Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Have a Stash

In today's world, a writer can't be content to simply write.  You have to be an advertiser, salesperson, and overall businessman.  Regardless of how we want the world to work, it's not possible for most writers to just pump out their next work of art and then sit back to wait for the accolades to roll in.

Since we have to be much more into the business aspect of this than we used to have to be, we need a solid business plan moving forward.  I believe that the old model of moving on from one book to the next is outdated, especially for a debut author.  What that means is that you need a stash of books ready to go.

"But Russ," you say, "writing just one book is a hell of an accomplishment.  How am I supposed to have more than one ready to go if I don't even know if my first one will be successful?"

If that's how you want to run things, then go ahead, but don't come crying when you're not making it and have no time on your hands to make a serious run at things.  I think that anyone truly intending to make this a career should have at least three books ready to publish before they get started.  Why?

The reasons are myriad.  First, as an unknown, you are going to have to put in a tremendous effort to get yourself out there and get read once you're prepared to go, and that's regardless of whether you're going indie or traditional.  There will be readings to do, appearances to make, and personal contacts to cultivate.  Tim Zahn can rely on the fan base he's built over the past 25 years, but you have no fan base yet.  That means a lot more time convincing people that your work is worth their time.

Second, you're going to want to strike while the iron is hot.  If people like your work, they will seek out other things you've written.  I don't think you should deluge the market, for each book requires some careful planning for its release, but I do think that you need to have something ready to go not too long after your first.  Readers will be patient...up to a point.  If they know they'll see something new in six months, they might wait.  But if they have no idea when your next novel will be out - shoot, you might not know when your next novel will be out - they'll be less inclined to wait around and will give someone else a try.

Third, and not to put too fine a point on it, but, as a newbie, you simply won't have the time to write that you hoped you would.  If you want your first book to be successful, you're going to have to devote a monstrous amount of time to it and its marketing.  You'll have to work nights and weekends, and all that extra time you hoped to have to spend on your next masterpiece will instead be funneled into the success of your debut novel.  This, of course, makes writing the second book pretty challenging.  However, if you have another book ready to go, only needing to follow up with the final stages of bringing it out, you can devote the time you need to establishing a presence and not feel guilty that you're not writing.

Also, writing is a stock business.  McDonalds didn't become the number one burger chain by only offering cheeseburgers - they also got people to buy Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets and fries and Sausage McMuffins as well.  In other words, they built up an inventory of delicious items that lots of different people could buy.  It's the same in the book world in that you can't rely on a person to buy five copies of your first book; you need them to buy your first, second, and third books and still want more.  This also allows people who find your work to go back and delve into what else you have that they might want.

It helps to take a breath after writing a book rather than rush out to publish it and then bask in the glow of the rewards you know you deserve.  Focus on your great love, writing, and create multiple stories.  Then, when you're ready to kick off a career and not just a lark, you'll be ready to truly build lasting success.

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