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

Like a chimp in a china shop

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So in my quest to actually get my books published and introduced to the world this week, I endeavored to put together an email, announcing the same.

If you’re like me, with little to no design experience or savvy you’re probably smart to set up one of those email services. They have templates with simple drag and drop functions and/or themes so it’s just a matter of putting your marketing email together and moving on to the next step in your marketing strat.

And that’s just what I did. I set up a Mail Chimp account and played around with a few elements and figured it’d be a slam dunk. Easy-peasy. I had a nifty little promo piece I was going to slide in there with a little copy and that would be it. Bada-boom,bada-bing, right?

Not so much. The ‘simple’ drag and drop method of building an email template turned out to be not so simple after all. I was dragging but the components weren’t dropping. Or they were dropping in the wrong place. And I couldn’t get my promo piece to look right. And the pictures of the books had to be resized but they looked all wrong.

So I scratched my original concept and went with one of their ‘themes.’ Piece of cake, right? Not for me. The templates are comprised of a text blocks, images, and elements with certain specs. If your text and images don’t fit, you have to cut, resize, drag, and pray it’ll work. In my case – it didn’t. Certain things just didn’t want to drop or drag where I wanted them to be, so in frustration I’d delete the element. But then it would leave a white space that I simply couldn’t get rid of no matter what I did. I think I tried every theme and template they had but nothing came out right.

I’d also forwarded a few of the test emails to a couple of friends for feedback. One of my friends couldn’t see the images and had just big gaping blank spaces to look at.

After eight hours of fiddling with emails and sending test emails to myself to see how my emails looked (dreadful) I was about as coherent as a monkey who’d over indulged in banana brandy and a box of chocolates.

But I wasn’t willing to give up because I have many other things to do and wouldn’t have time to deal with it later. As a last ditch attempt I went with a simple text template and that was better. Still there was work to be done.
So this morning, I figured it out and I think I have a simple, easy to read email that looks pretty good. Well…okay, anyway.

The take-aways

If you’re like me and really don’t know or understand design, even the simple drag and drop method can be daunting and yield crappy results. And you can spend hours driving yourself mad and still not get the results you want. What worked for me was:

  • Use the simple text template. You can still add images, text blocks, social sharing buttons, etc. But since it’s very bare bones you won’t have to worry about getting rid of or reordering things that exist in a theme or dealing with a predetermined layout.
  • Resize you images in another program. If you don’t have the software on your own computer, there are a couple of online sites where you can effectively resize images that look good. Pxlr and iPiccy were the two that worked best for me.
  • Use no more than three images. Part of my problem was that I was trying to put too many images in one little email. The result was a cluttered mess. When I let go of the idea of having to use my existing promo piece and just used the cover images for the books, the email instantly looked cleaner and more focused. So pick the three best images you have or want to use and save the other images for other venues.
  • Design your layout before you start working on it. I found that simply opening a Word Doc and rearranging the text, headlines and images until I found the layout I liked made it much easier to put the actual email template together. I just kept it open and referred to it as I was building the email.
  • Less is more. When you’re anticipating releasing a book or a product that you’ve spent a long time working on, it’s natural to want to make a big splash. But let’s be real. We all get a bazillion emails a day, most of which is some type of advertising or another. So don’t turn your email into a web page. Just give them the basics – some nice images, a couple of snappy headlines, good interest-peaking text, and how they can get what you’re offering.

How about you? Have any tips on putting together a nice email to promote your book? Ever sent one that was a disaster? What happened? Tell us in the comments.

Annie

Jane Friedman Gives us the Lowdown on How Your Book Becomes a Movie – and other cool stuff

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How a Book Becomes a Movie by Jane Friedman. Dream of your book someday becoming a movie? Jane gives you the lowdown on how the moon, stars and Hollywood all have to align to make that happen. Excellent read.

The Future Is Freelance by John Bond. Mr. Bond gives us five good and sound reasons why more and more the publishing biz will be and is using freelancers. I say hooray.

