I’ve only been at this authoring thing for about a year now and I’ll admit, I’ve made some missteps on my self-publishing journey. Mistakes can cost you time and money–very important factors when you’re trying to build an author platform and sell books. Some of these things are easy to avoid, others not so much. My hope is that you’ll keep these in the back of your mind as you gear up to publish your first book and not hit the same roadblocks that I did.
1. Focusing Too Much on Social Media To Sell Your Book
When I first started building an author platform, I spent too much time trying to amass Twitter followers and boost Facebook posts on my page. While I did learn great ways to reach my audience in the process, the fact of the matter is that social media has a low return on investment when it comes to actually selling books. Nobody likes those tweets that are salesy and self-promotional. I use to follow an author who did nothing but tweet about his book non-stop. Somehow he had followers in the hundreds of thousands. I’m going to guess that the sell-through rate on his book was probably not proportionate to his follower count. And that’s what I’ve experienced when I self-promoted too much or tried to point people to Amazon all the time. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. are very useful for promotion in moderation, but none of them should be considered a magic bullet to net sales. Social media sites are primarily for interaction and discussion not droning on and on about how awesome your book is.
Thanks to my short-sightedness on social media, I completely neglected other avenues of legitimate marketing like building an email list or utilizing Google ads. So now I’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover because of the blinders I’ve had on for the last few months. Don’t let this happen to you!
2. Allowing Negative Reviews to Cause Doubt in Your Writing Ability
One of the first negative reviews I received was two sentences long and the gist of it was that my novel was bland and lacked clarity. I agonized over that review for days afterward asking myself whether or not I was cut out to be an author. Did I have what it takes? Is my writing boring? Will I keep getting more and more criticism about my work that would confirm my ineptitude as a writer? On and on it went. This self-doubt overshadowed the fact that I had a dozen or more positive reviews from readers who enjoyed my work and wanted more. As creatives, we beat ourselves up over our art constantly. When there’s only a single voice of disapproval that confirms our fears, we ignore all the good feedback we’ve received. But this is foolish.
As an author you can’t please every reader. Peoples tastes and preferences are different. If you’re aiming to please the crowds, you will be disappointed quickly. To say nothing of that fact that all the self-pity and doubt are not productive. The time I spent thinking about that negative review could have been spent elsewhere–like writing my next book, promoting my current one, etc. Don’t let negative reviews paralyze you. I’ve learned to keep on trucking and now I try to avoid reading reviews, whether they’re positive or negative. If you really must know what readers think just check your book’s star ranking/score as a gauge. Then move on. You have more important things to do!
3. Viewing Other Authors as Your Competition and Not Connecting with Them
Early on in my author career, I had this notion that indie authors who were writing in my genre on Amazon were my competitors. Their books stood between my book and success. Thinking about collaborating with such authors was unthinkable. This is a wrongheaded outlook on so many levels. First of all, other indies like you are likely going through the same obstacles you’re facing–book promotion woes, lack of sales, writer’s block, and so on. Why isolate yourself from them because you feel like their books are the Pepsi to your Coke? It’s much smarter to reach out to them, build a rapport, and find successful strategies that benefit you both. Secondly, many indie authors have likely been in the publishing game longer than you and have established street cred, either in your genre or in writing communities online. Collaborate with these authors so you can make connections that not only benefit your author career, but also allow you to give back to the indie community.
Two great examples of this kind of collaboration come in the form of guest blogging and cross promotion with other authors. I’ve experienced this with my fellow fantasy author, P.H. Solomon, who generously allowed me to guest post on his site, Archer’s Aim. That guest post received a bunch of traffic that actually propelled my novel into the bestseller list for my category on Amazon and directed new readers to this site. Since then, P.H. and I stay in contact and try to help each other out when we can–something I highly recommend for new authors.
Besides promotions and guest blogging, reaching out to fellow authors or joining writing communities will make you a better writer overall. One of my best friends, Emory Skwara, happens to be an author and his feedback on my writing has been invaluable since we write in the same genres. He is not a competitor. He is an ally. And so should any author be who you come across. Remember, we’re all trying to attain the same goals. So fight the urge to compete and instead, collaborate.