Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Mistakes and Opportunities
Along with lessons learned, there are also “things I should have done differently.”
While a shorter list than all the gains and benefits, it’s still a list that needs compiling.
Wattpad & Medium: Build a free audience.
At the start, I’d dug out of Chris Fox and other’s books that you want to find the avid readers who will want your books and populate your “also-boughts” on Amazon with these type readers (different from your friends and family, who have different reading habits.) The approach I should have recognized is that this is an Amazon-centric approach and doesn’t mean it will work for wide publishing (everywhere else.) Sure enough, Amazon in the U.S. has mostly done away with “also-bought” recommendations in favor of sponsored ads in that spot. So their whole system is gone. No indicators – useless.
Meanwhile, what was recommended were the social media of Wattpad, Medium, LibraryThing, and Goodreads. The first two are marvelous – but be consistently posting to them. A point I couldn’t keep in with all this production I was doing. (Sheer writing and publishing, devil take the hind-most.)
LibraryThing turns out to be for printed books in Ingram’s database, essentially. Publishing on Lulu with their global reach doesn’t get your book there for weeks if not months. You scan the bar code with their app – and it says “nope.”
Goodreads is also another “can’t add your own book” scene. Unless you want to spend a great deal of time being “social” on their platform and add a lot of other’s books to your fabled “To Be Read” lists.
Again, I don’t do social because it detracts from my other work (writing and publishing) and is miniscule in getting your books discovered, bought, and read. Social media are little worlds of themselves. Like Content Inc. you want to pick one line of promotion first – and that should be mailing lists. And my mailing lists have been where I’ve gotten the most response. Watching other people use social media posts on Instafreebie/Prolific Works showed that they have a lot of views, and nearly no claims. It’s the reverse of the 1% rule – where 99% do nothing beyond opening the social post.
Meanwhile, another prolific author got a four-book set under contract with a traditional author and as the article was being written, was on the set of her movie as a producer. She was posting new chapters every day (for years) writing on her smartphone and posting to Wattpad.
Should do instead: Weekly posts to Wattpad and Medium.
A how-to for unknown writers: Publish everywhere first (waiting for it to clear on Amazon) and then post in 2K chapters – with serial cliffhangers – on these platforms. Post with header and footer text that has a link to where they can buy your book. Ignore the silence and start posting. (You want to get on Amazon before posting “free”any where else to avoid their “duplicate content” bots.) Plus, your links back to that book means it’s promotion.
Why this approach? You want to find your audience and enable them to find you. While not everyone goes to Wattpad to get their reading fix, they do have over 3.5 million users worldwide. Sure, this doesn’t get you in front of middle-aged women who like romance (well not as many) but it gets you people who want to find fiction, and will leave comments on your work.
Jumping into Free Subscribers via Instafreebie (Prolific Works)
I’m on the fence about this. I spent a lot of time working out how to make Instafreebie work best. And had to develop my own “best practices” guide to work things out from experience. (You can find this on Amazon and almost everywhere online.)
What I don’t know, even now, is whether this was the right timing. If I shouldn’t have held off and gotten more “back of book” subscribers first.
The reason was, and is, that Instafreebie/Prolific Works (IF/PW) gave me so many in such a little time. To where my costs for servicing these subscribers was going up, but my income in book sales (to pay for all this) wasn’t. Meaning: I wasn’t converting free subscribers to paying customers fast enough. And I had to take some time to work up email sequences (autoresponders) instead of just blindly encouraging people to take my free books and join my list.
What made this mad rush possible was writing in four genres, each under its own pen name, and finding which was most popular.
What made this mad rush worse as a giveaway organizer was running my analysis in the background that showed me what were the best performing genres and giveaway subjects. (I have chronicled all of this in my over-long “Errata” post, and a few separate articles besides that book above.)
Yes, I’m still having more work to do in building those autoresponders. Because my emphasis has been on writing and publishing. That leans me toward the point of ignoring subscriber-acquisition pushes until there is a sufficient amount of certainty on your own writing.
But those subscribers have been able to show me – through the small sales I’ve had to this point, which of those pen names are more popular.
