A Detailed Road Map

Road Map

A reader writes:

Say Mr. Niemeier, when you write a multi-book saga like say the Soul Cycle, do you just write it out book by book or do you have a detailed kind of road-map before you put pen to paper?

I answer:

I outline extensively. For the Soul Cycle and XSeed series I filled four spiral notebooks each and gamed out the rough outlines with friends. I do not recommend you do this.

Soul Cycle Outlines

What you want to do is write to market. Think of the book you’d read as a guilty pleasure on a Saturday night alone with a bottle of Scotch and a cigar. What genre is that book in? What similar books which you enjoy are also in that genre?

Head to Amazon. Look up the top 100 selling Kindle books in that genre. Those are the books gobbled up by genre binge readers. Read as many of them as you can. You’re reading to find out what your target market likes.

Come up with a story of your own that you’d be excited to tell using the tropes and archetypes which appeal to fans of that genre. If you’re an outliner, put together an outline. If you’re a discovery writer, hammer out a first draft; then go back and outline to impose order on the chaos. Rewrite. Get beta reader feedback. Rewrite again. Hire an editor. Write the final draft based on his suggestions.

Authors have been trying to take advantage of market trends forever. The glacial pace of legacy publishing made joining the party before the cooler was empty impossible. If you started writing a vampire romance series at the height of Twilight’s popularity, readers would have moved on to steampunk before your publisher got it to market. By the time your Victorian air pirate saga debuted, Lit-RPG was the new hotness.

With indie pub, authors’ release schedules are limited only by the speed of their own writing, their cover artists’ drawing, and their editors’ editing. Not only is it possible to take a book from concept to publication in two months, these days it’s essential.

Now, the above example is mostly for argument’s sake. Though it’s possible to chase trends, the better bet is finding large tribes of dedicated binge readers in a genre you love and writing to their tastes.

This is the feat I’ll be attempting with Combat Frame XSeed, my upcoming mecha/Mil-SF action series. Indie pub isn’t without its trade offs, and two big challenges indie authors face are covering production costs and making do without advances.

That’s why indies rely on fostering the reader-author relationship more than ever. Awesome readers like you have shown you’re willing to step up and put your hard-earned on the line to back the kinds of stories tradpub refuses to print. Reader-pleasing indie creators have already run successful crowdfunding campaigns to make their visions reality. Soon I’ll be calling on my cherished readers to help me bring you books you’ll love and can’t get anywhere else.

The nihilistic, pessimistic future that tradpub and post-90s anime pushed on us is over. Soon we forge our own vision. #AGundam4Us.

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