Last year, after having one novel published by a traditional publisher, I decided to publish my second novel – Thieving Forest – independently.
After six months of research and preparation I launched Thieving Forest in mid-August, and the experience has been enormously empowering.
Also confusing, exhilarating, time-consuming, and an effort that required me to exercise my brain in new and interesting ways.
It was like starting a new job, which it was. And like a hopeless perfectionist, I wanted to do everything right.
What have I learned, and what would I do differently next time? I’ve kept the list short.
And use BookBaby or Smashwords for all other eBook sales. When I launched Thieving Forest I used BookBaby for all my eBook sales in order to cast a wide net. BookBaby created a beautiful mobi (an eBook file) and placed it in the Apple Store (iBooks), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Kobo, and other online ebook sellers. This was great. With one click, and a one-time cost, I had a formatted ebook available in a dozen online stores.
The drawback? I found out too late that at BookBaby the report time for eBook sales lags by as much as three months. If you use Kindle Direct Publishing you can get daily sales figures for your Kindle sales.
This is enormously helpful when evaluating promotional efforts. And to be honest, while I’ve gotten a few eBook sales from the Apple Store and Barnes and Noble, the vast majority of my eBook sales are kindle sales.
If you’re going to do any kind of promotion (and I recommend it), then it’s important to see resulting sales data as soon as possible.
Create Advance Review Copies
Create an ARC (Advance Review Copy) and send it to newspapers and journals in advance of the launch. Many journals don’t require a 3-month lead time, but some do (online as well as print).
Why not cover all the bases?
It’s annoying to find a place that would likely review your book, only to find that the deadline has already passed. I put a lot of effort into getting as many reviews as possible, and I think this is important to aid a publication’s legitimacy. I will certainly do this again.
Form a Tribe of Writers
Form a small network of writers who are publishing independently at the same time. Two or three is fine. There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s changing all the time.
When I was working on getting my novel out I knew one person who had done the same thing, but it would have been nice to have three or four as additional resources. This way I wouldn’t feel like I was taking up too much of one person’s time!
Write a Backlog of Blog Posts Before You Launch
In the first few weeks after the book launches, it’s hard to find time to write blog posts. And yet this is the crucial time to keep a dynamic website. It’s nice to have posts “ready to load” every week.
Proceed Slow and Steady on Social Media
I got very enthusiastic about LinkedIn groups … and then I burnt out … just as my book was launched!
Manage time on social media wisely. My textbook was Social Media Just for Writers by Frances Caballo, which helped me identify which social media platforms I felt most comfortable using.
The best advice I got? Choose two from what’s available (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram) and focus your attention on just those. I love twitter—the quick info-bite format suits me—and yet I was also surprised to see how much influence Facebook had over sales.
My advice: experiment with posting on different platforms for a few months before your book launches, and see which platform resonates for you.
One thing I know I did right: I sought a lot of advice from the experts. Don’t think you have to re-invent the wheel for all that the publishing industry is rapidly changing.
Find the experts who seem to have their hand on the industry’s pulse, and follow their blogs. In some ways independent publishing is getting easier, but you can always do it smarter and better.
I guess that’s the perfectionist in me.
About the guest author: Martha Conway’s first novel, 12 Bliss Street, was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her short fiction has been published in journals including The Iowa Review and The Carolina Quarterly. Her latest novel, Thieving Forest, won a North American Book Award for Historical Fiction. She lives in San Francisco.
About the Author of this Blog: Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. You can receive a free copy of her book Twitter Just for Writers by signing up for her newsletter. Connect with Frances on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.