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!