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Old 11-03-2013, 06:02 PM   #1
VydorScope
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Three Years In - My Epxerences and Advice

Almost three years ago, on November 13th, 2010 I put my first book up for sale on Smashwords and Amazon. I had no idea what I was doing and I had not yet found my way in to the community of self-pubs. I doubted anyone would ever read my book, but I wanted to be able to say “Why yes, I did publish a novel.” Today, with 5 books out there, and number 6 on its way, I look about at all of what I did and though I would share some thoughts on how to succeed for those coming up behind me.

Three years ago, I broke all the rules of self-pub. I did this out of ignorance, but they did teach me quite a bit about why the rules are there and which ones matters. In short I made a lot of mistakes, and I wanted to talk about the biggest ones so that others can learn from them.

My advice will be shared from the perspective of a part-time writer, and one that has only a few hours each week to devote to writing and marketing. Lots of threads here focus on full time, or at least half-time writing which is great, but for those of us that are not in that camp, I hope I can be a help.

First, I used a homemade cover. It was a simple photo with some bright yellow text on it. The photo was an original image taken by a friend of mine of the Witch Head Nebula. Since I was writing a story about sorcerers in space, it seemed perfect. The problem with the cover is that it screamed “this is a self-made work, like something you would find a child’s craft fair!” It did not say: “This is a professional high quality book, worthy of your time.”

The reason why this is important is that for most readers, the book cover is what draws them in. In general, people judge a book by its cover. As an ebook author you are competing with millions of books, and often your primary chance to capture that reader is with a thumbnail version of your cover in a very long list of thumbnails. It must be good enough to get readers to look at your blurb.

My second major mistake was I did not have an editor. If you look at the early reviews of my first book, you will see they trash the writing, but often love the story. Where this really burned me was that early on I had that magical unknown period where my book jumped to number five on Amazon. I put out 20,000 copies in just a few days – and to this day I have no idea why. The problem is that I have never recaptured those readers. All of them got an unedited work that needed serious help. Their impression of me likely is – “some kid with a typewriter and a fetish for Star Wars and D&D.”

This leads in to my third major mistake – I did not setup an email list. I have no way of contacting any of my previous readers. Those tens of thousands that originally downloaded book 1, from what I can tell never went on to read book 2. They are just gone like the mist from yesterday’s rain.

This ties in well to my forth mistake – I did not have book 2 ready in time. Looking back at my sales reports, it is clear that most readers read through a series in rapid fire. When book 2 hit, I should have had a major spike of sales of book 2 (from the readers of book 1), but I did not. Nor did I have one when book 3 came out. Nor did I have one when book 4 came out. However now that I have five books out I have a pretty solid carry over from book to book. I am appear to be keeping current readers.

Since then I have re-covered all of my books (though new covers for book 2,3,4 will be revealed this week), I have hired an editor and re-released book 1 fully edited (and she does my other books as well), created a mailing list (20 peeps! w00t!), and have started building a following on my blog and Facebook page. I am not at Hugh’s, or Elle’s level, but I am slowly recovering from the mistakes and growing a readership. Today, I have 7% conversion rate from book 1 (which is permafree) to book 2. I have 90% or better from book 2, to 3 and 4. If I count my omnibus as being purchased by separate readers (which I am not convinced it is) then my conversion rate from book 1 is closer to 10-12%.

Coming out of this I have the following advice for the part-time newbie writer who has only a few hours a week to spend on this like myself. These are at best guidelines or suggestions, and definitely not rules.

1) SHUT UP AND WRITE! Nothing matters if you do not have a story to tell. So go write. Stop talking about “I want to someday” or “I wish I could” and go write! Today is your day! Go write!

2) Do not spend time on your cover. For $40-$70 you can get a very nice premade cover to do the job (of course you can always spend more and get a killer custom made). You may be a great artist, but as a part-timer you have to ration your time. (see point 1)

3) Get an editor. I am sure you write great prose, and can do a good job self-editing, and that is great. It will help increase the quality of the work you get from a good editor. Spend a little time learning about the different kinds of editing, but mainly find an editor and send them a sample chapter to edit. If it seems like you and this editor work well as a team, guard that editor with your life.

4) Spend time on your blurb. This is one place you really need burn up some hours – even if you have to loose a week of writing. Read blurbs from successful books in your genre copy their format/style as a starting point. Make them simple, and leave the potential reader drooling for more.

5) In your front matter and back matter ask for reviews, ask them to sign up on your mailing list, and promote your other books. Give them easy to click links and use links that are easy to type/remember for those that would rather use their desktop.

6) Even if you are not writing a series, I would suggest you hold your books until you have three or four and release them as a group or maybe a week or two between each. It will likely take four or five at least before you start looking serious to readers.

