If you are an independently published author, you may be feeling like a juggler keeping too many balls in the air. That first decision to strike out on your own may be leave you feeling wobbly. Persevere. This month marks the beginning of my year three on this amazing carpet ride. I don't think I could have survived without the likes of J.A. Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith and David Gaughran - who, unknown to them, were my compass through those early mistakes and challenges.
Today, I'm going to talk about mistakes that could cost you big. My business partner, Tiffany Aller, (you might know her as Anne M. Carpenter), is on this adventure with me and she weighed in with a few choice experiences and complaints, too.
1. Write only one book. You've probably been beat to death with this, but I'm going to pile on. If you think you have a super duper, nobody's written better book, one you can publish and sit back to make a fortune, quit now. DANGER. DANGER. Heartache and frustration ahead. Maybe out there is that 1 in 30,000,000 writers that hits the bestseller jackpot, but you'd be better off buying a lottery ticket. This business requires a professional writer's focus and an unrelenting pursuit of good storytelling. I published full novels number five (Cowboy's Sweetheart) and six (The Daddy Spell reissue) before Christmas. It was the first time I saw a serious uptick in my sales with the books feeding to each other. Checking sales data, it was obvious readers were buying my entire backlist, time after time. The knowledge only made me want to write faster. Do yourself a favor before you publish. Sit down with a piece of paper and figure out how deep you can take this publishing thing. This isn't a get rich quick scheme. Writing and publishing is hard work, but a job well done guarantees a rich cadre of devoted readers buying your books.
2. Ticking off your readers. Don't fall for your own ego. "My words are the best words ever" and "I don't need anyone else to read this before I publish" are epic mistakes that can brand with you with low reviews and readers that avoid your product. Make no mistake here. Social media, at its most basic, is about people talking to people and that is where most books are sold. Readers gobble up good books that are smooth to read and entertaining. They will recommend that book to friends. What does that mean to you? Take the time to do the job right. But once you've decided to indie publish, edit, revise, and edit again. Hire a good proofreader. (If you didn't know that editing and proofreading are two different things, go here.) Review your format page by page and don't quit until it's close as close to perfect as you can get. That means YOU. This is a rule that applies to everybody with no exceptions. Nothing will tick off a reader faster and garner more complaints than a lack of editing, typos, and funky formatting. Those of us who read for relaxation and enjoyment, who don't want to be stopped throughout the story by these kinds of "rookie" mistakes will thank you for your effort.
3. Trying to please everyone. I believe that one of the hardest things for anyone who writes is learning to take criticism. It takes some maturity about your writing to let others read your work and accept that not everyone will like what you wrote. The thing about criticism is this: learning how to sort out what is valid and what is trash talk is like learning to ride a bike. It takes time to understand your voice, time to understand the power of the manipulated, edited word, and time for reflection to know what to act on and what to let go. If you can't bring to the table a lot of patience, the ability to bite your tongue and think, and the need to honor the higher challenge in storytelling, stay home. Being a writer requires thick-skin and a thorough understanding of your sense of writing self. Cultivate this above all else.