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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Agile Thinking

By Matt Buchman

Agile is all the craze in the software world. “Agile” jobs have gone up 2,000,000% in the last three years. (No, that’s not a typo.) And while I’m not a software geek, I find myself a bit surprised at the aptness of this phrase to publishing in today’s market.

The Kindle’s 5th birthday passed on November 19th. (Did anyone send a cake?) When it was released, e-books were only in the land of the crazed geeks and other early adopters. (Anyone recall the Rocket ereader? It weighed only twice as much as the Kindle and held forty books for 20+ hours of reading per charge –and that was in 1998!) As of August 2012, eBooks represent 21% of the adult market, have blown into the children’s market (mostly this year) to 13% share, and will see huge growth this Christmas (Kindle sales have already broken records).
I published my third SF “Monk’s Maze” in 2010 as my first e-book. I’ve followed it with five others across three genres. That was right after PubIt and CreateSpace entered the fray. Now I’m direct to Kobo as well and through Smashwords to others. In that time I’ve learned a lot, so, I’ve redone all of the covers once and the marketing twice. I’m trying to be agile and responsive to my own learning.

At the same time, I marketed to traditional presses and sold my “Night Stalker” romance series to Sourcebooks. With these releases, and the very kind reviews that readers and critics have been nice enough to bestow, my one other romance title started taking off.

Or rather, it should have been, but it wasn’t. After a bit more “agile thinking” I changed the cover to make my own line up better with the beautiful ones designed by Sourcebooks. The day I changed the covers, the book started selling. I didn’t change the marketing, I just let go of a cover that I’d ever so carefully designed and branded to match my other books. Same love story, far more sales. (Night Stalkers #3 “Wait Until Dark” out 2/2012 & Angelo’s Hearth #2 “Where Dreams Reside” out 4/2012).

Then I wanted to write a short novel (1/2 length) in the “Night Stalker” world. After it was finished and proofread and fixed, I published it in under 12 hours. My first dozen sales happened on one site before I was done getting it on the other sites I load to. It’s not just being agile to keep up with the market’s technology changes. It’s also thinking about your customer (a key part of agile software design). What do they want? Another story in a successful series about a side character they liked. 

Did I need to take the traditional 1-1/2 to 2 years to get to market as I did with my traditional sales? No, I took 12 hours (including the print layout and full front-and-back cover design). Does it have the huge reach of traditional press? Not yet. I’m leveraging my self-pub sales off the traditional sales, but they’re both going to grow. It doesn’t happen overnight, some of my self-pubbed books still don’t sell but occasionally.
So, what I’m constantly asking myself today? How can I be even more agile tomorrow!

Matt Buchman
ML “Matt” Buchman has worked in theater, law, computers, opera, publishing, and manufacturing, roughly in that order.

Somewhere in there he designed and built two houses and rode a bicycle solo around the world (that last wasn’t really on purpose, but it happened anyway). He started his first novel while on that trip.

A half dozen novels exist in SF/F, a foodie thriller, and romance. His Night Stalker series was just named Top 10 Romance of 2012 by Booklist and earns rave reviews. Somewhere along the way he picked up an amazing kid and the best wife a writer could ever dream up. He lives and writes in the Pacific NW.

For more information about Matt and his books check out his website 


Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Matt. I'm fascinated by the power of a good/great cover.

So you think the increase in sales of your romance is due to your new cover more closely resembling your Night Stalker cover or because it features the hero/heroine, etc.?

Being a lover of lighthouses, the first cover does catch my eye and if I saw it in a book store, I would have picked it up and read the back cover.

I've still got the rest of this month to be more comfortable using my Kobo. Just do not like scrolling around websites looking for a book. Scrolling and Clicking is not the same as Strolling and Picking.

M. L. Buchman said...

Thanks Judith. I've always thought it was the recognizability of belonging to the same author/voice, rather than the hero/heroine being there. But either way, the sales began almost immediately after the moment of change. All to the good.

And I forgot to mention, thanks so much for letting me come play. This whole idea of flexible thinking is becoming more and more prevalent in how I approach my marketing and my writing.

Sarah Raplee said...

Interesting post. Synching your self-pubbed covers with your Sourcebooks covers was a brilliant move, IMHO!

I agree that those who are more open to change and adaptation ('agile') have a huge leg up in today's publishing world. Thanks for drawing that to my attention!

Paty Jager said...

I like your "Agile" thinking Matt! I need to do more of that. Good glimpse into your Indie writing life and how you make it work. And I agree, the best part about being Indie is publishing when the book is done and not having to wait 6 -18 months to have it available for our readers.

Tam Linsey said...

I love hearing that you are marketing and selling across genres as well at publishing outlets. I've got some romance manuscripts I've hesitated to publish because I worry about diluting my platform.

Do you think your readers are picking up your books across the genres, or do you believe you have two different sets of readers? And how are you combining your marketing efforts, other than synchronizing some of your covers?

Cathryn Cade said...


Glad to hear the sales results of your new indie cover, as I'm going to be indie publishing a new sci fi romance series.

Christy at Gilded Hearts Designs is doing some gorgeous covers for me with a pose that plays off an already successful series of mine.

So thanks for sharing that this works!

And thanks to the Genre-istas the forum.

Cathryn Cade