Welcome to the second annual DIY week at QSF. We’ve got a great line-up of topics for the week, some of which are moderated – but in general, we’ll just share information about how to start and manage a small press:
Saturday: Hannah Walker – Mistakes to Avoid, Mistakes to Make, Keeping Up Your Morale;
Sunday: Dawn Chapman – Starting Your Own Press/Crowdfunding
You’ve completed your grand opus. You’ve decided to self publish. You’ve got your first book edited, formatted, and ready to go. You’ve sent the files out to the world, and you’e done some promotion. What else is there to do? Hannah Walker talks about making mistakes and keeping up your morale:
There are many mistakes an author makes when starting out on the road of self-publishing. I have made plenty and so have other authors. Ask any author and they will tell you the same. Most mistakes aren’t limited to self-publishing. I’m going to take a few of the most common ones and talk about them here. I’m also going to add in general advice that comes from myself and several other authors who I asked what was the one bit of advice they would give to someone starting out on writing and self-publishing.
Now, some authors will tell you they love Goodreads. Honestly, they are in the minority. Goodreads is hard on an authors soul. Reviews are everywhere, and I’ll get to them in general in a minute, but here I want to talk exclusively about Goodreads.
The reviewers on Goodreads are a class of their own. Yes, you will find some genuine people and genuine reviews on Goodreads, but as a whole the reviews are often harsher. There are a lot of trolls on GR and when I say a lot, I really do mean a lot. I have seen reviews which have left even battle-hardened authors in tears. I’ve seen reviews that don’t just rip the book to shreds they go after the author as well. They become personal attacks, rather than book reviews.
It is a mistake to go to GR until you know you are strong enough to cope with what you read there. If you aren’t convinced, go to any book and read them. Not all books have the horrifying reviews, but if you look around you will soon find them. You will find some amazing reviews, and that is amazing. But be warned if you think you might struggle with hearing bad things, just don’t go there. Please.
Reviews in General
The most important thing to remember is reviews are subjective. What one reader tells you they hated about your book, others will tell you they loved it. Reviews are one person’s opinion, that’s all. Don’t let reviews spoil your writing. Like Goodreads… it doesn’t matter where the review is… if you start to struggle reading them, stop reading them!
There was something I got told by a very good friend and fellow author.
“Some people will love your book. Some people will hate it. Most? Well most will simply just like it.”
Author behaving badly. This one is crucial. NEVER engage in reviews. Never comment. Don’t do it! There is no way you can come off looking good if you engage a bad review. This is once again especially true on Goodreads. More than anything, if someone hates your book that much, there will be nothing you can do or say to change their minds. There are cautionary tales all over the net of authors behaving badly. People have literally destroyed their careers doing it before. If you need to vent, vent to a friends, vent in private. Don’t vent on a review and don’t vent on your timeline/social media.
Reviews are the lifeblood of an authors. We sell books based on reviews. Amazon’s algorithms are a mystery unto themselves. No one knows exactly how they work. As a rough guide the more reviews you get, the more positive reviews, the greater the number of verified purchases, ranks and sales all transfer into visibility. Visibility equals more sales.
Now verified purchases are from people who buy and not who read via KU. Those I’m afraid aren’t verified. There are some people who say 25 reviews is the magic number to get more visibility, some say 50. To be honest, no one really knows. It can take a long time to build up reviews. Sometimes you will get them sometimes you won’t. My best advice on this is simply don’t stress on it. It will happen when it happens.
Seven Keywords. It’s that’s simple. Or is it? Think long and hard about which ones you choose. LGBT is a good one, gay, lesbian and so on. Think about how you personally search for books on Amazon. Do you search for MM fantasy? Do you search for FF Sci Fi? Try typing in your keyword on Amazon, see what comes up. If there are lots of books, that’s probably what a lot of other authors use, so maybe it works. Think of general ones rather than really specific.
Write for Yourself
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Trying to write because of a perceived notion as to what the reader wants, or because of what one reader says. Don’t do this. We all love different things in our books when we read. You may want Sci Fi, someone else wants Fantasy and someone else hard-core BDSM. You will never please everyone.
The best way to approach writing with this in mind is to write what you want to read and write for yourself. Readers don’t have to read your book, you are simply putting it out there and giving them the option of reading it. Be proud of your own story. Shape it how you want to shape it. Write your story your way. In fact, the only people you should really listen to when writing, apart from yourself, is your characters. Let them be your guide.
