Nowadays there are multiple options for publishing and whether you’ve yet to finish your first book, how you’ll get your book into a reader’s hands is something you need to address. RU Contributor Veronica Scott shares her insight on being an independently published author and lots of practical advice for author and book promotion.
I was recently invited to give a talk for a local writers’ group and since the allotted time was short and the topic of being an independently published author is huge, I tried to narrow the presentation down to a few key points. I didn’t want to depress or overwhelm the group members, most of whom aren’t yet published, but I thought it might be useful to start them thinking what next after I type The End on that first book?
There were lots of questions and no one dozed off, which are two key positive indicators in my internal ratings system and I thought the topic might be useful here. I’ve turned the outline of part of my talk into this post.
First, as I did at the meeting, we need to pause and acknowledge that finishing a book is a HUGE accomplishment and deserves celebration and kudos. So few people actually manage to complete that first book, although so many talk about writing a book ‘someday’, or may even write a few pages and find out what hard work it can be and stop. So if you’ve completed that first book, take a moment to bask in the well-deserved happy feels.
But then the author needs to ask where on the spectrum of expectations they fall. Is this the book of their heart, the one and only book they ever want to create and just having it available on Amazon for friends and relatives to buy will truly be enough? Holding that paperback version is a thrill all right. So if the book sits at #3,000,000 in Amazon forever they’ll be ok with it? Or are they secretly hoping to become J. K. Rowling someday, with billions of readers and theme parks and movies and so forth? I think we’d all like to be that person and yes, someone does win the lotto and yes, a few authors do rise to that level…but there’s nothing specific you can do right now to become JKR.
So accept that you fall into the middle of the spectrum with most of us authors and realize writing is a business and you’re going to have to treat it as such.
First, you have to have a social media presence. How are readers going to find you and your book if you aren’t out there to be found? No, magical thinking doesn’t qualify as a strategy, especially nowadays with the huge volume of books being published every week. If your book hovers around #3,000,000 in ranking, readers are not going to stumble over it.
I always encourage authors to find the social media that works for them and where they feel comfortable. Even if they aren’t yet published, they have interesting lives, hobbies, fan favorites, general book talk they can share. And the internet always loves a good cat picture or two!
The one thing I strongly urge a writer to have is a blog or a website. There needs to be a central point a reader can go to learn about you, your books, what’s coming next and when, and a way to contact the author. Yes, you can have an Author Page on Amazon and also collect followers on BookBub after publication – I do both – but that real estate doesn’t belong to you. You don’t even know who those readers are and the company can change its business practices on a dime. So have one internet spot that’s all yours! Your first internet presence doesn’t have to be full of bells and whistles and expensive.
The essentials I think an independently published author must have as regards the book are good editing, a professional cover appropriate for the genre and a well done book blurb.
These three things all tie together. I know I get too immersed in my own books to see the flaws when I’m writing. And also since I know how the stories will turn out, I might not be as careful in the early going of the first draft to foreshadow things properly. I may skim over plot points that need more development for the readers because they don’t know what my fiendish Muse has planned for the characters. My editors know to watch out for those pitfalls in my manuscripts and they also point out genre-specific issues as we go along in the editing process. Readers have expectations for certain things with certain tropes and it’s perfectly fine to break those unwritten rules if you so choose, but you need to at least be aware you’ve made the bold choice. An editor who is familiar with the tropes and trends in your genre is golden. An editor who is your cousin’s best friend’s aunt who teaches remedial English and doesn’t read romance, maybe not so much.
I strongly urge authors to look at bestselling covers in their genre and make sure their cover fits in. Remember the cover will be seen in thumbnail size, and it needs to grab a prospective reader’s attention in that split second as their eye scans the book seller’s site. It should signal that here’s an interesting-looking paranormal romance or Amish Inspirational romance or whatever genre the book may be. It should not try to tell the entire plot of the book, nor even depict a scene from the book – at this stage that’s meaningless to the reader. Don’t try to make the cover yourself unless you’re basically a pro at design and know what covers need to have in your genre. Readers may look at an obviously do-it-yourself cover and figure the writing is going to be subpar too and never even reach your book’s sales page.
But when and if they do click through, then you need a good blurb to hook them! Again, don’t try to tell the entire story, or give massive backstory. My advice is to talk about the hero, the heroine, their challenge in the book and the stakes – why should the reader care about these characters? The blurbs I see these days are getting shorter and shorter, by the way. There are people who will write blurbs for you, again at all price ranges, as well as workshops and blog posts with how-to advice.
If your cover brought the reader to your book’s page, and your blurb excites their interest, maybe the reader will one click right now. Or maybe they’ll use the “Look Inside” feature and sample your writing. Which brings us full circle back to the editing because you want the sample you share to be crisp, free of grammatical errors or improper word usage, not be a backstory infodump and appropriate for the genre. Hopefully the reader will one click and you’re on your way!
But next I have to deliver a somewhat sobering message – one book does not a career make. Barring the lightning strike or Steven Spielberg reading it and wanting to make the story into a movie. The best promo is to write the next book and the one after that. Many readers won’t take a chance on a completely brand new-to-them author unless they see more than one book, or the first few books in a series. I shared with my audience at this writers’ group that one of the saddest things I see is an author still pushing that one book a year later, asking what promo can they do to increase the sales? By now they could have, should have gotten at least one more book out and hopefully more. A key aspect of promo is to help the reader discover your backlist by trying your newest book at a sale price.
No backlist? Then why spend the money on a lot of promo for the one book you do have?
Sure, announce your book’s release on the social media and the blog or webpage you’ve wisely set up, send out a newsletter if you have one, mention it in whatever Facebook groups you’ve begun participating in (the ones that do allow promo)…but keep writing. Save the big promo $$$ for the day you can run ads on a new release and thereby entice the reader to also purchase your growing backlist.
Six more quick points of advice?
Develop a thick skin because this is a business.
Never engage with reviewers, especially over a negative review.
Find a group of likeminded writers, on Facebook or wherever, for encouragement and tips and cross promo!
Practice self-care, physically and mentally.
Don’t compare your journey to any other author’s because everyone’s path is different.
Most important: Stay true to your own voice!
What tips would you add for someone about to self publish their first book?
Veronica’s latest book is JADRIAN: A BADARI WARRIORS SCIFI ROMANCE (SECTORS NEW ALLIES SERIES BOOK 3)
Taura Dancer has been pushed to her limits by alien torturers known as the Khagrish and is ready to die when suddenly the lab where she’s held as a prisoner is taken down by an armed force of soldiers.
The man who rescues her from a burning cell block is Jadrian of the Badari, a genetically engineered alien warrior with as many reasons to hate the Khagrish as Taura has. This set of shared past experiences and the circumstances of her rescue create an unusual bond between them.
Safe in the hidden base where Jadrian and his pack take her, Taura struggles to regain her lost memories and overcome constant flashbacks during which she lashes out at all who come near. Only Jadrian can recall her from the abyss of her visions and hallucinations.
As the war against the Khagrish continues, it becomes increasingly critical to find out who she really is and how she can help in the fight. Until she can control her terrors and trust her own impulses, Taura’s too afraid to pursue the promise of happiness a life with Jadrian as her mate might offer.
When he’s captured by the dreaded enemy, will she step forward to help save him, or will she remain a prisoner of her past?
Amazon iBooks B&N Kobo Google
Author Bio and Links:
USA Today Best Selling Author
“SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog
Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”