Part of the Indie Authors Series
After almost two years of posts, we’re finally winding down this Indie Publishing Paths series. Over the course of the series, we’ve covered a lot of information, focusing especially on the pros and cons for many of the decisions we face as indie authors.
As I’ve emphasized throughout this series, there’s no one right way to be successful as an indie author. Just because our favorite virtual mentor chooses one method to reach success doesn’t mean that method will work for us.
- Our role models might have different goals or definitions of success from our own.
- The publishing landscape constantly changes—from Amazon’s rules to reader expectations—so what worked six months ago might not work anymore.
To that end, we started by identifying our goals and priorities and walked through our options for the where, when, and how much of putting our book up for sale. We then explored our options for how best to hold onto our readers from book to book and dug deeper into the most effective method for keeping our readers: using a newsletter. We finished by walking through examples of how to match our goals to our plans for releasing our book, retaining readers, and utilizing our newsletters.
Today, I’m showing how we can pull all that information together into a master publishing plan by sharing an example of how a cohesive strategy can help us make those choices at each step.
Recap: Our Goals Affect Our Strategy
Over the last few posts of this series, I shared how I made my decisions—and specifically, how my goals led me to those choices—so others can see how to think through our options. Depending on your goals, you might want to make choices similar to mine—or you might want to use me as a “what not to do” example. *smile* There’s no wrong answer.
These were the goals I shared in January:
- Prioritize Readers over Sales Income: This can be expressed by making decisions that aim for high availability and acquiring new readers.
- Establish a Professional Reputation: This can be expressed by making decisions that mimic the quality and offerings of the best of traditional publishing (print versions, etc).
- Think and Plan for the Long Term: This can be expressed by making decisions that ignore short-term gains or avoid burnout.
What Strategies Do You Think Will Work for Your Goals?
Back when I was first researching my indie publishing options, I analyzed the results of a survey Beverly Kendall conducted to dig into whether self-published authors who strive for professional quality find more success. Her survey results indicated that those who received professional editing and have a professional cover are more likely to earn more money. Duh, right?
But her survey revealed other surprising insights as well. In particular, her report delved into the six elements that help maximize income for self-published authors:
- Write a series (or market loosely connected books as a series)
- Make a series-related short story, novella, or the first novel free
- Include excerpts of other stories, especially at the back of the freebie
- Price novel-length books in the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot
- Build a backlist of quality stories
- Don’t expect success overnight—think in years
What Does It Mean to Work Backward on Our Strategies?
Many times as we’re writing, we might find it easier to figure out our plot or character arcs if we think about how we want the story to end and work backward. The same idea can apply to our publishing strategy.
I knew I wanted to create a backlist quickly that would pull readers from one story to the next. So I came up with a “daisy chain” or “leap frog” plan. Basically, I always wanted the next book to be available for pre-order in the backmatter of the current release, so readers of each novel would be able to buy the next one right away.
I then worked backward to come up with specific answers to the options we’ve covered in several posts here. In addition to having several books mostly completed to release in that chain, my plan required me to:
- offer a freebie to kick off the chain, but only after book two was set up for pre-order sales
- fully edit the beginning of the second book in advance to include an excerpt at the end of the freebie
- complete the cover and blurb of each book before the previous book’s release to include as promo in the backmatter
- use redirect links to enable formatting of the backmatter before the next book’s pre-order sales pages were set up
- use pre-orders so the next book could be available for purchase from the previous book’s backmatter
What Does a Pre-Order Daisy Chain Schedule Look Like?
Here’s what that release schedule for my first four books looked like:
- In Advance: Have a “base” of three novels completed to create a backlist and one story to use as a freebie.
- In Advance: Hold back releases long enough to get the first novel and the freebie ready to sell (covers, formatting, etc.) and the other novels close (i.e., they can be polished and formatted within their 90-day window).
- Day 1: Set up first novel for pre-order 90 days out.
- Day 5: Offer freebie for sale with cover, excerpt, and buy links for the first novel in the backmatter.
- Day 6-85: Finish editing, cover design, etc. for second novel, and set up for pre-order with a 90-day window.
- Day 75-80: Submit final draft of first novel with blurb, cover, and buy links for the second novel in the backmatter.
- Day 90: First novel releases.
- Day 86-170: Finish editing, cover design, etc. for third novel, and set up for pre-order with a 90-day window.
- Day 160-165: Submit final draft of second novel with blurb, cover, and buy links for the third novel in the backmatter.
- Day 175: Second novel releases.
- Day 171-255: If I was ready with a fourth novel by this time, I could have kept the chain going, but I was ready to collapse. *smile*
- Day 245-250: Submit final draft of third novel with blurb, cover, and buy links for a potential fourth novel in the backmatter.
- Day 260: Third novel releases.
The Pros and Cons of a Daisy Chain Release Schedule
The benefits of this daisy-chain plan are that it creates a quick-ish backlist while making the most of Amazon’s algorithms for slow writers. In addition, it creates a sales funnel of four products with a place to send our freebie readers right away and sets up a whole series of books for readers to jump to from one story to the next, helping create a committed readership.
Obviously, this plan won’t work for everyone. It requires several books to be written in advance (unless we are are a fast writer), and it takes money to get those books ready to go before any royalties are paid. However, with planning and advance preparation, this plan can work.
Going back to the six bullet points of success, I figure I’m not doing too badly:
- Write a series—Check.
- Make a series-related short story free—Check.
- Include excerpts/buy links at the back of the freebie—Check.
- Price novel-length books in the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot—Check.
- Build a backlist—Check, my fifth book is releasing next week.
- Don’t expect success overnight and have a long-term plan—Check, in progress. (Again, this is years of planning and saving.)
Our Goals Direct Our Plans
I hope these last few “Master Plan” posts have shown how knowing our goals can help us navigate all the decisions we have to make as an indie author. Just those three goals I listed above have kept me on track through my debates of what to do, and the “long term thinking” goal especially helped me come up with this big-picture strategy for my master publishing plan.
Remember that we each have different priorities, so you might follow my thought process and decide to do the opposite—and that’s okay. As I’ve tried to point out, there are pros and cons for every situation. There are many ways to be successful as an indie author, so we each have to find the right approach for the goals we set to reach our definition of success.
We don’t want to blindly follow what a successful author did because their choices might not be right for our goals. Hopefully, learning the what and the why behind my choices will help others apply their goals to the options and find their measure of success.
Next month, we’ll wrap up the series with a master list of all the posts and options. Until then, let me know if you have any questions.
Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.
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About Stone-Cold Heart, the latest release in the Mythos Legacy series:
After centuries of stone-cold death, Garrett discovers his legion has deserted him. Without their help, he’ll succumb to eternal sleep once more unless he can trick the woman who woke him into trusting him with her soul.
A combat veteran scarred inside and out…
Her last night in Afghanistan, Raquel Guerrero’s team fell victim to a suicide bomber, killing everyone but her. Now, despite her determination to never again let anyone close, her sense of duty compels her to help an endangered warrior survive.
Trust isn’t in their vocabularies…
A tentative truce frees them to investigate his regiment’s abandonment—and unleashes passionate temptations. But when the truth is uncovered, Garrett and Raquel’s fragile bond—and the healing power of love—might be the only thing that keeps them alive.
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