Self-Publishing: Top Four Lessons Learned

Monday, October 7, 2013

When I got my first book contract in 2009, I had no idea what self-publishing meant. Today, I’m nowhere close to being an expert, but I have learned more about traditional publishing and self-publishing between 2011 and now than I knew before. The top four things I’ve learned are:
  • Writing for the long haul is just that, a marathon and not a sprint. Patience is a requirement, especially when sales first come in the form of infrequent trickles, rather than a regular flood. There is no overnight success, so while I’m waiting for the name recognition ship to come in, it’s important to keep writing. I’ve proven that having more books on sale means a steady increase in income and a demand for more stories. It’s a wake-up call when readers start asking when the next book will be out. 
  • If I'm prepared to learn new skills and embrace changes, I’m more likely to succeed at what I do. When I self-published a collection of short stories in 2011, I glanced through the Smashwords Style Guide and threw it aside because just reading it made my eyeballs want to run off in different directions. Since then, I’ve learned to format my own stuff and because I’m one of those people who like extras, I’ve learned to go beyond the basics. I’m also learning about covers and stuff. Things I never would have attempted if I hadn’t gone indie. 
  • I’m not as organized as I used to be. I still have way too many languishing mss and half-written novels. I seriously need to write a business plan and take my publication schedule from my brain to paper. When you have the time, do yourself a favour and read this three-part article on business plans for self-published authors by Denise Grover Swank. On the way to all this busyness and time shortage, I’m conscious that I need to stop moaning about having no time and start making use of the time I do have. See quote below.

If you can’t find the time to write, that’s just nonsense. My friend Mary Higgins Clark had five kids and was widowed—that’s a woman who had no time to write. And she still used to wake up and write and then get the kids up. There’s always time to write. You can skip the TV show you’re watching, you can wake up an hour earlier, you can write during lunch—you always have time to write.

If your life is so full of other things that you don’t have time to write, then writing isn’t a priority and you’re not a writer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but face that fact. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to write.
                       
                                                 ~ Harlan Coben, Best Selling Author
  • Relationships are valuable. All of us are on an individual journey, but our paths have collided and I don’t believe that I’ve met you by accident. Through sharing our stories, we’ve encouraged and helped each other in one way or another. I know way more about publishing from browsing people’s blogs than I would have learned otherwise. For me, it’s more fun reading an informative blog post than a ‘how to’ book.
Those are the top four things I’ve learned so far. What’s the most valuable thing you’ve discovered on your journey?
 

If you haven’t visited yet, remember to check out the Insecure Writer's Support Group Site. It’s chock-full of information that every writer needs. There’s even more support waiting for you at the Facebook page which is linked from the IWSG site.

The Who’s Your Hero Blogfest Linky is below. If you’re wondering what that’s about, it coincides with the release of my MG novel Saving Sam and all you have to do is write a maximum of 300 words in which you talk about someone who's encouraged or inspired you in some way. That’s on October 22-24 and there a random giveaway of $10.00 Amazon gift card for participants. Sam will love you for jumping in!


I’m looking for early reviews for Saving Sam, so if you’re interested in reading a MG coming-of-age novel set in Jamaica (see book blurb here), please leave a comment or email me at jmwordsmith at gmail dot com.





44 comments:

  1. The friendships here online are invaluable to any author.
    That quote is so accurate. If you want to write, you will find the time. It's all in the choices we make.

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    1. So true, Alex. Don't know where I made the time to write the books I did before I got published, but nowadays I'm not writing. Gotta do something about that.

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  2. It is a business, thus the need for a business plan. I've been self-employed for 14 years, so the business mentality just comes natural now.

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    1. Thanks for that Diana. You're a source of inspiration.

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  3. Great points and I love, love, love the last one about relationships. I totally believe that too.

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    1. Hi, Rula,
      It does a body well to know there are other people going through the same challenges. When there's success, the celebration factor is wonderful as well.

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  4. Love your points, Joy. Love that I also had 5 children (boys) and I managed to find time to write. Just wish I knew then what I know now. LOL. I know, no fair.

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    1. I kneel at your feet, Joylene. Dunno if I'd have been disciplined enough to carve out time with a full house. :)

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  5. I totally agree that there is always time to write. Even if it's carving out 10 minutes a day. For me, it was about giving up TV. I figured it wasnt adding anything to my life anyway and I didnt need it. So it kind of boils down to what you're willing to give up in order to write.
    All signed up for your blogfest! :)

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    1. Thanks, PK,
      TV is a good choice. I keep it on, but it's more for background noise than anything else. I need to give up something right now. Gotta figure out what that is and thanks for signing up!

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  6. I totally agree with all your points. I know I still need to learn things and that the reason I don't meet my writing deadlines is my fault because I do have enough time. thanks for the post.

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    1. Hi, Clarissa,
      I don't think I'll ever stop learning on this journey. Like you, I need to buckle down and use the time I have wisely.

