Learning from Your First Book

As you can see, there are major changes coming to my books with new covers and updates to some of the story with an updated prologue .  It’s been nearly a year since publication of Shield of Skool and while I wait on my editor to finish up Book 2, I decided to use my years of computer program management and do a critical analysis of my design and marketing efforts.

Putting out your first book as an indie is a great experience but also “fraught with peril” (I always wanted to use that expression).  As an indie writer trying to do things on a shoestring budget, I lacked real world experience within the publishing industry so I filled my evenings trying to glean the “best” way to design and publish my work. Using the idea of root cause analysis I went back to square one to see what I can do better and learn (hopefully) from my mistakes as I start to roll out Battle for Three Realms.

The following are my observations on the first book in bullet form:


    • Don’t trust your friends and family. Yes, I know how that sounds but its clear that family and friends are more likely to support you with well meaning nods of agreement rather than giving you a dose of strong criticism if you make a poor choice.  Also, DO YOUR HOMEWORK on what the competition is doing.  How can you compete against so many other writers if you put out a product that won’t catch a persons attention?  As I went through the designs ideas around the book cover, my mindset was to use public domain pictures in order to create a suitable cover for a fantasy book while using the “free” but limited tool set within Createspace.  And I received support from friends and family on this idea. 

    WRONG Choice as you can see going into the past on this blog and by the two covers on the left.  I think there would be strong agreement that the newest cover below the first looks much better for a dark epic fantasy.

    Recommendation:  Spend quality time and a little bit of money on trying to get the look and feel of the cover which matches your storyline.That said, there is no reason to spend big money on a cover.  Try Dreamstime and Shutterstock for photos and illustrations that work to build it yourself (prices vary but for about $15 you can get a full illustration to do as you need).  Understand and follow the copyright rules in the sites.  Also, there a great sites to have a cover built for about $35 and up.

    • Edit and edit again.  I know everyone says this but being headstrong, I thought one review by my editor was enough.  WRONG choice since I’ve found silly errors which should have been caught (and I’m not blaming the other person since it is MY book).  However, I realized that I was able to catch these errors because hadn’t looked at the book for several months so when I went back it was like new to me in many ways.  When I write something and reread it over and over during the making of the story, my brain sees words and phrases as I want them, not as I type them….

    Recommendation:  If you are like me and don’t do a good job of editing well during the writing, then get away from the book for a period of time and when you come back to reread it.  Also, I discovered that reading it ALOUD will help find those errors.

    • Start off with a bang.  I realized from my reviews that my first book started off too slow for some readers.  Again with the competition out in the market, it appears if you don’t catch your readers attention early with the preview capability on ebooks, you will get a lot of downloads of the previews but the sales will lag greatly.  While I don’t have statistics to compare with the industry, anecdotal evidence from the reviews and comments within forums lead me to this conclusion.
    • Marketing SUCKS but you have to do it everyday.  Ok, enough on how I would like to write everyday but if nobody knows I exist, how can they buy my work?  While I knew this was the major pitfall for independent writers, I didn’t realize the amount of time and effort required.

    Recommendation:  You need a Marketing PLAN.  Research the huge amount of advice online and tailor it to meet your needs. Then, stick with it. EVERYDAY you should be tweeting, spending Facebook time, chatting, emailing, forums, etc. getting your book out in the world in some way (NOT pitching a sale all the time since people will resent that but getting it out in front of people through links, cover art, forum discussions, etc). 

    That covers the major parts of my thoughts.  Now it’s time to see if I can get the time to do it all…….

    REMINDER: I have a great young author who is guest blogging for me and I’m doing the same for her blog.  Take a look at her work. 

     Here’s the link to Emily Murdoch.

      SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION:  Updates to my websites are complete with new covers.