The Great Fiction Writing Challenge – Week 09 Results
Wrapped up all the backlogged publishing this week. Got them through a college education, mostly. Well, maybe trade school…
Written words – 1246
Non-Fiction: (1 day out of 7) 1246
Published words free – 1246 (non-fiction), paid – 200,683 (all fiction)
Subscribers – Aweber: 0, Mailerlite: 0, MailChimp: 0, Rainmail (own site): 10 = 10
Instafreebie – 0
Book sales – Amazon -1, PublishDrive – 0, StreetLib – 0, Draft2Digital – 0: Total – 1 (Woo-hoo!)
That’s not a typo on published. If anything, it’s a bit low, as I’m not counting the different formats, just the books I worked on and got out to new outlets this week.
There are two big packages in there, one of 52108 words, book I found that hadn’t been published everywhere it could have been (only to Amazon, actually) and so got Draft2Digital to push this out for me. Another was as book I cranked out yesterday of 69114 words, which I’ll talk about in a moment.
This big total is a solid week’s worth of work in publishing (and editing, etc.) And doesn’t include any audiobooks as part of this.
Now, if you want the full theory of this, you can get my “How to Quit Feeding the Beast“, which is out of pre-order today on Amazon. That gives you the full layout of this Fiction Writing Challenge that we are testing.
Why I Did Publishing Instead of Writing…
Worked to catch up and quit being haunted, distracted by unpublished works. A lot of these stories were from before Christmas, but many were since then. The analysis point I ran into was that I need to write and publish in the same week, not backlog everything. So the next emphasis will be on getting a new work fully written, edited, proofed, and published in a single week. Then get this up to two works that way. Meaning that the story has to be at least 2500 (preferably 8000) words long and will be published to four ebook outlets (Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, StreetLib, Amazon), Lulu (paperback, if long enough), and Findaway (audiobook.)
This gives me three versions of each story as a ebook, paperback, and audiobook.
Right now, the concentration is on building a big backlist. When you have a lot of books up there, then people can find your back titles.
A huge asset to this is Draft2Digital. They enable you to have links in the back of your books that are updated every time you publish a new one. Seriously cool. And they also enable your readers to get an email every time a new book is published. The link they give out is through their books2read.com, which is going to have some massive upgrades this year, with author pages, etc. Essentially, a person is able to set their default purchase route and then if the book is available, they are taken directly to that site to buy. Otherwise, they get a huge selection of book outlets to choose from (just shy of twelve right now.)
Those two pages (additional titles and email alerts) are optional. Also, there is a third page you can add, which is a teaser to recommend one of your other books by giving the description for it. Nice, yes?
And that also works for non-fiction, so I have some catching up to do on my previously published books. And some I may want to unpublish elsewhere to republish on D2D.
Meanwhile, they give you built-in formatting if you upload your ODT or DOCX/DOC or RTF file. Very nice looking templates. Go ahead and check them out. (If you upload an epub file, they’ll check it for you, but they can’t improve any formatting in it.)
Since they enable you to have title, copyright, TOC, and dedication pages, all you have to do is upload your basic story and let them do the heavy lifting. Very nice. And it’s free even if you want to publish anywhere else instead.
How the Backlist is Building
OK, I had 16 ebooks and two novel-length stories that I published between last week and this. Since several of these didn’t make it to 2500 words, they had to be combined. Essentially, this gave me 7 ebooks total. Four of these were printed by themselves.
You want the print version as it makes the ebook look like a better value, and also some people want the paperback. (Same as adding audiobooks.)
Let’s step back a bit on how to build a backlist – Theory of Feeding the Beast.
Amazon is the beast, as it drops your book off a cliff at 30-, 60-, and 90-day intervals. Meaning your sales go down.
Now, what lifts these books is to have your next book come out within a month of the first one, so they then buy your earlier book along with the new one. Or vice-versa.
The key point is to have a big backlist of books there.
The breakthrough is to work on your short stories first while you perfect your craft. All under pen-names so that your worst work doesn’t reflect on any particular pen name you run under. Once your pen names become successful, then you co-author a book in a new genre with that other pen name, and so readers of one pen name will get introduced to your other works which were written in a different genre and different pen name. OK?
Short stories help you to master your craft, but they also allow you to quickly build content you can leverage with other promotional approaches.
Instafreebie is the next point you’d take up. (More on this below.) The deal here is to run limited-time giveaways to get subscribers. Obviously, having three authors in on a giveaway would be quite valuable, right? The trick is having enough books by each of your pen names in on your giveaway.
The ideal I’d like to reach next is having two 10K-20K stories published every week. That gives me as much as 80K words a month. Yes, I’m going to have to work up to this. But that is a novel’s worth. Right now, it would be split up between my three pen names and my actual name for non-fiction.
