Please Allow Me to Re-introduce Myself

By Gamal Hennessy 

At some point, I invited you to go on a trip.

I promised to take you away from your daily grind and guide you through a world of crime and passion. I offered you a ticket to action, espionage and seduction. I wrote three novels and half a dozen short stories of the best work I could create. You rewarded me with your time and attention.  

Then life got in the way.

 Personal, professional and financial realities cut me off from my fictional journeys. They also prevented me from staying in contact with you since late Spring. I apologize for stopping the trip in such an abrupt fashion, but I’d like to make it up to all of you in two ways.

First, I’m going to make all the books in the Crime and Passion series available on Amazon for $0.99 each for the next thirty days, including my full length novels

If you haven’t had a chance to sample some of my work yet, I hope you’ll take advantage of this 75% off sale to step into my world. 

Second, I plan to have a series of bi-weekly posts leading up to the release of my next novel in November about the role violence plays in being a writer. I hope these essays lure you back into the world of crime and passion and all the other work I plan to create.

I know one less email doesn’t make much difference in your busy life, but I also know everyone can use a break from real life once in a while. If you’re willing to keep hearing from me, I’ll try to make the trip worthwhile. 

If you’ve got any questions, comments or observations, please let me know. I enjoy hearing from you.

 Have fun.


If you want to spend more time in the world of Crime and Passion, sign up for the free RSVP Newsletter. 

America's Love Affair with Torture

A poll conducted in the wake of last week's CIA Torture report suggests that up to fifty percent of Americans believe the CIA program was justified. Responses were split along party lines, race and gender, with Republicans standing behind the legacy of Cheney and Democrats split on the issue. Minorities, women and younger people were more likely to reject the program while older white males accepted it.

The results aren’t earth shattering, considering the history of American society. Our treatment of indigenous Americans, African slaves, Chinese migrants and women in general has included systemic violence since before we were a country. Modern examples also support this premise. From what I understand, entertainment popular in the wake of the 9/11 attacks from 24 to Zero Dark Thirty, depicted torture as a viable means to extract critical information in a short period of time.  The poll results only clarify what we already knew.

I’m not innocent when it comes to using torture in my work. Both Smooth Operator and A Taste of Honey include torture scenes. The difference between my stories and other situations is the goal of the torturer. In my books, the torturer wants to punish the torture victim or use images of the torture victim to force action from a third party. The collection of information is secondary or not an issue at all. Based on my understanding of the subject, torture is not an effective way to gather information, but it’s a great way to display aggression, generate fear or act out repressed anger.

I think those of us who support CIA torture are less interested in intelligence and more interested in venting the feelings of rage and insecurity in the aftermath of 9/11. They accept torture because they imagine it acted out on someone who does not look like them or follow their beliefs. One of the few Republicans to speak out against torture was Senator John McCain. His position is influenced by his own experience as a POW tortured by the North Vietnamese. I’m sure if more Americans found themselves or their loved ones in the horrible position of being tortured, they’d be less likely to throw their support behind this program.

An Exercise in Reader Hunting

At this point in my independent publishing career, I feel my ability to write is stronger than my ability to market. While this combination gives me the right skill set to be a starving artist, I’d like to find ways to increase my ability to reach my target audience and not die of hunger. I’m planning a major overhaul of my commercial strategy in January and increased exposure is a fundamental part of the program. As part of my long term plan, I just completed a small scale experiment to increase my pool of potential readers. I’d like to share it with you. Please feel free to use it or ignore it at your leisure.

The Goal
There is a school of thought in independent publishing (and sales in general) that people will buy books from authors they already know and like (See Write, Publish, Repeat). Not many people are familiar with my work right now, so my goal was to increase my exposure for a short period of time and get my writing into the hands of potential readers. Because this was a marketing exercise and not a sales exercise, I didn’t expect to generate any revenue. At the same time, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money either.

The Method
  • I hired a marketing group on that specializes in e-book marketing. They charged me $45 for what amounted to a mini blog tour.  
  • I took my last novel (A Taste of Honey) and made it exclusive on Amazon’s KDP to set up a two day free offer that would take place a couple days before Halloween.
  • I announced my free offer a week in advance on social media along with a free piece of horror flash fiction to get people’s attention.
  • On the day of my free promo, I sent an email blast out to my mailing list of about 13,000 names.

