Today’s guest post continues the 12-part series I’ve launched in this new year: asking self-published authors what are the top 5 things they’ve learned in the last year. Last year I featured numerous guest posts from indie authors who’d been successful, and I noted the diversity of reasons for their success—some completely in contradiction to another’s—so I thought it would be helpful to have more authors give their insights into the most valuable lessons they’ve learned. Hopefully it will help you navigate the convoluted and confusing maze of indie publishing and give you ideas on how best to spend your time so that it produces the results you desire in your writing career.
Today’s guest post is from Florence Osmund:
Entering into the business of self-publishing has been and continues to be quite the learning experience for me. My list of lessons learned is quite long, but here are the five most important ones.
1. Professional editing is a must. Now I know this subject is debatable, but I don’t think I will ever be swayed to believe an author can effectively edit his own work. Here are my reasons for hiring a professional editor.
- Most writers don’t possess complete editorial skills. The majority of qualified editors have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in English, creative writing, communications, or journalism and have been educated in all aspects of writing and editing.
- Editors are likely to catch errors that authors miss since it’s easy for authors to inadvertently skip over errors when they know what they meant.
- Editors can be more objective than the owner of the writing.
- After living and breathing the manuscript for months, writers often become too attached to be critical. Editors don’t have this problem.
- A fresh pair of eyes will catch missed errors.
- A second opinion from someone who knows what sells can be invaluable.
For example, in an early manuscript draft, my editor said to me he could easily connect with all the characters except the protagonist. He just didn’t get what she was all about. What? I knew that character inside and out. After all, I had lived with her for almost two years. I spent more time on her than all the other characters put together. And he didn’t get her. But if he didn’t get her, then it was likely others wouldn’t get her either. I never would have seen that on my own.
Yes, You Do Have To Promote and Market
2. When you write multiple books, you will spend as much time on promoting and marketing as you do on writing. Boy, I didn’t see that coming.
I currently spend my mornings catching up on what’s being discussed on nearly fifty online discussion groups for authors. When appropriate, I jump in and give my two cents. This often leads to referring people to my website, where there is additional relevant information on the topic at hand. So in the process of helping others, I may also drive them to my website, where I promote my books. I also use mornings to post on my blog, participate in online interviews, write articles, and read and review books written by other self-published authors, all of which create exposure and potential book sales.
Other ways I promote my books are by taking advantage of book promotion sites, searching for target groups, and trying to connect with book clubs. In the afternoons, I write. Well, that’s not entirely true. I actually spend more time rewriting than writing.
Don’t Discount WOM Promotion
3. When it comes to promoting your books, word of mouth counts. I did the math—if each one of my 78 Facebook friends promoted my books on their Facebook pages, it would reach nearly 10,000 more people. Now that’s a lot of exposure. Another successful promotional word-of-mouth method I recently used was to offer everyone I know a free copy of my next book if they put me in touch with a local book club that in turn chooses my book for one of their upcoming reads. As a result, I have five book club discussions on my calendar.
Word-of-mouth marketing is considered one of the most credible forms of advertising. It is such a powerful promotional tool, there is even a trade association dedicated to it: WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association).
Indie Publishers Are Not Alike
4. All indie publishers are not alike. After spending a considerable amount of time reading the fine print of several indie publishers, I discovered these truths:
- They each had a different equation for calculating royalties
- At least one of them actually owned the rights to a book in the end
- Some had costs so buried in the fine print, they were hard to decipher
- Half of them had sole control over the pricing of a book
- At least one used such vague language in their fine print, it was difficult to tell what they meant
Something I learned too late is that it would have been helpful and prudent to talk to other self-published authors before selecting the indie publisher. Their testimonials would have been beneficial in making the final decision. Fortunately, the one I chose turned out to be a good one.
A Surprising Lesson
5. I realized I loved writing. I left the best for last. I always thought I would like to write books after I retired. Well, I was wrong. I don’t like it. I LOVE it.
Florence Osmund grew up in an old Victorian home in Libertyville, Illinois, complete with a coach house, the same house she used as inspiration for her first two books. She earned her master’s degree from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and has obtained more than three decades of experience in corporate America. Osmund currently resides in Chicago where she is working on the sequel to her first novel.