No, the Liliana Nirvana is not a secret massage chakra technique. But it may be the secret to launching a successful self-publishing career.
The effectiveness of this technique hit me at RWA. I attended a panel entitled “Self-Publishing Q&A.” It was two jam-packed hours of tossing out questions to mega bestselling authors Barbara Freethy, Bella Andre, Courtney Milan, and Liliana Hart. Of the four, only Liliana entered self-publishing without first having had a career with a traditional publisher. This anomalous beginning stood out during their introductions, but the uniqueness of Liliana’s success disappeared during the Q&A. Why? Because Liliana published as if she had a traditional publishing history.
She calls it her “5 down and 1 in the hole” technique. (No, this is not a page from the Kama Sutra. It’s far more important than that.)
Now, I should start by saying that there is no guarantee for success with any publishing path. My good friend and publishing genius Bella Andre disagrees with the ideas I’m about to set forth. And if you give me enough time and contradictory case studies, I might come to disagree with it as well. But right now, I lean toward thinking Liliana’s technique is absolutely brilliant. I think she discovered something that a lot of us lucked into. I think my own success owes something to the “5 down and 1 in the hole” publishing strategy.
So what exactly is it?
The idea is this: Annual releases are too slow to build on one another. And not just in the repetition of getting eyeballs on your works, but in how online recommendation algorithms work. Liliana suggests publishing 5 works all at once. Same day. And she thinks you should have another work sitting there ready to go a month later. While these works are gaining steam, write the next work, which if you write and edit in two months, will hit a month after the “hole” work.
Why does this work? I think it has to do with “impressions,” or the number of times people see a product before they decide to take a chance on it. (In this case, the product is your name.) It also has to do with recommendation algorithms and how new works are treated on various online bestseller lists. From my own experience, I know that it was following WOOL with four more rapid releases that helped my career take off. I followed these five releases a month later with FIRST SHIFT, and I released a work every three or four months after that (SECOND SHIFT, I, ZOMBIE, THIRD SHIFT, plus several short works).
Imagine a TV show that released an episode every year, and you get an idea of the limitations of such a system. Contrariwise, look at how Netflix drops an entire season and all the attention that garners. Where this gets really powerful is in the “also-bought” recommendations. Michael Bunker let me in on a plan of his to release one of his works at the same time as me. He promoted my work to his fans, and asked people to buy both books, which “paired” us.
Simultaneous releases have a similar effect on one another. While it’s still a chore to get initial readers, every sale will lead to recommendations for 4 or 5 more of your works. This is far less likely with a lot of time between those initial releases. Some authors will tell you you’re crazy to sit on a product while you write more, but this method has quite a track record.
Think of how it worked for authors who came from traditional publishing. Critics of self-publishing try to wave off the success of authors like Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and Joe Konrath to some imaginary massive following they won from their publisher, but they have told me that this isn’t the case. They didn’t gain a massive following until after they regained rights to their backlists and self-published. When they did get those rights, they secured works that were already written and edited. They could do some minor tweaks, update cover art, and release those works in rapid order.
Liliana wasn’t on that panel at RWA as an anomaly, but as an imitator, in all the best senses of that word. By even daring to release this way, I think she’s a genius. Ah, but it’s not a theory without some testing and validation. Otherwise, it’s just an idea. A hypothesis. Anecdote. Well guess what? Some of Liliana’s peers have tried the Liliana Nirvana technique, and the string of successes is absolutely remarkable.
Lila Ashe, Jessie Evans, Cristin Harber, and Marquita Valentine, are just a few who have used the 5 down, 1 in the hole release schedule. These are authors who just got their start and are already making full-time wages from their writing. Does that mean anyone who does this will have success? Absolutely not. You’ve got to have great stories, catchy blurbs, professional covers, quality editing, and the right metadata. But you are sunk without these things however you publish. Having them should be a given.
What I think the technique does is give you a better chance, once you have all these other things down. You hit bookstore shelves with a handful of titles at once, and they prop each other up. They direct attention toward each other. They amplify your signal. Yeah, it’s hard to create that initial buzz, but what if you can do something to turn up the juice? Liliana Hart may have discovered a way.