The Results
  • The marketing company produced 5-7 announcements and reviews for my book just before the free period. The announcements appeared on, Top Books Worth Reading and other blog sites.
  • A handful of verified purchasers picked up the book before the free period and left reviews.
  • There were more than 900 downloads of the book during the two day period, with a huge push in the first 16 hours and then a steady decline afterwards.
  • A Taste of Honey broke into the top ten spy novels list on Amazon during the first day of the free period.
  • Sales for the most part remained flat outside of a predictable dead cat bounce.

The Lesson
If my goal was to make a lot of money in a short period of time, then the experiment was a failure. I spent forty five dollars and didn’t make anything back. If my goal was to connect with more potential readers, then things didn’t turn out too bad. Nine hundred potential readers is a decent bite at the apple. In my experience, nine out of ten people who enjoy adult crime fiction liked my writing. Not everyone who downloaded my free book will read it, but even if only ten of those nine hundred people decide to read my book, maybe nine of them will like it too. When my next nine novels come out over the next five years, each one of those potential readers will be more prone to buy them because I’ll be an author they already like.

Some writers will mock me for losing 1,000 potential sales, or continuing to use KDP long after Amazon scuttled the algorithms that used to guarantee sales. Other writers might reject my use of a marketing company, comment that the process perverts the purity of the blog tour concept or otherwise smacks of dishonesty. Some people will be offended just for the sake of being offended. My goal isn’t to change those opinions. Every writer is entitled to their own perspective. My perspective is finding more people who might enjoy my work.

I plan to include this tactic in the overall strategy for releasing my next novel. Have you done something similar? What worked for you? What do you wish you could do over? Any comments are welcomed, even if I don’t answer them all.

Have fun.

The Final Chapter of My Free Halloween Fiction

This is the third and final installment of my free Halloween flash fiction. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

And remember, you can get my latest novel A Taste of Honey for free next Monday and Tuesday only (that’s November 3rd and 4th).

Happy Halloween

The Shadow Dancer
Part Three: Revelation

I broke both his elbows before he took his first step. He wanted to retreat, to understand what happened, but I moved faster than his thoughts. I ducked down and punched him in the side of the knee with enough force to guarantee he would never walk again. He dropped to his other knee. His face tried to form a scream, but I moved faster than his voice. I stood over him, straightened my fingers into a spear and plunged my hand into his gaping mouth.

That must have been so horrible for his friends to watch. I’m sure they want to help, but how could their minds deal with what they saw? How could their bodies approach something so bizarre? One boy started to cry. The other peed on himself and screamed like a newborn child. But I didn’t blame them. I had my arm buried elbow deep into the big man’s mouth. They were just making the noise that he couldn’t make for himself.

I saw tragedy in my victim’s eyes. I witnessed his horror, his pain and his sanity crumbling at my feet. I held my arm in place for a moment, letting him flail around with his useless arms and scrape the ground with his broken leg. The smell of his emptied bowels overpowered the whiskey and smoke in the alley. My hand reached down so deep that I felt his heartbeat pumping with suicidal speed near my fingertips. I wanted to feel it burst in my hand. I wanted the ripe fruit of his life to drip through my fingers. But he didn’t deserve that. He deserved to live with the madness that came with this moment.

So I snatched my arm out of his mouth with a sticky wet slither.  Then I turned my back on them and walked away. Another scream echoed between the walls as the big man crumbled onto the pavement of broken glass and used condoms. The muffled dubstep might have drowned out their shrieking, but I’m not sure. I danced into the shadows before anyone else showed up.

Now I’m writing this to try and understand what I am and what I’m doing here. I’m not worried about revealing whatever dark secret defines me. I’m writing this journal by hand so no one will ever find it. If someone does get it, they won’t ever read it and even if they do, no one will ever believe it. This is my story. I’m writing it for me.

I might be dead. I might be alive, but whatever I am, at least I’m not drowning in feces anymore and the only thing eating away at me now are the questions of my existence and the secrets trapped inside me.

Free Halloween Fiction: The Shadow Dancer Part 2

Yesterday I announced two free gifts I’m giving away for Halloween.

First, my novel A Taste of Honey will be available for FREE next Monday and Tuesday (November 3rd and 4th)

I also wrote a piece of flash fiction horror just in time for Halloween. This is Part 2. If you want to read Part 1, you can find it here. The last part will go up tomorrow.

The Shadow Dancer
Part 2: Confusion

I stumbled out of the shadows and into a dark grimy alley littered with broken glass and used condoms. The sky was a dark shroud above me, without a moon or stars to offer light. Muffled dubstep throbbed from the other side of one wall and the smell of decadence that led me here clung to everything in the narrow passage. I stood silent in the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

Three unfortunate boys found me standing there, paralyzed by my new freedom. I’m sure they were in their late twenties, affluent, arrogant and privileged. Their eyes glazed over with liquor and drugs. Their bodies overflowed with lust and their faces revealed the frustration of a hundred recent rejections. They circled me like hyena, unsure about which one of them should make the first move.

I felt so sorry for them. I wanted to save them from me.

But I didn’t know the language of compassion on that first night. My voice was still raw from the razors. I tried to say something to calm them down as I held up my grubby hands to warn them, but all I could come up with was,

“If you fucking touch me, I’m going to shove my hand right down your god damn throat.”

They laughed. 


Didn’t they see the clumps of vomit in my hair? How could they not notice my half eaten stomach dangling down by my knees? Did my shredded tongue cut my warning into sounds they couldn’t understand? If those poor boys saw anything, they didn’t pay attention. Two of them just watched as the big one called me a bitch and lunged at me with rape on his mind.

I felt so sorry for him.

Two Halloween Treats Just for You

I’ve decided to kick off the holiday season by giving you two free gifts for Halloween.

First, my novel A Taste of Honey will be available for FREE next Monday and Tuesday (November 3rd and 4th)

I also wrote a piece of flash fiction horror just in time for Halloween. This is Part 1. The other two parts will go up later this week.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.


The Shadow Dancer
Part 1: Torment

I choked on a thousand razor blades as calloused and clawed hands held me down on a bed of glass.

I drowned in boiling stew made up of vomit and feces.

I lay helpless on a bed of spikes, watching my organs ripped out and devoured by insatiable cannibals.

I was raped from the inside out, violated by a fetus or a virus so hurtful that his come spat molten lava through my body and out from my eyes when he was done with me.

And then my torment repeated from the beginning, with a dozen hands holding me down and forcing razors into my mouth.

Was I in Hell? How do I know? Organized religion uses the ideas of eternal damnation to maintain power over their flocks. Hell represents the punishment that awaits the sinner after death. But I didn’t die. I crossed over into the shadows trying to save my husband. What sin did I commit? Is it a sin to fight for love in the face of Darkness? And how could my lover open a passage to eternal damnation in the first place? How could I escape something that’s supposed to be forever? Based on what I’ve read since my Release, my suffering sounds more similar to the traditional Chinese versions of Hell than the Christian, but I’m not Chinese and my suffering wasn’t nearly as poetic as their descriptions.

How did I escape? I seized a fleeting moment of opportunity. I think someone else paved the way and opened the door. Maybe a lot of some ones tore down the walls that oppressed us. Who knows? I never saw anyone else during my torment beyond my faceless cannibals. All I know is at some point my reality tilted and I caught a whiff of cheap whiskey and stale cigarettes. My cannibals abandoned me, so I slithered, crawled and ran towards the scent, not knowing or caring where it led me.  Considering where I was, what could possibly have been worse?

The Touch of Honey Beta Reader Request

I'm currently looking for beta readers for my third novel, A Touch of Honey.

If you're not familiar with the beta reading process, don't worry. Beta readers are like a focus group for books. They help the publisher predict audience reaction to a story by getting feedback from a small segment of the market (See On Using and Being a Beta Reader)

A Touch of Honey is a sequel to my last novel, A Taste of Honey. It continues the story of the spy Nikki Sirene as she tries to survive in a world of crime and passion.

