Raising word children

I’ve been playing this indie-author game for just over two years now. Apparently, that is still quite the newbie in this world, but I have learned a lot and thought it would be a good time to share some of my key takeaways. 

When I decided to self-publish the Island of Stone, I began from scratch. The only social media presence I had were unused personal Facebook and Linkedin accounts. I had been writing for many years and tried the traditional route when I was younger, so I had a manuscript that had aged well and just needed updates and polish, but Amazon KDP was a mystical beast. I think I’m a reasonably intelligent guy, but I knew nothing about marketing, promotion, web design, blogging, book formatting, cover design, writing blurb, search-engine optimization, keywords, etc. 

Yesterday was my two-year Twitter anniversary, and I just reached 6,000 followers this very day (@AuthorTirrell). I have four novels out in the world, with a fifth coming soon. I’ve got some sales and a few reviews, not stellar, but growing. All in all, not too shabby, but it has been a bit of a journey, as you can imagine, and I have a long way still to go before I can claim the success of my personal goals and aspirations. What I do have for certain are some hard-earned lessons and I offer these to you now. 

  • First, don’t wait to enter the game as I did. I remember when KDP first came out and thought it was a joke. God, I wish I jumped on the bandwagon back then. Time is your friend in this game and the competition was fierce, but not soul-crushing. I know, it is scary sharing your work with the world, and yes, you will mess up, but what a way to learn! 
  • Don’t edit straight into Kindle Create- you will be sorry in the end. Take the extra step to edit in Word or whatever you use, and then re-enter into Amazon’s formatting program. You will thank me. I spent many hours copying and pasting to transfer my changes into something a bit more reliable. Have you ever copied and pasted a 400-page book, page by page, and then had to reformat everything to boot? Yes, it sucks.
  • Yes, it is exciting to finish a book, but don’t rush it out to the world. If you can sit on it for a while, do so. Take time editing and have others read it if you can. First impressions are everything in this game. It takes guts on the side of the reader to buy a book from a nobody. Don’t violate that trust. Make it perfect. Luckily, KDP makes it relatively easy to make corrections, but you will need all the acquaintances you’ve asked to buy and read your gem to spread the word. Once those first tentative readers form an opinion of your writing, it’s hard to change. 
  • Though, you will miss errors and typos. It is embarrassing, but when pointed out to you, thank that angel and make the corrections ASAP.
  • You will see a boost when that first book goes out, but it won’t last. The jolt on the other side is a shock. I made my first book free right off the bat to build an audience (more on this later). One-hundred and fourteen units went like hotcakes, and I thought, wow, this is happening. I kept telling myself that it wouldn’t last, but I was sure that sales would still trickle on after. As soon as I started charging, that count went to zero and stayed zero for months. You may be crying, “sucker!” Yes, I realize my mistake now, but I felt weird charging my friends and family- confidence was an issue. Similar things will likely happen to you unless you are one of those urban legends that skyrocket to fame- I’m rooting for you, I really am. But for the rest of us, don’t give up as you wander through that desert. Use the time to work on your marketing or something. 
  • Growth happens, but it will likely be slower than you could possibly imagine. Not days, weeks, or months… we’re talking years. If you want a quick buck, this is not your game.
  • Self-publishing is a lot of work… just a lot of god damn hard work for minimal reward. It sucks, I know, but keep telling yourself you publish to share your tales with others and that you would write anyway. It helps. 
  • It is also tricky and expensive- especially marketing. Be careful and set budgets and limits. You will suck at book promotion and will waste a lot of money. Enter slowly and cautiously. If you are lucky and have unlimited resources, go for it! If not, research and test before going all in. 
  • You are chasing a dream, and thus, everyone will try to cheat you. It is hard to stay rational when dealing with your word children, but they depend on you to be an adult and look out for them. Ha, word children. I like it! Thank you, muse for the title.   
  • No one will leave reviews on their own- including friends and family. You have to pester. Reviews help a lot, but man, they are hard to get. Don’t take it personally. Your book just might not be for them, and being unauthentic may rub them the wrong way. You know the saying- if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all = no reviews from aunt Jane. 
  • Trolls are lurking everywhere. They don’t want to see anyone succeed in anything, especially someone following a dream. The trolls will strike when you are most vulnerable. If you can, never read unsolicited reviews. If you are like me, that’s an impossible task, so work on getting a thick skin. I support you, but many won’t.
  • No one will care how hard you worked on your baby. It is a product to be used, criticized, and discarded in lieu of the next best thing. That is just the world. In writing, you don’t have the luxury of being an artist until you are successful. Now, you are a creator of a product and must be as detached as if you are a vacuum cleaner salesperson. Pretend it came off an assembly line and not wrenched from your heart in a flurry of blood, sweat, and tears. 
  • You have no voice. You are just one of the millions of hopefuls. Amazon, especially, does not care about you- nor should they, to be frank. You may be an introvert, I get it, but you need to speak up when appropriate. You’re your own advocate. 
  • There will be times that you sell nothing. Take a deep breath and restrategize. Don’t freak out and make a fool of yourself. If you build it, they will come, but that cornfield is disorienting, and it will take time. 
  • Writing a blog is a great way to get people to your work, but it is hard to think up new ideas and time-consuming. Keep at it. It is a way to connect with your readers or potential readers. 
  • I will hammer this home. Whenever you can, make personal connections with your readers. It is hard to realize a person is behind the product. Step out from behind that writer’s desk and say hello! 
  • Resist the allure of free. Discount, yes, but free, no. There is a lot of conflicting advice on this, but I’ve given hundreds of my books away and have not seen any tangible benefits. In the past, it was a great way to get a boost, but those days are over (like ten years ago). I know you gave your heart out for nothing, but that does not mean they will feel obligated to leave reviews. Actually, they probably won’t even read it. It will end up in a folder with hundreds of other free books. People horde all sorts of things, including ebooks. Giving away books has devalued the craft. If they don’t pay for it, it appears it has no value to you and, therefore, no value to them. 
  • Amazon will frustrate the hell out of you. Nothing will work right. You will sometimes feel like they go out of their way to make things difficult for you or may even steal from you, but stay patient. KDP Help has a lot of power. One angry email and you will run into all sorts of issues- formating problems, functions not working, keywords not indexing, you name it. Also, the more you bug them, the worse it gets. 

