Sunday, December 3, 2017

Things I wish I would've known about 40 self-published books ago

I think I've written posts like this before, but I'm always reminding myself of the different things I've learned over the last five or so years. I also saw something on Twitter recently asking what you would tell your younger writer self, which of course got me thinking.

I'll start out by saying that I don't have an official editor or proofreader for my stories. I know, most will tell you it's a must, but my budget restrictions make it difficult when I write so much to pay for services. I assume many people are in the same boat, so this list is kind of my guidance if you're trying to go it alone.

1. Don't rush into publishing
I know you've got your lovely book written and you've read it a few times and think it's ready to be shared with the world, but chances are it's not, and more importantly, chances are you're not really ready. Why? Well, I guess that's what this list is - a checklist of things to consider before you hit the publish button.

2. Make sure you have at least one unbiased person read your book before publishing
This one is key. Having your husband, sister, best friend, etc read your book and tell you it's great doesn't always mean it really is. Unless of course those people are professional editors or something, they probably won't give you honest reviews of your work. Seek out a critique partner, or maybe a few, to read your book. I've found these people in different writing communities over the years - places like Scribophile, Wattpad, Goodreads and Ladies Who Critique are places I've personally met people, but there are hundreds of other out there. You can also find beta readers that maybe won't go as deep into the story as a critique partner, but can help you find plot holes and give you clues whether your book will have the reaction you're looking for from an audience.

3. Listen to your book as one of your forms of editing
It took me a few books to figure this one out. As you edit your book, it's easy to read the words as they should be and not necessarily what's there. I've found taking my Word document and converting it to a pdf, then opening in Adobe Acrobat Reader and activating the Read Out Loud feature under the View menu helps me to hear what's there when I would otherwise read over mistakes.

4. A cover needs to catch the readers eye
There is much to be said about covers. I've seen many people use the cookie cutter cover generators out there, and when you see the same background over and over, it doesn't exactly entice a person to click. I personally find free images from sites like pexels or pixabay and see how well they fit into a template I have in GIMP, a free image editing software. I also find free fonts on Font Squirrel to pair with the image for a unique combination. Make sure the font is big enough that the cover is readable in thumbnail size and sticks out from the image. Also, if you're using different fonts, try to keep it to two.

5. What you write for your description is almost as important as the book itself
It feels kind of strange typing that, but when you think about it, your cover and description is what people see first. If there are errors in your description, people won't have a lot of confidence that the book isn't also riddled with them. So, get a second set of eyes on your description. It hopefully goes with out saying that what is said needs to catch the reader's attention. Don't give the story away, obviously, but find the right combination of enticing and explaining what the book is about. Ask questions that will be answered in the book that will pique the reader's interest.

6. Where are you planning on publishing and what's the right price
This one has a lot of different opinions. When I started out, I used Smashwords and Amazon's KDP to publish. Smashwords allowed me to upload in one place for almost all retailers other than Amazon, so this combination worked well. I still have books published in bother places, but only have my free books on Smashwords now because I enrolled pretty much all my paid books in the KDP Select program. There are a lot of people who say this limits your royalties, but I've done so much better with the page reads from folks with Kindle Unlimited that I can't see myself changing back anytime soon. That may not be the case for everyone, but it has been working for me. As far as pricing, this is a tough one, especially depending on the royalties you want to earn. I've been known to go on the low side of things, being that I'm not someone people are already out there talking about. For self-published books, I tend to see them around $1.99 or $2.99, which has always felt right to me, but others will say that's too low and start out at $3.99. In the end, as far as price points and distribution, it's ended up being what works best for an individual. There's a lot of trying different things that go along with that, which I definitely recommend. I haven't really mentioned anything about paperbacks, because I don't make one for every book, but those I tend to do through Createspace, which I currently recommend, even though I have tried out the KDP version as well.

7. Have a marketing plan
Okay, so this is the one I tend to fail at. I don't do enough to market, again that limited budget hinders some options for me here. I am good at making promotional items, like bookmarks and advance sheets and shareable images/gifs. Right now my marketing is pretty much solely sharing on my own social media accounts, but there are tons of places you can advertise if you have extra money. Ads on sites that have large reader populations, like goodreads and amazon, might be smart. There are also all sorts of book blog campaigns and social media accounts that will share your "ad" if you pay them. Another aspect of marketing should be thinking about getting reviews on your books. Sites like goodreads have whole community groups dedicated to authors looking for reviews. These come in handy because some advertising services require you to have so many four or five star reviews before they'll consider your book and a reader is probably more likely to read a book from a new author if they can see other people are already enjoying it.

It feels like there's more I could say about each of these and that there should be a few more things added, but I think I've reached my blog post word limit for the day (this is a fictional number in my head and really just means it's time to go to the grocery story).

I hope you find this useful and would love to hear of other things that should be on the list. Also, only 11 days left to nominate Blocked Shot on Kindle Scout.

1 comment:

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