Four Things You’re Doing to Ruin Your Self-Publishing Career

 

Papa

There is an immense freedom that comes with self-publishing your work. You can write whatever the hell you want and publish whenever the hell you like. You don’t have to wait for the approval of an agent or a publisher. You are in control of your own writing career!

To paraphrase a quote from a certain arachnid-themed superhero film, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

I repeat – You are in control of your writing career. You are also capable of ruining it before it begins. Here are some ways you may be sabotaging your chances of success:

1. Editing the Book Yourself – I don’t care how well you write, you are incapable of seeing all the errors in your own work. You know what you meant to write – readers will see what you actually wrote. It’s so easy to omit simple words in a sentence because your writing brain mentally fills them in when you’re reading your own work. As for grammar and punctuation rules, there are millions of them and you’re likely to get lots of them wrong. I know I do! I would be terrified to publish a book that hadn’t been professionally edited.

2. Improperly formatting the manuscript– Formatting is something you may be able to do yourself. I can’t. I am utterly techno-phobic and wouldn’t even attempt it. It is possible to teach yourself how to properly format your manuscript for eBook and/or paperback, but don’t do it unless you’re sure you can do it 100% correctly. Don’t kid yourself by saying things like “Ah, the formatting’s only slightly off, nobody will notice.” Yes. Yes they will. It’s the first thing I look for in a self-published book. If it looks unprofessional, I won’t download it, even if it’s free.

3. Ignoring page and word count guidelines – If your book is fewer than 150 pages, it’s not a novel (at least not an adult one). I don’t care if it’s a free giveaway. If a reader settles down with a book you’ve marketed as a novel and finds it’s only 100 pages, he’s going to be disappointed. Angry, even. Angry enough to give you a bad review on Amazon. Writing shorter works is great! Just market them honestly as short stories or novellas, whatever the case might be. You also may want to price the story accordingly, perhaps .99 or 1.99.

4. Having a Bad Cover – This doesn’t just refer to the professionalism of the cover, though of course that’s critical. If you’re not good at art and graphic design (I’m not. As you can tell, there’s a long list of stuff I suck at…) don’t attempt it yourself. Whether you do it yourself or not, make sure you do your homework. An attention-getting design isn’t always better, believe it or not. Your number one goal is to attract the right readers –those who read your genre. If you’re marketing a romance, it’s important that your cover screams – this is a romantic book! That way, it will catch the eye of readers looking for a romantic read. If your cover grabs attention but doesn’t make the genre clear, readers will pass on it. Likewise, you want to make sure the cover matches the story. If the cover is pink and bright but the story is tragic and violent, your reader will be the one who’s dark and stormy.

I hear lots of self-publishers making excuses for not following these common sense rules of professional writing.

But I got good reviews! – If you have only a handful of reviews, enjoy them. You won’t be getting many more. When your book first came out, you may have had a few readers willing to overlook your errors, but this good fortune won’t work long-term. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and most readers will not recommend poorly written or badly formatted books. Also, no professional book blogger is going to bother to review a book that is incorrectly formatted. Sure, you’re not getting bad reviews that complain about that badly written book – that’s because most people won’t buy or read the book in the first place.

I can’t afford an editor, a formatter, and a cover artist! I filed for bankruptcy the year I published my first book .Guess what I did first? Paid the editor, the formatter, and the cover artist. I worked too damn hard on that book to make it look unprofessional. Times are tough, no question about it. But you’re tougher. Sell your blood, have a lemonade stand, I don’t care what you do. You owe it to yourself to do right by your book. Don’t sabotage yourself by taking shortcuts.

I know some of my Wannabe Pride articles sound harsh sometimes, but it really is because I care about indie writers. I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED.

I’ve dreamed for twenty years of being a published writer, and I finally made it happen with my debut novel in 2014. So far, I’ve gotten a positive review on the front page of an LGBT newspaper as well as several great book blogger reviews, been invited to give two public talks about the book, sold about three times the number of books that I had expected, and got my novel accepted into my local public library system.

I teared up as I wrote that last paragraph, because I still can’t believe that all that happened.

No, I’m not a huge success and I’m not ready to quit my day job, but this whole experience has been a dream come true. I want all this and more to happen for you.

None of this would have happened if my formatting had been even a touch off the mark or if my book contained grammatical errors. The library would have rejected it, no professional would have reviewed it, and I would have only gotten a handful of book sales.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Push yourself to be the very best you can be.

I believe in you.

You need to believe in yourself.

– Linda Fausnet

 

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The Book Launch from HELL

Joyville

I launched my second book this week. Kind of.

