In January I started a major push to pad my backlist: writing 10 books in 12 months. I’ve given periodic updates throughout the year, and with my final release for 2017 happening today, I’m writing my final update.
So, first of all, where did I end up? I wrote and released 9 books between January 2017 and November 2017. What happened to the 10th book? I certainly had plenty of time to write it. I could still hammer it out before December 31st. And surprisingly I’m not burned out in terms of writing, but I am burned out on writing in certain series and themes, so I elected not to write the tenth book. I’ve moved on to writing some very different things for 2018!
Now we come to the results. My primary purpose with this schedule was to build my backlist. It’s safe to say, “mission accomplished.” The advantage of having a larger backlist is longer term than the revenues you earn on a release or even the revenues you earn as the books sit in your catalogue over the next several months. A larger backlist gives you more opportunities to run sales, create box sets, and use subsidiary rights.
So how successful was my 9 books in 12 months effort in terms of these things? The overall copies sold were mediocre (I’ll get into that more in a bit), but before you put on a sad face, the opportunities for sub rights, new platforms, and sales/box sets has been great. I’ve already managed to get two books into three foreign markets, and yes, they’re actually earning (pro tip: Germany, y’all). I’ve sold the audio rights to twelve books which are being produced as I write this, and I’m launching the entire catalogue onto some new platforms. By having a large backlist to leverage I’ve given myself a leg up with multiple streams of revenue.
Now, let’s talk about the lessons learned. I honestly didn’t struggle with writing 9 books in 10 months. There were of course moments when I would rather have flayed my own skin off then write another word, but that’s just how this job is some days, no matter if you’re writing 9 books in a year or one. Overall, writing the books was actually the easier part. What ultimately tripped me up wasn’t the writing, it was the other stuff. I tend to be very goal-oriented. I see the end game, and head straight toward it. So I made writing these books my goal, and I put my head down and wrote.
But guess what? There’s all that other shit that’s part of the job—new releases, record-keeping, promotions, networking. And the first quarter of the year I managed. I had a strict monthly promo schedule, I participated in group promotions, applied for BookBubs, built my newsletter list. And then I got to May…and June…and July. And I kept writing, but I began to lose track of what the hell was supposed to be going on AFTER the book was written.
The result was that everything BUT the books began to fray around the edges. I know people who can write and release ten or more books a year and make every release and every sale an A+ effort. I’m not one of them.
****Before I go any further I want to make an important note: I didn’t give an A+ effort to the non-writing portions of the job for the second and third quarter of 2017. However, that doesn’t negate the impact of the extremely difficult market in contemporary romance and to a lesser degree some other genres. I make this point because there are a lot of you out there who ARE putting in A+ effort, who are writing many books in a year, who are getting quality editing, quality covers, building your reader groups and your subscriber lists. There are a huge number of you who are writing to market and doing ALL the right things. And you still aren’t able to sell many books.
This market is unlike anything publishing has ever experienced. What we’re seeing isn’t a “normal” low in the market, because since 2011 we’ve had ebooks, Indie publishing, Amazon, Facebook, and KU. Those things didn’t exist before, so therefore the pre-2011 markets aren’t comparable. What we’re experiencing now is a first. The first time we’ve had the flood of indie authors, indie books, and Amazon marketplace manipulation. We’re in an evolving system. Therefore comparing it to anything that came before is useless. We’ve only begun to understand how it got here, and we can only guess where it might end up. So when you’re assessing your own results in 2017, make sure to take that into account. Give it your best effort, make sure you’ve done all the things, but realize that still might not be enough.****
Final thoughts: If I were living January 2017 all over again, I’d make the same choice. Having all my existing series nicely wrapped up, a backlist of 20 books, and the ability to send those out to new markets and platforms is well worth a year of my time. Now I start 2018 with those income producers, and the freedom to write whatever and wherever I want.
You’ll see some very different things from me in 2018, including a brand new pen name, so stay tuned! In the meantime, I hope the last quarter of your 2017 is filled with words–whether you write them or read them. Don’t be afraid to take on the “impossible” tasks and follow that road wherever it may lead.
If you’d like to read my last book of 2017, it’s a holiday novella set in my Powerplay world and you can grab it here: