Guest Post: Terri Giuliano Long

 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

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.

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."


Lee said…
I'll add another mistake to the list, one which a good number of indie writers are prone to make (myself included!): hackneyed blurbs, terribly trite turns of phrase in book descriptions. No, I won't name names - my firewall is not stong enough to withstand the onslaught of firebolts I'd receive.
Jan Needle said…
fascinating and useful. thanks very much, terri. i think what i probably need as well, though, is advice on how to get on to all these blogs. do you just barge into their comment spaces and say - here i am! i sometimes think i must lack brass neck!
Good morning Authors Electric! It's an honor to be here today! Thank you so very much for hosting me, Debbie and Susan!

Your comment made me smile, Lee - the other day a friend emailed to tell me exactly that about the blurb for my novel in progress. For me, it's matter of focus (I don't imagine I'll have it until the novel is finished). I wonder if that's also the problem for others.

Jan-many of my blog appearances have been during tours. I met Roz, who referred me to Debbie and Susan for this post, on Twitter. I've also made a lot of friends by participating in events - e.g., blog hops sponsored by the Indie Book Collective. For reviews, my publicist, Donna Brown, contacts bloggers, who often invite me to post. Others surely have different strategies, but for me it's really been the result of meeting terrific people and trying to pay it forward.
Dan Holloway said…
very wise words - especially the e-formatting one and the importance of realising that what looks fine on one platform might look like a dog's breakfast on another. Which is why it's important to download the file and check it using the appropriate hardware/app to make sure it looks OK everywhere - and to check from start to finish of the document.
Lynne Garner said…
I was in smug mode as I read mistake one and two - I could say I didn't do them. Then came 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Drat done all of them. Will print this fab post off and place on my pin board ready for my next book. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much, Dan! Great point about downloading and checking on the readers. We just uploaded a new edition - all the eBook conversions looked perfect; problems emerged after we uploaded to the platforms. Again, you're right - it's crucial to check.

Lynne - Thank you so much! I'm so glad you like the post and find it helpful! Here's a tip I neglected to include - once you load your ebook on a particular platform, don't change to a different distributor!! I loaded In Leah's Wake to Smashwords for distribution to all but Amazon. A Barnes & Noble review said there were all sorts of formatting errors (in retrospect, after checking and asking multiple readers, I suspect it was an exaggeration).

The book was in the top 10 on BN. I couldn't see sales figures - BN is - or was - slow in reporting - so didn't know how many books I'd sold, but figured it had to be close to 1000. I'd paid to have book formatted for Smashwords and I'd used one of their recommended formatters, so I knew that wasn't the problem. Thinking it was a conversion issue (it wasn't), I removed BN from Smashwords distribution, had the book reformatted and loaded to BN/Pubit. I had assumed that the book was the book, so it would stay exactly where it was.

Wrong - as I've mentioned in # 7, the change meant that my book was put on a new product page. Overnight, it fell from # 10 to # 100,000 or so. Months later, I learned that I had been selling over 500 books a day on BN - and dropped to fewer than 10/day. That was a very tough lesson. I don't know how I forgot to include it, except that maybe I wanted to forget. :)

Thank you all once again for taking the time to join me today!!
julia jones said…
Thanks Terri - especially setting out your advice so clearly and in such a do-able way. My personal challenge is the schools and libraries one - I think one needs a completely different and very focused approach that involves knowing what THEY need out of a book. Especially schools when money is so short and they must try to relate everything to the National Curriculum. Best of luck with your new novel
Thank you, Julia! I agree - I think we sometimes forget to ask ourselves what value we bring to the table, for schools, libraries, book bloggers or even readers. Of course, we want success, and we should want that for ourselves, but we also need to think about what we can do for others. Thank you so much for pointing that out!
Lee said…
Terri, the propensity for cliché is less a matter of focus than sensibility. That said, there is undoubtedly a place for cliché in writing and in fiction, but it must be handled with care. It's rare to find a writer who uses cliché both intentionally and effectively. David Mitchell, for example, wields it wonderfully in Black Swan Green to trace Jason's artistic development. Blurbs and teasers, like good advertising copy, require special skills, skills different from those needed to write a fictional conversation, say. Indie writers should remember that teasers and the like introduce their books as much as an image (and a first line), revealing whether the prose is worth the reader's time.
Lee, you're absolutely right, of course. Cliche can play well in fiction, although only when handled carefully. I discuss this with students, who in many cases do not yet have the skill or experience to work on that level. Cliche at times creeps into my own writing out of laziness. Those offenses I try to weed out in the editing process. In the blurb for my w-i-p, the problem truly is lack of focus. But your point about teasers introducing the work is well taken. Thank you for the reminder.
Jennie Walters said…
Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Terri - really useful and interesting to learn from your experience, and great encouragement. Good luck with the next book, and well done for being so positive about your mistakes - or opportunities for learning, as perhaps they should be called!
Thank you so much, Jennie! I really appreciate your kind words and your well wishes. I'm glad you like the post.

This is a tough business. I love it--wouldn't change it--but it's hard. The community makes such a difference! If I can help make it a little easier for someone else, I'm thrilled.
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Sandpiper is a member of the Publishing Marketing Association, (PMA) and listed in Literary Market Place. Our publicists have taught classes in book marketing at UCLA and Pepperdine University and have been featured as book marketing experts in media outlets in the US and Europe.

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