Today, Authors Electric is delighted, and honoured, to bring you a guest blog from American indie author, Terri Giuliano Long, who offers all indie-authors valuable advice based on experience.
Indie Publishing: 7 Mistakes I Won’t Make Again
Indie Publishing: 7 Mistakes I Won’t Make Again
When I published In Leah’sWake I had no idea what I was doing. I could barely get out of my own way. I’m grateful that, despite my dumb mistakes, readers and book bloggers gave my novel a chance. Today, as the number of books competing for attention increases, and the quality of indie books continues to rise, with many indie books rivaling those published by major New York houses, I might not be so lucky.
When I publish my new novel, Nowhere to Run, this fall, I’m bound to make my share of mistakes. The industry is evolving and we’re all more or less feeling our way. Still, it’s foolish make the same mistake twice. Having learned from past errors, I’ll make adjustments. Here are 7 mistakes I’ll be sure to avoid:
1) Neglecting to hire a professional editor. Of all my blunders, this is the biggest and the one that has caused the most heartache and stress. Call me naïve: the possibility of hiring an editor never occurred to me, not because I think I’m above the need for editing. Not at all. My writer’s group – all professional writers and teachers – had given the green light. Moreover, in 2006, the book had been scheduled for publication by a small independent press (unfortunately, they folded, as happened frequently then), and the book had been edited by the publisher’s editorial team.
Although the book had been read, edited and proofed many times, by at least a dozen different people, it turned out that we missed several typographical errors. In February, I launched a new, professionally edited edition of In Leah’s Wake. But it’s too late. Any damage is already done. With my new novel, I’m working with an editor and I’ll also hire an independent proofreader.
2) Paying too little attention to eBook formatting. Smashwords, a retailer and eBook aggregator, distributes to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Kobo and other eBook retailers. Having paid a professional to convert my file for Smashwords, I assumed the formatting was perfect. As Smashwords distributes to Amazon, I figured I could use the file there too. Wrong. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) uses a proprietary platform – entirely different from the Smashwords platform.
Formatting and conversion problems cause dropped punctuation as well as paragraphing errors, which appear to the reader as sloppy editing. While I consider any error too many, all things considered the typos in my novel were relatively minor. Even books published by major houses have a few. Add punctuation and paragraph issues and the mistakes look egregious. Naively, I trusted the process. Until a reviewer pointed out the errors, I had no idea there were problems.
3) Not soliciting for reviews before publication. Reviews – like all information on a book’s product page – send a meta-message to potential buyers. When people look at a product page, they get an impression, good or bad, of the book and that impression influences their purchase decision. Obviously, some readers base their decision solely on the description; still, it’s hard not to notice that a newly published book has 20 or 30 reviews. If reviews are generally good, better yet.
I’m not suggesting that authors stack reviews. Family and best friend reviews are usually easy to spot. If anything, they give savvy buyers a negative impression. I am saying that it makes sense for authors to create ARCS (Advanced Review Copies) and solicit reviews from book bloggers and other professional reviewers – Indie Reader or Kirkus, for example.
4) Failing to submit to contests. Readers’ Favorites, Beach Books, Next Generation Indie Books, the Independent (Ippy) Book Awards, Writer’s Digest, and Global eBook awards are just a few of the contests and awards open to indie authors. Because we’re not published by major houses, our books appear to have no vetting process. Recognized awards are a great substitution. They tell readers that someone discerning has read the book and believed it to be of high caliber.
Because there are so many awards, readers tend to be wary. While it’s fine to apply for lesser known awards – and wonderful if you win! – recognized awards tend to have more sway. In Leah’s Wake received the Coffee Time Reviewer Recommend Award and it was the Book Bundlz 2011 Book Pick – the editorial team chose the finalist and members voted for the winner. These helped my book tremendously. I doubt In Leah’s Wake would have sold as well without them.
5) Waiting too long to begin marketing. I feel like a broken record saying this: it’s crucial to begin marketing early. Traditional publishers begin marketing months ahead of publication. This builds excitement and momentum. We need to do the same. While we can’t really go into full-swing marketing mode – tour, for example - until we’ve published, we can blog about our progress, post updates on Facebook, G+ and Twitter, spread the word to bloggers, talk about our new work in interviews, put a counter on our website to count down the days until publication, etc.
6) Using more than one distributor. The jury is still out on which distributor to use, with some authors favoring the flexibility of Lightning Source and others the ease of Createspace (the two largest distributors of indie books). Lightning Source allows authors to offer returns and give a higher discount to bookstores; theoretically, this encourages stores to stock paperback books.
In reality, for many reasons, primarily dollars and cents*, bookstores rarely stock books by indie authors, regardless of an author’s discount or return policy. Listing with both creates confusion. While Lightning Source allows authors to distribute under their own ISBN number, Createspace requires you to use theirs. Books distributed by both Lightning Source and Createspace have two distinct ISBN numbers, and so two product pages. Some buyers will purchase from one source, others buyers from the other source, resulting in diluted sales and lower sales rank.
7) Failing to reach out to schools, libraries, and independent bookstores. It’s impossible to say how many opportunities I may have missed by neglecting to do any sort of concerted outreach. This time around, I’ll draft a list of schools, libraries and stores that might consider carrying my book, and I’ll send a letter with a description and other pertinent information. I have not yet formalized a plan, but I may offer incentives to encourage them to give the book a try. Times are tough and money always an issue, so they may not stock my book. At least they’ll know it exists.
Terri Giuliano Long is a contributing writer for IndieReader and Her Circle eZine. She has written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel. For more information, please visit her website. Or connect on Facebook, Twitter or Blog.
About In Leah’s Wake
The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister's approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life...until everything goes wrong.
As Leah's parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister's rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family—leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.
Can this family survive in Leah's wake? What happens when love just isn't enough?
Coffee Time Romance Reviewer Recommend Award
Book Bundlz Book Club 2011 Favorites - First Place
Reviewer-nominated for Global eBook Award, 2012
Margot Livesey, award-winning author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, calls In Leah's Wake, "A beautifully written and absorbing novel."