Last spring I self-published my book with absolutely no knowledge of the publishing (or self-publishing) industry. But I knew I had a story worth telling, so I jumped in with both feet, figuring that was the best way to learn. And I have learned a lot, including which mistakes I don’t want to make again.
Most of my mistakes stemmed from a rush to get all four of my books to print ASAP. And who could blame me? I’d started my first manuscript eight years before. It was high time the world received my stories! So I published my first three within weeks of each other and the fourth a few months later. But I missed some big opportunities. I wish now I had slowed down and made a few waves with each.
Mistake Number One
First, I didn’t realize how many typos a “finished” product contains or how many eyes it takes to spot them all. Each book should have been passed around to more people BEFORE publication, saving me the hassle and embarrassment of having to make changes. My early readers purchased flawed copies (not a good reputation builder), and I have a small stack of paperbacks with typos that can’t be changed. (I pass them out to reviewers—with a disclaimer—or sell them at a bit of a discount.)
My thoughts on professional editing have changed slightly, as well. Though many writers have stressed this need, I still argue that a line editor isn’t absolutely necessary if you have enough knowledgeable readers willing to look for mistakes. And I’m still comfortable with my choice not to employ a content editor for my first four books simply because of the amount of input and the number of revisions each received. (Remember, I had them a long time.) I have, however, procured a content editor for my new book, Beneath the Slashings.
Last spring, neither did I understand how Amazon worked. I didn’t realize that new releases get a bit of extra exposure. On the left hand side of the screen, there’s a whole subcategory devoted to new releases, giving the newbies a little boost out of obscurity. In hindsight, I should have solicited some reviews to have in place immediately, so the higher-than-normal number of eyes had some opinions to read through. Instead, my review space looked like a desert wasteland. I wonder how many people passed over my books because it seemed no one else was reading them either. Similarly, I should have priced those new releases more strategically, as well, to entice readers to take a chance on a newbie.
I also didn’t understand that the higher one’s rankings on Amazon, the more exposure a title receives. It’s a compounding effect. So I should have trumped up a storm of queries devoted to exposing my book on dozens of blogs. With a concerted promotional effort, perhaps I could have come off the newbie list with a higher ranking. Instead, I waited to hit the virtual circuit until I had three books out, and none of them really received individual, high-powered promotion. I ended up with a scattershot approach that hasn’t been very effective.
Another newbie mistake, I waited to start a mailing list, mostly because I didn’t understand the importance of having one or how to set one up. (More on those another time.) Had I created a bit more stir with each book and put in place the means for fans to receive information about upcoming releases, I probably would have compounded interest with each title.
And Number Four
One thing I did do right was to educate myself about Facebook fan pages right away. However, I created a page for each new release. I regret that now. It was too many pages inside a short span of time, and none of them really built up any steam. Besides that, I found it difficult to spread myself around on so many sites, so I condensed them into one author fan page. That was a good move. One site provides a central focus under which attention to individual works naturally falls. And it’s way easier to maintain. Unfortunately, by closing down the old pages, I lost quite a few followers who never migrated to my new site.
So, had I done everything right, would I be enjoying best-selling status now? Probably not. But I might be further ahead than I am now. Will I never make another mistake? Also doubtful. The trick is to learn from them and keep moving forward. I’m doing lots of things differently for this new launch. In a few more days, I’ll tell you all about it!