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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Indie Life / Writing Wibbles

Welcome, Indie Lifers, to the free-range insane asylum! Don’t forget to hit the linky at the end, and see what other indies have to say about their travails, triumphs, and tips this month. This is the final Indie Life post, as the Indelibles have decided to wind down this monthly meme/theme. (bummer!)

Time to Market

I’d planned to write this last month, but life got in the way.

A few years ago, while I was readying White Pickups for a wider audience, I was trying to decide how to proceed. Should I follow the traditional route, landing an agent who would land me a publisher? Or skip that and take my chances with this newfangled indie publishing thing?

So, taking Kristine Kathryn Rusch's advice to “treat your writing like a business,” I sat down and did a cost-benefit analysis. Best case, I could make millions either way (ha!). Worst case, I’d make a few bucks going indie and nothing at all traditional (if I couldn’t get an agent, etc.). Either way was essentially a wash, except in one aspect. My dayjob is in the high-tech industry, and time to market is a major consideration for any new product. Can we get it out the door before our competitors roll out something similar?

In time to market, going indie was the clear winner. Even if I landed an agent immediately, and that agent got me a publishing contract a week later, it would be another two years before my book hit the shelves. I needed an editor and someone who could design a decent cover; I could format the thing myself. Maybe a year, tops. Then lightning struck: my editor turned out to be sitting next to me in the church choir, and a Photoshop expert offered a special for a cover. Bing-bang-boom, and there was my book, ready to go!

Last year, I released the first three Accidental Sorcerers stories, a pace that traditional publishers would find hard to match. But now they’re trying (New York Times link). Due to the roughly 5 month pace, I think I’ll only finish (i.e. publish) two this year. But I have several other things I’m working on. I published EIGHT books this year, all told—but only because I had a backlog. Now my backlog is clear, and I’ll be hard-pressed to come close to that kind of output this year. I publish when the book’s ready, and they were ready.

But it was in December that the indie advantage of time to market really showed itself. I was looking over some Christmas-themed flash and short stories I’d written over the last few years, and thought “huh, I ought to throw these into a mini-anthology.” Thus was born Christmas Guardians (and Other Stories of the Season).

By this time, I was in the Green Envy Press co-op, and I contacted the cover designer. I had a photo that I thought was suitable (which would save money on a “lark” project). Instead, Angela came up with a cool microphotograph from Wikimedia Commons. I already had a “floral leaf” graphic to mark the end of each story, and I had experience formatting an anthology. We arranged the stories, did a quick edit-through, and I hit Publish.

Concept to product availability: two weeks. Let’s see a traditional publisher top that. My co-op partner is trying to top it, with a Valentine-themed micro-anthology to be written and released in time for VD itself. Fun times!

Now it’s your turn: How do you use your time to market advantage?

Thanks for reading, and check out some of the other Indie Life writers this week!


  1. The Christmas Analogy was a good read too! I'm trying to get a bunch of stories edited and ready to go, but I've been struggling with beta readers. I'll get there though... somehow.

  2. Remember Steven King's Green Mile novella serial? It's not a bad way to go, dishing out a little at a time. Writing large, complex novels takes enough time that time to market may not be a factor because there is always something ready to go. I've thought about breaking a novel into smaller books to take advantage of a more regular flow sticking in the spotlight, and using the pacing to build the market. Shorter time-to-market has an advantage since the entire series doesn't need to be ready right from the start.

  3. Thanks, Patricia! Sometimes, beta readers get bogged down… just like everyone else. Still, they're worth more than we pay 'em!

    David, that's true. There's also Kindle Serials, if your episodes meet their guidelines. My Accidental Sorcerers books are novellas, about 30-45K words each. Like I said, they average about 5 months between releases; I usually have at least an outline for the one two past the current release by the time I upload it.

  4. I think your publishing record is amazing! I have no plans as yet for this year. ^_^


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