Things have calmed down enough in my life at the moment (knock on some wood) that I'm able to sit here in one of my favorite spots, drinking some coffee, and staring at my computer screen again. It's a great thing. :)
I was browsing through some article headlines that were all geared towards Indie authors and it brought me back to the first months of my journey. I was clueless. I didn't even know what Indie author meant. (self published or small press books)
I made a WHOLE bunch of mistakes...but that's okay, because I learned from them. In a time when this is still basically a new frontier (even more so two years ago), it's okay to make those mistakes, so long as you take something away from the experience.
I searched the internet at the time, trying to figure things out and not really quite sure how to do it. There's a ton of advice out 'there', some good and some very bad. It's a unique experience for each author, based on the genre of book and their situation in life, really. How much time and how much money and how much creativity do you have to contribute to your venture? What's most important to you?
Anyways, sitting here this morning, reading some of those article headlines, I thought to myself how I wished I had found a comprehensive, what NOT to do list, way back when. And then it dawned on me, that by following one of the good bits of advice I had gotten, I created this blog, which gives me the platform to reach out to other (perhaps new) Indie authors and make my own list!
So here it is, in no particular order. Please keep in mind that this is strictly my personal opinion, based on my own experiences and hardships. I am sure there will be lots of people who don't agree with me, perhaps because they had a different experience. That's fine, and it's the great thing about having so much info, because it gives you the option of browsing and finding what best suites you. If anyone can be saved a little time, money, or heartache by this list, then it's worth the time to write it!
1. Don't edit your own work. Sure, the first and second hard edit, that's all you. But the final check? PLEASE, if you have the resources for it, do NOT skimp on this. I'm sure you've heard it before, but it's true. If you absolutely don't know someone good at editing and willing to do it for you, or can't afford to pay someone and have to do it yourself, set the manuscript aside for a couple of months. Brush up on your grammar (there's a ton of resources on-line) and come back to it with a fresh eye.
2. Don't design your own book cover. Oh man...I cringe at this. I thought I had done quite well. (snicker) To be fair to myself, by comparison, they weren't horrible...but they were bad. A professionally designed cover is what will sell your book. If it has a bad cover, no one will even consider it! Trust me on this. Please.
3. Don't use a publishing platform where you have to pay. There are so many free ones out there now (KDP is the ebook subsidiary of Amazon and Create space the print on demand branch). I am not that tech savvy, but I'm stubborn. It took time (which I was fortunate to have) and I was able to figure out how to do all of the formatting. Really, if you have a decent knowledge of how to use Word, or it's equivalent word processor, than you'll be okay.
4. Don't use Booktango. Just don't. I did, and it wasted nearly a year of my books life. Horrible accounting process (with no way to track your sales), took forever to get my book on other sites and they have an absolutely non-existent customer service. I still don't think they paid me what I was owed.
5. Don't pay to advertise free books. You don't need to. There are plenty of sites that will do it for free, and it works just as well. I have gone both ways, tracking everything, and it makes little difference. Sure, you might get a few more downloads, but anymore, the giveaways just don't give you a big enough bounce in sales to make up for it. You are giving it away for FREE. WHY would you PAY to give your book away? Think about that before making your own decision.
6. Look long and hard at the failure/success of other advertisers before deciding to pay to advertise your own book. Then, you will likely chose NOT to pay to advertise. (to do this, simply click on the link for other books advertised on their site. If their Amazon book rank is in the hundreds of thousands, then the add is obviously not working for them!) In my experience, there is very little chance of actually making money off of this. If your philosophy is "That's okay, I don't mind if I loose money, so long it leads to some sales and reviews. It's worth it for the reviews." You aren't going to get reviews. At least, not enough that you should ever base paying money on it. For example, during my most successful giveaway of my book Bloodline, it had nearly 1,200 downloads. I was VERY excited, thinking that surely, this would lead to at least a few dozen reviews. WRONG. I would hazard that there weren't more than two out of that. TWO. Think about those numbers, and then compare it to paid advertising. Your best bet is to solicit book reviewers/bloggers. (again, NOT paid) I have NEVER paid for a review. Ever.
7. Don't ever comment on a negative review. Even if they are totally wrong, obnoxious and deserving of a smack down. It will only make you look bad and create a platform that invites more negativity. It's not worth it.
8. Don't isolate yourself. I am referring to both social media AND real life. I have made more money off of 'real' book sales, than I have ebooks. Having a nice, professional looking book in hand is great marketing. GET OUT THERE and sell yourself!!!
9. Don't isolate your family. If they have an interest, involve them. (if appropriate) My books are all kid-friendly, so my kids were my beta readers (and my daughter is on the cover of my third book, Descent. My son is the guy peeking out from behind the tree in The Secret of Camp Whispering Pines). Your writing is a big part of you. Include the people you love.
10. Don't do it for the money. Because odds are, you are setting yourself up for failure. I have both short and long term goals. I'm not expecting any short-term monetary success (although it would be nice), but I'm hoping that if I stick with my game plan, in ten years I might have enough monthly for a small retirement. This plan includes around 30 titles, and audiobooks. For now, I'm lucky if I make 100/mo between ALL of my sales (ebook, paperback and audio), with six books and 2 audiobooks out there. I spend a heck of a lot of time on social media, plugging myself. So yes, I am loosing money still, but that's okay. Why? Because when I'm feeling like a failure, I simply go back and read some of the amazing and encouraging reviews I have gotten from complete strangers that entered the world I created and LOVED it. THAT is why I write. What an absolutely amazing feeling!!!
11. NEVER GIVE UP! Believe in yourself and your dream. Take any negative reviews and LEARN from them. If people are telling you that your editing sucks...it probably sucks. That happened with my first book to a small extent, and I did a total re-write and it was absolutely worth it. Don't turn away from something that doesn't work....keep pushing on until you find something that does.
(I will follow this up with a What to DO list!)