It’s been three years (October/November 2013) since I published by first novel – Oranges for Christmas.
I now have three novels published and one on pre-order due out 16 December 2016.
It’s been an interesting journey and I’m still learning. I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned along the way.
I can write a novel
You might be thinking, well of course you can if you’ve published four of them, but confidence in my own abilities wasn’t always certain. However, having completed four books now, I feel confident that I can do this!
But, that doesn’t mean I find the process easy or that I don’t approach each new project with a certain amount of anxiety.
I still get nervous starting something new because it might not work.
As well as four finished books, I have at least three unfinished manuscripts running to tens of thousands of words.
And the books I did manage to finish all hit rough patches along the way.
But I’ve developed strategies for getting me through the difficult phases.
I wrote a lighthearted blog post here about how I write an 80,000 word novel.
I’ve found it very helpful to keep a weekly writing diary where I jot down my progress each week. Writing a novel is such a long process that sometimes you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. But week by week the words add up and it’s very motivating to look back over a period of a few months and see how far you’ve come.
When to get Professional Help
For my first two books I did the covers myself. (Crawls under desk in embarrassment and hides.)
I know, I know. You’re supposed to hand this sort of thing over to the experts. But still, I wanted to give it a go and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. Here are my initial efforts:
I hope they’re not too terrible. But they’re not great either.
When I realised this I turned to 99Designs for help because I’d heard them mentioned so often on the podcasts I listen to. The clever people at 99Designs redid my covers so that now they look like this:
The Importance of Genre
Trying to sell my difficult-to-define, historical-contemporary fiction has led me to the realisation that genre is an all-important ingredient when it comes to producing marketable fiction.
And standalone novels are a hard sell.
So moving forward into 2017 I’m trying to focus on writing a series in a popular genre.
I won’t say too much about this just yet in case I fall flat on my face and have to go back to writing books that don’t fit neatly into a single category 🙂
Wide or Exclusive?
This is one of the questions that indie authors grapple with all the time. As a big fan of Joanna Penn and her Creative Penn podcast, I was keen to embrace the idea of selling wide and enthusiastically signed up to Kobo and Draft 2 Digital, making my books widely available. So what were my results like at the non-Amazon retailers?
Let’s just say, blink and you’d miss them.
I understand that you have to give things time. But there is little point sticking with something that simply isn’t working.
I don’t know what you have to do to promote yourself on non-Amazon platforms. If these platforms had a mechanism (like Amazon’s Countdown Deals) then I would have tried it.
Many of my well-educated friends have simply never heard of Kobo, so that tells you something.
I would still like to sell my books wide, but I think I have to wait until I’m more established, preferably with a series under my belt.
So for the time being my books are in KDP Select and are exclusive to Amazon. They are available to borrow in Kindle Unlimited.
Kindle Unlimited has netted me quite a few reads, so I’m grateful for this opportunity of getting my books out there. I understand that people don’t necessarily want to take a risk on buying from an unknown author.
The Importance of Building Relationships
I made a deliberate effort to reach out to other authors in 2016 and I’ve interviewed a number of wonderful people on my blog.
I’m grateful to everyone who agreed to take part and I hope to do more of this in the future.
Marketing is Harder than it Looks
OK, so I got the hang of writing the books; I experimented with selling wide and have decided to go exclusive for the time being and I know where to go for a professional cover.
I’ve also re-written all my book descriptions, sometimes more than once, trying to put into practice the brilliant advice in Bryan Cohen’s book How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis.
But there’s still one piece of the jigsaw to crack and that’s the marketing side of things.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the first step is to have something highly marketable to sell – see my comments above about genre. And preferably to write in a series.
I’ve tried out lots of different book marketing sites. Some of them (like EReaderNewsToday) have been quite good. Others have been a complete waste of money. I’m still trying to get accepted by BookBub 🙂
I’ve also started dipping my toes into Amazon Market Services, bidding on keywords. This provides a way to get your book seen and it doesn’t cost you anything unless someone actually clicks on the advert. If the first step of marketing is building awareness then this is a good way to get your title in front of potential buyers.
Having come this far in three years, I’m very excited about what the next three years can bring. To make this work you have to be in it for the long haul and I’m definitely sticking with it 🙂
If you’re an indie author, what have been your biggest takeaways so far? Please share in the comments below.
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