Does it have to be 5 books? Probably not. Will it always be this effective? Possibly not. Can you get even crazier? I think so. I blogged a few weeks ago about the insanity of releasing 12 books all at once. I know of a group of authors working on a plan to do something very much like this. I may even be a part of it, trying a new form of the Liliana Nirvana technique. I just hope I don’t throw my back out like last time.
80 replies to “The Liliana Nirvana Technique”
Yes to this!
Some of my fellow indie romance authors and I have been discussing how many romance authors are making it big with a rapid release of three or four novella-length works over the course of a month or two. A new work every couple of weeks bang bang bang.
There are several such series on the romance bestsellers list at Amazon. It seems to be additive and good for visibility and placement in the algorithms.
Yes to your comment about good books, covers, blurbs and metadata, but this technique has proven to be successful. I plan on employing it for my next series.
Maybe George RR Martin can write a book every three or five years and make the NYT and a good living, but the rest of us need volume and speed to get a critical mass of readers who will buy what we write. As long as we keep pleasing them, I think it’s more possible than ever for more authors than ever to making a living as writers.
“Maybe George RR Martin can write a book every three or five years ”
It’s less that I disagree, and more that I have personally never wanted to hold a book back. But there’s no question that this technique can work really well for writers who don’t mind having a bit more patience than I do. :)
Believe me, I’m just as uncomfortable with the thought of sitting on a finished book as you are. :)
And I should have mentioned the importance of holistic cover design. Having all the books in a series look similar, and getting the author’s name legible at thumbnail size, are both so important. The authors I see really taking off these days do a much better job of this than I ever did.
I’m trying to begin writing fast enough to be able to sit on some stories, be they novels or short stories.
It’s very hard for me to do, however…Once I have it done, I want it out there, especially if it’s a story in my Justice Security series. I have fans clamoring for more of them than I can write!
The difficulty is that if you are trying to write fast, you may be tempted to cut corners on quality. The great thing, I am convinced, is to write as fast as you can, but not faster, and then not to worry about it. Unfortunately, as you say, that doesn’t go well with the idea of sitting on stories.
Great idea Hugh. Unfortunately for my book I’m slow enough that I’m not going to wait until I have 5. But I had already considered sending the first one out into the world alongside a ‘making of’ supplemental work. So book 1 hits and I use the ‘sketches and snippets’ book of art that didn’t make the cut and more background info about the world to entertain and feed any appetite for more while I scramble getting book 2 done. Same logic, probably not as effective.
This will definitely get you more visibility with heavy readers. I know that when I read a book from a new author that I like, I frequently go an immediately get everything else they’ve written. I may not read them all at once, but then again i may :-)
At the normal rate of releases (one or two a year), I am not likely to remember the author’s name by the time the next book comes out.
In print,I may not notice the author until a couple more books are out and I see a group of books by the same author and say “oh yeah, I remember that book was good, I’ll pick up these others)
but once I actually start noticing the author’s name and look for it, you have me hooked for books as fast as you can churn them out.
This is exactly the strategy I’ve been talking to a friend about recently. She’s sitting on about 11 full-length novels (85-95k words each) at the moment, including two or three series, because she’s had books on submission for 2-3 years and dreams of a traditional contract. Because I’ve read her work, I know that this strategy would work for her.
There are definitely not many of us who have the patience to store up that kind of work and sit on it while we accumulate more, which brings me to a MAJOR point that is missing above, unless I missed it or am wrong. Most (not all) of the authors I know who have implemented this strategy, or are simply getting out novels every three months (which is also fast) are doing so because they write short novels (65k to 75k). This is something I’ve thought about often, because I write longer novels (90-95k).
So, here’s the question I ask myself often: Do reader really want longer novels, or are they okay with the shorter? Shorter seems to be helping careers because the authors can produce more product, but readers often claim they like longer.
Here’s another multi-book promo strategy that seems to replicate many of the advantages of a multi-book release but for a series that’s already been out a while:
Thanks! This is valuable information for those of us who have already published some stuff. It’s not like we can erase ourselves from human memory and start our careers over with a bang – not unless we want to ditch all of our previous books and the name that we wrote them under.
INteresting post. If Bella (Andre) does not agree with the strategy, what does SHE believe in?
