Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Indie Author Publication Schedule Discussion


If this is a "marathon," how on earth do I run it? I didn't TRAIN for this!!!!

I struggle with the "race" aspect of this new world of writing. Towards the end of March, a slew of distressing family news, mostly concerning the health of my parents, bombarded me along with other personal issues. Add to that the stress I was putting on myself to write STONE and run the ebook cruise and it was a perfect storm of yuck. I had to choose what was going to give. My sleep and eating or let some of my writing goals go...for now.

I chose writing. I took a break. For almost one full week, I didn't touch my computer. At first, it drove me nuts. But after 48 hours, I started to realize there is an entire world NOT ONLINE! :) And guess what? I'm a part of that world, too. (I will be taking a vacation from the virtual once per quarter, from now on).

I turned 30 years old on March 25th, and I feel fantastic. I am no longer going to stress myself out about writing. There's no need. I am a successful writer. I should have realized that before, as I sold non-fiction for years...but switching to fiction my confidence was rocked. And not in a good way.

Why do we listen to people who are jealous of us more than the people who cheer us on? In my case, there really IS no excuse, as far more people cheer me on than act as detractors. For my birthday, my husband bought me a new laptop. In his way, and he's not a man of many words, he was validating what I'm doing. He brags about me to other people, that his wife is a published novelist and that her book is doing well.

I've Earned Out

CANCELLED is 100% profit from here on out. Thanks to the electrifying jump start of the KDP free promotion (which worked for me, but not everyone) I've sold a total of 417 ebook copies in the US on Kindle and Nook since September 2011 when the book came out. In six months, I've earned back what I put in. So why on earth am I still worrying about if the book is good enough, am I selling enough, and why am I not a break out star?

Because I'm human. LOL. We ALL are. But when I read back through my original posts, all I wanted was to write books that people enjoyed, that weren't cookie-cutter, and that earned out in a reasonable time. I wanted, and still desire, to build a library of books by Elizabeth Ann West.

And I have tons of time to do this.

What Do I WANT?

I want less stress regarding my writing. I enjoy writing fiction, but I don't breathe to write fiction. I don't love writing, but I do love to sell. I don't love word quotas, but I do love interacting with readers. So what stresses ME out?

A Lack of Focus: I really don't do well trying to write more than one project at a time. I've tried this method out for the last 6 months and the result is 4 Chapters of STONE written, 2 Chapters of PAST DUE, 2 Chapters of SERVED, 3 pages of two different short stories. In other words, a m e s s!

Solution: Slow and steady wins my race, I will do one project at a time until its done, THEN move on. Period. That means Stone is backseat until short story for Pubwrite Anthology and the short story for the Indie Chicks Anthology are DONE because they're due first.

A Lack of Desire: I've planned to write for X number of hours, X number of words. Again, no dice. I am a free spirit by nature, and I am motivated most by accomplishing big bursts in short time frames. I thrive on feeling awesome for production (quality to me comes in the editing process, totally different mindset). I am giddy at crunching out 1,000 words in 45 minutes. YEAH! It's the on-deadline, non-fiction writer in me that rears her little ego when I try to write fiction.

Solution: I'm going to go back to milestones. Can I get to HERE (word count) before this DAY? Then I'm free to write when I can, what I can.

A Lack of Incentive: After my incredible KDP run where I made $500 in one month, guess what next month's sales were with 1) an ad on Kindle Book Review and 2) another free day run making it to #333 in overall FREE and 3) a reduced price of $1.99? 19 books. Yep. In March, I sold 19 ebooks. That's about what I sold per month at the economy price points last fall. I made the mistake of feeling motivated in February by my sales. I stalked my sales. I fell OFF the bandwagon.

Solution: Sales don't make me an author. I am planning specific incentives for each project I finish. The Pubwrite short story? One bottle of ice wine for me. :) STONE? I'm buying myself a Kindle Fire. PAST DUE? I'm going golfing. Etc.

A Crossroads: What do I specifically want in the next 12 months and what must I do to get there?

Last year I was frantic to get CANCELLED out the door. Frantic. I was so afraid the self-publishing opportunity was going to POOF! be gone right before I published. LOL. I know, it sounds a little silly, but when you're in the never-been-published shoes that I filled last year, it's a very real fear that your best laid plans will die right before you're finally ready to publish. I am no longer afraid that my fiction writing will lose publishing/distribution opportunities. For me, I'm repeating that. I am NO LONGER afraid that my fiction writing will LOSE publishing/distribution opportunities. There are far too many ways to get a book in the hands of readers (traditional publishing, self-publishing, small imprints, personal website, etc) for them all to close off to me or anyone else.

I have a few choices to make:

Build Up or Publish As Ready?

Other than three anthologies that I owe short stories for, I have NO deadlines. I set an April deadline for STONE, but that isn't going to happen. I am toying with the idea of not publishing a full-length work at all in 2012. GASP! Specifically, I am thinking about rejecting the Publish-As-Ready plan for a Build-Up-Titles plan first. There is a similar plan advocated by the wonderful Jen Talty and Bob Mayer at Write it Forward where they urge new writers to write 3 books before publishing any of them.Why?

Yes, I understand the whole "money left on the table" mantra pushed by some of the big names in digital publishing, BUT I am now appreciating WHY a big-house publisher holds a book back. Things happen. I released CANCELLED by the seat of my pants. Hodge-podge marketing plan, taking advantage of opportunities as they come along etc. I have readers who love my book, want more, and I have nothing to give them. Nothing. Will they remember me 6 months to a year later when I publish again? OR, is it better, since I'm gifted in marketing magic thanks to Disney to keep building one reader at a time when I can guarantee a new title every X months?

What I'm Thinking.....

Get the short stories out. No problem.

Revamp CANCELLED's ebook and print book to reflect the new things I've learned formatting and style wise since it published.

Write the book series I'm currently planning. Let STONE release maybe, maybe in the fall, but have PAST DUE's series and CANCELLED's series 100% done before publishing anything more there. This way I can 100% control the quality of the launches, the quality of the products, and plan accordingly. I've learned it's not that tough to make relationships with readers when you're a genuine person with them. :) But where I'm struggling is that AS I'm marketing, I suck at writing. I do. I think for me I need marketing furloughs so I can write. One way to do that is write, THEN publish, THEN market, then take a break. Who says authors can't go on sabbatical? That means 2012 is a writing year, 2013 is a marketing year, 2014 is a writing year (but I'm still releasing books I already wrote) etc.

Specifically? And this is rough:

Write STONE. (Publish this fall).


-------Potentially START publishing again --------

Write the In Debt Collection:

So that is my mountain to climb. It's an Everest. It's a Kilimanjaro. But it's MINE. And if it takes me until mid-2013 to finish, then so be it. Because really, I'm the Boss Lady. Plus, all of this started because I promised myself to write a novel and publish it to see if I could do it. I know, I know. I will take your volley of wadded up paper. Call me a great pretender. It's how I FEEL. And the only way I can think of to STOP feeling this way is to make an even bigger mountain to conquer. And don't worry, once I conquer THIS contemporary fiction mountain... guess what's the next challenge? Epic fantasy on my own terms. Coming to this mountain climber in 2015 or 2016. LOL.

I am interested in hearing from other authors on this subject, running the race of publishing.

  • How do you find balance between marketing and writing? 
  • Have you considered stocking up titles to publish? 
  • Do you not need a balance? (Not everyone does, I only just accepted that I DO need one). 
  • Have you thought out a big picture? 
  • Have you experienced negative side effects from a similar strategy or from the publish as you go strategy? 

Seriously, we NEED to talk about this! :) Feel free to comment and share links to blog posts YOU'VE written or read on the subject. :)

A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby. CANCELLED is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble 

WIP: STONE. Can Melanie Stone let her mother back into her life and kick out the creep trying to worm his way in? 


