Tending The Field

Kim Jong Un hates your website
Marc Ben Fatma
2014 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Just before I started this post, I realized the reading order page is woefully out of date. It suggested Clayborn Press, who currently publishes the seven of the first eight books of the Compact Universe series, would be releasing No Marigolds soon and that a planned omnibus edition for the Amargosa Trilogy was still on.

Only, I took back the No Marigolds and final four books a while ago. And the Amargosa omnibus would have come out at a cost prohibitive 1500+ pages. Not happening. Those updates should have been made months ago.

Similarly, when I resurrected Jim Winter’s Place, where I deal with crime fiction, I noticed its content was pretty sparse. That’s because I gave the three full Kepler novels to Clayborn Press and have a collection and a novella in that series awaiting rerelease. I’ll likely fix that this summer ahead of Holland Bay‘s release coming out in November.

The problem is I’ve gotten really good at spinning up content. I wrote nine Suicide Arc novels in 14 months thanks to dictation and some well-timed use of breaks. The series is now in negotiations for release, so stay tuned. But I am horrible at marketing. The pandemic hasn’t helped. Your best marketing is face-to-face. If you’re excited about the worlds you’ve created, the person listening is going to have one of two reactions: Eyes glaze over, which means they’re not buying anyway, or they get excited right along with you. I’ve found it easier to sell someone when I can pitch the Compact Universe to people in person.

Ads have been a budgetary problem. We went from a two-income to a single-income family a couple of years ago. So dropping even $100 on Facebook or Amazon ads is not happening. It makes me jealous sometimes of JN Chaney and others who can liberally sprinkle ads on Facebook. And yes, I’ve clicked on them. So, money is, in fact, an object that’s standing in the way.

That leaves the indie and small press writer’s two best tools: the web site and the newsletter. And I am horrible at maintaining my web site.

“Wait a minute. You’re an IT guy. And you can’t maintain you’re own web site?”

Well, first off, I’m a .Net guy. I could probably make a nice living or at least pay down a lot of debt, building author sites. WordPress is state-of-the-art stupid these days, so I would just buy the appropriate theme, find the right plugins, and go to town. What people forget when they learn I’m a software developer is that my employer demands at least 40 hours of my time every week. Sometimes more if there’s something that needs our attention.

“Well, gee, that’s not very entrepreneurial of you. What about the other 128 hours?”

First off, I have to sleep. I am not Elon Musk, who can function on three hours of sleep (By the way, Elon takes cat naps and is also not neurotypical. His brain is hardwired for what he does. Bad example.) I don’t do eight hours. In fact, I can’t do eight hours. I wake up stiff and fog-headed. Second, I have a family. I cannot neglect them, nor can I neglect the house I live in, which has become a means for me to indulge my new hobby of bad carpentry. Plus, in addition to breadwinner and spouse, I’ve added caregiver to my many hats since my wife’s health has declined. These are not optional. And finally, I work side gigs. I drive Uber. I want to start an editing business. Those need my attention, too. Besides, if all I did was build web sites and write code, I’d probably not be a very good programmer. At my day job, we had a guy who slept three hours and spent almost all his time in our systems.

He wasn’t very good, had a tendency to believe he was in charge due to his long hours, and had to be fired when he broke far too many things. (Blaming the rest of us in the process.) That’s not to say long hours are bad. Two of my old bosses from my pizza driver days started a bagel shop out in the suburbs. Diane, the wife, regularly talks about long hours and how, to her, forty hours is part-time work. That sort of comment usually is a trigger for me as it’s often come from managers and owners who are cheap, ignorant, or greedy. I tolerate from Diane because I’ve worked for both her and her husband, and I know for a fact they actually will work a full eighty-to-one hundred hours a week. But their business is their livelihood.

Writing is not my livelihood. Yet. I’ve not given up on making it a thriving business, or at least a means to pay off the mortgage and replenish my depleted retirement accounts. But no one’s going to buy the adventures of JT and Davra, care that John Farno is the Mark Watney of the Interstellar Era, or visit a city called Monticello if I neglect the tools I have at my disposal.

