TIPS FOR UP-AND-COMING WRITERS:
I found out today that I was second in sales for the month of November over at 7DS Books. They’re the ones who carry my short story collection Out Through the Attic. I’m not mentioning this to brag… well, I am… at least a little, but it’s not the most important reason I’m mentioning this.
I mention it because I started planning for this day nearly six years ago. That’s not B.S. When I left IT and decided to become a starving artist while I built a writing career up from scratch, one of the things I did was include planning for the long game. From day one I’ve always had a 6-month, 1-year, 5-year and 10-year plan. Now, I haven’t hit absolutely every goal, but I’ve come damn close. Today was another victory.
Here’s what I Did:
- I started writing short stories six years ago.
- About five years ago, I wrote “Lasater’s Lucky Left.” It was the first steampunk story I ever wrote, but I knew all along that I would be writing a steampunk series featuring Jake Lasater.
- “Lasater’s Lucky Left” was included in Penny Dread Tales v.1 (a steampunk anthology I self-publish annually) four years ago.
- “Lasater’s Lucky Left” was included in my short story collection Out Through the Attic eighteen months ago.
- On November first of this year, I released Blood Ties (Book 1 in the Blood War Chronicles).
- Today I learned about being second in sales.
You can draw a straight line from the first short story I wrote, to “Lasater’s Lucky Left,” to Penny Dread Tales, to Out Through the Attic, to the release of Blood Ties to today’s announcement. And yes, that was actually planned.
And this time I’m truly not saying it to brag. I’m telling you this because there are at least a few up-and-coming writers that follow my antics who are independent or hybrid, and I encourage them to use this and other techniques as part of their long-term planning.
Now, I have to confess that I sort of “loaded the dice.”
A month before Blood Ties came out, I sent out almost 30 ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to the original beta readers of Blood Ties, a hand full of author friends, and pseudo-strangers/fans who follow me on FaceBook. As a result, I had 18 reviews of Blood Ties (all of them thankfully positive) by the time the second week of its release passed by.
In addition to these steps, I talked with a fairly successful friend of mine, Josh Vogt. I asked about some of the things he was doing to increase sales. One of his suggestions was to do a giveaway on Goodreads. As a result, I have an active giveaway for Blood Ties going on right now, and that has certainly had some positive impact on sales for Out Through the Attic. And vice versa.
Keep in mind, a big part of the writing game is cross-pollination, at least in my opinion. One book leads readers, fans, and buyers to the next book. If they liked this, they’re more willing to try something else with your name on it. Consider everything you write to be a gateway drug… literally. You want the first story of yours a new reader discovers to tempt them into chasing down the next.
I’m sure that sounds a bit mercenary, and it is from a certain point of view. It doesn’t, however, change the facts that I like to write fiction. I’m at least passably good at it, and a growing number of people are finding that they like to read my stuff. The trick is getting more and more people interested in giving my writing a try. That’s all I ask, and it’s what I work so hard to facilitate. I’ll let fate determine if they want that second hit. What I work towards is getting them to take a chance on the first one.
If you’re a writer, you can’t just think in terms of one story–then the next–then the next. Well, you can, but it’s short-sighted and not how you build a career. If you want to make a career out of this, you have to think like you’re running a business, because you are. And your business plan needs to factor in what you want to accomplish in the short, medium, long, and extra-long term.
So, with everything you write, give some thought to how it factors into your long game. Sure, short stories are disposable, but they can have long-reaching value to a writer’s career, and they are the perfect gateway drug to the next international best seller.