  1. Hmm, balance - yes, I have to have it, or I get really stressed and the writing stops being fun. And if it's not fun, why do it? That said, my writing-marketing balance has so far been almost all to writing. I'm following Bob & Jen there too - get at least three books out before I spend much time marketing.

    I also might have done well to wait to release my first book until the revisions on the second one was closer to finished. I wanted to release it in December - I even put that in the excerpt! Even in the print book! It's still not out, but I got edits back last week and am now in proofreading. The main negative side effect is that people really liked my first book, this one's a sequel, and they keep asking about it. Not a bad thing, except that I hate feeling like I've let readers down! Hopefully they'll decide it was worth the wait.

    Stocking up titles is not a bad idea! I think once I get to new material - also a series - I might wait until Book 2 revisions are close to finished before publishing Book 1. My only long-term plan is that I'd like to be able to retire doing this, and make the same kind of money I currently make in my day job. Good post, and definitely things we need to think about!

    1. I've experimented with marketing mojo, and I know now that I can drum up interest in a book, I can connect with readers, I can come up with promotion ideas. But they take a TON of time. I published CANCELLED with the expectation that it would take a year to earn out. I won the KDP Select lottery in February. And now, a book that started as a complete dare to myself of can I write and publish a novel in 12 months has grown into a much bigger deal than it initially started. I'm NOT the next [insert famous author here], you've read the book Jennette ;) but it has its fans. I'm grateful. I shocked. And I'm really, really confused on "What next?"

      I've spent the last few months doing a little too much of what everyone else is doing and not enough of what Elizabeth needs to do for Elizabeth. And it's never too late to right the ship (ok, it is if it sinks, but my boat isn't sunk, it's just missing a course).

  2. Hi Elizabeth;

    I've been struggling to find balance since my first published book:) Perhaps the best thing you can do is to allow those scales to tip as needed.

    Don't get too far ahead of yourself in the planning. There's something to be said for taking it one page at a time. I think you're on the right track putting those projects in deadline order to give each of them your focused attention.

    After several print published books I've decided to try epublishing some of my unpublished works. My initial thought was to rewrite six proposals as short stories and package them together in two anthologies...

    I thought it would be a snap. I soon discovered taking on a project of that size overwhelming. Not only that I'd promised a proposal to my editor. And I work a day job. So most of my writing is done on the weekends. These stories needed far more rewriting/editing than I'd planned.

    After a bit more research into epublishing I decided to put them up one at a time as 20K novellas before packaging them as anthologies for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The first novella was supposed to be uploaded last weekend, but I hit a snag. Hopefully, this weekend I'll have my ducks in a row.

    I think it was a bad idea, letting my readers in on my plan. Setting a release date, revising that release date, and then having a hard time meeting that revised release date. It put a lot of unnecessary pressure on the project.

    I think you might be feeling that kind of pressure, too. Relax :)

    1. Rogenna, welcome! :)

      I'm finding once you start really getting into marketing, it EASILY turns into a never-ending circuit of blog tours and social media meet-ups. I've tested the waters there. But with only one book out, I'm realizing that I'm out of product!

      As a reader, I hate waiting a year or more between titles, I hate when release dates move NOT in my favor, and I hate feeling like I can't count on a company to deliver. A hodge-podge publication schedule on my part delivers all of those bad things! At the same time, I can't control when my daughter need stitches or my parents get sick, so all I can do is build in some padding.

      If I make sure I have 1-2 books ready to go before I publish again, I can set the entire year/years' schedule. I can craft a launch individual to each book, contact the blogs who hosted me for CANCELLED for example, get on their calendar etc. :) I can send out review copies a month early and have reviews ready to rock the day it goes live on the various ebook outlets.

      And for me the writer, I need the focus. Otherwise, I'll keep writing blog posts for blog hops and not write books for readers.

      Thank you for commenting, and I'm glad you're feeling some of this confusion, too. Or, what I mean is, I'm glad I'm not alone? (Not happy you're facing challenges, too). Every situation is different, and only the smart authors take stock and adapt accordingly.