If you enjoy adult crime thrillers, consider this premise:

In seduction, control is surrender and surrender is control…

Nikki Sirene uses her sexual charms to manipulate men and steal their secrets. She lives in constant fear because the man who used to love her is now trying to kill her.

Desperate for protection, she agrees to a relationship of mutual exploitation with a mysterious spy named Warren Baker. He agrees to protect her from her enemies if she agrees to help take down a sex slave operation in New York.

Entering into this world of depravity and pain pushes Nikki to the edge of sanity. Can she escape with her freedom and her life, or will she become just another human trafficking statistic?

If you're interested in being a beta reader for A Taste of Honey, please send an e-mail to and I'll put you on the list.

Have fun.

A Minor Media Blitz for A Taste of Honey

by Gamal Hennessy

In the grand scheme of things, it amounts to a tempest in a very small teacup.

Over the past two weeks since I’ve released A Taste of Honey critics and other authors have weighed in with their opinions of my first novel. The feedback for the book is not only gratifying, but it’s telling me I’m on the right track.

Writer’s Alive,

The author’s at Writer’s Alive have years of creative experience, an international perspective and  a passion for the craft. After they read an advanced copy of A Taste of Honey, they invited me to sit down for an in depth conversation about both my creative process and my support of independent publishing. I didn’t join the discussion until about ten minutes into the show, but if you’d like to hear the sound of my voice, you can listen here.

The Girl in the Blue Mask

The Gal in the Blue Mask is the home of Meghan, a writer, editor and critic with a broad appetite for fiction of all types. She originally found my work when I released Smooth Operator and when I announced the release of A Taste of Honey she requested an interview for her website. You can find the interview here and you can also sign up for the contest where we plan to give away several copies of A Taste of Honey.

What the Critics Have to Say

The early reviews of A Taste of Honey show that people like what they are reading. Critics can be harsh, especially on Amazon, but so far I’m getting reviews like this:

“This could easily be made into a motion picture. Gamal has quite a talent of creating some intriguing characters and keeping you from putting the book down.”
William Masters

“Catching your breath is tough between the suspense, steam and mystery, and as the stakes got higher I was more and more impressed with Hennessy's perceptive understanding of female sensuality and what goes on in our heads.
Chloe Halston

“Gamal is a very talented story teller, he has a unique ability to be able to throw me into the middle of the environments he creates, and the minds of his characters.
D. Johnson

“If you enjoy a thrilling, erotic, story of desperate lovers, spies, treachery, lies and love, you will want to pick up a copy of A Taste of Honey. You won't regret it.
E.P. Scott

A Step in the Right Direction

From an objective point of view, I can see that my work has a long way to go before I reach my marketing and publicity goals (See The Quest for Ten Thousand Fans). No, I didn’t get interviewed by Oprah or Jon Stewart. No, my book wasn’t reviewed by the New York Times or the Paris Review. But everyone has to start somewhere and few of us start at the top of our craft. This may only be a tempest in a teacup, but it is my tea so I’m going to savor the taste for as long as it lasts.

In order to celebrate all this good press, I've decided to lower the Kindle price for A Taste of Honey for one week. Read it now and find out what all the fuss is about.

Have fun.


Read The Screams of Passion for Free All This Week!

A Taste of Honey

Nikki Sirene is a spy who uses her sexual charms to steal secrets. She lied and manipulated her way into the bed of her latest target, Manuel Cruz to stop him from smuggling weapons into America. At the same time, she has also fallen in love with Manuel’s wife Dominique.

As the two women become more desperate for each other, their world begins to unravel. Nikki's jealous superior pushes her to complete her mission and end the affair. The Russian mafia behind Manuel’s arms smuggling is close to exposing her and killing everyone she loves. Can Nikki find a way to protect her lover and finish the job or will they both be destroyed by a dark and explosive secret?

This book will be available as a free download for Amazon Kindle from Tuesday April 15th, 2014 to Friday April 18th, 2014.

Download it now and leave a review!

