Check back next Tuesday for more writerly words of inspirations!
My collection of short stories was released in the US one month ago today. And while I’ve been published before (all of the pieces in the book featured my reoccurring character Detective Shaw and had previously appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies), this was different. This book, every part of it, was mine.
There were no stories by other authors to carry the reader through if they didn’t like my writing, the style, the voice of the piece, the characters or the plot. If a reader hated this book, the only one they could find fault with was me. It’s a daunting thing, making yourself vulnerable, putting yourself out there like that. I didn’t know what to expect.
And, this being my first release, I had no idea what to do.
I didn’t do any blog tours. I didn’t even do a proper book release leading up to publication.
I wrote the stories, put them together, formatted them, etc., but that’s the easy part. Getting someone to read them is an entirely different, much more difficult task. Because obviously, that’s the goal, right? To be read? But how, exactly, do you get those readers?
I used my Bookfunnel account (I pay $20 a year, which allows me to offer a link for a pdf, mobi and epub file for up to 5 books, which is how I distribute a free copy of a short story to people who subscribe to my newsletter), to create a landing page for a free download of the book. I then took out an ad with a $15 budget on Facebook targeting mystery readers in the US, UK and Canada. I had 72 downloads.
I also posted on several boards on Goodreads offering free copies for review. I had about 25 people request a copy.
I offered a free download to everyone on my mailing list. Six people requested a copy.
So, in the first week, I managed to get my book into over a hundred hands. I actually only know 2 of those 100+ people.
I’m painfully introverted – it was difficult and awkward just posting requests for reviewers on Goodreads – and there I was, relying on the kindness of strangers. Crossing my fingers that I got some reviews. And that they were good. And that some of them ended up on Amazon. Because just a tiny bit of research will tell you that’s what it’s all about – after getting 50 reviews on Amazon, Amazon will start taking measures to advertise your book for you. What writer wouldn’t want that?
And then, instead of obsessing about it, clicking the refresh button every five minutes to see if someone had left a review or actually *gasp* purchased a copy of the book (I made myself wait at least ten minutes to refresh), I got back to writing. Now, one month later, here are my results:
16 ratings, 15 reviews on Goodreads, 6 reviews on Amazon, and 6 books sold. I even got a little Instagram love from the fabulous @Booking.With.Janelle!
I’m more interested in reviews at this point than in selling copies of the book, I believe that one will lead to the other. I’m happy with these results, and believe it’s proof that you don’t need a huge budget to advertise your book.
But I’m going to tell you what you do need – an end product that lets readers know you respect their time. Which means making sure the copy is clean by EDITING your butt off – then doing it again and again! Working on the formatting until you get it right. Resisting the urge to hound the people who directly requested a copy from you, asking where their review is.
And I’m going to say it again. EDIT. We’re all human. I’ve found typos in books distributed by the major publishing houses. And there’s no denying that it’s hard to catch errors on something that you’ve read over a dozen times, especially when you wrote it, because you know what it’s supposed to say. But, as writers, if we expect readers to make the effort to leave a review, we should first make the effort to make sure what they’re reading is our absolute best effort, whether that means reading the work out loud, backwards, one sentence at a time, trading edits with another writer, or all of the above.
The reason I’m harping on this is that I’m hesitant to read books by Indie authors myself because I’ve read so many that were error ridden. And a couple of the reviews I received remarked about the lack of typos, which means other readers have had this experience as well. The publishing world is changing. The gatekeepers have lost control and now anyone can – and does – publish their work on the various available platforms. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make sure the book babies we’re releasing into the world aren’t quality work. Take the time, make the effort, and your readers will thank you (and read your next book!).
If you missed out on getting a copy of Detecting Fear and you want to do so, it will be available FREE on Amazon next weekend.
Check back next Tuesday for more writerly words of inspirations!
I’m a firm believer that if you have writer’s block, then you’re writing the wrong thing.
I know that doesn’t help when you have a deadline you have to meet, or when you come to a paralyzing halt at a crucial point of your latest manuscript, but sometimes it’s the pressure you put on yourself that builds that brick wall between you and your creative process. But sometimes it’s not.
If you find yourself staring at the screen, the blinking cursor mocking you with words you just can’t write, shake it up. Skip ahead and write a later scene. If that doesn’t help, work on something else. It’s a perfect time to explore that short story idea you’ve been contemplating, or to try your hand at a piece of flash fiction. A different genre. A children’s book. Poetry, anyone? (Limericks? 😉 )Even jotting down notes and a loose framework for a new manuscript can help shake the words loose.
Like many people, I was struggling to write with the whole quarantine thing. And even though I know I have to shift gears when I hit the wall between me and my words, I didn’t want to. I LOVED what I was working on. But I couldn’t get much work done. I was wasting time and energy. So, I jotted down a few ideas, and one caught fire.
I wrote a brief synopsis to remind myself of the idea, and everything fell into place. The words flowed like water. I was fixed. So, I returned to my WIP. Made some progress, but it was stilted. It felt forced. I still loved it, but it was a struggle. The piece deserved better than that. Even though it broke my heart, I set it aside. I’ll return to it one day. It’s definitely a tale I need to finish, but now’s not the time. And that’s okay.
Just like when your body tells you something’s wrong, your creative process can, too. Maybe I’ve yet to live the experience that will allow me to bring an added layer of depth to the story. Maybe, as the idea stews on the back burner of my brain, I’ll think of a great twist that I hadn’t planned and wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. Or maybe, the delay isn’t even about me – maybe it’s waiting so it can become the story a reader needs to find, when they need to find it. Maybe they don’t need it yet. Who knows how these things work?
Whatever the reason, it’s not the story I’m meant to write right now. Life is short, and writing, with all it’s associated stress and pain, headache and heartache, should still make your heart sing. Don’t force what isn’t working. If you’re struggling to get the words on the page, find a different page. The important thing is to find something – anything – that gets you writing again. May the force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and just do it!