Late in 2014 I launched my second mystery-thriller-romantic suspense novel, The Last Fairytale. A lot of time passed between Book 1 and Book 2, and although I sweated the gap that produced no significant fiction writing, in hindsight I’m glad it worked out the way it did. It was quite a ride.
I’ve learned an enormous amount during the past three years. I started this self-publishing journey by joining Twitter early in 2011, then started my blog, then published my debut novel, Mark of the Loon, in June, 2012. I could write volumes about what I learned between book launches, but I’ve honed it down to these six points. Here’s what changed for me:
1. I’m a better writer
I’ve blogged once a week consistently since Spring 2011, with only a couple of misses. Blogging has boosted my confidence about my writing, increased the speed at which I produce coherent thoughts, enhanced my writing skill, and improved the quality of my books. All unexpected results, and for these reasons alone I recommend that most authors maintain a blog. There are many other reasons to blog, of course, but that’s another post: Why Do We Blog?
2. I morphed from a pantser into a semi-plotter
It took a year to complete the first rough draft of LOON: from June, 2009 to April, 2010. Back then I had a full-time job, no concept of plotting vs. pantsing, and plenty of time between writing sessions, so allowing the story to develop as I wrote worked out well. Now, with two books under my belt and the intention to launch more titles within a certain timeframe (that means faster), I’ve realized that pre-plotting the book is the only way to shorten the writing cycle and enhance productivity. I can write faster when I sketch out the plot upfront. It still allows for leeway and creativity, but just like any trip, it helps to know the events you want to experience and where you’re going to end up before you get behind the wheel.
3. Confidence and experience strengthened my personal filter
That means I’m better able to trust my gut and choose what’s right for me amidst the clamor of a million conflicting, well-intentioned voices eager to advise newbies about what they MUST do.
- No, you don’t HAVE to include book club questions in the back of your novel. In fact, book club questions make a great free download on your website, to entice readers to visit after they’ve read the book.
- No, you don’t HAVE TO make a print copy right away, although if you don’t, you’ll exclude yourself from some promotional options.
- No, you don’t HAVE TO set up a separate Facebook fan page for every book you write and populate them all with posts and beg people for likes for all your pages. (Acckkkkk!) and …
- No, you don’t HAVE TO do this or that or jump through hoops because somebody tells you to dance.
When it comes to self-publishing, use other peoples’ opinions as a guide (that includes mine!), but do what’s best for you. Here are the basic must-do’s: You must have a well-written, well-edited, well-proofed and well-formatted book with a professional-looking cover.
4. Established platform and social media accounts = better networking and support
Again, I’ve been working on my blog, building my email subscriber list and social media accounts (mainly Twitter), and connecting with other authors for nearly three years. Once you’ve built a mutually-supportive network, book blurbs, guest posts, tweets, shares and reviews are all easier to obtain.
5. Knowledge of the process reduces the anxiety and confusion of the book launch and marketing
I changed the way I went about many aspects of the writing and launching process (translation: I didn’t sweat the details of the launch). A little industry experience made it easier to manage and maneuver. Just like anything, once you run through the steps you get the hang of it, and every time you run through them again, you learn more. Eventually, you establish your own system and get into a rhythm. (I’m still waiting for that to happen, but I can see the possibility.)
6. I cooled my jets about “extraneous” money and time commitments
I didn’t market LOON at all during the past twelve months. And of course, I sold few books. I know, it sounds dumb. But I found that it was like smoking crack (hey, not that I’d know) to throw money at one-off book promos: I’d sell a few books, but I’d have to spend more and more and more to keep the momentum going, just to sell a few books. The truth is, the more titles you have, the better your chances for a single promo to sell books across your list. So I chose to bow out of the promo bandwagon and instead focused on writing more titles, improving what I did write, and streamlining the process. I plan to begin marketing with vigor after my third fiction title is released next spring.
Bree Butler shelved her dream of becoming an investigative journalist long ago. But when she finds a young biotech exec dead on his office floor, she starts to think she might have another shot at it – even though she’s a suspect in the homicide investigation. Bree and Detective Gen Delacourt (who we first met in Mark of the Loon), begin a danger-filled quest to unravel the puzzle. The deeper they dig, the more truth about their own personal lives is revealed along with the dead man’s. They’ll both begin again after this is solved … if Bree makes it out alive.
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