Do you feel as if self-publishing let you down?
Write novel? Check!
Design cover? Check!
Upload to Amazon? Check!
Watch sales roll in? …
There are indie authors you hear about who never wrote a book in their life, picked up a pen, and sold well enough to quit their jobs a few months later. There are also those authors you hear about who shot to the top of the bestseller lists on their first books.
But neither of these scenarios will be the experience of the vast majority of authors. (Pity.) These success stories seem to support the concept that you can pen your novel, put it up on Amazon, and watch the sales roll in.
The true story isn’t so glamorous. A lot of writers are charmed by the “magic” of self-publishing … and disappointed when their experiences don’t match their dreams.
If this was you … take heart. Your dreams aren’t over! They might simply require more work than you expected.
The Good Book Continuum
You know those Amazingly Awesome Books You Can’t Put Down. And you also know those Amazingly Awful Books You Can’t Throw Away Fast Enough. Those are the two ends of the continuum, and a book can fall anywhere in between.
But where is your book?
The problem here is two-fold: First is how to unravel the great mystery of what makes a good book good. Let’s face it: There’s nothing simple about creating an entire fictional universe and making it seem just like real life. Only better. Topped off with a deeply moving theme that reveals something about the human experience. I mean, that’s a small order, right?
It’s easy to read a book and say, “Wow. That was a good book.” It’s much harder to put your finger on why it was so good. Hundreds of tiny techniques feed into the making of a stellar novel.
Second, judging your own work is really, really hard, especially if it’s your first book. After pouring countless hours into your manuscript, you become very close to your work – to the point that you can’t tell what’s really on the page and what’s still stuck in your head. The ability to distance yourself from your novel is a skill that’s only learned through practice.
So how do you know where your book sits on that continuum?
First, study your craft.
- Read tons of books from your favorite genres. Read the best sections twice. Try to identify what the author was doing.
- Study up on books, blogs, print articles, and podcasts on all different aspects of writing craft.
- Attend workshops and conferences.
Second, get feedback on your book.
- Ask trusted friends and relatives to read your novel and give their honest opinion.
- Get together with other writers, in person or online, and critique each other’s work. You’ll learn a lot, not only by letting them dissect your manuscript, but by helping them dissect theirs.
- Sign up for a writing course.
- Pay for a professional critique or big-picture edit.
Finally, Write. A lot. The only way to learn is to do. Carrie quoted something to me once about every author needing to turn out one million words before they get to the good stuff. The figure I heard was two years of serious practice (on average) before you’re publication-ready.
After all that study, you may come to the conclusion that your very first manuscript … maybe shouldn’t have been published. (Big hug.) It’s okay. Life isn’t over. And neither is your publishing career. As you master new skills, your subsequent books will be better. And there’s nothing wrong with polishing up that first one! That’s one of the beauties of indie publishing. Nothing’s set in stone. Or even in ink. You can update your book whenever the spirit moves!
Best Foot Forward
How’s your cover image doin’? Go over to Amazon (That’s right. Go ahead. I’ll wait.) and browse the other books in your category. Stand your book up side-by-side with them. Is your title and author name easy to read in those itty bitty little thumbnails they give you? Is the cover image equally clear? Does your cover have the same “Oooh! Aaah!” factor as the other books?
Again, ask for outside opinions. Maybe the cover you designed yourself is great as-is. If you have both writing skills and graphic art skills, you’re a force to be reckoned with. But frequently, the artwork of the under-prepared self-publisher just doesn’t stand a chance against the competition. Yes, people do judge books by their covers!
If you’re serious about selling books to complete strangers, this is where you need to either become passionate about graphic design (subcategory: book covers), or hire a professional.
Tell the World
The best book in the world with the best cover in the world won’t get any sales at all if no one knows it exists. Marketing is a must for self-publishers. (Actually, for all authors.) If you want to see consistent sales, you have to market.
If the idea of taking active steps to generate sales sounds like way too much work, then maybe self-publishing isn’t your cup of tea after all.
If, on the other hand, you merely don’t know where to start, there are tons of books out there, some for marketing any business, and a whole sub-genre for marketing your book and your author brand. This page on Amazon should get you started. Read up!
As you study best marketing practices, you’ll find a lot of varied advice. That’s because the majority of book marketing today is done online – and the Internet community is ever changing. Book marketing is often an exercise in experimentation. I call it “Throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks.” Have a little patience and you’ll find your own unique recipe!
In an idyllic world, we could throw our books at Amazon and watch the sales roll in. But just like in every facet of life, dreams only come true when you work for them.