Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Indie Life: A Year in Self-Publishing

The Indelibles

The Indelibles will be hosting a monthly feature called INDIE LIFE. Modeled after Alex Cavanaugh's awesome Insecure Writer's Group, this will be a chance for indie authors to post about indie life, find each other, offer support, encouragement, news, helpful hints, and anything else that makes life as an indie author a little easier.

What is Indie Life? How: Sign up on the Linky at the bottom of this page here. When: Post on the second Wednesday of the month. What: Write anything indie related: something that will inspire or help a fellow indie; something that celebrates a release or a milestone; something that talks about the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of Being Indie. Grab: The banner above to include in your posts!

On February 9, 2012, I started my self-publishing adventure. I have learned a lot from self-publishing, and I wanted to share what I’ve learned.

1. Don’t be afraid to take time with your work.
Find the right cover art. Give your CPs, beta readers, etc. time to critique/edit your work. Give yourself time to edit/proofread your work. It’s easy to press the publish button, but it’s better to do it right the first time.

2. Figure out how to market your book before you publish.
Some books are harder to place than others. I’ve made my mistakes. Take time to find the right categories for your book, find the right readers, be willing to change up how you market too. I’m still learning this one, but I have learned a lot in a year of self-publishing.

3. Keep learning about formatting.
If you aren’t too tech savvy, then it might be better to pay a formatter. I consider myself pretty decent with computers, and I’m willing to learn. But you have to keep learning. For example, Amazon changed their formatting to KF8. If you haven’t checked your ebooks recently, then they might not work right on their new Paperwhite. I recently uploaded new mobi files because of the changes.

4. Consider not putting your ebooks in one retailer.
For my first self-published ebook, I tried Amazon’s KDP Select. It went spectacularly when I put the book for free on my birthday in March. I had over 2000 downloads in one day and got up to 121 in the overall Kindle store free. Then, I had almost 200 sales. In May, I tried giving the book away again, but it didn’t work as well. Amazon had changed its algorithms, making it harder to strike it big. Some authors still do very, very well in KDP Select. Some do not. You have to keep trying different things, and I would consider trying it again with a different book. But for now, I’m very happy to have my books on other retailers. Some months, I sell more on these other retailers than I do on Amazon.

5. Don’t let reviews dictate your mood.
This is one I’m still working on. I've had some one and two star reviews, and I admit they got me down. They made me pull away from marketing, stop believing in my work. I’ve realized I don’t write for those people. I try to do my very best work. I really do. Some people are going to love it. Others might not, and that’s okay.

6. Sales do not dictate whether or not your book is good.
I’ll admit that my sales since March have been a bit disappointing. Novels do better, and right now I still do not have a novel-length work published. Some people hate any work shorter than a novel-length one, even if it is well-written. That’s just how it is. A writer must keep writing and producing more manuscripts.

7. Consider not mentioning a deadline unless you’re certain you can meet it.
I rushed work to meet a deadline. I know I have. Would I change much if I had all the time in the world to fix my work? No, I wouldn’t. But I have learned not to mention deadlines until I’m at the proofreading stages or at least my last edit before the proofread.

8. Keep writing.
Although I’m still trying to find my audience, I will keep writing. Ebooks are forever, in a way. They always have a chance to find their audience and each book I write and publish will take me one step closer to finding my audience.

If you self-publish, what have you learned?


Stina said...

Great list and yes to #4. I prefer my KOBO app over my Kindle one. On my iPod Touch, KOBO allows me to create bookshelves. Kindle doesn't. Soooo I'm less likely to download your book on Kindle.

Elise Fallson said...

Excellent advice all the way down the list. Write for people who love your work, there are LOTS of people who so and in time your audience will grow.

Trisha said...

It's really great for me to read stuff like this when I'm planning on self-publishing at some point. I have a feeling that in some ways, setting a deadline might be the only way I actually do publish anything, because if I don't, I'll be forever reviewing and wanting to revise until the end of time. At some point you do have to say "I've done all I can do." A deadline might get me to that point. ;) Still, I'm a ways off that yet.

Thanks for sharing some of your experiences, Cherie!

Unknown said...

Great list! I absolutely agree with all of them, especially learning how to market your book before you publish. I'm learning from last year's mistakes and am hoping to keep getting better at it with each new title :) And #6 is perfect - just because I'm not a bestseller doesn't mean readers aren't enjoying the work!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent tips and points, Cherie! You've learned a lot this past year.

Anonymous said...

It's a continuous learning journey and I get a lot from other people's stories.

I've signed up.

Julie Flanders said...

Thanks for sharing what you've learned! I find it kind of surprising that novels do better than novellas. I love them both and sometimes it's fun to just have a quick and entertaining read.

You've had an amazing year and I know you will just keep building more and more success as you go along!

Laura Pauling said...

More than ever I think it's important to be available on all the different retailers. Maybe Select for a while but when you're done working it, move on and find even more readers.

Camille Picott said...

What a cool blogfest! I'll have to think about joining this one. Thanks for sharing your indie experiences. It's great to see the perspectives of other indies out there!

Al Diaz said...

This is a very good idea and it is quite enlightening even for those who haven't published anything yet. We get to learn from others' experiences.

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic post. Those are words of wisdom to remember, and even those of us who know them sometimes forget.

Cathy Keaton said...

I wonder if the changes made by Amazon to their ebook files means you can't make mobi files with Scrivener anymore. Well, it's not like I need to worry about this right now, but I know I will someday.

Great post, Cherie and thanks for the advice. I hear a lot of authors never read negative reviews and that sounds like a good idea to me.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Oh, how I wish I had read #7 three months ago. I gave myself a deadline that I thought would be easy to meet, and it wasn't. In fact, I still don't have the paperback done yet . . .because I keep finding errors in the proof copy. agh. I've learned a tough lesson, but now I know for the next one.

Larry Kollar said...

Yes to all of these, especially #1. In fact, #1 should be repeated after every two or three others. :-)

I'm pretty good with computers, and a bit of a typesetting geek, so I'm pretty confident with my formatting. If only I were as confident with Smashwords! Heh. I do have friends and relatives with non-Kindle devices, so I have never been seriously tempted to go Amazon-exclusive to date. I probably should, given 98% of my sales are from Amazon so far, but I would rather have the fallback… just in case.

Great post, Cherie!

heidigarrett said...

Great List! What have I learned? A lot of the same things. I think my favorite is number 8. When everything else feels, ugh, the writing is what brings me joy and helps me keep it all in perspective.

Cher Green said...

Excellent post. Thanks for sharing your experiences. As you know, I'm not Indie, yet. I am toying with the idea though. Especially with some Tarot manual ideas I have.

Congrats on your successes.