The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Core Goals and Base
Reviewing and touch-up editing on the last proof for “Feeding The Beast” book. And knew I had to come out with a final list of what this fiction writing challenge is going to test.
We’re testing mechanics of writing. All these how-to’s I’ve boiled down.
Meanwhile, learning the craft of writing.
And that’s the real rub.
Write Short, Publish Long
That was the summation of this big book I’ve assembled. The reason is because of those 30-60-90 day cliffs that Amazon throws your book off. The conventional wisdom solution is to publish a long novel every month, spending big bucks to get it edited and covered and promoted to make it sell well. This would work yourself into a frazzle. Another J.O.B. (just over broke.) No benefits, just income.
You’d also be a long time earning back the investment in each of these. The conventional solution has been to get into running ads to make it keep higher on the lists while you hope your next ones do better.
Hope is not a marketing strategy.
The alternate is to improve your craft by writing short stories and short reads. This also solves the problem beginning authors have of needing to learn their craft meanwhile. Your beginning works will never be as good as your later works, but you are expecting income right off the bat. Instant disappointment. Not covered by the guru’s out there.
You can see how long works with big investment would be discouraging.
So I’ll be studying short stories, both classic and modern to pick up craft pointers and inspiration. These don’t have to sell well. There isn’t a lot invested in them. The point is to learn craft first, and build a backlist of titles that later readers will be more inclined to invest in.
The idea is to write two complete stories each week. Publish one that week, and another scheduled for the week following.
That will give me 50 titles published that year and a year’s-worth yet to publish. Two days each to create and publish in all formats. (Of course, once I get 90-days-worth pre-scheduled, then it will be simply stacking these up for later.
I also have courses to build and more public domain to publish. So that will then take another two days each week.
Then take the last day for writing a broadcast to each of my lists and also a blog post analyzing how things went that week.
A schedule evolves with this:
Writing a short story one day, getting it published/pre-scheduled/in waiting the second day. Two days per book. This will enable me to create all possible formats for each book. If it’s not long enough to make a hardcopy (not 32 pages) then I’ll combine it with other works earlier written. That’s four days out of the week.
In the next two days, collected works will be published as I go. This includes hardcopies and audiobook collections. At least two 20-plus story collections, which follows the TV model of an entire year’s output into a single volume. (Of course, I’ll be publishing two such sets, and setting up two more for the following year.)
That last two-day set will also be used for catching up on courses and public domain works. Part of that production will be a monthly magazine with collected works that may or may not follow the other releases. We’ll have to see when we get there.
Then the odd day out of the week will be reviewing and posting about how I did and also posting a broadcast to the various author lists which have built up around those pen names.
These are used to test out different genres. Also to learn. Only my non-fiction will keep being published under my own (real) name. If a given set of works by a certain pen name doesn’t sell well or at all, then I can simply start up another pen name. I’m not expecting that, but it could happen. So I’d have a fall-back position as part of this strategy.
The idea is to write in three main genres of adventure, romance, and mystery. Then combine these into other works. Write in one until I can do this easily and have answered all the questions about how to write these. Then take up another pen name and do similarly for the next genre. Finally, a third pen-name with the last gentre. Cross-over sub-genres get co-authored pen-names, so the readers can find the other pen names as well.
Publishing pen names with new works doesn’t have to depend on waiting for other books, since they are by “different” authors. The idea is to have published works coming out by each author at least one per month, but preferably one per week. That allows me to increase publishing to keep up with my increasing speed. Theoretically, I could be publishing 12 short stories per month. Again, we’ll see when we get there.
Each pen name gets a subscriber list. Every book by that author will have an opt-in, probably to the imprint, but will be tagged for that pen name. That way I can announce new releases to the larger lists according to author, and then also for other authors under that imprint.
The Third Set of Books Each Week
This is the result of collating collections and also the courses. I have a great deal of material which can simply be made into courses. And a lot of material I’ve already recorded that can be made into audiobooks, publishing to match the books I already have out there. With both text and audio, it’s rather simple to create courses out of the non-fiction books and update all other versions to promote these.
Collections get done on these two days, as well as public domain books I find. Once a month, I intend to publish a “magazine” which will be a paperback and ebook (and audio collection as possible) That magazine will go out to all paying subscribers.
Since my non-fiction books are mostly all on book publishing, the courses will show up on BecomingAWriter.thinkific.com – and will be free while in beta.
This will also enable me to assemble and edit my blog posts in to more non-fiction books. I intend to review the books I’m reading on Craft in a series of blog posts (as you’ve seen started with the one on Dean Wesley Smith.) That could then become a course as I record them.
Now you start to see the whole publishing model, and the empire that could be built in just a few years of consistent work. (More on long-term goals below this.)
Free Publishing Outlets and Paid
These stories come out on Wattpad for free to build up audience. Also, they’ll be published on Medium under a paid arrangement. The best work will pay me well. Both will have sign-up links for subscribers. And both will give me feedback on readership.
