Courtney Milan: A Slow Writer’s Guide to Making a Living (RWA2014)

imageI’ve loved attending my first ever RWA. It’s always great fun to meet new writers, talk to those I already know, and listen to everyone chat about Romancelandia.

Beginning today, I have interviews set up with several different writers so I will be reporting on those chats later today and tomorrow.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some of the highlights from a talk I heard Courtney Milan give yesterday. The talk was called A Slow Writer’s Guide to Making a Living and its purpose was to give authors tools to improve their visibility. This talk was predicated on using digital titles.

Courtney defined being a slow writer as any author who writes a book less than every 90 days is the publishers’ standard. Why would one want to be a fast writer, you may ask. Because says Courtney, fast writers make more money. They do so in three significant ways;

1) Those writers always have a book listed on the recently published lists.

2) The more books they write, the more they earn.

3) They have a memory advantage. People don’t always remember writers. They begin to forget as an author the minute they finish her book. A memorable book they will remember longer but they will still forget her. Publishing books quickly (within that 90 day cycle) ensures that a writer stays in a reader’s conscious memory.

But, as those in the audience made clear, many writers are unable to publish four books a year. So, if you are a slow writer, what do you do?

Courtney reassured the audience that there’s nothing wrong with writing slow. Most authors have to write slowly in order to do anything other than write.

She listed several strategies to help improve a slow writer’s visibility. First, writers need to need to have an idea of how long it takes them to write a book and plan for ways to keep their names and works in readers’ awareness after the 90 day window expires.

An author has several tools she can use. One, is to take an older book and make it free. That will bring new readers to their work and then, once introduced to the writer, readers are more likely to buy their back list.

Courtney points out that those who write more than one genre at a time, make their visibility life twice as hard. She suggests those authors make long term release strategies and even consider releasing books in one genre back to back rather than switching back and forth between the two.

Publish novellas. They are great things to make free. Every release is a visibility event. She stressed repeatedly that writers need a visibility event every 90 days.

Release a book from their backlist at .99. This functions in much the same way that releasing a free book does.

If a writer can afford it, Courtney recommends releasing into other platforms: audio, foreign additions.

The more books a writer has out, the more income streams she has. Courtney feels a writer need to have published at least three books in order for these strategies to begin to work.

She also suggested that writers consider whether or not they could write faster. She’s done a few things that have helped her. Writers should track all the things that they do that they don’t like to do. Then they should ask if they would be better off–financially–spending the time writing. If the answer is yes, then hire someone to do those things and spend the time earned writing. Writers should also consider hiring other people to do the things that they don’t do well and thus take more time than they should. If a writer isn’t any good at wrestling her novel into the appropriate formats, she consider outsourcing that work.

The goal is to in whatever way get more books in a writer’s catalog. Courtney said a writer needs five to six books out to create a visibility event every 90 days and at least nine or ten books for each visibility event to create a strong enough revenue streams to make a living.

It was a fascinating talk given to a mesmerized standing room only crowd.

 

Dabney Grinnan

6 thoughts on “Courtney Milan: A Slow Writer’s Guide to Making a Living (RWA2014)

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I had contacted Courtney directly after hearing about this workshop, to ask if she had any handouts or anything, but she didn’t (RWA’s conference just isn’t in my budget).

    Also, I’ll have you know that I had to contact my anti-virus software company (Vipre) to get them to whitelist you. I have no idea why they’d marked you as an unsafe website, but at least they were prompt about getting you on the good guys list.

  2. Impressive, as always. Each time I read anything Courtney Milan’s written about this profession, it always makes sense.
    Although at the beginning I was a little bit confused. A new book each 90 days? It looks impossible for the majority of writers. Nobody can make a good book in three months.
    But then I understood that you need a ‘visibility event’ each 90 days -not necessarily a new book.

  3. And Courtney Milan is definitely following her own suggestions: quite a few of her books are on sale at Amazon for 99 cents. Yippee!

  4. One of the things I’ve admired about Courtney Milan for some time – apart from her terrific writing, of course! – is the fact that she’s so business savvy, AND that she is so generous in sharing her ideas and knowledge with others.

    Sounds like this was a fascinating talk.

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