Sean Cunningham - Author

Epic adventure. Vivid characters. Amazing worlds.

Category: progress

The 2018 Retrospective

In software engineering we do two-week sprints, in which we commit to two weeks of work. At the end of it, we have a retrospective, where we assess what went well and what didn’t. I borrow a lot of my day job’s workflow management practices for my writing. The retrospective, I’m sure, will be as valuable as the rest.

In the retro, we start with four things: what we liked, what we learnt, what we lacked and what we longed for. From these, we develop actions to undertake during the next sprint. Or in this case, what I’ll take from this year and apply to next year.

This is my 2018 retro.

Liked

On January 7, Ghost Electricity went out into the world. It’s my first published book. I like this one heck of a lot.

In 2018, I also published the sequel, The Mortal Edge, and The Clock Strikes, a novella that slots in between them.

The novella was a change in plan. I had planned to get the third book, Immortal Make, out by mid-2018. When that proved impossible, I switched to the novella in order to publish something in the second half of the year. I think that was a good move.

The books have had some pretty good reviews. Not perfect, but good. That readers want to read about people I made up in my head is just the most amazing thing to me.

I was greeted by some wonderfully supportive authors. I’d heard the attitude in indie publishing was positive and supportive, but it exceeded anything I could have expected. I’d like to make special mention of SPFBO judges Dyrk Ashton and Lucasz P, and my old friend and fellow author Peter M Ball, all of whom offered me encouragement and support in different ways at different times. You guys rock.

The Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off was tremendous fun. I’m glad I joined it. I had the bad luck to get knocked out in the first round by a book that is a strong contender for winning the competition, but Dyrk Ashton gave me a great review. I’ve had a lot of fun following the competition on Facebook and Twitter.

Learnt

I learned that I wasn’t thinking of my books as an indie author whose job it is to market those books. This was the biggest surprise for me. I couldn’t think of where my books sat in the market until they were actually out there.

I’ve learned a lot from the reviews I’ve received on Amazon and Goodreads. I mentioned before that I’m amazed there are readers who want to keep reading about Rob, Julian, Fiona and Jessica. I like all these guys myself, of course, but the degree to which other people like them and their relationships was a welcome discovery.

Lacked

I lacked time. I lacked it all the way through the year. I note this not as a complaint, but as something to think about. Balancing a day job, a life with my partner and writing is a tricky act. It will require continued work.

There were a bunch of things around author presence and marketing that I was aware of, but hadn’t started in on. In part, this is because I’ve been following the indie world for years while writing and many of the practices have changed. I parked the development of these areas until I was published. I didn’t want to learn something and have it obsolete by the time I was ready to use it. But I’m out there now. I have a lot of work to do on the fundamentals of marketing as an author.

I lacked an appropriate reader magnet. I like The Clock Strikes. But the feedback on it has been a) a lot going on for a novella and b) it doesn’t really work as a stand-alone, which it really needs to do.

Longed For

Time to write. Time to upskill my writing.

Time to market. Time to upskill my marketing practices.

Oh, and for the bloody Crossrail to open, which will significantly cut my commute time. Nothing I can do about this one except try to work with what I’ve got. But damn, delayed by more than a year?

Actions

2019 isn’t going to be a quieter year for me. My objectives for the year are to continue writing and publishing, to continue learning and growing. But I’m going to have to get smart with how I use the time available for me.

This year, I think, will need to be a year of sorting out the fundamentals of being an author. Make a plan on what I want to achieve and what I want to learn. I will also need to plan out what I can write and publish this year. My friend Peter, who I mentioned earlier, wrote in his newsletter than he’s planning to spend the next few years building up his catalogue. For me, 2019 will need to be a year of the same.

And With That

2018 was a good year for me. Hard work, but good. I feel like it gave me a reasonable feel for where I am as an author and what actions I need to take to get where I want to go. Thank you for joining me for it.

See you in 2019.

The Clock Strikes – Cover Reveal

I’m delighted to reveal the cover to my next release, The Clock Strikes. This stand-alone novella features Rob and Julian from Ghost Electricity, a mysterious artefact, warring Victorian warlocks, a tattoo witch and a race through modern London to prevent the rise of a terrible darkness.

The Clock Strikes - A Hawthorn House Novella by Sean Cunningham

 

The Clock Strikes will be out soon on Amazon Kindle, and free to my newsletter subscribers – you can sign up here. I’m really looking forward to getting it into your hands.

One Month of Ghost Electricity

It’s been a month since Ghost Electricity went live on Amazon. And what a month it’s been.

I kept my expectations low. I know that I’m a brand new, unknown author with no established audience and a lot to learn. I knew it would be quiet in the beginning.

My goal was simply to get readers and reviews. I know that for marketing purposes, a few doors open for you once you’ve got 5 to 8 reviews with a good rating. My hope was to hit that mark by the time The Mortal Edge goes live in April. I was hoping to get a little word of mouth from people who liked the book.

And it’s been a heck of a couple of months at the day job, which meant there was a limit to how much time I could spend pushing the book. Ghost Electricity has, I think, been slightly neglected as a result. I would have liked to do more.

But the response has greatly exceeded my expectations.

The reviews I was hoping for, they were good. Really good. I’m very grateful to the people who took time to review the book on Amazon and Goodreads. Fellow authors reached out to me to offer me encouragement and to spread the word on their social media and in their newsletters. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. It was unexpected and it was a gift. And it gives me a standard of generosity to measure myself by as I continue on.

The feedback hasn’t been 100% positive, of course. You can’t write a book that will please anyone and I am still a rookie. So I’ve gone through a few ups and down, like urban fantasy author Holly Evans describes in her post Battling Self-Doubt and Over-Thinking. I expect there will be plenty more.

But for now, though I have much work ahead of me, I feel pleased with where I am. Thank you to those who read and liked Ghost Electricity. In the last month, you’ve put many a smile on my face.

Ticking Towards Publish

Behind the scenes, things are moving well towards the moment when I click on Publish for the first time and Ghost Electricity goes out into the world. There should probably be a bell tolling when it happens, or something else suitably ominous.

Book Progress

Right now, Ghost Electricity is in the final stages of ebook production. I’m working with a cover artist on the cover and finalising all the bits of a book that aren’t actually the story. Soon the doors will roll back and it will clank out into the world to wreak wordy havoc.

The Mortal Edge is in the late stages of editing. I’ve worked through my editor’s feedback and generated over a dozen more tasks for things that need fixing. This is what I get for writing a story with so many moving parts. It’s on track for release next April.

The third book, provisionally titled Immortal Make, has also returned from receiving a thorough thrashing at the benevolent hands of my editor and awaits my attention. The feedback was positive, which means I have plenty to do on it, rather than many plenties. I’m looking forward to getting to it, but it’s well down the queue, after…

The Clock Strikes, a novella set between the first and second books. While it will be on sale, I will also offer it as a thank you for signing up for my newsletter. The first draft of the novella is complete and it’s ready to be tipped into the maw of my editing process. I don’t have a release date for it, but I’ll get started on editing it very soon.

Future Plans

The Hawthorn Chronicles is planned as a series, with three more books in various stages of planning after Immortal Make. I don’t expect to publish the first of them until the end of next year, but I’ll have a better idea once we get into 2018.

I also have a series of novellas in mind, tentatively titled Dragon Century, to fill in some of the backstory for the main novel series. They’re at the bare beginnings of the planning phase and so far don’t have a slot.

Words in the Wild

I’m really looking forward to when I start sending these stories out into the world. It’s been a pretty interesting process, learning all the ins and outs of being an indie publisher, though I know I have plenty more to learn once I click Publish.

More to come soon.

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