Friday, March 16, 2018

How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Release Books Matters

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

*disclaimer. This series is about following rules. I know that Indies don’t have to follow rules. That’s the whole point of being indie. But indies who pay attention to what rich and famous authors do, have a much better shot at fame and riches.*

Very few authors have a series of reader-satisfying books burning a hole in their pockets. These books have to be written and released successfully for the empire to be built. This is a particularly poignant article for me to write. I need to launch a new series. The series that has formed the foundation of my indie success has been completed. No new books are coming for it, and it has been around long enough now--almost 7 years since book 1 released!—that it has reached market saturation. So everything I write in this post is also for me. A prod to both do the job, and do it right.

Do not release a book all by itself. No matter what you did in the past. If you are starting over with the idea in mind to start an empire, take your time and do it right. Does it take you 6 months to complete a reader-satisfying novel? Then you need to write for over a year before you launch this series. This is technically point 1, so let’s get to it.
  • 1. Launch when you have three novels in the new series, and not before. Novels one and two should be complete and ready to go and launched live [instead of pre-order.] Book three can be first draft finished, in the editing stage, so long as you can get it uploaded live within a month of the first two. If only two of the books are complete, the third one needs to go up as a preorder. I am adamant about this point. Launch all three books at once in your new series. You are going to go in strong right away. The first one will already be at that ridiculously low price and the other two will probably be somewhere between $3.99 and $5. When wildly successful indie author Gemma Halliday was asked what one thing she would have done differently she said she would have released all of her books at once and not waited. It is much better to release many books at once than to try and build a brand on a single title.
  • 2. Get reviews. Those books need reviews. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are the word of mouth of the internet. Word of mouth is currently still the best way to get readers. Reviews are readers telling each other what they think of the books. Give away copies of your books to your friends, family, and anyone who is willing to promise a review in a short span of time. And I mean short. You want to get these reviews up within days of the launch. Book one is most important here, but if you can get people reading and reviewing books two and three, all the better. I’m sure this feels like potentially lost sales but it is not. Evidence in point 3.
  • 3. This point is merely evidence for point two. Dan Brown did not have a best seller until the Da Vinci Code. He sent a copy of the Da Vinci Code to every newspaper reviewer in the country [this is only a slight exaggeration] when he launched it. He did not do this for his first two books. His book got lots of reviews in the papers. He went on to be famous. You get it. Do what he did, or at least get as close to it as you can! Early reviews matter!
  • 4. Feed your series regularly. Your readers want them as fast as you can get them out. Be a writing and editing machine. Take no more than 12 weeks to complete a book for maximum success. Yeah, 12 weeks sounds insane. But it works, and writers who write full time can do this. If you can’t write full time, I get it. But you honestly don’t have to, to make this happen. Can you write one thousand words in about two hours? I am pretty sure you can. One thousand words a day, Monday through Friday, for two months is an eighty thousand word novel. The third month is for editing. That’s all it takes. See? A real novel every twelve weeks is doable for most everyone who is going to take this super seriously.

Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven RomanticMysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at

Don't miss the previous posts
1. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters

2. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Advertise Matters


  1. I'm struggling to get one nonfiction book published. Now I have to start thinking series? I'll never get the hang of this publishing business. He says with big ol' smile. Thanks so much for your guidance Ms. Traci. This has been a great series of post so far. I am learning so much from you and your associates. Your willingness to share best practices and "secrets" make this writing journey fun! God's blessings ma'am.

    1. Each book takes the time it takes! But if you have a non-fiction book in you, I bet you have a non-fition series, too. I believe in you!

  2. Traci, I so appreciate your advice in indie publishing. I released my first indie book almost two years ago with the full intention of releasing the already-written second book in the series within six months. But I didn't think it was ready and have since edited it several times. The third book was 1/3 written when I stopped to write a contracted novel. I wish I had done what you've suggested, and I hope it's not too late to get my series off the ground.

  3. Shoot, you and me both! If I knew then, what I know now! Congratulations on the contracted novel! I'm also shopping something around hoping to go hybrid. :D I'm trying to live up to my own advice as we speak, but this release plan is no small task! We'll see if I can walk the talk. :D

  4. WOW. A writer on steroids! Thanks, that really fired up the writing juices. BUT...
    I have only one book I wish to publish - a middle grade kids' book with a collection of 12 linked stories... about 50,000 words. Now, what do I do? (It might be possible to divide it into two books, but there is a story arc from #1 to #12 that I would hate to lose. Is a 2-book package feasible?) Or what about just the one?

    1. In my opinion, you don't indie publish a book like that. It just won't reach it's audience!! Get that book to agents, editors, etc etc. and try for a traditional deal. The middle grade market is just no good for indie books. I hate to say that. I know it's discouraging. I've just seen so many people try it, and no one can get their books into the hands of the kids that way.