with CreateSpace.
Set up my first boxed set.
Re-released 4 of my old Samhain titles as an indie.
Re-released 3 of my old Samhain titles with Entangled.
Finished 3 new books (just under 200,000 words) and started a 4th.
Submitted a different proposal (3 chapters + synopsis) to Carina. Ultimately it was rejected but I’m still glad I went through the motions and I fulfilled a promise I’d made.
FINALLY hit #1 bestseller in an Amazon category!
Tracked all my sales across all channels and all books that I have control over for the entire year.
Created 3 graphs to plot out the optimum release schedule for the rest of the QUEEN books.
Here’s the GOOD STUFF – the numbers.
I’ve given away 11,072 FREE books to increase my newsletter and KU pages read.
Jan – Aug I had 2,318 page reads (very few books in KU).
Sept – 12,208 page reads (when I moved everything into KU).
Jan – Sept I sold 664 books.
Oct was the game changer with QUEEN TAKES KNIGHTS release.
Gave away 3567 downloads the week after release
Still had 125 sales
With 201,757 page reads
Then QUEEN TAKES KING continued to push the numbers up in Dec.
Bringing my 2017 totals (through today) to
554,097 page reads
These are not huge numbers for the big-time indie sellers. I’m not hitting any lists with these numbers! But for ME, this is huge and means I can easily continue to fund new covers and books and even pay some other bills without depending on my Evil Day Job bonus to seed a new series. Comparing July sales (163, when Mal’s book released) to December (774, when King released) is a 375% increase.
It came down to THREE THINGS.
* Not giving up when I really wanted to.
* Not being afraid to give away free books to build my readership.
* And stumbling across the premade cover that I fell so hard for, which went on to be QUEEN TAKES KNIGHTS.
That cover inspired the entire series that turned the numbers around in a huge way.
So here’s to a bigger, better 2018! My pie in the sky goals:
Let the race for words begin! Yes, I’m participating this year (you can find me as joelysueburkhart).
I wasn’t sure which book I was going to write for NaNoWriMo this year. I’d intended to start The Mummy’s Captive Witch, but Queen Takes King was flowing too well and all the stars aligned for me to just continue writing in that world. I had 32,000 words at the end of October and decided to just keep on going.
So my plan is to finish the King (guessing 60-65K) and then go straight into Queen Takes Queen. Ideally… I’ll finish both this month! Though Queen might go a bit into December.
I’m taking every Monday off in November, plus the week of Thanksgiving. We’re not hosting this year, so I won’t have to burn days of vacation cleaning house and shopping and cooking. So I should have plenty of 3-5k+ days to get both books done this month. That’s the plan at least!
I’m still working out my release schedule for the next few months and beyond. I did finally hear from Carina and it was a no. The only remaining publisher obligation I have is a contemporary proposal for Entangled, but it’s not working yet and I’ve got other things cooking right now.
I haven’t decided if Queen Takes Queen will come in Jan or Feb yet. I should have the cover early Jan, so it’s possible I could release that month. We’ll see. I’ll firm it up once I see how this month unfolds.
For 2018, I’m really going to shoot for the moon. My ideal releases will include
Queen Takes Queen (Jan-Feb)
secret pen name release, books 2 and 3.
Another Queen book or two in a different queen’s POV.
Queen’s Checkmate or Endgame (haven’t decided which title I like best)
Three Cuts Deader
The Mummy’s Captive Witch
The Prince’s Beast under a new pen name
A spinoff of the Billionaire series for Entangled
I’m also working on
A Connagher boxed set. Have the cover–but need to get the formatting done.
Getting the Shanhasson trilogy into print
Getting the Connagher books into print
Getting Lady Doctor Wyre and her men back up for sale (new covers).
These all cost $$$ so I need new releases out to pay for everything. Hence the big push for words.
Words, all the words. My focus in 2018 is MORE WORDS.
