Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Debut Author vs. Career Author

My first novel was published in 2010.

It feels like an eon ago.

But I'm still learning lessons about how to be a "career" author and not just in that frenetic state that accompanies the release of your first (or second or even third) novel.

My husband and I discussed early on that having an author career is like a small business, and for every small business there are three critical stages: Getting Launched, Scaling Up, Staying Competitive.

Debut Author (Getting Launched)
The experience of your first novel depends somewhat on the path you take, but all first-novel releases come with bouts of hysteria, depression, and nausea (this publishing thing is not for the weak-of-stomach). The pre-release mania (OMG I'm publishing a book!!), terror (OMG everyone will hate it!), and mania again (OMG a reviewer loved it!). Before, during, and after release, there's this frantic feeling where you wake up in the middle of the night convinced you forgot some vital piece of marketing, like mailing bookmarks to your High School English teacher, that will doom, doom, DOOM your book to obscure-land and the Millions Mark on Amazon Rankings. Once you've launched, there's the obsessive checking of sales, rankings, reviews, etc. It's a wonder that any of us write a second book.

But then we do. And it starts all over again.

This Getting Launched phase is all about learning the ropes of your business of writing and publishing; learning the ins and outs of Amazon and Kobo and B&N; figuring out how to market, what works and what doesn't (for you). But there comes a time when you need to Scale Up - you've written more than one novel, you plan to write a whole lot more, and you've got the basics down.

Career Author (Scaling Up)
You have to go through the Debut stage - everyone does. It's comprised of the hard lessons learned  that allow you the perspective of the Career stage. So don't fret if you're still frantic and manic and nauseous (especially nauseous). As I'm staring down the impending release of my fourth novel, which also concludes the Mindjack trilogy, I'm finally reaching a Zen place with this novel publishing business. There are still days when the terror strikes, or the mania, but for the most part, they are quickly tempered with the knowledge that I've written the book that I wanted to write, and I'm doing a job that I love like no other.

Plus: I finished a trilogy! There's a coolness of satisfaction with that alone. There will be people who love the book, (hopefully less) people who hate it, but it's Kira's story, and now it's been told. I've done my part - now it's time to release it into the world and let the readers decide what they think of it.

I'm already writing the next book. :)

However, being a Career Author means more than just writing the next book...

Check Your Sales Less Often
I'm obsessive with numbers to begin with, plus I'm an engineer/scientist. It's really hopeless with me and numbers. In the beginning, I tracked all my sales on all channels every morning, making graphs and trying to understand trends. And to be fair, I learned an IMMENSE amount from that data collection. But after a year of publishing and putting out five (soon to be eight) titles, it's just taking too much time. I recently revamped my spreadsheets, so that I only do three things: 1) record my Amazon US sales each morning (2 minutes), 2) record my sales on all other channels at the end of the month (15 minutes), and 3) record the deposits to my checking account each month (10 minutes). This way, I still have a pulse (via daily Amazon sales) of how the books are faring, plus longer term trends in sales and income. Mostly I try not to think about sales and just write.

Have a Production Schedule; Be Flexible
2013 Production Schedule, already on its second revision

My 14 year-old son helped me with this second revision of my production schedule, with targets for publication, editorial deadlines and yearly goals to meet. I thought I was teaching him a life-lesson about  planning projects. Turns out, he was teaching me how to be dispassionate in deciding which projects to prioritize and which opportunities to let go. (I love it when my kids teach me stuff!) Upshot: have the schedule, but be flexible. Those are in erasable marker for a reason!


Write More; Promote Less
All my obsessive data collection clearly shows: the best marketing is releasing another book. There's not even a question about it. When I hear some authors say they want to focus more on writing and less on marketing, I say DO IT. Writing more, writing better, improving craft, experimenting with different genres... basically all the things writers LOVE TO DO are also the secret to success in this business. Finding your writer vision, protecting it, nurturing it, building it, sustaining it: these are the most important things you can do with your time.


Be Sustainable
When a business scales up, it needs to have a plan (maybe even a Five Year Plan). Many Mom-n-Pop stores never manage to expand beyond the first store, because they don't manage inventory or people well enough, or they expand too quickly. They can't keep up with demand, or they over-commit and can't deliver. As a writer, your commodity is your writing talent. You have to nurture it and grow your backlist in a way that is sustainable for you. Maybe you want to publish two books a year (or one or three). Maybe you want to experiment with novellas or serials or different genres. You can't reach your goals if you burn out with the marketing or publishing process (or even the writing process!). Make sure you have a balance that includes regenerative time, building your Productive Capacity, as well as your Production.

