Back in June, Nick Cole and Jason Anspach released a military SF novel entitled Galaxy’s Edge: Legionnaire. I’d been peripherally aware of Mr. Cole for a while, ever since Harper Voyager kicked him to the curb for political reasons. But what he and Anspach pulled off made me sit up and take notice.
Because Legionnaire, a brand-new, independently-published mil-SF novel, shot to the top 100 on Kindle, and #1 in its categories, and proceeded to stay there. For weeks. And they made no secret that they wanted to share how they did it with other authors. I talked to Mr. Cole myself for a bit, and got the gears turning, even before they released their After Action Report podcast.
Cole pointed me toward the non-fiction work of Chris Fox, who has been studying what works in independent publishing, specifically Amazon, for some time. I started doing some more reading.
One of the things that came out of my conversation with Nick, reading Chris Fox, and listening to the podcast, was that many of us on the indie side haven’t been working like we’re independents. We’ve been working like we’re writing for traditional publishers. That means that two books a year is good.
It’s not, at least not for us. Because we don’t have the resources or the distribution to make big names for ourselves with only a book ever six to nine months. Especially not when Amazon’s algorithm is, apparently, based on a 30-60 day window.
“A book every 30-60 days? That’s crazy! Even if you could do it, it wouldn’t be any good!” I beg to differ. For a couple of reasons.
One: historical precedent. Walter Gibson, the inventor of The Shadow, wrote 283 novel-length (30-75k words) Shadow stories in fifteen years. At least one year he turned out something close to 1.6 million words. And while no one would necessarily call The Shadow “The Great American Novel,” Who Cares? They were good enough for what they were, and they got Gibson paid. The Great American Novel is a snooty pretension anyway, and most of those books that claim to be such are the slow, grinding, nihilistic literature of despair. (Needless to say, my HS English teacher did not like my interpretation of Of Mice and Men. Which doesn’t make me any less right.)
Two: that kind of production is entirely possible, if you apply yourself right. Chris Fox (there’s that guy again) has a book out entitled 5000 Words An Hour. While I’m nowhere near 5k words/hour, 5k words per day, in about 2.5 hours of work, is entirely within reach. And I’ve been doing it. Drawing The Line took about a week (with interruptions). I finished the first draft of Older and Fouler Things on Saturday.
So, what does this mean to you, dear reader? Well, for one thing, it means more books (perhaps slightly shorter) more often. Brannigan’s Bastards is coming up quick, and that will be a long-running series (I have 16 planned right now, undoubtedly with more to follow). Being able to produce more quickly also means that I can introduce more series, in genres that I’ve been putting off for a while. There will likely be some mil-SF/space opera and heroic fantasy coming up, though not before about three, maybe four Brannigan’s Bastards. The American Expeditionary Volunteer Group series might just start next year (American Praetorians spinoff).
There are still hurdles to be surmounted. I’m still putting all the lessons learned together and trying to figure out how to make them work. One of the keys, Nick told me, was to get 25 reviews on a new release in the first week. That’s been tough; still trying to find the magic formula for that. I might be setting something up for an Advance Review Copy Reader List at some point. Don’t know yet. Any suggestions on that point are welcome.
Another thing that both Nick and Chris talked about was getting into the fan community of your chosen genre. Research has shown me, the last few weeks, that for the Action Adventure/Mil/Techno-Thriller genre, there really isn’t that kind of community out there online (or if there is, it’s well-hidden). So that leaves trying to build it ourselves. I’m going to be working with some of the rest of the indie thriller/shooter novelists I know, and trying to get that off the ground in the lead-up to Brannigan’s Bastards. It might start with a Facebook Group (I know, I know. But you’ve got to start somewhere.).
Stay tuned. A lot’s going to be happening.