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Good news and bad news...

I'm now three days into working on my SBI site, from Sitesell.com, a very sophisticated hosting and site building and internet business building software outfit. If you put in $1,500 they will create one for you from the ground up, something I didn't find out till I was well into it. But, I am a writer. I am a reasonably good writer. The basis for why SBI sites function well hangs on good search optimization combined with good writing that has lots of content.

Thus, it'd be a waste of money getting them to do it for me. I might not like the results if I bought that, because it'd reflect the other writer's voice and tone, not mine.

The good news: it's working out and I'm very happy with it.

The bad news, for readers. The Steel Guardian is not going to Booklocker next month. Not because it isn't ready, but because I can't see how I can spend the time on my SBI site that it needs to be a real success AND do all the prepublication work for putting another novel in print AND most of all give the novel a good launch... when the site is not going to be ready to launch the book. Once the site has high traffic, readers will be interested in the book. I may include some free fiction in the site to warm up surfers to the book and get them hooked on Arkatyr.

The other reason is that The Steel Guardian has hinted all along that it'd be a good first book of a trilogy. I have NaNoWriMo coming up and plan to write one or two Arkatyr books in it.

The sites take six months to a year to build to where they have solid high traffic. It's not a quick-easy-money process. It's a stable "build a good website that will hold its niche" process. That means it's not the "get the site up fast in time to launch the book" plan that I originally envisioned and crashed my budget into the ground to do. I want the book to have a bigger launch. So either I'll do a spring launch on the book and then late summer on book two with the third in the trilogy next year's Holiday Launch, or move on the book when the site is ready to hold the traffic and direct it.

I'm not canceling the plan. I'm questioning why I'm nailed to this Christmas as when to do it. Sure, the Holiday Season is a good selling season. But really. Books don't all come out in October to be sold in November as Christmas presents. They come out when they do. I would rather finish ONE big task and do it right, than tackle two and wreck both of them and drive myself into the ground sick trying to do both. The basic plan is still "website first and then launch the book."

The newsletter will come sooner and have lots of good things in it as planned. That isn't till Step 8 of the process though, and I am working on Step 2 today. The hard parts for me are 2, 3 and 4 -- the analytical part of the process, keyword choosing and organizing. The happy result for readers is that this new site is going to be easy to navigate, intelligible and organized for human beings other than me to find what they want in it!

A friend in New Orleans once told me. "Plan a reasonable time frame for your project. Be sure to leave some time for unexpected hurdles, things happen, life happens. Give yourself generous time for it. Then triple that before you tell your customer how long it will take." She was talking about commission projects, but it applies to everything.

I planned to do it all in two months. Tripling that to six makes it look like it's going to be a lot saner and easier. Whew!

I am working on something very big here, comparable to writing a new nonfiction book in every regard. Something that'll be ad-free for a while and always free to readers even when I do get some ads into it -- all of them relevant ones, as relevant as Blick links in an art supply review.

Maybe I'll even also still have time to pet the cat, draw every day, watch dinosaurs with Sascha, do all the life things I've begun to really appreciate.

So that's the big decision of the day... and so I will have time to make the big important decision of exactly what specific topic the Writing Site will have. It should be a fun one. More updates to come.
Explore-Oil-Pastels-With-Robert-Sloan.com Articles at eHow.com, ETSY shop, My Bonanzle Booth, deviantART gallery, SFFmuse and look for art by robertsloan2art on eBay. Listed on Art Blogs 4 U
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Interesting art blog: Patrick's Art Blog focused on realism!
New Topical Blog: www.robs-art-supply-reviews.blogspot.com for all the cool art stuff that isn't oil pastels!

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
eternalism
Sep. 27th, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
I guess one of the really good things about overestimating how much time a thing will take is that if it gets done early, it's a bonus to your fans. And if it gets done on time, then that's what everyone expected in the first place. It's a win-win.

I'm going to have to remember to take that approach in life for a lot of my own projects. I've made enough timing blunders already that you'd think I'd have learned by now, but nooooooo...

I'm looking forward to seeing the site when it's all ready!
robertsloan2
Sep. 27th, 2008 03:47 am (UTC)
Yeah. Sorry to disappoint you about how soon The Steel Guardian will be out, but I forgot to overestimate and completely underestimated what would be involved in doing the site. I honestly think my New Orleans friend's pattern for estimating project time comes closer to reality than any other estimate method. Life usually throws loops.