Note: This book is the third and final installment of the Taste of Honey novel. It concludes the story that began in Book One: Anything for Love and continued in Book Two: The Art of Seduction.

Have fun.


Advanced Review Request for The Screams of Passion

I'm currently looking for advanced reviewers for my novella, The Screams of Passion from March 26th, 2014 to April 20, 2014.

If you're not familiar with the advance review process, don't worry. All that means is that you get an early copy of the book in exchange for an honest review that you post on Amazon or Good Reads. It doesn’t have to be a five star review. An honest assessment of your reaction is better for other readers and the author.

Advanced reviewers for this book will receive a free copy of A Taste of Honey as a thank you for your support.

If you enjoy crime thrillers or spy stories, consider this premise:

The Screams of Passion: A Taste of Honey Book Three

Nikki Sirene is a spy who uses her sexual charms to steal secrets. She has lied and manipulated her way into the bed of her latest target, the Argentinean shipping magnate named Manuel Cruz. Nikki has also fallen in love with Manuel’s wife Dominique. 

As the two women become more desperate for each other, their world begins to unravel. Nikki's jealous superior pushes her to complete the mission and sacrifice Dominique in the process. The Russian mafia behind the arms smuggling threatens to expose her and kill her entire team. Can Nikki find a way to protect her lover and finish the job or will they both be destroyed by a dark and explosive secret?

Note: This book is Book Three of A Taste of Honey. It concludes the story that began in Book One: Anything for Love and continued in Book Two: The Art of Seduction.

If you’re interested, just send an email to and I’ll take care of the rest.

Have fun.

Advance Review Request for The Art of Seduction

I'm currently looking for advanced reviewers for my novella, The Art of Seduction from February 18, 2014 to March 10th 2014.

If you're not familiar with the advance review process, don't worry. All that means is that you get an early copy of the book in exchange for an honest review that you post on Amazon or Good Reads. It doesn’t have to be a five star review. An honest assessment of your reaction is better for other readers and the author.

Advanced reviewers for this book will receive a free copy of A Taste of Honey as a thank you for your support.

If you enjoy crime thrillers or spy stories, consider this premise:

The Art of Seduction: A Taste of Honey Book Two

Nikki Sirene is a spy who uses her sexual charms to steal secrets. Her latest target is Manuel Cruz, an Argentine shipping magnate who might be using his company to smuggle weapons into Mexico. Nikki's mission is to get close enough to the womanizer to get access to his shipping records.

Seducing this kind of man is easy for Nikki, but dealing with his paranoid business partner and mysterious wife create complications and problems she couldn't anticipate. 
As threats emerge from all sides, will Nikki remain the hunter or will she become the target?

Note: This is episode two of A Taste of Honey. The story began in Book One: Anything for Love and will conclude in Book Three: The Screams of Passion.

If you're interested in being an advanced reviewer for this book, please send an e-mail to and I'll give you all the dirty details.

Thanks for playing.

Have fun.


Read a Story of Crime and Passion Called Anything for Love

A Taste of Honey

Book One: Anything for Love

Nikki Siriene is willing to suffer for her lover Chris. She uses her sexual charms to spy for him. She deals with the constant slut shaming from his mercenary soldiers. She even faces the threat of sudden violence from his targets. But she wants a better life and she wants it with him.

That's why Nikki follows Chris to Argentina. She needs to escape the danger and constant stress of their lives. But new threats are hiding in this paradise. Will Nikki finally learn the truth about Chris and the men who are hunting him? Will she be able to leave the life of a honey trap, or will she be forced to sacrifice everything for her love?

Now available on Amazon and Kobo for just 99 cents! 

Note: This book is episode one of A Taste of Honey. It originally appeared in the 2013 anthology Smooth Operator. Nikki's story will continue in Book Two: The Art of Seduction which will be available in March of 2014.

Levels of Conflict: Hitting Your Hero From All Sides

by Gamal Hennessy

The vast majority of all fictional plots boils down to a struggle to achieve a goal. A protagonist has an object of desire that is material or situational. To get what she wants, your heroine has to exert effort against everything that stands between her and her goal. The power and intensity of her obstacles will define both your heroine and the strength of your story. But where do those obstacles come from and how can we build them into the story in a way that tests the heroine in the most satisfying manner? One answer lies in playing with the different levels of conflict.

