Exactly one year ago, I had just released To the North and was plugging my way through the first draft of To the East, with a highly ambitious goal of having the book out by September.

I accomplished that goal, but damn. I is stoopid.

Part of what I was really glad I had done with TtN was the preparation. I finished the book completely months before I released it, because I didn’t want the stress of working frantically on it right up until the deadline. However, hubris got the best of me and when it came time to start TtE, I set my publication date first. I figured it was plenty of time to write the book – after all, it was a longer time frame than I needed for TtN.

Except that’s an #alternativefact. I worked on To the North for years. Not constantly, sure, but I started the story long before I brushed it off and actually finished writing it. That mental separation allowed me to look at what I had already done with fresh eyes, to see problems and figure out solutions, to see strengths and play them up. With To the East, trying to plow my way through in one go completely wrecked me. In the end, I released the book mostly just to be done with it. And I don’t think it’s as good as the first one.

On the one hand, I’m not that upset about it. I learned something, which is always good. And it’s not a terrible book (in fact, some people have told me they like it better of the two). It just felt like a terrible, depressing chore to get it done and at times I thought about giving up completely, even though the only person holding me accountable to my deadline was myself.

So this time around, I’m trying to be smarter. I’ve started To the South, but I’m not giving myself nearly so much structure for now. I’m writing it in bits and pieces as they come to me, figuring out major points that I can string together later and editing as I go, rather than trying to spew out a first draft as quickly as I can. That way of writing simply doesn’t work for me.

As a result, I’m pretty much exactly as far into To the South as I was into To the East at the end of last January, as far as word count goes. But I’m having more fun writing it, figuring it out, changing it up on a whim, because I’m not locked into anything yet. It’s soooo much better that way. This time last year, I was already stressed out about a book I had only been working on for a few weeks. This year, I’m really enjoying writing again and looking forward to where this story is going to take me.

Now that I’ve broken through the halfway point on my two-year plan, I’ve also started making more of an effort to get the word out about my books. I’m focusing on TtN for now, because that just makes sense. It’s the first in a series anthology, it has the most reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and I personally like it better.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to try doing an eBook giveaway through LibraryThing, since it seems like a better option than the Goodreads eBook giveaway (which is still in beta, AFAIK). And by “better”, I mean “cheaper”.

So a few weeks ago I set myself up on LT and filled out all the profile stuff I needed to be given author status, then went into my book pages and flushed them out a bit. Once I had author status I could set up a giveaway of up to 100 eBooks. Since I published To the North via Smashwords to make it available on iBooks and Nook in December, I was able to download the files in a few different common eBook formats.

After I launched the giveaway, I didn’t publicize it at all. I wanted to see what would happen if I let LT do the work for me. Of the 100 books I offered, 38 were requested. Not great, but not horrible. I knew LT had a much smaller membership than Goodreads, and To the North has no reviews on LT since I just added it, so I didn’t expect it to be something people were competing for. Also, I perused some of the other eBook giveaways and most of them had comparable numbers.

So then it was time to get the books to the winners. That process is still ongoing. I set up download codes for the different formats and sent them out via email, which took me a little over an hour to do earlier today. It would be a much faster and simpler process if I used an email marketing client, but I’m not at that point yet. I don’t have enough of an email list or enough new information to justify doing regular mailings, so that’s still another year or so down the road. For now, it was just a matter of copying and pasting and typing in names, which took a little while. As of this writing, some have already been downloaded, but most haven’t yet.

It remains to be seen if I’ll get any benefit out of this. My hope is that I’ll get some new Amazon reviews – surprised? – since LT emphasizes how important it is to review books you receive in giveaways, but I’m not holding my breath. At the very least, it was a new thing to try, now in the early days when it’s still risk-free – and it was also free-free, which is the best kind of free you can be.

I’ve had some ideas about other giveaways and things I can do, utilizing social media. I’ve been participating in a month-long writer’s hashtag thing on Twitter, and have gained some new followers that way. I’ve thought about some “RT for a chance to win” type of deals I could try launching, but as per my bigger plan that won’t start happening until I get ready to start promoting To the South. Once that book is ready to go, marketing will start to become more important to me. For now, I’m still working on creating on content and very slowly building a base for later promotions.

For now, I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on.

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