Today’s my birthday! *tosses confetti*
Any-who…there’s something about grown-up birthdays that prompts you to evaluate your life. Since my birthday coincides with the passing of my books’ six-month mark since publication, I thought this would be a great time to fill you in on how things are going and what I’ve learned.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Although I wrote several full-length novels that will never be published, I went into the plotting and planning of the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy with the full intent of it being published. At the time, I thought that meant traditional publication.
Oh, how much things have changed.
Before last year, I had a whole different mindset about traditional publishing versus self-publishing. I was sadly uneducated about the ins and outs of both worlds. But I’ve always loved learning, so I took it upon myself to become more knowledgeable.
First, I learned how to write a synopsis, a book summary and a query letter. Then I went through the process of researching literary agents, and learned how to craft my query letter to best suit them. During this time, I also learned how to deal with rejection.
It was during the weeks that passed between the time a query was sent out and the
rejection response came back that I began exploring self-publishing. I’m the first to admit that the image I had of self-publishing ran along the lines of vanity presses. Fortunately, times are changing, and so is the face of self-publishing.
Not long after I received a rejection from an agent who had taken more than three months to review a partial of Becoming, I made a decision that would change my life: I was going to become an indie author.
Fortunately, my husband fully supported my decision. Heck, he’d been telling me for weeks to go for it. Even though we didn’t have the money, he handed me a credit card and told me to find a cover designer because he was going to start formatting the books for publication. He helped me create a website and we spent hours every evening educating ourselves on the world of indie publishing.
I created a Twitter account last June. I went into it with a great deal of trepidation and complete ignorance of this fast-moving social medium. I was baffled by its mysterious hashtags and acronyms, and I had no idea how to get people to follow me or what to tweet. I still remember those early awkward days of tweeting quotes just because I didn’t know what in the world I was doing. Fun times.
While I was more familiar with Facebook, maintaining an author presence through this particular social network was obviously new to me. I’m only now really beginning to tap into Facebook and its amazing potential. But one thing at a time, as they say.
The Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy was published on July 24th. I had about ten Facebook friends and less than 100 Twitter followers. I had belonged to Goodreads for all of a month and didn’t have a clue what purpose it would serve. This was the extent of my social media network.
Cringing yet? If not, you should be.
The fact is, no one will believe in your work unless you do. And I went into this believing that my books are worth reading. I guess that came across to some folks as I clumsily and naively stumbled through building my author presence, and I will always be grateful to those early followers who have been with me through this amazing journey. You know who you are…and if you don’t, I hope you read the Acknowledgements page of Defy when it’s released in a couple months.
So, what did this newbie indie author manage to accomplish in the past six months (mind you, while working full-time as a wedding planner and continuing to raise a family)?
Here are the highlights:
- As of today, I’m just shy of 10,000 total book sales
- The books have maintained 5-star ratings on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and between 4 and 5 stars on Goodreads (with more than 200 reviews of Becoming alone)
- Becoming reached #15 on Amazon’s Paid Kindle Books list in the Romance->Fantasy category
- Including book reviews, author interviews and guest posts, the books have been featured more than 60 times on blogs around the ‘Net
- I wrote and published an Estilorian short story, The Prophecy, and I’m nearly done with book two of my follow-up Firstborn Trilogy
So there you have it! While I know I still have a lot to learn and I’ve only begun to tap into the potential marketing avenues for my books, it’s great to look back and see how far I’ve already come. Somehow, I’ve made this work. What I’m hoping this tells you is that if I can do it, you can, too!
On that note, I’ll leave you with just a few things I’ve learned that I hope will help some of you, too:
1. What works for one author might not work for you. This business involves a lot of trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if you try a marketing strategy that worked for someone else and it doesn’t work for you. Learn from that and adapt their strategies to suit you.
2. If you want to make money as a self-published author, you have to invest in yourself. Hire an editor…and I don’t mean your best friend’s cousin who gets good grades in English. I mean a professional editor. And if you don’t have a degree in design, hire a great cover designer, even if you’re “only” publishing e-books. And that leads me to…
3. Devan Edwards of Nimbi Design is most awesome. The majority of my first Twitter followers commented on my avatar. Because I didn’t have a professional head shot at the time, I opted to use Becoming‘s cover as my avatar. It was the best thing I could have done. For this, I owe my brilliant cover designer huge props.
4. Network, network, network. Stay in touch with fellow authors, avid readers, and bloggers. Join as many social networking sites as you can handle and participate as much as possible. Note: this doesn’t mean promoting yourself at every opportunity; rather, do what you can to help others!
5. Write every day. Whether it’s a new paragraph on your WIP, a blog post, or an e-mail to a fan, write something every day that advances your writing career.
6. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s important to set goals, and we should strive to achieve them or they serve no purpose. But most indie authors are also full-time “something elses,” whether it’s another career, a spouse, a parent, etc. Acknowledge that life happens and just do the best you can. If you persevere, you’ll reach that goal!
Phew. That was quite the blog, eh? Thanks so much for reading to this point. If you have more tips that you’d like to share, I welcome your comments. For now, I’ll sign off with another round of thanks to everyone who has helped make these past six months the best birthday present I’ve ever received. You’re awesome!