The 3 Most Common Indie Oopsies by Shannon of Duolit

This morning we have a guest post from Shannon O’Neil, one half of the Florida-based dynamic duo (Toni being the other half!) behind the fantastic self-publishing website Duolit. Here, Shannon shares her tips on how to avoid some of the most common self-publishing mistakes. Take it away, Shannon… 

“Don’t hang your head, it’s okay. We all make mistakes.

For example, that orange taffeta bridesmaid dress your friend picked for her wedding was a mistake (as evidenced by the surviving pictures of the event). So was the guy with a mustache you dated for three months, the time you decided to replace your morning coffee with tea and the expensive iPhone case with the sparkly rhinestones you bought and outgrew within a week.

What’s important, however, is that you learned from every egregious error so that you would never, ever make the same mistake again.

(Okay, maybe just once more, but the guy with the mustache really had great taste in music and never asked you to pay on a date…it’s understandable.)

Being an indie author, just like any other career, presents the same opportunities for you to make mistakes. Some of them you’ll have to get through on your own (both the mistake making and the lesson learning) but as an indie author who’s been around the proverbial block, I’d like to pay it forward with some advice on three major pitfalls almost every self-published author makes along the way.

Mistake #1:  Assuming your book will the next big thing.

Every author wants to go to bed a relative unknown in the industry and wake up on the cover of magazines. We want international media attention, swarming fans and the income to justify all the hours we’ve poured into our writing projects.

Mostly we want success to fall in our laps so we can stop busting our behinds just to sell enough copies to pay for our expensive coffee habit.

But assuming that international success is an inevitability of the process is a major (MAJOR!) error. For every Twilight there are hundreds – no, thousands, quite possibly hundreds of thousands– of other YA vampire novels that don’t sell even a dozen copies.

In fact, 80% of books published (not just self-published, but published period) in the U.S. sell less than 100 copies. I don’t know what the numbers are for international markets, but based on the saturation of the market, I would doubt that they’re any better.

You should therefore understand from the outset that you will most likely not wind up watching the movie version of your novel on the big screen or swimming in your royalties Scrooge McDuck-style either.

That’s not to say, however, that you won’t experience success.

You just have to know how to define success for yourself. Set your goals and when you meet them, set new goals. Keep moving the bar, but don’t hold yourself to impossible standards.

There’s not enough mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world to recover from that, trust me.

2. Failing to have a marketing plan in place before your book launch.

Too many indie authors wait until after their books are published to even think about marketing.

THIS IS SUCH A BAD IDEA! (You made me use CAPSLOCK and an exclamation point, THAT is how seriously bad this idea is).

Unless your goal is only to write and publish a book (meaning you have no desire to sell it much less make a living off your writing) not having a marketing plan from the start is like building a sailboat without a sail. It will get you nowhere.

You don’t have to start your marketing when you’re in the initial planning stages of your novel (though some people do and it’s not an altogether bad idea) but by the time you’re putting pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keys) you should at least have a blog and a couple of social media accounts to share your work and start connecting with fans.

Building a crazy-dedicated fan base (Duolit trademark pending) is not an overnight process, so the earlier you get started the better.

Don’t feel like you have to give away all of your book’s details either. You just need enough to get people interested. Your blog and social media should be sufficient content for you to market  yourself without having to spill every word of your book while it’s in progress.

And yes, it will take away time from your writing, you just have to get over that.

Be efficient about it, have a plan, and you’ll find that it doesn’t eat up large chunks of time — just enough to get the job done and get back to writing.

3. Not investing money the way you invest your time.

The term “struggling writer” was not born by accident.

We all struggle with the monetary aspects of being an author, even as technology has eased the financial burden of self-publishing. But to compete with traditionally published books you have to put in your blood, sweat, tears and — where applicable– your dollars.

Spend money on a good editor, a talented designer and a professional printer. Period.

To skip or shortcut any of the above is a cardinal sin of self-publishing. Worse, it devalues the time investment you’ve already made to your project.

So scrape together whatever funds you can come up with and make wise decisions about who to add to your team.

