Sneak Peek: Excerpt from The Productive Indie Fiction Writer

We’re only a couple of weeks away from the release of The Productive Indie Fiction Writer on Stories Rule Press (which is my bookstore).

Here’s a look inside the book.

Excerpt from The Productive Indie Fiction Writer: Strategies for Writing More, Earning More, and Living Well.  Proven tactics from an author of 200+ fiction titles by Tracy Cooper-Posey

Copyright (c) 2023. All rights reserved.

The Power of Prolificacy: Why Writing More Matters

As I mentioned in the Introduction, I’m not here to convince you that writing a novel every two weeks is a good thing, because it’s not actually a good thing for most authors, including me.

That’s not what I mean by “prolific”.

So let’s nail down what “prolific” does mean for indie authors.

It’s pretty simple.

You’re prolific when you’re writing and releasing as many books as you can, in the time you have available to write them, and at a pace that keeps you happily writing over the long term.

There’s a few variables in there than need unpacking, but this definition at its broadest applies to every writer, no matter your situation.

“When you’re writing and releasing as many books as you can…”

I keep sliding “and releasing” into my definitions and conversation because it’s easy to overlook this side of the indie writer’s career when talking about prolificacy. It’s more appealing to focus on the putting down of words, for that is the heart of our business.

But you must ship your books.

That means finding time for “post-production” – the clean up, editing, formatting of books, cover design and packaging, uploading to book retailers, marketing and launch execution, plus a lot more tiny but essential steps.

If you do not release your books, you are indulging in a writing hobby, not an indie career. Therefore, post-production must get as much attention as the writing of prose.

Similarly, just writing books at whatever pace you arrive at doesn’t meet the criteria of “prolific”.

You have to be writing books at the best pace you can manage.

For example, I’ve written two books this year. I called it a victory, and it was. Some days, I would stare at the screen and couldn’t make sense of what I was looking at. For months, I had “chemo brain”. Spreadsheets or anything to do with money or figures was lost to me. I got my math brain back eventually, I’m pleased to report (it seemed to kick in overnight).

Similarly, my ability to write fiction wavered in an out. It never quite left me the way the numbers did, but some days it was a pure struggle and even more days when I simply could not write.

On the other hand, there were days when I blew off writing for no better reason than I just didn’t feel like writing. There were a lot of those days. It was very easy to tell myself “Oh, you have cancer. Take it easy on yourself. Everyone will understand.”

But I was cheating myself, no one else. There were days I could have written and didn’t.

Most of the days I didn’t write, though, were days when it simply didn’t occur to me to write. I’d got out of the habit of writing. Not writing is a habit, too.

So I don’t call my two books finished so far this year as being my best, most prolific pace, because it wasn’t.

Let me hasten to add: Whatever your best, most prolific pace turns out to be, you will never reduce Resistance and procrastination to nothing. You will blow off days. It is inevitable and you should plan for it. I’ll explain more about this further on.

For now, remember that no one is a machine, capable of flawless and relentless production. Resistance will kick your butt more often than you like. The trick is to minimize it as much as you can.

However, I did more than just duck a few days of writing. There were a lot of them. In my gut, I know that two books for the first half of this year was not me being prolific.

What would have been my best, most prolific pace for the front half of this year? I honestly don’t know. More than two books, at least. This is a new level of production for me, including as it did days when writing was genuinely, and unexpectedly, impossible. I have no historical precedence by which to judge what would have been my prolific best.

But I’m keeping records, and anything more than two books for the second half of this year will please me.

That’s all you can do, too. Do better than you’ve done before. Even if it’s only a smidgen better.

You’ll know if you’re genuinely working hard, or if you’re goofing off. No one else needs to know. Unfortunately, though, you will know.

“…in the time you have available to write them…”

When traditional publishing was the only game in town, most writers had day jobs. Those day jobs were sometimes related to writing (teaching, editing, reviewing, public speaking, etc.), or were completely unrelated to writing. But all the day jobs paid the bills that semi-annual or annual royalties did not.

Only a small percentage of traditionally published authors could afford to write full time. They were either the mega sellers like Stephen King, or the mid-list authors who wrote under a dozen different pen names, ghost wrote novels for more illustrious writers and non-writers, and survived from royalty cheque to royalty cheque by dint of a solid work ethic.

These days, there are even fewer traditionally published authors making a living purely from their fiction output.

