Last year I read a book called Write To Market by Chris Fox. Chris was no stranger to me having followed his stellar Indy career and read a few of his writing books before. But this book was different. This book chronicled Chris’s attempt to write a best selling ebook. He spelled out how he wrote a Sci-Fi book and took it to market specifically to sell well. This was what I wanted to do. I already had a five book series out but was unable to get any traction with sales. I made so little money at selling them that Amazon didn’t even send me tax information. That sucks.
So I read Chris’s book carefully and I executed his exact game plan for my novella, Corvette. I’m not going to go into all the things Chris tells you to do, you should get his book and read it yourself. But I will say what I had to do to play ball in order to sell in the big leagues. I had to study the market, which fortunately was similar to his market, and read what was selling. I’m not talking traditional books like Scalzi or Weber, but best selling Indy books from authors I had never read or even heard of before. It took some research and some time to read through about four books in the Military SF best seller lists but I started to see what Chris was talking about. I already had an idea about what I wanted to write, but I had no cast in mind. The book would be set about thirty years before the series and could be about anyone I wanted.
Here are my notes written before the novella was started. stating my objectives.
This novella is my attempt to write to market. It will target the self published Military SF market. The plot is similar to the top selling novels in that genre, but it is set in my Star Saga universe. Common tropes that I will use are as follows:
- Old captain with an old ship on perhaps a final mission.
- Only ship in the area to help find missing colonists.
- Secret military mission to find out about mysterious blue skinned aliens.
- Happy ending with not a lot of side characters dying.
- Violent, overpowering enemy that prove to be cunning and dangerous.
- They have to beat the larger, better armed enemy vessel.
I also made notes to remind me to keep the action coming and the chapters short. If you look at those tropes above you can easily apply the to so many SF stories about starships. This was not my usual writing style. I always have action and fast moving plots but I usually didn’t write characters that could fit into any other story. It was hard to not have major characters be women or non-white men, but I was determined to stick to the tropes.
I have talked about what I did bring to the story in great detail in other posts. So I encourage you to seek them out and read them. But what I’d like to elaborate on in this post is that I stuck to the tropes and I stuck to Chris’s suggestions as I wrote this story. It was not a hard story to write and I enjoyed the heck out it.
After Corvette was finished and edited and ready to go I had to make sure it had a decent cover and an inviting description. These are two areas I’ve struggled to refine as an Indy writer. When I started my series I used military unit coins on the covers and nobody understood they were Sci-Fi books. So I went back to the basics and put starships on the cover. Again, I’m not your average SF writer and I was able to design and build my own starship models, photograph them and then hand the images over to my graphics designer brother. Byron put together a color scheme that focused on orange and blue, the same as popular action movies.
For Corvette, we used my huge Votainion warship model and I created a new, smaller ship to represent the tiny corvette. I played around with colors but eventually went with green because it was in the story and many newer SF covers are trending green. The cover blurb was designed to signal the tropes and hint at a the inclusion of naval history in the details. Again, I’ve done posts about the story and what I did to make it unique.
All of these intentional moves helped the book do well on opening day and gradually climb up the charts farther than any book I’ve released since my first one, nearly ten years before. It will be interesting to see where the next release goes this summer. It’s not related at all to this book, but it is a betweener novella that links Book 4 to the yet to be written Book 5.