Earlier in the week I wrote about “binge-reading” being the newest trend that’s causing yet another revolution in the publishing world. Readers want books sooner which means publishers are demanding more from their authors which means that soon slow and steady might not be enough to win the race. Let’s face it, writing an entire novel, revisions included, in less than four months might not be possible for all of us no matter how dedicated we are, and since quality should always trump quantity, this means that publishing more won’t necessarily be about writing more but about writing and publishing more strategically.
Here’s my strategy for publishing more, lengthening my backlist, and becoming binge-worthy:
Step One: Write.
I know it’s a no-brainer but here’s how to be more strategic about it. First of all, blogging prior to publication is a MUST. This is something I didn’t take advantage of mostly because I was terrified. I didn’t think I had anything worth saying to complete strangers, especially as a “pre-published” author who, unfortunately, still struggles with feeling legitimate. But not only did all of those fears and anxieties keep me from potentially embarrassing myself they also kept me from connecting. These days we know the value of connection because it takes more than one person to bring a book to publication. There are beta readers, bloggers, and street teams, and finding them before you even publish your first book will only make your debut that much more successful.
We should make blogging a priority but obviously first priority is definitely getting that novel finished. This means start to finish, revisions and copy edits included. This means not even thinking about publishing or blog tours or giveaways or any of the other very fun stuff that can precede publication. This is not the time to get ahead of ourselves because this is the time for writing and even more importantly finishing. So FINISH!
Step Two: Build a Backlist.
So now that you’ve finished your very first novel and it’s as close to perfection as you can possibly make it here is what I want you to do. Shelve it. I know, I know, your grimace was practically audible. But trust me, unless you can churn out a new novel every 3-4 months, this the only way.
I didn’t publish my first novel until I was through the third draft of my second and halfway through the first draft of my third. Why? Because when I first decided to self-publish the authors who were already having great success at it seemed to be putting things out every 4-6 months and it was a pace I knew I wouldn’t be able to match unless I held back on publishing my first novel and became more strategic with the release dates of the others. Momentum is the secret ingredient when it comes to finding success as a self-published author because it’s the only way to truly conquer your obscurity. So even though I know it’ll kill you not to hit publish, just wait. Sit on that novel and focus on building up your backlist until you can create the illusion of being a fast writer when really you’re just a smart one.
Step Three: Choose Strategic Release Dates.
Step two was all about learning to finish and being patient and step three is all about rewarding yourself for that patience. Publishing a book because it’s ready is never a good reason. Part of the reason that self-publishing has such a bad reputation is that too many people jumped the gun, publishing a novel as soon as they typed THE END just because they couldn’t stand waiting another second and they wanted to pass go and collect a hundred dollars. But that kind of thinking does not a career author make. Because career authors have a little something called foresight, meaning they treat their successes and their failures as road markers instead of road blocks and every decision they make from the sentence level all the way to publication is based on maintaining their livelihood long-term.
And now that creating a backlist and maintaining momentum is going to be more important than ever there are even more things to consider when choosing a publication date. Like whether or not your desired release date would allow you to be able to publish something new in 4-6 months. The rule I followed last year and that I hope to follow starting in the fall is to publish something new, at the very least, every 6 months. This means that while one novel is being prepped for publication, I have another in need of it’s final revisions and another in it’s first or second draft. I know not all writers like to work on more than one project at a time but learning to multi-task and alternate your focus between multiple projects really is the key to high productivity and it’s the key to maintaining momentum.
Despite the fact that creating binge-worthy books might seem like you have to move at lightning speed, the real key is actually patience. Because creating a presence and building moment isn’t just about putting out a bunch of books, but about putting out good books. Books that weren’t just written for publication or for the purpose of building a backlist but books that were written simply because we couldn’t help it.