A Twitter follower asked for help on fiction-writing success.
Coming off the back of a niche site tweet about creating assets for passive income, he asked how to approach doing so with fiction.
In particular, he wanted to know about writing serials, marketing books and getting people invested in the world he has created.
That’s great stuff, because fiction is perfect for creating assets that create residual income, and if you write in series, then you have the potential to create an ecosystem of assets.
Let’s talk about this question then and see what we can come up with.
First Of All…
Our reader sent some work, and I had a quick look at it, but I’m not going to go into the technical aspects of writing with this article. There are a few reasons;
- I didn’t read enough to give an informed opinion
- The series is sci-fi, which I’m not an expert on
- There are much better writers out there with better words on writing technique
- It’d make the article too broad
But I can talk about the business aspects of writing and publishing fiction, so let’s get started.
(Time Out: If you’re enjoying this article, then you should probably sign up to my mailing list, where I give out ideas and business tricks that I don’t share publicly. Click here, fill out your details and get yourself on the list! You won’t leave this page.
Now Back To The Regular Programming Schedule…)
Biggest Marketing = Publishing
I asked our reader if he’d published anything.
“Not yet,” he replied.
So that’s the first big mistake.
With writing fiction, your biggest marketing tool is releasing new work.
Michael has planned nine novellas, and written five already. None of them are published yet.
Here’s the problem with that from a business perspective:
- None of your work is earning money right now
- None of your potential audience is being exposed to your work right now
You can write a single short story, price it at $2.99 and put it on Amazon in a day. And you might sell five copies. It probably won’t be a bestseller. But those five copies are five copies where someone might enjoy your story, sign up for your email list and then become a future customer.
Right now, they’re on your hard drive not working for you.
And if it takes you three months to finish your series, then that’s an extra three months where this process isn’t occurring.
The best marketing for an author is to constantly release new stuff.
How do you know your work is going to sell?
Let’s say you create a story that’s set in deep space, on a spaceship. That might sell well. It might not. You don’t know until you publish it.
Let’s say you have another idea to release a story that’s set on a desert planet. Or a jungle planet.
Those are three ideas which, if you hit publish, you’ll test against each other.
Same with characters, other settings, plots, etc.
The data you get from early releases informs the work you do in the future.
To summarise this bit: release, release early, release often.
Marketing Your Books: Don’t Overcomplicate Things
Michael sent me a list of ideas that he’d brainstormed. Audiobooks with soundtracks, different pricing models, releasing by chapters…
… and I thought that it was too complicated.
Don’t get me wrong. Audiobooks are good. Serials are good and pricing is important.
But you have to go one step at a time and you have to take into account that if something is “novel” it’s hard to get a market for it.
Here’s how I’d approach pricing for books:
Go and look at what other people are doing. For novella serials, there’s a price structure in place that other people have already tested with their hard money.
Depending on whether you want to enrol in Kindle Unlimited or not, you’ll have one of two strategies:
- Serialise heavily. Price low. High output. Get income from page reads.
- Don’t enrol. Go wide. Price at upper end (2.99 shorts, 3.99 novellas, 5+ novels.) Get income from sales.
At the beginning, you should aim to publish as much and as quickly as possible. There are authors creating two novellas or one novel a month and more.
Sci-fi has its own rate, but for short action-adventures-in-space like Michael is writing, that’s a good pace.
Don’t worry about audiobooks yet.
Here’s the thing. Michael (and some other readers) might be thinking, “Christ, that’s a heavy pace!”
It’s enough pace when you’re not used to publishing heavily that you’ll have to acclimatise. Don’t make your job harder by trying to create an audiobook series and movie tie in.
Get to ten, fifteen, twenty books and get the process down to an art. Then worry about new media and merchandising and the like. (If you need to… people who work hard and fast tend to find their book income covers life and it’s easier than managing other stuff.)
Sci-Fi, Universe, Worlds, Series
I’m a big fan of creating serials and worlds. I wrote about it before – though I can’t remember where – that authors should do more worldbuilding and non-sequential series.
Sci-fi is perfect for this. You have a universe to explore. You spend the first “season” setting up the meta-game.
Think Star Trek. You’re introduced to humanity as a galaxy-trotting species. You’re introduced to the main characters and the Enterprise and their mission.
And then the rest is just episodes and arcs. They go to a new world. It’s new challenges. The characters develop and then they beam up ready to go again.
This can be a series of books.
And just like Star Trek, you can reboot with new characters and missions whenever you want. Unlimited stories and content.
And you get a new series in the same world.
And before you know it, you can have fifty books, be licensing the stories out to an army of ghostwriters, have the movie deal and George Lucas your way into a billion dollar empire.
There’s never been a better time to do this and frankly I just made myself want to put more attention into my publishing business, to be honest.
The publishing industry is a perfect representation of how small things become big things.
I started with saying, “Just bloody write some stuff and hit publish” and end with George Lucas and billions of dollars.
But really… nothing I’ve written is untrue.
If you want to market your work, you keep writing. You create worlds. You explore them with characters and you reiterate and repackage that over and over again.
Write five short stories. Box them up. You have six products now.
Write a novel to go with it. Spend money on the cover and blow it up and sell the posters.
If people love your deadly assassin girl from the fifth story in series three, then she gets her own spin-off series. If you need help with looking at this, check out the romance novella writers. Some of those people have twenty books in a spin-off series about some girl who was in a coffee shop for two paragraphs back in book one.
Before you know it, people fall in love with the world and then you get the merchandise, ghost writers and audiobooks. You don’t have to research this because people who read your books will give you what you need to do.
Just make sure you get the FB page set up, the mailing list set up and keep pushing out content, and they’ll find you.
The rest you can figure out as you go.