Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Four Ways to Think Long Term in Indie Publishing


Guest-Post from Indie Author Susan Kaye Quinn about taking a longer view of Indie Publishing which can make your writing career both more enjoyable and more rewarding.


Think long term
Four Ways to Think Long Term in Indie Publishing

You check your sales every morning and your rankings every evening. You tweet, facebook, and pinterest, and worry about whether you should purchase an ad to promote your novel or do another blog tour or perhaps sacrifice a goat to the Amazon Rankings Gods to get one of their coveted “email” promotions.

It’s enough to drive an indie author crazy.

In the heady rush that is the indie revolution, and especially when you’re putting out your first self-published novel, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of indie publishing. After all, you have to wear all the hats (either doing it yourself or contracting it out): cover designer, editor, proofreader, formatter, marketer, publicist, and somewhere in the depths … author.

There are some that say they want to traditionally publish so that they can concentrate on their writing, but the truth is that indie published authors should be doing exactly that: focusing on writing their novels like it’s the dream job that it is.

I do a lot of marketing and social media, but mostly because I enjoy it, and even so, I’ve been cutting back. It’s tempting to spend all your time marketing: there’s immediate positive feedback on the internet, and things like blog tours and cover reveals really do spur sales (sometimes, not always). It’s hard to resist the allure of promotion, even when writing is your first true love and the reason why you got in this game in the first place.

I encourage indie writers to take a longer view of what they want to get out of indie publishing than just how to boost sales today (or even tomorrow). The beauty of self-publishing is that everything is in your control. Ok, sales aren’t in your control, but how you spend your time most certainly is. You can market as much, or as little, as you wish. You can publish as frequently, or as infrequently, as works for you. Here are four ways you can take a longer view, be more successful, and ultimately happier as an indie published author:

1 – Make a Five Year Plan
Before I published my first indie novel (Open Minds), I made a marketing plan, partly to see if self-publishing was a viable path for me. I set out 5 year, 1 year, and 6 month goals. Some were targets (“Make enough money from writing in 5 years to replace a part-time job in engineering”), but most were action items (“Publish the first novel and write two more in 12 months”). Part of my plan was to see how viable the plan was – could I write 2 novels a year? Turns out that’s not entirely out of the ballpark, but 7 or 8 months is a more comfortable pace for me than six. And I was determined to not release any novel until it was ready. But having a 5 year plan keeps me focused on the novels I have yet to write, not just the novels I have for sale.



2 – Focus on Quality and Quantity
recent survey found that successful self-published authors spend 24% more time per word than their less successful self-published peers and they write 31% more words per day. What this adds up to is more time writing (and less promotion). The best way to double sales? Publish another book. But it's important to remember that your work is forever, and that's a very long time. As authors, we should always be pushing our craft forward. Your best novel should always be ahead of you, something you’re constantly striving for. Focusing on writing a quality novel that you love and improving your craft to make your novel the best it can be will help your sales. Quality does count, and if you want your novels to sell more, one place to start is by writing a better book. At the same time, endlessly fiddling with your novel isn't the answer either. Getting the next book written (and published) will increase your footprint in the digital world, which in turn, will increase sales.

3 – Feed Your Creativity
If you choose to market (and it’s a choice, there’s no requirement), make sure you’re doing it creatively. Do a book launch that celebrates your genre (I’m looking at you Laura Pauling) or spawn a Random Acts of Kindness Day (go Angela and Becca - The Bookshelf Muse). Make up twitter chats with your characters for a book blog tour, or create a Pinterest Board for your characters. Most of all, have fun with it! If it’s not fun, get creative and make it enjoyable for you and your friends/readers. Or don't do it. You have to be willing to stretch yourself, but if you're not having fun, chances are your readers aren't either. Plus, all this creative exercise has the added benefit of keeping your writing muscles limber. And it makes your marketing time serve double duty as a creativity booster.