A resounding YES to your thinking, Hugh! As a mathematician by education and a lifelong marketing professional by vocation, I find little to question in your reasoning. And ever-so-much to admire and praise in your sharing it with others. Knowledge-sharing as a discipline is my sideline interest, and you get an A+++++ on that as well! Write on!
This is the reason self-pubbing worked for me too, Hugh. (And thanks for mentioning my Kboards thread!) I had three books in a series ready to go. No background–in fact, the first three pieces of fiction I had ever written. I thought about it and decided it was better to put them all out at once. I figured, if anybody likes a book, what do they do? They go out and look to see what else the author has written. You wait a month, and they’ve forgotten about you.
I didn’t sit on them–just that I’d written and edited them over the previous 10 months. Thought I’d get an agent and publisher. Let’s just say I didn’t. :). So I got covers (yes, branded) and put them out there with a “May as well try” mentality.
Worked awesome. I didn’t have another one in two months as I’m not that fast, and I write long (often over 100k which my readers seem to like. I think there are different segments in romance for length as well as many other things.) It took three months for the next one. The month after that, though, is when I hit big–went from selling 2k a month to 20k. Just, boom.
So, yeah. Worked for me too.
That is outstanding advice that I never considered before. Thanks for this post. I will have to delay a few releases to do so, but the potential for success would be worth doing so.
Awesome advice! Thank you so much! I’m going to check out the KBoards thread, too.
It’s like the idea of dropping a large series of novellas one right after another. Haven’t seen too many release them all at once, but I understand how that would build one’s name faster. And for those with swift pens, that would be a great plan. (Certainly not me, as I’m working on my fourth book in seven years. Maybe eight. Considering I never even wanted to be an author, it’s all good though.)
[…] to the rest at Hugh Howey and thanks to Jessica for the […]
You touched on this idea a couple weeks ago, and I think it’s a good one. I’ve been kicking it around for many months now and am planning something similar for next year. I think binge series may be the future.
I’m hoping my strategy of releasing my Christian romance series at 6 weekly intervals starting next month will work!
I suspect there are many romance writers who’ve been waiting on traditional publishers to get back to them with a backlog of book!
I did something very similar in 2011. I released 8 novels in August and then 2 more in September and one more in November. When one of those books went free in early 2012, I had 10 others to select from when readers finished the free one.
I don’t think everyone could or maybe even should do this. If you write slowly, don’t speed through just to do this. Quality should still be top priority. But if you write like lightning and are sitting on multiple titles thinking you will put one out every other month or something, then, yes, I think doing it this way makes a LOT of sense.
I’m working on releasing a book every month between now and February except for November. I can’t wrap my head around holding something back, especially since I already have readers (though not a huge following). If I could go back and start over, I think it’s a great plan, especially when you don’t have readers. However, not only do my existing readers want more frequent releases, but it also makes it super easy to stay in touch and connected with my readers if I’m releasing every month. Then, with every release, they’re also posting to FB, Goodreads, and telling their friends the old fashioned way about my latest book. I figure if people hear my name month after month, they’re bound to cave eventually and try one of my books.
I have thought about doing this with a series of shorter works, as long as it doesn’t mess with the release schedule of my full length novels. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve heard about it here and there before.
Hmm, this really has me thinking now. This might be a good option for a series I’m releasing in a new genre for me where I don’t have readers waiting. Definitely worth thinking about.
I see this as a way of speeding up the velocity point that often hits when you have 5-10 quality works out, and suddenly sales start snowballing and then your name is everywhere and you’re a 5-years-in-the-making overnight success (general you, obviously not personal experience! :). For those who either write quickly or have a library of work I think it’s unquestionably the best strategy to make the biggest splash possible on day 1. For those who don’t have a backlog and who write slowly, though, I think releasing the 1 book per year is better…if nothing else because I don’t see taking 5 years to initiate a strategy that may not work in 5 years is not good business sense. Better to at least begin building a readership in that time. If it’s a question of now vs next summer, makes sense to wait.
I am not a prolific writer. Is there a support group for us. Can I join? I like what you’ve stated here, Lily LeFevre (and damn, I love your name! stealing).
