Since I hit publish on my first novel almost 2 years ago. I’ve learned so much about the industry, both traditional and independent. In that time, I started part-time work in a bookshop as a marketer, I became Vice President of RWA, I wrote three more books… but published only 1. This was because I got a little sucked in to the appeal of being a traditional published author. But after stagnating during that time, I lost myself more than I found myself. After meeting a few awesome Perth writers, who all happen to be women earning over six figures a year as an independent publisher, I’ve decided to return to my roots and focus on self-publishing. My goal is to make a living from my writing, and from what I can see, that’s very hard to do with traditional publishing.
I’m taking my first book down and re-launching it
I had an Urban Fantasy book sitting there since the start of my 2 years in publishing, and because of my time dipping the toe into traditional waters (who doesn’t want to see their book on a physical shelf?), I’ve decided to pull it down, rebrand and then launch myself all over again. I’ve heard of a few authors who have done this, namely Bryan Cohen from the Sell More Books Podcast and Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn. There’s even books out there on how to re-launch a series. The idea is that once you know more about branding, the genres, and what customers want, then you have a better idea of where your book fits in the grand scheme of things. For me, I learned that my covers were off brand, so was my blurb, and I knew my plot needed a tiny bit of tweaking to fit in better with the rest of the series. Now that I know more, I’m taking down Hunting for Witches, giving it a new name, new cover, new blurb, new isbn, and tweaked copy inside. I’ve written the second and the third (just editing) and am in the process of writing the final book. Once it’s done and with my editor, I’m going to publish the first book, followed in quick succession (monthly) with the rest. I’ve heard rapid release helps with Amazon’s algorithms, so here’s hoping.
Well, it’s the end of one year, and almost the start of another. Next year I’m going to be shaking things up for myself in a big way. I thought it’s the best time to share the top 5 tips from what I’ve learned about publishing.
To sum it up, here’s a few things I’ve learned about publishing over the past 2 years:
- Cover branding matters: I thought having a pretty and professional cover was okay, but guess what? If it’s romance with sexy times in there, you need a bare naked chest guy. And if it’s a rom-com, you’ve got to have the cartoony character. These genre cover-tropes differ in each country. If you’re looking for where yours fit, the best advice I can give you is to physically go down to your local bookstore or library and check out the shelf where yours fits. Also give Amazon’s top 100 in your genre a look. Then get advice from an online group, whether it’s a forum or a facebook group. Many of these are free.
- Blurbs are sales copy, not the story: Seriously, check out some blurbs of popular books … some of them don’t even mention a plot!! Originally I got caught up in having to tell the exact story, that I wasn’t enticing the reader. I’ll write more about how I changed my blurb later, but for now, try using the GMC method – The goal of the character, the motivation and the conflict. If it’s a fantasy or sci-fi, sometimes adding a world building or setting the scene sentence at the start helps
- Having an author e-newsletter is awesome: I’ve got a newsletter targeted toward writers, but haven’t yet established a reader newsletter for people who will buy my fiction books. This is important and more blog posts on that coming soon.
- Independent Authors are still rocking it! As I mentioned above, I want to make a living of writing one day. Enough to say I do this full time. After doing a private poll of all the traditional published authors, and the independent authors I’ve met, it’s much more lucrative to self-publish. When I hear about trad authors only making 7-10% royalties, I cringe. All that time and effort put in, and you’re getting peanuts! I’d much rather be like these amazing women: Anna Hackett, Michelle Diener, Demelza Carlton and Claire Boston. All are making a stellar effort self-publishing romance & historical.
- Have a brand: I thought I knew the meaning to this when I started this blog, but I still thought that for me, it would be different. It’s not. You neeeed a brand. Most of my stories have some sort of romance, a paranormal or spec-fic element, and lots of action. So, I’m going to steer my brand in that direction. It means that any time a reader picks up one of my books, they’ll know what their getting.
- It’s not all about the bookstore! I should know, I work in one. When I found out how many units of a mid-range novel would sell in a month at a bookstore, I was gobsmacked. I don’t compare myself to the bestsellers, but I do hope to be mid-range one day, and I can tell you, it’s not that big of a deal – in Australia, anyway. After hearing how much some self-published friends make off ebooks, I knew that was where I had to be. Sure, you get to do your print books for fans and the odd signed book or event, but unless you’re big enough to get into the chain stores (even then!) you’re better off focusing your time and effort online.
I find that, to succeed as a writer, you need to keep learning. And reading. So, I imagine, I’ll keep changing.
I’d love to hear what you’ve learned over the past few years. Any tips for me? Please comment below.