Fiction writers - what i doContinuing this weekend’s special , I’m concluding yesterday’s post on 4 Simple Self-Publishing Tips with 4 More Self-publishing tips! The inspiration for this second installment came to me while reading Kristen Lamb’s blog and her blog post 5 Mistakes that Kill Self-Published Authors.

So, what are the common mistakes, translated into friendly tips (since, you know, I’m a nice guy and all that)? 🙂

Do not publish before you are ready

You will be ready to publish when you have a plot, a story, sound characters, development in the story, a beginning, a middle and an end and know where and how you want your story to end.  I think most authors realize that much.

There is, however, another side to self-publishing. If you plan on becoming a full-time author with sizable earnings from your books, you have to grasp the business side of it.  That means taxes, income from writing, organizing your timetable etc.

I started writing as a hobby; a liberating exercise. Progressively, I understood that I wanted to do it full-time.  So, I began promoting my book by spending my own money into marketing.  Although this can be necessary at the beginning, I now make more sensible decisions.  Having experimented, I know what works for my books and what doesn’t. I have to know how much an ad or a promotion will cost, in order to see whether I will recoup my expense in terms of items sold.  Trust me, it needs a lot of thinking and tinkering.  I recently paid for an ad that put me $80 in the red.  So, if I want to make money out of writing, I have to consider expenses such as editing, promoting or printing.  And the most important of all: time!

Writing is a lot of work

I know I mentioned this yesterday, too, but I can’t emphasize it enough.  Self-publishing entails a ridiculous amount of work!  It’s not that you just write a book and that’s it.  You re-read it; you edit it.  You give it to an editor, then you give it to friends – you now how I feel about my darling beta-readers by now – who come back with fresh ideas and/or changes to be made.  You make these changes.  Then you give the book to a proofreader.  Finally, you design the cover. Uploading on Amazon, CreateSpace or any other channel takes time, too, because you have to follow the proper format, you have to proof the first copy, perhaps you will need to make further changes and so on.

And that’s just to get you out of the gate! As a self-published author, the promotional side of things falls squarely on you.  You have to promote, email, blog, be on Facebook, Twitter, upload photos on Instagram, send thank you cards, organize your sales …

And in the midst of all that, you need to keep writing because, damn it Jim, you’re an author, not an accountant!  Let me just say that if you take your writing career seriously, it implies working some 8-10 solid hours per day; if you process into the equation your day job, it means a lot of work!

Misusing free

I chuckle as I type this, as I remember Ali Isaac’s great comments on the subject. You know how I feel about free days. I still think that giving away my book was a good initial step towards selling books.  I got new readers, a few followers, and a few reviews.  At some point, though, I realized that it is only efficient as part of an overall strategy.

It’s counter-intuitive in two ways: firstly, if you want to make a living out of it, giving away is not really the way to go.  Secondly, the ‘free book’ campaign should be part of your general promotional and marketing campaign.  You should sit down and plan your strategy and your business goals before deciding how you want to proceed.  This ties in nicely with two of the above points: self-publishing is a full-time job and also you need to see it as a business in order to make it work.

Just like a shop might organize its sales season so that every 4 months they will have a mega-sale on specific goods, so should you!  You should choose a very specific time slot during which you give away your book: for instance, right before publishing the sequel to your first book, it’s an interesting strategy to give the first installment for free for a few days, just to entice people into your writing world and make them want to buy your second book. Or, if you have a five-book series ready, give away the first book to encourage people to buy the rest of the series.

Don’t write just one book, then promote it to death

It usually takes at least three books to gain traction, no matter who the author is.  And most series don’t become successful until the fifth book.  Which means that even well-respected authors need to write a lot.

How am I doing, in that respect? I have published four books so far, I am trying hard to finish the third book of my epic fantasy series, Pearseus, and I’m working on my marketing.  I haven’t reached the point where I make any money out of my books; right now I am probably just covering the expense of marketing and advertising.

And yet, I know that this is the way to go.  To be honest, I don’t really like the idea of making writing a business.  I had a picture-perfect concept of the author who lives in a small house in the middle of nowhere, writes and magically sells books.  If I could afford it, I would probably hire somebody to do much of the promotional side of things (like organizing countdown deals etc), in order to have more time for my writing., maybe on an island (I would still network, though, because, well, it’s so much fun!)  In fact, I have come to realize that I actually like many parts of the marketing side of things: I get in touch with amazing people and communicating with them makes me a better person and an improved writer.  So, with a bit of patience, I hope that things will turn out fine!

P.S: as I was writing the part about my island-hopping author, I was reminded of a TV series called “Death in Paradise”.  The title says it all: people are murdered on a beautiful island in the Caribbean, and a very English detective is trying to find who did it.  The scenery is amazing: coconut trees, laid back happy people, working 9 to 3 at the most, cocktails at the end of the day, the most beautiful sandy beaches, sunshine all over the place (OK, I don’t miss that, I live in Greece).  At the end of every single episode, I turn to my wife and we both say in a voice that should my writing career take off, that’s where we want to end up!