What to expect when you self publish

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Self publishing is a new thing to me. Very new. But I have to say even in a few days I’ve learned a lot. I humbly pass what I’ve learned onto you:

Things will go wrong. For example when I sent the check to the formatters to have my files converted to digital files, little did I know that Florida would have a week of heavy rain, flooding and delayed mail delivery. It set my schedule back nearly a week.

You’ll learn what sleep deprivation really means. I haven’t slept in two weeks. My dog is afraid of my cat hides and me whenever she sees me coming. Although the hallucinations are interesting and might make for some good inspiration for a horror story somewhere down the line.

You’ll have energy you don’t know what to do with. All the hype all the anticipation all the worry, excitement, and jitters do not go away after you press publish. Actually, it is set free and you’ll find yourself wandering around thinking you have something to do when you don’t. Everything you attempt to do will go unfinished and your attention span will have reduced to that of a gnat.

Your expectations won’t be met. You’ve told yourself you won’t expect anything. You’ll publish and see what happens. But you do expect things. No matter how hard you try to act casual, you won’t be feeling it. You’ll wonder why your aunt Myrna didn’t buy a copy of the book. Why everyone you ever met hasn’t called or sent you a congrats email, why everybody else is going about their business as though nothing has happened.

You’ll have yet another thing to obsess about. Yup, just what you need. A new obsession. That shiny object is known as the Amazon author dashboard. In real time, you can watch your sales and page reads change. Or not. Or not fast enough. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only check it twice a day – first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But you’ll check it every hour. Every half hour. Every five minutes. It’s too cool not to be obsessed by it. It’s the magic of technology.

You’ll want to cry – if you’re a guy, you may want to punch something. You won’t necessarily know why you want to cry. And you’ll resist it. You’ll try to reason with yourself. Convince yourself there is nothing to cry about. That everything is going fine. But it won’t matter because all that stress, worry, anticipation will have you hopping around like a Mexican jumping bean. Let yourself. Cry. Cry it all out. Or punch something – not a human of course, but walls can be repaired, punching bags are made for such things. You’ll feel a bit better afterward. Really, you will.

You’ll feel like you should be doing something but you won’t know what it is. Leading up to publishing you’ve had a list and you proudly checked off each item as you accomplished it. Now, you don’t know what to do. Should you keep tweeting and face booking your carefully constructed promos banner one more time? Should you do the laundry that has been piling up for a month? Should you try to get your cat out from under the bed. Chances are you’ll just check your sales dashboard again and alternate that with playing online solitaire or mahjong..

You’ll think of details you should’ve added to the books, or edited out or changed. You may even be tempted to take the book down and do another round of edits before re-publishing. Your mind is a cesspool of shoulda, woulda, coulda.

How to get some perspective

Okay so this completely new world of self-publishing is exciting but now that you’ve done it, clearly you’ve got a case of the crazies. And if you don’t get hold of yourself, you may end up

It’s understandable. You’ve spent months maybe even years preparing for this and now that’s it has happened you don’t know what to do with yourself. The following may help:

Tear yourself away from all of it. Yup. Go to the beach, go hiking, check into a motel in the mountains for a couple of days. Unplug. Leave your devices at home, or at least locked in your trunk – and forget about all of it for a little while. You may go through a little withdrawal, but after a few hours, you’ll feel better.

Stop stalking your friends and relatives with helpful suggestions on how they can buy your book. Chances are, most of them probably will – eventually. But people resist being told what to do. If you leave them to their own devices, they’ll come around. And some of them won’t. And you have to be okay with that. Though this is a milestone in your life, it’s just one more detail that buzzes by them in a blur.

Come up with a plan. After you’ve gotten some sleep, some space and some decent food, sit down and come up with a rational plan on how you will promote your book (if you haven’t already). Even if you had a plan before publishing, now that you’ve had a taste of the reality, you may need to tweak it. If you simply don’t know what to do spend some time on blogs of those who have blazed the trail already: Anne R. Allen, Hugh Howey, Chuck Wendig and Joe Konrath all have great blogs filled with useful advice for self publishers.

Start your next book. This may sound crazy. You’ve just spent months, maybe years writing the book you just published and I’m suggesting you start your next one? Yup. That’s right. If you are in this for the long haul, the next book should be foremost on your mind. When readers discover you and like your work, they’ll want more. Be ready for them. It’ll also give you something to focus on and pour all that crazy random energy into and likely be a calming influence in your life.

Keep notes. After you publish, keep a log of all the promo actions you do – large and small. Because I guarantee if you see a spike in sales, you’ll want to know what caused it. If you have a record of the actions you’ve taken, you’ll be much more able to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Above all else, don’t become discouraged. Nothing happens overnight. Even though it may appear to be that way. It just isn’t true. There may always be the exception to the rule, but chances are you won’t be that exception. Chances are you are going to have to work hard, go through a lot of trial and error, fail and succeed continually to get to that sweet spot. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t good, that your books aren’t good, that people don’t want to read them. It just means there is a learning and experience curve. Slow and steady wins the race, or something like that.

Be proud of yourself. You did it. You had the courage and persistence to write that book, polish that book and publish that book. Of the millions of people who ‘want’ to write a book, you are one of the few who did. Be proud. That is an accomplishment. Now go write the next one.

