Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adventures of a Self-Published Author

Since I launched Going off Dreams (through createspace.com a kdp (Kindle Direct Publishing), an Amazon company) this past February (02/12/13) it has been quite the learning experience. Of course I had the hope that my little book would be popular and people would love the story and characters as much as I do. In hind sight, there were mistakes that I made that could have been prevented. So, I thought I would compile a "Top 10" things to know before you click that button to submit your creation for live publication. Even if you are just considering, have an inkling, or have the faintest idea that you might want to write a book; I would read over this list. Of course, this is just what I have learned in the process and would highly suggest that you do your own research that is more targeted toward your goals, needs or to answer any questions you may have.

Top 10 List - What Every Writer/Creator Should Know

10.) Do Your Research - Start by going to Amazon and reading about their Kindle Direct Publishing program. There is a lot of information, don't be intimidated like I was, read through the site and take notes as you read so you know what you need to investigate more thoroughly. I wanted to get my book 'out there' as quickly as I could, I felt this almost crushing sensation with some urgency to have my book published. I would say proceed with extreme caution, take a few deep breaths, and take the extra time to do it right the first time, and you will cultivate better results. Compare Amazon's kdp with other providers for self-publishing and see which one would be a better fit for you. When you are doing your research, make sure you read both positive and negative aspects (if applicable) to get a true understanding of the experience, not just their perspective. KDP Author Community Link Q&A

9.) Edit - Edit - Edit - Something that I really wish I would have taken the time to consider is to have someone else edit before I had submitted it for publication. Especially if you are like me and have never really gotten along with writing 'grammar'. It is just something that has never really retained within my processing. However, there are services available to have your work edited. I recommend this too from experience. My very first review stated that my book had obvious grammatical errors that made it hard for the reviewer to continue reading, she loved the story, but the mistakes were unnecessary hurdles for her. While not everyone will be challenged with these obstacles, but to cater to your readers, I would suggest making their experience as pleasurable as possible. The only other advice I would give, on the other side of the spectrum, would be to keep the integrity of your work. So, if it is suggested that there is a grammatical error, but it could distort the flow of the story, then - as the author and creator - you have the ultimate say in how you want your writing to be presented to your readers.

8.) Know Your Target Readers - Talking about readers, know your target audience. What genre(s) are you writing? Join groups based on these genres and read and communicate with people interested in the same things. It will not only help tone your writing, it will also help build your audience. You can find out what your audience likes and dislikes, what they are hungry for and what they'll pay for! I know when I first published my book, I listed it as Science Fiction. After researching and talking to people about it, they described it as an apocalyptic fantasy. While it may have some attributes of SciFi, the book and series is more targeted toward fantasy.

7.) Don't Bombard Your Audience - Other suggestions that I have received have been that there were too many character introductions in my first book. While some readers might not mind, or even want the complexity, other readers can find this hard to navigate through the story. It was suggested to me to include an index or glossary of the characters for an easy reference guide. When you consider classic or popular series first books, while they contain a lot of information, it isn't overwhelming to most readers. The first book should introduce your protagonists and ignite the interest in the readers to continue reading the series. If you build their relationship with your characters, they'll be more likely to continue reading - makes sense, right?

6.) The Importance of Book Covers - The old adage might be "don't judge a book by its cover", but the reality is that when people are searching for books (especially on-line) they will be more apt to choose the book with the cover that interests them. My suggestion would be to do a search on books in your genre. For instance, when you search fictional romance, scroll through some of books and see what catches your eye. Considering your story, what should your readers be drawn to? What will engage them into the book?

5.) Getting Outside Help - Cheap is good and free is even better, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pay for a service or two. While I have not been able to go this route (if I had the monetary ability) I would surely invest in services to contribute toward bettering my series. Whether it is getting help with editing your book or creating an eye catching book cover, two heads are better than one. Go into it with an open mind, but don't waver from the integrity of self-publishing. If you don't like it, you don't have to do it! 

