The Five Year Plan, Part III

If you're joining this series already in progress, check out Part I and Part II. Yesterday, I talked a bit about my business goals and operating in a deficit for the first few years. Obviously, it's not ideal, but these plans are fluid and built on, what I hope, are realistic expectations. I wouldn't have a very good business plan to say, as a virtual unknown, that I'm going to sell eight million copies by November and then fail marvelously. No, I think modest achievement is the best route in these early, leaner years of development. Besides, like I said, the plan is fluid and open to readjustment as needed. Additionally, all those sunk costs are a one-time deal. Once the book or short stories earn out, it's all profit after that. Remember, e-books are forever and the more work you can get out there, the more eyes you'll attract. And who doesn't love finding a new author and discovering their copious amounts of prior work? So, an initial deficit is OK because you're looking on capitalizing the investment at a later date. Of course, if you can get an immediate return, all the better, but let's not to be too delusional simply for the sake of practicality.

Today we're going to look at the second half of my five-year plan, focusing on production schedule and writing plans, target audience, and goals beyond the initial five years.

And, of course, if you have any suggestions feel free to comment below.


Production Schedule and Writing Plans

For the first draft of EMERGENCE, I committed to a 1,000 word minimum per day, for a minimum of five days per week. Often, I was able to beat this daily writing goal, and in less than three months I produced an 86,000 word first draft.

Future first drafts should abide by that same standard. I will allow the work to “rest” for a period of three to four weeks, in order to fully divest myself from the work and re-approach it with a cleaner perspective as I work on the second draft.

Depending on the nature of my first-pass edits as I build toward a finalized second draft, I estimate a period of two to three months between the start of second round edits and submission to a professional editing service, such as Red Adept for novel-length work.

I began working on EMERGENCE in February 2014 and finished near the end of April. What I had not counted on was the production of my short story, CONSUMPTION, the writing and editing of which occupied the first week of June. I had begun editing EMERGENCE in the latter half of May, but paused for the entire period I was singly invested in my short story. As a result, I’ve had to alter my production schedule for my second novel as follows:

  • June – August 2014: second pass edits and development of the second draft of EMERGENCE
  • July 1, 2014: submit second draft of CONSUMPTION for content edit and incorporation of edits
  • August 2014: cover design for CONSUMPTION
  • August 2014: proofread of CONSUMPTION
  • September 15, 2014: Submit second draft of EMERGENCE to Red Adept
  • No later than October 2014: Submit CONSUMPTION for formatting development
  • October 2014: Release CONSUMPTION
  • October – December 2014: Review edits and incorporate changes for EMERGENCE
  • January 2015 – Line Edits for EMERGENCE
  • February 2015 – Cover design for EMERGENCE
  • March 2015 – Release EMERGENCE
  • April 2015 – Begin first draft of MUCKRAKER

This production schedule is a combination of hard and soft dates, with some built-in flexibility. It’s entirely possible that I will be able to complete the suggested content edits prior to the end of 2014 and begin line edits sooner than January 2015. The release of EMERGENCE in March 2015, nearly a full year after the release of its predecessor, CONVERGENCE, is a very realistic goal. Depending on the fluidity of my workflow during this period, it’s possible that my next novel will release sooner than March 2015. And, once all of the editing work is done, I’ll be able to focus fully on my third novel. April 2015 is sort of a last-gasp guesstimate, but I actually expect to be able to begin writing it sooner, rather than later. This timeline can be updated accordingly, as needed.

Targeted Audience

By targeting readers of speculative fiction, I expect to build a wider fan-base than I would by focusing on single-niche market. CONVERGENCE, for instance, is (I think) more of a mystery/thriller/espionage read that just happens to have some science fiction elements in it. I think it has a very contemporary feel to it, and is grounded in a familiar landscape. EMERGENCE continues this presentation, but is geared toward drawing in fast-paced action-thriller readers. Both function entirely under the auspices of speculative fiction.

Horror readers and dark fiction fans are the natural target audience for CONSUMPTION. Again, though, it falls nicely in the speculative fiction category. I think there is plenty of overlap in the sci-fi/horror/thriller genre that my body of work, when taken as a whole, should be able to garner some attention and a devoted readership.

Planned Marketing and Promotion

The first year is fairly conservative. As of June 2014, marketing efforts have been geared toward Twitter and Facebook. An eBookSoda promotion was purchased for cheap ($5), but failed to draw in any sales. I suspect there were a number of factors playing into the lack of success – few reviews available, a lack of promotional price (I kept the price at $3.99, treating the eBookSoda more as an announcement tool than a sale advertisement), and a lack of awareness surrounding my identity as an author.

If another eBookSoda promotion can be secured, I plan on purchasing an e-mail ad blast for the release of CONSUMPTION, which, I think, at a price of $0.99 will make blind-purchasing easier to swallow. Time will tell, of course.

Initially, I will be relying on the books themselves to promote my work. After three or four years, I will begin playing with price adjustments, and hopefully enough positive reviews will have accumulated to consider a BookBub advertisement.

The release of MUCKRAKER would be an ideal time to experiment with cheaper sale prices on both CONVERGENCE and EMERGENCE, in an effort to build up awareness of the forthcoming release.

Web Plan

Having established an official author site, the key will be in maintaining the site’s blog with regular updates and news of forthcoming releases. I expect that platform to be the central stopping point for readers. Of course, I can also be connected with on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

News release announcements will also be made through my mailing list, once that becomes a viable option and I have a healthy number of subscribers to merit its use. My mailing list is still in its infancy, but I fully expect it to grow with future releases. Also, I did not have a mailing list prior to publishing CONVERGENCE, which, in hindsight, was a mistake. I'll be able to readily advertise the mailing list to buyers of future works and will seriously consider reformatting CONVERGENCE at a future date to incorporate updated links, as well as excerpts of other available works.

Long-Term Goals

The first and foremost of my long-term goals is to make my independent author-publisher production a viable business, with a sufficient annual income, enough to allow me to quit my full-time day job and concentrate on my writing career.

I am approaching these first five years with an eye toward this business as a part-time endeavor, but a full-time passion. As these goals stretch beyond 2018, I would expect to have a demanding readership that relies on me for quality stories, and for the multiplication effect to take a firm hold in both sales and earnings, as well as audience.

So, my primary long-term goal is to make an additional $50K annually, with repeated success, prior to leaving my full-time job and focusing exclusively on writing and promoting my works. By 2020, and even further beyond, 2025, I should have a nice enough catalog of works to draw in more new readers, and have the flexibility to test a greater number of promotions.

So, there's the plan!

Now, of course, the big question: how successful will I be? Only time will tell, naturally, but at least I have a stronger methodology in place and established goals to reach and parameters to work within. I'll also be able to conduct routine reviews of these goals over the next few years and chart my progress. If I am successful, I can then make the necessary adjustments in goals. If I'm not successful, I'll need to take a long, hard look at the plan, figure out where the failings occurred, and set a corrective course and re-plan.

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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