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
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:
- 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 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.