Haven't done one of these in a long time. It's mostly for those starting out. These are things that worked for me, but might not necessarily work for you. Summarized a lot of the things I learned and put them into one thread (you may have dejavu).
Hammering out a good blurb is critical
If you don't have a focus group, swallow your pride and post it publicly here on kboards. Out of everything to do with publishing, blurbing was the hardest for me. Anyway, after posting it publicly to be ripped apart, take your licks, learn, but move on at some point--you can tweak it endlessly and stress yourself out in the process (like I did).
Post your cover for critique.
Take a whoopin'. Test the cover with people in your genre. It's dangerous to get stuck on an idea (same with blurbs). Getting "stuck" on an idea can cost you a lot of money over the long haul. The more open you are to criticism, the better you'll do. And remember that your readers will
judge you anyway. Might as well get any surprises out of the way now, because it'll be too late once you publish. Make sure your cover is relevant to your genre and has a wow factor. No wow factor from your fellow authors? Good luck getting one from your readers.
Read as many of the "this is what I messed up on" posts as you can
; they're sometimes more valuable than the "this is what I did right" posts. My mistakes: not writing sooner, not following advice because of my ego, not finishing the entire series before publishing (due to impatience), not writing every day (still struggling with this one), not sticking to my deadlines, believing people that said self-publishing is for losers (it isn't--it's for people willing to work really hard on making the best product they can--and your product can
outshine a publishing house' release).
We are each other's mentors.
Although some have been around longer than others, there are always new things to learn. A community thrives by sharing. One of the biggest lessons I learned is kindness goes a very long way here. Befriend others and be kind to your fellow authors, because one day you'll need their help. One day they'll come to you seeking advice, or with en emergency. If you'll be there for them they'll be there for you. And help here can be very powerful and valuable (literally). Writing is a lonely craft, but one of the major advantages we have is each other. Treat others poorly and expect a low turnout when your turn comes for blurb help (and people here have very long memories). And always remember that people can't see your facial expression, only your words. Learn to use those emoticons, otherwise a harmless phrase can inadvertently come across as passive aggressive. But anyway, the friends here can be as if not more valuable than your typical facebook feed
When searching for content on kboards, use google advanced search and point it to kboards. The search function here is not too reliable yet.
Kboards is great for networking. You'll meet some amazing people. If you're around long enough, it's like university. I consider myself a newly-minted sophomore and I've been here almost two years, and that's not counting those months I spent lurking and absorbing. There are a lot of varsity and junior varsity players here. Listen to them, they are wise. The big dogs (Blake, Howey, Hocking, Aubrey, Stinnett, and many others) have already graduated. Some alumni still come to drop pearls of wisdom. Most are too busy. (I'd love to see a photo chart of the various generations of writers as tey come an go, sorted by "class year", haha). Consider this an open source university.
The stickied links on this forum are INVALUABLE
. Study them like a first-year med student. Especially this one
Make sure that if you're doing your own formatting, that it's absolutely perfect.
I used Guido Henckel's
formatting guide -- just DO NOT do the "replace all quotes with quotes" thing, trust me on that one, especially if you have spaces between your quotes, like this: " 'The following proclamation will be enforced,' " he began to read). If you have quotes floating in the air, like I do in the example above, they'll revert to the default position of facing right, even if one set was facing left. Going through your whole document to find them is hell.
Don't be afraid to message individual forum users for help
. People won't always respond in a timely manner (most are too busy), but if you're kind, they'll go out of their way to help you.
Sign up to mailchimp and post a link to your mailing list at the back of every book.
This is CRITICAL. And offer the reader something tangible for signing up, like a free book, or your next book for 99 cents in a 24 hour window (Wayne Stinnett's idea, which I can confirm works--my signup rate hovers around 14% of buyers now).
Have a physical copy available
It makes your book look professional, and also makes the digital ebook price look like a bargain. It's not as hard as I thought to format the thing for print, though you'll have to do a little bit of research on how to do it right. I used createspace for mine, and am very happy with the result. Just be sure to flatten your file before uploading as a PDF (in photoshop, go to layer menu, click on "flatten image").
Don't be afraid to call people
(especially createspace, they're super friendly and helpful). Same with the IRS, the copyright office, even Amazon and GOogle. They have regular office hours and people are far more willing and quicker on the phone.
Write the next book
(I'm still struggling with this one--spending too much time marketing / procrastinating. I should be writing EVERY DAY, and I'm not ... yet).
Read Russel Blake's system on selling books
(I printed it out and stuck it at the front of my binder). Read Russel's system again. Sleep with it if you must. Cuddle it. Stroke it tenderly.
Synchronize all of your accounts
-- Twitter, blog, author facebook page (if you have one), etc. I use hootsuite to manage my twitter feed, though admittedly I still really really suck at twitter.
Run one last spell check on the final product POST FORMATTING.
Formatting can bungle a few words here and there, so it's critical you do one last run-through before publishing. And for the love of all that is good, order a physical copy proof!
To aggregate or not to aggregate?
Smashwords, Draft2Digital, etc essentially publish your book to multiple platforms for a cut of your sales. If you're tech savvy, you can do it yourself. If you don't want the hassle, use a distributor.
KDP Select or not?
A hot topic. Do your research. Works for some, but not all.
Have your copyright, Library Archives (CIP data in Canada), ISBN etc sorted out at least two months ahead of publishing. Do the same with your cover and proof copy (that last one I've failed at--MISERABLY).
A goal is only a goal if it has a tangible outcome and a realistic time frame. Set goals that force you to expand your comfort zone. Write them down. Place them somewhere you can see them daily. Have a vision board detailing the things you want to accomplish in your life. You are your own boss now, there are no excuses.