For me that also means that while planning, if I'm up to planning ... I forget about how many sick days I'm going to have when I'm not going to get one thing done on it yet the calendar marches on. This is why I'll never go telling publishers I can bang out a rough draft in a week. It has to be a health-good week. Bad weather can knock that over so fast.

It's too easy to estimate the time just by how much time you'd spend actually doing the work -- assuming nothing else interfered and no other projects took longer than expected and got backed up.

I had also planned to get all of my promised art done, both the commissions and the swaps, before putting down the money for the site. And yet by the time I did, I hadn't gotten any of the majors done. I blocked on them and had tons of sick days worrying about them, didn't start getting anywhere till I lightened up and remembered why I told everyone No Deadlines... and now they are moving, albeit slowly.

Thanks! I'll definitely keep doing updates on the project and once it's presentable, will be doing a big announcement here and at DeviantART and ebay and anywhere I hang out. An added bonus for it is that the site structure and planning has ad-free pages that I could go listing on eBay -- they don't care if you're selling something two pages down, it's whether the page you linked to sells something off eBay that they don't allow. I like their approach to monetization and ads. This is not an emergency. Build the traffic first and then make sure the ads and monetization are all targeted, relevant and important.

There aren't as many "product review" topics for a writing site as the art site, but there are other things that are highly relevant. If I start doing reviews, I might start getting a steady stream of free reading material for review, depending on traffic I may start getting pro books for review. That'd rock. Heh, help my budget a lot. Not that Terry Pratchett needs more reviews that say some variation of "ROFLMAOPIMP buy this book and get the rest of his backlist."
eternalism
Sep. 27th, 2008 03:59 am (UTC)
I think we'd all rather have you in good health than have you pressured into getting things done as early as possible. :)

It's too easy to estimate the time just by how much time you'd spend actually doing the work -- assuming nothing else interfered and no other projects took longer than expected and got backed up.

Amen to that! If it was all so easy, I'd have a year's worth of necessary money saved up and about five novels written by now.

If I start doing reviews, I might start getting a steady stream of free reading material for review...

That's one thing I always envy about people who go pro with something. Sometimes it seems that other people practically trip over themselves sending out free copies of things for said person to review, since it gets the word out there to yet more potential buyers. I think it'd be one of the most flattering things in the world for someone to approach me someday and say, "Hey, would you mind reviewing my book if I give you a free copy?"
robertsloan2
Sep. 27th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC)
Purr thanks. LOL -- yeah, no kidding, if every project went the way it was planned to we'd all be rolling in dough and picking up new hobbies to do with all the spare time. I keep having to remember that even when I take care of myself right, my day job as a cripple DOES eat a significant amount of my time. There is no changing that. Only getting in a better supply of reading matter for when I get those days.

Oh yeah. I've been tempted to get into doing reviewing for a long time. Publishers will send free bestsellers, sometimes in hardback! Authors will too. I did get some free books for a while with Robert's Reviews.

They were all self published. Some of them were pretty bad. I was trading reviews too so I wound up getting positive reviews in return, treating it more like feedback and less like the kind of column you'd read for entertainment. The thing that happens is the first few free books are a thrill.

Then you get a real dog. Reading it chokes you on the first chapter. You skim the rest and ... either don't say anything or try to say something about it or go ahead and do a negative review. At the pro levels, you go ahead and give a negative review.

Then some more bad, bad books come down the pike. And you realize your To Be Read list has become very long and the time it takes reading them so as to print reasonably soon is ... pretty durn heavy.

And that's doing it at the Swap Positive Reviews to Create Buzz For Indie Novels level.

Thinking about the PRO level... the dogs would still arrive in the mail from hopeful authors and they sold to someone, an editor. They would sell to someone -- their particular readership. Not exactly to my taste. Then someone sends a mystery or a romance and I'm looking at it and going Why???? or maybe I wind up on the Christian Fiction mailing list... but I guess with those, if I am just honest in my ratings and accurate in description it's good enough.

I think that if I do the pro reviews level, that I had better pull the gloves off and dare to say something about why I don't like something. And just be honest and clear about why. Sometimes reviewers pan books I would love and if they're detailed, it gets me to buy the book. They do not have to be cheery encouraging reviews at that level. They need to tell readers what it is and what its flaws and strengths are and what its flavor is.

