Friday, January 25, 2019

Happy Anniversary to My Patrons!

January 22nd marked my one year anniversary on Patreon.

I can't believe it's already been a year!

It's been a very interesting experiment so far. Well, I don't know if I can really call it an "experiment" at this point. Overall, I consider it a successful endeavor. Although growth is slower at this point, every month but one has seen a small uptick.

There has been a definite learning curve for me, and back in December I did an extensive overhaul of the tiers and rewards with an eye to making life easier for myself and for making sure patrons at every level got plenty of goodies. 

One of the things I struggle with is finding the right balance of quid quo pro. Patreon is not designed to be a marketplace. I'm not supposed to be running a store. The idea is patrons support the artistic endeavors of chosen creators with donations. It's, well, a form of charity. But of course for a lot of patrons it IS about the rewards at certain tiers, and that is simply the reality. And it's okay! It's a good reality. I want to provide rewards that my patrons enjoy. I want my patrons to feel like they are getting value from their donation. For some, that value is seeing my increased productivity and pleasure in the work. For others, it's access to exclusive content.

Either way, as the recipient of what is, largely, the kindness of strangers, I'm grateful.

There is no wrong way to be a patron (I mean, assuming you're following through on your pledges) and there is no wrong way to be a creator (again, assuming you're following through on your promises).

That said, Patreon is not for everyone. The pressure to provide extra content can be difficult--it's one reason why I changed my tiers so that most of my patrons receive all my regular releases as well as extras. There are some months when all my focus has to be on creating the products that I sell in the broad marketplace. And it's more than possible than some patrons will join expecting a different and more intense kind of personal interaction with me. There are months when I'm more chatty and active on Patreon--and there are months when I only have time to check-in and deliver whatever the rewards will be.

My patrons provide a safety net, but that safety net can't--and in my opinion shouldn't be intended--to take the place of regularly scheduled new releases to the wider marketplace.

I've seen complaints, criticisms of Patreon making the case that a paying model excludes certain readers from taking part. And this is true. In the same way that charging for books--or any art--excludes certain consumers. (My lowest reward tier begins at a dollar.) Critics of Patreon argue that the extras authors create for their patrons should be available to everyone for free.

I think this is missing the twin points of both patronage and what an extra actually is.  Besides which, I still provide extras for my readers who can't or don't want to take part in Patreon. I still blog, I'm still active on social media, I still do giveaways through my Facebook and Goodreads and Newsletter, and I still provide free content--for example the six codas that went into last year's Advent Calendar.

I don't particularly want to release my rough drafts or outlines or research notes into the wide world, but Patreon acts as a natural curator, and I'm comfortable sharing those extras there.

For me, the three greatest benefits of Patreon have been the financial cushion it provides on months I don't have a new release; the creative stimulus of having to come up with fun, new extras that actually serve to make my regular projects better (things like character interviews, for example); and, finally, the opportunity to occasionally brainstorm or just touch base with readers who have the greatest investment in me and my work. 

For patrons, the price of admission varies, but for creators, the end result is often priceless. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

When Words Fade and Things Come Alive

I've been getting questions about why I haven't put anything into audio for a while, so I thought I'd better do a quick update.

So, first off, I have actually been putting things in audio--In Other Words...Murder narrated by the wonderfully funny Kevin R. Free went into audio in September. (Which, now that I say it aloud, does sound like a while ago.) :-D

A couple of people asked what happened to the Green Glass Beads project. You'll remember I hired the amazingly versatile Joel Leslie Froomkin to narrate the novella. The result was brilliant; the hitch is that because the story is part of the Irregulars anthology, I couldn't really figure a way to get the audio book listed on Amazon or Audible. I ended up listing it last week on Findaway Voices in their Voices Plus program and I'm just waiting for that to be approved. At that point the audiobook will be made available to certain tiers within my Patreon group--and then eventually it will go into wide distribution. I promise you it's worth waiting for!

