Today, I have a guest blogger.
Keri Kruspe, fellow writer and friend, writes this blog and shares with you her experiences as a first-time author and what she wished she had known beforehand. I wish I had known, too.
What I wished I’d done differently
By Keri Kruspe
Now that I’ve gotten more than six months of being an indie author under my belt, I wanted to take a step back to see what (if anything) I would have done differently to start my publishing career.
The short answer is yes…yes, I would do a couple of things differently if I could do it all over again. In order to give a clear reason as to why I say that, let’s take a look at where I was back in October of 2018 when I launched my first novel.
Back then, I had to start everything from scratch–
- Website (you mean I need my own…?)
- Media Presence (i.e. Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest – which ones – how do I use them?)
- Author email
- Author Brand (Brand…what in the world…)
- Decide to go “wide” or “KU” (huh?)
- What software to use to format for electronic readers as well as paperback (never heard of epub…mobi…again huh?)
- Newsletter or blog
- Create your newsletter subscribers (where in world would they come from?)
- How do I find an editor who will work with me? What about a proofreader – do I need both or more?
- Where do I find a good cover artist for my genre (heh…I read/write in a genre?)
More importantly – where in the world do I go to learn how to do all of this??
Instead of diving deep into each one, I thought I’d give an overview of what I strongly feel I’d like to do different if I could go back into time and have a do-over.
WIDE OR KU?
Ah, the ago-old question. In all of the training I’ve taken, the overwhelming answer you get is, “it’s up to you…it’s a personal decision.” A very nice, safe, gentle non-answer that doesn’t help much.
So, here’s my two cents worth: If I only had one book to release starting out – I’d do KU first.
Let me explain.
When I started as a new author, I had A LOT to learn (see above). I figured, no big deal, why not go wide and reach not only Amazon customers, but everyone else in the universe as well. Why get stuck for 90 days in only one vendor – I planned to release the other books right after the first.
Well, things didn’t work out quite that way. Because of my inexperience, I didn’t realize how much time it took to get each novel ready (and I’m talking about after I’ve written it and done my own “due diligence” in editing it on my own).
Because I had so much to learn and do – if I’d gone with Amazon exclusive with the first one, I would have gotten a little “boost” in launching my book – plus have a little extra “time” to learn the ropes while I got the other books ready. I could have stayed there for 90 days, and by then at least my second book would be ready and I might have gone wide then if I wanted to.
In all the “noise” of trying to get advice on what makes a successful author (by noise I mean, training, websites, various advice on social media) the one that stands out the most is you have to have a healthy mailing list (okay, had to admit I didn’t know what a mailing list/reader magnet was until after I launched by first book). And in order to get that list, you need to over a “reader magnet.” Which, loosely defined is a prize your readers gets when they join your mailing list.
There were several suggestions on what to offer for a reader magnet: a book in a series (ack – only had one book…so this was a “no go”) or a short story or even something exclusive to what I was writing. So, I used my “writers bible”, something I created about the universe of my trilogy. It was a thirty-page “encyclopedia” with various info of my characters and the aliens (the trilogy is a sci-fi romance). Should work…right?
Seven months after my launch, I only have 40 subscribers on my list. If I could have this “do-over” I’d have a short story reader magnet ready to go before I launched my book. Because I thought my little catalog would be a good incentive, I waited until three months into my publishing career to rethink the whole thing.
So, taking a deep breath, I pulled out an old short story (around 35,000 words) I wrote ten years ago and gave it a complete overhaul. I’m hoping to release it in July and then start a mailing list campaign (fingers crossed). My goal is reaching at least 100 subscribers by the end of the year.
Wish me luck.
In hindsight (don’t you love hindsight?…it’s always so spot on…), I wouldn’t have tried to learn everything at once. It’s so hard to figure out how to make a website from scratch while learning the ins-and-outs on how to create/maintain several social media business accounts. Add to that how to effectively create visual ads (Canva and BookBrush are my friends). Also, how do you make those ads profitable? What makes them profitable?
Let’s not mention that at the same time I had to learn how to polish my writing skills (this includes eliminating my unnecessary adverbs/filler words and creating an in-depth point of view for my characters).
What I should have done was finish learning my writing craft first. This may or may not include working with an editor. Then I would have mastered these skills one at a time (instead of trying to do them all at once) and I would do it in this order:
- Hire a reputable cover artist
- Find appropriate editors
- Design and create my website
- Sign up for an EMS (email mailing service) and produce a landing page with my reader magnet ready to go.
- Learn how to upload/format my books (including paperback)
- Discover how to upload formatted book onto the appropriate retailers (i.e. Amazon, Barns & Nobel, etc)
- Marketing – this could include making ads (and how to determine if they’re viable). How to join/create a blog tour, and/or newsletter swaps. Let’s not forget social media. Learn when and how to use them.
Okay..whew..got my frustrations out. Now that I’ve finished venting, what’s next?
Now it’s catch-up time. My trilogy is out in the world and it’s time to create a new story. I’m getting back into the habit of reaching my writing goal every day. As I mentioned before, I want to finish working on my reader magnet and start the campaign to increase my subscription list. Still trying to master making ads and monitoring them. I’m sure I’ll be working on that for the rest of my career.
As for the “should’a” part of this article, well, wallowing in regrets isn’t quite my style. I’d rather learn from my “mistakes” and move on. If my experience helps others, that makes me happy. Please keep in mind this disclaimer…what I’ve written is only my opinion. There’s no guarantee what I think should have worked better actually would. You know what they say about opinions…everyone has one!
Keri Kruspe, author of Otherworldly Romantic Adventures – writing about feisty heroines who aren’t afraid to take chances in life or love.
Keri has been an author since the age of twelve and has always been fascinated with otherworldly stories that end in Happily Ever After. Her current sci-fi romance trilogy, An Alien Exchange (winner 2018 SPF Galaxy award) had its first release winter 2018. The story continues with D’zia’s Dilemma and concludes with Ki’s Redemption.
A native Nevadan, Keri resides with her family in the wilds of Northwest Michigan where she enjoys the stark change in seasons and the pleasures each one brings. An avid reader, Keri loves an enjoyable bottle of red wine, a variety of delicious foods and watching action/adventure movies…usually at the same time. You can find her most days immersed in her fantasy world on her latest novel while foot tappin’ to classic rock. When not absorbed in her writing, Keri works alongside her husband in building their dream home or discovering intelligent life in America in their RV. Join the fun and sign up for her mailing list at www.kerikruspe.com