@Bella Andre – I am not a patient person. My mother told me a long time ago patience was not one of my virtues and that remains true. I can’t imagine having the fortitude/wherewithall/patience to hold a book back and my reeaaadddeeerrrrsss wait long enough as it is. Small group, but voracious they are.
However, I do think this is a compelling strategy. As author Rachel Thompson likes to say, “let’s deconstruct.”
There IS something to be said for offering multiple books all at once in establishing an author’s brand. I would think of it like planting a garden, row by row, as opposed to scattering seeds and watering the hell out of it. (You can surmise which strategy I do for the garden when I plant one every five years or so). Trying this with books would be a bit of a challenge for me, but if you don’t see me for three years, you know why. :)
Good post, Hugh. Nicely done!
Sounds great in theory, but in practicality? Like for those of us who already released, and are writing as much as they can because they have a day job? Getting something written in 2 months and having it ready for mass consumption is out of the question. So while it *could* be good advice for some it isn’t good advice for everyone. There’s a delicate balance, and I’m already published so there’s nothing to hold back on. I need the slower momentum I have because it’s all I have.
I think it could still work for people who have published but haven’t seen any traction at all.
Pull the books off the market. Get a couple more titles ready to go. Create new covers across the list (and maybe change the titles of the previously published works). Then re-upload and re-release.
If you’ve sold a few thousand copies of any of the old books, add something at the end of the product description like: “Previously released as OLD TITLE.”
Great post, Hugh! I think that’s a great technique, particularly if you’re a very prolific writer. My husband and I didn’t do it that way, and it took us about a year to gather any significant following. However, we gained two things by releasing each book a few months apart:
1) A substantial mailing list. In our experience, readers are far more likely to sign up for an author’s newsletter if they’re waiting for a sequel. And the longer you wait, the more that mailing list grows.
2) The ability to tweak the sequels to address some complaints in reviews. Character too immature in book 1? Okay, she’ll be more mature in books 2 & 3 :).
I’ve been planning to do this with my first trilogy, not for the reasons above, but because, as a reader, I don’t start reading a series of books unless there is a (reasonably) complete series there. I love investing my time in a world, really soaking up the nuance across books. So I’m not going to release Book 1 and make readers wait for the rest, because that would drive me (as a reader) nuts.
Since I’ve decided to hold back the release of the first two books I’ve discovered a few other advantages to doing a bulk release. The biggest is promotion, which is hard for a beginning author (independant or not). Each interview, podcast, etc that I do I have a family of things to talk about, giving listeners and readers that much more reason to check out my books. Another benefit is that my cover artist is giving me a deal since my covers share themes across the three books. But probably the best thing is finding that I really do love writing enough to write and revise several novels without getting paid. (Yet.)
But wow is it hard. I want people to read these stories! And it’s a much heavier up-front investment than doing single books. Three times the editing and prep costs before I even make a single sale. We’ll see how it goes. Now I’m considering holding off until I have another book (unrelated to the series) ready to go, but I suspect I’m not that patient, Meanwhile my readers and editors are wondering if the books will ever see the light of day.
I did something like this by mistake back in 2011 when I started self-publishing. I had a backlist of five books, with two more well in the works. Sample of one, but releasing them so close together allowed me to make a living from my writing since May of 2011 (and in December of 2013, my husband quit his job, since we could easily live on my income). I recommend this practice too, though I don’t know that I would have had the patience to do it if I hadn’t spent 5 years getting rejections from traditional publishers.
If it’s a linear series, where the books have to be read in order, you’d end up releasing the first one with a lot of reader reviews, but the other four would have only a handful (or less) reviews. Wouldn’t that put a crimp in the sales?
I’d love to hear about your experiences with this. I’m planning to do the same thing.
I love this post and have to say that the speed and rhythm of self-publishing is changing fast–but there isn’t one formula so anyone who doesn’t have that pile of books to draw on, take heart! I think a lot of authors are driving toward that magic tipping point where readers find you and then also find that fabulous cache of books you have waiting for them online. After years in the traditional publishing world where books in a series had a year or more in between each release on NY’s schedule, I am thrilled to be able to release books closer together to keep readers engaged. I will have four new books out by the time August wraps up, a complete trilogy (one a month June/July/August) and the launch of a new series. Two more novels before the end of the year and I don’t see that pace slowing down anytime soon. The race to the “tipping point” is on and I love the creative flow–now to wait for the Liliana Nirvana effect….
