Welcome back to Day 3 of the Indie Panel. I’m really excited about today because it’s more nitty-gritty. More personal writing and business stuff.
But, if you’ve missed the first few days you might want to catch up first:
If you could change one thing (besides starting earlier) what would you change about your self-publishing journey?
When I started, I did everything myself besides cover art. I took on the jobs of editing, proofreading, and formatting my work before publication. I do wish I’d brought in an editor and proofreader, at a minimum, earlier on. Beyond the obvious reason (not catching all of my own errors), those extra rounds of read-throughs and revisions are time I could be spending writing the next book.
I would write faster, which unfortunately really isn’t an option due to my day job and family obligations. So I think I’d be better at time management so that I’d be able to write faster. Still working on that.
I would have focused on it more. If you read the earlier answers, you saw that I started self-publishing to keep on top of what was going on in the industry while I chased a trad deal. That meant that there was over a year between my first two releases.
I wish I had made a business plan with a timeline and marketing schedule. And, I wish I could have been free to publish under my own name. Cleaning up the pen names is going to be a mess. 😉
Going under my real name instead of a pen.
Hm…that’s a hard question! I think I would ask for help more than I did. Indie authors are EXTREMELY generous with their their knowledge. We’re not competing with each other, we’re growing our genre. I try to help other indie’s because I got help when I started. If you don’t know how to do something in self publishing, ask an Indie author. I guarantee you’ll find one (if not more) willing to help.
Nothing really. Well, except for maybe starting earlier. 😉
I wish I would have been a little more flexible earlier on. I got really lucky and had some nice successes in the first year of self-publishing with a specific strategy—write in a series and use Amazon’s Select program to boost sales. It worked great for a while but when it stopped working I was way too slow to adapt. I didn’t seek out new strategies, I waited forever to start a mailing list, and I failed to ask other authors for advice. When I finally started doing those things, my sales increased. I wish I would have been open-minded from the get-go!
There’s really not much I’d change. I’ve been super fortunate that some things have fallen in my favor, and I’ve told stories I love all the while. I might have started promoting a little sooner and gone full-time a little quicker, but otherwise I’m totally happy with the way things have played out.
When I finished my Demons series, I would have followed it up with the spinoff series a lot faster rather than starting two unrelated new series. I learned the hard way that readers are often more dedicated to a series than they are to an author.
I also would work harder on my own confidence and stop comparing myself to others, thinking that their journey somehow took away from my own.
I wish I had focused on a single series at a time from the beginning rather than jumping around between series and spacing out launches so widely. It took me six months to get the second book in my series out, and any momentum I’d started with was very much gone by that point. Three and four took me more than a year to get out after the first book. We’re not talking long titles here – they’re shortish YA. There was no excuse except that I have a wandering soul who likes far too many genres.
What one thing would you like to say to people who are new to or considering self-publishing? Advice? Myths to break? Words of wisdom?
Self-publishing is not an easy, instant path to riches. If you read about someone selling tens of thousands of books a month, understand that you’re not seeing someone who “tossed a book together” and watched the world magically arrive at the product page to click Buy. No, that person spent the first year in their publishing journey selling a total of 20 books; on a good month, they made enough to buy a plain hamburger at a fast food restaurant. But they persisted. Somewhere in that second year, after publishing four or six or eight or more books, they had a small breakthrough and had their first month with 100 sales. And then, at some point, enough small handfuls of people read and loved their work; the next book launched with high rankings, pulling in many new readers, they perhaps got a needed push through a promotional effort, and only then did they start making good money. Don’t go into the endeavor planning to leave your day job two months after you press Publish for the first time.
Do not try to do it all. Contract out for as much as you can afford to do so. If you can’t afford to contract out and have to learn how to DIY, then DIY the tasks that you already have natural skill in. Are you a grammar nazi? Then you might be a candidate for self-editing, or at least to barter your editing skills with someone who is good at covers. The worst thing is to DIY the tasks you have no business doing.
Also, I don’t want to sound like Debbie Downer, but self-publishing is not for everyone. The best thing about self-publishing is that everyone can do it, but the worst thing about self-publishing is ALSO that everyone can do it. Because just because you CAN do it, doesn’t always mean that you SHOULD.
Lately I’ve heard newer authors say things like “Someone suggested that instead of self-publishing, I should submit to an agent, but that just seems so scary. I don’t think it’s ready.” If you don’t think your book is ready for an agent to read it, then it is 100% not ready for the public to read it either.
Reader rejections are much tougher than agent or editor rejections, that’s for sure. Rejections from an industry pro might seem like they hold more validity because of the august nature of their position, but it’s just between you and them. Nobody else ever has to know, whereas with self-publishing, the 1-star reviews (and you’ll get them — no matter how good your book is) are public, right there on Amazon, Goodreads, BN, blogs, etc for all the world to see.
When you self-publish, it’s not that you’re cutting out the agent or editor. YOU are your own agent or editor. (Well, hopefully you’ll be using an outside editor as well, but you get the point.) You are the one who has to decide whether it’s ready, and not everything is. You’re also the marketing department. You ARE the business. It’s all you. It’s not just slapping something up on the internet and calling it a day.
I’m not trying to scare anyone out of self-publishing. Just know what you’re getting into. It’s not for everyone. But if it is for you and you try it, it can be quite rewarding.
‘How you publish’ doesn’t mean ‘to what standard you publish.’ Looking through my list of books read last year, I would say it was about 50/50 indie/trad and that there were just as many 2-star trad as there was indie…same with the 5-stars.