If you need help, use sites like Kickstarter and Indie Go-Go to call on your fanbase (and family and friends and neighbors and that weird guy on the bus who always stares at you) for early investments to get you going.

Your fans get the promise of a future product, you get the money up front and everyone is happy.

Phew! Pep talk over.

It’s so important (in my tiny, humble little opinion) for authors who have been through the self-pub process to share their honest, open stories (fails and all) so we can create a cohesive knowledge base for moving the indie book industry forward.

Catherine has done such a great job at this with Self-Printed (new edition coming soon as I understand) and I’m glad to contribute my two cents to the conversation as well, but what about you? Are there any other common indie author mistakes you’ve experienced and would like to warn others about?

Share your mistakes and we’ll all toast to the learning curve that comes with self-publishing!”

Thanks, Shannon! Very information and entertaining. You’re welcome back any time!

Shannon O’Neil is one half of Duolit, two gals who help passionate fiction authors sell more books by building their crazy-dedicated fanbase. If you’re ready to become a book marketing whiz, check out their FREE 4-week training course. A new session starts later this month!

Would you like a copy of Self-Printed 2.0 when it comes out (only a month and a half late)? All you need to do is leave a comment on this post to claim your chance to win.

37 thoughts on “The 3 Most Common Indie Oopsies by Shannon of Duolit

  1. timamarialacoba says:

    Thanks for that invaluable post. I’m one of those new authors on the cusp of going indie. I started my blog five months ago, same time as signing on to Twitter, Goodreads and creating a trailer of my book on youtube. All have been helpful promo tools. But, I’m not giving up my day job as yet!

    • Mary says:

      Hi, you write that you started your promotion five months ago. How long after did you launch your book? I’d like to see the trailer and the blog, what are they called?

    • Shannon @ Duolit says:

      Wow! You’ve done great starting a blog, jumping right into social media and creating a book trailer, that’s excellent! You’ve laid the essential foundation for getting started and it sounds like you’ve got the indie ambition. I think you’re going to do great and you could definitely benefit from taking our course just to get some advice on finding your audience out there in the vast Internet ocean. Even if you’re not ready to make the jump yet, it will help you figure out where you want to go in the future. 🙂

  2. Claude Nougat says:

    Excellent post on an excellent fun-to-read, stimulating blog, thanks to both caffeinated gals!
    Alas, hell is paved with good intentions. You always think you’ve got a marketing plan but when the book is at last up there in Amazon’s ether, rather than floating you’ll watch it crash unwanted! So you start running around forgetting all the pieces of your marketing plan mainly because…everything has to be done AT ONCE! Ghastly! I know what I’m talking about, I just uploaded on Amazon’s KDP two books (short stories and a novel – nay a special novel, a BB novel… :)…for Baby Boomers!) And I’m running around like a chicken that’s had its head cut off!

    • Shannon @ Duolit says:

      Oh yes, Claude, it can definitely get a little crazy when you’re in the middle of executing your marketing plan! You definitely have to be flexible because things won’t always go as planned, but the more research you do ahead of time the more contingency plans you can have in place so that you can improvise if need be. Good luck with your books!! I’m sure you’ll do great 🙂

      • claudenougat says:

        Thanks Shannon…Just to give you an example: I spent an incredible time on Goodreads this am trying to upload my book there, I couldn’t find the way to do it! In fact you have a tiny link in light color at the bottom of one of the author dashboard pages. Very frustrating! Plus my book is really an entirely new genre, a BB novel (i.e. Baby Boomer Novel, like YA is for Young Adults…) Oh, the challenges!

        • catherineryanhoward says:

          I actually find exactly the same problem with Goodreads – it’s impossible to find the links to things sometime. I recently set up an advert on there and half my time was wasted trying to find out from where I could start. They really need to organize the “Author” side of things a bit better over there! 🙂

  3. Jessica Burde says:

    I don’t know what worries me more – the marketing plan or getting money together. I’ll be checking out that marketing course, because while I have a blog and twitter I’m always afraid I’m not using them effectively (especially Twitter) I end up reading so much about marketing and growing my platform that I get overwhelmed with all it involved and more scared and gah!

