Developing a Strategy for What You Write and A Publishing Schedule

Your goals for writing should help you develop a strategy for what you write and establishing a publishing schedule.

If you are writing solely for yourself, then there’s no need for you to read further.  You are free to write whatever you want and publish anytime you want. 😀

If, however, you are writing for yourself and others or for others, then this post is for you.

The first step is to figure out what you are going to write.

This depends on who you are writing for.  Who is your audience?  Pick some self-published and traditionally published books that are selling well in the area you want to write.  Then list down common things that are in all or most of the books.  For example, let’s look at romance.  The most basic element in a romance is the happy ending.  Dividing it down to Regencies, I’ve noticed scandals do pretty well or there is a rake who will be reformed before the book is over.  Those aren’t the only common elements in popular Regencies, but there is definitely a preference for those things that Regency lovers enjoy.  Another thing you might look at is heat level or violence level.  Is it PG, PG 13, R?  A Christian romance noted for its G or PG content will not appeal to the romance reader who prefers R content.  This is why you not only look at the overall genre but you break it down into subcategories within the genre and pick out similarities in those.

Once you have listed 3-5 common elements that you have noticed in the books you want to write, think of ways you can incorporate them into your book.  This is not taking someone else’s idea and rewriting it.  This is taking basic components that can’t be copyrighted and making a plot around them.

For example, if you decide to write a Regency, then you’ll want to pick out a couple of things that might make the story more likely to appeal to your target audience.  (Understand, of course, that doing this doesn’t guarantee a certain number of sales but it might help your book be more appealing to your audience.  There is never a guarantee of sales, no matter what you do.)  Anyway, back to the Regency example.  Let’s say the writer picks out 3 common things: a scandal, a rake who will be reformed, and a happy ending.  The writer then sits down and picks out, “What will be the scandal?” Then the writer decides, “Who is my rake?  What made him that way?  How will the heroine reform him?” And finally, “How will these two get a happy ending?”

All I did in the example above was take the common trends in popular books in a particular genre and apply elements in it that I could incorporate into my own story.  This way, I do have a unique story, but I am also keeping my audience in mind.  So I’m able to write for myself and for them.

The second step is to figure out a publishing schedule.

Write.

Unless you’re publishing books, you’re not going to have the chance to make money.  This doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality or skimp on editing.   What it means is you get serious about writing.  The only way a book is going to get written is for you to sit down and write.  And yes, I know this is easier said than done.  There are days when I don’t get much more than a couple sentences down.  Sometimes I have to sit down for 15 minutes and write down anything because writing is like pulling teeth and I have to force it.  It’s not fun.  But I’ve learned the muse is fickle and you can’t wait until you’re “in the mood” to do it.  This is why I reward myself for writing on those days with a something I like.

Write whenever you can.

I understand how hard it is to write when you have no set routine.  As much as I’ve tried to set a routine, I just haven’t been able to do it.  Just because I work at home, it doesn’t mean those around me leave me alone.  I am bombarded with stuff all the time.  Some people can do a routine and do very well at it.  Others just write whenever they have a moment to spare.  I am the “moment to spare” kind of writer.  I start first thing in the morning and stop in the early evening.  Throughout the day, I’m taking care of the family, doing the chores around the house, and trying to work in emails and blog posts.   Write however and whenever you can.

The next book is the best marketing tool you control.

Depending on how fast you can write and get a book edited, you may not be able to publish as often as another writer.  That’s fine.  Do the pacing that works best for you.  Just understand that if you’re not getting a book out, it’s going to be harder for people to remember you for when your next one comes out.  Social networking has its place, but I still think the best marketing tool an author has is the actual book.  The percentage of people who buy and read books is higher than the percentage who pal around with authors on a social networking site.

How often to publish depends on your situation but try to keep it consistent.

I read a blog post years ago that said you need to publish four books a year to maintain a living as a writer.  I don’t know if that’s true or not.  It would depend on how well your books sell.  A book that hits the top 100 paid in any store is going to go further than four books that only sell one copy a month.  But my thinking is that having a couple books out a year will increase your chances of getting noticed and retaining your current fan base than if you only did 0-1 book a year.  Something new helps remind people you are still out there and will keep them searching for new books.  Email lists are good for that, too.

I would suggest whatever publishing schedule you choose, that you make it as consistent as possible.  Some people write an entire trilogy and then publish one book a month.  Nothing’s wrong with that.  Some people publish every six months. That’s fine too.  I tend to publish whenever I have a book ready, and since my average is six books a year, that’s doable because of how many I have going out annually.  If you only publish once a year, maybe choose a particular month so your readers get used to looking for your newest book around that time of year.  Maybe you can send out teaser scenes or character interviews once a month to remind people you’re working on the next book in the meantime if you don’t publish frequently.

24 Comments

  1. Elke Feuer says:

    Great article, Ruth Ann! Wow! Six books a year. You’re my hero!

