I am an indie publishing noob

This is my confiteor:
When it came to wading into the pool of indie publishing, I did everything wrong.head_inmonitor
I had all the typical resources available to newbie author: great people are out in social media to help folks like me get started. Lots of good information. Really.
I just didn’t get it.
What I had in mind was launching my first book by a certain day in 2013. I read up on book marketing and indie publishing and came away with something I thought I could deal with. I had a book – the first in a series. Most of it is mapped out. Some it is written. I had it edited (not very well, either). I had an idea for a book cover a friend whipped into shape. I had no money for advertising.
I had no advance print copies – it’s an ebook – and I didn’t really reach out to bloggers and reviewers nor take advantage of some promotions offered at some web sites. I had both the second book in the series and the third book in the series half-written when I realized the third book should be the second book – big u-turn there.I released the first book during the holidays with no marketing plan other than playing around with free/99c. I have this blog that sometimes I really think is a waste of time. I have a website I put together (and don’t like). I created a Facebook pageand a Goodreads page.
But I had no budget for anything: editing, covers, marketing, no advertising, no membership to any groups or services to promote the book, and no email list.
I had no plan to have a print-on-demand copy or an audiobook until ‘sometime in the future’ – I had a plan that it might happen in year 2 (but the plan is very flexible).

Here’s what happened:
Had an advance order period of about three weeks – no orders, lots of downloads to check out the first few chapters of the book.
Heard from a dozen friends/readers who point out over 30 typos in the book.
Sought out some reviews – I got a few, mostly positive.
Did not know until two months later, after I made some corrections and raised the price of the book to $2.99, I had about 800 free downloads and about 80 sales at 99c. I didn’t monitor sales at all. I was busy writing Book 2.
On one vendor’s site I read reviews – mostly good – that I did not know I had. So I wasn’t tracking any response to the book.
On another site I had sales number less than a dozen throughout 2014 – at any price.
I did not finish Book 2 in time to take advantage of anything positive from book one. Book 2 remains unfinished, no cover art. Book 3 is half finished.
I still don’t have an email list.

What I learned:
For me,  writing every day is essential – I lose whatever momentum I have if I skip more than one day. Marketing sometimes can be more important than writing – pay attention to it, but remember to write every day. Social media is essential, but it’s no substitute for writing the stories or marketing. I now understand the value of an email list: I could have begun finding out who my readers are and sharing more of my stories with them. And I understand the value of promoting the book several months in advance, getting advance reviews, joining websites to promote and to find readers. Even $40 a month for marketing is better than nothing, and a lot of the free stuff out there is good, but limited. And social media is what you make of it: I found some good author-centric support and advice groups who want people to succeed. Curiously, I saw my sales rank rise 700,000 spots on Amazon if I sell just one book (image what it would be if I sold two, or five, or 10). Equally, that my sales rank can fall from 800,000 to 1,200,000 pretty fast when I don’t sell any books – as of this writing, it’s at 1,258,792.

Budgeting time is more important than budgeting money. But mostly, that being an indie author means you are an entrepreneur, that everything is on you. Get the help you need, pay for it if you can, do the heavy slogging and learn.

I have faith in my ability to write. What I don’t have is the marketing know-how. I have no marketing chops whatsoever – all of 2014 had been one gigantic cram session. I still have no confidence in what I’m doing, but I’ve learned a lot. Treat is seriously, and good things happen. Treat is like an afterthought, and that’s what it will become.

So as I tidy Book 1, finish Book 2 and 3, and begin writing Book 4, I know I have a lot of work to do. But it’s worth it. Why? Because shortly after I wrote the first book, I received this surprise, via Facebook:

“Just finished your 1st book and Chapter 1 of book 2. Bravo Sir, I’m a fan of your work. Love the characters, love the plot lines. Cannot wait for more!!”

Back to it, then.



