What I Did Wrong

One of the best blogs for writers is Anne R. Allen’s. It’s my favorite, because she always provides valuable content. And she’s funny. Her most recent post listed the 12 Things for new independent writers to avoid. You can the entire post here, and if you’re a writer, you should.

Of those 12 things, I was guilty of three of them. So I want to make my confession and tell you what I’ve learned in the past year.

#1. DON’T Publish your first novel before you’ve written a second. I did that. Anne writes, “The most popular way of marketing a self-published book right now is giving away a lot of free copies. But this only works if you have other books for the customer to actually pay for. You should write at least two novels before you try to publish—whether you’re hopping on the query-go-round or self-publishing. Marketing takes a whole lot of time, and once you’re doing it, writing novel #2 is going to be really tough. Give yourself at least two novels worth of time before you jump into becoming an author-publisher.” She’s right. Giving away Chocolate for Breakfast was intended to get me more “reach,” and perhaps it did. I did receive messages from strangers telling me I’d written a good book. And I’m hoping they liked it enough to buy the sequel. But if I’d had the sequel available at the same time, I believe my sales would have been better. Hey, I can’t go back. All I can do is keep writing.

#7. DON’T Expect a lot of sales right away. I did that. Anne writes, “Self-publishing works on the principle of slow building. It doesn’t work like traditional publishing with a big splash, push for about a month, then a slow petering of sales, followed by returns, pulping the leftovers and rinse, wash, repeat. Self-publishers sell mostly e-books, and e-books are forever. A title can sell nothing for months—or even years—then suddenly take off once you’ve built an audience with other books.” Now I know. Once Chocolate Fondue was released, I saw an uptick in sales of Chocolate for Breakfast. Because people could see that it made sense to read ‘Breakfast’ first. And here’s another thing: I expected a lot of reviews right away. That doesn’t always happen, either. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Plenty of readers have let me know how much they’ve enjoyed one, or both of my books. I’ve asked them if they would consider posting a brief review on Amazon and/or Goodreads (on Amazon, I hear it helps with visibility). But it doesn’t always happen. Some people simply don’t want to do it, or don’t understand how necessary a good review is to a book’s ranking. You can’t force it, and no, you can’t buy it.

#10. DON’T Publish through a vanity press. Yep, I did that. Here’s Anne’s take: “Oh, sure. I know that,” sez you. “I’d never get duped by a scammy outfit like PublishAmerica. I’m going with a big name publisher: Simon and Schuster. I’m using their self-publishing wing, Archway.” Sorry. Archway is run by AuthorSolutions, a notorious vanity publisher (even though AS is now owned by Penguin.) For more on vanity presses and how to avoid them, see David Gaughran’s blog post.  You don’t want to publish with a vanity press because they make money off the author, not book sales. They often charge 10 times what the normal self-publishing route would cost and the books are so overpriced you can’t make a profit selling them. Please go back and click on the link to read her points in entirety, especially if you’re not yet published. I’m an intelligent woman who dealt with law and contracts a lot in my previous life. But I wanted to be published. And my emotions led the way into what I now see as a bad deal. Yes, I was published. It cost me over two thousand dollars to get an e-book online, and it would have been an additional sixteen hundred dollars to have a print version. The publisher kept 30% of whatever I sold, and when a book is priced at $2.99, there’s not much left for the writer. Certainly not enough to make up the cost of getting published. I’m not saying I was a victim – but I was naïve and inexperienced. Now, I’m neither, and if I can help to educate a new writer, I want to help.

Anne R. Allen doesn’t just write a great blog, she also writes great books! Visit her Amazon page here.

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5 Comments

Thanks so much for the shout-out Martha! I’m glad you’re spreading the word. There’s so much bad advice out there, telling authors to rush to self publishing. And of course the vanity presses are still reeling in clueless newbies every day. (And we were all clueless newbies once.) But you’ve got your career on track now. Even if you didn’t make as many sales originally because you published too soon, the time and effort weren’t wasted. You’ve built a fan base and it will pay off later..

Great blog. I remember an author friend using PublishAmerica back in 2004. Her stance: the belief that they were “real”
publishers and self publishing somehow was inferior. I am happy Amazon and other vendors opened the e-book avenue, hopefully less authors will get sucked into buying their own books.

Also, publishing after we have two or more books available makes sense. Amazon has curtailed reviews on freebies or people without credit cards on file, so what would be the benefit of offering it for free if do not have any other books for readers to buy?

    Hi Scarlette, and thanks. Anne R. Allen’s entire blog is so good. I just wanted to add my own errors! I still believe in spending money for quality editing, and, unfortunately, some writers are so eager to release their book that they forget about that very important step.

Great blog. I remember an author friend using PublishAmerica back in 2004. Her stance: the belief that they were “real”
publishers and self publishing somehow was inferior. I am happy Amazon and other vendors opened the e-book avenue, hopefully less authors will get sucked into buying their own books.

Also, publishing after we have two or more books available makes sense. Amazon has curtailed reviews on freebies or people without credit cards on file, so what would be the benefit of offering it for free if do not have any other books for readers to buy?

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