Saturday, January 4, 2020

5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Full-Time Fiction Writer Must Make in 2020, or Else Get a Day Job

(Courtesy Return of Kings)

It’s the new year and already I can feel change in the air. After all, this isn’t only a new year. It’s a new decade. A new era if you will, where politics are becoming more and more divisive, traditional norms like marriage and religion are eroding, and robots are about to take over the workforce. It will be a time of adaptation and innovation. Anyone who doesn’t plan for the future is making a plan to fail.

That’s especially true of full-time fiction writers. Long gone are the traditional query and wait days (that is, unless you’re a total dolt and choose to go that route), while authors can now get their work to market independent of the New York publishing houses in a matter of weeks or even days with online publishing platforms like Amazon KDP and/or Draft to Digital. If you’re like me, you engage in both the traditional and independent forms of publishing (I guess that makes me half a dolt), or what’s better known as the hybrid method. What this means is, there’s never been a better time to be a genre fiction author.

But unlike ten years ago, when you could upload a full-length novel and expect it to sell, the market is far more saturated than it used to be. Now you need to fight for attention not only with fellow mid-list authors, but also the big leaguers like John Grisham and Stephen King. In order to make your brand stick out from the crowd in 2020, and therefore make a good living, you’ll need to do these five things, or die!

1.     Advertise. For better or for worse, investing even a small amount of capital in Amazon ads is absolutely necessary for getting eyes on your books. I’m not about to get into the nitty gritty of how they work, because it’s still a mystery to me precisely how they work. Just know this: Eyes=Impressions. The more impressions the better chance that someone is going to buy one of or more of your books. That said, I’m going to concentrate on advertising first-in-series books, knowing that chances are, the average serial reader will want to read my entire series. 

2.      Optimize. I have something like 40 indie products. Maybe more. I’ve lost count. After five years of solid writing, and very little attention paid to selling, other than the occasional marketing promo, I’m going to be changing out my keywords with the help of KDP Rocket. I’m also going to take a good hard look at my product descriptions to make sure they pass the quality test. Go for enticement, not a book summary. I’ll also look at pricing. Are my books priced too low, or am I charging what they are truly worth? 

3.      Serialize. Unlike my standalones, which I sell to traditional publishers (for the most part, that is), the indie game is all about books in a series. I presently have about seven series going, but I’m going to increase that number. In fact, I’m never going to stop inventing new series. Simply said, they result in long tail sales. Now that’s the gift that keeps on giving.

4.      Audiblize. Audio books are presently exploding. People are reading (listening) to books on their smartphones like never before. I saw my audio sales triple in 2019 and I expect that to happen again in 2020. To be honest, I never used to pay attention to the audio market until I woke up in quarter three of last year and suddenly realized their awesome potential as a money maker. 

5.      Capitalize. Capitalize on other paper book outlets, that is. Another thing I discovered quite by accident in 2019. While eBooks listed in Amazon KU are exclusive to that program and therefore cannot be sold anywhere else, paper is not exclusive. That means you can set up accounts at Ingram Spark for instance. As an experiment, I bought 10 ISBNs off and published eight paperbacks on Ingram Spark (that’s not a typo. I screwed up two of the ISBNs and lost them, but that’s another story). I immediately started earning low three figures right off the bat. Of course, that will only increase with each new book published.       

In a nutshell, I won’t be just a writing machine in 2019. I’ll actually slow down with publishing (primarily because I have two traditional titles being published), but on the other hand, I will be upping my selling efforts in a big way. It’s not enough to be an artist in 2020 and beyond. You must also be a businessman or woman. You must sell you junk if you want to survive in this brave new world that’s changing all around us all the time.   


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