A to Z for Indie Authors is a collection of posts containing tips, resources, inspiration and cautionary tales alike for indie authors old and new. Click here to see all posts.
Ask any online content creator, from the commercial AAA Game Studio to the independent webcomic artists and YouTubers right on down to the CamGirl adult performers, and they’ll tell you the same thing: Failure to deliver on your content is a failure to launch. This is as true for them as it is for the independent author, whether you write specifically for Kindle or, like myself, in a publicly-accessible serial format.
Deadline management is not something that’s a struggle to understand. In today’s day and age where interest is gauged in bounce rates and social media engagement, it’s remarkably easy to fall into a mindset where you can find yourself jealous of even a kitten’s attention span. For the indie serial author it can mean the difference between life and death in the competition for people’s attention.
Consider it as though you were a reader. Most authors are also readers, (and if you’re not, then why not?), so it’s not a stretch to consider it from their perspective. Say you stumble across a story that seems interesting. You gobble up all twelve posted chapters or episodes, and from a brief bit of research, you discover that new chapters are posted once weekly. So you bookmark the page, and return a week later–
–only to discover that for whatever reason, the new chapter hasn’t been posted. Perhaps it’s because the beta-readers have yet to sign off on the latest installment. Perhaps the author has yet to finish it. Are they on vacation? Have they quit writing? Did they die? Most of these thoughts don’t enter the mind of the readers. More often than not, our minds won’t consider excusing a late installment, instead most will merely accept that the author failed to deliver on a promise, and an inevitable side-effect of this is waning interest.
That’s why setting yourself to a schedule is of vast importance to the content creator. Failure to deliver too often translates into a lost reader.
For my own purposes, Children of the Halo has been released for several years now on the Kindle market, not to mention to countless people who had read it on its original run all the way back in 2008. So I felt it would be a disservice to set a re-post to drop at the rate of one or two chapters a week. Instead, I opted for five a week. As each chapter represents at least four hours of writing, plus time for revisions, formatting, and other preparations, I had absolutely zero issues keeping up with delivery for that particular project. However, starting in February, the long-awaited sequel to Children of the Halo, The Liar’s Law, will begin to be delivered, along with another project, Sol: Ruin.
These projects, at the time of writing this, aren’t entirely complete. While I have nearly a hundred and forty thousand words already written in The Liar’s Law, and twenty-five thousand words in Sol: Ruin, posting them at a rate of five a week would burn me out trying to complete it in time for posting. Not to mention that even once I’d finished, I’d have no new content to add whatsoever.
So I’ve opted to post one chapter each, once per week. The Liar’s Law to be posted on Mondays, and Sol: Ruin to be posted on Fridays. This schedule is much more manageable. Rare enough that it gives me seven days to complete a new chapter, and frequent enough that people won’t lose interest. In my case, I prefer to have at least four weeks of wiggle room, which means that if I’m posting the first chapter of a story, I will have completed up to the fourth chapter by the time the first goes live. This is a highly suggested practice. The last thing you want to do is be hours away from posting while you’ve got nothing to post. That’s when mistakes are made too easily, particularly in terms of narrative. Your beta readers also become somewhat redundant, as you can’t afford to wait for their feedback before you commit to a post. I’ve made mistakes with this too, by writing myself into a corner that made it vastly more difficult to write your way out of.
Not to mention the fact that it will always lead to a much more polished chapter, making it easier to revise when you’re ready to compile all the chapters into print or ebook formats.
Here are my best practices:
- When first posting an installment, aim to be at least four installments ahead of the game, and try to keep up with the posting schedule. This will allow you much-needed time off for one or two weeks, should you need to unplug or take a vacation, and you could always double-up the remaining weeks to stay neck-and-neck with your deadlines.
- Try to write at least one chapter a week. Make them of a manageable size. (This is often something I struggle with, as the size almost always surpasses what I intend.)
- In that same week, give your previous chapters a revision, from the chapter after the most recent post, up till the present. This will serve to run your unposted chapters through at least three revisions, which I find to be the magic number where I’m most satisfied with my revisions.
- Stay consistent to the story’s schedule. If you say you’re going to post every Wednesday, or every-other Saturday, then stick to your guns and see it through.
- If, for whatever reason, you cannot have a chapter posted on time, then make sure you announce it. In lieu of an actual chapter, readers will often forgive you so long as you acknowledge that a chapter is going to be late. Use this method sparingly, however, otherwise you begin to sound like a broken record.
In short, set yourself to a manageable schedule. Give yourself time for revisions and last-minute changes to the narrative. Give yourself time to do spelling and grammar checks. If you start to feel stressed, take some time for yourself and dedicate some extra time to catch up after you’ve unwound. Writing should never feel like a chore, but rather a natural extension of what you choose to do in your free time. Be consistent; have fun!