Three Levels of Conflict
A level of conflict is a source of antagonism that stands between your protagonist and their goal. Robert McKee's book Story defines three major levels of conflict:
  • Internal: where the thoughts, feelings or physical characteristics of a protagonist block achievement of the goal
  • Interpersonal: where relationships with other people or groups block achievement
  • Extra-personal: where institutions, natural phenomenon and situations block achievement

To put this into perspective, let's say you're writing a story about a boy named Adam living in Jerusalem. Adam has just seen a beautiful Arab girl and in that moment decides that he is in love. What obstacles does Adam face in his quest for a relationship? As a writer, you have several options:
  • Internal: Adam's shyness, lack of experience with women and unattractive features get in the way of his budding romance. 
  • Interpersonal: The girl might resist his advances for her own reasons, or she might have another suitor who wants to remove Adam from the picture. Also, Adam's parents could try to prevent him from getting involved with an Arab girl. The girl's brothers might threaten him with violence.  His own friends might reject him.
  • Extra-personal: The wider Arab Israeli conflict could also inhibit our hero. Hezbollah bombings into the settlements could disrupt Adam's life or create a curfew situation. A suicide bomb could destroy everything or even kill the girl. Protests, strikes or other mass social events could tear their relationship apart before it even gets started.

This is just a few examples of what Adam is up against. If he is able to win this girl's love, the obstacles he'll have to overcome could make an amazing story.

The Different Directions of Conflict

After you determine the conflict against your hero, you have three main choices when deciding on the direction you’d like to go with each one:
  • Broad: where the protagonist has to deal with conflict on each level, either at once or simultaneously
  • Deep: where the conflict is primarily on one level, but the impact on that level is this hammers at the core of the character
  • Compound: where the conflicts are both broad and deep and the hero fights intense battles on all fronts to achieve their goal.

The direction you choose is often a function of genre. An action adventure might have heavy interpersonal and extra personal conflict when the hero battles the arch villain on the top of a mountain in a blinding snow storm. A cozy mystery might have strong internal focus as the detective quietly strains her intellect to solve the crime. Every style of writing can tap into each type of conflict, but some genres lend themselves to specific conflict types.

Conflict as Spotlight

The best way I've found to develop conflict in my work is to focus on the aspects of my protagonist that I want to reveal and then creating conflicts that explore those traits. One of my main characters is a young woman named Nikki. She wants the affection of her mentor and lover Chris. To show her dedication to this goal, I put several obstacles in her path in the first twenty five pages of the book.

Nikki has to deal with the extra personal danger of spying on the Russian mafia for Chris. She has to face the interpersonal roadblocks of abusive teammates. The internal doubt she has about who Chris really is and her own feelings for him create the largest source of conflict. As the story progresses, each level of conflict deepens and interacts with the others to build a story that reveals Nikki's true character as the narrative unfolds. (See Creating Complex Characters)

The best stories have the strongest conflicts. While it's not necessary to throw every obstacle at every character in every story, a weak story is most often the result of weak antagonists. Pit your heroine against the strongest combination of antagonism that you can think of. Your readers will thank you for it.

Have fun.

A Special Sale Price for Smooth Operator!

To celebrate the release of my new novel, A Taste of Honey, I’ve decided to offer my last novel at a special low price for a limited time.

About Smooth Operator

Born into privilege, wounded by war, and skilled in the art of manipulation, Warren Baker works like a spider. He weaves plans and plots, drawing people into his web until they accomplish his goals without ever knowing he was involved.

In some cases, his influence is as delicate as a woman's smile. In others, he is a blunt instrument ruthlessly pursuing his goals. All the stories in this collection reveal insights into this complicated man and his mysterious quest for power.

Smooth Operator is ultimately a crime story about our desires, and how they define us. From ambition to passion, from blood lust to vengeance, our motivations do more than shape what we are willing to do; they reveal who we are as people.

When you are faced with a critical life choice, what you are capable of?

Note: Readers who purchase and review this book will be eligible for a FREE gift!

