Mindy Klasky, Guest Blogger: Rapid Release Publishing or One Writer’s Tale of Madness

Hello all! Today it is my pleasure to introduce my good friend, fellow author, and all-around font of writing and publishing knowledge, Mindy Klasky. Please give Mindy a warm 8LW welcome, and in the comments, feel free to ask questions about romance and fantasy writing, as well as traditional, hybrid, and self-publishing options. Mindy will be stopping back throughout the day to answer. – Nancy

Klasky - Perfect Pitch

My, how things change… Way back in the Dark Ages, in 1998, I signed my first publishing contract. PenguinPutnam bought a fantasy novel, its sequel, and a book to be named later. That “book to be named later” was actually the novel I wrote while my agent was shopping around the one that sold – another fantasy, in a totally different world, with totally different characters.

I’ll spare you the long, boring discussion, but my agent, editor, and I invested hours trying to solve the problem of when to bring out that “book to be named later.” Conventional wisdom said no one would buy two books by the same author in a year, so we either needed to save the book till the end of the first series or use a pen name. (Ultimately, we did neither; we brought out a second Mindy Klasky book in a year. It flopped.)

Today, new authors would laugh uproariously at such a decision.

Today, the mantra is publish, publish fast, publish early. Just publish.

That mantra is chanted a thousand times louder and faster when the author in question is self-publishing. Amazon, the largest distributor of self-published fiction, relies on a complicated series of algorithms to promote its books. While the specific formulas are secret, “everyone” knows that the algorithms favor new books. Moreover, Amazon allows buyers to browse through lists of books that have been published in the last 30 days, increasing the likelihood that those books will be bought.

With the constant drumbeat of “publish, publish, publish” in my blood, I decided to fashion a romance series that could take advantage of the new business model.

First, I consciously searched for a unifying theme for my series. I considered and discarded a variety of ideas – a hospital emergency room, a television reality show, a symphony orchestra. Ultimately, I chose an (imaginary) baseball team, the Raleigh Rockets. Baseball gave me an immediate structure for my series – nine books, one for each of the position players on the team.

Second, I considered the length of each novel. I’d previously written category romance for Harlequin’s Special Editions line, so the 65,000-word length felt comfortable to me. 65,000 words allows one fully-developed sub-plot in addition to the main plot (and, of course, the romantic plot.)

585,000 words (nine novels of 65,000 words each), though, felt daunting for a rapid-release writing stint. I plotted the first novel in the series, purposely paring away subplots while pumping up the main plot. I ended up with about 40,000 planned words. While on the short end, 40,000 words gave me enough “meat” to tell a real story – I could spend time on emotions and actions and very real conflict. And I could write 360,000 words in a year. Easy. No problem.

Third, I considered the actual publication schedule. I’d been saying “nine books in a year” like that made sense, but I hadn’t taken the time to examine exactly what that production would require. I sat down with a calendar and started to map out dates, actually recording writing goals for specific days, editing goals for others. I wrote up an outline of the tasks required to bring each novel to market:

  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Sending to beta readers
  • Editing, incorporating comments from beta readers
  • Sending to copy editor
  • Editing, incorporating comments from copy editor
  • Ebook production, including drafting cover copy, commissioning cover art, registering ISBN, assembling metadata, creating electronic files in various formats, and uploading files in various sales venues

I assigned a specific date to each task, keeping in mind that I would likely be promoting Novel 1 while producing Novel 2 while editing Novel 3 while drafting Novel 4 while outlining Novel 5.

Fourth, I reviewed my schedule to see if it was possible. I reminded myself that I had certain obligations outside of writing – family events, vacations, etc. Conversely, I had two writing retreats scheduled during the relevant time period, when I could focus more intensely on my work. I tweaked a few deadlines, and I noted the portions of the schedule that were going to be especially tight.

Fifth, I started writing. My goal was to have five novels completed by the launch day of the first book. Ultimately, I missed that goal; I only had 4.25 novels completed. But I had built some flexibility into the schedule, so I knew I could deliver all nine novels on my rapid-release schedule.

