It’s hard to believe I’ve been indie publishing as long as I have. Thanks to Sarah, I crossed over to the Dark Side as soon as Amazon opened the doors to the unwashed masses that had been kept out of traditional publishing by the oft-lauded gatekeepers. In the years that followed, I’ve made a pretty good living at it. However, it could be better and I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last month or so looking at what I do as a writer and indie publisher and what I need to do to increase not only my exposure but my bottom line.
The final judgment? I need to shake things up some.
The only problem is I’m not quite sure exactly what needs to be done and to what extent.
Unfortunately, there is no magical formula we can use to maximize our time, get us the best promo of our work, help us find the exact right words to use as our tags or help us select the best category to place our work in. There is a lot of trial and error involved. That means math because part of that trial and error requires keeping track of money — both money made but also money spent and then the return on investment. Yes, my eyes are glazing over because I don’t do math.
There is more to it than that. Part of the equation those of us who write a lot or who have been writing for a long time have to look at is our backlist. You know, those books and short stories we wrote more than a couple of years ago. The titles that, hopefully, sold well in the beginning but whose sales have dropped to basically nothing now. Oh, sales might spike a bit if you do a promo for the old title but they aren’t sustaining. Instead, when you check your sales at the end of the week or month, you get mocked by low to no numbers from those titles.
What to do about them?
Or, should you do anything about them?
That’s actually one of the many questions I’ve been asking myself lately as I study my backlist. I have one series I wouldn’t mind going back to and one book that could easily be fitted into a current series — with a little work. But should I tackle each project and, if I decide to, how should I go about it?
It was with those questions in mind that I found myself wandering through one of the FB groups where authors ask questions and post advice and such. I belong to a number of those sorts of groups (some I joined willingly and some I got pulled into without my knowledge.) In one of those groups, the book, Relaunch Your Novel: Breathe Life Into Your Backlist, was recommended. Mind you, I’m usually skeptical about books like this. However, some of the recommendations came from people I knew. So I did my homework and checked with them. Then I clicked the buy link and sent the book to my Kindle Oasis.
Over the last couple of days, I’ve read (and re-read some parts) of the book. Much of it makes sense. Part of it is scary. What I like about the book is that the author doesn’t say he has the one true way to do it. In fact, he outlines several different ways to relaunch. He gives examples and there are exercises aimed to help you decide whether or not a relaunch is something you should do.
Most of all, he stresses that you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Not only do you have to be honest about the quality of the particular title (or titles) you are considering relaunching. Then you have to decide if it is worth the time and effort and, yes, the money necessary to do a relaunch. But no question can be answered until you’ve taken that hard look at your work.
I don’t know about you, but I hate re-reading my work. But it is eye-opening to go back and look at something you wrote five or ten years ago. Not only do you see how your craft has changed but you can see how the conversion and formatting of e-books have changed.
So, looking at the single book I’ve been considering relaunching and making part of a current series, there are a number of factors I have to consider. First, the book would need a rewrite. It wouldn’t be a toss everything out but a few scenes sort of rewrite, but it would mean going in, changing the location, bringing in some of the characters from the series and tying it all together. Not difficult but tedious and time-consuming. It would require a new cover. It would also mean taking the original work off-sale (those who have already bought would still have it in their “library”) and republishing it under the new title and brand. That means making sure the description includes the disclaimer that it was originally published as “XXX” and that this new edition contains new and/or updated content.
For one book, I’m not sure it’s worth it. Especially since I’m not sure it would add all that much to the series it would be slotted into. Instead, what I will probably do is a “soft” form of relaunch where I update the description and keywords, take a hard look at the categories, and do some reformatting that makes it look more like e-books being published today.
For the series, however, my decision is different. I do want to relaunch it. In the time since it first came out, the sub-genre it’s in has changed and it is no longer categorized correctly. I need to update the keywords. The covers need to be changed and the series needs to be rebranded. I will also do some rewriting on the series. Probably not to the level I did for Vengeance from Ashes, but the prose needs to be tightened and some information added. Then they will be reformatted and uploaded to Amazon.
The one thing reading the book, as well as researching a few other things has taught me is I need to put everything on hold for a week or two and get caught up. I need to finish formatting everything current for print. By current, I mean everything not currently under consideration for relaunch. I need to update key words or tags as well as categories. I need to talk with some of my fellow authors about doing some joint promotion for a set period of time. I also need to revisit my advertising budget and see where I’m getting the most bang for my buck and where my ROI isn’t worth the time, effort or money.
So, for the next week or two, I’m going to be butt in chair doing the business end of writing so many of us hate doing. I’ve already seen some of my efforts paying off. But those efforts have been behind the scenes. Now I need to get out in front of everything and get caught up to where I need to be in order to go forward with a solid, working plan.
In other words, I need to adult in my writing career even though I’d much rather just write.
Any thoughts? Or are you guys already dialing the number for the men with the nifty white jackets with the long arms that secure in the back, hoping they will come pay me a visit before I do anything rash? 😉