    My goal at the moment is two books a year. I’m a ‘stick to a schedule’ kind of person. If I didn’t, I’d never get things done. 🙂 I took my process a step further and actually worked out a production calendar with dates on when the book would be completed, go to critique partners/beta readers, editors, etc. It helps keep me on track and schedule resources (editors, etc.) since their schedules are often booked months in advance. It also helps with requesting reviews, book signings, etc. Not to mention being able to answer the question, “When’s your next book coming out?” LOL!

    A post by Denise Grover Swank helped me put it together, so I thought I’d share. http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/a-business-plan-for-self-published-authors-part-three-of-a-three-part-series

    1. I would love to get on a schedule. When the kids are out of the house, I might finally be able to do it, but for the time being, something usually pops up with them that requires me to leave the computer.

      I love your production calendar idea! That definitely helps to give a heads up to the editing team and helps plan for everything else you need to do. I love how organized you are.

      Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out!

      1. Elke Feuer says:

        Hi Ruth Ann!

        Not everyone is made for a schedule. Sounds like you’re doing great if you’re able to put out six books. 🙂

        My pleasure! It’s also a helpful link if you’re writing a business plan.

        I’m SO not that organized, Ruth Ann. Just ask my husband and kids, but I really appreciate you saying so. 😉

        1. I got around to reading the link you posted a couple weeks ago but am now just getting caught up on this blog. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for it. Denise really offers a lot of information. I went ahead and read some other posts she did. I’m impressed with how much she’s willing to share. 🙂 Thanks for the link!

  2. I never thought about looking for common elements. That’s something I should definitely do some time. Thanks Ruth.

    1. I didn’t think about doing it until about two years ago. I notice when I do look for common elements, the books sell better than the ones I don’t plan out first. I don’t do every book this way. Some books just won’t fit. But I have to decide if the book is worth writing because it won’t make me as much money.

      1. Well, maybe the next book I write, I’ll look for commonalities. It might get me a few extra sales. Who knows?

        1. I’m trying a new line based off commonalities I see in historical westerns as an experiment. I typically write books that are part of a series, but for this one, I made it a standalone. That way, if it doesn’t sell as well as I hope, I’m not committed to writing more. I think part of writing is about exploring different things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. 😀

          1. Good philosophy. I like to experiment as well. I’ll be doing some of that this summer, if I’m lucky. Going to be trying erotica for the first time. Looking forward to seeing how it goes.

            1. I know you have a lot on your plate. I hope you’re able to try erotica. I’d love to know if your experiment pays off. Some of mine do and some don’t. But I think erotica is still a good market to tap into.

  3. Harliqueen says:

    A great detailed plan, thanks for sharing, gave me some ideas on planning my schedule 🙂

  4. good advice. My sister and I have monthly goal trackers. We reward ourselves for meeting our goals. Since we are both writing and editing each others work, we have editing goals as well. Our goal is to finish our current projects by april.

    1. I love working with someone else on similar goals. it helps so much when you’re trying to stay on task and makes things fun.

      I hope you reach your April goals!

  5. ronfritsch says:

    Ruth, I would love to be so unorganized I could only publish six books a year!

    1. Sometimes it frustrates me that I can’t write faster. I know that sounds bad, but I have so many ideas buzzing in my head and wish I could write more just to get them on paper. 🙂

  6. Barb says:

    I just used a schedule for my last book, and found it was so much more enjoyable and easier. I took 6 months to research it, but that was because of good weather, and I know with gardening and landscaping, kids out of school, and travel. I can’t get steady writing time…so I devoted it to outlining and doing research in bits and pieces. When it was time to write, it was easy because I’d already had the story written in my head (and most of the details). I wish I’d read this post when I’d first started writing years ago, Life would’ve been easier. Thanks for the great counsel,.

    1. I’m so glad the schedule worked for you! That’s awesome. 😀

      I like your idea of doing the research and outlining while you can’t get the steady writing time in then writing once everything settles down. It’s very inspiring.

  7. M T McGuire says:

    Excellent advice and loved the last bit about launching books in a certain month. I’ve just finished a four book series humorous science fiction fantasy with a strong romantic theme in books 2 and 4 (PG). Some very useful ideas there.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. How exciting on the four book series! Have you decided when you’ll be publishing your books?

      1. M T McGuire says:

        I have, I’ve kind of missed the boat for April so I reckon 12th June for the first one or near as dammit, and 12th July for the second one. There is even some romance in books 2 and 4.It’s for teenagers so it’s quite chaste romance, would I call that cosy? No squelchy scenes anyway just kissing.

        So yeh, humorous science fiction fantasy action adventure petrolpunk romance. Mmm there’s a mash up. I am hugely excited though and already beginning to think about some new stuff too.

        Cheers

        MTM

        1. I have a friend who did very well in the teen romantic science fiction series she wrote. I think with more teens getting iPhones and other gadgets (I can’t keep up with everything that’s out there), the teen market is a growing one. I read more books as a teenager than I do now because I had more free time on my hands. I think the teen market would be a great one to write for. I hope your books do well!

          1. M T McGuire says:

            Thanks. Me too. 😉

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