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

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Ch 7.4 Four Ways to Think Long Term in Indie Publishing

(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)

Ch 7.4 Four Ways to Think Long Term in Indie Publishing

[Ed. Note: For those reading straight through, this chapter is a bit repetitive of things already covered. For those hopping in now, this is a quick summary of strategies for thinking long-term. For everyone, it's a good reminder - I return to this post every time someone mentions it, and it serves as a constant reminder of how the travails of the moment will pass.]

Four Ways to Think Long Term in Indie Publishing

You check your sales every morning and your rankings every evening. You tweet, facebook, and pinterest, and worry about whether you should purchase an ad to promote your novel or do another blog tour or perhaps sacrifice a goat to the Amazon Rankings Gods to get one of their coveted “email” promotions.

It’s enough to drive an indie author crazy.

In the heady rush that is the indie revolution, and especially when you’re putting out your first self-published novel, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of indie publishing. After all, you have to wear all the hats (either doing it yourself or contracting it out): cover designer, editor, proofreader, formatter, marketer, publicist, and somewhere in the depths … author.

There are some who say they want to traditionally publish so that they can concentrate on their writing, but the truth is that indie published authors should be doing exactly that: focusing on writing their novels like it’s the dream job that it is.

I do a lot of marketing and social media, but mostly because I enjoy it, and even so, I’ve been cutting back. It’s tempting to spend all your time marketing: there’s immediate positive feedback on the internet, and things like blog tours and cover reveals really do spur sales (sometimes, not always). It’s hard to resist the allure of promotion, even when writing is your first true love and the reason why you got in this game in the first place.

I encourage indie writers to take a longer view of what they want to get out of indie publishing than just how to boost sales today (or even tomorrow). The beauty of self-publishing is that everything is in your control. Ok, sales aren’t in your control, but how you spend your time most certainly is. You can market as much, or as little, as you wish. You can publish as frequently, or as infrequently, as works for you. Here are four ways you can take a longer view, be more successful, and ultimately happier as an indie published author:

1 – Make a Five Year Plan
Before I published my first indie novel (Open Minds), I made a marketing plan (see Make a Marketing Plan), partly to see if self-publishing was a viable path for me. I set out 5 year, 1 year, and 6 month goals. Some were targets (“Make enough money from writing in 5 years to replace a part-time job in engineering”), but most were action items (“Publish the first novel and write two more in 12 months”). Part of my plan was to see how viable the plan was – could I write 2 novels a year? Turns out that’s not entirely out of the ballpark. Having a 5 year plan keeps me focused on the novels I have yet to write, not just the novels I have for sale.

2 – Focus on Quality and Quantity
Taleist survey found that successful self-published authors spend 24% more time per word than their less successful self-published peers, and they write 31% more words per day. What this adds up to is more time writing (and less promotion). The best way to double sales? Publish another book. But it's important to remember that your work is forever, and that's a very long time. As authors, we should always be pushing our craft forward. Your best novel should always be ahead of you, something you’re constantly striving for. Focusing on writing a quality novel that you love and improving your craft to make your novel the best it can be will help your sales. Quality does count, and if you want your novels to sell more, one place to start is by writing a better book. At the same time, endlessly fiddling with your novel isn't the answer either. Getting the next book written and published (see Making the Donuts) will increase your footprint in the digital world, which in turn, will increase sales (see Abundance vs. Scarcity).

3 – Feed Your Creativity
If you choose to market (and it’s a choice, there’s no requirement), make sure you’re doing it creatively. Do a book launch that celebrates your genre or spawn a Random Acts of Kindness Day. Make up twitter chats with your characters for a book blog tour, or create a Pinterest Board for your characters. Most of all, have fun with it! If it’s not fun, get creative and make it enjoyable for you and your friends/readers. Or don't do it. You have to be willing to stretch yourself, but if you're not having fun, chances are your readers aren't either. Plus, all this creative exercise has the added benefit of keeping your writing muscles limber. And it makes your marketing time serve double duty as a creativity booster (also see Give Yourself a Creative Retreat).

4 – Be Patient
See #1 – You’re working toward a Five Year Plan. You may get lucky and be an overnight, runaway success, but you can’t plan on that. What you can plan on is writing a reasonable (for you) number of books (whatever that number is) over the next five years, building up your backlist and establishing yourself in one or more genres. Maybe you want to write both YA and MG with a possible dalliance in adult novels. Maybe you want to play around with short stories, or write a serial (see All About Serials...). Maybe you want to cross genres. The beautiful thing about indie publishing is that you can literally publish anything you wish. Building a fanbase around a series of connected works makes good marketing sense, but diversifying your portfolio of works also has the benefit of tapping into different markets that may be more (or less) successful. You won't know until you try. Write what you love, write it a lot, and be patient for your writing career to mature. It is far easier to be a success with many titles under your belt, than just one. At the same time, grow and stretch yourself as a writer. You have a long career ahead of you - craft it purposefully and you will be happier in the end.

Taking a longer view of indie publishing buffers you from the vagaries of today’s sales or tomorrow’s promotion. It allows you to enjoy your writing and bring your creativity to bear on what marketing you choose to do. Interestingly, it can make your writing career both more enjoyable and more rewarding, as you get titles out quickly and more successfully, because you are spending more time focused on your craft.

If you’re anything like me, that’s why you got in the game in the first place.

(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)


  1. Oh, thank you. I'd been feeling as though I'm spinning my wheels - and I've really only been *really* SP for a little over a year, and I sure didn't know what on earth I was doing when I started. I'm learning.
    ...and now I am going to take a deep breath spend the weekend writing with the Web turned off.
    Thank you again.
    Diana at Diana Wilder – About Myself, by Myself

    1. Sounds perfect! And I'm glad it helped. ;)

  2. Great post. Lots of innovative thinking here. I love the idea of Random Acts of Kindness Day!