This is my confiteor:
When it came to wading into the pool of indie publishing, I did everything wrong.
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.