Zach Bohannon was not expecting to find success with his first books. He decided to keep his focus on long-term goals, committing to developing his skill as a storyteller and building up a brand and a catalog of titles, with the hopes that by his 5th, 8th, or 10th book, things would start to take off. Less than four months after publishing his first fiction title, he is now in the Top 100 of Horror Authors in Kindle. This week I talk to Zach about his long-term strategies as a writer and how he manages it all.
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In January of 2012, Zach Bohannon started a blog called, I Once Was Fat But Now I See… and began documenting his weight loss journey. By the end of the year, he had dropped 95 pounds… a total of 115 in 15 months… and published a book documenting his process. He attributes his success to focusing on developing good habits and long-term behaviors that would keep him healthy for a lifetime.
After successfully losing the weight with this approach, he decided to get serious about his fiction writing using the same long-term thinking and strategies to develop his skills as a writer. He set out to write in obscurity, with no expectations for financial success anytime soon, intent on becoming a better writer and building a brand that had a back catalog for readers to discover later on down the line. His philosophy and strategy is simple: “Write and keep writing. Over time, you will gain sustainability with discipline.”
In Bohannon’s case, “over time” turned out to mean just short of four months. Check out his publishing timeline that boosted him from zero to Top 100 Horror Authors in the Kindle Store:
12/9/14 – Dark Reveries – Short Story Collection
1/27/15 – Empty Bodies: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale of Dystopian Survival (Volume 1) (novel)
2/20/15 – Heritage: A Haunting Short Story
3/5/15 – Inked: A Supernatural Short Story
3/6/15 – The Witness (stand-alone horror novel)
Getting it All Done
The astute reader will note that there are two novels on the above timeline. It took Zach 60 days to write, edit, and publish Empty Bodies, and he wrote the first draft of The Witness simultaneously. How is he getting it done?
Zach typically writes about three hours a day: a half-hour to an hour before he heads off to his job as a logistics manager for a major music instrument distributor; an hour during his lunch break; and another hour after his (very adorable) baby daughter goes to bed. He keeps his focus during these times strictly on writing or editing. Promotion, social media, everything else he just fits in when he can.
Zach works with developmental editor/copy editor Jennifer Collins, who he found through oDesk. Typically, his process involves him writing a first draft, doing an editing pass on his own, making corrections, then reading through it again on Kindle, a step he highly recommends.
At that point, the manuscript goes to his editor, who makes her edits, sends them back to him for corrections. He sends it back to her for another pass, makes the corrections, and then does a final pass himself on Kindle once more.
There is a healthy community of horror readers on Instagram, which Zach discovered by simply searching through various hashtags. He started liking and making friends, and has found some of his best beta readers and encouragement through this platform.
On Instagram, he posts things about writing and books, maybe quotes from his favorite writers, pictures of his cute baby daughter, book covers, and the like…but he says it’s not so important what he posts, but what other people post and him getting involved by commenting, liking, and being…well, social.
Bohannon has priced all of his titles at $.99 with the exception of his stand-alone novel The Witness, which is priced at $2.99. His focus is on the long-term, working on building up his email list and building up his catalog and visibility and building up his readership. He plans on launching future books in his serial at $.99 for the time being and see how it goes.
In the meantime, he’s run a few promos with Ereader News Today, and he’s focused on getting more titles out.
What’s the Next Big Thing for Zach?
Bohannon’s sticking to his long-term vision and remains focused on the writing. He is currently working on the sequel to Empty Bodies, which should come out in May 2015, with plans to follow up immediately with the third book in the series. He is also in the process of getting an audiobook produced for Empty Bodies through ACX.
“To me, if something is important and I want to do it, then, you know, I’ll never not have the time. Like, I’ll find a way to make it happen, so….”
“I think that audiobooks are really just at the very beginning of how popular they’re going to be.”
From Zach’s Blog Post on Long-Term Thinking: “Write and keep writing. Over time, you will gain sustainability with discipline.”
- Plan for a long-term career. Ask yourself what kind of habits you need to develop in order to become a working, sustainable, professional author. Are you writing every day? How much time are you putting towards your writing goals? Are you finishing what you start? Are you editing what you finish? Are you shipping?
- Execute for a long-term career. Pick an essential writing habit — like writing every day — and put, say, a half-hour into it minimum, every day, until it becomes a habit. Then move on to the next habit and repeat…
- Be patient. It takes time and diligent practice to get good at anything. If you’re just starting out with your writing career, keep your eye on the page and focus on making a good story. If you keep at it, you might get lucky and have instant success — but if you don’t, then you’ll have eventual success. Either way, you win.
What are your long-term goals as an author?
What is the most important thing writers can do to build sustainability as an indie author?
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