Today marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of my first book. That being the case, I wanted to take a look back and evaluate everything I’ve learned in the past year about publishing, because it’s a LOT.
I Never Set Out to Be a Publisher
With Realistically Yours, a book I wrote during the 2011 NaNoWriMo event, I hadn’t even planned on publishing it when I started writing it. But NaNo sponsors offer coupons and discounts for their products, and I kept noticing those free CreateSpace coupons in my Winner’s Goodies every year. I decided to do it, if only for myself, to have something tangible to show for all that hard work, all those years I’ve been writing, and that one month of reckless writing abandon. Maybe I wouldn’t publish all the dozens of stories I’d written over the years, but if I had one of them, I could have something to show people when they asked what I liked to do in my spare time.
But I really wanted more than that. I’ve always wanted more than that. I wanted other people to read my book. I wanted other people to tell me what they thought of it. I wanted to share my writing. It was never all about the money. The possibility and hope for financial success is always in the back of your mind as a writer – a half-hearted dream of fame and fortune – but it takes a lot more work than you ever think it does. More work than just the writing and editing of the book, which seems like it should be the end of all the hard work on the writer’s part. Not so with indie and self-publishing.
I Wasn’t Prepared to Be an Indie Author or an Entrepreneur
I thought I was prepared to be an indie author. I thought I was ready to do the marketing and the copywriting and the web development for my author blog, and even the graphic design for my book covers. And I was, sort of. But I only knew the first level of it. All of that goes so much deeper. I don’t think even if I had researched it first, I would have known what I know now. I think I had to go through it, firsthand, and through trial and error, figure out what worked and what didn’t.
I didn’t realize that becoming a self-published author means also becoming a small business owner in a sense. Had I realized that, I might have put together a better strategy to get started, or I may have even decided to take the traditional publishing route just because of how little I knew about the marketing side of it.
The Financial Investment of Self-Publishing – It Always Costs More Than You Think
I also learned that you get what you pay for. You can find good deals, but it doesn’t pay to be cheap – whether you’re being cheap about a service you need or whether you’re being stingy with your time. Either way, it’s better to put in the time and the money to get good results. You don’t have to spend a decade on your book or ten grand on producing it, but trying to get everything done for free isn’t the answer, either. It’s best to find a happy medium, investing in the things you can’t do on your own, or if you can, you can’t do them that well, and then saving on the parts of the process that you can do reasonably well on your own.
I didn’t have any money to put into these things when I started because I hadn’t set out to be a publisher. It hadn’t occurred to me I’d need to pay other people to market my book or convert my files to ebook formats. I thought I could do it on my own, and I did, with some success and some failure. Google ads – fail. Press releases – mixed bag. Good SEO, not so good conversions. I have yet to try Facebook ads, mainly because I don’t have a Facebook fan page and don’t feel I warrant one at this point. Giveaways – hit or miss. Lots of people want a free ebook or a free print book, but I would say many of them want it simply because it’s free, and not necessarily because they’re interested in reading it.
That sounds cynical, but based on the amount of giveaway entries in proportion to the number of reviews I’ve received, I don’t think a lot of people actually want to read the book if it’s not free. No judgment – I download free ebooks from promotions, too. I have every intention of reading all of them and writing these fellow authors some reviews afterwards, but I just haven’t gotten to them all yet. Maybe that’s how it is with these other guys, too, but I’m inclined to doubt.
I learned some new words, too.
I learned what beta readers are. I learned about author platform. I learned about Triberr. I learned about book bloggers. There’s a whole new world out there for indie authors to reach their readers through the web. Unlike the traditionally published authors, we don’t go on talk shows or radio, we don’t get the bookstore signings with people lined up out the door and down the street. We’ve had to adapt and find new ways to reach the audience we know and trust is out there, just waiting to read our books.
What have I learned most?
Patience. I didn’t realize how many hours it took to become an author. And it’s not just the hours it takes to write the damn book in the first place. Interacting with readers and potential readers, connecting with other authors and bloggers, writing blog posts, tweets, and bios on a dozen different social networking and social network management sites – it takes a lot of time. It takes more patience, I think, than time, though those two things are measured quite differently. Patience, and persistence.
Self-publishing and becoming an author has been a very rewarding experience, and I’m so glad and grateful to have had it. I look forward to continuing to build these relationships and meet new readers and writers as we charge forth into the brave new publishing world, but first, I’m going to take a few hours off, at least, to celebrate my birthday.
Happy Earth Day, and have a great week!
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