It'll tell them about my tastes, how I have a soft spot for certain themes and subgenres and a dislike for others, but that's what makes multiple reviews interesting. I may build up to that once I have the traffic to attract pro writers to send the free books. And just be real in the reviews.
eternalism
Sep. 27th, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
I can only imagine the amount of knitted lace shawls I could have made by now if everything went smoothly and I had my knitting mojo running on high all the time, too. *laughs* Sometimes, too, it just seems like there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I have the urge to do.

I don't think I'm quite confident enough to give negative reviews on things when the review will actually matter, and isn't just me rambling on my LJ. Some books I've read just were so horrible that it was hard for me to find redeeming value, and I'll freely say so in personal places, but if someone sent something to me for a review, I'd know they're hoping for a good review, and I'd probably feel pressured into giving one. Or if not giving a good review, at least glossing over the bad parts and only concentrating on the not-so-bad things.

At least reading bad published books gives me some hope, though. At the risk of tooting my own horn, if some things I've read can be published, then there's definitely hope of me getting my own out there. If I can keep my timeline straight, tie up my loose ends, and still weave a story that keeps people interested even if they're not on the edge of their seats, then it's better than some books out there.

I guess reviewing on a pro level means learning to speed-read, too!

It'll tell them about my tastes, how I have a soft spot for certain themes and subgenres and a dislike for others...

Heh. I need to find more books featuring dystopian societies, and more often than not I end up liking them, even if they're not exactly fantastic. I have this weakness for such worlds and societies, for some reason. Throw in a bit of homoerotic subtext and I'll be all over it! *laughs*

... And I love how Firefox's spellcheck doesn't recognize the word "homoerotic"...
robertsloan2
Sep. 27th, 2008 08:25 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know that feeling -- and that's what I did on my first round of reviews. They weren't as reader oriented as they should have been, they were more like cheap publicity writing for the author and reciprocal rave-reviewing -- which undercut my reliability as a reviewer no matter how cheery I am. I have a tendency to spend my review time on my favorites rather than slam anything, including the art supplies.

But I think what really matters is describing it in accurate detail including what its flaws are. To some readers its flaws are strong points. That's the thing. I have a strong opinion. Express it well and either get neutral-descriptive or get colorful witty in the descriptions - and trust at least half the readers that enjoy the reviews completely disagree on my picks. But get enough real information out of the review that they decide to buy the books I hate. There were two or three reviewers that I followed just to buy what they hated.

Reading bad published books is always a serious cheering-up event. I sometimes keep them and hang onto them to remind myself what the competition really is, especially if I start doubting my skill.

You even know your own weaknesses as a writer. By stating that list, it sounds like a self-critique to be administered in the rewrite stage. Check timeline. Check for loose ends. Check pacing and tighten, fix or eliminate the dull parts.

Actually, you can reasonably leave a few loose ends. Especially if you have any plans for potential series, it's good to leave a few plot threads dangling like a fringe. Either tie them off so loosely that when you pick them up again you're giving details of what readers know from book one -- but had no idea how much trouble was going to come of it -- or blew off with the assumption it was part of the ending as happened. It's a matter of emphasis but the plot threads that continue into book next are what allow for series. Very often a little loose end can lead sideways into a book about the minor character whose loose end it was.

Dystopian societies are fun. I can see the appeal of it for a setting for gay romance too. Yikes. You ought to love Raven Dance then, I have an even mix of straight and gay character romances going on. Can't remember offhand how explicit I got, it varied per scene with the pacing, but a lot of characters were rediscovering falling in love and practicing "favoritism" in terms of the strict draconian rules of the dystopian Utopia. They completely forgot about homophobia in the process of the culture's decline. They forgot racism and sexism too. All sorts of modern evils went under the rug... and then they forgot what freedom was too and it all went ugleee.

LOL the spellcheck not getting "homoerotic." I guess it's too highbrow for pr0n fans.
caelista
Sep. 28th, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
What's an SBI site? If you explained that in a previous post I must've missed it.
robertsloan2
Sep. 28th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, I did, and should repeat this every time I mention it in an entry. SBI stands for Site Build It! the software the blokes at http://www.sitesell.com invented. It is good software. It is making it possible for me, a writer who does not know HTML beyond italic and bold tags and making a link, to do a good site. It's a complete package with a business plan, sophisticated market analysis software so that you use the right keywords for your topic, and site building software and hosting.

The sites aren't particularly wild looking but they are all extremely easy to navigate and well written. I've been surfing other SBI users and like their sites by and large, they're good sites. So I bought the package and am doing my first one now. I may be doing several over time. I'm putting off self publishing my novel till I get enough traffic on the site to give it a good launch.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance
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