Because they were baseball novels, it only made sense to launch the first on Major League’s Opening Day. Perfect Pitch hit the stands on March 31, right on schedule. While I’d initially planned on issuing the books one month apart, a writer friend convinced me that Amazon’s algorithms and reader enthusiasm would give even greater preference to a more rapid start. Therefore, Catching Hell released yesterday – two weeks into my experiment. Reaching First will be in stores on May 4, and all the other books will come out on the first Sunday of the month, through the end of baseball season.

With my rapid-release schedule, I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life (and that includes my earlier careers as a lawyer and a librarian!) But I love crafting this series. I’m thrilled at the way my writing has become streamlined, how I can tell which stories will work and which will not, before I even start to outline.

Rapid release isn’t for everyone, and it won’t work for certain types of books. (I couldn’t write nine novels set in a new-to-me historic period, for example!) If you’re a writer, would rapid-release writing work for you? If you’re a reader, would you enjoy getting multiple books in a series on an expedited basis?

Mindy Klasky - author photo

Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice. Mindy’s travels took her through multiple careers – from litigator to librarian to full-time writer. Mindy’s travels have also taken her through various literary genres for readers of all ages – from traditional fantasy to paranormal chick-lit to category romance, from middle-grade to young adult to adult. In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her endless to-be-read shelf. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the left-over minutes. You can learn more about Mindy at her website, and more about Perfect Pitch, book 1 in the Diamond Brides series, here.

20 thoughts on “Mindy Klasky, Guest Blogger: Rapid Release Publishing or One Writer’s Tale of Madness

  1. Hi, Mindy! I enjoyed reading your Jane Madison series, and it’s so fun to see you are branching out in a new direction. Well, amazing, actually, especially with the power-writing thrown in. I’ve got a million questions about how you do it all! But I suppose it all boils down to write, write, write and then publish, publish, publish and the stuff in between depends on the writer and the book.

    So, I’ll try for just two easier questions. (At least, I hope they are easier.)

    1. Where did you meet your agent?

    2. I noticed that *Perfect Pitch* is billed as a “short novel.” *A Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft* comes in at 420 pages on the Kindle page at Amazon, and *Perfect Pitch* is 170 pages. Is the short novel going to become a successful trend? Do you think it’ll be limited to digital publishing, or do you think short novels/novellas will become popular in paper, too? I’m really interested in this trend because I 1) write short and 2) read short these days. I love the idea of having more books available that I can finish in two or three hours.

    Great post, and I’m looking forward to hearing more in the comments!

    • Dear Michaeline –

      Thanks for your kind words about Jane Madison!

      I met my agent 16 years ago, having used a book called WRITERS DIGEST GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS to identify agents who represented authors writing my type of books. Today, I recommend that people use http://www.agentquery.com, restricting their search to agents in a specific genre and agents who do not charge a fee (aside from commission).

      As for short novels – I *hope* they become a trend! In print, they’re a bit more difficult to sell, because some costs are hard-wired (the cover, the printing press time, etc.) Therefore, short print novels end up coming in on the high end of the cost scale. Still, I *love* reading short. I’m a slow reader, and short novels give me a chance to experience many more stories!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Hi Mindy, thank you for this very interesting post. I love a good sports romance and I’ll definitely check out The Diamond Brides series.

    Like Michaeline, I have about a million questions, but I’ll start with the biggest one – 360k words in a year, ‘Easy. No problem.’ And that’s revised, edited words, not a rough-and-ready nano-style first draft. Huh? I’d love to know more about your process. I’d also be fascinated to know how it has changed as you’ve become a more experienced writer – or were you already that prolific back in the Dark Ages of 1998?

    I’d also be very interested to know how much of your time will be spent on production/publication, marketing and all the other non-writing tasks involved in releasing a nine-book series.