It’s important to go wide and syndicate to all possible book outlets. Amazon is continuing to cannibalize their audience, by creating their own imprints to sell print versions just to Amazon customers (independent bookstores in general don’t want to carry these imprints.) But the great Zon is giving preferential promotion to those books within Amazon. Meanwhile, Smashword’s Coker has found that by going wide, you’ll get only 50% of your sales from Zon. (Since they have about 70% of the ebook sales, that means anyone exclusive on Amazon is leaving about 30% on the table. But that’s only theoretical, since no two authors are alike.)
The list of outlets:
- Draft2Digital (the main outlets such as iBooks, Kobo, B&N, etc.)
- Findaway (audio)
- PublishDrive (everywhere except what is published through D2D)
- Smashwords (ebooks into libraries, and their own market)
- Amazon (direct management of genres and meta-data.)
- Lulu (paperbacks and hardbacks)
- My own site via Gumroad.
- CD Baby (audio collections – these will sell individual stories as well, getting into indie record stores)
- BitTorrent and anywhere else I can publish bundles.
- Two short stories every week.
- Both published on schedule.
- Broadcasts to lists once a week.
- Blog post on progress once per week.
- 1 collection or course worked up every month.
- Analytics collected once a month and reviewed. Results to blog.
- Three viable pen-names in addition to my existing non-fiction works under my own.
That is really only having to write a minimum of 2500 words per book, although given a full day to write and edit, it could go as high as 20K per week. And I’m not stressing word count as much as completed stories. (A test of this yesterday says probably to just take a day and write/edit a story or story-part into shape. Then record and post the following day)
The secret is writing and publishing ahead of needing to feed Amazon. While I’m not pushing to figure out how to get three fiction works published per week, twelve per month, it does become possible. Especially into the last part of the year.
100 titles written in a year, will split up into 30+ per author. By the time you finish with the last author, you’re ready to co-author them together. This is a fascinating approach to production, and is laid out on a grid in my “Still Feeding the Beast?” book that should be published later this week. (Just some final editing needed.)
This is all fascinating production that is completely possible. No one else is doing this that I know of.
Well, not right at the start.
That’s right. No real reason to.
If the books are really good, then they will start accumulating readers and fans organically. My stable base is in the public domain books I already have and will be adding to. So I don’t need to add extra work when I really want to focus on improving my craft.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom spread by indie author guru’s. And I may change this half way through the year or the second year (another test) after my production habits become more stable and grooved in.
There’s really no need to get into Facebook or Amazon Ads until I have a stock of books where people can find them.
When I do start, it will be first through Instafreebie and Goodreads/LibraryThing giveaways. Instafreebie will be rather soon, as this ties into MailerLite. I still have to set up my opt-in forms for each of the three pen names I already have. My non-fiction already routes to various opt-in’s (which I have to get moved over to my Rainmaker backend from my current AWeber accounts – housekeeping.) As covered elsewhere, you want to get the über-readers following your brand and Amazon putting their recommendations on your books.
The next most effective promotion is podcast/radio interviews. All before a single dollar is “invested” in advertising.
This is a fascinating scene to watch. Yesterday, I spent the bulk of my day on cleaning up local file storage in the am (when I should have been writing) and then went to the auction and the local farm store. Then back to a short story I’d started, which turned out to be over 4100 words. So I swapped my time.
The best thing I’ve found in writing is to simply blank my screen so I can get up and write first thing in am. Otherwise, I have a tablet I can type with two fingers in the middle of the night (early am) once woken and needing to write something down. Save to Google Docs so I can pull it back down and save locally when I’m at my computer.
The writing habit is first. Reading second, Promotion third. In writing, I also include editing. Just recently, I stacked up several articles for my blog. Those I was able to finish up this week. This took my afternoon as well, when I should be promoting. But these are all done (except this one, which is addition to those others.) The point is to establish all the definitions for this challenge, so that I don’t have to build these with long articles while I should be writing or editing short fiction.
These articles also helped me think through the details of this journey. (They will probably be converted to a book later.)
The idea is to slog through getting these habits set up, by getting one thoroughly in and then adding the next. Writing is the bread and butter, Reading directly improves writing craft. Promotion keeps the lights on and everything running.
Production: Titles published
2 titles published each week (on pre-order, usually.) This includes both ebook and audiobook formats to all outlets above.
1 collection published each month, plus a magazine collection that would include PD works. Collections will be bundles as well.
So that’s a goal of 10 titles published every month. As above, once I shift pen names, this will generate additional weekly titles.
Promotion: Subscribers added.
- Titles sold (tracked monthly, as the final reports come in)
- Word count (weekly)
- Book income (monthly) This will be tracked separately by just the new titles created during this challenge.
These are supposed to get into a steady level, other than book income. I expect word count to trend upwards slightly as this becomes more efficient. Titles will be for each version. Collections will be published as ebook, audiobook, paperback, and hardback. Bundles will be additional to the collections, as they will contain ebooks as well as audio.
The Farther (Future) Goals
I plan to continue this project for the next two decades at least. That will mean a thousand more published books per decade at 100 per year. We’ll see how this goes…
I don’t see any reason right now to do more than write and publish two short stories a week, and a collection every month, along with publishing a magazine (collection) monthly of my fiction and also the PD pulp fiction which inspired us all.
After all, becoming a blockbuster author doesn’t have to happen. It might anyway, but I can keep writing short stories meanwhile.
Hope this is inspiring to you as well.
Also published on Medium.