Dean Wesley Smith reported on a 2022 USA trial between publishers and the government to prevent a merger that would see the Big Five publishers reduced to the Big Four:

During the trial, a couple of depressing statistics were shared: of the 58,000 trade titles published per year, fully half of those titles “sell fewer than one dozen books.” (Not a typo, that’s one dozen.) More broadly, 90 percent of titles sell fewer than 2,000 units. Even a small advance of a few thousand dollars would not earn out at standard royalty rates.[1]

As traditional publishers limit an author to one, perhaps two, books a year, very few authors can live on traditional royalties anymore.

But a great many indie authors can live comfortably on their indie revenue. The Alliance of Independent Authors released a survey this year showing that indie authors out-earn traditionally published authors by a wide margin.[2]

The mean earnings of approximately $12,000 USD/year reported by the authors who participated in the report was impacted by authors who have yet to earn anything, and outliers who earn millions of dollars a year.

The average reported income was over $80,000 USD a year.

There are a lot of indie authors who can afford to write full time. This might not describe you (yet). But there’s a good chance it does.

The definition of “prolific” includes this variant of time, because you can only write in the time you have available. How much actual time that is varies wildly from writer to writer.

It’s not simply a matter of if you’re writing around a day job, or writing full time, either.

More established authors, those with the big back lists, have more administrative demands on their time than newer writers with only a handful of titles to manage.

Your personal life will also have an impact on how much time you can devote to writing.

If you have dependent children to care for, or are caring for ill family members, or elderly parents; if you have an illness yourself, or a chronic condition that hampers your ability to write; if you need to spend a few weeks working a part time job to pay bills until your indie income picks up…. there are a lot of variations, conditions, provisos and other events that limit how much time you can spend writing.

Whatever the hours per week you carve out of your life for writing, you need to write for all the hours you’ve banked.

If you do that, you’re being prolific.

“…and at a pace that keeps you happily writing over the long term.”

Yeah, there’s the Mach 10, hair-on-fire pace I mentioned earlier. I tend to think of this pace as the runaway train pace; the boiler is steaming, rivets are popping, no one is getting off this steel beast.

And sometimes, you might find yourself writing at exactly this pace. There are times when you’ll find it desirable or necessary to pull out the stops and really smash your records.

I’ve had days like that. My personal best is 20,000 words in one day. I’ve done it exactly twice. I’m not in a hurry to do it again. I fell into bed on those days with my eyes grainy, my head throbbing and a husband who understood the need…but didn’t like being ignored for 12+ hours. (He was very gracious, all the same.)

Plus, I don’t remember writing too many words the next day.

10,000 word days are more common for me, but they require stoking the boiler a bit, too. Plus, negotiations with the family and restructuring my day to give myself room to write. And I always have to be careful about staying on pace the next day.

After a lot of experimenting and record-keeping, I’ve currently settled on a steady, 4,800 words per day. Seven days a week.

This is my happy pace. I can complete 4,800 words in about four hours. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but not often.

What is key about this pace is that I can produce 4,800 words day after day, after day.

As you’ll learn, consistency is the super power of the productive indie writer. Consistency is far more powerful than all the 20,000 word days you can muster, by an exponential factor.

So the last variant of the definition for prolificacy is that you write at your happy pace, the pace you can repeat over and over, day in and day out.

It doesn’t matter if your happy pace is a “mere” 1,000 words a day, or 10,000 words a day. And yes, there are writers who think 10,000 words every single day is a doddle, including Rachel Aaron, who turned 10K/day into a mantra[3], and Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver, who call a 10,000 word day “making cheese”[4]

What matters is that you hit your number every single day that you plan to write.

Do that, and you bring the consistency superpower into play, and that’s a game changer.

Just to drill this home, let me repeat the definition in its entirety.

You’re prolific when you’re writing and releasing as many books as you can, in the time you have available to write them, and at a pace that keeps you happily writing over the long term.

So why is being prolific so essential?

There are a zillion productivity blogs, books, courses, support groups. I know that because I follow an awful lot of them myself. My library is jammed with productivity books and advice—some of which I even follow.

In relationship to indie fiction writing, though, “productive” has a unique meaning and it is in that context that I use the word.

Productivity and the Indie Fiction Writer.

Amazon released its first Kindle eReader in 2007, which ushered in the Indie industry and an era of easy money for any author getting in on the ground floor. Since then, the industry has matured.

Indie fiction authors who have been in the industry for a while, who have built their platforms and learned the ins and outs, have come to realize that one of the key strategies for stimulating sales and keeping their business moving forward is to publish often.

I have been indie publishing since March 2011 and I can see the effect of publishing every 30 days on my own sales records. In two words: it works.

Another word used for publishing often is prolific.

I actually prefer “prolific” and “prolificacy” because they very specifically mean “to write a lot”. However, most resources, authors, and search engines prefer “productive” instead.

