Codewords: SPHYNX and HIBERNATION
Almost the next day after I initiated the publication of my new “how to be an indie writer” book Top Secret Codewords for Indie Writers: Update 2019/2020 (one of two books in a series, now), I opened an Excel spreadsheet and sat down to analyze and reorganize my inventory to give myself a new perspective for the coming year.
“Inventory” is a good word for this. That’s basically what I was doing: taking an inventory.
But that’s not the word that came to mind. When I stuck my hand into the swirling, amorphic cloud of inspiration, the terms sphynx and riddle of the sphynx kept bumping into my fingers. Thus the codeword here is SPHYNX.
And the next day, still processing all this in my head, a more appropriate codeword came to mind: HIBERNATION. This one more directly relates to codeword TIME CAPSULE, but it definitely applies here and I’ll tell you why in a minute.
So back to the inventory that was helpful to me…
I discovered some interesting, inspiring things. Things that made me feel better about where I am and what I’m doing, for the most part. (Despite the nagging voice of the evil little imp that sits on my shoulder, whispering that I’m not getting enough writing done. Who invited that little bastard anyway?)
Let’s take a look at that last one for a minute…
For 6 of those 8 years I was fulltime active duty military. (Talk about not having control over your own life!) And, for all of those 8 years, I’ve been a husband and father.
Am I writing as quickly as I want to? Definitely not. That damn shoulder imp criticizes me constantly.
And if I keep my nose too close to what I’m doing, I’ll always feel behind. But stepping back…
This is a damn fine revelation. That despite my terribly busy life in which I feel I have so little time and control, with persistence and even doing only a little work at a time—whatever I can manage while maneuvering around the bigger asteroids drifting haphazardly through my life—I have gotten all this accomplished.
Perhaps this is the true answer to the Riddle of the Sphynx? Is that what my subconscious was trying to tell me when it picked that codeword? Hmmm…
Okay, back to the freebies and short stories.
In the book, I talk about another codeword, which I call BEST-SELLERS. It has to do with research I did, including the price of ebooks. By capturing these numbers in my inventory, I was able to tell myself something: “I have plenty of samples available.”
Meaning, I should not feel guilted into offering any more of them. All of my universes have sample stories for cheap. If someone isn’t sure they want to “break the bank” by spending as much money on a book as they do coffee every day (that’s sarcasm, by the way, if you didn’t pick up on that), then there are plenty of inexpensive options available so they can get a feel for what and how I write. So I need not criticize myself or fall into the common indie trap that says, “Don’t price your books too high. Certainly don’t price them equal to other books of high quality!” (Also, sarcasm… But not really. Because most indies actually think this way!)
Basically, I’m saying that by getting this bigger, overhead view of just how many one-dollar-or-less sample stories I have out there, I have liberated myself from that kind of defeatist thinking.
This may even spark another pricing revolution for me that could upend PURPLE LOTUS in the not-too-distant future…
As for the free stuff… As I said, I have one freebie that I’m going to convert back to a 99-cent story. There are two reasons for that:
First, free samples will get downloaded 10 to 100 times more often than even the 99-cent books. Why? Because they’re free, obviously! The purpose of these should be to capture interest and lead readers to your other (paying) books.
In the case of this story, it is literally the oldest story I have written that’s still around. And while I do believe it is still a good story (and the reviews show I’m not alone), I don’t think it is a great sample of the universe it represents. The several books in that universe are of a different nature than this 17-year-old tale that came about long before there even was a universe for it to fit into. Therefore, it probably shouldn’t be the story that 100-times more readers are sampling in order to figure out if they want to explore that particular universe (and pay to do so).
Secondly, the vast majority of readers who download the free stuff have no intention of paying for anything anyway. That may seem like an unfair blanket statement, but I think it’s largely true.
Case in point: My most popular freebie story gets a lot of downloads and the occasional nice comment (either to me or online), almost all of which say, “Great story, but too short. I wish there was more.”
So, in response, do those people go to the book and/or series specifically referenced as the place to find more? Almost none of them do. They like the story and they want more, they just don’t want to pay for it, even if “more” costs less than a Big Mac sandwich. (Ebooks, by the way, are a lot less likely to give you diarrhea or a heart attack than the sandwich.)
Therefore, my thinking is, Don’t give away too much for free. Whatever advantage you think you’re getting from it, you probably aren’t.
Okay, we’re sliding dangerously close to the downer cliff here. I honestly didn’t get a downer feeling from SPHYNX and I don’t want to convey one, either. So let’s move on and wrap this up.
Back to the SPHYNX spreadsheet. On the left, the books are blocked together by series. The other aspects (columns) are:
These inventory aspects lead to the final codeword for today, which is HIBERNATION.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear this word?
Is it a bear? That’s what I thought of.
The point of this comes back to another codeword, TIME CAPSULE, and basically refers to my general operations plan going forward for the year 2020. That being: Streamline your operation, stop playing around with all these other side events and distractions, and get a lot of damn writing done!
Some of the biggest distractions that draw me away from writing during my writing time are updates, rewriting blurbs, redoing covers, and messing with advertising.
Codeword HIBERNATION, then, means that I plan to get the checklist completed on all the stuff currently published in the next week—done and ready to roll for the whole damn year—so that after this week, there’s nothing left for me to do but write all year! Basically, I’m frontloading all my calories now, pigging out real good, so I can retire to my cave for the winter without having to come out for a snack until I’m done doing what needs to be done.
Of course, there’s still some occasional blogging, newsletters, and ad tweaking that will need to get done here and there, but those should be minor and quick. I don’t want to leave anything that nags at me to come back and “finish it right.” Let’s get all this done and move on, eyes front and no looking back!
And with that, I conclude this introspective bonus chapter (so it’s no longer distracting me, either).
Thanks for reading and hope I wasn’t the only person to benefit from this! I’ll see you again deep on the inside of 2020!
A grammar note: I used the numerical form of numbers almost exclusively here to illustrate certain points. Normally, in formal writing, I’d spell out most of them. (Just in case that was bothering some of you. You know who you are.)