So I went to round up everything I’ve written, edited them all into shape, and published everything I could all this week. Catching up.
What I now have is this:
- 13 short stories, or short collections (at least long enough to publish on Amazon.)
- 2 novels (42 & 52K each.)
- 1 overall collection by my publishing imprint of “new authors.”
That last was the real brainchild. It is nearly 70K when I collected all these short stories up. There’s my additional novel-length book from (mostly) two months worth of work.)
OK, you publish 2 short stories per week. End of the month, you publish a collection of everything for that month. Might be 80K – or you could do like I did and publish every couple of months.
That gives 8 short story ebooks, and a collection every month.
Now, when you have enough of each author to round up to 50-80K per pen name, then you can publish that as well. By that pen name alone.
Guess what D2D then does when you publish each new book and that collection? They update all your books with the new links for those pen names!
So: in an ideal world, 16 books per month and probably an extra 3 collections every two months in addition.
Keep that up and by the end of the year, you have 140 books published. Do the math. Nice backlist. In your first year.
Pre-orders Add to Income
Now, once you have an “instant backlist” after publishing everything immediately the first three months/quarter, then you can start publishing on pre-order.
Since these are short stories, you’d want to have them come out one per week, so people could order them and have a new story to read from that pen name every week. I did a huge chart of this (did it over several times to get it right) in that “Feeding the Beast” book.
Just track your pen names and if you already have a book coming out that week, then put the next one off by a week, on pre-order. Of course, it shows up in recommendations for up to 90 days before it “actually” goes on sale. Then Amazon auto-delivers all the pre-orders when it goes live.
You then have 30 days of “new and notable” and add in 90 days before that of pre-order recommendations. So a person likes your books, buys more of them that exist and also buy the ones that haven’t come out yet.
Yes, that’s all Amazon-centric, but you can now put all your books on pre-order through D2D as the other outlets have now set this up as well.
The point to this also is that if you get sick or have an accident or just want to take a short vacation, your books keep coming out right on schedule. And your income doesn’t dip because you didn’t write something new that month. You’re as much as 3 months ahead.
Why Building Backlist for First Quarter Without Pre-Orders?
Because you want to have a lot there to begin with. To jumpstart everything. A couple of dozen titles for each pen name then helps people find if they like that author and can trust them. They are then prepared to start buying pre-order books.
Your job is to keep up the quality.
The story I’d heard, and have repeated, is an author who put three novels out all at once, and at full price. They all sold well, as it looked like an author had just gotten their backlist released from a traditional publisher. Rising tide lifting all boats.
Right now, I don’t have any books at less than $2.99 and no freebies or .99 specials going anywhere. The idea is to get as many books as possible out there and then start to play with them in making specials for promotion.
Produce first, then promote. First create the better mousetrap, and then tell the world. A couple of months of production first to build your backlist. Then you can start leveraging it.
I don’t think that authors should be worrying about promotion without a backlist. Get your production assembly line worked up, your habits thoroughly ingrained, and then cut out some time to work on promoting stuff.
Mark Dawson tells the story of Adam Croft who had ten full novels out there, none of which were doing particularly well, but on the 10th he decided to start running Facebook ads. And within a couple of months, he was on his way to making a 7-figure income because the later books were selling the earlier ones, and so on.
Get a decent backlist there, then start working on promotion.
Dawson also points out that promoting anything below $3.99 with FB ads probably won’t be profitable. The idea then is to just promote the collections of short stories that can be sold for that much according to length. At the end of your first quarter, you can have around 24 short stories and probably 3-5 collections. Then you can start mixing and matching promotions. Because it will be worth your while at that point.
Instafreebie Promotions are First.
My current promotion will be to make up both fiction and non-fiction promotion bundles and schedule these on Instafreebie, running them for a month each. I’ve got 17 fiction books up now, just after 2 months (and far more non-fiction.) So there is a lot to play with.
And yes, there is some more homework on how to do this simply and effectively. Since I’m paying monthly for this service, I need to make it pay its way. Also, this gets readers into lists for each of these author pen names. I’ll promote to my existing list to see who wants to get promotions like that.
But say I keep writing and publishing two short stories for each week in this month (one week gone, remember) then I’ll have at least another 6 stories out, and probably three more collections, one per each pen name. That will be 26 books total.
Just on my own, I can run promotions every month and never repeat any books. OK, maybe people get all my books for free – but they are on the mailing list, and are also getting my emails about new releases. Plus they can give me feedback.
The second quarter, I start putting books onto preorder, and crank out another 24 short stories, and probably 4-6 collections. At that point, I have maybe 50-60 total ebooks and collections up there. All on schedule to get my 100-120+ books published by the end of this year.