Smooth Operator was a 2013 Amazon Espionage Bestseller in 2013 and was a #1 bestseller in the Amazon's Hot New releases category. 

This sale won’t last long, so take advantage of it now so you can be ready for A Taste of Honey when it is released in February 2014.

Have fun.


What's Your Publishing Plan?

by Gamal Hennessy

The end of the year is a good time to look back on the progress you've made in your craft as a writer. It's also a good time to set goals for the New Year. For those of us who are predisposed to planning, the end of the year is the best time to set up a publishing plan. I'm going to try and show why this kind of plan is useful, what it is, how you can create one and what its limitations are.

Why Have a Publishing Plan?
The main benefit to a publishing plan is that it can help you manage your two most important resources; time and money. Few of us have unlimited hours to develop our craft (See Do You Really Need to Quit Your Day Job?) and while independent publishing is affordable, it's not cheap (See So How Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish?). Creating a plan can help you allocate enough time to reach your publishing goals in terms of output (See Why Do We Word Count?) and ensure that your costs for publishing don't interfere with any non-publishing expenses you'll have to deal with in your life.

What is a Publishing Plan?
The publishing plan is basically a projection of all your creative and writing business projects for a given period. It could be based on any goal you decide to set, and it can be broken down into any time period you like.

For example, my publishing plan for 2014 is to release two books that I wrote in 2013 and write two books that I'll release in 2015. Some people can break it down into quarterly, monthly or even weekly goals, but I prefer to work on an annual basis and have the goals from one year linked to the previous and subsequent years to maintain a steady output.

How Do You Create a Publishing Plan?
Creating a publishing plan is a three step process:
  1. Set your goal for your desired time period. Keep in mind that we're talking about publishing goals, not necessarily income goals. A publishing plan can help if your goal is 'publish one novel per year'. It is less helpful if your goal is 'sell a million copies'. I don’t have a plan for that yet.
  2. Breakdown your publishing efforts according to the four stages (See The Four Stages of Novel Development) so you give each project time for each stage it requires.
  3. Layout your activities based on your timing and goals. It helps to schedule extra time for each stage, since life has a way of disrupting plans.

Examples of a Publishing Plan
As I stated earlier, my goal for 2014 is to release two books that are already written (A Taste of Honey and Dark End of the Street) and write two more (A Touch of Honey and Smoke and Shadow). Based on that goal, my monthly plan gets broken down into a creative goal and a business goal and looks something like this:
  • Jan: Pre-launch Taste of Honey/ Production of Touch of Honey
  • Feb: Launch Taste Book 1/ Touch Production
  • March: Launch Taste Book 2/ Touch Completion
  • April: Launch Taste Book 3/ Begin Production of Smoke and Shadow
  • May: Launch Full Taste Novel/ Touch Post Production
  • June: Production of Smoke/ Touch Post Production
  • July: Vacation
  • August Production Smoke/ Post Production Dark End of the Street
  • Sept: Pre-Launch Dark/ Production Smoke
  • Oct: Launch Dark/ Smoke Completion
  • Nov: Catch Up
  • Dec: Catch Up

It helps to keep a few things in mind when looking at this plan. First, I’m planning to release A Taste of Honey in Four stages to test a marketing theory I discussed a few weeks ago (See The Case for Episodic Novels). Second, I give myself six months to write a book based on the fact that the plots are already done (See Building a Better Novel). I also build in two months to play catch up just in case life gets in the way. If everything goes according to plan (and it never does), I can use those two "extra" months to get a head start on the publishing projects for 2015.

What Can't a Publishing Plan Do?
For all the possible benefits of a publishing plan, there are some things it isn't good for:
  • You can't schedule pre-production creativity. Inspiration and ideas come when they come and no plan can force the creative mind to find its muse.
  • You can't anticipate non-writing emergencies. Things like illness, layoffs, family issues and other unplanned events can completely derail a publishing plan which can force you to start all over again.
  • You can't control third party responses. If you hire editors, cover designers and other professionals, you can influence but not control how fast they work. If you're looking for an agent or a traditional publisher there is no telling how long you might wait.
  • The plan can't make you stick to it. If plans are antithetical to your nature or if you have a PhD in procrastination, a publishing plan might be more trouble than it's worth. If you don't have any concrete goals and just write for the love of the craft, a publishing plan might be beside the point. This is primarily a business tool. It shouldn't interfere with your creativity.

