Exactly one year ago today I made the decision to begin my career as an author. Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch. Realistically, I've been writing for years (short stories, journals, even novels), but I had never published a book. After several attempts to get a literary agent, which ended in a multitude of rejection letters (not unusual), I heard about Amazon's KDP program. The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, when I finished my first book, uploaded the manuscript to KDP, designed the cover, chose the categories, and priced the book, I was convinced I had written the next Harry Potter, and that in a few weeks I'd have more money than I knew what to do with. What is it about authors and our delusions? Anyway, the truth is I hadn't written Harry Potter or anything like it, and contrary to my belief, there weren't millions of readers waiting with bated breath to read my novel. But it was a start.
Fast forward to today, I have written 7 novels in the past year (by the way, I don't recommend this pace. At least, not for very long.), having published 5 of those 7. To date, I have ~2 million pages read (this year) and have sold more than 6,000 copies. Honestly, I'm blown away by the response I've received, but it hasn't come without many lessons learned.
First, if you're thinking of writing a novel, I would suggest you approach things in a slightly different way than I did. I was so anxious to get my book out into the world, to call myself an author, to watch the money roll in, that I neglected some of the basics. First, and foremost (and I can't stress this enough), do not pull the trigger on publishing your book until it is the best and cleanest version it can be. Okay, I'm going to be transparent for a minute. Not because I want to reveal my flaws, but simply because if someone else can learn from my mistakes, fantastic!
EDITING As I read through the hundreds of reviews I have on Amazon, consistently I see the same negative reviews (always a comment on grammar or misspellings). Fortunately, I have zero negative comments about the stories themselves (WHEW!). That said, I have recently hired an editor and she does an amazing job for me. Hiring an editor is of utmost importance. Whether it's your neighbor, a friend, or a professional, having someone other than you or a family member (only because they have difficulty being objective) to read your story allows them to find those errors that you cannot (either because you don't recognize them or because you're too close to the work).
BOOK COVERS The second most important piece to having a successful novel, whether it's on Amazon or in your local bookstore is an appealing cover. Now, Amazon has a free tool that allows you to build your own cover. Recently, they also added a feature for you to be able to design for paperback and hardback, though, in my opinion, seeking outside help is recommended (unless you're a designer and have the right software). I have found great success in using https://100covers.com/ . For $200, they create covers for ebook, paperback, and hardcover, as well as provide social media images to use on FB, Instagram, and Twitter. You also never have to worry about licensing of the images (it's all handled).
ADVERTISING Okay, so this one is a bit of a moving target, although I am learning more everyday. If you google advertising strategies for authors, you'll find hundreds of books, articles, and services ready to take your money with the promise that they have the magic billet when it comes to marketing your book. What I've found is there really is no substitute for hard work. I began with something simple - a website. I prefer Wix, but you could use Wordpress or some other platform (they're all generally the same and are relatively cheap). Make sure it is clean, clearly shows who you are as an author, and is user-friendly. From there, you will want to grow your following. This can be done a number of ways (by giving away chapters or complete novels away in exchange for someone signing up for your site) or by advertising on Facebook, directing them to your page, etc. You'll probably also want to start a blog. This doesn't have to be a daily or weekly commitment, but stick with it and always post engaging content. When you have this step mastered, it's time to start advertising for your book. Now, if you only have one book, this can be difficult as readers devour stories faster than ever. But if you have multiple books or a series of books, your ad dollars can go a long way. Think of it this way - if someone reads your first book and loves it, they will want to read everything you've written. In my experience, I've tried Amazon ads, Facebook ads, and Bookbub. For my dollar, Facebook ads is the best, hands down. I'm able to customize my ads to include the images I prefer (Canva is a great tool for creating these), as well as my audience (by age, demographics, interests in similar author or genres). Currently, my ROI through Facebook is 2-3x ROI with a click-through rate of >15%, depending on the ad.
So, I know that's a lot of information, and admittedly, I'm out of breath, but a year is a long time. And while I've enjoyed success in the first year, I'm nowhere close to where I want to be. Here's hoping the next year is filled with even greater success and undoubtedly more lessons to be learned. If you have any questions about being an author, getting started, or want to share strategies that have worked with you, I'd love to talk with you. Like, share, and leave comments!