I’m getting close to the halfway mark on my two-year plan. Progress is slower than I’d hoped it would be, at least as far as sales/reviews go. I had really hoped to have at least 20 reviews on To the North by the end of the first year – but I’m extremely doubtful that will happen at this point.
I find myself battling my own personality a bit. I’m hesitant to ask other people for favors, and I really don’t want to be a nag, but I know there are friends of mine (and friends of friends) who have read the book but haven’t posted a review. While on the one hand I try not to take it personally – after all, I never leave reviews for anything myself – the other hand is busy throwing obscene gestures in their direction. “Come on!” I whine. “It takes 30 seconds and it will help me out soooo much!” But then the first hand jumps in and says, “They read the book, that was a pretty big favor already. You can’t ask them for more than that.” And the second hand slaps it across the knuckles and says, “I didn’t force them to read it! I didn’t beg them. I was extremely laid back about it!” Then some mutant third hand whispers from the corner, “Maybe if you weren’t so laid back about it, they’d feel a bit more pressure to help you out.” Which leads both the other hands to yell at the mutant third hand to shut its mouth and mind its own business.
This idiom may have got away from me a bit.
But the point remains. I’m utterly frustrated. I have one friend who pledged to post a review of the book on her website over a year ago, but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. I was kind of counting on that as part of my two-year plan, using that editorial review in marketing efforts and such. But no dice. And I know she’s busy, and has a lot going on, but I didn’t ask her to write the review. She offered, freely. Just… don’t get my hopes up if you’re not going to deliver, you know?
At this point, I feel like all I can do is tighten the straps and keep writing. I am definitely planning on release two more novellas over the next calendar year, and I may or may not release the third Villages book. I’m trying not to repeat my past mistakes by putting too tight a deadline on that. I don’t want to end up with another To the East-style breakdown. Originally I had planned for it, but we’ll see. As of now, my adjusted goal for the end of year two is to at least have a release date and cover art for the third book ready, and possibly even have a pre-order draft for Kindle.
One big thing that will happen at the upcoming halfway mark, at the end of this year, is that To the North will no longer be Kindle exclusive.
You may recall that I chose to use the KDP Select program when I first released TtN, because of the built-in marketing benefits (namely, free book days and inclusion in Kindle Unlimited). Overall, I feel like this was a good move. I’ve had over 500 downloads on free book days. If I hadn’t chosen this route, there’s frankly no way I would have gotten it into those many hands. My goal in giving copies away for free is always to get more reviews, which unfortunately hasn’t panned out the way I’d hoped, but now that I’ve released TtE it’s time to try and branch out.
I decided that for my novellas, I’ll always publish on multiple platforms initially, but for full-length novels (like the Villages books) I’ll make the eBook version Kindle exclusive for the first year. That way I can use their marketing tools to try and build at least a little momentum before I send it out into the wider world, as I’m still not planning any concentrated promotion efforts for a while yet.
When I first created my two-year plan, I knew I would have to make adjustments along the way. For the most part, I’m pleased with how it’s going so far. While I desperately want more reviews coming in on Amazon and Goodreads, that’s out of my control. The part I can control is my own output, and I’ve stayed pretty much on track. I still believe that the best method, for me, will be to have several books released (with, hopefully, some positive reviews) before I start investing in marketing. It’s a slower approach, but tortoises and hares and whatnot. The hope is that any marketing I do for any one book will then have some small impact on all the other books I’ve released – at the very least, they’ll get some “also by this author” exposure. Additionally, an author you’ve never heard of who only has one book out probably won’t be as enticing as an author you’ve never heard of who has five books out.
So for now, I’m getting back into the writing. Because that’s what I really love doing. Everything else is just to make it possible for me to write full-time.