Queen Takes Knights has been going like gangbusters! A HUGE THANKS to all of you who’ve downloaded a copy, dropped a review/rating anywhere, or just talked about it on Facebook. I can’t even begin to describe how great this past week has been. I’ve never had a book take off like this before. Never. I’m completely blown away. Humbled. Awed. And so freaking excited to finish the King and get it out for you.
It was the right book, at the right time, and the right people found it and told their friends, and in the end, it’s like lightning striking. It’s been a fantastic week.
The only thing that seems to stay the same – is that my process is constantly changing. For me, that’s a good thing, though it can be scary at times when something I’ve done in the past just isn’t working.
I envy people who can make up a week’s worth of meals and eat the same thing everyday. My horse would be kicking that stall down in a hurry. Writing is the same way for me. I have a hard time setting a flat, even number of words for every day. Even though I *want* to be able to say “write 1K a day to finish the book” – I know it’ll be more like 500, 200, 1000, 0, 2000, 1000, 0, 3000, 8000, etc. until the book is done.
I’m hoping that certain parts of my new process stay, though, because I really love it. You’ve seen me post all kinds of worksheets, spreadsheets, etc. over the years. Some books I plot. Some books I just know. Some days I get a couple of hundred words. Others I’m fighting to stop before my wrists give out at 5K. Sleep? Who needs sleep anyway? When the words are pouring…
I don’t want to stop.
Right now, I’m not using any of those old tools. At least not in the form I’ve ever used them before. If you haven’t been around me long, there’s a few things you should know about me.
I love the smell of leather. LOVE.
When I’m stuck, I like to write things by hand.
I think purple pens are magic.
I can’t draw a straight line (even with a ruler) to save my life.
So while I’ve done the bullet journal thing several times – I never got into the cool layouts that people draw, because I can’t. They look awful and I won’t use that notebook again because I’ll cringe every time I see the pages I ruined. I did buy a leather traveler’s notebook that smells DIVINE though, and I kept trying to use it. I bought some small colorful notebooks, but…
It took me awhile to figure out how and what to put in the notebook in a way that I could live with and find useful too.
I thought I needed one for each book, so that all that book’s info would be in one place. And yeah, that would certainly be easier. But my muse doesn’t work in a linear fashion like that. I might be plotting one book, and writing words on another, and running edits or formatting something else. Or I might be writing book 1, and get an idea for book 3. So where do I put that, if I need to keep space for book 2 in between? What if I run out of space and have to put book 2 somewhere else?
Worse — what if I started a notebook for one book, but didn’t have it when I got a brilliant idea? I don’t want to forget it, so where do I write it down? I can’t physically carry every single idea notebook with me because DUDE. I have a TON of ideas. And one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that once words are working, and I can dip into the well and touch story at whim…
I don’t get words only for the story I’m doing. I drop that bucket down in the well and haul up all kinds of stuff – and I can’t hold it all in my head.
So what I’ve finally adjusted to doing is using one bullet journal style notebook for ALL stories. I have an index at the beginning and I start with what I’m doing now. So my current notebook has a list of characters for Queen Takes Knights. Some pictures of the actors/actresses I cast for roles. Notes about characters. Then I got into the scenes I wanted to do, brainstorming etc.
But then I also started keeping a daily log of word counts. And it’s okay if the word counts break up pages of notes about plot or book 2. I don’t set any rules. I just use the next page, and if it’s something I want to be able to find later, I add it to my index. If it’s really really important, I create a little washi flag so I can find it quickly. I’m using a word count sticker I got from Bree and having a blast coloring in the little squares.
Combine this with my Kanban board, with the 20-25 min timer, and I can easily track how many words I get in each session (I use a different color).
And I don’t switch notebooks. I’ll use this one until it’s full. Right now, it has Queen Takes Knights info, including my edits and chapter outline. Future scenes I want to do in Queen Takes King. Future character sketches. And they’re not all in order. That’s okay. I’ve also got an outline started for the next zombie story, with the research and worldbuilding I’ve done. Smack dab in the middle of my daily word counts for Queen Takes King.
Once I finally let go of “everything has to be in order” – then the bujo process really took off for me.