Happy Monday! I haven’t started a blog post like that in a while, but I have been making the most of my summer, sleeping in whenever I can and writing whenever I have free time to do so. My daughter starts school (11th grade!) on the 29th, so we don’t have much summer left, especially since some of my free time now will be taken up getting her ready for school and bringing her to picture day and orientation, but after everyone gets settled with the new routine, things should calm down again.
I applied for a second job, as well, substitute teaching in the schools this year. I’m hoping to pick up a couple days a week, but I’m going to try to keep my momentum going with my books. I don’t like the idea of working 54 hour weeks, but you do what you gotta do. I need to crawl out of debt and maybe once I do that, my (financial) future won’t seem so bleak. It sucks being worried about money and if my books aren’t selling, the money has to come from somewhere. (And it’s what I get for trusting the wrong person, but that water is long under the bridge and there’s no point in crying about it now.)
I’ve been working my day job typing for the deaf and hard of hearing for Minnesota Relay for twenty years now, and I hadn’t needed to update my resume in some time. I did about seven years ago when I graduated with my HR degree (I can’t believe it’s been that long) but I never did get an HR job, choosing to start writing books instead (smart move? maybe not). I had to search for my resume in the black hole of my laptop and it was pretty thin, so I included all the books I’ve written and published, added that I did my own covers in Canva and that I’ve written a successful (to me it is) blog for the past six years. At first I wasn’t sure if I should include my books, but if I hadn’t it would have looked like I haven’t done anything professional for myself since I graduated with my HR degree, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know how difficult it is to write a book, edit it, format it, create a cover, and publish it. After I submitted my resume and my application, it occurred to me that it was smart I included my books, not only because it shows I haven’t been standing still, but also because it gave them a chance to decide if writing smut is something they would have a problem with. Apparently, they didn’t, as I had orientation last week, but looking back, I”m glad I added my books, and if you’re looking to bulk up your resume, you should add yours, too.
I’m 52k into the last book in my trilogy, so finishing it up won’t take long. I’ve read books one and two twice, and I’ve been editing book three as I write it but there will still be some additional editing needed. I wanted to make Roman, my MMC in book three, a nervous, trying-to-quit smoker, but he hasn’t turned out that way, so either I edit that in or I find a new guy for the book cover. I like the idea of him getting over, or trying to get over, a smoking habit, because that fits his personality and some of the shit he’s going through in the book. I’m not a natural smoker, though, and I haven’t written a character who is before, so it was difficult to remember to include it. In my mind, he’s trying to stop so it shouldn’t be too much work to write in the cravings and the fidgeting. In the end it depends on how much editing I want to do, and usually that answer is none.
I had an interesting back and forth with an author who was disappointed in sales for his debut. While that’s not unusual as we’re all fighting for space these days, his debut was also a first in a series. When I reached out and told him that more than likely he wasn’t going to sell anything until he had a few more books out in that series, he replied that he would be releasing books a year apart. While that might be the norm for trad authors, a book a year is mighty slow for indies. Readers won’t hang around for a year between books, but I recognize not everyone has the time to write more than that, especially if your series is a fantasy and your books can creep over 150k for words.
I stared to explore what authors can do to keep readers interested between books, and here’s what me, S J Cairns and Dareth Pray came up with:
There was a toss up between what’s better. There doesn’t seem to be much difference–they both require you create content to keep readers informed–but between the two I would choose building a newsletter. A newsletter you might send once or twice a month, but if you only blog once a month, your blog won’t grow. A lot of my traffic for this blog comes from internet searches, but in order to do that you have to create relevant content regularly, staying within a range of topics that you will eventually be “known” for. Building search engine optimization is a long road and you still have to put the word out somewhere that your blog is available (mostly I just tweet the link). Getting newsletter signups is hard in its own way, but giving out a reader magnet can help. Put the signup links in the back of your books for organic interest, and use the time to keep writing the next book. Another reason I choose to build a newsletter is those subscribers are yours. Your blog followers come and go, and true, newsletter subscribers can unsubscribe, but they chose to sign up so if you give them content they like they’ll hopefully stay on your list. It’s up to you what you offer, but no matter what you choose consistency and offering your readers what they want will keep them interested between books.
This can mean anything from tweets to updating your Facebook author page. Reach is hard when you depend on free social media. On Twitter, you might be part of the writing community, and while we like to think so, tweeting to the #writingcommunity isn’t the same as reaching readers. Instagram is about the same. I see so many tweets that say, “Follow me on Instagram!” but I don’t know what good that does. On Instagram, you can try to find readers using hashtags, but trying to climb out of the writing community pit is difficult once you’ve falling into it. I think it’s like quicksand. You just won’t find enough readers there to move the needle. We’re all too busy writing the next Great American Novel to read. (You may argue with me, and that’s cool. It all depends on what success means to you. I’ve been on Twitter for a long time and tweeting about my books hasn’t done much for me at all, but if it has for you and you’re happy with it, I’m glad for you!)
Encourage readers to follow you on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads, etc.
When you have a new release, they will email your readers, so if they somehow missed your updates, they will still hear about your next book. I have my newsletter sign up link in my Amazon bio and I changed my Twitter bio, and put my newsletter signup link there, too. I also added it to my Goodreads Author profile. Add your links wherever you can, such as your email address signature. Every little bit helps.
If you don’t have much time to write, creating content to tell readers that you’re still writing seems counterproductive, but if you ARE writing, sharing snippets and inspiration won’t take long. You have to find one way that you enjoy and stick with it. Consistency is key, no matter where you focus your energy. Keep your expectations in check and realize that if your series needs 6 books for it to be done, you are asking your readers to wait for 6 years before you conclude that story. That’s a big ask, and as far as marketing goes, you will have an easier time keeping readers the more books you have. Keep writing, and good luck!