Use the Right Tactic at the Right Time

We often hear six-figure authors on podcasts and panels, talking about how much money they made from merch or translation rights or pay-per-click ads or shared-universe collaborations. This leads many young authors to think, “if I manufacture plush toys, then I’ll be a six-figure author too.” But for most of us, most of the time, plush toys won’t do a damn thing save distract from what’ll really move the needle.

The fact is, different tactics work well in different contexts. And given the huge gap between a pre-published author and a household name, or the market trends between sweet romance and hard scifi, or the temperamental differences between any two creatives, it’s incredibly unlikely that someone else’s hot new thing is going to work for you.

So take on new tactics thoughtfully. Aim to maximize the likelihood of success. Look for what’s working right now (1) for authors in your genre (2) with similar strength and weaknesses (3) at roughly the same level of success (4). Even if not every new tactic works, these heuristics will help improve the odds.

Above all, remember to chronicle your experiments. After trying each new tactic, journal a few paragraphs about the results, in what context you would try it again, and what you would change to improve the outcome. You may not ever refer back the doc, but the few minutes you spend in retrospection will transform you, in the long run, from a pupil into a true tactician.