Get your own website
Find something to talk about and blog weekly if you can (and of course, I'm failing at this one too--have yet to establish a regular blogging schedule. *sigh*). Also, do what you can to get people signed up to your mailchimp. Cannot understate that mailchimp enough!
If you incorporate, ask the law firm you incorporated with if you can use their physical address for your mailchimp address (otherwise your home address shows up in your emails--eek!). And you better not spam, otherwise you might really hear about it, haha. Incorporating has its pros and cons. Talk to a recommended accountant first before going forward with it. Christ, I read like a Visa TOS sometimes.
Or just get a P.O. Box as someone once said. Your choice.
Respond to people
I learned this with my music, big time. When a reader sends you an email or a private message, it is CRITICAL for you to reply courteously. From my experience, once you respond, you've increased the chances of winning them over for life by magnitudes. Never answer reviews. Never be rude. If you're on social media with your real author name, you'll have to be particularly careful.
If you have large page counts, for the love of all that is holy, check the template restriction page count on your print-on-demand printhouse!
Turns out, at 5 x 8 inch format, max page count with createspace is 700 pages or so. Luckily I caught this in time and shrank my font size to 10 for book 1, so that it can stay uniform with book 2, which is twice as large. I have my wife to thank for spotting that one actually.
Get regular exercise!
The brain just functions better for things like writing when the body and the endorphins have been given a workout. That's just nature rewarding you for taking care of your body.
Don't get too caught up with word count.
This is a tough one, but I've discovered that writing for the joy of it is far more productive than trying to hit a daily word count (not to mention your output actually increases--just avoid looking at the actual total if you can). Find your joy and follow it. You make this all about performance and money and output, you're going to be one miserable you-know-what. If you love what you do (which will be writing 75% of the time, barring release weeks), then it's not a job at all, is it? It's a passion
Monitor for burnout.
It happens to everyone. Find ways to combat the doldrums. Exercise is a good one. Sitting down to write with zero expectations helps too. Loads of advice out there on the subject.
Read self-help books
. Often the things that prevent us from succeeding have nothing to do with our craft or abilities. They're subconscious self-defeating loops, or mannerisms passed down from our parents, or assumptions we made about ourselves, etc. This point is a lifetime study, but makes a huge difference. If it's something you think you're capable of, I highly recommend it. It'll give you that edge over those incapable of bettering themselves.
A transferable skill, so to speak.
Avoid browsing the internet while writing.
Scientifically, your brain actually changes when surfing the net. Each link provides a small endorphin rush, and so you are rewarded for skipping around. This is not conducive to long bouts of steady concentration on one topic. This point requires discipline. And yes, I still battle with this one like an angry chihuahua. I found that if the first thing I do in the morning is check the net, then that's what I'll likely be doing most of the day. Make writing / editing the priority.
At first you'll absorb and take. That's normal. But do yourself and the community a favor and give back somehow. Maybe it's something only you know how to do. Maybe it's a shortcut, or a trick you stumbled upon. You'll feel good doing it too.
Is indie publishing really for you?
I did a guest post on fellow kboarder David Neth's blog about this here
- Platforming is critical. That means having a presence on multiple platforms. Remember, you're here because you can do the publishing company's job. This is part of it. If you'e a major introvert, you'll have to figure out ways to communicate your product to the audience. It can be done. Is
being done by many authors. Find an introverted mentor / role model already doing it successfully. Emulate them. Ask them questions. Learn from the best.
- Twitter: Use Hootsuite to load up on Tweets for the day ahead (only regarding your book). Try to keep it to 1-2 robo tweets a day, else you'll get muted. Use hashtags (they work). And retweet your friend's important tweets (the tweets that you know are important to them). Don't forget to have fun and interact. See this thread
on other twitter hints.
- Facebook: focus on CPC (cost per click), direct to Amazon (or mailing list; some find that works). Avoid markets other than the US as kindle is popular mainly in the States (but you can make it work with some cleverness). Use a landing page if you can to monitor progress (though bitly links work too as they show up as Amazon lins, if I recall correctly). I just used brackets three sentences in a row Twitter paid ADs work much the same.
- Approach select fantasy readers/reviewers on Amazon/Twitter/Goodreads and offering them a copy of the book, following
Dos and Don'ts guidelines. UPDATE:
This is tedious and kind of sucks and people don't like being reminded to review (I'd advise against
reminding anyone not on your mailing list, unless you know they LOVED the book).
- Adwords: Started a thread on the subject here
- Do a release party. It's worth it just for your own confidence.
- Do a Goodreads book giveaway. DON'T bother with Goodreads advertising. It's not up to snuff yet. Google is infinitely better right now.
- Print really cool bookmarks based on the front cover design and give them out like candy. UPDATE: This worked like a charm. The bookmarks are functional objects people use, so they love them. I also have a kick-butt design that catches the eye, and give them out like candy. Can't recommend this enough. And do them double-sided!
- Print cool business cards and give those out like candy too (I'd go with bookmarks first, THEN this). Don't do T-shirts or other swag until you have a following demanding it. I learned that lesson the hard way with my music, over-ordering and going in the hole for stuff I could have done without. Still sold it most of it, but still.
- Line up your promotions a month ahead. My release promo thread
for Riven (with results).
- You can read more on my marketing campaigns here
Above all, none of this matters as much as butt-in-chair hands-on-keyboard writing the next book. Your advice, my beloved kboarders, is why I finished books 2 and 3 in the series (and am working on the 4th) before
releasing my first.
If you're on twitter or goodreads, add me--links in my signature. If you're new and want some advice, although I'm not as experienced as some of my colleagues here, I'd be more than willing to help if I can
I have a few other advice and checklist posts on my blog
for anyone interested in more.
Best of luck to you
So, learn anything you think worthy of passing on?