Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going Indie - Day 6: Following Up Successful Works

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Quantity vs. quality? Effectiveness vs. productivity? That's the dilemma I face this evening. There's only one week left in July, and I want to make the most of it. If I bolt myself to the chair, I can crank out a bunch of dog books, alphabet primers, additional translations and compilations and even finish off a few minor works that have been languishing.

But am I making the most effective use of my time?

Any of these projects would be a welcome addition to my library, but will they help pay the bills? If my recent promotions are any indication, not so much. I can't afford to invest my time into something that will sell less than 10 copies a month. I need the next My Little Pet Dragon, and I need it now.

To a degree, I've been holding back my best work. Braedyn Bunny and the Missing Eggs would do well if I could just finish it off. Production of Secret Agent Disco Dancer has stalled so that I can change the format to something more akin to Aveline. And I haven't even begun the sequels to My Little Pet Dragon or My Crazy Pet Frog. Any of these would pull in healthy numbers. Even if sales disappoint, I have a much better chance of hitting it big with one of these titles that any of the others that I've been working on.

Right now I'm in a creative groove. When I see a solution, I go for it. This approach has led me to produce scores of titles this month. Although I don't want to derail my creativity, I need to get these other titles out.

I hate boiling everything down to sales. I'm an artist at heart. I want to be free to create as I see fit. That's how I've gotten to where I am today, and it would be foolish to disregard it. That's how My Little Pet Dragon and My Crazy Pet Frog materialized. I took a chance and went for it. The rest is history.

Despite my resurgence, none of my new titles have really taken off. This doesn't discourage me in the least. I love what I'm building. Certainly I need to add more sophisticated works, but right now things are going well.

The solution to this problem is obvious, but it's difficult to adapt my process, and thus, change my thinking. I need to follow up my successful works while also striking out into new territory. Expanding into other markets is essential; it would be a mistake to turn my back on it.

A month ago I didn't even have an alphabet book. Today I have 5. While I've only seen a handful of sales from these new products, every subsequent promotion does better and better (the last three did 500, 1,000 and 2,500 copies respectively). I feel like I'm on the right track, but progress is slow because I have to learn a new section of the market.

Is it a better idea to follow up a successful product or take a chance on something new that might complement or exceed your establish titles? A friend of mine has had lots of success selling monster books, so I decided to put together Taming Your Pet Monster: An Operational Guide. Although the title turned out better than expected, sales faltered. In the end, I should have written one of the sequels instead. If I had, would Taming Your Pet Monster ever exist? That’s the risk you take.

While I don't lament doing sequels to existing works, I love the sense of exploration with newer titles. I take each book as a personal challenge. Can I make it work, despite the limitations? Perhaps I’m a little drunk on it.

Not every title needs to be a winner in terms of sales. I love what I'm doing; I just need a few of them to make enough money so that I can pay the bills.  If I can continue getting paid to do what I love, I’d be thrilled.

I'm a risk taker at heart, but I'll admit that I need to be more prudent with my time.

The real goal should not be choosing one project over another, but finding a way to make them all work in harmony. Like a major/minor emphasis: when progress on one stalls, jump to another. Some authors are in favor of this (Ryoki Inoue), while others are firmly against it (Nora Roberts, Georges Simenon). I'm the type of personality that gets stuck every now and then, especially when I edit too soon. I need a more flexible emphasis so that I won’t stare at the screen for hours.

I’ll give it a try and see how it works.

Is it possible to be both effective and massively productive? If Ryoki Inoue's output of 1,100 books is any indication, then the answer is yes.

Now back to work!

Scott Gordon
Children’s Book Author

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