Wayne Stinnett, Author

Wayne Stinnett, Author

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Important is Scheduling for a Writer?

I'm a scheduler. I schedule everything. It's been such an ingrained part of my daily life for so long, it's hard not to. I know that might seem strange to many, but considering the last 30 years of my life, it's understandable. 

From the mid-eighties, when I first started writing, submitting to publishers and receiving rejections, until 2002, I was a construction manager. Getting my crews and material to a job, when it was time for them to be there to do certain work was very crucial to the success of the builder and thus, my own. I scheduled well in advance and followed the progress of the trades through thousands of homes went from an empty lot to someone's dream.

From '02 until last May, I was an over the road truck driver. When assigned a load, I always asked when it was to be picked up and delivered. With a little experience and having the wonders of technology close at hand, I could plan the route from a specific place on the east coast to another on the west coast, knowing where there'd be traffic delays and where I'd stop each night. I'd respond to dispatch and ask if they could accept the load four hours early, or maybe that I couldn't get there until four hours later. A long trip, like life, can be broken down into smaller segments. In the east, 550 miles in twelve hours is good, but once across the Mississippi, I knew I could stretch that to 650 or more, giving me a very good time of arrival. I was almost always within an hour of what I'd predicted 2800 miles and five days earlier.

When I decided to go full time with my writing career, I sat down and made a schedule. Currently, I have the months in which I'll start writing the next five books scheduled as well as when each will be published and which specific books would be promoted when, over the next fifteen months. Some haven't even been written yet. 

"But, Wayne, I'm just not inspired to write today." 
Are you a writer? Then WRITE!

Break that long schedule down into smaller, more manageable schedules. Can we call these smaller chunks of the big schedule Books? My next book, I'm scheduled to start writing in three weeks and it will be published by early February during a huge promo for the first book in my series. I hope to gain 50,000 new readers with this promo and release. If only half of those go on to read the whole series, that's 125,000 books sold next year, or almost half a million bucks! That means I have four months for me to come up with an idea, create an outline, write that crucial first sentence, finish the book, choose a cover photo, beta reading, editing, proof reading.... Well, you get the picture. Sounds daunting, huh?

"In four months?" 
Are you a writer? Then WRITE!

Four months is 120 days. Subtract 20 days for beta reading, editing and proof reading and during that time, work with the photographer and cover designer and get started with the submission process and formatting. That leaves 100 days to write a 100K word novel. That will require a minimum of 1,000 words written each day. They don't have to be perfect. They just have to be there. A couple hundred extra words will give you a day off now and then to go to the kids' ball games.

"How do you write 1,000 words a day?" 
Are you a writer? Then WRITE!

This post is just over 1,000 words long and took less than an hour to write. A thousand words isn't all that much. To a journalist, it's a column and a half. Yeah, it's just the meanderings of my mind about how I go about planning for success, but that's the point. My books are just the meanderings of an over developed imagination. Aren't yours? Just let the words pour out onto the page and arrange them later. I like to "bookmark" my writing at the end of each day. The next day, I go back two bookmark places, delete that bookmark and start reading, editing as I go. Since I'm going back two days every day, the whole manuscript is proofread by me twice when I get to those two words, "The End". It also gets my head back into the game, picking up the storyline and pacing. Doesn't matter if you're a plotter or a pantser, getting your head back to where it was when you stopped the day before will give your story flow. My bookmarks are simple. When I stop, I skip a line, type in the number of words to that point and give it a style heading, so it appears in the TOC with the chapters. That way, I can just click on it and go to where I stopped two days ago.

In eleven months, starting in late June, 2013 and ending in late May, 2014, I wrote, edited, designed, planned and published four books. My fifth book will be released on the one year anniversary of the first. That's not a coincidence. I had it scheduled almost six months ago, when I published my third book and before I started writing number four. I had no idea at all what number five would be about at the time, but I knew when it would be published. Now my schedule includes releases in February, May, September, and December of 2015. I haven't got a clue what those books will be about either, because the scheduled time to think about that hasn't arrived yet.

