(Insert epic music here)
Welcome to Bestseller Quest, the live, real-time (if you’re reading this around January 2017) chronicle of my attempt to create a bestselling series. This will be my step-by-step process showing how I (hopefully) went from an indie author selling a handful of books per month to a bonafide bestseller with a foundation to begin making the transition from an everyday to full-time author. Let’s get started!
Throughout 2016, I’ve read a number of books and listened to several interviews with authors who finally cracked the self-publishing nut and are making solid incomes from their writing. I took notes and implemented some their strategies and tactics, but eventually came to the realization that if I wanted to truly test these methods for myself, if I really wanted to find out once and for all if this indie author game is more than just a lottery, I’d need to start from scratch. Bestseller Quest is intended to be my zero-to-hero journey you can follow step-by-step. Instead of showing my success at the end and talking in retrospect, I want everyone to see the blood, sweat and tears along the way, as they happen.
Here’s a quick origin story to set things up:
As many of you know (or can find out if you read the Everyday Author Archives) I started indie publishing in 2013. I had a helping hand from a number of authors but really didn’t know a whole lot about the world I’d just entered. Then, after Christmas 2013, I used an Amazon giftcard to buy a certain ebook on the Kindle app. It came courtesy of Amazon’s also-bought category, which I’ll forever owe the Amazon robots for. That book was Write. Publish. Repeat.
Write. Publish. Repeat. (WPR) pulled back the curtains for me and showed me what it was really going to take to make it as an indie. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and Dave Wright introduced me to a world I didn’t even realize I was part of when I published my first title. If I was Luke Skywalker, writing and self-publishing Out of Exile was me chasing after R2-D2 in the desert. These guys were my Ben Kenobi who led me on my first steps into a larger world.
Fast forward three years later, and I’m Luke on Hoth — I can pull my lightsaber out of the snow to save me from a Wampa, but I’m not a Jedi yet. Since November 2013, I’ve learned a metric crap-ton of stuff from a variety of podcasts, books and good, old-fashioned mistakes I’ve made. I’m a better writer and marketer now, which is why I’ve decided to take this challenge.
Teutevar Saga will always be dear to my heart and I intend to get back to the series in 2018, but I came to the realization I would need to build a new foundation for this experiment. Here’s why:
Out of Exile was the first book I published. Although it’s been revised and edited numerous times, it could probably use another polish, given what I’ve learned about story since I last revisited it — not ideal conditions for a written to market book. I want a stronger launching point.
The Teutevar Saga has three books remaining, each of which I anticipate will be at least 150k words long. Given my circumstances (day job and other responsibilities), it would take me almost an entire year to write 450k words. And that’s just the rough drafts!
The Teutevar Saga is definitely a medieval fantasy epic, but it’s not a perfect fit in some of the smaller sub-categories I can realistically compete in as an indie (as it stands, anyway). It’s technically not written to market. Furthermore, the first three books have been out since March 2016, May 2015 and November 2013. This limits the number of launch strategies I can use, especially with new releases. If I’d chosen to write books 3,4 and 5 for this challenge, I’d only be working with a small group of readers who are already invested in the series.
Nevertheless, I have a few advantages I will be bringing to the table.
What I’m bringing to the table
I have a small but growing mailing list of just under 500 readers. Since the new trilogy, I will be writing is also in a sub-genre of fantasy (more on this in the next post), I believe most of them will be interested in reading it.
I said small but growing mailing list — I’m currently using Author Platform Rocket to grow my list. I’ve done okay in the past with Facebook ads for this, but Author Platform Rocket gets better results for cheaper and it also allows me more writing time.
Experience. As I mentioned above, it’s difficult to make a new book in a long series a success if your entry hole at the beginning is so small. I won’t list out all the hard lessons I’ve learned in the past three years (we’ll cover many of them later, anyway) but it’s safe to say I have a much more specific and effective set of strategies and tactics for this experiment. (A particular set of skills, if you will).
What I’m starting fresh with
A brand new trilogy, unrelated to my current series. Aside from a short story coming out as part of an anthology in January, there is absolutely nothing out there in this world. Could I have done a spinoff in the Teutevar Saga world? Probably, but my world building there didn’t allow for some of the tropes I’m using in this new trilogy.Mindset. I’m going into this with a professional mindset. In the past, I’ve cut a few corners in the writing, editing,
Mindset. I’m going into this with a professional mindset. In the past, I’ve cut a few corners in the writing, editing, publishing and marketing process, but everything is going to be by the book (we’ll talk about which books I’m using as a guide later). The strategies I’m using have been proven by more established authors, and if I can do it at this point in my career, anyone can.
What’s in store
Although I’m also going to throw in some video and audio clips here and there, the real meat of everything I’m doing will be in written format. EVERYTHING related to this project will be documented and designed to be replicated.