I also did three short stories in audio for Patreon last year: The Boy Next Door, Night Watch, and Halloween is Murder. All are narrated by the gorgeous voice of Kale Williams, and those can actually be purchased through Payhip on my website. I struggled with how to price them, but since Patreon paid for the productions, I've settled on $5.99. That seems like the going price for audio shorts?

So that's what's already done.

As I discussed last year, I'm focused on going wide with my audio. There's no question that most of the sales come through Audible (which funnels into Amazon and iTunes) but if no one is willing to take the financial hit and put product into wider distribution, there will be no viable competition. Healthy competition helps us all. Certainly it will mean all the difference in the long run. So that's my position and why I'm experimenting with things like Payhip and Findaway Voices, even though some of you might find that kind of inconvenient.

Anyway, coming up in the short term will be Seance on a Summer's Night and The Ghost Had an Early Check-out. Details still need to be ironed out there. I made a tactical mistake and opened both projects up for auditions on ACX, which I haven't done in years. Within two days I had 76 auditions and because I feel absolutely obligated to listen to and personally respond to each one--which (I'd forgotten) is insanely time-consuming--it's taking longer to get this settled than I wanted. AND it's completely unnecessary because Kale had already supplied me with a list of terrific narrators he personally knows. So...I'll keep you posted.

Oh! Also, yes, I'm planning to do the Adrien English books in audio box sets, and yes, per your demand, I did bring Chris Patton back to narrate So This is Christmas for the box set. You can stop asking. :-D It's done. He's already completed the work and I have the files. There are some technical issues though, so there could be a delay on getting those out. But it will happen. Really.

Basically, I plan on pretty much everything I do this year going into audio. And because I'm doing more this year, there should be more audio. Kale will of course be back to narrate The Monuments Men Murders AND  I've already talked to him about doing my new Bedknobs and Broomsticks trilogy.

In most cases I will always return to my original narrator for sequels and series, but in some cases the narrators have moved on, so it's not going to be possible to get them back. I know you all really, really dislike narrator changes, but sometimes it just can't be helped.

So that's where we are with audio. I'm as much a fan as ever and I plan on providing you with plenty of audio content this year. :-)

And of course, I'm always interested in hearing what's on your audio wishlist!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Here You Come Again

I'm deliberately not setting deadlines right now, despite the fact that I'm currently working two projects. I'm trying to keep everything very creative and loose. Eventually (sooner rather than later) I'll have to impose a couple of deadlines or the books just won't happen, but right now I'm having fun simply working out details.

My story for the Footsteps in the Dark anthology is called "Stranger in the House". I know the basic plot--I've known that much for months (originally, this was a story I was going to write for my Patreon group), but I hadn't fleshed much out beyond the very bare bones of a young American inherits a large and mysterious house in a foreign country and discovers...something alarming. Something that will most likely lead to murder. Or has it already led to murder? Hmm...

So now I'm focused on the characters and their conflicts because a lot--if not most--of the plot will rise from there. (It always makes for a better story when I take the time to do this groundwork ahead of the real writing.)

The story is set in Westmount in Montreal. I liked the look and feel of Westmount when the SO and I were there two years ago. I LOVE Montreal, which feels like Paris for Beginners to me. (I'm only partly kidding.) Anyway, I decided then I wanted to set a story there, so that was easy. And it's always helpful having a live-in expert. ;-)

I didn't want to do yet another writer protagonist--or another cop protagonist. Not that I don't love writing both those--and I'm absolutely going to do them again--but this year I'm trying to forbid myself the comfortable, familiar pathways (except in cases where I'm writing sequels or series; I don't think anyone would appreciate me giving Jason and Sam or Will and Taylor new careers this late in the game). :-D

So I'm looking at an art teacher with an opportunity to try for his dream of being a full-time artist--AND for a romantic foil... The art dealer who discouraged him from trying for that dream in the first place.

I love that kind of dynamic because people occasionally offer generally good advice that turns out to
not be so good in the particular. The advice that a twenty-six year old might offer you could be considerably different from the advice a thirty-six year old might give.  Also, how personally responsible are you if someone takes your best advice, but your best advice turns out to be ill-advised?