Well, okay, I'm cheating my schedule a bit. I know what the February release will be about. The book I'm supposed to start in five weeks already has 10K words written. Developing a good writing habit isn't something you want to break, right? Besides, I want to enjoy some family time through the upcoming holidays and possibly go down island to put my toes in the sand for a few days, enjoy some good rum and get out of the snow.

Semper Fi,
Click here to Visit my Amazon Page to see my books.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Amazon Launches Kindle Unlimited in the UK

Right on the heels of unveiling Kindle Unlimited All-Stars, Amazon announced the launch of Kindle Unlimited in the United Kingdom today.

This is good news for avid readers across the pond. For only £7.99 a month, readers in the UK can download and enjoy as many books as they wish from the 650,000 titles available. That's a big savings if you read more than a couple of books a month.

The news of the unveiling came a week ahead of schedule, as it was originally planned for October and appeared on the companies main page this morning at http://www.amazon.co.uk/ with a video description.

Just as here in the US, readers in the UK can subscribe for 30 days at no charge to test the waters. 

My latest novel, Fallen Mangrove, is still with the editors for ten days now. I was originally told the editing process could take anywhere from a week to ten days, so I'm hoping to get it back today. Once I receive it, I'll spend a few days going over the suggested revisions, before sending it to my proofreaders for final eyes. Time is getting tight after today. My discounted soft launch (sent out to my newsletter subscribers only) is coming up very soon. The public launch at regular price is scheduled for 10/4, just ten days from today.

I'm currently working on another book, tentatively titled Fallen Reef and planning a release in early 2015.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Amazon Introduces Kindle Unlimited All-Stars.

Amazon released a new program this past week, Kindle Unlimited All-Stars. You've probably already heard about Kindle Unlimited, which was launched on July 18th and allows readers to download unlimited ebook "borrows" for only $9.99 per month. Avid readers are saving a fortune with it and these days, you have to save money anywhere you can.

Amazon determined their most popular books by genre, by adding up the number of books sold, borrowed from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, and the number of books read in Kindle Unlimited. These authors were recognized as the Kindle Unlimited All-Stars for August. 

I was not only recognized as one of the inaugural All-Stars, but Amazon even picked me to be the very first Featured All-Star. When I learned about this I was absolutely blown away. As if being chosen as one of Amazon's top sellers weren't enough. I'm humbled beyond belief. Click here, to check out the Kindle Unlimited All-Star listings.

A year and a half ago, I was just a truck driver, hauling over sized loads from South Carolina to the coal, copper, silver, and gold mines in the Rocky Mountain states. In June of last year, I learned about self publishing for the first time and recalled a dream I had three decades ago to be a writer. My work was turned down by several dozen publishers back then and I was discouraged, to say the least.

Long story short, I decided to compile the short stories I'd written way back then, modernize them and write a couple of novels with the hope of maybe earning enough to set up a wood working shop and get off the road. Last October, I released my first book and last May, I quit my job and came home to be with my family. Less than 15 months after hearing about self publishing, I have four books on Amazon, a fifth one coming out in two weeks and was chosen as the first Kindle Unlimited Featured All-Star.

Since then, I've been contacted by a few bloggers and reporters for interviews. Everything's moving way faster than I ever figured. I like to plan things out and move forward at sort of a slow, steady pace. I've even been called a plodder, before. 

Only in America, my friends.

 Semper Fi,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So, you want to be an author?

For all you folks wondering if your dream of being an author can ever come true. Yes, it can! But, dreaming about it won't do it. You must act. Ben Franklin once said, "Failing to prepare is the same as preparing to fail." He was of course, talking about preparing for war with the British once the Declaration of Independence was signed. But, I've come to realize all those old guys from years ago were probably the most intelligent group to ever live at one time, in one place. Much of the things they wrote can be taken myriad number of ways.