4.) Marketing Melt Down - Most providers that you publish your work with offer some form of marketing advice - read it all. Even if you can't afford their services, it is good to know your options. You can also use this information when you are comparing services and prices. When thinking about marketing options too, think about audience size. From what I know (which may not be much - har har har) Amazon seems to be in the lead, especially now that Goodreads has signed up as an affiliate. Their conversions will mean a wider array of readers and ease of use. 

3.) Revelry in Reviews - A great tip that I learned right away, which can be bitter sweet, are reviews of your book. If you have not published your book yet, you can put feelers out in a beta form. This will give you feedback on your story and then you can tweak it and iron out any wrinkles that may need to be addressed before actually making it live and publishing it. Also, after your book is published, the more positive reviews you have the more likely new readers will consider your book to read. You can pay for reviews and that could be beneficial for both marketing and promoting your book. However, I would not suggest paying to receive a good review. This is a dishonest practice and damages the integrity of your work.

2.) Making a "Spreading Yourself Thin" Sandwich - Something to think about too when considering self-publishing vs. traditional publishing options is the amount of time that will be required within the commitments. When you publish your book, most people (myself included) want it to be a success. While self-publishing is increasing in popularity and awareness, statistically I believe that the outcome of a successful self-published book is probably low. While I don't know the perfect ingredients for success (yet), I do know that self-publishing your book takes commitment. You are definitely working, you just may not reap the monetary benefits right away. If you are working elsewhere, you could (you will) experience increase in anxiety or stress because of the demand it will require. There are so many opportunities on-line today to help you, it is just time consuming. My suggestion would be allot yourself specific time to devote yourself completely for both writing and promoting your book(s). If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a big bite out of your sandwich, step back, take a deep breath, and reevaluate.

1.) Problems With Self-Promoting - The 'problem' I have come across with self-promoting my book in the beginning was my limited audience base. In the beginning my audience consisted of my friends and family, who quickly burnt out with my constant stream of links to buy, like, or review my book. Network yourself, yes - this is going to be another time consuming process - but, well worth it. But, don't put all your eggs in one basket if you know what I mean. With today's social media, once something is viral, it has the opportunity to spread like wild fire. My suggestion would be (if you haven't already) join Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and any other means of communicating with a broad ranged audience. Investigate and add people that could potentially be interested in your book. For instance, on Google+ you can join a Mystery Group and post that you published your mystery book and include a link for your book. Then, when these people are looking through books - if they happen to see yours, they could be more tempted to read it. Don't hesitate to ask people to share, like, or "RT" (re tweet) what you are posting. Word of mouth can still be the mightiest tool in your shed.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Every morning, once I have made my first cup of coffee, I sit at my desk and start my day by checking my sites (I have quite a few of them). Most social media sites have the option for you to connect with other media, such as Twitter and Facebook. If you post something on Facebook it would automatically then be tweeted too. Something to consider; do you want to be a separate entity from your books? If you want to keep your personal life separate, then I would suggest not including your personal sites within your work sites. However, do include author biographies and information. I was informed in the beginning that this is what most people like to know.  When I was researching on-line about self-promotion, it was suggested in order to get your name "out there" was to not only join social media sites, but to also blog - which has lead me here - and here I shall remain *smile*.  While these methods take most of my time during the day, I have still been struggling with my allotted time in continuing to write and edit (currently I am editing my second book). But, then again I can be such a procrastinator! What better excuse in procrastinating then to have a blog that, if you don't feel compelled to continue to write and edit your book, you have the outlet to write about what you want to. It can also provide an outlet and almost therapeutic because you can write and work-through your current issues and challenges. Plus, people can give their advice, ask questions, or discuss their concerns as well.
Hopefully this has helped in some way - or at least has given you more information for your consideration. Have a question? Don't hesitate to ask! If I don't know, I can help you in researching it and finding an answer. Until next time or the next... dream ~ K.E.Nowinsky