I’ve been at this indie publishing thing for 2 solid years now. Longer if you count the platform building I did before I released my first title in March of 2010. Each year I do analysis of productivity, sales, ROI for time and promotion method, etc. And every year I learn stuff and adapt what I’m doing to try to raise all of those things. Beyond all that, of course, I learn as the market and publishing climate changes. It’s totally adapt or perish out here. I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned that I kind of wish I knew or had thought about at the beginning:
- Unless you are one of those writers who never abandons a project, don’t buy cover art until a book is finished or nearly so. While having lovely cover art is often a good motivator and certainly makes for pretty desktop wallpaper that makes you grin from ear to ear, if you buy it for a project that isn’t finished, you risk the possibility of becoming disenchanted and falling out of love with a story. Or worse, figuring out that the story just flat won’t work with the metaplot you’re creating (if you’re writing a series). This happened to me with Riven. It’s gorgeous cover art and yet the story’s been abandoned. I’ve been kicking around ideas and may have come up with another story that could use the cover finally (incidentally recycling a heroine from ANOTHER abandoned story in the archives), though who knows when it’ll get written.
- By the same token, don’t list one of your books on Goodreads for people to add until you’re finished or nearly so. This was another lesson learned with Riven, which I ultimately had to email Goodreads to remove since the book was never going to come out. Plus, in general, it’s good to not have it there and reviewable until the book is actually out. One of the massive irritations of Goodreads is that if the listing is there, even if it’s months before even ARCs are available there will be trolls who review it based on nothing or who misuse the rating system instead of using a TBR shelf as intended. Of course they’ll still do this once the book is out, but at least they should be balanced out and tempered by ACTUAL READERS.
- Never, ever make proclamations or announcements on your website, blog, twitter, in the back matter of your published works, etc. about the release date or expected next project unless you have said project finished or in the final stages (by which I mean the draft is done and you’re doing the formatting). This is because no matter your good intentions, you never know what will happen to change that release date or order. Um, hello, Revelation? The book that I expected to be the first full length Mirus novel following Blindsight? Yeah…it’s gonna get written at some point, but I have no idea when. There are other stories that must be told before that one. And yet fans are reading Blindsight and they want to know what happens! Which is totally fair. It sucks to have to tell them I don’t know when I had announced it as the next release. So just save yourself some headaches and don’t do it.
- Accept the fact that even though one of the cool things about self publishing is that you can jump around and publish unrelated projects in different genres, doing so will probably slow down the momentum of building your fanbase. I don’t regret pausing work on my Mirus stuff to write Red. I love that book and I think it’s the best thing I’ve written. But the people who read one are not necessarily the same people who read the other, so I have split my resources on that front and really slowed down the build I’d started with the releases of Forsaken By Shadow, Devil’s Eye, and Blindsight. When you have limited production time and lots of wide and varied interests, this is just kind of a fact of life. And it’s one of the reasons that in traditional publishing, they tend to prefer you stick to one genre unless you’re freakishly prolific.
- There will be indie darlings who are hugely successful. Studying their every move will not make you equally successful. They are outliers. There is no substitute for BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) finishing your freaking book and making it the best possible book you can make it before turning around and doing it all over again with a new book. Self publishing (or any publishing, frankly) is a long haul game and you cannot go into it expecting any kind of instant success. You’re more likely to be hit by lightning or attacked by a grizzly bear in Central Park. Focus on your own work and getting it finished and polished to the best of your ability, then go learn more.