When Caitie Makes Assumptions

Last year I wrote 22 Steps to Successfully Self-Publishing. It still gets linked on a fairly regular basis and I still get thank you emails from people just a few months behind me on this ladder.

It’s now been over a year since that post went live and I realized I made a huge, HUGE, miscalculation. I’ve realized that everyone’s “good enough” is not the same.

Personally, mine is “as good as I can get it with free and hired help.”

But, I’ve also learned a couple things while doing this:

  1. People dismiss you rather easily if you only have one book out that they can see.
  2. People dismiss your advice if it isn’t what you want to hear.

As I finish three more stories and work on my writing for the other part of my life, I’ve felt more confident chiming in when people ask questions.

Recently, another short story writer asked for advice somewhere.

GREAT! I thought. A chance for me to give back a bit! As someone who doesn’t have the freedom to market or use a name to promote, I’ve learned a few things by watching my numbers (which I’m inordinately pleased with based on the no-marketing-short-story thing.)

Through the process I decided there were several very controllable steps to upping your sales numbers. I went to his books, read his blurbs, looked at his covers, checked out his prices and word count, looked him up on Goodreads and then went back and posted a few suggestions:

PRICE: I don’t care what the super-successful famous writers of short stories are saying. I’m not paying $4 for a short. Ever. Not even from Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Maybe if she let me sit in her office and watch her write it. But, still, probably not.

These authors do have more freedom to charge more for their product because they already have a demand, a customer-base. If you don’t already have a customer-base, you don’t have anyone who is going to pay a lot to test your ride.

COVERS: For the love of stars, how many readers have to comment in their reviews about bad covers for writers to get it? I got the cover for KISS for $22 by watching for a sale and buying pre-made. Don’t go out this weekend, buy a good cover instead.

Also, personal pet peeve alert: Covers that are homemade (that’s not the pet peeve) that are not standard cover size. You might as well print across the top, I ignore standards. Read at your own risk.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: NY Traditional Publishing has spent a gazillion dollars figuring out what works. And what doesn’t. Sit down, read 50 product descriptions of successful books in your genre (trad and indie) and then write yours. Pay attention. Do what works.

I’d add one thing that isn’t on your book’s Amazon front page. The sample pages.

SAMPLE PAGES (the Look Inside option): Unlike everything listed above, sample pages do one thing typically: Kill a sale.

It isn’t very often someone will get to the sample pages without being pretty sure they want to buy the book. They’ve looked at the cover and the blurbs, read the product description and the reviews. At this point the reader is most likely thinking, This sounds pretty good. Let’s see if the writing passes muster.

And here’s where my assumption was wrong. Recently I’ve been clicking on a lot of samples. Every time someone asks why their book isn’t selling, I do those three things (cover, product description, price, and then  check their own Goodreads). Then, if all those things look good, I read their sample.

About 20% of the time I don’t buy the book after reading a sample of something I was all set to drop cash on.

I’ve seen arguments saying “polish your sample pages” – but that is 100000% the wrong attitude and just stating it shows that you know it.

Your entire book should be able to sell itself. A reader should be able to open to any page and see the care and craft that has gone into the product.

If you’re a writer, one thing you must understand is this: Dropping the cash to put out the best product will bring you in more revenue. Better product = better reviews. Better reviews = more sales. More sales = more revenue. More revenue = an easier time paying to polish the next project.

GOODREADS: I’d estimate that 70% of my sales come from Goodreads. My readers there have been fabulous to me. Even my 2 star reviews haven’t been those blind-hatred-attacks that people claim are rampant on GR. I know that I need to be very thankful to every single person who has taken the time to rate/review me there.

Respect your reader and only sell something worth buying. Respect yourself and only show your skill at its best.


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