Did I dream about making a better living for me and my family with my story telling? Yeah, for many years. But, I was target fixated. That's when a fighter pilot concentrates so hard on the tango he's trying to shoot down, he completely misses the other one coming up behind him. My target for nearly three decades was getting on the bookstore shelves. I'd never heard of an ebook. Then, our oldest daughter and her husband gave me a Kindle for Christmas two years ago. A few months later, I mentioned to him that I'd been reading a lot of authors I'd never heard of on it. He told me they were probably self published. That's when I learned he worked for Amazon. When I mentioned I'd been trying to get published since the eighties, he explained how self publishing worked and showed me on my laptop how to do it. That was in June, 2013, one year and three months ago.

A month later, I took out those dusty short stories from the late eighties and began writing my first novel based on them. I was determined to do it. My goal was to compile and lengthen those three shorts into two novels and with any luck, I could make enough to buy tools for a wood working shop. I was a truck driver and wanted desperately to get off the road and work for myself, building furniture, cabinets and most of all, boats.

I cranked out my first book, with little or no guidance, in three months and published it last October. I put it out of my mind completely and started on the second one. Though it was 20K words longer, I cranked it out in 2-1/2 months. Mind you, I was working upwards of 70 hours a week as an over the road truck driver and writing in the sleeper of the truck. My first goal was to get both books published before Christmas and that's just what I did, 178K words in less than six months, publishing my second book on 10/23. December sales were only a couple hundred dollars, most of it after the second book. January sales were over $2500. More than enough for all the tools I wanted.

That's when it hit me. I could make a living at this, which had been a dream for decades. Something else hit me at about the same time. The numbers. I realized I'd written 178,000 of my own words in two stories, in 178 days. One thousand words a day. I'd read somewhere that was the key to successful writing. And those two stories earned me $2500 in one month! It wasn't hard to calculate that two more stories in six months would double that income. I hadn't yet learned about how ranking and  exposure caused exponential sales of multiple works. I knew nothing about book marketing, or even proper editing, cover design and formatting. I was wet behind the ears at 55.

That's about the time I found Kindle Boards (www.KBoards.com) and all the writers that hang out in the Writers' Cafe forum there. What a blessing that was. I spent a month lurking and learning everything I could, soaking in the vast expanse of accumulated creative and marketing knowledge that are right there on those boards. I learned what worked and more importantly, I learned what didn't work. Armed with better weaponry, I attacked my first two books with a vengeance and rereleased them as second editions with much better covers, formatting and a marketing plan. Sales climbed slightly and I started on a third book, but without the guidance of those short stories.

I wanted to write about something that I was emotionally too close to, so I sought the help of a young Marine who'd recently left the Corps after three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Infantryman. He's the son of a friend and suffered post traumatic stress. At first he was reluctant, until I told him about my own demons. It took us a while, but I like to think we put together a fictional story that might help others to seek out someone to talk to. I published Fallen Pride in early April, 2014. Sales that month were equal to my best month as a truck driver. I was almost there. I could feel it.

From KBoards, I learned a "feeder" was needed, but I was reluctant to reduce the price of my first book, or EGAD, make it permafree. So in just six weeks, I cranked out a 53K word prequel to the others and knowing that my dream was doable and already having a good emergency savings and retirement in place, I QUIT MY JOB half way through writing it. Fallen Out was published on May 30, two weeks before the one year anniversary of the first time I ever heard about self publishing. Since day one, it's been my sales leader, drawing in more and more readers. I intentionally made it a little jerky, to more closely match the pace of my first book.

Last month, I earned more than four times my best trucking month and now KDP wants to reward that hard work by slapping on another three grand? Yes, my friends, dreams really can come true. But, not without sacrifice and hard work. Oh, and planning to succeed. In the Corps, I had a Platoon leader who always reminded us of the "Seven P's", "Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance".

Dream big. My wife and I did this together and then we laid out a detailed plan, in writing, exactly what we needed to do, to make those dreams a reality.

Learn. I was shooting emails back and forth last night with one of my favorite writers, who is now a close friend. Although I didn't discover his work until after I'd started writing my second book and his books were a few years old, we agreed that our works were eerily similar. We both chalked it up to being kindred spirits. He said, "There are no original thoughts, Wayne. Only reorganized ones." There's nothing you can think of doing that hasn't already been done. My dad always told me, "A smart man learns from his mistakes, but a wise man learns from the mistakes of other men." KBoards forums are full of successes and failures. Fortunately, I'd stumbled onto a place where people don't mind sharing both. If something didn't work for other people, why would you try it? Some ideas on there, you can tweak and "rearrange the thoughts" to make it better. It's all there, though. Learn it.