Followed up with Radio/Podcast Interviews
That’s my next one to get paying for itself. RadioGuestList is giving me podcast interview opportunities, but I haven’t taken any up yet – because I want to simply get this production scene thoroughly ironed out.
Get the daily writing and reading habit in, and then the publishing habit – keeping everything caught up – and then start promoting it.
For me, it will be promoting my Great Fiction Writing Challenge with some results to hand. And inviting people to get free downloads for joining the challenge at least as readers.
And Then Wattpad and Real Social Media.
While this is all free and stuff, the point is that Wattpad does best with serial fiction. Audience building is the point. I’ve got two 50K novels ready to publish and these can be syndicated to Wattpad. Both different pen names. I also have another serial working up for the third pen name.
As mentioned before (and covered more fully in that “Feeding the Beast” book) the reason for going only to Wattpad, Goodreads, and LibraryThing is to get the uber-readers onto your list. Then their recommendations start showing your books on Amazon. But because I’m sending out weekly publishing announcements for the new short stories (and they might also be getting announcements through D2D) I’m becoming my own Bookbub for sales.
The trick is to get them opting-in and getting quite happy about having their reading needs satisfied by yours truly (aka those pen names.)
Medium also fits into this, as there are places which will publish your fiction in their various magazines. Particularly if you’re regularly coming out with new fiction weekly.
Third is Weekly Podcasts
I still have an audio-recording backlog. The solution to this is to get my audio into a regular production line. Then I can use all this audio to create a weekly podcast of new audio books (short stories) and start posting these once or twice a week as podcasts.
(Technically, I could hire out someone else recording my audio for the backlogged stories. Or just work out doing one or two a week to get them caught up.)
You can see on LiveSensical.com/podcasts/ that I have podcasts publishing pretty much 7 days a week, which is taking non-fiction books and posting their chapters every week. Then they start over. So I go through each book about three or four times each year. And each book has an episode a different day of the week. These are quite popular. I call them book-casts.
For awhile, I was publishing “Classics You Should Know” which was simply my recording the description of these public domain classics. And if I were interested in this, I’d continue it. (But there is way too much competition with public domain books, especially fiction works. Same title, same author. No efficient way to differentiate.)
But with short stories, I could do this simply. With new material coming out each week, already recorded as part of the proofs. Longer ebooks can be split up into several parts. At about 150 words per minute, four minutes is 600 words. A 14 minute TED talk would be 2100 words. 2000 to 2500 words is an average chapter these days. A four-part book (covering three acts) would then be about 10K words. You could produce your book in four episodes, and work on your serial endings. That’s a week of entertainment. Throw in a teaser on Friday for the next week’s show.
My book-casts repeat every 13-16 weeks, depending on how many chapters they have. So they’ll repeat three or four times every year. These cover the five books in the Strangest Secret Library, so that covers a week of episodes. And it works for non-fiction. My podcasts just continue to find new audience members.
That gives us the capability of either doing four shows each week, and you’ll have 50 weeks of stories to tell. Then repeat these, or set up your next set of stories. After all, you’ve already created a hundred stories during the year, so you’ve got another year’s worth of episodes. Or – set your stories for the longer one to run during the week, and a special weekend edition.
I’m just working out what I can do with what I have. Leverage.
Means by turning this article series into audio, I’ll have a new non-fiction podcast about how to teach yourself to write fiction for a living. Then also have some entertaining stories to tell every week. Each podcast will promote the other.
The non-fiction recordings become a course, and then the podcast gets an ad for the course – and the ebook written from the texts. Podcast pushes the book and course, the book pushes the course, and vice-versa.
I strongly consider that all fiction authors should also have a non-fiction course to sell as well.
One thing at a time and finish things before I start anything else.
Already above, I have these promotion actions planned:
- Podcast/Radio Interviews
- Wattpad and uber-reader social media
Adding FB and other ads to that mix might or might not prove necessary. But I’ll try it at some point. And that point comes after I have the rest of these going along. Note that only Instafreebie and RadioGuestList are costing me anything. The rest just take some time weekly, once you have everything set up and running like clockwork.
The Results Are the Reason
That’s why we are here – to test this model.
I’ve been researching and talking about this material for years. Now it’s time to test everything and adjust it against real w0rld results.
Yes, it’s all a great deal of fun.
Just wait until some people find out about it. Then it really will get interesting.
We’re already seeing some results in these tests. It’s proving a different sequence to things. Making it more usable, which is exactly the point of testing.
To Do This Week
0) Back to getting two stories written and fully published this next week. (Includes audiobooks.)
1) Instafreebie set up with a fiction and non-fiction giveaway.
1a) Write this up for you.
2) Compile the data on radio/podcast interviews. Start opening up some of these opportunities.
If you liked this article, or got something out of it…
PS. Sharing is caring – go ahead and send this on to someone you know.
Also published on Medium.