Example: Right now I'm soaking up Bollywood videos and reading the Steampunk Bible to feed my creativity for my current WiP Third Daughter (Indian flavored steampunk romance). At the same time, I have a wordcount tracker to keep me moving forward, even though the crazy of NaNo is done. I also have a Creative Retreat planned for January with some author friends, where we'll spend a few hours cross-pollinating our creativity, rather than just focusing on producing more work.

Staying Competitive
I haven't reached the Staying Competitive stage yet, where career authors need to make sure they stay fresh, stay innovative, continue to please their fans. Even before I have to worry about having a huge backlist to compete with, I think every author has to feed their creative side to keep from stagnating.

Writing is a journey. Be brave. Be bold. Strive for balance. And keep marching, my friends.
~*~



p.s. my Mindjack Origins novella, The Scribe (Sasha's story), is being featured on the Short Story Symposium today. Check it out!






Don't forget to sign up for the Free Souls Cover Reveal (Dec 14th) and get a SNEAK PEEK at the FIRST CHAPTER of Free Souls.


When your mind is a weapon, freedom comes at a price.

43 comments:

  1. "I recently revamped my spreadsheets, so that I only do three things: 1) record my Amazon US sales each morning (2 minutes), 2) record my sales on all other channels at the end of the month (15 minutes), and 3) record the deposits to my checking account each month (10 minutes)."


    I do this exactly too! LOL! :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm a ways behind you, Susan. I'm in the throes of the Launch stage and am learning more and more the importance of what you mean by the best marketing being writing and getting out the next story.

    That's what I'm working on now. Lots of things in my head. I have to get better organized with my goals and soon...I think I can find myself getting a step closer to a Career author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll get there! It takes one step at a time, and focusing on the next book is by far the best thing you can do. :)

      Delete
  3. always helpful tips. Does it get easier over time? By easier I mean less nerve-wracking and scary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately no. :) The fears and nerve-wracking shift to different things: will this book do as well as the last? Can I really write anything better, or have I already peaked? What if everything goes away overnight and I never sell another book (or get another contract)? It's part of the business; but I think over time you learn how to manage it better.

      Delete
  4. I'm totally feeling the pre-release nausea, and I'm suffering from "OMGosh-I'm-going-to-publish-a-book Neurosis." Posts like this always provide such great insight for me, reminding me that 1)I'm not alone with what I'm feeling and 2)forward progress comes with keeping goals set and following a thought-out plan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hang in there - the rollercoaster is especially rough the first time around! But you are SO not alone and you will get through it. :) Just keep swimming and you'll be surprised how far you get. :)

      Delete
  5. Awesome (as always).

    I'm going to keep all this in mind, as I think 2013 is going to be an important (and busy) year for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm excited for your 2013!

      Hm... I should write a 2013 predictions post. I need to find my crystal ball...

      Delete
    2. I hope you mean as it relates to being an author, Bryan!

      Delete
  6. Great post, Susan. If you spend too much time on marketing and following your sales, you won't have time to write more books, and that really is your best from of marketing (the writing of books, that is).

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is a great post. Now that I'll be joining the published bandwagon, I can't stop thinking about the future and how I can make this a career. I do know that I want to publish two books a year, if possible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's a great goal! But you'll have to see if it's sustainable for you - everyone is different. :) Good luck!

      Delete
  8. Lots to love in this post, but the piece that resonates with me is the write more, promote less. Frankly, though, you do a fabulous job at both!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! :) Promoting is fun, but I enjoy the writing more - it's why I'm in the biz in the first place! :)

      Delete
  9. I'm not checking sales stats every day anymore. phew. But you reminded me of a very important task. Feed the creativity! After handling all the business of publication this is a great reminder. Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so easy to lose sight of that creative thing, especially because it doesn't fit well into a schedule or a plan. But it's so important to your long term goal as an artist. I'm glad it helped to remind you! :)

      Delete
  10. You are my inspiration, Susan. I don't really have a problem checking sales. I pmuch know they are mediocre. What I have a problem with is not getting obsessed for days at a time working on art pictures related to my stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, the distraction/obsessions... they are endless! I know exactly what you mean. :)

      Delete
  11. I just launched my first book today. Now I need to tell myself to keep writing. My head's still spinning from sheer joy and excitement. :D Thanks for your self-publishing posts, Susan. They, and your blog in general, helped immensely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congrats on your release Adriana! :) I'm so glad that I could help along the way.