Work hard. One thousand words a day, by habit, will create four 80K-90K word novels a year. You won't make squat with the first one, so hammer out something that'll lure and hook readers. When you have withdrawals because you're not writing that thousand words a day, you'll start to see some success. In some genres, that might happen fast. In others, slower. You might well be a talentless hack. That's okay. Do you honestly think Tiger Woods first game was three under par? Learn and work hard to gain that talent. It's not a sprint. My feeble success was thirty years in the making. That's an ultra-marathon. Sure, there are the very rare few that hit exactly the pacing and many readers happy button and hit it out of the park very early in their career. Odds are you're not going to be one of them. Work toward the future.

Set your prices high. Don't let the market dictate that you should be giving your stuff away cheap. Get that second book out in less than three months. Do a little marketing, so you're part time gig can make enough to pay for itself. Good covers and editing cost money. This will also keep your significant other from screaming that you're squandering the savings.

Keep writing. Hone your craft. Don't be afraid to experiment, there's always a delete button. If you don't like it and you're writing in the genre you like to read, others probably won't either. But, don't let that be your limiting factor. Play around and have fun.

Write what you know. Don't try to write about how beautiful the ocean is if you live in Nebraska and have never seen it. It will show. I'm fortunate. I'm old and have seen a lot more than most. From the islands of the Caribbean to the Columbia River, from the foggy cliffs of Maine, to Rodeo Drive and everywhere in between. I've visited and lived in more foreign countries than most people have visited cities. Write in the genre you most like to read, you already know the pacing of what you like. As a reader, my books are exactly what I love to read.

It's not a dream for the faint of heart. People will call you out in reviews. Friends will tell you it's not possible. I spoke to a guy I used to work with the other day and he asked who I was now driving for. I told him I was still working for myself as a writer, four months after quitting my job. "Ah, unemployment, huh?" he said. "You know that won't last forever." I didn't tell him I'd already made way more since quitting, than I did all of last year as a driver. An easily discouraged person without a plan will sell one copy a month of their one and only book for many years. If a $2 a month pension is okay with you, by all means stop right there. If you want an income stream you can leave to your kids, ignore the nay sayers, think positive, make a plan to achieve your dream and work hard to get there.

But, it all starts with a plan. A dream without a plan is just a wish. And their ain't no dang genies.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three weeks until the release of Fallen Mangrove, the 5th novel in the Jesse McDermitt action/adventure series.

I finished Fallen Mangrove a week ago and sent it to about a dozen beta readers chosen for their expertise in certain fields or the location where much of the action takes place. I've received their recommendations and will be making the final edits throughout the day and tonight.

In the morning, I'll email the manuscript to my editors who will pick it apart, line by line, paragraph by paragraph and chapter by chapter for a week to ten days. By 9/24, ten days from now, they'll return my shredded masterpiece and tell me what a hack I am and recommend I go back to truck driving. Well, at least that's how it'll feel. I'll spend the rest of that week and the weekend putting it all back together, making the edits and plot changes they recommend and that I agree with.

About 10/1, I'll have it uploaded to the printer and Amazon, ready for a soft launch. It will be priced at only $.99 for the Kindle version and $11.99 for paperback. These prices are as low as I can make them, without owing Amazon money for each sale and the prices will only last for 24 hours. Only those on my newsletter mailing list and Facebook Fan Page will get the exact date and time of the soft launch. One person's name on the mailing list will be drawn on 9/20 and they will receive the very first physical copy printed, which I'll sign and ship to them as soon as it arrives.

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If you haven't read any of the Jesse McDermitt series, you should start with Fallen Out: Jesse McDermitt Series, The Beginning . It's been in Amazon's Top 5 Sea Adventures since it was published on 5/30, as a prequel to the other books in the series. Usually at #1.

Semper Fi,