My Indie Journey – Lessons Learned

It’s been almost six months since I decided to go indie, and not quite two since my first book published. As with anything new, there’s been a learning curve. I’ve been fortunate to learn some things from other indie authors — especially Terri Giuliano Long — but some of my lessons have come from doing it not quite right the first time. Mark Young posted an update on where he is and what he’s learned, so I’m stealing his idea and doing my own learning process post.

What I Would Do Differently

  • I set Thrown Out’s publication date before Kyrie had looked at all the stories, which meant when she sent me back for rewrites multiple time on one, I went from having a comfortable cushion of time to being right up against it to still meet my announced publication date. Next time: Book 2 is going to be ready to go before I announce its release date. Kyrie and I have bounced around some targets, but she won’t see the full draft until the end of November, so we won’t really know until then.
  • Related to that, I didn’t leave any promotion time before Thrown Out published. That meant no time to send ARCs to reviewers and minimal time to build anticipation among readers and potential readers. Next time: I’m leaving a good 8-10 weeks between when the book is ready and when it launches. And I’m already researching book bloggers and reviewers to submit ARCs to.
  • I didn’t focus enough on the importance of getting pre-release reviews. Since Thrown Out published, I’ve gotten one book blogger review, plus five reader reviews in various locations. It’s definitely helped, but it seems from what I’ve seen that it takes 15-25 reviews to really start to get traction from people who don’t know somebody who’s read the book. I also didn’t think about trying to line up a blog tour, or even what it would take to line up a blog tour, until a couple of weeks after the book’s release date. Next time: I’m going to use that gap between the book’s completion and its publish date to line up reviews and a blog tour, either on my own or by contracting with a company such as Novel Publicity. As with everything, there’s a time-money tradeoff there. Hiring a publicist costs more up-front, but saves time. I don’t know which I’ll end up choosing, mostly because the time piece is affected by what’s going on at my FT job and I won’t know that until it gets closer.
  • I tried to get the paperback edition out ASAP after the ebook. Part of that was because I didn’t leave enough time before the pub date to get the paperback done for a dual launch. Next time: I’m either going to do a dual launch, or put the ebook out there first and set a paperback release date a few weeks later with a set date. That’s one area I definitely want to talk to some other indies and see what their experiences have been.
  • I didn’t really get into Goodreads or IBC until after the book came out, and I didn’t do very much to promote it on other social media sites until a few weeks ago. Mostly, it was a time factor, but some was inexperience as well. Next time: The more I use the different social media sites, the better I understand how to use them well — for values of well = authentic to my personality, without spamming and effective.

Things I Want to Repeat

  • As always, Kyrie did a stellar editing job. The final book was much, much better for her input, and she’s going to edit this book as well. Without her, my work wouldn’t be nearly as good.
  • I wrote a good book. The reviews have been excellent and readers and reviewers have praised the characterization, the storylines and the writing. One professional editor told me she’s been recommending me to her colleagues and friends as somebody who’s doing indie publishing the right way, and I want to build on and keep that reputation by continuing to produce quality books.
  • I spent some time working on the cover and bouncing it back and forth with people to refine it. It’s gotten several compliments so far, and I feel like it reflects the book. I have some ideas for the next book’s cover, but I’m sure that will evolve as I beta-test the possibilities.
  • I used my Story Cubes Challenge entries to hook potential readers on the characters by posting those and promoting them. I haven’t done any new ones lately because I was in book draft mode, but those should return soon — I have two sets of prompts waiting for me.
  • I spread the word through my various online and offline circles and managed to pick up at least a couple of sales in almost all of them: the NCIS fandom, online writing friends, my local writers group, my coworkers, fellow gym instructors and gym members, people in my hometown, friends in various places and, of course, my family. My mom and one of her friends have done a lot to promote the book in my hometown and I’ve gotten considerably more sales from there than I expected. The NCIS folks have been great about reviewing — many of them are writers as well and they know how important reviews are when you’re a new writer. They and my online writing fans have been wonderful about spreading the word online. It’s been amazing to see how much support everybody has given this writing adventure of mine, and I really appreciate it.

This next book I’m thinking will be out in Q1 2012, but a lot depends on the rewriting process and how long that takes. As with Thrown Out, I’m sure I’ll make mistakes and learn better ways of doing things for the future Exeter books. But some things will work better, and I’ll be able to avoid some of the mistakes listed above. It’s taken me more than a dozen years to become the writer I am now — it’s going to take a while to master the other elements of being an indie writer as well.

5 Comments on “My Indie Journey – Lessons Learned”

  1. I want to say you have inspired me to attempt something I have never done and that is to write my first novel. I have written stories, mainly for myself, so I want to say “thank you”. I don’t know if I will get it published as finances are the biggest block, but I am going to give NaNoWriMo a shot and see what happens from there 🙂 It is a start all because of your experiences and journey which you have shared.

    Based on your recommendation and experiences with the “Rory’s Story Cubes” I bought it as an app on my iPad. I did that so:

    1. I don’t lose the cubes (something I tend to do with any “dice” game)
    2. Accidentally pack them away during a cleaning tirade
    3. I can use the app when I am out and about
    4. Saves space around my desk

    You have some great advice, which I don’t know about everyone else, but I appreciate. And I also enjoy learning about the process. I have been writing for 23 years, mainly to reduce stress and relax; it is also something I list as a “career goal” since I enjoy it.

    So again, congratulations on “Thrown Out” and good luck in the future with the Exeter series.

    1. Awww… Thanks, Marie! NaNoWriMo is a great way to start because it makes you focus on the project for a set period of time and get a rough draft done. The hard work comes after that, but it’s a great kickstart!

  2. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot of great lessons and are doing a LOT of it right! Congrats on your successes so far, and good luck getting the next installment done!!

    1. Thanks, JG! I’m certainly trying. Fortunately, the indie community is very open and welcoming – it’s a great environment! Kristen Lamb’s WANA (We Are Not Alone) approach has become the hallmark of the community in many ways and it’s been wonderful to work with and learn from some very talented writers so we don’t all need to make the same mistakes every time.

      1. It sure is! She and Bob Mayer have been on my radar for a long time, and they’re having great success.

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