By D.F. Hart
I began this journey in March of 2019, and literally had no clue what I was doing through my first three book releases. In the interests of helping others avoid those mistakes, here are some things I would do differently if I had it to do all over again.
1. Get a following built as soon as possible. By this I mean a newsletter following. I blew off that concept at first, and the poor decision was reflected in the flat-lined sales results – hard to gain traction when no one knows about you and your work! There are low-cost and cost-free ways to achieve this – BookFunnel and Story Origin promotions being two of them. Once you’ve built up this list of readers interested in your stories, you then have someone to tell about the new book coming out! NOTE: Don’t do newsletter promos willy-nilly; keep in mind you need to find YOUR readers. Be selective. Stay within your targeted genre. It won’t do any good if you’re a romance writer participating in a newsletter building campaign over in the Sci-Fi genre – those readers by and large steer clear of romance stories.
2. Take the time to get your book cover and blurb right – and edit your “book baby”. A cover specific to your genre and a killer blurb goes a long, long way. The importance of these two things and a well-edited manuscript just cannot be overemphasized. If you cannot afford an editor at first, at least use tools that are free (such as the ‘read aloud’ feature found in Word) to help you catch word transpositions, substitutions, and awkward sentences that might have crept into your manuscript. Just using the ‘spell check’ feature will not catch those things.
3. Be a sponge and learn all you can. SO much more than writing goes into the self-publishing process. There’s marketing, formatting, business structure – a lot of things that have nothing to do with physically creating your story. But it’s all part and parcel of indie publishing, and you need to know it. If something’s not in your wheelhouse – for me, it would be covers, as I’m not artistically inclined AT ALL that way – then budget for someone to do it for you.
4. Figure out your goals. What are you seeking to accomplish? Long-term sustainability is approached very, very differently from the short-term ‘turn a profit as fast as I can’ approach. Nothing is wrong with either, but it’s best to pick one, and focus your efforts that direction.
5. At least consider going ‘wide’ from the get-go. It’s tempting when you are brand new at this to just focus on a single retailer until you get the hang of it. I did that myself. But if I could go back and do it over, I would have gone wide from day one. Three reasons why I’m a fan of ‘wide’ versus exclusive:
- If you spend your initial efforts on one retailer, and then branch out later, you’re essentially starting over from scratch building your brand and visibility all over again with the other retailers. Might as well do it all at once.
- Once I went wide, Kobo wound up being – by far – my best retailer! Just think what I could have accomplished on that platform had I been there from the onset. I lost a good five months’ traction on Kobo because I didn’t go wide from the beginning.
- Never a good idea to put ‘all your eggs in one basket’. Being wide gives you the enhanced ability to weather the disruption if one retailer’s policies or methods change. By diversifying through as many as retailers as possible, you create a more stable base for yourself – not to mention reach more readers globally.
6. Lastly – Don’t be impatient. Almost no one ‘strikes gold’ with their very first book. As an example, Ken Follett, arguably one of the most recognized authors in the world, didn’t ‘hit big’ until his eleventh book. Keep writing. Writing the next book, then the next, then the next, is a better path to take to success.
I’d always intended to be in this career; a college professor somewhere, teaching Chaucer and Shakespeare, and writing fiction in my off time. However, life has a sense of humor, it seems. Before I even realized it, I found myself hip deep into a career in accounting.
2019 brought with it a unique opportunity to truly ‘go indie’, and I seized the chance and haven’t looked back. The Vital Secrets Series is written under the pen name D.F. Hart. The Another Try Novellas are also available under the pen name Faith Hart.