This one was huge when someone told me about it. Create a folder on your desktop. Put every great emails, review, message, or comment you find in there. Then when you read a bad review, feel down, feel like you can’t write… whenever you need it, go to that folder and read it. It will help you.
Keep another folder. Whenever you come across a really inspiring picture, whether it’s for a character, a place or something else. Keep it in your folder. You never know when you could be lacking in inspiration. This can really reinvigorate the plot bunnies!
My best advice… if you can afford to do it, then pay for editing and cover designers. You want to attract a reader’s attention. The best way to do that is with your cover, your blurb and the sample they can download off Amazon. If they aren’t appealing, then people won’t buy. The blurb is key. Don’t leave it to the last minute and rush something out. Take your time and get it right.
Reach out to other authors and lean on them when times get tough. Because frankly, only other authors will truly understand what you are going through. Don’t be scared to ask for help, other authors are almost always willing to answer questions. We were all in your shoes once!
Sadly, be prepared for family and friends to think this is a hobby and you’re not a serious author. Some authors are lucky and have extremely supportive people around them, others are not so lucky. Even those who are supportive can struggle to understand that self-publishing means you are a serious author. I have nine books out, one with the editor, another two as my current works in progress and there is one family member who still believes this is a hobby and I am playing at being a writer, because I’m not with a publisher. Be prepared for that. They aren’t necessarily doing it to be hurtful, they simply don’t understand.
Don’t get so caught up in the rules you ruin the flow. We all know there are rules about commas, run on sentences, tagging and so on. When you write, just write. All of that can be fixed later. Put simply, don’t get bogged down in the small details. Write the book. You can always tweak it later.
Don’t think you have to do it one way, whether that’s following a trope etc., just because another popular author does, ever author has their own way of doing things. Find yours. What works for one author doesn’t always work for another.
When it comes to other people reading your work— the more eyes the better, let strangers read what you’ve written and give feedback. Be ready to find out you’re not as good as you think you were. You will make mistakes, we all do it. But, also remember— Listen to what betas say but you don’t need to take their advice. It’s your story. If you don’t agree with something they say, that’s okay, you don’t need to change it. Never change something you don’t want to just because someone tells you too.
Write what you can, when you can. We all write at different speeds. Some people can write 10K+ a day, others only 1K. There is no right speed. Go as fast or as slow as you need to and can. Don’t exhaust yourself pushing too hard to get it written fast. You run the risk of writer’s block. Treat writing like a job. If you do it when you can and don’t make is a habit, you’ll never get a book done. You want published? You’re going to have to work for it. It takes time, energy and motivation to get a book done, but there is nothing that beats the thrill of publishing a book, especially your first.
Struggling? It’s okay to scream and cry, rant and rave, just don’t give up. Just keep working through it. Your writing may not be your best, the scene may need a lot of fixing, but it can be fixed. Better to write something down then nothing. All of a sudden you’ll find it’s suddenly got a little easier. The words are flowing a little more. One thing to remember… all authors at one point or another hate the book they are writing. If, and likely when, this happens to you… know it is not unusual. We all go through it.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is promoting your book too much. We’ve all seen them— the authors who promo almost every day in almost every group. Readers get annoyed with it and it can have the opposite effect to what you want. Rather than encouraging readers to buy your book it can actively stop them ever buying any of your work. Personally I don’t promo more often than every 2-3 days and then I alternate the group. That way the group gets one promo form you every 6 days or so. Remember we’re all in the same groups so you see it in one, you see it in most.
WRITE THE NEXT BOOK… Don’t get stuck in promo.
For some people it may take 10 books to make it, but at least then you will have 9 others for readers to buy. For others, they may hit it big on their first books. There is no right or wrong, there is no way to predict it and there is nothing you can do to change it. Don’t compare yourself to others— we are all unique in our own special ways.
My Most Important Bit of Advice?
Have fun. Writing is unique, you can play in different worlds. Be the person you always wanted to be, write that person into your books, you always dreamed of being an action hero? Try writing one. You want to see sparkly unicorns? Write them.
Enjoy your writing and definitely enjoy getting to know people in our writing community. We’re a dysfunctional family who argue and moan, but we are ultimately supportive of one another.
I hope these have been some help to you. Not all of them will help everyone and that’s okay. If even one of them helps, I’m happy.