What I learned in 2017 part 1: Get my ducks in a row!

When you make a mistake, you learn what not to do.

But when things go right…you learn what to do.

Knock on wood, I had a very good year. Soon, I’ll post my annual year in review, but for the next three Mondays I’d like share some of what I learned this year. Each “lesson” will be the subject of a blog post.

Lesson one: Get my ducks in a row.

What this means is don’t leap too soon. Don’t rush through a project just to complete it. Perform all the steps. Don’t skip steps because you think they’re unimportant or you think you know a better way or that step doesn’t apply to your situation. Figure out what the natural or optimal order should be and follow it. Have a strategy, and follow that strategy. Don’t cut it short. How you do something, the order in which you do something matters as much as what you do.

What does this mean in practice? Here are two examples.

Success story No. 1: My Breeder series was originally published by Loose Id and had been my best selling book of all time. After the rights to Breeder reverted to me in October 2016, Loose Id still had the rights to Terran (Book 2). I didn’t want to re-release Breeder as an Indie publication while Loose Id still had the rights to Terran, because I figured there would be significant sell-through on Terran when I released Breeder, and I didn’t want to give up half the royalties.

So I forced myself to wait seven months until the rights to Terran reverted to me. It was hard not having Breeder out there, especially when readers would contact me asking for it. “Where’s Breeder? I can’t find the first book!”  But I stuck to my plan. Over the course of the summer of 2017, I rereleased the entire 3-book series (I’d always held the rights to Warrior, the third book). As expected, there was good sell-though.

Then I got a free BookBub Deal for Breeder. The sales for Terran went through the roof.

If I hadn’t waited, if I hadn’t gotten my ducks in a row, I would given up a lot of money.

Success story No. 2: I took Nick Stephenson’s class, Your First 10K Readers. An author friend had told me I probably already knew everything he taught. She wasn’t wrong, but she wasn’t right either.  Do a newsletter? Oh my gosh! I never thought of that!  I had all the pieces that he taught, but I didn’t put them together quite right. For instance, every author knows that to build your readership base you should have newsletter, have a signup on your blog, have a signup in your backmatter, give away a free story. I had all that. I did all that! But after connecting the pieces the way Nick suggested, I doubled my organic newsletter subscription rate in six months. And no, I won’t tell you how. That would be giving away part of Nick’s lesson plan and frankly, I’m not going to give you for free what I paid more than $700 to learn. The point is, when I got my newsletter duckies in a row, it made a big difference.

Lesson 2 coming Monday, Dec. 11: It really IS about the book

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18 Responses to What I learned in 2017 part 1: Get my ducks in a row!

  1. Trin Carl says:

    Love the Ducks in the Row. I should totally post a goals post for my own blog. Great post Ed

  2. Cara Bristol says:

    Thank you. More to come over the next two Mondays.

  3. Tasha Black says:

    Great post! Can’t wait for parts 2 & 3!

  4. I love hearing success stories. I also like the encouragement to stay organized and patient. Thank you.

  5. Kara says:

    Thanks for posting! I’m always fascinated by what others learn from the author biz process 🙂

  6. Thanks for giving us your ducks!

  7. Great post, Cara. You are always so generous about trying to help other authors.

  8. Ah, I see what I’ve been doing wrong. I don’t have any ducks!

  9. Thanks. Your posts are always so helpful and thought provoking. It is so tempting to just hit the submit button as quickly as possible, but there can be some excellent reasons to pause and think things through.

  10. Thank you so much for this. Glad your waiting paid off! (and I’m taking Nick’s class right now – even the stuff I think I know, I didn’t KNOW.)

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yep. There were a lot sit-up-and-take notice moment. I keep meaning to go back and re-watch the modules that I found the most helpful.

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