This blew me away because I am planning on a very similar strategy and now I have a name for it.
I have five books ready go with, of course, more on the way. By the time I start releasing, I plan to have seven completed books(this does get fairly expensive after edits and book covers). They are in two different series and will have branded covers. Though I don’t plan on releasing them all at once. I planned on staggering the releases to keep my books in the HNR list for a good portion of 6 months(I will keep writing while releasing).
I liked this strategy because I have a full time job. So many times I watched the people who did well because of a continuous string of releases, in a series, and in a large enough genre. Working full time makes this difficult, but I can do it by hoarding enough books and maybe at the tail end of it all, writing will be my full time job.
What month do you think this Liliana Nirvana book bomb would work best? Christmas time?
I’ve been publishing at least one book a month (many months more than one) for almost three years now (over 50 titles to date) and haven’t seen a solid tipping point… but I’ve never published a series all at once. And while I’m making a great living and have found a hard-core group of readers who buy everything I publish, it would be interesting to see what would happen if I put out a full series (or serial) all at once.
My brain is now asking me if I can write faster… damn you :D
Damn me! :)
Congrats on your success. Amazing to get 50 titles out in three years! I feel like a slacker. :P
Such a slacker… :D Honestly, you’re the hardest working indie in the business, keeping us all up to date like this. Thanks for doing it so I don’t have to wrangle as much digging for info as I used to!
I’m in process of following this model between now and December. I’ll keep you posted (or, hopefully, you’ll see my name suddenly appear everywhere, in which case, it works!)
Thanks for this post. It tickled my memory, so I did some quick research. Amanda Hocking had written 17 novels without selling any. So she published 8 over a three month period. That made her a million book seller, and a famous name. Looks like this technique work.
Now that I’m looking for it, I see evidence of this in a lot of places.
Liliana Hart is a freaking genius for thinking this up, and brave beyond compare for going for it.
Also: There’s a way to approach this if you aren’t sure how you want to publish. Write and query agents to go the traditional route. If you don’t get any traction by the time you have 5 or 6 manuscripts, drop them all at once. It gives you a long term goal to focus on while querying.
I was under the impression that she wrote very quickly, rather than have a bunch of unpublished novels stored up.
At first instance, I’d agree with Terri Herman-Ponce above. It can be daunting when working a 9-5+ job to even begin to imagine how to get that kind of volume out. But when it comes down to it, where there’s a will there’s a way. I could easily free up 1-2 hours a day if I got up earlier & wrote before work, and also if I also procrastinated less.
Getting a fine balance between maximising output without compromising quality is key.
You’ve been very consistent with your blog this year Hugh, in both quantity and quality! Keep it up.
Makes me wish I had 5 novellas or novels to do this.
I did have two stories to go, and I published them one after the other on consecutive days. The result for a first time self-pubber in the short reads length: the first one ended up on the first page of the short reads SF category at #5 (the highest it was sighted by a pal, though I only saw it at 8) and it stayed on the first page for 3 days and was featured as a ‘hot new voice.’ So, maybe there’s something to this giving a ranks bump, cause it sure wasn’t cuz of sales. I got visibility for three days without any notable sales for short reads without any reviews or promotion or marketing. I just uploaded those babies to swim alone. Which is really interesting.
I hope the ones who try the technique after reading this post blogs and link back here, so we can read up. I plan to post another short read within a week, just to keep testing this.
Currently working on a series that I was going to release on an every 30 day basis but this has made me reconsider to possibly tightening up the schedule and maybe holding until I can have 4 or 5 available. The series is a departure in genre from my standalone novels so it’s a little risky. My other works might not benefit much so the larger/tighter approach appeals. By the way, Hugh, I’m most impressed with your efforts and generosity on behalf of independent writer/publishers. Thank you!
That’s interesting. I’m working on a release-every-two-months plan, which I think I can pull off and still maintain quality. I do it by overlapping editing, drafting, and plotting, juggling three books at once. It would kill me to sit on a book, though. I’ll have to put some thought into this one.
