This time of year, I usually do some sort of post that looks back on the year past and forward to the year to come. This time, I want to share what I've learned in publishing. In 2014, I made more use of Facebook than ever before and it has been a rewarding experience. I have interacted with readers and met and read more authors than before. Below I've listed the valuable lessons learned and re-learned in 2014.
Be flexible and know when to mix things up. While I have good reviews on my romantic suspense novels, they are currently not big sellers. These are the stories that engage my mind most and make me work hard, but for early 2015, I'll start promoting my New Adult books and watching where that takes me. While I do that, I'll be writing the next suspense novel in the background.
Many readers are forgiving and don't care about typos and such, as long as they enjoy the story. I'm not advocating that you produce less than your best or hinting this is in any way acceptable, I'm just saying this is an observation I made this year.
Some readers like sex … the more, the better, so if this is something you do well and it doesn't go against your personal beliefs, have at it.
There are readers who will apply their moral standards to your story and miss the underlying messages. These may result in some 1-2 star ratings. Be prepared for those.
There are a few readers who will make their way through your series, reading and returning them in the week that Amazon allows them to keep the book. At 0.99 and 2.99? Come on. I could rant about this, but it's not worth the time and these readers are few and far between.
Being a good writer with a great story guarantees nothing. As much as we might detest marketing, we have to continually find new ways to get our books in front of more readers. For my book (Grudge) released a week ago, I used Thunderclap with some positive results. I was touched by the generosity of writers and none writers alike, but that's for another post.
Time your releases so they occur at frequent intervals. With so many books being published on a daily basis, it is super-easy to get lost in the shuffle. If you're a slow-as-molasses-going-uphill writer, keep readers engaged by telling them about your story as you write it via the media that works best for you.
Finding your niche is important, critical even. Without a group of people who like your work and are prepared to spread the word and write reviews, your job is that much harder. Considering the changes to Facebook and the fact that only a tiny fraction of my 700+ fans are seeing what I post, I've started a secret group for people who enjoy my writing. Message me on Facebook if you are interested in being part of that.
Today is the day. By nature, I tend to procrastinate. I've learned there's no better time to do what needs to be done than now. If you can't get it done now, do it next-to-now or put it on a list that you plan to work through.
Advertising is important. I know a few writers who feel that as long as free is available, that's the way to go. My experience has been that paying isn't always profitable in terms of sales. It's crucial to find the right places to advertise, and as long as it's within your budget and you're relatively sure of the returns, advertise by all means.
Use every promotional opportunity that comes your way. I've let perfectly good (free) offers pass me by because of shyness. Seize the gifts you're given with both hands and make the best use of them.
Be open to learning new things. I say this in reference to the craft and sales strategies. Keep an eye on what successful writers are doing and see if their methods work for you.
Adjust your expectations. So your dream of being the next big writer hasn't materialised. Make your talents work for you. You're the only one who has that special something that makes your books unique. If you don't find what that is, you'll be wandering in the literary world like the Israelites did in the desert.
Be true to your vision, believe in yourself and be happy on your chosen path. Write what's on your heart. It's easy to get pigeon-holed in one category or to persuade yourself to write what you think will be the next big seller. This won't provide the satisfaction you're seeking. As Iyanla Vanzant puts it 'There is one way to know that you are doing exactly what God wants you to do: you will be at peace. Not every day, not all the time, but even in the midst of hard times and confusion you will feel good about what you are doing. Even when it seems like you are getting nowhere, you will know there is absolutely nothing else on earth you can do other than what you are doing.'
Accept that being a writer is going to be a hard slog with many discouraging moments—bad reviews, periods with little to no sales, bad experiences with service providers—but remember why you do what you do. With time, you will earn reader loyalty that will keep you going, along with your love for the craft of writing.
Received any insight or inspiration? Do share or share this post.
See you on the other side of 2014, God willing!