From James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog: The Year Behind and the Year Ahead
I’m going to pull out the part of this post that looks ahead rather than behind. Bell is taking a look at how to focus on making a viable go of it within and without the “Forbidden City.” I don’t recall ever before seeing that term used for traditional publishers, but I do kind of like it!
1. Within The Forbidden City
In traditional publishing, it used to be said you needed four to five books getting an increasing foothold among readers to move toward significant writing income. See The Career Novelist by agent Donald Maass.
In these latter days, however, an author has one or maybe two chances. As the DOJ case revealed, the big pubs want home runs, and want them out of the gate. They generally won’t put any significant marketing money into most books unless and until those books show some momentum on their own.
So write a home run and you’re golden.
Want to know what it takes to bring in some good lettuce as an indie writer? I found the information in this survey instructive (h/t Joanna Penn for the link). It confirms my own experience. It’s worth your time to have a look.
Pausing for an editorial comment. This survey is the Written Word Media end-of-year author survey. Written Word Media is the company that runs the Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy promotion services, which are probably the best paid promo services that exist at the moment. They are MUCH more user friendly than Book Bub and generally produce good results for me (not always, I will add, but usually).
If you click through, you’ll see that authors who are anywhere in the ballpark of making a living from self-publishing have, as a rule, quite a few books out, and do quite a bit of marketing. I am smack dab in the middle of the “stages” listed in this survey. I note that this survey indicates that a significant proportion of authors in their stage 5 pay someone to help with marketing. I would be MORE than willing to pay someone to help with marketing, so I guess in 2023, I should look around for that. Also, I obviously need to focus on building my newsletter and doing newsletter swaps. Which I don’t really want to deal with, but if not in 2023, still, pretty soon.
Back to Bell’s post:
Still and all, one truth remains: the best marketing, in either world, is word of mouth, which comes from the books themselves. Meaning—
Stick to The Fundamentals
From time immemorial, writers of fiction have known that the fundamentals for success are basic: be good and be productive.
To be good means always growing in your craft. Assess your work vis-à-vis the seven critical success factors of fiction—plot, structure, characters, scenes, dialogue, voice, and meaning. Figure out what needs improving (and remove any chips on your shoulder) and then set about to study those areas and practice what you learn.
As for production, you don’t have to write a novel every month. Just be consistent. A page a day is a book a year. Determine how many words you can comfortably write in a week. Up that by 10% and make it your weekly goal. If you miss a day, make it up on other days. If you miss a week, fuggetaboutit. Start fresh on Monday.
Develop ideas even as you’re working on your WIP. Be like a movie studio, with one “green lit” project, a few “in development” and a few that are one-line pitches.
That all sounds like good advice for 2023 and beyond!