7) Plan for the long haul. You are not likely to go form unknown to #1 New York Times Best Seller over night, or even in a year. Most people that make it put in a lot of hours. If you do not 10-14 hours a day to spend on this, then you will have to make up those hours over the long haul. Shoot for a slow and steady climb.

8) Get yourself a good group of honest pre-readers that are not afraid to criticize you. Love them, feed them, buy them gifts, and take them to dinner. Send your work to them once you have fully self-edited, but before sending to your professional editor.

9) Do not worry about Bookbub, or any other promo site until you have a backlist. That could be three or four years from now as a part timer. If the advertising works, you might hit it big and you want to be ready for that before it happens. Get ready first then go for it.

10) Finally – get a thick skin. People are mean out there – learn to take cruel words in stride and carry on.

Again, if you are doing this full time, go read the advice of Elle, Blake, or the others that are doing this full time. They have great stuff if you can put in the hours they do. Personally, I would love to, but I cannot. So I am slowly chipping away.

I hope this was clear and will help others be massively successful, and not make the mistakes I did. :P
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Old 11-03-2013, 06:30 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing, VydorScope. It all looks like good advice.
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Old 11-03-2013, 08:02 PM   #3
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Exellent points.
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Old 11-03-2013, 09:01 PM   #4
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Thanks Man!
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Old 11-03-2013, 09:38 PM   #5
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Is the spelling error in the header intentional to make a point VydorScope?
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Old 11-03-2013, 09:40 PM   #6
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Is the spelling error in the header intentional to make a point VydorScope?

Yes of course it is!
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Old 11-03-2013, 09:42 PM   #7
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Ha! Thought so.....I've found that my biggest nemesis is typos....particularly with my latest release....I really need to focus on that editing/proofreading stage and find/hire reliable poofers other that meself!
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Old 11-03-2013, 10:40 PM   #8
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Thanks for the perspectives!
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Old 11-04-2013, 12:11 PM   #9
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Ha! Thought so.....I've found that my biggest nemesis is typos....particularly with my latest release....I really need to focus on that editing/proofreading stage and find/hire reliable poofers other that meself!
Huh? I never make typo's or spelling mistakes. It's just the spelling rules that haven't caught up yet

But, thanks for the advice, Vydor

Maybe I can put it to some good use some time in the future, but having to write 3-4 books before releasing the first is quite of... daunting.
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Old 11-04-2013, 10:50 PM   #10
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Is the spelling error in the header intentional to make a point VydorScope?
Good points.

I'm sure the misspelling was emphasizing the editor point!
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Old 11-08-2013, 02:29 PM   #11
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It's a learning curve. I'm going through your list of mistakes and I have (and am) making all of the same ones. No homemade book covers for me. Hire an editor. No matter how much I think I don't need one, or can't afford one, this step is essential.

I've been trying to remedy the failure to make a mailing list, but it's throwing me for a loop. I've added a place where readers can sign up for mailings on my blog. It's been up there for several months and I have one whole subscriber. Is there a trick to it?
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Old 11-08-2013, 02:43 PM   #12
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Is there a trick to it?
Only one: Get your stuff out there, in as many places as you can think of.

All stores that will accept your writings, website for information, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube...

You don't have to use your own name. I'm 100% sure that if I ever finish my story/book, that the publication will not be under my own name.
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Old 11-08-2013, 02:50 PM   #13
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I've been trying to remedy the failure to make a mailing list, but it's throwing me for a loop. I've added a place where readers can sign up for mailings on my blog. It's been up there for several months and I have one whole subscriber. Is there a trick to it?

If you find a magical formula, let me know! Most authors tend to grow this list 1 of 2 ways...

One way is to bride people to sign up with giveaways and promotions. This will inflate your list - but mainly with people looking for a freebie. I choose not to do this. I would rather have 100 names of real fans then 1000 of people looking for freebies.

Second way - the way I am doing - is to make sure your mailing list sign up is PROMINENT on your blog/website, add it to all your emails, add it to you facebook/twitter pages, and make sure its is your front/back matter of your books. Make it easy to sign up and the list should slowly grow with time.
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Old 11-08-2013, 06:54 PM   #14
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Thanks Vydor. Really great advice and interesting to read. I also wanted the prestige of having something I had written published, so far I haven't written any thing of novel length, though.

How much would an editor cost? TBH, I can't afford one yet, but one could be beneficial if I write something longer.
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:55 PM   #15
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Thanks Vydor. Really great advice and interesting to read. I also wanted the prestige of having something I had written published, so far I haven't written any thing of novel length, though.

How much would an editor cost? TBH, I can't afford one yet, but one could be beneficial if I write something longer.
That is way to variable to guess. Depends a ton on your work, your genre, the level of editing you want, and so on. Here is a list of editors, read through the list and contact a few: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/top...tml#msg1837134
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