So what are your publishing plans for 2014? Please let me know in the comments.

Have fun.

Early Warning Systems: Should Novels Come with Explicit Content Labels?

Recent events concerning the Great Erotica Purge of 2013 and subsequent discussions online have raised various issues for publishers. Independent publishers are even more sensitive to these developments because their books seem to be under more scrutiny. Other creative mediums have faced similar issues and have responded in different ways over the years, but one of the major responses has been the idea of informed notice. Is this response applicable to publishing? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this kind of warning? I'll take a look at this idea and the way that it applies to my own books.

Ratings, Labels and Codes

It's not hard to find examples of entertainment regulation in American media. The film industry has the MPAA that assigns ratings based on content determined to be adult (i.e sexual). Television has a similar system, so do graphic novels and video games. Music doesn't have a rating system, but it does have the explicit content stickers for albums with "objectionable" lyrics. In addition, certain songs are recorded twice; once in its original form and once in a sanitized "radio friendly" version. Novels and theater seems to be the only form of mass entertainment that doesn't have some kind of early warning system. I can't speak to the theatrical experience, but that kind of system could have a definite impact on the selling and reading of books.

Acceptance and Rejection

There are two potential benefits to placing explicit content labels on books:
  • Informed readers: potential customers will have a better idea of what they are getting. Readers who are more sensitive to sexual content (because the vast majority of backlash in any media with regards to content involves sex (See Erotica as a Literary Pariah) can avoid titles without the need to interpret the cover or book blurb.
  • Increasing cross genre pollination: while some readers avoid stories with sexual content, others specifically seek that material out. Stories with this kind of content that don't fit into the erotica genre can have an easier time finding readers and sales if readers know that in their historical fiction or space opera they might also find erotic themes. Mainstream readers can dabble in other styles and authors can add erotic concepts to their stories without the need to categorize themselves or their work as erotic if they don't want to.

There are four potential drawbacks to book labeling:
  • Lack of surprise: if a reader knows that sexual content is inevitable, then surprise is replaced by anticipation. Subconsciously, they could be looking for the characters or situations that will lead to the sex scene instead of experiencing the story organically. There might not be an inherent problem with this. Anticipation can keep a reader turning pages and pull them more into a story. But if you want the element of surprise, the warning label takes that away.
  • Summary rejection: some readers will refuse to read a book if they know there is sexual content up front. The context, treatment and craft of the writer isn't considered.  A reader who might otherwise be willing to accept and enjoy a well written scene that evolves naturally may never experience the story because of a prejudicial judgment based on the warning label.
  • Ease of purge: Online distributors recently removed huge portions of their self-published catalog because of complaints revolving around sexual content. The purge appears to be over as books are being restored, but some of those books will never go back up. If there is going to be another purge or ban, an explicit content label could be a bull’s-eye painted on your book cover, regardless of the type of content in your story.
  • Creative retreat: some authors might be willing to insert sexual themes in their non-erotic work if they can be placed quietly inside the rest of the narrative. If there was some kind of obligation to announce sexual content up front, some authors might alter their stories or change their writing style completely to avoid the scrutiny that might come with that disclosure. The label would have a chilling effect on the craft.
Self-Imposed Systems

After weighing the pros and cons, I've decided to try and put warning labels on my next novel, A Taste of Honey. Because the book is about criminal espionage, it might not be immediately clear that the book has sexual content (although some people will probably disagree with me). The way I see it, there is a benefit to attracting readers who like shows like Scandal. I also prefer to warn off people who are looking for a more traditional spy novel. There is still a chance that my book will be rejected out of hand by readers, but I'd rather have them not read it based on their own choice, rather than feeling like I tricked them.

What do you think? Are you willing to put a warning label on your book? Would you avoid a book with a warning label or would that make you more interested in the story. Please let me know with a comment.

Have fun