Becoming an Author -Self Publishing Surprises

When I first began writing, I was intimidated by what I considered a steep learning curve. Never before had I attempted to write a novel, a short story, or even a blog. Heck, it was a challenge for me to write an email! I was definitely a newbie. Even now, I constantly question my choices in grammar and sentence structure. My editor and publisher, Karen Crowell from Serendipity Digital Media KC, combs through my novels with a fine toothed comb. Be warned, however, these blogs are all me…which means there is no editing or grammar checker here. Hehehe!

Anyway, the first time I spoke with Karen I was extremely excited to make my book available to the public. I was gung ho! I imagined immediate book deals, interviews, book signings, and even a movie deal. To say the least, I was more than inspired and even a bit unrealistic. After Karen read my novel and decided to take it on, she told me that she believed in it, but she also told me the road to success can be long and arduous. Then she proceeded to educate me about the publishing and marketing processes.

The biggest lesson I learned is as follows:

Do not rush into publishing your book!    Editing, revising, and formatting are your best friends! Once you think you have it finished, test it out and revise again.

Here are the strategies I followed to get my book self-published.

1) Professional Editing: I hired two professional editors to take a look at my book and make the necessary changes to prepare the book for publication. The experiences I had with each were like night and day. Below are my accounts of each.

a) The first editor I hired took a “hands-off” approach. He simply asked me to pay him up front and send him my manuscript. Once he received payment, he promised to edit my book and send it back to me. In the meantime, we did not communicate. When I paid him, I assumed I would receive a novel that was pristine, grammatically correct, and ready for print. As I said, I was a newbie. The manuscript I received from the professional editor had tons of grammatical errors, and it was definitely not ready for print. I contacted the gentleman and told him of my expectations and my disappointments. He proceeded to inform me that if I wanted him to prepare the manuscript for print, I needed to pay more money and hire him to do it again. This time, he said he would concentrate more on grammar. As you can imagine, my inner Laura was screaming, “What the F$*&% did I pay you for in the first place?” I thought hiring someone to edit my work was basically saying, “Please help me prepare this for publication.” Boy was I wrong. Lesson? Communication is key…and…Be careful who you trust with your work and your money!

b) In comes Karen Crowell; editor # 2. My experience with Karen made me believe in people again. Not only was she professional, she was (and still is) very supportive in how she worked with me. The first thing she did was read my book. It is my understanding that she read it to determine the amount of damage she would have to correct. She gave me fantastic feedback and pointed out areas in the story that could use more work. I followed her advice and resubmitted my manuscript to her with the changes she suggested. Then she began editing. During the editing process, she kept me informed of the major errors and inconsistencies she found, and she taught me along the way. I was learning where to place commas, how to use ellipses, and when not to use the word, “very.” Hahaha! Although I am still learning, Karen inspired to become a better writer and storyteller. She edited my book for flow, continuity, grammar, structure, and other variables I would never have thought about. The process seemed long because I was racing to the finish line, but looking back I realize it was quite short for all the work she did. After this fantastic experience, we talked and decided to continue working together.

2) Releasing the novel in parts: Once the book was edited, I told Karen that I couldn’t wait to get the book out. She slowed me down and advised me to release the book in parts. Her reasons for suggesting this were foreign to me at first. Later, however, I understood her logic. Hindsight is 20/20. Below are her reasons for releasing the book in parts.

a) Releasing a book in parts and in digital format can be a useful editing tool. If people like your overall story, but think part of it is less captivating than the rest of the story, that particular part will most likely receive unfavorable reviews. For example: Let’s say part 1 of your book contains chapters 1-10, and part 2 contains chapters 11-20. If you get stellar reviews on part 1, but not on part 2, you know there is a problem between chapters 11-20. You do not have to revise your entire book to make the necessary changes. The reviewers will let you know, trust me. So now I would like to say, “Warning: be prepared!” Most reviewers are candid, even to the point of making their reviews personal and hurtful. They have no qualms about ripping a novel apart and will let you know each and every mistake you made. What is the good side to this?  You learn the book’s weaknesses and have the opportunity to make it better. This process is invaluable.

b) Ratings. Releasing a book in parts affords you the opportunity to make your ratings higher. The more work you have up on Kindle, the better. Also, if you enroll your book parts in KDP select, you have more time to advertise your books for free.

c) Readers get to try the book before investing in your final version. If they do not enjoy reading a certain part, the readers may not continue the series. Therefore, your ratings are more likely to be more positive on the subsequent parts.

3) Digital Format: Karen and I decided to release my books in digital format because changes can be made easily. Once your book is printed on paper, it might as well be set in stone. You will always have copies floating around that no longer reflect the growth of your masterpiece. Only after I have my novels in what I consider to be pristine condition do I commit them to paper.

4) Enrolling in KDP Select: As we all know, Amazon is the largest online bookseller in the world. For this very reason, Karen and I chose to release my novels as Kindle books on amazon. Plus, Amazon has a fantastic program for self-publishing authors. It’s called KDP Select. I enroll all my novels in KDP Select. By doing so, I can run promotions and make each novel free every 90 days. Within those 90 days, I can choose 5 days to make each book free. Otherwise, according to Amazon’s rules and guidelines for the KDP Select program, I must price each book between $2.99-$9.99. Having the ability to offer free books can help create “buzz” around your books. It can also help you get those needed reviews. With this in mind, I would like re-explore a bit about releasing a book in parts. The first part I released free in the KDP program received about 300 downloads during the promotion. Each subsequent part received more and more free downloads. By the time my complete novel came out, my free downloads were skyrocketing. During my initial promotion for my first complete novel, I received 4028 free downloads, which made my book #1 in Mythology, #9 in teen, and #11 in fantasy. As a result, Amazon decided to advertise my novel. They sent an email listing my book as a top recommended book! Imagine my surprise when a friend of mine sent me an email from Amazon with my novel, Xandria Drake: Ancient Rising, as the first book on the list! So you see, releasing your book in parts really can help the progress of your overall book sales and ranking.

5) Social Media Marketing: The last subject I will dare to touch is social media marketing. Of course, volumes could be written on this, and I am not necessarily the one to write them since I am still learning. However, I have learned a few useful tips. First and foremost, get out there! Join goodreads, facebook, instagram, pinterest, twitter, and any other social media website you run across. Actively participate in groups, get to know people, and enjoy! Do not go to these groups for advertising. Trust me, I tried it. Now I participate for fun. Believe it or not, people will become interested in you as you become interested in them. Once you let go of the idea that you must make announcements that people don’t actually care about, unless you’re someone like J.K. Rowling, you become free! You learn to enjoy and appreciate the process. It no longer becomes a game about getting to the finish line. Instead, you do what you love because you love it. Now, doesn’t that sound like a happy ending?

I hope you have found this post useful.  If you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave your remark below.

Best!

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