One thing that has really been driven home to me is the power of the publisher. I think this is especially true for YA. I see Penguin or Harlequin Teen tweet about a release due out in 6 months and a cover and a lot of time there’s instant buzz–and that’s just the beginning. The longer I’m indie, the more I’ve come to appreciate what publishers do. 😉
Would I change my path? No. I’m loving doing the self-publishing thing.
Would I consider a traditional deal in the future? Sure! My agent & I already passed on a traditional deal a few months ago, but that doesn’t mean the timing and terms might not be right another time.
It does not cost you an arm and a leg. A lot of things you can do yourself if you have the patience to learn to do it the right way. And the best thing about self publishing is ABSOLUTE FREEDOM!!! Enjoy it!
Self publishing is a business. If you aren’t business-minded, self publishing is not going to be a good fit for you. And that’s okay. Not every author wants to run his/her own small business. Some just want to write. If you love the writing but don’t want to deal with all the other stuff that goes into producing a book, then steer clear of self publishing. I spend at least 50% of my day doing non-writing jobs, and it can get frustrating when all you want to do is get back to the scene where you left your character dangling on the edge of a cliff. It’s a lot of hard work, long hours, and it’s filled with copius amounts of stress and angst (and I’m not just talking about how your torturing your characters!) Being a self published author is more than writing a manuscript and hitting “publish”, and before you dive into it, you need to know what to expect.
We really do have better cookies. 😉
Seriously, there are benefits to each track. I’m actually really glad self-publishing wasn’t an option when I first started, because facing rejection toughened me up and forced me to focus on craft and become a better writer, and I shudder to think of what I might have published without going through the process. I would caution new writers against diving into self-publishing without going through an intensive critique process to make sure your work is really ready. If your first book is sloppy, I won’t pick up your second. (My reading time is too limited for second chances!) And please, hire a professional editor. I have read several self-published books that were edited by a friend, not a professional, and while I enjoyed the story, the lack of professional editing showed and frequently pulled me out of the story. Again, I’m not likely to read those authors again, because there are so many wonderful books out there that don’t have glaring errors that prevent me from getting lost in the story.
Based on my last answer, my advice is probably easy to guess—be flexible! One of the best things about self-publishing is that we are bound by no one else’s rules. No one is going to tell you that you can’t try a certain marketing tactic or you can’t play around with your price strategy. Explore that freedom, try new things, ask others what’s working for them at any given time, be open to new suggestions.
I honestly believe that you have to work hard to make it in this business. Most of the people that I know who do well do so with several books out. They also take their writing and publishing very seriously. Though I’m a full time writer now, I wrote my three best sellers while working a day job. I wrote lots of nights when I was tired from work and not feeling very inspired. I treated my writing like a second job—something to take seriously, work at, and not neglect even when real life got busy or difficult. I’m not saying anyone has to write as much as I did or as fast as I did, but I do think you need to be passionate about your writing and treat it like a priority. There are lots of indies out there setting the bar very high—every day I set out to get as close to that standard as possible.
But most of all I think it’s a really fun job we get to do, telling out stories for other people to enjoy. So have fun with it! (Okay, so that was like three things, not the one that Bria asked for. Sorry! I like words!)
If you think it’s going to be easy or some sort of get-rich-quick, it’s not. The full-time indie authors I know who do well are obsessed with both their stories and this business and have no problem working 80 to 100 hours per week. They love it like it’s the most exciting hobby on the planet and are often thinking about their stories even when they should be focused on other things.
That doesn’t mean you have to be obsessed in order to make it as an indie author, but if you’re hearing tales of indies making several hundred thousand dollars per year – trust me, the odds are very good they’re this type of person. It’s not a casual hobby or a 40 hour per week job to them, and it’s probably not even like work – which is why it’s so easy to put in so many hours.
Don’t let that scare you if you’re a hobbyist. Most authors in traditional publishing write a book a year, make an advance that nets out to a few thousand dollars, and they (presumably) enjoy their writing. That’s totally fine. It’s only when you start eyeing the big numbers that you’ve got to buy in and get crazy about it.
By the same token, if you’re indie publishing and super p.o.’d that you’re not making a fortune yet – and I’m trying to be blunt without being mean – it’s probably because you haven’t logged the hours that the bigger sellers do. But it’s not too late to change that.
Write what you love. Believe in yourself. Don’t judge yourself by the journeys of others. This is your path. Your journey. Celebrate the small milestones along the way and don’t let anyone make you feel like less than you are. Also, remember that there’s no time limit on success. When we see people around us making money or hitting lists, it can often make us feel discouraged or impatient, but that’s their journey. Don’t change your path to chase after someone else’s success. Just keep your eye on your own personal goals and make the decisions that are right for you and your books. Learn from your mistakes along the way and keep pushing forward. In my opinion, that’s the best way to find success and fulfillment in this business.
Be stubborn. The job gets hard – push through it. And don’t be too hard on yourself. There are plenty of people who will be happy to tell you what a terrible author you are, and how bad your books are. You’re the only person whose reaction you can guarantee. Treat yourself like you’re amazing, because you are. 🙂
Want to check one of the authors out? Just click on their name. 🙂
THIS HAS BEEN GREAT! I hope you’ve gotten as much information and inspiration out of this that I have.
If you have, if someone has given you a piece of the picture you desperately needed, shoot them an email or buy one of their books…or both!