Sunday, February 12, 2012

Build Your Backlist

We’ve all heard stories of Indie Authors who’ve shot through the roof and earned oodles of cash seemingly overnight. They appear to possess a magic elixir that, once ingested, promises to turn any hardworking writer into a publishing sensation.

Does the elixir exist? You bet:

Build your backlist.

Avid readers aren’t drawn to “one book wonders”. They’re itching to download your debut novel with the knowledge that once they fall in love with your inimitable voice, you’ll lavish upon them a cornucopia of other literary delights. Don’t be fooled. Secretly they view your debut as a tasty appetizer meant to leave them hungry. It’s your job to cook up a main course of novel after novel you’ll gladly serve with gusto.

This is one of the reasons why series novels remain wildly popular. When I published Treasure Me http://tinyurl.com/7tjyl2d I hoped the eccentric women who populate fictional Liberty, Ohio would amuse readers. I prayed their trials and tribulations would resonate with any woman who’s ever raced to the office unaware she had banana pudding on her suit, or who’d prepared a holiday meal only to find Aunt Martha attending with her underwear donned over her pants.

Women “get” silly in a way that often escapes men. We bathe children who fart in the tub. We jiggle when we jog. If a relative loses his marbles, we’re called into action like a sassy-mouthed Nurse Nightingale. Once I chased after my dying grandfather, who’d transported himself back to a whorehouse in Rome, Italy, circa 1920. He fled down the hospital corridor with one of my sisters interpreting his broken Italian for the terrified nurses as I grabbed for the hem of his robe.

But wait. This post is about building your backlist after all, and I want fans of Treasure Me to continue salivating as the release of the next book in the series, Second Chance Grill, approaches in April. I want to prolong the excitement—and add spice to the magic elixir. How? By releasing a dramatic, stand-alone novel first, The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge http://tinyurl.com/7krpoxl

If my Liberty books are heartwarming and sweet, my stand-alone works are gripping, poignant—even heart stopping at times. Building a backlist is about variety, after all.

If you find yourself clicking Refresh to see if your debut has budged one iota on the Amazon lists, stop now. Begin work on your next novel as you continue marketing your debut. After you’ve polished that second gem, get to work on the third. And the fourth. I once met a top novelist at a convention, the keynote speaker, out plugging her latest release. Her husband was back at home proofreading the galleys of her next release. She had the line edit of a third book in her briefcase … and carried a notepad that she scribbled upon throughout dinner—her latest WIP.

Nala, wondering if I'll ever get out of bed
Besides, there’s an up side to building your backlist. The more your write, the better your ability to grab the reader by the hem of her ratty old bathrobe and never let go.

31 comments:

  1. Great blog post. I totally agree with your perspective here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many thanks for reading along, Joanne.

    ReplyDelete
  3. very good reminder, cool post, love the g-dad story!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. Great blog i have already had people ask me when is the next one ready.... working on it fast.. actually finished the third before the second but that how my head works when there's a download i've got to go with it! just proof reading book 2 now so hopefully two months from publishing the first ebook the second will be out there!!

      Delete
  5. You're so right. It is toughest to get that early break but then with each book you publish, the sales are likely to grow more. The most 'popular' authors are definitely the most prolific. Sound advice to keep on going.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for this post. We just finished our first ebook and we're somewhat overwhelmed by all that we have to do to promote it and build a group of interested readers. There's an awful lot to keep in mind and work on. Reading the above, I can see that it's important that we start work on the second in the series as we work on all the rest. It was nice to find you today on Twitter and here, on your blog. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've heard over and over again that the best way to market a good book is to write other good books.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks, everyone, for reading along. Susan and James: I think most of us get hung up on the overnight sensations. Truth is, most working novelists write several books before catching fire with readers. It's best to simply continue writing the best books you can produce.

    Little Book: yes, the marketing can be overwhelming! Good luck with your new eBook.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Top notch advice at the right time for me. You see I've got this insane plan of finishing my next novel in the final week of April. My first one is to be published right about the same time. And reading your post above makes me even more determined to make this deadline...thx!!!

      Delete
    2. You go, girl! As any successful novelist knows, one must 1) promote the latest release; 2) write the next novel; 3) work on plot ideas or characterization for a third work. There simply isn't time to release then sit around watching the novel rise or fall in Amazon ranking. Writers must write.

      Wishing you all the best with book two!

      Delete
  9. Ok, this is from someone who hasn't learned all of the publishing lingo yet. What is a backlist? I have found that writing is the easy part and it's not so easy at times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shirley, all of the books you've published in the past comprise your backlist. Authors talk about "the most recent release" versus "the backlist" to alert readers that a new book--"the most recent release"--has been published.

      Many thanks for reading along.

      Delete
  10. Thanks for reminding me ... not easy being a journo and trying to get novel 2 in a series written and edited. But I will get there eventually!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't give up, Paul. If possible, create a writing schedule and stick to it. Here's wishing you all the best with your second release!

      Delete
  11. Timely wisdom for this debut author. It's vital that, publicity exhaustion aside, we remember what makes us writers: writing!

    Callie Kingston

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Callie, juggling promotional duties for the last novel while writing the next can overwhelm the most stalwart writer. Try carving out days for writing only. If possible, limit social media to other days when you're not quite as busy. Of course if you're on a blog tour for your debut, there's no avoiding the promo duties!

      Many thanks for reading along.

      Delete
  12. Great reminder Christine. Sometimes the marketing slows down my writing and I need to remember what's most important---writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marla, we all struggle with the need to don the marketing hat. Wouldn't all writers prefer to simply, well, write?

      Many thanks for reading along.

      Delete
  13. Superb advice! With all the marketing and pr work to be done, it's sometimes easy to forget what drew us into writing for a living. It's more fun than most of that other stuff you could be doing (though grandpa would probably disagree).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's hoping you finding the perfect balance between marketing and the writing life, Steven. Thank you for reading along.

      Delete
  14. This advice is spot on. It is very rare for anyone to go global in a hot minute with just one novel. Even the great best-sellers in recent history really started to catch fire after the third book in the series. (IE: Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter) In fact, I know this is so very true, and still have not released my next two books which I know I should have done by now. I think it's the trauma from releasing that first novel and wanting it to get the attention it deserves that binds some of us, myself included. Time to let that baby walk on it's own and tend to the other children.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Release those next books! The lack of buzz surrounding a debut novel means next to nothing: in the global marketplace, news surrounding your work may need to bubble up before breaking out. No doubt your debut WILL get the attention it deserves ... after readers discover you're a multi-published author.

      Delete
  15. Great advice. I dont think you can ever have too many WIPs. Good luck with your series!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great advice! I have a sequel coming out mid-Sept to the book I just published, and I'm hoping this proves true! One of my beta readers has already said she'll buy anything I write, so I'm hoping that carries along! My only problem with series is that I'm not sure how many books of the same characters I'll find interesting to write... I love my characters... But I think one a year would be about it. Maybe multiple series is the key! :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Consider contacting the reviewers for the original work now, prior to the September release of the sequel. I'll bet many of those bibliophiles will gladly post a review on your release date. Good luck!

      Delete
  17. Very usable information. Thanks.
    The imagery made me Laugh. It's all so true!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laughter while learning is always a good thing. Many thanks for reading along, Rose.

      Delete