Lessons learned, for Leap-year day

On this odd day in February that only comes once every four years,  I just wanted to share some of my experiences from the past few months in hope of helping others who might be trying to follow the same path. This is what I would tell a new writer:

–First of all, do self-publish. Do it! I’ve never, ever regretted it. For all the vilification heaped on you by so-called professional writers and reviewers, it may be the only way of getting your work in front of a reader. And you’re never really a failure, when you do this: Self-published books have an infinite shelf life, and sometimes aren’t discovered until years after they’ve been published. Maybe you’ll become famous posthumously. But sooner, I hope…

–Edit, edit, edit. Edit until you’re sick of the damn thing, then hide it away somewhere for a few weeks. Then edit it some more.

–If you have the money, hire a copy editor. And maybe a cover designer, while you’re at it.

–Don’t overdo social media promotion. Your friends will get sick of you promoting your book, even if they won’t tell you to your face.

–Use a galley-sending service, like NetGalley. I did and feel it was well worth the $399 fee: all my best reviews came from that. But do make sure you are submitting the best book possible, because you’re not dealing with ordinary reviewers—most are professionals. And steel yourself for the worst.

–Do use Goodreads’ author program; and do the giveaway. Don’t be afraid to give your book away—yes, it has risks. But how else are people going to hear about it? But limit the giveaway to US readers only; I learned the hard way how exorbitant it can be to send books overseas (there’s no such thing as International Media Mail).

–Don’t release a book over a major holiday such as Christmas. For that matter, don’t release your book in the middle of winter. You’d think it would be a great time to sell a book, reading by the fire and all that, but it seems everyone reads on vacation or at the beach.

–Submit to the dragon: If your book is similar to mine (quiet, literary) and you want to publish it in e-book form, just go right to Amazon KDP. Don’t bother with any of the other platforms. I enrolled my book in Amazon Select, and even though it prevents me from selling on other book sites, let’s face it: Most of your sales will be through Amazon anyway. (You can still sell your print book anywhere) And they do offer potent promotions to help move things along.

–Such as advertising. I decided to try out their ad program, with some trepidation, setting up a modest budget of $200 to start. The program runs for a month or so, and you’re charged every time someone clicks your ad. It’s too early to tell, but I think it’s helping: I’ve had about 40 clicks so far, two weeks in, and I’m starting to see some sales.

And finally, don’t be discouraged. This self-publishing thing is a long game. Just keep at it, don’t take it personally…and begin the next project.

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