Japanese readers spend the most on electronic books from Business Insider. Interesting, the favored book format in Japan is eBooks. Can’t say that doesn’t make me happy.

How Changing Your Reading Habits Can Transform Your Health by Michael Grothaus. “Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision maker.” Fascinating and insightful article about some heretofore unknown (at least to me) side benefits of reading.

A few thoughts on new writers and “doing everything right” by Kristen Painter. Sage and straight from the hip advice. Good one.

Just for fun: If you’re stuck trying to come up with a super villain, this villain generator may be just the ticket or a time suck. Up to you.

Meanwhile, I’m working on getting my series release ready to shoot out into the universe. That could be fun. More details later.

Have a great week everybody.

Writer Chick

Gaming Amazon for Kindle Success and Other Captivating Reads…

Confessions from the Underground World of Kindle eBooks, Part 1. An ‘anonymous’ interview with a supposed best-selling Kindle author who has a formula to game the system and make a ton of money. Smacks of cautionary tale to me. Note: There is a part 2 & 3 at the same blog if you are interested in following up on what happened.

Women Crime Writers of the 40s and 50s by Sarah Weinman. Is a fascinating article about women crime writers but not just in the 40s and 50s. Believe it or not we’ve been around almost from the beginning of the genre.

The Power of Fiction – by Jo Eberhardt. Jo discusses whether we as writers have the power to change the world, or at least one person’s world. She makes a compelling case for the yes column.

10 terms coined by Ernest Hemingway by Angela Yung. Just for fun, ten still used phrases that we use thanks to Papa Ernie.

With Lower Prices and 12X More Titles Per Year, Famous Authors Fear Amazon Bestselling authors make roundabout arguments that it’s in readers’ interest for big publishers to collude on high prices. Interesting….

Have a great week everybody.

WC

Welcome to Self-Publishing (You’re a real writer now, eh?)

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Well, the good news is that I just finished the the third book in the series I’ve been writing for the last eighteen months. Yay (small pom-poms, please). And much as I would like to revel in that accomplishment there is so much more work to be done that it makes me want to run screaming to my bed so I can burrow under the covers.

Some might say that the work has just begun. And they’d be right..

The writing, beta reading and feedback, rewriting, editing, and proofing and polishing is a lot of work and sure I’m proud of myself for getting that far but beyond that is my checklist. I thought I’d share it with you, for any of you indie authors, soon to be self-publishers or aspiring to same. It might help…or not:

CHECKLIST ON SERIES:

1. Write: copyright pages, dedication pages, disclaimer pages, acknowledgment pages and new bio, add to final mss
2. Purchase ISBNs from Bowker
3. Read formatter contract, print, sign and send in with payment and manuscripts per their specs
4. Write product descriptions for books
5. Put together mailing list for email marketing
6. Open email marketing account
7. Create mailer for book announcement(s)
8. Decide if you will release all at once or at intervals
9. Read all the marketing and book promotion material you’ve been saving for the last 1 ½ years
10. Sketch out mkg strat for books (implement)
11. Write a series of ‘guest posts’
12. Apply for copyrights for all books (online)
13. Get new author photos done
14. Re-do page for series on blog
15. Update Author Central page – new photo, new bio, new everything
16. Find every place possible to promote books (write list/put on spreadsheet)
17. Determine best strategy for getting reviews
18. Determine best distribution
19. Key word research on Amazon
20. Publish by end of August
21. rock and roll

Now this list is by no mean complete but it does cover the basics. And drives home the fact that I’m not just an author anymore, I’m a publisher. And unfortunately, I’m the only employee.

So, if you don’t see me around, or I fail to comment on your blog, or tweet you back or have a little FB time with you – don’t take it personally, I’m just trying to get a lot done in a very short time.

I do intend to write a few how-to posts on some of these steps – as I learn them or navigate the process. Hopefully, that will help some of you at a some future date. So stay tuned.

How about you? Are you self publishing? Where are you in the process? Any tips you’d like to share? Feel free to yak it up in the comments.

Writer Chick