Not really.

The publication of this particular book has pretty much been a disaster from the beginning.

The book, THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX, is a book about baseball aimed at middle-schoolers. I love baseball, and I wrote it during the time when my son played Little League for the first time. Writing the book was a dream. Publishing it has been a nightmare.

I wrote the book back in the bad old days when it was traditional publishing or bust as far as I was concerned. I’ve since come to my senses and gone the self-publishing route, which is much preferable to the slow, agonizing death of my writing career that was trying to get agents and publishers to give me the time of day. I queried as usually, got rejected, got sad, got over it, and shelved the project.

Enter self-publishing. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, this book is not likely to sell well because it’s not easy to market to grade schoolers online. My best bet is word of mouth through people I know, particularly my kids’ friends at school and my son’s baseball teammates.

I wasn’t even planning to release this book just yet. The next book after my debut novel was supposed to be a chick lit book that I finished writing long ago. Our finances are tight, dangerously so, and I just do not have the money to pay for the editing for that novel right now and there is no way I would EVER publish a book without have it professionally edited. That book is currently being edited by an intelligent, wonderful well-meaning but s-l-o-o-o-w moving grammar Nazi friend. She’s had it for five months and is about 2/3rds done with the editing.

It has been excruciatingly painful to wait, but I just don’t have a choice. I hate that all I seem to talk about is my first book, QUEEN HENRY, for the past year. It’s embarrassing, and it makes me look like I haven’t done a damn thing since last July. It’s not true. I’ve done extensive rewrites on two novels and I’ve written 65,000 words of a new novel since then. I’m not lazy. I’m broke. I’m trying to keep the lights on and food on the table. I hate seeing those completed book sit and rot. It hurts. But I can’t do anything about it.

Publishing THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX is cheaper because it’s shorter. That means lower cost for editing and formatting. My son read this book when I first completed it and he loved it. I thought I would put together the book, dedicate it to him, and publish it for his birthday on May 17. It wouldn’t make a lot of money, but at least I would have SOMETHING out there, and it would be a wonderful present for my son. Plus, I love the story and I couldn’t wait to share it, especially with children.

I managed to scrape together the money to pay for editing and formatting, and all I needed was the cover. Long story short, my cover designer completely screwed me over. He didn’t mean to, but he did. I went to him a MONTH before my deadline of May 4 and asked if he could have the cover done by then. He should have said no, but he did the worst possible thing by promising he could do it and then not even coming close. He kept swearing it would be done on time, then soon, then almost; all those bullshit promises that I stupidly kept believing. I finally took the project back from him (since I already missed my son’s birthday), got my money back, and I found a terrific designer who swooped in and saved the day. He completed the project in a week, and the cover is beautiful

It was FAR too late for my son’s birthday, but it was in enough time to get the book out and published before school was out and before Noah’s baseball season was over.

Today is the last day of school for my kids, and my son’s last baseball game is tonight. Both my son and daughter brought a proof copy of the book to show all their friends, and Noah showed his teammates. Many of the kids on his team were excited about the book.

Then something went wrong with Amazon.

The paperback is still not available for sale, though I approved it June 3. It’s available on Kindle, though the few kids I know who own Kindle Fires use it for games, not reading. Kindle doesn’t help me when I’m marketing to fourth and firth graders.

Summer vacation starts tomorrow. Those kids will forget about the book. You only get one chance at a time like this. My son brought his book into school when he first got it, but he’s not going to take it in next year. It’ll be old news.

The opportunity for those few precious sales is gone.

Amazon sent me stock email saying they don’t know “when or if” it will be available.

I’m stuck with no answers and I’m heartsick over it.

I finally posted the link to the Kindle version on Facebook and Twitter last night and got three “Likes” and one retweet. Nobody cares. It’s not really for my Facebook friends. It’s a kid’s book, and I have nothing to offer the kids.

Yesterday sure didn’t feel like a book launch. I feel like I sank my last dime into publishing this book, and I’m devastated at the result. Sadly, it’s not enough to write a good book. You also have to have money and luck, and I really don’t have either.

There have been a lot of tears and heartbreak this week, but I will say this. I still got up every morning this week and wrote from 6:30-7:30am. I wrote more than 5000 words on my new novel.

It’s going to take more than bankruptcy, threats of foreclosure, and a clusterfuck of a book launch to keep me from pursuing my dream.

For what it’s worth, here’s the Kindle link for my new book. If you know anyone who might like it – kids or even adults who love baseball – I hope you’ll pass it on.

– Linda Fausnet (lindafausnet@gmail.com)

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