Where this is sorting out is my background study of Content Inc. One of the pen names, covering satire/parody, has gotten no traction. Another I thought had a very exciting story arc also did poorly. The one pen name that seems to sell and get claimed better than the others is in a tiny, tiny genre of paranormal detective, specifically “ghost hunting”. The other that is having steady sales is more of a fantasy memoir – but with a lot of passion in each story.
Romance, meanwhile, showed itself to be full of spammers with “rubberstamp” books. So much so that their books are being rejected in other genres by cover alone (six-pack abs, nude male torsos). I wrote some romance and still take part in those giveaways – as I have written romances in all these pen-names, but only run a “romance” giveaway under the Teen and YA genre. Just because of those spammers.
Content Inc says to continue to find your sweet spot and then move into a specific niche with your “content tilt”. This is what is happening. What disguises it is Amazon’s tendency to let all new books sink into the swamp of their millions of books and authors. So Instafreebie helps in this, as people are comparing your book and title against just a handful of other books – replacing their “also bought” function. I then can survey my own lists to find out what books and genres are most popular by what subscribers have picked. IF/SW meanwhile keeps a complete list of how many subscribers you’ve ever gotten, so this raw data (regardless if they unsubscribed for any reason later) is always available.
And Instafreebie is a great way to test covers and descriptions and finding those books who outperformed yours in that giveaway.
Meaning: the answer is both yes and no. Your own mileage may vary.
Writing So Many Books So Fast
To anyone else, I’d now say stick to one short story per week – and then use the rest of your time to study more books and consolidate your back end. Visit forums, hob-nob with other authors, build your non-subscriber network.
For me, this was just fine. Not everyone can do what I did – very few, I imagine. It’s a rare skill set. And as a reclusive writer, I only focused on what I liked to do most. Talking with other people fills my head with a lot of extraneous concepts. Sure, my “networking” suffers, perhaps. But I don’t burn the day up on social media. If I don’t feel like writing, I’ll have some movies going in the background while I get other things caught up. Movies was my substitute-shorthand for reading. They didn’t improve my grammar or give me a lot more choice phrases – but kept me going with plots and story-arcs. (Tip: if you don’t like how a movie starts – drop it, just like you do a book. It doesn’t matter if you paid for the whole 10-year series. Lousy direction and lousy scriptwriting won’t train your inspiration as good or fast as exciting movies you don’t mind watching over and over.)
This is all in hindsight – and lays out what I’ll be doing for myself this coming year. One fiction work each week and polishing my back end up the rest of the time. So my model this year is to do what a veteran author can do. I’ve proved to myself that I can start writing at a moment’s notice, and can keep that up until I drop from exhaustion. I can churn out five good books in a week, plus their anthology. Three is my best average.
For the just-starting writer with no list, I’d suggest both. If you take over three or four days to write and publish a short story, then just stick to one book per week. It doesn’t mean you write more slowly or carefully. Practice will bring you certainty. Certainty will bring you speed. I took about six months to get the process down to two days per book. When I wrote those five books (about 25K words total) I did literally nothing else except write, revise, proof, publish. 12-16 hours days, often. I did that one week – ever. And don’t intend to try it again. I have published several more anthologies than that in a week, but there you are compiling already-proofed books.
Faster isn’t lower quality. Lack of proofing and revision makes lower quality. Everyone has their own pace of writing, their own various interruptions in life. If you want to write a story over several days (at 2K per day for 3 or 4 days, that’s fine. Then you have another three or four days to get the revising and editing done. For me, it was better to work flat out on a book until I couldn’t work anymore that night. The average was two days per book from start to published. But I’d also already published over a thousand books by the time I started writing fiction (although I still can’t come up with an accurate, final number of my non-fiction books.) My work as an editor and publisher is more prolific than my writing. I’ve done a lot of tests with others’ books to improve my publishing speed. As I’ve often joked, “The first hundred books are the hardest. After that, it gets a lot easier.
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Overall, this year was a great success. The next year should be even better.
Also published on Medium.