bLessons Learned from Publishing My First Book
When I decided to take the plunge and independently publish my YA epic fantasy series, The Shadow Watch, I knew I was in for a lot of work. I knew I would be in charge of the quality in every respect: cover, marketing, editing, etc.
I worked my butt off.
I released my first book in May 2018. Book Two comes out in March of this year. And overall, the experience has definitely been a success.
But as I am preparing for the launch of Book Two, I’ve been reflecting on some things I’ve learned from the first go around. Hopefully, it will be helpful to anyone else setting out on this amazing journey of indie publishing.
A FEW THINGS I DID PRETTY WELL THE FIRST TIME
1. Invest in Quality Editing and Cover Art - I decided that if I was going to publish on my own, I was going to do it as well as I could without breaking the bank. I invested a fair amount of money to hire a professional editor and cover illustrator. I even hired a fantasy map artist to bring my imaginary world to life. I cannot recommend this enough, if you can afford it. There are lots of indie books out there, but a great cover and good editing will make yours stand out immediately from the pack. It is worth the investment, in my opinion.
2. Build a Launch Team - I did not have a giant launch, but I accrued a decent readership online prior to the book’s release, so I decided to invite them to help launch the book, and these early reviews definitely helped get things going. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. There are readers on places like Twitter, and there are even ARC services that will send your book out to readers in exchange for a review (more on this, in the section about my mistakes).
3. Network with Writers Who’ve Done It - I was fortunate enough to have already known a couple people who were publishing on their own very successfully. I reached out for advice on a few things, and they were very gracious to answer my questions. One went out of her way to offer me some ad advice later on, for which I am very grateful. Don’t know anyone? Check out the Facebook group 20BooksTo50K, full of indie authors who are helping one another out. Check out Kboards. There are tons of helpful threads about how to publish your book successfully.
A FEW THINGS I WISH I’D DONE DIFFERENTLY
1. Plan Launch Stuff Far in Advance - I had intentions of finding book bloggers, and signing up with an ARC service to coincide with my launch. Hidden Gems ARC does an amazing job, but I found out the hard way that they book out 3-6 months in advance. I was too late to do it in time for my launch. Failing to plan ahead hurt me here. I did a later campaign with them that garnered about 20 reviews, and I think this would have helped me out quite a bit if I would have had those reviews at launch. Instead, reviews were fewer and came slower. Amazon’s algorithms favor new releases. And more reviews early on will help you capitalize on the Zon’s favor.
Sidenote: Organic reviews are REALLY hard to get, and unless your book is selling like hotcakes, they will trickle in very slowly. Something like 1 in every 100 or so readers. Probably on a good day. So if you are a writer who reads books (which I assume you are), consider giving those authors a hand by leaving a review. It helps so much!
2. Figure out Marketing Before you Publish - I really wish I would have learned more about how to market my book before I hit ‘Publish’. I ran a Facebook ad on the day of my launch, but otherwise, I had no idea what I was doing. Do some research first. I highly recommend the book Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian Meeks. Amazon’s algorithms favor new releases, and this goes for ads too. I definitely would have benefitted from knowing what I was doing on Launch Day. Seriously, once your book goes up and the boosted visibility wears off after a couple weeks or so, ads will be the primary way you generate sales. Organic sales (not triggered by ads) are very rare once your friends and family have quit buying your book! Learn ads, and learn them quick!
3. Be Active on Social Media - I was okay at this, and I am getting better, but there are lots of great people online. This will not only help your visibility, but it will also help you figure out what you’re doing. Lots of people are happy to share things that work for them. Network with other writers on Twitter or Facebook (seriously, join 20BooksTo50K). Boost their content. Be encouraging. Pay it forward and it will come back.
These things will help you launch a book well. But whatever you do, go easy on yourself. Prioritize. You may not be able to pull off everything you want. I know I couldn’t the first time around. Learn from your mistakes. Keep at it, and get better as you go.
S.A. Klopfenstein is the author of the Shadow Watch series of young adult fantasy novels. Check out his books here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07C3KLT6K/