Looking Back On A Rapid Release: Self-Publishing The CHASING GRAVES trilogy
As I sit at my writing desk, gazing out over a gloomy Pacific day, I ponder the past few months. The time has condensed them into the blurry stroke of a paintbrush. To make sense of them, I’m relying on my calendar and my fastidious scheduling to restock my memories. It’s a pleasant kind of amnesia. I know the time was spent well. The evidence is plain: three books released in as many months. My pondering comes not from disappointment, but from a desire to assess and take stock; a habit I’ve learnt from being an indie author for almost a decade now. Though the blur is resistant to my assessment, there are two questions that make me keep digging: why did I choose to do a rapid release? And was it worth it?
It was a sunny winter’s day in 2017 when I first had the idea to do a rapid release of my work-in-progress: a new trilogy I’d given the title Chasing Graves. It was a series that had been trapped in my mind since my debut days, and finally, I had the chance to set it loose. Due to my zeal, I had the notion to try something new with the creation of this trilogy. I decided to write the whole series in one go, rather than settling into the write-release-write-release schedule of most series. Initially, my approach was designed as a crutch to help me keep track of the broad cast of characters and plot threads, and to allow me to edit as a whole, sewing in consistency between the books before release.
I’m a person who likes risks, who enjoys pushing limits where I can. Predictably, more ambitious thoughts entered my mind: if I’m writing these books all together, why not release them all together? A rapid release, just like I’d seen a number of other authors accomplish in the past.
Madness. That’s what I called it at first. The workload alone was daunting, potentially crushing. Burnouts are real and I am extraordinarily careful to avoid them. However, as I kept thinking about it, benefit after benefit began to rear its head.
I realised that this effort would be for the reader, not for me as an author. A rapid release means shorter gaps between the instalments of a series. The story stays fresher in the mind, the frustration over cliffhangers (of which I’d already included several) is heavily reduced, and ultimately less time spent waiting = more enjoyment.
Another benefit comes from behind the scenes. There are supposed algorithm boosts for authors who release sequels within 60 days on KDP, and any business-minded author should want to take advantage of those where possible.
Last of all, I realised it suited the story arc of the series. The gaps between the books of the Chasing Graves trilogy are comprised of hours at the most, not weeks or years. The story arcs also don’t rise and fall within the volumes as traditionally expected.
It took another sunny winter’s day to arrive at a decision. I would release three books within three months, 100 days in all. While others have done similar, and released on even tighter schedules, circumstances belong to one person alone, and that was ambitious for me. I knew it would be difficult lining up the administration of the launches, never mind organising ARCs, cover reveals, advertising, media, reviews, all times three, but you can’t learn without new experiences. In the end, what made up my mind was taking my main character Caltro’s wisdom to heart, as he so wisely says at the end of chapter one: “f*ck it”.
Knuckling down was the name of the game from the winter of 2017 to autumn of the following year. With the writing 75% done, it was onto the launch. I chose a date for the launch of book one: December 7th. And I was only three months out, with a release hot on its heels in late January. I dove in with abandon, and so began the blur.
One reason for all the glorious moments of releasing a new book (or books) blurring into one, I have surmised, is the sheer number of activities an author undertakes. I had to triple everything, and I don’t think I’ve ever been busier in my life. Every day became a solid 8-10 hour stint just to get the basics done. I built a fierce schedule that overlapped between launches to space out tasks any way I could. Organisation became my lifeline, and without it, I would have floundered, I’m sure. Lesson one emerges from the blur.
The other reason is that I had very few moments to sit back and take stock of what I was accomplishing, as I am this very moment. Once one book was out, I moved straight into book two, then three. There was no time for cataloguing each minor victory. By lumping the releases into one, it taught me, perhaps incorrectly, to see the challenge as a whole rather than in parts. Perspective is a treasure, but it is also a tool, and without it, you can forget what you’ve achieved, and focus on what’s still to be done. In the wrong dose, that can be poisonous to a work ethic, and I came close to overstepping the mark.
Despite the inherent difficulties of my approach, through organisation, the support of others, and downright pigheadedness, I managed to pull it off. Book two, Grim Solace, was launched on January 24th 2019, and Breaking Chaos hit the shelves on March 14th. The process wasn’t without its hitches. The best laid plans of authors are regularly and forcibly defenestrated. I was still writing chunks of Breaking Chaos a month before release.
My examination of the blur that was my rapid release is now complete. I know why I chose to do a rapid release, and I can assuredly say yes, it was 100% worth it. Although the workload was near-debilitating, I learned it was possible to achieve, and I learned a great deal about writing – and myself – in the process. The marketing benefit has also been clear. Not to mention the gratitude from my readers at having a whole trilogy in their hands within three months. That alone makes it worth it.
Would I do it again? I’m already planning to, although with more time between the writing stage and the rapid release stage, getting more done in advance. Hell, if I get that right, you might see me releasing whole series in one go. Let’s see what the future holds, shall we?
Thanks for reading.
The CHASING GRAVES trilogy is available in its entirety now.