Yet there is a secondary type of productivity that indie fiction authors must deal with.

The Other Meaning of Productive

There is, frankly, a crap-ton of “stuff” that indie authors must take care of.

A short list, straight from my brain to my fingers, includes:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Production
  • Packaging
  • Formatting
  • Accounts & Bookkeeping
  • Taxes
  • Marketing
  • Networking
  • Advertising
  • Promotion
  • Business Planning
  • Finances
  • Contractors
  • Training and development
  • Public Relations
  • Legal affairs

Corporations have entire departments taking care of each one of these areas.

Indie writers are small business people, and if we don’t do the work ourselves, we must hire contractors to handle matters…which requires management of the contractors and the associated paperwork.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch posted a blog about sustainability, along with the observation that “The big topic among successful indie writers in the last six months of 2017 is the possibility of burnout.”[5]

This “everything-else-but-writing” area is where having good systems set up to help you cope with the load and avoid burnout is critical.

Hence the secondary application of “productive” in regards to indie fiction writers.

[1]What a Number… Shocking. WHY WOULD ANY AUTHOR GO TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED??”  Dean Wesley Smith, August 31, 2022

[2]Self-publishing Authors Earn More says ALLi Income Survey,” Alliance of Independent Authors, April 17, 2023

[3]Guest Post: How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day,” Rachel Aaron, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, December 14, 2011, and also, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, Rachel Aaron, Aaron/Bach Publisher, October 7, 2012

[4] How to Write Fast: Better Words Faster, Sean M. Platt and Neeve Silver, Sterling & Stone, July 2019

[5]Business Musings: Sustainability,” Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, December 6, 2017

Is your indie writing business overwhelming you?  Are you flailing, looking for the way to increase your revenue?

Are you constantly buying courses, watching webinars and wondering how to get ahead?

There is so much information available for indies that, often, we don’t know where to start or who to trust.

Dip into The Productive Indie Fiction Writer and learn how to deal with everything that comes at you on a daily basis.  Get back control of your writing career not by adopting yet another system, or buying yet another expensive technological solution, but by going back to basics.

Get organized.  Get a handle on your writing business…and your life.

Introduction: It’s time to stop the madness

About You.

Section I:  Writing More

The Power of Prolificacy: Why Writing More Matters

Backlist is Holy

Does Writing Fast = Crap?

Build a Writing Routine You Can Stick To

Keep Word Count Logs

How to Build A Workable, Useful Production Schedule

Using your production schedule and writing schedule.

Procrastination, Resistance and Ducking The Writing

Textual Shorthand For Manuscripts, or: Do NOT Click Away!

Resenting the Schedule

5 More Powerful Strategies to Defeat Resistance

Anyone Can Write Faster. Even You.

How to Juggle Your Production Schedule So You’re Never Bored.

The Flip Side To Beating Resistance.

Hitting the Mattresses

Watch, thou, for thy mutant voice!

Section II:  Thriving In the Indie Publishing World

5 Types Of Writing Sprints – And Why You Need This Tool

Managing The Tsunami Of Information

Direct Sales Is a Tactic For the Productive Writer

Should You Use Multiple Pen Names?

The Power Of Short Stories

Write Short

Handling The Costs of Writing Lots of Books

Writing in Series

Backlist Maintenance

9 High Level Hacks to Preserve Your Indie Revenue in Our Current Hard Times

Why Being Productive And Prolific Pays Off In The Long Term

The Last Remaining Temptation Of Indie Authors

Section III:  Living Well

Why “Live Well”?

Re-energize Your Writing In Just One Step

Dealing with Discouragement

Don’t Look Down!

Why You Might Want to Start Moving More

How To Deal with Overwhelm

Is It Really Burnout?

The Case for Writing Less

Slowing…but not stopping.

Where Next?

Final thoughts

Appendix: Recommended Resources

Writing, Research & Publishing Guides | Publishing & Books | Authorship

The Productive indie Fiction Writer is available for pre-order everywhere, including all retail stores. It release on Stories Rule Press on September 28th, and releases everywhere else on December 28th.

If you haven’t bought directly from me, before, here’s a tip: There is a 10% off coupon code on the front page at Stories Rule Press.

If you have purchased from Stories Rule Press before, then you will have reward points you can use to earn a discount on your purchase, as there is no minimum point level — if you have points, you can use them straight away.

Buy from me at Stories Rule Press

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Write More, Faster Than Ever Before

Are You Prolific?

The Productive Indie Fiction Writer Workbook now available for pre-order!

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