Right now I'm testing out names. It's funny how hard it is to begin writing until I've worked out the names of the main characters. They have to feel right in order for me to get the feel of that personality. Jobs are another thing--maybe because, like it or not, our jobs define us to a great extent. And if our jobs don't define us, that's interesting too.

So... Miles... Miles? Myles? Milo? No. Not Milo. Eager to please, according to my Baby Names book. Hmm. And that might work too. Miles. Miles Tuesday. Really? But yeah, I kind of like it. Miles Tuesday...


Linley Palmer. Hmm. Interesting. Not even sure where that one came from. Is that strong enough? It's so...English. So civilized-sounding. But then an art dealer probably is pretty civilized. But should he be French-Canadian? Is there a family connection here? If not, why has Miles inherited this house and all its treasures? Linley Palmer... According to Wikipedia: Palmer is an occupational surname of old English, Norman French, German and Scottish origin. That pretty much covers all the bases. :-D

So that's where I am right now. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 4, 2019

5 Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2019

Here we go! It's the first Friday of the New Year--and all of 2019 stretching before us with infinite possibility.

1 - Staying healthy. 2018 was a good year for me as far as eating right and getting exercise AND taking time off. I want to continue that momentum and even build on it. Let's face it, writing is a sedentary profession. Nobody wants to get sick, but when you are the money-making machine in your family, the possibility of being ill or injured is a lot more frightening. I'm intent on making healthy choices all year long so that I can be my creative (and productive) best in 2019. That means come Monday ALL the leftovers go into the trash. ;-)

The fact that I am fighting a sore throat this morning is IRRELEVANT to the conversation.

2 -  New projects. And old projects. Unsurprisingly, I didn't manage to accomplish everything I hoped and planned for 2018. I still have to deliver Blind Side and Haunted Heart: Spring, which I'm aiming to do this year. We also have the fourth Art of Murder Book coming -- that's The Monument Men Murders. And we have the Footsteps in the Dark anthology (I've settled on "Stranger in the House" for my novella) AND the new Bedknobs and Broomsticks trilogy starts with Mainly by Moonlight. And I'm sure there will be other surprises (for me AND you) along the way.

3 - Learning new things. Last year was the year I stopped fighting the new reality of publishing--namely that there are now two largely distinct publishing worlds. The world of the Kindle Unlimited author and the world of the rest of us (which encompasses traditional publishing as well as wide indie publishing). It's amazing how freeing it is to stop fighting what cannot be changed and to focus on finding your own path. I think letting go of my desire to hang on to The Way Things Used to Be is why last year was both more productive (and, frankly, more happy) for me. My decision to begin a Patreon was part of that. So was my decision to take my audio and print wide. Yes, staying wide is a hell of a lot more work--but it also offers a hell of a lot more in the way of long-term benefits. The artistic life is an insecure one. Keeping your eyes--and mind--open means you're keeping your options open.

4 - Focusing on the Positive. There is plenty to be worried about in the world today, but there is also plenty to be encouraged by and grateful for. Worrying changes nothing. Action is what makes change, so worrying without taking action is pointless--but so is giving into worry and despair once you HAVE taken action. Which is to say, you can only do what you can do--and once you have done those things that are within your power to do, you have to let go and trust.  Making yourself crazy with fear and anxiety solves nothing. I'm going to consciously try to produce the positive action antibody so I can combat the fear and anxiety antigen carried by so many now. ;-D

5 - Getting organized. Jeez Louise. WHY CAN'T I GET MY OFFICE CLEANED UP? I always get to a certain point--the point where I am just about to begin filing--when all hell breaks loose again and my office ends up looking like it was ransacked. I need another filing cabinet, so why the hell do I balk at spending money on that but think $200. worth of doggie toys and treats is a sound investment? (I'm exaggerating and it was Christmas for Marlow the Mutt too. Still.) Nothing gets me derailed faster than not being able to find my notes or a reference book or stamps or that Sephora gift card when I need it. THIS YEAR I GET ORGANIZED AGAIN. FOR REAL. FOR GOOD.

What do you have planned for 2019? Is this the year IT happens? What is your IT?