By Scott D. Parker
Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were safe and fun.
For readers of this particular blog, I hope to provide something new.
I’ll admit: there are days in which I ponder what I’m going to write every Saturday. Sometimes, I’ll scour old posts and re-post them...which isn’t horrible because we’re always getting new readers. But I think I have something special for 2019.
I’m an independent writer and publisher. I enjoy it that way, accepting all the challenges that come my way as learning experiences. I’ve mapped out a rather interesting plan for 2019 when it dawned on me that I have a perfect medium for new, engaging series of blog posts every week: write specifically about my experiences as an independent author over the course of one year.
Ambitious? Yes. Doable? Also yes. Exciting? For me, yes, and, I hope, educational for those fellow writers in the publishing world. Over the past four years, I have learned a lot from those writers ahead of me on the writing/publishing journey. I’m thinking of Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Katheryn Rusch, Joanna Penn, the guys at Sterling and Stone, the interviewees at Kobo Writing Life, and dozens more. I’ve learned a lot--and I keep learning--but I thought it might be interesting to catalog what goes on here at the home offices of Quadrant Fiction Studio for a calendar year. At the very least, it’ll give me a record of everything I do. And, in the future, I can collect these essays and publish them in a book.
THE PLAN FOR 2019
I have a rather ambitious publishing schedule for 2019. I am introducing railroad detective Calvin Carter over six books this year. The first, EMPTY COFFINS, was published on New Year’s Day. Here’s the link to the main book page where you can see the cool cover, read the description, and have a look at all of Chapter 1. I have to admit: it’s one of my favorite chapters I’ve written. You get a good sense of who Carter and his partner, Thomas Jackson, are and how Carter conducts his investigations...with flair.
I have five-and-a-half books written, and they’ll be published every other month starting in January.
In addition, I have other books complete and ready to go. I’m still making decisions on when they’ll be published, but there’s a good chance I’ll be publishing them on the even-numbered months.
Busy, busy year.
And I’m still writing. Just started a new book on New Year’s Day. My goal is to publish it in August.
I use the following three methods for ebooks:
Kobo Writing Life for Kobo ebooks
KDP for Amazon ebooks
Draft2Digital for everything else, including Apple and Barnes and Noble
Why not just use Draft2Digital for everything? Ease of use. Kobo and Amazon are really straightforward when it comes to preparing files for publication. Plus, I’m a part of Kobo’s promotional program, and the KWL folks are wonderful with any questions I have. D2D is also straightforward--maybe even the simplest out there--but I’m comfortable with the systems so I’ll just keep on this way unless circumstances necessitate a change.
Late in November 2018 (barely six weeks ago), I got word from Draft2Digital and Kobo that, due to the holiday season, if writers wanted books published in early 2019, final files needed to be submitted by early December. That took me by surprise, so I quickly stopped writing the sixth Carter novel and jumped on prepping EMPTY COFFINS. It took a few days, but I got all the files in on time.
But what about the paperback? Well, I’m trying IngramSpark for 2019. I’ve never used them before, but for extended distribution reasons, I thought why not give them a go. I used CreateSpace for my existing four paperbacks over at Amazon. I’m slowly converting them over to KDP Print.
So far, I’ve been very pleased with IngramSpark. One great thing is being able to purchase an ISBN number via their system. Not only is it cheaper, but it avoids the issues that came up in 2018 with the existing provider of US-based ISBNs. All I had to do was create a print-ready PDF, get the proper page count, submit all the metadata, and create a title in their system. What you get back in a template you can use to create your paperback cover.
Here is where Ingram shines. The template is easy to use. I just insert it into Affinity Designer and created my cover with little headaches. I submitted the files to Ingram...and it got rejected. It seemed some of my text ran into the no-fly zone. I fixed and resubmitted. Viola! Accepted. Unlike with CreateSpace, there is a $49 charge to set everything up at Ingram, but I think that’s a small price to pay for greater visibility. I’ve approved the e-proof and am awaiting the paper proof. When I see it and see how everything lays out, I’ll be more likely to simply approve the e-proof in the future.
On 31 December, I updated my website to include Calvin Carter. I’ve posted the covers of all six novels. Between you and me, there’s a chance a couple of them might change. That’s the beauty of being independent: change at will.
I use Houston’s Host Gator to host my website and WordPress to run it. I’ve also purchased the Divi theme because of its WYSIWYG nature. Thought everything was good…
...until I checked the links New Year’s Day. All were wrong. So I spent an hour that morning fixing everything. Again, not difficult, but time consuming.
That’s the theme for much of what I do as an independent. Most of the tasks are not difficult--or just a Google search away for the answer to most questions--just time consuming. As a person with a day job and a family, time is precious. But every now and then, you just have to knuckle down and fix links.
NEWSLETTER and INCENTIVES
I have not been as diligent with my mailing list as I should be, but that changes in 2019. I plan on being quite active with my newsletters, building up the list, and interacting with readers along the way.
I have a specific goal of discovering 100 new subscribers this year. It’s a discrete, doable goal with specific metrics: 8-10 new subscribers per month.
Most authors give away a free book as a thank-you gift for joining a mailing list. I did that, too, but I had two lists, one for mysteries and one for westerns. With Calvin Carter--a character who can bridge both these genres--I decided to merge the lists into one. But if I have potentially two audiences coming into the one list, what kind of incentive could I offer? Mystery readers might not like a western, and vice versa.
So I created a catalog sampler. In this ebook, I have my four mysteries, the opening chapters of my six Carter novels, and excerpts of my existing western stories. It is my hope that readers will read through the samples, find a few things they like, and read more.
And I threw in a couple of incentives. If a reader buys a book of mine, let me know and I’ll provide them with a free book. Buy one, get one free. In addition, if an existing subscriber gets another person to subscribe to the list, the existing subscriber earns a free story. So, potentially, for the price of one book, a person can get three stories.
Is that a good idea? Not sure, but that’s the best thing about being independent: I can experiment and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and adjust. I see few downsides to this equation.
Want to join? Head on over to my website.
To distribute the free catalog sampler, I use BookFunnel. I upgraded to mid-list plan so I can have multiple pen names and numerous books on file. From there, I can create various landing pages with various giveaways all the while collecting emails for my newsletter. Win-win.
So that’s how I’m starting 2019. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out, but I’m excited. I know there will be slumps of enthusiasm along with mountaintop highs, but that’s all part of the marathon that is writing and publishing in 2019.
Each week, I plan on updating everyone with my weekly accomplishments. If y’all’ve got questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll address them. Or you can always head over to my author Facebook page and interact there.
Here’s to a fanTAStic 2019!
What are your goals for the year?