I’m struggling. I’m struggling for a myriad of reasons (some not related to writing–anyone know how to quiet an old cat at night?!), but the prevalent one for me right now is my publishing plan for the books I have written, and the launch plan I’m going to need to find readers for those books.
It’s tough because when you press publish, you aren’t guaranteed readers. It would be nice if we were, if we became overnight sensations, but that rarely happens and if it does, there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into it behind the scenes.
The difference between a publishing plan and a launch plan to me is when we talk about a publishing plan, I think about how many books am I going to be able to publish in a given year, two years, three? How far out am I looking when I plan how many books I’m going to be capable of writing? That’s different for everyone. How fast you can write depends on your living situation, if you have kids, if you have a full-time job. Obviously, if you’re single with no kids and you’re already a full-time author, you’re going to be able to write quicker than a woman with a husband and children, a job, and maybe a sick pet. It also depends on where you are with your craft. If you can write your first draft so that you consider it practically your last draft, you can publish books faster than someone who needs a few months of editing. It’s important not to over-extend yourself, especially since Amazon allows year-long preorders. Due to COVID they are giving you grace if you have to move your preorder date, or cancel altogether, but that might not always be the case. Before COVID, if you missed your preorder date, you were suspended from creating preorders for a year, and I would imagine that at some point, they will go back to those guidelines.
A launch plan for the release of a book can consist of a Goodreads giveaway, stacked promotions, newsletter swaps, and everything in between.
How to optimize those things will be different for everyone, and while you can grab tips for a great launch, genre, how well your book is written, cover, the size of your newsletter and the authors you swap with, your backlist, how much you can afford to pay in ad spend, even what’s going on in the world, and I have no idea how many other factors, can influence how well your book does on launch day.
Planning your publishing schedule while optimizing your launch can be a nightmare. When you look at your launch plan/publishing plan it’s important to know your strengths and your weaknesses.
Newsletter. This is definitely a weakness of mine. I don’t have one . . . yet. Not even one for my 3rd person books I can hit up on the off chance there would be some crossover readers. Some authors have a large enough newsletter their whole launch plan consists of sending out an email to their newsletter and that’s it. It’s enough to make them sticky in the stores and their loyal readers will leave reviews.
Networking/Swaps. This is another area where in the four years I’ve been publishing I have failed. I have writer friends, sure. But I had no idea how important it is to network with other authors in your genre. Without a strong newsletter I can use for reciprocation and without romance author friends who are willing feature my books in their newsletter, I’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers until I can pay those favors back with my own list.
Number of Books. This is one strength of mine, at least. Your launch plan will definitely look different if you haven’t banked some books, or if you don’t have a backlist written in your chosen genre. If you’re launching a new first in series, it’s better to have another book or two written so your readers know that more books will eventually come. Putting book two on preorder and linking the preorder to the back matter of book one can help. Fickle indie authors aren’t the only ones teaching consumers to be wary. Streaming platforms like Netflix can pull the plug on a new series before wrapping it up, and a lot of consumers now won’t try something new unless all the seasons (or books) are available. I know for me as a consumer, I was really disappointed when Amazon Prime released the first season of Carnival Row, but maybe because of COVID I haven’t heard of another season in the works. BUT as I have found out, rapid releasing when no one knows about you or your books doesn’t do anything and when I released my Rocky Point Wedding series last year, it didn’t matter how fast I released them–I didn’t have readers. I have this weird thing where I need to write a whole series first before I can even think about publishing. I many need to change my way of doing things to streamline my publishing schedule.
Ad spend. I’m fortunate that I have a little money for some ad spend. I can afford to book a promo with Freebooksy or BargainBooksy, ENT, etc. So far, if I put my first in series for free and pay for a Freebooksy with Written Word Media, I gain back my fee with sales and page reads. But that has never elevated my status or made my book “sticky” in the charts. I also play with Amazon Ads, but I’ve never worked with them to create second or third generation ads because I’d rather write more books than spend time playing with ads. Also, keep in mind that if you do plan to run ads at some point, your cover can’t be too racy. With stricter guidelines in place, Amazon has determined my Rocky Point covers are too sexy and they won’t let me run ads which could be a problem for you if you’re counting on an ads boost.
So, here’s my dilemma. First of all, I’m banking books as is my usual custom. I have six books in a series (serial, meaning no entry point except book one) that are completed. They’ve gone through a couple editing sweeps by me, and unless I’ve missed something, they sound strong: no plot holes, complete character arcs, etc. I spent the majority of 2020 writing and editing those. I needed a break, so I…
…wrote what I thought would be a standalone novel just to publish for the sake of hitting that publish button, but then I realized it could be a really cool book one of a series and while a paid beta reader read it and made her notes, I wrote book two of what will be another six-book series. That one has since been edited by me a couple of times, and is just sitting on my computer while I…
…thought I was writing a reader magnet for this newsletter I need to get going this year. The problem is, it’s a good book. It’s going to be a really good book, and I don’t know if I want to “waste” it by offering it up as a freebie. Obviously building up a newsletter is not a waste, and offering a full 85k book will be a good incentive to sign up for my newsletter. But, even though eventually I can put it up for sale, I would then need a new magnet anyway. So what difference will it make if I sell it now or later?
I’m at a loss, and while having 8.5 books on my computer almost ready to go (besides covers, formatting, and blurbs) is a good problem to have, I’m tired of publishing to crickets. I’m rebranding, writing new books under my initials instead of my first name, and if I can’t figure out how to make things better than the last four years, all I’m going to be doing is releasing books to no one. And let me tell you, I’m getting real tired of that.
Y’all, I’m tired of starting from zero. At some point, an author shouldn’t have to do that.
Another problem I’m having is that this is a new direction for me, and stockpiling books before I know if my style and voice are going to resonate with readers is ill-advised at best. Because now I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I can’t find readers, then ALL the books I have on my computer I may not have a use for. I doubt that will happen–I don’t write in a vacuum and someone has looked at all the books in some way, shape or form–but it’s something to think about (like there isn’t enough to worry about, right?)
That’s why I’m interested in releasing one standalone just to see how readers react. While it wouldn’t be a huge release, I know a little bit to at least get a few readers and if I add a cookie to the back, it might not be a bad way to start building my list with organic signups. On the other hand, if it makes more of a dent than I expect, I would want something to publish next in the not so distant future.
The uncertainty is enough to give me a headache, but I appreciate you listening to me brainstorm. I mean, there are things I can do. Hire a consultant for one. There are a few indie authors out there who will chat for an hour for a fee. I can ask for opinions in my FB groups, and I think I will be doing that. Maybe an experienced indie author can give me a few pointers.
I know one thing–I need to publish something, soon. I need the high. But like a drug hit, it may not be the best thing for me. Or it could change my life. You just never know.
Here are a couple things that can help you with a publishing plan:
As for a launch, I’ve never had a successful one. I’ve never put the time and the effort to set up blog tours, newsletter swaps, promo stacking, the list goes on with what you can do. Normally I press publish, run some ads, and then feel sad when my book doesn’t make the splash I was hoping for.
Since I’m starting at zero, this is worth another peek:
As for what else you can do for a launch, the resources can be it’s own blog post, and this is already a lot longer than I wanted it to be. I hope you find this useful, and thanks for tagging along on this journey with me!
Until next time!