You know the old expression “I wish I knew then what I know now.”
Well, in that vein, I want to share a few nuggets with you, things I have learned in the past year and a half of being a self-published author that I wish I had known back when I first published Bounty. Some of these seem like no-brainers in hindsight, but there is no substitute for experience.
But hey, if this post helps you… all the better!
-The cover matters. Yes, I know… don’t judge a book by its cover. But readers do. A poorly-done cover will doom your book right out of the gate — I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, and even though Bounty has a fantastic cover now, you can never get back that first impression. Do not treat the cover as an afterthought; this will likely be one of the more expensive aspects of being an indie author, but the investment is completely worth it (and there are sites like this that offer quality covers for those on a budget).
-Editing is paramount. Another investment that will, without a doubt, help you make that good first impression. It’s true that just about every book — even from the major, traditional publishing houses — will have the occasional error or two, but readers can tell when a book hasn’t been properly edited. And no matter how many times you glance over your manuscript, you will never catch everything; having at least one more set of eyes is so important.
-Keep track of your expenses. Paying for an editor or cover art, investing in book promotion, traveling for an appearance or a convention… you can claim those expenses come tax time. And boy, do they help — especially if, like in my case, you spent more in expenses than you made in royalties. Claiming these expenses can help give you a larger refund or make sure you pay less than you would’ve otherwise.
-The indie publishing market is massive; there are literally millions of books out there, so it could be borderline impossible to get your name noticed — especially if you’re releasing your debut book. Always keep in mind that this is a long-term game, and sometimes, the best thing you can do is just keep writing.
-There will be people who won’t like your book. It’s just that simple. By the law of averages alone, you’re not going to get 100 percent of those who read your book to enjoy it. Even the millionaire bestsellers have their detractors. Easier said than done, I know, but try not to take the negative reviews personally.
-Befriend other indie authors. The sense of community can make the daunting process of writing and publishing a book easier to manage, and you can learn so much from the efforts of others. You can learn what promotion services work and what doesn’t, you can learn new tricks of the trade… sometimes, you just root each other on and find some really great books you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.