    • Dear Jilly –

      Thanks for your kind words! I hope that you enjoy the Diamond Brides Series!

      Yep, the 360K words *do* have to be polished, not “just” NaNo words. But as I’ve become a more experienced writer, I find that my first drafts are closer to polished than they used to be — I’m more attuned to when I’m sending a reader off on an unnecessary tangent, and I’m more likely to catch my favorite writing mistakes. (Mistake number one: Starting too far into a scene and writing “catch up” in flashback — right, Nancy Hunter?)

      Back in the “Dark Ages”, I was much more aggressive about editing — I’d draft a chapter, edit it three or four times until it felt “done”, then go on to draft the next chapter. At the end of the novel, I’d go back and revise the entire thing in two thorough passes.

      Now, I write straight through, leaving myself edit notes in bold CAPITAL letters at the top of previous chapters when I know I have to get some editing done. Then, I make one solid editing pass before I send the ms to betas and another pass after, to incorporate their comments.

      As for publicity/promotion time — I write-and-edit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I publicize-and-promote on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (I also run household errands on Tuesday and Thursdays, take exercises classes on those days, and do other career-related activities.) I figure I spend about 40% of my work-time publicizing and promoting my work, when I add back in the social media time I snatch from Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

      Make sense?

  3. Mindy, I’d also love to know whether you set benchmarks to determine the success (hopefully not failure!) of your experiment, or whether you’re approaching it with a completely open mind. Is there a trigger point that would make you decide to continue and build on the experience of rapid publishing Diamond Brides? If the model works well for you, presumably you’d have to start work on a new series as you’re publishing the last few books of this one?

    • Dear Jilly –

      I structure a business plan each year, with specific financial goals for my writing business, along with concrete strategies to achieve those goals. Therefore, I have a general idea of how many copies of each Diamond Brides book I need to sell (but if one does massively better than another, I can adjust for that.)

      The last Diamond Brides book will be finalized by late August. At that point, I’ll have enough data to decide whether I’m going to pursue another rapid-release series, or if I’m going to move back to my traditional light paranormal romance novels, or if I’m going to do something else.

      I have shadowy ideas for possibilities in each of those areas, but I’m purposely not allowing myself to get to “outline” stage, because I need to spend my energy on the Brides for now. If all goes according to plan, I’ll take a couple of weeks off from writing in the early fall, then dig back in to have a new product ready in a reasonable time after the last Diamond Brides book releases on November 4.

      Of course, there’s always the possibility of a Christmas book, recapping the Diamond Brides… Or something else — there are so many ideas to play with!

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  5. Wow, this is awesome. Nancy, thank you for introducing the 8 Ladies Writing audience to Mindy!!

    Mindy, your books sound like just my sort of read- I’m so glad to find you! I have to confess that there is no rapid release schedule that is rapid enough for me. I usually look for series that are complete or that have a significant number of books already released because I tend to read a series the way other people read a novel. If I take a vacation day to read I can blow through a six book series in a day. So I’m going to start with either the Jane Madison Series or the As You Wish series (do you recommend one before the other?), and I’ll catch up with the baseball series when you finish in August.

    Also, thank you so much for sharing your revision strategy. After reading your post I sat down and wrote 1500 words and didn’t second guess myself. After taking the McDaniel writing class, I had gotten the impression that writing couldn’t be good if it wasn’t produced with blood, sweat, tears and fifty million revisions. I suppose I knew that couldn’t actually be true, or how could my favorite authors put out multiple books a year? Your comments here have confirmed that and given my writing wings. Thank you.

    • Dear Jennifer –

      Thanks for your kind words! I think each of us finds the balance of drafting and revision that works for us — and certain types of fiction require many more passes of revision than others. (I shudder at the notion of ever writing historic fiction!)

      If you’re looking for one of my series to “marathon” you might want to start with Jane Madison — because there’s a fourth one to fill your rapid reading time! (I, alas, am a slooooow reader; I envy you!)

      Best,

      Mindy

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