The Scary Question

As a kid, I didn’t watch horror movies. Not that I didn’t like them: I would have had to ID-100202629watch one to know. I mean, I would do ANYTHING other than watch the Saturday late-night Creature Feature on the old black-and-white many, many years ago. Spend money to see a horror movie at the theater? No way. No Frankenstein, no Werewolf, no Mummy, no “Nighmare on Elm Street,” no “Chuckie,” no “Night of the Living Dead,” no “Exorcist.”

Then I decided avoiding those movies meant not knowing anything about them. So was it fair to decide if I liked them or not? So, to be fair, I watched a few. And I find out that most of them were silly. Not for me at all. But at least I took the time to find out.

What I discovered about myself at an early age was I like knowing about something. It was reassuring. I wasn’t an overly curious kid, nor a great student, but the was a simple joy in knowing something that was satisfying. The best part of a reading a mystery was the ‘finding out’ part.

As I near the launch of my Shig Sato mystery series, I realize this whole enterprise is scary. My journey through the writing life has taken me to an important crossroads. The question that has needed answering is: what will it be? Traditional publishing or Indie? The first is quite simply the way things have been done for centuries. Never mind that the business is going through an upheaval. Going the traditional route is, well, traditional. It’s what most people expect.

But Indie: self-publishing has taken a life of it’s own, and it’s much easier to get a book into print than ever before.

Is that the point, though, getting the book into print? Getting my story out to readers?

I don’t think so. I think the point is assuming this role of writer, of author, with a certain gravitas, a certain responsibility. There’s lots of great information in the digital world about how to become an independent author.  But what does one do with all that information.

Ultimately, a person has to decide to go forward with the project. Put up or shut up. Play or go home. My own list of excuses for not having an e-book version of my first installment in my series has been no time, no money, no knowledge of what to do or how to do it, no cover art, no editing service, no marketing plan ….

Well. As true as all that may have been, it’s not true any more.

Am I ready?

That is the scary question.

The answer is yes.

See you soon.

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ready, Set, Learn

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate in my journey through the writing life is the incredible community of authors who share their knowledge. Some of the writers I follow for advice and encouragement are CS Lakin at Live Write Thrive, Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn, Melissa Foster at World Literary Cafe and Rachel Thompson at RachelintheOC.  Anyone at the beginning, the middle, or even at their destination on the road to publishing and the writing life would benefit from their wisdom.

Someone I found recently is a timely discovery. Sarah Woodbury has a fine post – “I’m a New Author, How Do I Get Published?” – filled with sites teeming with helpful information. As someone with a project thisclosetobeing launched, I’m eager for all the information I can get. Thank you all for sharing.

2013 and the Start of Something Big

With the holidays over, the big writing push is on. I want to finish the second book in a detective series before summer. In the meantime I’m trying to find an agent or a publisher for the first book. Depending on how that goes, I’ll have to decide by summer what to do with the project: keep flogging or go independent.

I’ve spent the last eight months learning about social media and marketing, independent publishing and e-books, forcing my mind to make the transition from “unpublished writer” to “unpublished writer welcoming the idea of having to sell one’s own books” to “unpublished writer on the verge of becoming an entrepreneur.” The concept didn’t frighten me so much as, with most things, it forced me to wrestle with the fear of the unknown, always a poor starting point.

One thing I know for certain: There are more options than ever for writers who want to get published.  Which may be why Vantage Press is no longer with us. I know nothing of the company and its situation, other than when I was 14 years old and had the beginning of the writing bug I still have today, I sent for information about the company and found it it was a vanity press. In a an episode of the television series “The Waltons,” John-Boy, the fledgling writer, chooses to publish with such a company, to find out that what he got in the bargain is a box of books and not much else. This steered me away from the whole idea of self-publishing for many years.

But of course things are different now, and the demise of Vantage may prove it. With the new year, I can see hard choices coming my way. My being 14 was some time ago. My desire to be published hasn’t abated. But the core of that desire has always been writing. Some will argue that a person isn’t a writer until they are published. I don’t know that that is necessarily true. But I understand the  point. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing your words in print that cannot be found elsewhere.

So much too look forward to in 2013!

Happy New Year — what are you looking forward to?