Indie Writer Code Words: Sun Tzu

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Yes, this series continues despite set-backs!

Most of those set-backs  relate to “real life” where the struggle is real! (Hence the INDIE WRITER bit, right? It’s part of the definition of terms.) Lately the biggest factor there has been the Navy Reserves, which they sell as a very part-time gig. It’s not, folks. It’s still the Navy, which I thought I had gotten out of…

Anyway, on to the code word: SUN TZU.

To describe this code word, which I came up with just very recently, here is an excerpt from an email I sent to Henry Ponciano, one of my go-to cover artists.  (You can check out his Deviant Art page here.)

*
Henry,
I have other books already in this same superhero universe, in other series. One is INVASION which you already made a cover for a few years ago! And there are others in the SECRET ORIGINS series, which I am working on the 3rd book right now to release the same time as DXM, which is the cover you just made for me.
So I have been thinking that “sometime” I should really redo all the covers so they look the same. So even though they aren’t the same series, they are the same universe that share heroes and histories and you can tell just by looking at it that they are all related. best way to sell them, right? how would a casual reader know those books are also the same vein if they look totally different?
so i have been thinking, “yeah, that is the smartest way to go. but i’m not going to do that. not now anyway.”
WHAT??? Why the hell not? what am i waiting for??!!
so even though i personally like the covers i have, and i already have an idea for the next one, it would really make sense to go forward with the thing that’s best. that i know is best. why not do that??
it’s Sun Tzu right? why go into battle knowing i’m not doing the best thing, knowing i’ll lose?
So let’s Sun Tzu this bitch, Henry! what’s your availability?
*

Okay, that may or may not help much to illustrate the meaning behind the code word. But it was written within minutes of the lightning strike that established that term in my writer’s mind.

Sun Tzu is the ancient Chinese master who wrote “The Art of War.”

The main idea is this: Win the battle before it starts.

How do you do that? By scouting, planning, setting up, and making the right decisions.  You figure out the absolute best path you can take, and you take it.

Do our leaders these days so this? Hell no! Almost none of us do. Even when we know it’s a bad decision, we do it. Every day.

For me, as an indie writer, it means following the best practices, rather than knowing and NOT following them.

Case in point: I’ve been creating different series within the same universe and, even though a series might have uniform covers that indicate it’s a series, one series to the next in the same universe have nothing to do with each other.

To see what I mean, go here, where all my current Identity Crisis Universe superhero books are.

You’ll see the pair of Secret Origins–Masks and Secret Identities–books look similar, but nothing like Hungry Gods, which is in the Identity Crisis series.

I am currently working on Identity Crisis Book 2 and Secret Origins Book 3. I have a cover for IDC 2 that looks like IDC 1. And have had the plan for SO 3 for years, which looks like SO 1 and SO 2.

But if you see the books from these two related series, featuring some of the same characters, all next to each other, you’d never guess they are related. They just don’t look the same. And cover appearance is 80% of why a reader picks up a book. (Right?!)

I realized that NOW is a great time to consolidate the appearance of all these books so that I don’t have 2 IDC books and 3 SO books, but 5 IDCU books! Wouldn’t that be better? Then everyone will know there are 5 books here, not 2 or 3. (Actually, there’s six including Invasion, and more planned for the future.)

Another case in point: The fact that I have all these different series started, in different genres, and have been working on them for years. Had I focused (as I knew I should) years ago, I’d have one or two complete series right now and be a hell of a lot more successful as a genre writer than I am now. My total word count is over half a million! But it’s spread out so much that you’d never know it.

…Okay, I kinda feel like I’m talking to the wall. (I’m actually talking to a screen, so pretty close.) It’s not you, it’s me. I worry that I may not be expressing the point I want to make. Visually, you’d get it. Or rather, you WILL get it when the task it done.

And the more I blather here about it, the less I’m actually making it happen elsewhere!

In summary: SUN TZU means, if you know the right, best course of action, take it! Don’t do what I have done (and most of us do), which is say, “Yeah, Path A really would be best, but even knowing that, I’m going to take Path B instead. It’s easier and faster, which is all I care about right now.”

You say your books aren’t going as quickly and wide-spread as you’d like? Have you done what you know to be best, like spend a few more bucks on the covers and editing? Or are you knowingly taking the wrong path?

How can you expect better results when you already decided to take the wrong course on purpose?!

SUN TZU my friends. Don’t go to war knowing you’re going to lose. What’s the point of that?

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