4 – Be Patient
See #1 – You’re working toward a Five Year Plan. You may get lucky and be an overnight, runaway success, but you can’t plan on that. What you can plan on is writing a reasonable (for you) number of books (whatever that number is) over the next five years, building up your backlist and establishing yourself in one or more genres. Maybe you want to write both YA and MG with a possible dalliance in adult novels (like me). Maybe you want to play around with short stories, or write a series of novellas. Maybe you want to cross genres. The beautiful thing about indie publishing is that you can literally publish anything you wish. Building a fanbase around a series of connected works makes good marketing sense, but diversifying your portfolio of works also has the benefit of tapping into different markets that may be more (or less) successful. You won't know until you try. Write what you love, write it a lot, and be patient for your writing career to mature. It is far easier to be a success with many titles under your belt, than just one. At the same time, grow and stretch yourself as a writer. You have a long career ahead of you - craft it purposefully and you will be happier in the end.

Taking a longer view of indie publishing buffers you from the vagaries of today’s sales or tomorrow’s promotion. It allows you to enjoy your writing and bring your creativity to bear on what marketing you choose to do. Interestingly, it can make your writing career both more enjoyable and more rewarding, as you get titles out quickly and more successfully, because you are spending more time focused on your craft.

If you’re anything like me, that’s why you got in the game in the first place.

- Susan Kaye Quinn -



About the Author

Susan Kaye Quinn on Indie Author News
Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, a young adult science fiction/paranormal series, as well as Life, Liberty, and Pursuit (a love story).

Susan has several degrees in engineering and her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she spends way too much time on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.






Links to the Author and the Book Open Mind


Connect with Susan Kaye Quinn on Twitter: @susankayequinn

Connect with Susan Kaye Quinn on Facebook: susankayequinnauthor


45 comments:

Becca J. Campbell said...

Great article, Susan!

I've been thinking about long-term goals a lot lately and made a to-do list in outline form that covers the writing, publishing and marketing for my current book as well as my next two.

Like you, I'm hoping for two books a year, but I've just published the first one, so I'll take it as it comes and see how that works for me. Fortunately, I do have a number of already written first drafts for stories that I just need to get cleaned up, edited, and out there.

We'll see how it goes with my pub schedule and I'll remember this post if I need to be flexible and change it later. :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I know you'll do great, Becca. You're off to a great start, and you're pragmatic - two steps ahead already. :)

Laura Pauling said...

Awesome! I love making yearly plans. Problem is - I want to write all the novels I have planned now! I could do 2 novels a year but maybe not every year not if I want to dabble in short stories and novellas too. Like you, I won't publish until the quality is there.

Thanks for the mention! :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thanks for stopping by! I know - I have way too much work I want to do for the time allowed. :)

ClareMDavidson said...

Thanks for this post. I hadn't even considered doing a 5 year plan, I've been so focused on working towards my first release (still working on it!). Your post also just helped me hit on a creative way to market my novel (I'm off to write the idea down!). A great post :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm so glad the post inspired you! That first release can be so absorbing, because you're on that steep learning curve, so it's doubly important to keep perspective. Best of luck!!

Vlad Vaslyn said...

Susan,

Great post!

I've often thought of a 5 year plan, but I've never written it down. You just convinced me.

You display the sense of balance that indie authors must strike between instant gratification and long terms goals exceptionally well. As an indie writer about to publish, striking this balance is something that I've been struggling with. I'm hyper-aware of the fact that in order to become viable over the long term, I have to publish a minimum number of titles each year...but I've had to scale back a production schedule that was a bit too ambitious because quality would suffer. Combined with the fact that I'm just starting out, I think it's incredibly important for me to find the comfort zone. I had an epiphany a few weeks ago: "I'm not enjoying this. Why isn't it fun anymore?" That's when I realized I had to take a deep breath, scale back my efforts, and just write. Now I'm a lot more relaxed and I'm getting that butterfly feeling whenever I work on my second novel. It's like coming home.

In the world of instant Twitter messages and social media, I was forgetting that results won't come quickly or easily, outside of those lucky few who make it big quickly. A fanbase is built one fan at a time and I have to take the small victories - a compliment, a retweet, an engagement - and recognize that they're cumulative.

Thanks for the insights, and good luck with your endeavors!

-Vlad Vaslyn

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I see the same thing with self-pub writers as I do with trad-pub, after they get that first book out there: a rediscovery of writing as the thing that they truly love. I'm glad you're getting that butterfly feeling again with Book#2! You have to love it first, before your readers will. :)

Best of luck with your writing journey!

Vlad Vaslyn said...

Perfectly stated! Best of luck with your journey as well! :-)

Yelle Hughes said...

Thank you so much for this article! As a new author, things get confusing and overwhelming and after reading this, it has put a lot of things in perspective for me. I have finished my first novel and almost finished with the second and started on the third.

Inspirational posts like this are what keeps me going. I have taken this info and hung it on my wall to help me keep focused on my goals.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm so glad it has helped, Yelle! :) And congrats on reaching your third novel. That is a serious accomplishment. You're well on your way!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

It would help if I could write and edit faster. One book a year is about all I can handle (never short stories and such). Now if I could stop with the social networking . . . . (yeah, like that would ever happen!)

Great post, Susan!

Shewanda Pugh said...

Great advice! Wonderful post.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thanks! Yeah, it's so hard to balance! But drafting faster is also a state of mind ... How I Went From Writing 2,000 words a day to writing 10,000 words a Day by Rachel Aaron

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thank you!

Jay Dee Archer said...

Thanks for the post. It's got me thinking more positively. I haven't published anything yet, although I've started writing. I am planning on writing both non-fiction and fiction. I don't have any big expectations for sales anytime soon, but I hope to become fairly prolific and gain a lot by writing a lot. This post has really helped me :)

Yelle Hughes said...

Thank you!!!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm glad it helped Jay - and yes, the best thing you can do, especially when you're just starting out, is a large volume of work. Ira Glass talked about this (and I'm a fan!).

ClareMDavidson said...

Thank you :)

herocious said...

It's so easy to fall into these vagaries you speak of.

Seems like keeping a five year plan in mind is a smart thing to do.

Thanks for the advice.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You are most welcome! :)

Patricia Preston said...

A great post and excellent advice. And one I needed to read tonight as I am considering options after publishing my second short story. I'm going to print it out and keep it to read when I'm feeling overwhelmed!

Lev Raphael said...

This is brilliant and reassuring. After 19 books with publishers from Doubleday to Leapfrog, I went indie. I got the rights back to my backlist mysteries and got them onto Kindle and Nook. Ditto a backlist novel. I've launched an original historical, a Jane Austen mashup, a Vampyre novella, an essay collection and have a writers guide almost ready for later this month. In a year and a half, I will have gotten 11 books into ebook format, and I have many more to go. The level of control is astonishing, and I am starting to see a significant uptick I sales. But I confess I had only been thinking of a three-year plan. Five makes much more sense, especially since I love to revise. :-)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm so glad it helped! I have three "sayings" posted on my kitchen cabinet: "Don't be overwhelmed" "Live it Fully" and "Ask the Right Question" - because I DO need daily reminders of those things! :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I love hearing these stories of authors migrating their backlists, breathing life back into out-of-print works, and taking the leap with new ones! Thank you for sharing and I have no doubt that you have many more sales ahead of you!

Alison Wells said...

Well said Susan. I recently self-published for the first time and have been trying to get my head around the mania of promotion while as you say trying to be first and foremost a writer who wants to create and continuously improve. Making a long term plan is a great idea and helps keep focus as to what has been achieved.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thanks Alison! Best of luck on staying focused on the writing - when you get that next title out (and the next and the next) I think you'll see the power of that (and that helps!). :)

Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

I also published my first and am working on editing the next to go. I feel the push to quickly put books on Amazon, but I want to do them right. Thanks for the advice to slow down and do it right. Also thanks for the link to write 10000 words a day.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Patricia - I'm glad you found it helpful! You'll never regret doing your books "right" - I promise!

Charmaine Clancy said...

Inspiring, yet sensible. 5 year plan is smart!

Brigette Manie said...