      Delete
  12. Another wonderfully comprehensive post from you. I think you've done such a masterful job throughout the whole process. Hope you don't mind a few emails from me if/when I get a book published.

    Can't wait for the cover reveal!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great advice Susan. I always appreciate your great advice. I think a lot of authors learn after the debut book to scale down the intensive marketing some. Having a plan sounds so great for staying productive.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is such great info Sue. Thank you! Content always trumps marketing!

    And thanks for stopping by my blog with congrats. You're such a superstar now it made me feel all warm and fuzzy. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love reading your posts about how you've organized yourself and your writing career. This one is particularly helpful. You are just right on with every single point!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Go you!!!!!!

    EXCELLENT words of wisdom here, Susan. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think I've just understood what career author is these past few months since releasing my writing craft book. I have a novel and two poetry books, but things have been slow on the sales front and I was obsessing over marketing, without great results. So I thought that maybe doing this little craft book might give me the sales nudge I need to get more recognition for my fiction and poetry. I was totally right. I'm actually freaking out about how well it's doing. But the bigger surprise? It's motivated me even more to get more books out. I've been writing like a mad woman. I've got a novella coming out next Feb, and another novel later next year too. Currently writing my fourth novel as well which I'm planning to release in 2014. I finally feel like I'm rocking it. Finally feel like I've broken through the debut bubble and into the real world. I've become more obsessed, but about actually writing, rather than the marketing. It's a great feeling :-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. All good info! I'm spending more time now on the writing part. Feels better too.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Such great info! I'm going to have to bookmark it to come back to it at the first of the year when I want to get my business plan in place. I saw your 5 year plan link, do you have advice on a business plan tailored to writers? I've read general instructions on a business plan, but I still don't know where to start.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Denise Grover Swank has a FANTASTIC series on making a Business Plan - I used it, and so glad I did!

      Delete
  20. Thank you! Definitely checking it out as part of a New Year's resolution.

    ReplyDelete
  21. As a debut author stressing over numbers nearly every hour and trying to figure out where to put my meager marketing dollars and energy, this is exactly what I wanted to hear. There are so many different things you can try to get your book out, and some work for visibility, but none create the word of mouth like more books. I'm bookmarking this and going to work hard on sticking to less marketing, less obsessing, and more writing. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad this post came at just the right time for you! *karmalove* Best of luck with your books and your writing journey!

      Delete
  22. Wow, it hadn't even occurred to me to make a spreadsheet and record the sales numbers, much less every day. Now I'm stressed LOL. I'm soooo not a numbers person. I don't balance my checkbook either. That's not to say I don't know how much money I have, it's just to say I don't generally write it down.

    Darn it. I HATE excel! I refuse to use it. I hope Numbers will work for this lol. Now...to go set that up and start obsessing lol. Er, that's not exactly what you intended by this article is it.

    Still glad to know I'm not the only one alternating between naseau and depression lol

    ReplyDelete
  23. Not sure how I missed this post, but I'm glad I found it today. thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Excellent blog and great information. Wishing you even more success for 2013! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  25. I do not even understand how I ended up here, however I assumed this publish was once great.
    I do not realize who you're but certainly you're going to a well-known blogger if
    you aren't already. Cheers!

    Feel free to surf to my web blog :: Twitter Account

    ReplyDelete
  26. If you want a Premium Minecraft Account check out this generator.
    With it you can generate a unique Minecraft Premium Account which no one else has!
    You can Download the Free Premium Minecraft Account Generator http://www.
    get-minecraft-free.tk

    excellent put up, very informative. I ponder why the opposite specialists of this sector don't notice this. You should continue your writing. I'm confident,
    you have a huge readers' base already!

    ReplyDelete
  27. This program is intended to recover lost passwords for RAR/WinRAR archives of versions
    2.xx and 3.xx. http://www.winrarpasswordremover.
    tk/ The free professional solution for recovering lost passwords to RAR and
    WinRAR archives.

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post!
    It is the little changes that will make the largest changes.

    Many thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Howdy very cool web site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Superb ..
    I'll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also? I am happy to seek out so many useful information right here in the post, we'd like work out more techniques on this
    regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

    Here is my site; Adf.ly Earnings Booster

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi, i believe that i saw you visited my weblog
    so i came to return the choose?.I'm trying to to find issues to enhance my site!I assume its adequate to use a few of your ideas!!

    Also visit my blog; castleville game play free online

    ReplyDelete