Your brand encompasses everything your reader sees or perceives about you and your books. If I’ve said that once, I’ve said it 5,896,458 times. And I do mean everything. That, obviously, includes your books. But it also includes non-visible intangibles, like your level of productivity and even your organization.
Twice in the past few months I’ve had new authors sign up for “new author” coaching sessions, because they are doing everything they can think of, but not getting any sales. Both were spending hours upon hours on social media promoting their book, they both spent hours building up their email lists, and both were spending hundreds in advertising and Bookbub ads.
Both authors were writing series and each only had one book published. One was still writing their second book, and the other had book two written but not up for pre-order yet. Neither had any clues about book three.
This is a common problem, especially for indie authors who write in the YA or romance genres. Readers of both genres want their books quickly, and many readers won’t touch a series until all or most of the books have been released. But, this isn’t exactly a new phenomena. It can very often take a series time to get off the ground. Many times it takes readers seeing a third or fourth book before they’ll go back to the first one. Personally, I’d never even heard of the Twilight series until mid-2007 just before the third book in the series was released.
My advice to these authors was the same…slow down on all of that promotion and focus on writing. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but you can have the most beautiful website in the world, a fantastic logo, be the worlds greatest tweeter , and have thirty thousand people in your email newsletter list, but if you only have one book out, your sales and earning potential will hit a brick wall. Even if your fans think your book is the best thing they’ve read in their lives, without new content, they will lose interest.
Productivity is key. Ideally, in order to keep their existing readers and continue to grow their audience, and indie author should be releasing around every three months. That is a ridiculous, exhausting pace. I know. But it’s truth.
It’s nearly impossible to do, especially for authors who have day jobs. That is where organization comes in. I recommend having a plan, putting that plan to paper, and then working the plan.
Here is a little example. I recently started writing under a new penname with a writing partner. Our first book released in May of this year, and on November 7, our book three will release, and we will be putting book four on preorder to release in December. We had a plan and have been working the plan, even when it feels more like it’s working us. By focusing on writing and gradually increasing the time, effort, and money we put into promotion with each release we now have nearly 10 times the number of pre-orders on our third book as the first and we’ve grown our newsletter by 2000% with minimal effort. Our brand is growing organically with less effort through our productivity.
You may be thinking that it’s easier to be that productive in a team. And you’re both right and wrong. My co-author has written and published several books on her own this year, and I have three other businesses.
As you head into the new year, I highly recommend stopping and looking at how you’ve been splitting your time. Are there ways you can spend more time and effort producing books for your readers? It doesn’t mean you have to write and release four books a year, but finding little ways to increase productivity can, ultimately, grow your brand and increase your earning potential.
Do you have any questions for June about branding or marketing? Here's your chance!
If you are in need of help getting organized or want help planning out your new year of writing, head over to Author Branding Essentials. Our Author Essential Planner is a great tool. Also, don’t forget to stop by in January for our first official PLANUARY. All month long we’ll have planning tips, publishing tips, and free printables to help you make and work your plan all year long.
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This post was so informative for me, June. I'd like to ask you a question. I've been writing sweet clean romance for the last three years. I have one novel and six novellas published between two different small presses. I'd like to change my direction and I've been slowly (slowly) working on a women's fiction novel. What I'm concerned about is that I have contracts for 9 novellas to be released in 2018. Since my online presence is about sweet romance, I'm wondering if I should continue to write sweet clean romance or steer away from it. Also, I'm not sure if I can write those 9 novellas alongside the women's fiction book which will of course be longer and more involved. Do I cut the number of novellas down? Do I break away from these short romance novels and try to rebrand myself? Any advice you have to offer would be greatly appreciated. I'm spending too much time trying to figure out a clear path.
If you have contracts, I recommend fulfilling those. HOWEVER, if you can renegotiate some of the terms so that you can perhaps, do half of those in 2018 in order to allow yourself more time for the women's fiction, then try that. Also, I never recommend, just out of hat, abandoning a readership, which is what you do if you completely break away and rebrand...
Instead, I'd encourage you to look at how you can re-brand INCLUSIVELY. Even if, once you have your contracts fulfilled, you never write anything else but Women's Fiction, you still have all of those past books to promote, and you have all of those readers. There will likely be a large crossover audience of your readers who would then read your WF, and even possible future WF readers who would be interested in your back list. I wrote a post about Creating an author brand, or rebranding, when you write in multiple genres. I'll put the link at the end of my comment (you can also search my name here on WITS to see other posts) I think this post will be helpful to you, especially since the subject of my case study is an author who writes both romance and WF...Laura Drake.