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  7. I give up sleeping in in the morning. It's hard, but that's the only time I have to write anymore. Great post.

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  8. I know that I should be paying more attention to all of the Dos and Don'ts of self publishing, since it is definitely a possibility, but I am still immersed in just writing the darn thing. I find that I don't multi-task that well...

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  9. I'm disorganized as well. But I know not to plan too hard. My best planned novel-to-be became just that. So plan but don't plan so hard you lose interest. Thanks for sharing what you learned.

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  10. Thanks for dropping by, Moody.

    Lee, yeah, we have to make the necessary sacrifices to get the job done.

    Robin, you can't do more than go at your own pace. You'll get there.

    Sheena, good advice.

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  11. I love how you format your books. Inserting pictures into the kindle books is something I want to learn, but you are a master. They always look great.

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    1. It's easy, Mike. Insert your images as pictures rather than pasting them. I like the challenge of seeing how stuff works. :)

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  12. Great post Joy. I also learned formatting for kindle but Smashwords look too hard yet! You are awesome for tackling cover designing and adding images inside the book. Want to learn that too.

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    1. Kelly, it's fun and easy to do. I took a deep breath and after I stopped panicking, I realized the Smashwords manual was not so hard to understand as I thought. I read it before I started so I wasn't going back and forth while formatting and confusing myself. Had to use it in the process, but only for reference as I had a clue what I was doing.

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  13. Wow, we were like channeling each other when writing posts for today. :) Relationships is a big key, isn't it? I don't think you need to be real detailed in a business plan, but you should stick to a budget and plan out your next step in growth... what's next. I publish on what's selling and I pay attention to trends. And I'll think up a near-future work based on it.

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    1. ...And we learn from each other. Just learned something right there when you said publish on what's selling. I tend to plod along with the next thing on my agenda and not necessarily the next book of what's selling. Excellent advice. You'd think I'd focus on finishing what the readers are asking for. I can also work on the plan as I go along.

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  14. The odd thing is that can see you in all these stages you mentioed because I remember you writing about some of them through the years as you struggled with some of them and I always say what an inspiration you are to me. I am very blessed to know you JL

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    1. Same here, Wendy. You make me smile just by visiting my blog. Yup, it's been quite a learning experience.

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  15. Great "things" and the last one is a great reminder.

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  16. Those are some great tips, and just what I need. I need to write a business and marketing plan for myself, too. Thanks for the link, it looks like there are a lot of great insights and resources on the site.

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    1. Yes, there are Micheal. They're not actively blogging anymore, but the site has lots of information.

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  17. Thanks for sharing your tips with us! I will have to check out that link!

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  18. Thanks for the glimpse into your world. It's good to know that I'm not alone in this journey. I have tried to reach out to other authors, with not much a response from them. Thanks again for making me feel welcome.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Janet. I think sometimes we writers are so busy writing, editing and doing the social media rounds that we bump shoulders with other and don't remember to stop and say hi and make meaningful connections. However, there are a ton of friendly and helpful writers that I'm blessed to know.

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  19. Great advice. I keep hearing we need to write more books, so we can sell them! Our motto when we were in retail was "You can't sell apples out of an empty apple cart." I'm trying to add more apples to my cart, but it takes time. I signed up for your blogfest too. Trying to decide which hero of mine to choose!!

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    1. JQ, that's so true. It takes time to build up a body or work, but I'm not in a hurry to do that because it does take a huge chunk of time to get a book done right. Thanks for signing up for the blogfest.

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  20. Hear, hear, JL! I think it's a bit magical that I found this post tonight. Thank you!
    Some Dark Romantic

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  21. Glad you found the post useful, Mina.

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  22. Thank you so much for sharing that business plan, J.L.! Think it's going to be exactly what I need. Amazing how the busier we get, the less organized we can sometimes be. When it needs to be the opposite happening!

    Definitely need to have the marathon mentality as well. It gets hard when you read about this person or that person who hit a home run with her first or second book. But those are exceptions, not the rule. I want to write for a living for the rest of my life, so I may have invest a few years and a half-dozen novels or more to make that happen.

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    1. Happy to help. I found the article and links on your blog informative as well. So true, I should have organization down to a fine art, but I don't. I'll pulled back out my Things to do book and I've been lugging that sucker around for the past couple of weeks.

      I think we'll always be reminding ourselves that writing is for the long haul. Definitely agree that it's hard to stay focused when it feels like going nowhere in a hurry, but I've read so many inspiring stories about writers who kept doing their thing for decades before they hit the big time and/or respectable numbers in terms of sales.

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  23. Great post, Joy. I'm always grateful for indie authors who share their new knowledge and their experiences with us. I saved the link to that business plan post!

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    1. I figured that link would be helpful. :)

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  24. Good advice to be taken to heart. I love when people who are a bit ahead of me on the learning curve are willing to share what they've learned. Thank you. I've just been thinking I need to get back to treating my writing more like a job (which fortunately I love!).

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    1. Hi, Julie. These are good reminders for me too.

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