Right now I'm sitting at a crossroads.
The novella is done. It'll be published by the end of the year unless something radical happens. The question is, however, what comes next?
The original plan.
I was going to submit my first book in the Frankie Falawell series to agents and publishers, and see if I could get anyone to pick it up. That process was started in August of 2020. Since submitting to agents and publishers takes an exceptionally long time, I was going to work on building an author platform and build an e-mail list for possibly a newsletter...and as a way to drive potential sales.
After doing a little bit of research on marketing, it became clear to me that the best way to drive traffic to my website was to offer something in exchange for a reader's e-mail address. To that end, I decided to create a short novella to offer in exchange. So, in mid-November of 2020, I started the process of creating the novella.
I figured - either traditionally published or self-published - I'd have to do a fair share of marketing, so building an e-mail list was a bit of a no-brainer. And, I figured my novella would be done in a few months. Also factored into the plan was the possibility that no one would pick up the Frankie Falawell book...which is no longer mere conjecture. In the depths of despair and rejection, I resolved that if I did not have a publisher by January 1, 2022, I'd self-publish the series.
I have a bunch of properties in development. Those were all shelved for "the plan." My thought was that I'd revisit them after the Frankie Falawell series was complete. I intended to release the first book in the series sometime in the summer of 2022, leaving me a lot of lead time from January 1 to make sure I delivered when I said I would deliver.
This is the part where I explain what went wrong.
I predicted to my wife, well before my first submission went out, that no one was going to want to touch the first Frankie Falawell book. I'm an unknown author. Most publishers aren't going to want to risk a long-haul investment in a series. Agents and publishers friendly to Christian themes typically DO NOT publish fantasy. Secular agents and publishers? Pffth! I might as well send the gift of garlic bread to a vampire.
So, my backup plan was self-publishing. At first, I was reluctant to invest my time and energy into self-publishing. The market is flooded with books. Trying to get noticed in those swirling seas is going to be well-nigh impossible. But after quite a bit of research, as well as the sober realization that this is my only avenue, I'm becoming more comfortable with diving into that pool. I just have to lower my expectations. Okay, fine.
With that gut-check came the re-evaluation of my plan. Once more, after listening to many self-published authors and their prior mistakes, I learned that if you are publishing a series, you should complete the series before publishing anything else. Otherwise, your readers may pick up your latest book, assume it is part of the series and learn - much to their dismay - that it isn't. In other words, once I commit to the Frankie Falawell series, I can't publish any other properties until that series is done.
Frankie Falawell is going to be 5 or 6 books, all told. That's a 3 to 6 year commitment. Until complete, all other publishing prospects have to be put on ice.
Documenting Frankie's odyssey is an ambitious undertaking. While I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to ambitious projects, there is a matter of building a fanbase. Will the first book generate enough interest for others to buy the rest? That's a question I needed to ask myself.
The other realization is that, after the first issue of something is released, interest falls off. Many of the people who bought the first book may not come back for the second (roughly half, if I recall correctly). This might be different for a known writer, but for a new writer this is something I have to give serious consideration. I'll need to generate a LOT of interest in the first book to keep the momentum going.
Then came the issues with the novella, which, all considered, was a minor issue. The production of the novella got hampered by:
Having to scrap the first attempt because the story had issues,
Rejection after rejection causing me to doubt myself (yes, I am human),
Extending the length of the second attempt.
While the novella does not directly impact the book series, it does affect them indirectly. The longer the novella is available, the more people I am able to entice to sign up for my newsletter. The more people who sign up, the more who may be enticed to buy my first book.
Okay, so what am I getting at?
After some careful consideration, I am now leaning heavily toward publishing a book that is NOT the Frankie Falawell series as my first outing.
So, do I have a property that I can publish in its stead? Well...sort of.
A while back, I started a book about a wizard's assistant. Eleven chapters in, I shelved the property when I moved toward making the free novella. I could have used that book as my loss-leader, however, after careful consideration, I rejected that notion. The story, in my estimation, is just too good to just give away for free.
I personally don't mind using a short story or a novella as an incentive for an e-mail address. I thought a short story wasn't enough to provide a good representation of my storytelling. A novella, however, is a decent compromise.
As I've stated in other updates, I'm hammering out the final pages of the book about the wizard's apprentice. As of the writing of this post (late October), I've got two months to finish off the rough draft. Maybe three if I go into January. That's a very feasible timeline, considering that I'm targeting Spring / Summer of 2022 for a release. This, of course, barring anything traumatic happening in my life between now and then. God willing, that won't happen.
The only downside I see is that I will not be developing more of Frankie's book 3 in that time. That's not that much of an issue. I already have 3 of the 5 (potentially 6) books already "in the can." I also have large sections of the unfinished books drafted.
Likewise, given the favorable reception that my novella received from the beta readers, I have been mulling over a second Halsedric book. I have a decent start, and some interesting themes I'm considering. Halsedric was meant to be a prototype character for another series I have banging around in my head. But, I think that he may be a decent vehicle to expose a lot of the lore and backstory that leads up to the Frankie Falawell series. I also like the Fantasy / Horror / Adventure concept that I've built around him. So, it very well may be that I develop that story before I start pushing out the Frankie Falawell books.
Make no mistake, those Frankie books were - and are - my first love. As risky as they are from a publishing standpoint (because they are a tightly linked series), I still think they contain some of the best writing I have in me, thus far. It does truly pain me to relegate them to the back burner for the time being.
And then this happened...
My plan for the novella is also being slightly altered.
The original plan was to just give it away free in exchange for an e-mail address. I've set up a Subscribe section on this website, and have been notifying people via social media that it exists for several weeks now. The results have not been sterling, to say the least.
Plus, there are a lot of logistical issues with having a free novella. What if people want to buy a hardcover version? What if that promise of a free novella doesn't draw people to the site like I hoped? Not to mention that NOT having a book that can be purchased through places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble is literally hindering whatever little name recognition I can get at this point.
But I said I'd give it away free. So I need to live up to that.
The solution is this: people who have signed up to the e-mail list before the book is officially released will STILL get a free eBook / PDF of the novella. After that, I'm going to run a 30-day campaign on social media to try and drive people to my website so that they can sign up for a free novella. After the 30 days, I release it to the traditional self-publish outlets. I think that's a fair deal.
This is all new to me. I'm, by no means, a marketing wiz. I really don't know what I'm doing, sort of fumbling around trying to find a groove I can settle into. I genuinely love the characters I'm creating, the stories I'm telling, and building the world in which they reside. In fact, it's crafting these stories that keeps me working in this game. I, like many creators, am not adept at the promotion side of things. I'd rather be thumping on a keyboard and getting the high that comes from a well-crafted chapter. The business side of things is frustrating for me, as it consumes a lot of my free time. That is, however, the reality of self-publishing.
Like I said, I'm sort of fumbling around here, trying to make things work. I've got a lot of properties that I want to get out there, but none of them are "fit" for introducing myself. I have a plan, and a couple of properties that fit now. This is how I intend to play them out, for good or for ill.
This whole process feels like it is taking forever...because it is.
Anyhow, God bless. I'll update you all as things progress.