BUT... to answer your question shortly: YES, I think you are spending too much time trying to figure out a path for a full year. Try making goals for the year. THEN sit down and look at the next three months...or rather, the first quarter of the year. Pick a couple of your major goals, then break those down into manageable tasks that can be accomplished over three months...putting the sub-goals/tasks into monthly columns. (Not to plug my books, but the Author Essential Planner has worksheets for this.) It is something I've found that works for me, and others and so it is something I often suggest. HAVING A PLAN IS GREAT....And you should make one, but also, be flexible, and take a deep breath.
But also, read this before you do anything branding wise. https://writersinthestormblog.com/2016/11/creating-an-author-brand-when-you-write-multiple-genres/
June, thank you so much for taking the time to reply with so much helpful advice.
You've given me much to think about, especially those contracts for 2018. I just may start with that and see if I can negotiate some changes there. Love Laura Drake and her books. I took a look at her website and get what you mean. Do you consult with authors like you did with Laura?
Yes, I do. We offer phone coaching services, but if your looking for something like what I did for Laura, it would be a mix of phone/email consulting. We can work out a customized package/price. http://authorbrandingessentials.com/services/coaching-services/
Wow the constant push/pull between writing and promoting. I think every single author feels like they're not doing it right.
Thanks for this common-sense advice, June. It cuts the BS, and gets to the core issue - if you don't write, and write well, you have nothing to sell.
I don't think there is a right... just always the best you can with the tools you have. It can be hard finding the right balance that works just for you.
Thanks for sharing. Your post made me feel better about my approach to writing 🙂
Great! Now, don't forget that some marketing and paying attention to your brand is still important. You do have to have a way for readers to find your books. Discover-ability is key. Gee... it's a complicated mess, isn't it? LOL!
totally. writing the book is just one part of it
I liked your post so much I bought one of your planners. I've been looking for a way to track all my projects as well as my "regular" stuff, and this looks great!
Awesome! I hope you like it. 🙂 Please let me know how it works out for you! I'm open to any and all suggestions for refining it for future years.
TRUTH: The original planner (last year's version) was designed for that very reason... I needed a way to keep up with everything, and generic planners, or "happy" planners just didn't give me the tools I needed. 🙂
YES!!! I have a regular planner that I end up dividing into five different sections for each day, so I can track all the stuff. I'm looking forward to a "pre-divided" version 🙂
What a helpful post! I have been taking time away from writing in order to blog, hoping that building a following will benefit me when I am published. This was a good reminder that I need to have books to sell 🙂
It's a really difficult balance. Blog posts are important, but in general if you write ANY GENRE OF FICTION, I find that blog posts are more to keep your established readers happy between books and keep them interested. While you may get a few new readers who find your blog posts witty enough to pick up a book, it is generally not enough to make that your main focus. (And YES, I have fallen into this trap. I can advise because I've done the bad things...it's how I know they don't work. LOL!)
If you write nonfiction, then there is more of an opportunity for informative blog posts to pull in an audience. But still, it does you little good if you don't have purchaseable product for them. 🙂
ADVICE: If you don't have time to blog once a week, perhaps try reducing to on or two a month. Or, take a couple of weeks to dedicate to writing multiple future posts, then set them aside to post at regular intervals and get back to book writing.
It's a hard balance. 🙂 Good luck!
I'm exhausted just reading this. Lol I'm switching genres from romance to suspense. Isn't the suspense genre more forgiving of a slower pace...like two books a year? Thanks!
In truth, in this reader climate...NO. LOL. Sorry... readers are greedy (says the girl who goes through 3-4 audio books a week when she's house cleaning & doing design work, and can read a book in a day if she allows herself the time.) But, write at your own pace. The key is just to remember not to get so caught up in the non-writing work of being an author that you forget to do the most important thing...write. 🙂
Wow, June, what a pace! But, I think you are right about series readers wanting the next book quick. I remember reading a story (can anybody footnote this for me?) that when John D. MacDonald sold the first Travis McGee novel, the publisher waited until he had four books and then released them one-a-month.
And your answer to Debbie Herbert is spot on. I write thrillers and the audience is no more forgiving than romance. In a way, that's flattering, isn't it?
Thanks for a cool post!
Wow June! That's impressive what you've achieved and I congratulate you. Thanks so much for this post. I'm currently looking into self-publishing, so this post is very timely.
This is such a fantastic post, June. And wowzers to you for keeping your productivity up.
excellent post. many thanks.
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