In December this year (2021), The Productive Indie Fiction Writer will be four years old. When I started the blog, I thought that indie publishing was reaching a level of maturity and would stabilize.
There has possibly been more movement and change in the last four years of indie publishing than there was in the years since it began (which I count as 2007 – the year the Kindle was launched).
In addition, my own ideas about productivity, prolificacy and work-life balance for authors has undergone radical changes since the launch of the blog, and I need to review my own stance on many of the obstacles that trip up indie authors on their way to publication.
I have, for some time, been itching to dig back into the older posts on this site and review them. Now that I’ve begun the Patreon page, this seems like an ideal time to dig into the earliest posts, review them and bring them up to date.
Posts will appear on the Patreon page first, and will eventually appear on the PIFW site.
So, having said that, let’s dig into the first actual content post on the site:
Why have “productive” in The Productive Indie Fiction Writer?
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.
It also has a business-related meaning, which I will come to.
Productivity and the Indie Fiction Writer.
As I mentioned above, the indie industry is approximately fourteen years old, which is mature for most industries. Yet the indie publishing industry seems hell bent on shifting and pivoting about every six months.
In addition, there are long term issues that the industry still hasn’t properly solved (scammers and cons, for example) and other issues that authors must personally resolve for themselves, that won’t be going away any time soon (KU versus wide, for e.g.).
In the original post, I said that indie fiction authors have learned that a key to surviving is to publish often.
This is still true today…with some qualifications.
The KU versus Wide debate has moved beyond a debate to become a movement and a publishing philosophy. To be completely accurate, this division should be stated as “authors who choose to publish exclusively to Amazon, via their Kindle Select program versus authors who eschew exclusivity and publish on as many retail marketplaces as they can” – but let’s stick with the commonly accepted shorthand of “KU versus wide”.
Research, pooling of data and building of niche author communities has made us all collectively more aware of how different these two approaches to publishing really are.
If you’re publishing in Kindle Select
Not only did what I say four years ago still hold for KU authors, but it holds even more so. Things are getting tight in the KU program. More and more new authors and books appear each day, and many of them are in KU, making visibility and rank, the two key factors for success in KU, even more difficult to maintain.
I said in 2018:
Amazon algorithms favor authors who release a title every 30 days or less, and that is the current benchmark. To get ahead–or at the very least, not roll backwards–you, the indie fiction author, must publish every 30 days.
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.
Most authors groan when they hear they must produce and ship every 30 days. Yet the rate is quite easy to maintain, once you have yourself organized.
As I write this post, I am currently producing 80K every four weeks, divided into a novel and a novelette, which lets me release every two weeks, under three different pen names.
But I am not in the Kindle Select program. I did spend about six months in the program in 2019, just to see if the currents have shifted at all. They haven’t. I withdrew from the program in early 2020 with a deep sigh of relief.
KU isn’t for everyone. It’s a huge gamble, and if you can’t launch big, you’ll lose your shirt.
Therefore, being super productive and prolific is a factor in succeeding in KU.
If you publish widely.
Wide authors can pick their own publishing schedule. If you can only write a book a quarter, that’s fine. Launching hard and ranking high are not factors when you’re wide. It’s a much longer term game. You’re going for steadiness as a wide author.
That means consistency.
If, when you’ve figured out your writing schedule, and think you can write and publish a book every six weeks, then your readers will get used to that schedule, and look for your next book in six weeks’ time. If you don’t produce a book, they’ll buy someone else’s instead.
They may never get back to your new book because now they don’t know when it will be out (because the pattern is broken), and they’ll forget (in the rush of new books each week) to come back and check.
Or they’ll check in a few months’ time, and maybe they’ll buy your book…or not. After all, it’s been a while since they read the last one…
Consistent, steady production of books—in as slow a pace as needed to let you have a life and write—is one of the keys for wide success.
So, being productive helps wide authors, too. In another way, it can also be beneficial:
If, by tweaking your processes a little, shifting your work process around, or making other small or large changes, you find you can now publish a book every five weeks instead of every six (say), it can make a big difference in your annual revenue. Now you’ve shifted from publishing just over eight books a year, to ten books a year.
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.
That works well for this site, because there is a secondary type of productivity that indie fiction authors must deal with.
The Other Meaning of Productive
There is, frankly, a shit-ton of “stuff” that indie authors must take care of. A short list, straight from my brain to my fingers, includes:
Accounts & Bookkeeping
Training and development
Corporations have entire departments taking care of just one of these areas.
Indie writers are small business people, and if they don’t do the work themselves, they must hire contractors to handle matters…which requires management of the contractors and attending paperwork.
This “everything-else-but-writing” area is where having good systems set up to help you cope with the load is critical.
Hence the secondary application of “productive” in regards to indie fiction writers.
This is still true for indie authors. Perhaps even more so. The list of “stuff” we have to take care of has lengthened, not reduced. Items not on the original list that are near essential these days:
Contract negotiation and management
Intellectual property management
Cooperative publishing ventures
And a lot more activity now squeezes under the “Business Planning” heading. Every second week or so, we learn of a new opportunity for indie authors that must be researched, investigated, and a decision made to step into that arena or not. If the idea is green-lit, then we have to set up in that new arena.
For example, fiction apps are currently a hot ticket item, with some authors succeeding wildly with them. Kindle Vella, the serial app, recently launched with Amazon. Next week, there will be something else to check out.
If you decide to get involved in any of these new approaches to publishing fiction, then you’ll have to sink time into setting up your backlist with them, or writing new content for the new medium.
Also, now that there are so many indie books out there, staying visible and communicating with readers—that is, marketing—is even more essential. No matter what marketing strategies and tactics you decide to adopt, you’re probably spending more time doing them now than you did four years ago. And the same innovations happen in marketing that happen in publishing—a new advertising venue, or promotion scheme pops up every single week.
Being productive, efficient and prolific has never been more important. But with the ever-present threat of burn-out, so has “balance” become something we must bear in mind.
So what is “productive” from an indie fiction writer perspective?
Peak productivity is writing and efficiently administering your business so that you can publish books at a rate that is sustainable over the long term.
That’s the whole enchilada, right there.
Finding the best publishing rate for you, the one that will let you write and publish for as long as you want, is everything else you’ll find on PIFW.