Annie

Who Won the Hugos, Why it Matters & Other Good Stuff

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Who won science fiction’s Hugo Awards and why it matters. By Amy Wallace. A very long and detailed article about the controversy leading up to the Hugos and the results. For me, it provided some clarity on what all the ‘debating’ has been about over these last several months. Good read, but it’s a long read, so get comfy.

Simple Promo Tip: Nailing Your Email Subject Line by Sharon Bially. Nice, straightforward advice on email marketing for authors.

The Holy Grail for Authors. 5 Reasons to Self Publish by Sheri McInnis. Trad published author is going indie – she tells us why.

Six Magic Phrases You Can Use to Sell More Books by Sandra Beckwith. Yes, yes, and yes.

Best Colors for Book Covers. Is a great little gem that discusses basic design, color choices and images for book covers. Highly recommend. 😀

Meanwhile, I’m on track to make my August 30th deadline. Stay tuned.

Annie

Writing, secrets and self-publishing

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Much of the creative world is built around secrets. Creatives and those who market, manage, and leverage them are very hush-hush about projects – lest someone steal it or leak it. Surprise I suppose is the proffered reason. And controlling the message. And probably most important – ensuring no one else beats you to the punch.

The publishing industry is no exception to the rule. Which may be why so many authors find it exceedingly difficult to break in to the inner circle of successful authorship. And even of those authors who do manage to break in, the majority of them:

  • Make little to no money
  • Don’t gain a strong readership
  • Lose their rights to their work for life
  • Never get to quit their day jobs

Although many mainstream best-selling authors offer advice, write books, create courses, and espouse formulas that they followed to become successful – as far as I can tell – these offerings do little to nothing to help hopeful authors actually succeed.

Independent authors exceptions to rule

Then Amazon did this wild and crazy thing – they created an eReader. And then created a platform for writers to publish and sell their own works to a practically limitless audience. And authors started to succeed on their own where the publishing industry had let them down.

Say what you will about indie authors and criticize them all you like but in my mind there is a significant difference between them and mainstream traditional authors. They talk. They don’t keep secrets. Most of them will tell you everything they did, with copious details, to succeed. Because they aren’t beholding to a publishing company or contract. They are free to create and share any and all of their experiences. Often with wild abandon. Because they want to help other authors succeed. And they want readers to have more choices. Secrets by and large don’t seem to matter to them. Go figure. More books, more choices, more readers seem to be the priorities.

Indie author up close and personal

I’m about to self publish a 3-book mystery series and as part of my prep leading into the release of the books I have a list. One of the things on that list was to pick a successful indie author and study them. So last week I picked a well-known indie author and read his entire blog. It took me about five days to read five years of blog posts. I was totally immersed in this fellow’s world and journey for nearly a week and I have to say I learned a lot:

The good

The good news is that anyone who is willing to do the work, can publish and succeed. And that success can be and should be defined by the author. You want to be a best seller? Great then go for it. You’d be happy to be a working author who can quit your day job and live on your author earnings – you can do that too. As long as you do the work.

The bad

You have to do the work. You have to make choices. Sacrifices. You won’t get there by turning out one book every two years. You won’t get there by sitting around playing video games. If you don’t approach it as a business and accept that you are also a publisher and have all the attendant duties and obligations of a publisher it won’t happen. And it can and probably will take years. It ain’t a sprint, it’s definitely a marathon.

The elating

There is no editorial censoring. You can write the stories that you want to write. The stories you feel you were meant to write. You don’t have to write formulaic drivel because that’s what sells. You can maintain your own true voice and creative integrity. And you can find a readership who wants to read your stories.

The frightening

It’s all on you. There are no editors or publishers to blame. There are no agents to bitch about. There is only you, your work, the quality of your work and your own marketing efforts. And luck too plays a part. Being at the right place at the right time. That is something over which you have no control.

The take away

I believe the one thing that all indie authors have in common is a pioneer spirit. Though they may be nervous or afraid they are still willing to explore the unknown. To blaze new trails. To go in their own direction and take a risk on themselves. To invest in themselves. And to accept each step as its own lesson, even if that step fails. They may not succeed but it won’t be for any want of trying. And if they do then that success is all the sweeter because they did it their way. They bet on themselves and won.

Is self-publishing for everyone?

I don’t know. But I don’t think that it is. There are some authors who want the security of a publishing company. They want to have someone else provide the infrastructure and follow a game plan that in large part is set by someone else. Or perhaps they need someone to keep them on the path, to issue deadlines, to insist they do the work. When you self-publish that all falls on your shoulders. There is no one watching to make sure you do what you’re supposed to do. That you keep writing, that you continue to produce, sell, market and do the work. And that’s fine. All authors should follow the path that works for them. If you want a publisher then absolutely go that way. If you’re willing to take all the risks yourself then go that way. The great thing is that you can choose and aren’t forced into choosing a path you don’t want.

So as I approach my own self-publishing adventure, I look forward to it with elation and fear. I truly have no idea what will happen. Or if anything will happen. Not one clue. It’s a crap shoot for sure. And I’ve already started the next series because that’s what I do. Write. Will I ever be on that list of best-selling indie authors? It’s anybody’s guess. But like they say, go big or stay home. Right?

How about you? What do you think about indie authors? Are you an indie author. Do you plan to self publish? Or have you already? Any tips or lessons learned you’d like to share?