I once asked Scott Sigler, podcasting superstar and Crown Publishing author of Sci-Fi/Horror novels, what elements led to reaching his first contract with a large publishing house. He listed three things for me: Quality content, consistency and promotion. Quality and promotion are obvious. You can’t build an audience by giving them crap, and you can’t build an audience if you don’ t tell them about your content.
One of these things was not so obvious, and that was the idea of consistency. When he elaborated on the idea, he talked about how many novels he had put out via podcast before he landed that first contract. Sigler was busy podcasting his fifth podcast novel, Nocturnal, before he signed his contract with Crown. I have yet to see another author in the podcast fiction realm replicate this success.
* I’m talking about podcast audio books specifically, not authors like John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow, who have used other elements of giving away free fiction to build quality careers.
* * Yes, I know J.C. Hutchins landed a big publishing contract, but he hasn’t experienced the sustained success of Sigler, who is poised to release his third hardcover novel with Crown, Ancestor, on June 22.
I’ve talked about this before. Why am I bringing it up again? Because I’m taking Sigler’s advice.
I’m obviously currently working on the novella for Grail Quest Books based on Decipher’s WARS collectible card game. I am continuing to bring in cast recordings for my first podcast novel, The Last Guardians (I don’t know that I’m ever going to do a cast recording again with a novel, because if I had done a straight read the thing would be out right now. I digress). I’ve just begun plotting out its sequels. I’m roughly 1900 words into the first novel in a series tentatively titled The Raven and the Dove. I have two novels plotted out in a three-book arc entitled The Bladewielder series. Just last week over the span of two lunch hours at work I plotted out a novel called The Sword of Calagrim, undoubtedly the first in a three-book arc. I have a rough sketch for a four-book space opera arc sitting on my hard drive. I have the beginning of an idea for a fantasy pirate tale also gathering dust in there.
I’ve recently begun working again (as evidenced by my above “lunch hours at work” statement), and am crawling toward developing a consistent working schedule. I have my steno pad at the ready.
I’ve also learned recently that I’m the kind of person who needs to dip his feet in a few different pools at once to keep momentum going. If I lean too heavily into one property, I step back out into time-wasting hobbies all too easily and for far too long. If I step out of a property before I’m burned out on it and into another, I find its easier to keep going. I also find my time-wasting hobby breaks waste far less time.
Anyway another crazy idea Scott Sigler told me is, “don’t submit anything [to publishers or agents] for three years. Podcast consistently for three years, build an audience, then see where you are. Get to the point where you can say to a publisher, ‘I can sell books without you, but we can sell more together.’”
It was a bold statement. ”Don’t submit anything to agents or publishers? Where has this guy been?! Doesn’t he know that it’s a struggling author’s duty to submit themselves to death and pile up rejection slips? Who does Scott Sigler think he is, anyway?” Well I didn’t mention that he happened to have a contract with AOL/Time Warner publishing for his novel Earthcore, before the Dot-Com Bubble burst and they had to drop unestablished properties. He already did the serial submission thing. He already paid his “struggling author” dues to land the big deal. He also did it unconventionally.
Looking at my list of properties, it is conceivable that as I release The Last Guardians, I can finish Sword of Calagrim and record it, ready to release soon after. I can also be working on The Bladewielder series. I can also be working on The Raven and the Dove. In three years I could have four novels finished and podcasted. I could have four distinctly different Epic Fantasy properties for a publisher (or agent) to choose from, should they be interested.
I am Sigler-izing my creative queue, at last. And I like the possibilities.