Dangerously FAST, that is.
Okay, not really THAT dangerous – I didn’t actually sprain anything, though I did lose a little sleep working late some nights.
You see, I set a goal at the beginning of 2012 (or rather, at the end of 2011) to publish a story a week, every week of 2012.
Now, don’t misunderstand – I was not going to WRITE and publish a story a week; the plan was just to publish stories already existing in my inventory while I went on with other writing projects. Still, that was a lot of work in itself. Each story I published went through a multiple-step process:
1) Create a subfolder for the project in my publishing main folder. This is where I keep the manuscript files, the cover work, blurb and other components organized.
2) Format the manuscript for e-publishing. This meant taking the original file that was in standard old manuscript format (12-point Courier New font, double-spaced, underlines instead of italics, etc.) and getting it ready for e-readers. I would change the font to Times New Roman 12-point, set it to single-spaced with 0.3″ paragraph indents, nuke out the tabs, go through and change all the underlines to italics, and add in the appropriate front and back matter for Smashwords, and create a separate file with Amazon front/back matter. I created templates to help streamline this process, but each story would take about a half hour to an hour to format, depending on length. Save these files in the appropriate subfolder and lark off the step in the master spreadsheet (the sheet I use to keep track of every step of this process, along with all my other business data).
3) Create a cover. This entailed determining the concept for the cover, searching the web for images that I could use (I’d take existing images and manipulate the crud out of them so they were unrecognizable, or use extremely generic images). Using Photoshop, I’d piece together the components, pick my fonts, position everything, add effects, etc. Save as a .jpg file. I also created a template for myself for this step – a standard-sized canvas and also a standard author name layer I could drop in for consistency. Throughout the year, I think my covers generally got better and better. For the most part. This step could take anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on the complexity of the cover. Save this file in the appropriate subfolder and also in my “all final covers” folder for quick access. Mark it complete on the spreadsheet.
4) Write the blurb. This is a pretty crucial step, as the blurb – the brief description of the story – is a huge marketing tool that must tease and entice the reader to buy and read the product. Thanks to decades of day-job training, I’m actually pretty good at hashing out a concise, appealing blurb. This step usually only took a few minutes for me. Save as a .txt file in the appropriate folder. For convenience, I’d also list the keywords in this file (keywords used when listing the product at Smashwords and Amazon). Mark it complete on the spreadsheet.
5) Publish at Smashwords. This is a pretty simple process – just involves filling out a form (includes title, blurb, categories, keywords, pricing) and uploading the cover image and the Word file. And at Smashwords, it’s remarkably quick – from the time you click PUBLISH, it’s only a matter of a few minutes until your ebook is published and available for purchase. Mark complete on the spreadsheet.
6) Obtain an ISBN. This is done via the dashboard at Smashwords. I always get the FREE ones they offer. Very simple. Note the ISBN in my spreadsheet.
7) Get a tiny URL. I go to tinyURL to obtain a shortened URL for the book’s Smashwords product page. This is to simplify things such as posting links on Twitter. I used to use bit.ly for this, but they changed it so you have to register to use them, so I went with tinyURL instead. Same result. Note the short URL in the spreadsheet.
8) Create a coupon. Next, I issue a 100% off coupon for Smashwords that doesn’t expire for a couple of years. This is so I can easily give the ebook away to family members. Note the coupon code in the spreadsheet.
9) Download the .MOBI file. Since I published the book, Smashwords recognizes that I already own it and lets me download it in any or all of the available formats (Kindle, Nook, iPad, HTML, TXT, PDF, etc.). I always save a Kindle copy to my “all Kindle files” subfolder in my publishing folder. Mark it off in the spreadsheet.
10) Publish at Amazon. This is almost as simple as publishing at Smashwords, but there are a few more steps to the form. Also, it takes about 10-12 hours for it to actually publish. Mark it on the spreadsheet and wait…
11) Update home page. While I’m waiting, I can update the main image on my website’s home page, which is a mosaic of all my book covers. Just add the latest cover and upload the new image.
12) Add to Goodreads. Also while I’m waiting, I can add my book to Goodreads. Again, it’s a matter of filling out a form. Simple.
13) Get another short URL. Once the story is published at Amazon (they send you an email confirmation) I get a tinyURL for the Amazon product page and note it in the spreadsheet.
14) Note the ASIN in the spreadsheet. This is the product number at Amazon, kind of like an ISBN. Not sure why I make note of this, I guess it just seems like it may be useful info.
15) Update the group page on my website. Now that I have a link to the Amazon product page, I can update the appropriate page on my website to include the new product (this may be on the novels page, the novellas page, the short stories page, or the anthologies page). This entails uploading the cover image and linking it to the Amazon product page, and copying in the blurb. Mark complete on the spreadsheet.
16) Update my Author Central page. At Amazon’s “Author Central” I have an author profile page that lists all my works. I just have to go there and add the latest book. Easy. Mark it off.
17) Promotion Step 1: Pinterest. All I do here is post my latest book cover to my book covers board on Pinterest with the blurb and a link to my website. Mark it complete.
18) Promotion Step 2: Twitter. In 140 characters or fewer, I need to tweet about my latest release and post a link (the short Amazon URL). This is usually done by drastically editing down the blurb. I only have about 300 followers on Twitter, so I don’t expect it to drive much traffic, but it’s still worth a try. One time I was retweeted by a very popular and influential tweep who follows me, and it immediately drove sales for that particular book. I was pretty thrilled. Mark it done on the spreadsheet.
19) Promotion Step 3: Facebook. The final step in the process, I publicly post about the latest release on Facebook. Here I have more room (characters) to describe the story and include a link. I have 500+ Facebook friends, which is not a lot, but I know that some of them like to buy my books, and some of them are kind enough to share my posts to their own networks. Mark it done on the spreadsheet and get ready to start all over again on “publishing day” the next week.
So that’s the secret to my success – a simple 19-step process. All told, probably about four hours of work a week at most. The key was being consistent – every week, week in and week out. Also, I tried to make my publication schedule make sense. that is, I released spooky stories at Halloween, mixed it up a little between short stories and anthologies, etc.
It certainly kept me busy and on my toes for a year. And it was a great feeling to achieve a pretty ambitious goal I set about this time last year. In the end, I wound up publishing 53 (instead of 52) ebooks this year. Overachiever. 🙂 Now, all told, I have 63 ebooks available (this includes my 3 novels, 6 novellas and 1 anthology published in 2011).
The results of my 2012 work? 41 short stories, 4 novellas, 7 anthologies and a flash fiction story published this year alone.
And that’s how I did it: a plan, a strategy, a spreadsheet, and dedication.
* * *
In 2013, I plan to actually WRITE and publish 7 novels and nothing else. However, one of those novels is already mostly done (first draft complete). Another two are complete but need a lot of expansion. Two more are about 30% complete (one is a sequel to AssassinWare). Another is a sequel to Rufus Quince: Bounty Hunter and has a pitch but no outline yet. The other is a novelization of a short story (Turn the Page) that will become a book series.
I can’t wait to see if I can do this…BRING ON 2013!