    I’ve just started a new angle on my marketing, which is also going to give me some publishing practice before I release the big stuff. I’m doing a monthly newsletter with a short story and updates on my WIPs and what’s going on in my life (main focus is definitely the story.) When I have 4 months of newsletters, I’m going to collect the short storys into a mini ebook (should be about 30 pages) and put it up on Amazon either for free or just a dollar . With luck those short story collections will sell a bit, but they’ll give me practice dealing with Amazon, formatting an ebook and a bunch of other stuff before I release mymajor works.

    • Shannon @ Duolit says:

      Jessica that sounds like a GREAT strategy. How many people do you have on your mailing list? Definitely keep building up that list, but what you’re doing to keep your readers engaged sounds awesome. What’s your genre?

      Don’t worry too much and don’t get overwhelmed! I start to feel that way sometimes and have to take a step back to get my big picture together and remember where I want my career to go in the long run and that these things are just steps in that direction! Keep up the great work and join us for the course if you’ve got the time, I think you would enjoy it 🙂

      • Jessica Burde says:

        As of this exact moment, 4. LOL. Slow and steady, though, right? That’s my goal anyway. One of the writer’s groups I’m involved with is going to be re-tweeting my signup form today, which will hopefully get me a few more.

        My genre is sci-fi/fantasy, with some detours into other areas. I don’t think about genre to much – my target audience is the geekdom/alt subcultures overlap.

        I don’t know if I’ll have the time, but I’ll be taking a close look at the course. Thanks for your support.

        • Shannon @ Duolit says:

          Hey 4 subscribers is not bad at all! Everybody starts somewhere. You’ve got a good grasp on your target market and that’s half the battle, just keep at it and you’ll see that list build up in no time!

  4. zakwinters says:

    Hey,

    I love the article and it really gave me a lot to think about as I am working on my first full length story.
    I wandered if your coarse would cover SEO tactics for blogs and social media? Ive been doing a lot of reading on SEO but I know I would benefit from a break down of its fundamentals.

    • Shannon @ Duolit says:

      Hey Zak, we don’t cover any SEO tidbits in this four week course, but we’re working on something more detailed to roll out in a few months so keep in touch and we’ll see if we can work some of those details into a feature course.

    • Shannon @ Duolit says:

      WOOT! That’s awesome if you broke through that barrier in your first week. Did you do a presell? How did you build up your marketing before launch? Just curious what you felt worked the best for you.

  5. Kat says:

    I began blogging to get past my public writing jitters, then hopped on to the twitterverse to meet and exchange ideas with fellow writers…now to focus long enough to string paragraphs and chapters together of something worth promoting.
    Thank you for sharing your indie and self publishing experiences with the rest of us.

  6. yasminselena says:

    Shannon and Duo-Lit are excellent, I’ve recommended their site to many writers. Nice post Shannon, really lovely to see you here!

    I’d say another oopsy before publishing, during and after, is writers spamming Twitter with tweets that are utterly bookcentric and don’t allow them to showcase themselves with a personality of their own or don’t add value to the feeds of their follwers. Be a person, give something back, have a laugh!

    if all you do is talk about your book all the time then you could alienate an audience even before you’ve cultivated one. Show some balance in your persona when you put yourself out there and take an interest in people as people not just as possible objects to hard-sell to.

    • Shannon @ Duolit says:

      Oh my gosh Yasmin, YES that is the WORST. I loooooathe Twitter spam. Anytime I jump on Twitter and see my feed filled with authors saying things like “A chilling must-read, check it out here: (link)” I want to scream. As you know from hanging out with us for a while, we really emphasize making friends and not sales.

  7. tobiasosir says:

    Reblogged this on Speaking to the Eyes and commented:
    Here’s a great post about common mistakes to be aware of as an indie author–and it’s quite timely, seeing as I’m on the verge of publishing my first work. I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of #1–though I’d say my visions of grandeur fall more into the “daydream”category than self-deception. #2 is something I’m working on, though it’s challenging to get a handle on…and as for #3, see my post about Editing and Ego. Editing is not something you can skimp on!
    Anyway, read on…

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