Saturday, January 19, 2013

Follow up to Demystifying .02 on raising those ranks

After my last post, I wanted to clear the air and emphasize something for newer authors. Do NOT be discouraged if your rankings are higher than 15,000 or even 50,000. That isn't a failure on your part, that's almost always how it goes for the first couple years. If I implied otherwise, I apologize. After writing for three years, this past year has been the first where (after 20+ releases) I've actually started to see the fruits of my labor and the first where I had the ability to track the rankings against any solidy numbers. The first two years tend to be about gaining some name recognition, building a brand (or two, in my case, as I write under my name and the pen name Chloe Cole as well), working on craft and learning the ropes in publishing. While the last year has been great, sales have NOT always been this way, and for the vassssst majority of authors, aren't at first.

Something else to note that I think is encouraging. The people who succeed in this business are almost invariably the ones who refuse to accept any less than that. BACKLIST = MONEY. People want content. That's what will raise your rankings. Especially in romance, IMO, a workhorse will out-earn most other authors. Sure, some talent is required, but I'm going to assume if you've been pubbed by a reputable (and note I didn't say Big) then you have a dash of that, and, frankly? A dash is all you need. What you need a FUCK-TON of is perserverence, which is entirely within your control. Isn't that awesome!? YOU decide whether you're going to succeed or not. It's very easy to give up when you've gotten your first (second, fifth, tenth) rejection letter. It's also very easy to give up when you've spent thirty precious family-time hours for a year and a half writing in the evenings and wee hours because you also have a day job, and then you get a check for $137 for the MONTH to compensate you for your efforts. At points it's downright depressing. But the people who WIN are the ones who push through it. KEEP GOING. Don't let it make you write less, let it motivate you to write MORE. To hone your craft and hunt down that elusive success.

Here's why: Math.

I know a lot of us writer types tend to shy away from math, but this is easy, trust me. It took me two and a half years of 10+ releases a year to finally be able to comfortably quit my day job. 10-13 manuscripts a year (even though in the beginning the were novellas clocking in at anywhere from 15-45k) is a lot when you have a family of 6 and a day job. But the universe doesn't go "Oh, Christine's been doing this for two and a half years! Let's award her with some success!" The universe doesn't give a shit about my books. What I mean by that is, if I had written 5 books a year instead, the timeline would have been vastly different and I can verture to guess somewhere around double. So instead of it taking me two and a half years, it would've taken me 5. If I had only written 2 books a year? More than ten years. And even that's a stretch, because there are diminishing returns once you start releasing that few. I'll be blunt. If you write romance and aren't already an established name, 2 books a year ain't gonna cut it. Too long between releases, no way to build momentum, people forget your name and the clock resets every time you release a book it's like starting fresh. Rather than relying on what is, to my mind, almost guaranteed (solid writing + steady, constant workflow = success), you're relying on being that rare person who catches lightning in a bottle with a runaway hit if you hope to succeed. That the stars are going to align and it's going to be the perfect genre at the perfect time and find the perfect, grassroot audience that's going to launch it into the stratosphere. That would be AWEsome.

But I'd rather rely on me.

I can't control the market, or what's hot, or how my book will be received. What I CAN do is take a hard look at the most my schedule could possibly allow me to write in a given year without sacrificing quality, and write exactly that much, no excuses. We all have them. But we also have to be honest with ourselves. You can't tell me you don't have an hour a day that you can carve out. Well, you can TELL me that, but I won't believe you. It might take some sacrifices, but it should. When you finally make it, that's what makes it extra sweet. That you busted your ass for this. That it was hard and you did it anyway. That you didn't let anything get in your way. I have four kids and up until a few months ago I also had a full time day job. I had no choice but to write at night, so that's what I did. From about 10 pm until 1 a.m. on weekdays, I wrote. I slept 5 hours a night, on average, and it was NOT awesome, or fun. But selling my first book was SO awesome and fun, it made up for every one of those nights. And so did all the other wins along the way. Clutch every one of them to your heart (your first cover, your first fan email, your first good big name review, your first check, your first time breaking the top 20,000 on Amazon) and WRITE. KEEP WRITING. Don't stop, even when the checks are small, even when that next book DOESN'T break 20,000, even when a review breaks your heart. KEEP GOING.

Maybe you're rolling your eyes. Maybe you have a busier life than me. Maybe you have two jobs and triplets. Maybe you CAN'T write three hours a day, even at night. Then commit to a smaller number, every day (including weekends and holidays to make up for the short word count). If you say "I'm going to write 1000 words (only an hour a day, for many authors), rain or shine, weekend or not, no excuses." If you did that, at the end of the year, you'd have written 365,000 words (which would be 10 novellas, or 4 single titles, or 7 category length). That's awesome production and can definitely sustain/make a career.

Across the board, Big 6, smaller pub, or self-pubbed, the writers I see selling books the most books consistently are the ones who produce a lot of content. Nora Roberts, Maya Banks, Vivian Arend, Lauren Dane, Marie Force, Bella Andre. That part of the blue print is there and proven: Write a lot.

Want to succeed? Follow it.

So that's what I have to say on that. There are exceptions. There are people who come out and their first book takes the world by storm. There are people who do it in less than three years, and maybe it only took four books for them, or maybe it took them five years to get published and put their time in that way, but they got their ideal publisher and sold well right away. I'm not saying my way is the only way. I'm also not saying I'm in the same realm as the authors I listed above. I'm just saying that, if we want to be (and why wouldn't we? They're all amazingly successful and showcase the many paths to get there, Big 6, small pub, self-pub) and we want to put ourselves in the best possible position to succeed, we need to write more. Submit. Write again. Submit. Don't stop.

Don't wait for success to find you. Go hunt it down like a fucking kickass wolverine and then TAKE it. Kill it and drag it back to your den with you where you can use it to make success stew. Maybe pair it with a lusty red wine and a bright frise salad.

Or some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

So in a nutshell: Want better rankings? Write more.


  1. Keep going and keep writing is great advice.

  2. Thanks for the shout out Christine, and AMEN to your very good advice. I followed a very similar path to yours (with two fewer kids--LOL) and worked every night after work for YEARS. I worked weekends, Christmas, Thanksgiving and never, ever took a day off. I still don't. I wanted it BADLY, and now I have it, and it's lovely. But I'm working as hard as I ever did, just without that other job in the mix. Congrats on all your success! And, we'll always have NYC!

  3. Great post, C Bell! I'm sending a link for this blog to Mr. Stanley, who thinks he's going to get to be a kept man here in a couple of years.

  4. Thanks, Sally! I really do think it's the key, and where a lot of would-be authors fall off.

    Hey Marie! You are my hero, I swear. The work ethic is truly amazeballs and I knew from the second we met that I was going to follow that same path and just keep my nose to the grindstone no matter what. Your success just makes me want to work harder!

    Terri Anne- Thanks! And, do. Not that it can't happen. Retiring my husband is definitely in the master plan. It just takes a lot longer than many people realize when they start out and I think many authors get discouraged right at that crucial tipping point and never make it over the hump. Keep at it and keep your eye on the prize. It CAN happen! Just tell Mr. Stanley it would happen a LOT faster if he cooked dinner every night, cleaned the house and did the laundry. You know, so you can focus on your writing ;op

  5. Very inspiring and also fab advice. Thanks Christine :)

  6. Thank you, Christine. That's sweet of you. Go get em tiger!

  7. What an awesome post! Thank you...and I bow down to you, lady, what a great work ethic. Much continued success to you-and congrats on quitting the day job :-)

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