Hmm…Looks like it’s time to apply the nose to the grindstone. If this is true, it may have dire implications for traditional publishers, who deliberately drag out their offerings, vis a vis indies, who have some flexibility to take advantage of the phenomenon.
Note the difference between the self-publishing idea and the long-held tenet of traditional publishing of no more than one book per year. Stephen King had to publish under “Richard Bachman” early in his career to keep up with his productivity.
A word of caution to balance the enthusiasm: because many of the self-pub sites are recommended to new writers eager to break into publishing, a word to indicate this is not THE ONLY WAY is useful.
If you have boundless enthusiasm and energy, fine – use it. This technique may work well for you.
If you are a beginning writer who can’t match this pace, or can’t match it without creating dreck even you recognize, don’t. If you are working as hard as you can on a particular novel, but write slowly, that is okay. You are not doomed. (At least I hope not to be doomed.)
The key to self-publishing is the absence of gatekeepers, not a new and equally restrictive set of rules.
Read widely. Learn craft. DISCARD all advice that doesn’t work for you.
[…] Howey says that it’s a good way for a new author to get noticed. However, you have to be patient enough to write five or so books and not publish them until they […]
How much of the positive impact is the simultaneous release itself (which has some benefit), and how much of it is:
– the critical mass of books (5+ related works seems to work well in a lot of ways)
– focusing on production first, and only shifting to marketing when you have a critical mass of books
– part of which is having the funnel in place, so that you marketing time/dollar has a much greater impact and readers can go a significant distance with you from their first experience once you actually start marketing
So how much of the same effect can you capture by quietly releasing product after product, as quickly as possible, then ramping up the marketing when you hit your critical mass of products?
(Which is a more realistic route for people that have already released and not done much, and is advice I’ve read from a lot of different fronts. CJ Lyons and Kris Rusch being two notable examples.)
Once you know a book is ready, holding it back (instead of being forced to) is a really tough thing to do. Especially when you’re first starting out.
[…] Howey wrote a blog post yesterday that outlined a new launch philosophy that actually works. He called it the Liliana-Nirvana […]
Hugh (Or Anyone) – Has there been any research (anecdotal or otherwise) to show if certain times of year are better to release than others? For example, is Xmas a good time to release, or bad? (i.e. Are people too busy to read, and buy fewer books, or do they buy more because of gifts?) Any thoughts?
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I have been reading the comments: which are as helpful as the post (thanks Hugh & all those that commented.) I have been walking the tightrope of publishing, trying to decide trad. or self. with my adult novel. I have a trad. published picture book, (Fall/2015), researching a historical YA novel, and have a New Age novel 40% complete. For someone like me, who is not firmly planted in one genre, (and after reading this post) self-publishing the “Liliana-Nirvana” way would be very difficult. But this idea also has me thinking: I should hold up in a hotel for a week and write a love story that’s been rolling around in my head, then I would be able to put out two pieces of similar work. If anyone has any suggestions for a newbie…love to hear them.
P.S. Rosalind James I love your books and was inspired to self-publish because of your success!
[…] past weekend, author Hugh Howey posted about Liliana Hart’s self-publishing method, which she calls “5 down and 1 in the hole.” Liliana presented in several workshops at […]
[…] That might mean I have to sit on 80,000 completed words for a month or two, but it also means I can use the Literary Bomb known as the Liliana Nirvana Technique. […]
Great post, Hugh, lots of food for thought. I may have to reconsider my marketing strategy of tossing books out there to see if they sink or swim …
I did this accidentally, although a year into being a self-pubbed author. At that point I had released 6 books in my Cowboys of Chance Creek series, to moderate success. Then I made book 1 free and got a Book Bub ad. Because most of the people who saw the freebie on BookBub had never heard of me before, it was as if I’d dropped six books out at the same time. My sales went through the roof and I’ll be in the high six figures by the end of the year at this rate. I have definitely thought about doing that again, just for the fun of it… :)
Hugh, something bugged me about this post. It set me to thinking.
And it’s inspired this somewhat contrarian post on my own blog:
I know that you aren’t advocating anything less than complete creative freedom for authors. But I’m concerned about a tacit, one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to writing and marketing. I trust you’ll take my post in the constructive spirit intended, and with the enduring respect you’ve earned.
