Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year One: The Mistakes Edition

Darn tootin', Louisa May!

I celebrated the last day of 2014 by playing about two hours of doubles tennis. This is an activity I thoroughly enjoy.

Except on New Years Eve 2014.

There were two players on the court who were basically angry gray storm clouds. Whenever a ball was hit out of bounds or into the net, the air grew tense. Mouths thinned. Eyes grew grimmer. Even when a ball went over, but it thunked instead of whizzed, they called themselves names or, if someone else did it, said, "Well, aren't you lucky?"

Yeah. They were quite the awful pair. They didn't seem to care that most of those missed balls were at the start of our session, when we were warming up and getting the rhythm down. And when we were warmed up and started doing some pretty awesome volleys?

They didn't give much of a sh*t. Their eyes, mouths, and basic states of being were pretty much toxic cesspools of Negative Nelly-ism.

And this brings me to the purpose of this blog:  

Mistakes are clunky missteps that take you one step closer to your goals and dreams.

They are opportunity for growth, the first steps that have us toddling about, finding our footing and learning to walk better, faster, and ultimately, taking us to the places we've been planning for in our five-year plans. (You have one of those, right?)


This new world for me was self-publishing. 
December 2014 marked my first year as a self-publisher. I made many mistakes. 
These included:

1-Muddling about trying to find my author brand (see this post discussing my latest book cover to give you an idea about the muddle).

2-Paying for followers, whether it was through Facebook boosts/ads or Blog Hops. Blog Hops will get you a TON of followers wherever you want them (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). However, 95% of these new "fans" are contest mongers. They're not readers. They're not even writers. I made the mistake of asking for Instagram follows and I probably got 500 from 2 blog hops that cost me the price of a book and a Starbucks grande ($10). This is cheap, but paying a penny for a load of crap is still a penny too much.

I know writers who would love this cheap following. But ask yourself if you want to see just numbers or if you truly want a quality following? Out of the 500, I probably blocked 470. Yeah. The quality stunk noogies.

3-Creating a Facebook Page. No one saw my stuff. I may have had 217 fans (not a lot, but something during a year where I was hustling to write books), but the most interaction I had was from about 12 people. As of late December 2014, I moved to a profile. Best. Decision. Ever. I want to INTERACT with my peeps, not see them as a number.

4-Creating a website on a platform that was just not me-friendly--and paying too much for the experience. I used Wix, and at least for me, the site did not like my "I don't know what I'm doing" placement of images/texts. The resulting website was clunky and, ultimately, a mess. I took it down after about six months and moved to Blogger. I'm happier with less, if that makes sense. (Caveat: Wix may work for you. But for me, it did not.)

5-Offering a book for free and promoting it for free on one of the promotional email services (Book Bub, Book Gorilla, Ereader News Today) if you have no other book to sell. I did this with my first book and gave away approximately 4,000 books Christmas 2013. I received two reviews from this giveaway and about thirty books sold afterward. I didn't make my money back from the cost of the ad.

6-Giving concrete deadlines. I kept doing this, even though I knew I shouldn't! Even something as kinda-not-so-concrete as "December 2014" would bite me in the butt. Instead, I began to write "The next book comes out this winter!" Because that gives me until March 20 to meet that promised deadline. ;o) Also, I had to stop promising things beyond my most pressing deliverable. One short story is still in the works, and the second is turning into a book next year. I think. I'm not going to be concrete with this yet!



However, there were some things I got right. 
These are things I will continue to do, 
and I'm glad I stumbled into using them:

1-Using Book Blog Hops to offer BOOK-ONLY prizes, no gift cards. Maybe a cute ornament (at Christmas time) or candy (at any time). The contest-mongers want cash, not books. I find that if I offer newsletter sign-ups as the way to enter the contest, I'm happy. If the Book Hop isn't offering a newsletter option, send the people to a place where you don't care if your numbers are inflated--like Google+. I got some great reviews from people who got these type of prizes.


2-Paying for photos and fonts (give yourself a cap to contain costs!). I went to a couple of stock photo sites and really found great photos to use on my book covers, in my promotional ads, and on my website. And you can find some great free fonts at places like www.fontsquirrel.com, but my "signature" font that I use on my His Favorite Series is Pro Style, which I paid for the privilege of using.

3-Using Goodreads to promote books via giveaways. But right now, I only do giveaways to U.S. readers. I got a lot more interest when I opened it worldwide, and I received a lovely letter from a reader in India. BUT the cost of sending two books to that Indian reader was $24 (for $6 worth of books). Spending $30 for a "maybe" review (and who knows if it will be a good one) is not worth it this early in my publication timeline. When the time comes, I'll open this to more readers in Canada and England. The kind of novels I write are big in those two countries (funny romances and, soon, funny mysteries).

4-Offering my book up for free to those who have loved my books via my Facebook and Instagram pages. Getting those reviews are worth more than trying to grab a couple of bucks more from people who really like you.

5-Building my newsletter list over any other list (Facebook, etc.). The number of opens and click-thrus are high (based on MailChimp averages). I always make the letter fun and reader-centric, it has a giveaway given to a reader on the Newsletter list, and it is sent once a month. 

Mistakes are okay. 
Really. 
Your mom will forgive you.

Keep in mind, when you make mistakes, most people won't even care. If you're new to this publishing game, you won't have much of a following that's going to care. (And no, family and friends do not count.)

Harsh, but true. 

So yes, I made mistakes in my first year as a self-publisher. But I have a song I sing when I mess up--be it on the tennis court with a couple of Gray Clouds of Doom and Gloom or in my book world where I have to block 470 contest-mongers. 

And it's this:


Sydney Strand is a writer and mom who has published two books through New York and another five via self-publishing. She writes funny little romances, but not of the Red Room of Pain variety. More like the Dan and Roseanne Connor variety--humor is sexy, dontcha know. You can follow Sydney on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and/or you can sign up for her All Things Awesome Newsletter.

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