So, here’s the plan. And I expect all three of you reading this to hold me accountable.

  1. Maintaining both this web site and the Jim Winter site have to be weekly tasks. And not just blogging or adding pages for the sake of spinning new content if it doesn’t really do anything. It means keeping up the news (hopefully some news on the Compact Universe both with a publisher and a rerelease here), throwing in some personal bits, and making sure the book covers, excerpts, and release info are all accurate.
  2. DO NOT SPAM SOCIAL MEDIA: I used to get annoyed whenever I would see the same person over and over pimping other people’s books in various groups, often when the group had a strong anti-promo bent. And then I caught myself saturating the promo groups for Storming Amargosa‘s release. It ended up being the least successful release in its first month despite being what those who’ve read it consider to be the best of the entire series. It’s easy to fall into the trap. After all, it’s free, and if the group admins don’t object, there’s no barrier. The one group that did object, however, proved to be a bit hypocritical as it seemed a set circle could oversaturate, but anyone else was spamming. I left, partly out of embarrassment when I’d realized my mistake, but mostly out of disgust because there was virtually nothing but promo on what was supposed to be a discussion group.
  3. Newsletters: TS Hottle’s newsletter needs to start going out again. And there needs to be a Jim Winter newsletter. I have to start those by the end of July. Hold me to that.
  4. If I’m going to go the free route promoting, I need to share the platform with other authors, who, in the past, have generally been good about returning the favor. More of that
  5. Marketing needs to be a regular task just like writing needs to be a regular task. At minimum, I write before anyone gets up in the morning. That’s my quiet time. There are times after work is done, and I’m still in my office, where I can tend the web sites, write a newsletter, or put feelers out for opportunities to be something more than that annoying guy in his basement. Hell, I made it onto Coffee and Concepts once.
  6. There is the possibility of a podcast from me. One. I could do two as both TS and Jim, but I recall my involvement with The Awful Show years and years ago. I regularly supplied bits and sometimes sat in on one of the Awful Snacks (the half-hour shows by each host during the week) as a guest smartass (including one best-forgotten turn doing Casey Kasem’s voice.) Matt Weller, aka “Neraeux,” told me it took all four of them each about fifteen hours a week to prep for the show. Mind you, they did comedy bits, and two of the hosts are still regular podcasters. (Google Tha Mike Pilat and Joel Kenyon, two old friends and real pros at this.) But Keystroke Medium’s family of podcasts, which generally involves turning on the mic and the camera and pumping split screens into Streamyard and onto YouTube, still takes some work. They have to book guests, solicit sponsors, and make sure everyone’s schedule lines up. I can probably do one as long as it’s not live, but more? And live? Maybe as a guest.

If there’s anything I want you to take away from this is marketing doesn’t magically happen. I have an arc called Dirty Deeds, which centers on Tishla’s daughter as an adult, that’s in the sketching stages. If magically, Baen or Tor pick that up, I can have a major publisher’s resources to work with. If Holland Bay miraculously spawns an HBO or Amazon series, I won’t have to worry about whether Jim Winter’s books will sell. Your HBO Max or Prime Video subscription will do all that. And if I win the Powerball this week, this all becomes a rich man’s vanity project. You’re welcome. But adopting a rescue unicorn from the SPCA aside, I have to put in the work. This is the real world, and it has real-world hurdles. Maybe I don’t have an extra forty hours to do it, but I have to actually put in time. Real time doing real work.

Not busy work like those idiots working long hours to look like they’re dedicated. Most of them are just wasting time that could be used on another endeavor.

1 thought on “Tending The Field”

  1. Damn, I so feel this post. From one web developer to another, yeah… we maintain our own sites like most mechanics I know maintain their own cars – and, uh, my site is ten years old, sorely due for a revamp.

    But I also work 40 hours a week, support another business, and have chronic illness. I’m lucky if I have the time and energy to write 2500 words a week. Marketing? (insert crazy laugh) In any case, best of luck with your goals! You’re already miles ahead of me (not that I’m comparing. 😉 )

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