From author David Gaughran:
My goals and dreams have changed a lot since I started self-publishing in 2011. I haven’t been a big success, but I’ve been able to tick off little career milestones along the way. Some months my sales are wonderful, some months they are terrible – generally a function of how long it is since I released or promoted something. Overall, the good months more than outweigh the bad and I’ve been scratching out a living for a while now.
But, as all writers know, the sales maw is insatiable. I’ve been noodling ways to take my career to the next level.
I feel like I’ve got a good handle on the publishing/marketing side of things, but I’m still serving my apprenticeship as a writer – especially as a writer of fiction. Non-fiction comes naturally to me. I find it quicker and easier and (much) less of a brain-melting puzzle. Whereas, fiction is much more of a challenge – probably why I find it ultimately more satisfying.
. . . .
Simon asked why I wrote all over the map: short stories, science fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and asked if that was something I would recommend to others.
I believe my reply was something like “Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha… no” before comparing it to fighting with one hand behind your back.
If you look at my output since I started self-publishing it’s, eh, a bit of a mess. I first published a pair of short stories which could be classified as literary fiction, or weird fiction, or slipstream, or whatever. Next was a meatier SF short. Then a book for writers. That was followed by a historical novel more towards the “literary” end of the spectrum. Then another book for writers. Next, I spent quite a bit of time on a dystopian project that ultimately got shelved. After that, another historical novel, but this one was more towards the “action/adventure” end of the spectrum. And so on.
. . . .
I think this is a phase a lot of writers go through – maybe it’s something they need to get out of their system. Most seem to do it at the start, before they find their groove, but we’ve all seen successful authors walk away from a cash cow to write something totally unrelated, and then return to the series/genre that was making them money (when the side-project – as is often the case – generates underwhelming sales).
. . . .
It was time for a wake-up call, which came in the form of a speech Bella Andre delivered at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, where she explained how she went from kind of treading water in traditional publishing to being a multi-million selling self-publisher.
The fascinating part was that she actually sat down and analyzed the market and concluded that (a) most mega-selling authors had a long-running series, (b) often didn’t hit that crazy breakout level of success until as late as the fifth book in a series, and (c) publishers didn’t like offering longer than two- or three-book deals (and, obviously, cut authors loose if the numbers weren’t amazing, or asked them to start a new series, or new pen-name, or whatever).
Bella Andre concluded, if memory serves, that she was going to write a five-book series and self-publish it. Or maybe it was eight books. Either way, the rest is history.
Her new series was an astonishing success and I think it’s up to ten or eleven books now.
. . . .
A light bulb went off (on?) in my head, especially when Bella advised finding the overlap between what you like to write, and what sells. I decided to try sketching out a series that was a little more commercial but still satisfied me creatively. I don’t really mean that in an overly arty sense – it’s more that I can lose focus if I’m not engaged with the idea (see: any number of abandoned WIPs on my hard drive).
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Barb for the tip.
Here’s a link to David Gaughran’s books