So, that’s what I got so far. I am likely missing some prime advice that I will think of as soon as I press submit (so please add your lessons in the comments). I’m also positive that I have many more lessons to learn. But I wish I had known some of these points before I started, so I hope they help!

Cheers! 

Published by scottatirrell

Scott Austin Tirrell is a lover of the arcane who would choose a good crypt over a coffee shop. He finds solace in history and tales of yore sprinkled with a smidgen of nature's fury, long travel, and the thrill of the paranormal. His stories place ordinary and often flawed individuals in extraordinary situations that stretch beyond this physical plane. The human spirit's strength to reach greatness against incredible odds fascinates him, and thus, he is often a bit cruel with his protagonist. Certificates of study in psychology, history, and international relations gather dust on his wall, but he has found life to be the best stimuli for a good yarn. Scott has published three works currently available- the Island of Stone, a paranormal thriller, the Slaying of the Bull, a historical fiction set in 1241, and the Dawn of the Lightbearer, an epic dark fantasy. He lives with his wife in the Boston area, a place dripping with inspiration for someone who loves tales from the past and a good ghost story.

6 thoughts on “Raising word children

  1. This is such a frank and honest account for aspiring authors and the truth about self-publishing and KDP. Thank you. My husband has written – what I think is a good book ( a mythological thriller). No marketing except for LinkedIn!! But he is just happy to have finished and brought out his work to the world. Hope it reaches people. I am not marketing, but this is the title- should you be interested ” Unmanifest: 428,798 A.D. | Story of Kalki”. And I have wanted to thank you for a long time for visiting my blog- so here I am doing that!

    Like

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