Your article mirrors my indie author experience. It's a breathless business doing it all yourself, but I love the freedom of writing about what I like. Thanks for the reminder that writing is the priority. Marketing, social media, etc. follow. While I do spend most of my time writing, sometimes when the sales figures come in I wonder if I should have spent more time on marketing rather than writing. So I appreciate the reminder to put writing first. Yes, writing is a growth experience in creativity, and the more you write, the more polished your craft will be. I'm finding that before I finish a novel, I already have ideas for another. I just crossed genres from Christian Romance to Romantic suspense. It was challenging but fun. So glad I tried something new. Thanks a lot for this encouraging article.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Sounds like you're doing it just right! Thanks for the great comment. :)

Oh James said...

Great post. I am a new indie author and I strongly believe that patience and perseverance will pay. As a writer, my task is keep on writing a great book. I agree with Susan that quantity and quality count. I am very fortunate to publish three book this year. Better Than The Best, Letting Go and Moving On & Growing Your Wealth Exponentially. All the three are non fiction Books. I found it very rewarding and fulfilling. Cheers all of you and thank you so much for sharing this great post.

Tracey Russell said...

Susan,

I am really glad I found this article. I will have my first book published - Tales of Indifference: AN ANTHOLOGY OF SULTRY, SECRETIVE, and SIMPLISTIC short stories later this year. As an indie author, I have been extremely concerned about the marketing as I highly understand the importance of ensuring your craft is properly executed. Quality is far better than quantity. I so plan to have my second one completed within the next 2 months. The goal is to have that one out by Feb. If I keep on that track then I will be doing half as good as others such as yourself. I hadn't considered 3/6/9 month and 1/2/5 year planning but now its definitely on my radar!! (Oh yeah, I just signed up for Twitter to begin to create a base; Tracey Russell @TRACEYGIRLZ!!) Best to you Susan and the other authors who have read this post.

Ann Massey said...

I needed to read this. I spend too much time on marketing. What I really want to do is write another book.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm so glad it helped! Write, write, write! :)

Patty Moosbrugger said...

Great advice.

Ann Cole said...

Great post! Number is critical . BE PATIENT. Not everyone blows up overnight with their debut novel, and most authors don't get that response, they tend to get discouraged. This game is all about patience and drawing realistic goals.

Sara Monteagudo said...

Great advice! Thanks. Good to remember that it's a 5 year & not a 5 month marketing plan. Totally convinced that spending less time on social media is essential to keep myself in "writer's head." Now, I only have my Monteagudo Publications page on FB and no personal page. That should save about 1-1.5 hours a day.

Steve Justice said...

I echo everyone in saying this a great article and especially useful for new authors like myself. When I published my first novel, I was obsessed with the promoting. It was new, it was exciting, and as you said it sometimes gave instant results.

After a month of being a hermit, going from work to home to spend time promoting, I realised I needed to step back or I'd never write anything new. I still post tweets (though not about my novel often) and still look at the sales info once every couple of days but it definitely feels better being more relaxed about it and not worrying every day about not having as many sales as I wanted. It's a long road for most of us - the most important thing is not to get stuck in one place and keep moving forward.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

You've got it exactly right, Steve! I was just echoing this sentiment in a chat last night... the biggest challenge is to figure out how to survive and keep moving forward in your creative work!

Brenda Collins said...

Susan, Thank you so much for this reality check. It's so easy to get caught up in the craziness. I lost track of the 5 year plan I did have - until you just reminded me to pull it back out. ;-)

Jennifer Mattern said...

I can't imagine not working with a long-term plan (another 5-year-planner here!). But I know a lot of authors who don't. These are some great tips and reminders about why a solid plan is so important. :)

roughwighting1 said...

I'm saving this post for weekly inspiration! Thank you. I agree with all that you write here. I've published two books, marketed them well the first couple of months and was pleased with their sales, but then, well, I just couldn't get into that 'checking out my stats every day and promoting frequently' kind of thing. I write instead. My sales plummeted, but I'm not worried about that. I need to write! Your 1 year and 5 year plan sounds helpful. I'm on it!

R. Leonia Shea said...

I'm saving it as well because marketing is the one thing that sucks the life out of my creativity! I write because I love the stories and taking the focus off of "right now" and really imagining what it could be in 5 years is helpful. I also liked you "action steps" - it's nice to put them down somewhere so you know what you're working toward.

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