Throwing a Pitch

By Mindy Klasky

Years ago, I received The Call – my agent told me that an editor at PenguinPutnam wanted to buy my traditional fantasy novel, The Glasswrights’ Apprentice.  In short order, I received a second contract – ultimately PenguinPutnam bought five Glasswrights books and an unrelated fantasy novel (the book I’d written while my agent shopped around Apprentice.)

Yay, me.  Except I had a problem.  We had to figure out when to release that unrelated fantasy novel.  My editor wanted me to adopt a pen name and release it the same year as Apprentice.  My agent wanted me to wait till the five-book series had come out (a book a year, for five years), then release the unrelated book to launch a follow-up series.  I couldn’t fathom juggling the promotion for two authorial names, and I feared that my sophomore effort wouldn’t fare well after I’d had five years of bettering my writing game.

I pushed hard to release the book between the second and third Glasswrights books.  Ultimately, I won.  Sort of. Season of Sacrifice is the least-read of my sixteen novels, and it barely earned out its advance.

Now, almost fifteen years later, self-publishing has changed the writing landscape.  Indie authors are making major names for themselves by releasing books on a rapid schedule.  Liliana Hart has famously noted that she only launches series when she has three books ready to drop on the first day; at the WRW retreat, she observed that if she were launching a new series now, she’d have five books in hand on launch day.

After initial release (no matter how many books are in that first “tranche”), indie authors are encouraged to release new books rapidly – at least one every three months, and more rapidly if possible.

After following these arguments for months, I decided to push rapid-release publishing to an extreme.  My Diamond Brides Series was a natural for the strategy.  The hot contemporary short novels are built around the (imaginary) Raleigh Rockets baseball team – nine books for the team’s nine position players. 

I decided to release the first book, Perfect Pitch, on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day – March 31.  Building readers’ appetites, I scheduled Catching Hell for two weeks later, on April 13.  Reaching First was locked in for May 4, and I slotted every other book in the series to launch on the first Sunday of the month, through to the end of baseball season (November 2, when the World Series will have been determined for a couple of weeks.)

Writing, revising, and formatting nine books in eight months required complicated planning.  I had to be certain I had at least five books written before the first one ever hit stores.  I calculated delivery and production schedules to the precise day, leaving time for my editors, copy editors, and designers to do their work.  I structured a complicated master “to-do” list that included all publicity, promotion, and marketing obligations, all book production obligations, all external deadlines (e.g., vendors’ deadlines), and – of course – all writing deadlines.

On one day this month, I was:

* Writing publicity materials for Perfect Pitch (Book 1),
* Creating electronic book files for Catching Hell (Book 2),
* Drafting cover copy for Reaching First (Book 3),
* Requesting an ISBN for Second Thoughts (Book 4),
* Drafting Third Degree (Book 5), and
* Outlining Stopping Short (Book 6).

I’ve become accustomed to wearing a lot of hats, and to changing from one to another in a split second.

I look back at my first traditional publishing contract, and I smile nostalgically at that different market.  I wonder how Sacrifice would have fared in the current indie world.  I wonder if I could have set anything like my current pace with that different genre, with longer, more complex traditional fantasy novels.

For now, I’m loving writing hot contemporary novels.  And the pace seems to suit me.  Just the other day, I came up with an idea for the next series – the one that will pick up where Diamond Brides leaves off.  2015 – you’d better get ready, because I’m going to have a lot more books to deliver!