[…] you’re just starting, you can try the Liliana Nirvana as explained by Hugh Howey. For me it’s a little too late with 80 titles already out, but if you’re just starting, […]
[…] Liliana Nirvana […]
I think I would take a different course. Rather than release all at once, I would stage the releases, in the way a heavy-lift rocket lifts its cargo out of the atmosphere and into space. With three books ready, I’d release them so I could take advantage of the 30-day window that most ebook retailers give new titles for promotion.
I’d release the first, wait the 30 days and watch my sales numbers. I’d be watching for the number of copies sold per day/week to begin to plateau. As the curve starts to flatten out—about two or three months into sales it seems—that tells me I’ve reached the saturation point for early-adopters for that book, I’d release the second book. Then do the same for that and release the third book.
This way, I maintain visibility for a much longer period. Releasing all three books by watching for the plateau, I can use the sales of the newest to shore up the sales of the older title(s), keeping them in the higher ranks of the sales ranks for a longer period of time than otherwise.
Also, each book gains more readers for the series overall, meaning that hopefully that plateau stretches longer and longer for each book released. That could give me between 9–12 months to complete a fourth book and get it out there while there is still interest in me as a new author.
It also helps avoid readers getting the impression that I can crank out a book every couple of months—I can’t. I think the fastest I can work out a novel is about 6 to 7 months. I’d rather the readers have a bit more of a realistic idea of when the next book will come out. And hopefully after four books, they won’t mind the wait.
I may follow your technique. I can’t crank books out, but I have a nice backlist waiting in the wings. Since I’m a complete newbie, I would hate to blow my big debut by releasing my entire backlist at once–and making a mistake with the marketing that cripples the sales.
[…] I am going to try a large drop of work as suggested by another writer as written by Hugh Howey in this post. Being as I have a lot in progress and nothing really tipping at the moment, this won’t be some […]
How would a multiple author, multiple book release boost the signal, unless they’re all co-writing a series together? I would think multiple authors would not register as a ‘brand name’ in the customers’ minds.
Also, I wonder if the ‘release 5, hold 1 back’ would matter with a linear series, where the books need to be read in the correct order.
[…] looking at a September or October release date for Faith. I recently read a post by Hugh Howey (here) that talked about a launch strategy that may be advantageous to new authors. This strategy is […]
It does work, because when i read Wool, i searched your other work, if there was nothng else, would i have forgotten about you and moved on? It is a very good point, I am finishing up 2 small books, one fan fiction and one of my own, but will it be enough? I might wait until my second fan fiction is done, and part two of my series, this way I have 4 books at once (hmmm, the first of each free for a weekend, the rest at 99 cents forever)……. Thanks for the idea Hugh, I will let you know in a few months if it worked…
I’d be happy to add my info to this thread in October. I’ve read this, as well as other threads in Kboards and have decided to hold off on publishing my series of Irish romance novels until I have three books ready. I just can’t bring myself to wait until I have five, but I will come back and contribute feedback after I publish all three on the same day. Additionally, I’ve been toying with launching a novella that would be a prequel to the series and making it permafree. Whether to do that right before publishing or on the same day is something that I need to think about.
Thanks for the great post!
As I look past my first published work and my upcoming novel in November, I think of how I had planned to release monthly works in between my novels that I thought to space 3 months apart.
After reading this, I’m completely rethinking my plan and am thinking I will release 5 at a time. This all makes perfect sense! … I know how it is to binge watch a season on Netflix. This will be interesting!
Sounds like a fantastic technique if you have the resources to take care of editing, covers, etc. for five books at once. I didn’t, and releasing book #1 to pay for book #2 is working for me so far. I do worry that readers will forget my series before book #2 comes out… but then, it also means I have time to build up and promote another release. There are advantages and disadvantages both ways, I guess.
I might try something like this when I start getting my UF novellas out, since it will be a slightly different audience. If not 5+1, maybe just have one ready to go every few weeks, with pre-order links in the back to lead readers on.
