Sunday, August 19, 2012

Things I've learned as a published author

My first book was self-published in 2009. After the editing was over I thought I was on easy street. I sent in the manuscript to AuthorHouse, a publishing company, and waited for my book to be listed on Amazon. Then everything would be simple. People who didn't know me would buy up my books by the bundles, so my editor told me. It was a good story, one he had never seen before, even after editing for twenty years and over 250 books. He even asked if I was ready to quit my day job and just travel the country talking about my book ... it was that good!

Well, I've learned a few things since then. These are in no specific order, as they all come to fruition to every Indie author out there.

1) Writing the book is the easy part. The ideas that form in your head and the resulting sentences placed onto a Word document really is the easy part of writing. Yes, there is some editing ... and then some more ... and then even more. But the process is fun, at least for me. You just have to have an open mind. And keep this in the back of your head: you will never satisfy everyone. There will always be someone to tell you how wrong the subject is, that the commas are in the wrong places, that the novel you wrote should be a screenplay instead and that they can do a better job than you did. They will say that being published on your own or with a small independent publishing company isn't really being published at all. They say that no bookstore will carry your books because they are POD (Print on Demand) and they don't want to get stuck with non-returnable books. All this MAY be true, but not always. I have my books in 3 brick and mortar Barnes & Noble bookstores, they are in many of the gift shops along the Las Vegas strip, and I am published by a reputable publisher. My name is out there, maybe not as big as Janet Evanovich, but still people know me and my books. But then comes the marketing.

2) Marketing is hard. With so many inferior books being 'published' by so-called 'authors' this is what separates the 'men from the boys' as the saying goes. Just by being on Amazon doesn't mean you will sell your books. I use the "Look Inside" part of Amazon to see how the writing is. If it isn't formatted correctly, or if I see many errors right off the bat, I pass on purchasing those books. Some authors live and die by what their Amazon ranking is. I don't even look at it. The numbers are deceiving and change by the hour. It may make it easier for your fans to buy your book, but there are so many ways of marketing that don't include Amazon at all.
Look to specialty stores, the little mom and pop stores willing to buy in small amounts or on consignment, to start with. Anywhere you have to wait is a place to market. Try doctors offices, dentist offices, cafes, fast food places, the list goes on. The best thing to remember is that if you buy at your author discount price and sell at the same price as advertised on-line you will make more. I like going to flea markets and arts and craft shows. The people look up to you there because it is something that is handmade and they can't do it. When you sign your books, it adds a personal touch, too!
But for every idea you come up with, there is company willing to take your money to help move your sales forward. After 5 books and 3 years of talking about my books, this is what I've found to be true. Another thing to know is that WHATEVER you can pay someone for, you can do yourself for free or for at least less money out of pocket. Take some time to search the internet and you'll find free sites to post your excerpts, trainings on how to write your own press releases, even step by step lessons on how to make your own book trailer. Here's a little video I made for free about my book Misguided Sensitivity. It may not win an Academy Award, but it has been shared on Facebook over 40 times and has been seen by over 240 times in the last 2 months.

Why pay someone else when you know your book the best? Oh yeah, that leads me to number 3 ...

3) There is never enough time. Ah yes, time. There are only so many hours in a day and in a week. What can you do to make the most of them? I set up a timeline for myself. I did a little investigation and talked to other Indie authors and found out that social media was probably the best way to get your name out there. So of course, I set up a Twitter account, a Facebook author page, a Goodreads profile, etc. etc etc. And then the timing thing came came up again. I made sure I set up my Facebook author page with a widget which allows my posts on that page to go directly to Twitter. This saves time as you only have to post once. I'm sure there are many more tricks, but I'll stop there.

4) There are good people and bad people. I think I've seen it all in this business. There are some people and companies just waiting for you to write your book so they can get rich. You never sell any books, but they are laughiing all the way to the bank. These people or companies promise you the world and never deliver. Even other authors sometimes fit that bill. I started out by swapping my books with other authors in return for reviews on Amazon for each other. Well, I read faster than the average person and after I'd finish the book, I'd post my review of their book on all my sites. Many times I never got a review back. I'm still waiting to hear from one author who I did a review for in January 2011 to get back to me. I have found a group of authors who really do care for each other. The people from All Things That Matter Press, both the publishers and the authors, do what they say. That's why they are my publishers, and friends, from now on.

5) Luck is better than skill sometimes. I know my books are good and so do the people who have read them. Still, you sometimes need luck to actually sell your works. Shortly after my first book came out I was on a plane trip to Arizona. The lady sitting next me was a 'talker' and I'm not. I gave her a copy of my book to politely shut her up. As I closed my eyes to rest, she started to laugh, and then cry. At the end of my trip she asked if she could keep the book and if I'd autograph it for her. So I did. The man sitting next to her stopped me once we walked into the terminal. He wanted to know where he could buy my book. I told him to go to Amazon, but he wanted more. To make a long story short, I gave him my publishers and my information and later that day I got an e-mail from him saying he owned a chain of gift stores on cruise ships and that he just bought 1000 copies of my book to stock them. Like I said, sometimes luck is better than skill.

6) The journey never ends. Even after having 5 books published, with over 3000 combined copies sold, and thinking that everyone knows my name, I find that, although this is good for a self-published or an independently published book, I'm still a nobody, except in my own house. So I continue to 'pimp' my books wherever and whenever I can. Most times I sound like a broken record. Even my car is a rolling billboard for my works.

I got into this business as way to relax after a hard days work. What I've found is that there is no relaxing when it comes to authors ... and I think I like that fact. Come over to my website  to see about all my books and to order a copy. I need as much support as I can get! And PLEASE tell your friends, your family and even your enemies about my books!


  1. Interesting Phil!

    Even if you haven´t time to market it yourself you have collect the knowledge that you need to get in contact with those who really deliver the results for you.However, the competition is very hard so it can yet be hard.It should be an agreement to pay for real results on sales rather than just to pay them for delivering hits to your amazonpage, for example.

  2. This is great information for a writer, Phil, and is very well expressed. As authors, we know the job really begins after publication. After having my personal memoir published by ATTMP, I found I was reluctant to talk or write about it to anyone but strangers,and then found out, that is where the market is. Good luck with your books!

  3. Wow! What great incentives. I can't thank Ken enough for sharing your great article.
    God Bless your continued work.
    Cherrye S. Vasquez, Ph.D.

  4. Love that picture of the car! This is certainly great information. Thank you.

  5. Thanks to everyone. It's nice to know someone is actually reading these posts...

  6. Love the story on the plane!

    Also, thank you for the info about All Things That Matter Press.