(PS- thanks for all of your great advice)
[…] plan to take Hugh Howey’s advice and publish five different stories simultaneously. The logic seems sound – each published […]
[…] reading on Hugh Howey’s site about the “5 down and 1 in the hole” technique, I’ve […]
[…] launch another Let’s Play so early? Because of the “five down and one in the hole technique,” frankly. That rule technically applies to books, but I see no reason not to extend it to […]
[…] If you’ve hung out on the indie forums or listened to the various self-publishing podcasts, you might have heard of new authors finding success with variations of Liliana Hart’s “5 down and 1 in the hole” technique (summed up on Hugh Howey’s blog): […]
[…] business model, it’s a bit of an experiment. Recently Hugh Howey, bestselling author of WOOL, wrote a very interesting blog on a strategy for new self-publishing authors to kick start their care…. What I’m hoping to get out of this strategy is a boost in exposure to both my already […]
When I first self-published my Montana Sky Series in April of 2011, I put out two books at once, which I think contributed to my initial success pretty much out of the gate. The next one didn’t come out until seven and a half months later. I definitely would have been more successful with more books initially. I wish I hadn’t stopped writing this series way back when it wouldn’t sell! Now there are eleven books–longer novels, short novel subseries, an anthology of short stories, two novellas.
I’m going to suggest that a middle ground release schedule might also work well, although perhaps not as well as the five books. Do three and have a fourth one out in thirty days and a fifth in sixty.
Thanks Hugh for this priceless advice. I am considering releasing at least 6- 7 titles and because I don’t write in English ( I am from East Europe) this makes a lot of sense. I must wonder in one year time ahead, would this be still applicable? if Amazon changes its algorithms or the rules? A lot of indies are fearing, Amazon grows more and more and the number of books grows while the readers decline (let’s face it).
I also wonder is the period around Christmas the best time for a book launch?
[…] Via Hugh Howey’s Official Site: […]
I’ve often pondered the idea of whether or not this would actually be an effective manner in which to release books for best attempts at saturating the market (as much as an independent can saturate) at one time.
Ultimately, I think that if you’re willing to put the same amount of effort and patience into releasing 5 books at once, with another waiting in the wings, you might be able to use a much more reliable method (I use that term loosely, considering how reliable book sales are today in general).
I mean, here, I’m gathering that the basic idea is to rely on groups like Amazon to market your books for you because of how they market new releases, and then the idea is that if they see your name enough times during one given week, perhaps they’re just buckle down and buy. It might work, but seems like there’s very little data that would ever be able to back it up.
Of course, if enough people did this..it might make it easier for the rest of us to get some eyes on our work as there would be fewer releases over the course of a standard week…at least until the people testing this method get their six books written and ready for publication.
I see two big challenges to this technique: family situation and book length. My first novel Red Hope took two years to write before releasing it. It was written in the spare moments of the evenings between family life and sleep. I traded off sleep the last few months to accomplish the final editing stages. I type fast, but I edit slow. And I like to spend time with my kids. So, I guess it’s a tradeoff. It would be tough to sit on ten years of work.
I do have one contrarian thought about this idea of slamming out books so quickly. For me, I found that time was a great helper. It allowed me many more job commutes and evenings to think about plot twists and character development. Some of the best elements of my book came to me while on business travel or taking out the trash.
I can totally relate to John Dreese’s comment. Because of work and family, I’m restricted to a few stolen hours here and there. Maybe more on the weekends. Getting those 5 books ready would take many years.
I use public transport and have found that to be great time for writing. And as for best time for developing plots and characters…. while mowing the lawn :-D
I like the idea of releasing a number of books at once. I released 3 on Halloween and 2 more for Valentine’s Day. None of the books were in a series although several reviewers want me to write a second follow-up book which I’m considering. I should say I write romance, adventure and mystery novels with African American lesbians as main characters so my experience is a bit different as I’m still trying to find an audience.
I have to admit, it was fun watching to see which of the first 3 books did the better than the other two. Because I had three books out there at once, I could tinker around with changing book cover designs which I did and pricing which I did as well. It maybe too early to tell if my tinkering made a difference and I’m still learning how to market myself and find my niche. As a first time self publisher, I’ve enjoyed a tiny bit of success. I have faith my craft so I expect bigger and better things this year when I release three books around Mother’s Day in May, Gay Pride Month in June and Father’s Day also in June. I should also say my novels run the gamut from 60,000 words to 120,000 words. After reading the article, I know I made the right choice to release more than one novel at a time.