Sometimes, our lives are meant to serve as a warning for others…so perhaps, these 3 tips for new (and unpublished) authors may help you prepare for success or at least to avoid some mistakes I’ve made.
There are all kinds of information out there and some of it comes from many more successful authors. However, I’ve kinda stolen these tips from those more successful authors…and each one was something I did wrong and later had to fix.
- Know your genre – Yes, you want to tell your story your way and no, you don’t want to ‘steal’ ideas. Yes, ‘imposter syndrome’ can be debilitating, but that’s why we do NOT compare ourselves to others. Moving on…if you want to reach readers, you need to approach them on their level. Fantasy readers know the hero’s journey and expect a thought-out magic system. Romance readers are familiar with their favorite tropes and expect a happy ending. Failure to meet your readers’ expectations may mean they ignore your book and/ or could result in negative reviews which no new author wants.
- Packaging is important – Covers and blurbs are your first opportunity to reach your readers by meeting their expectations. Check out the top performers in your genre and see what they have in common with each other and with your book(s). Play upon those strengths and still push what’s unique about your book. Readers’ ability to recognize your story genre by sight will help them find you.
- Get your personal/ professional ducks in a row – As you should know your genre, you should also know yourself, your book, and your brand. Have you heard the 70/30 social media rule? Only 30% of your social media posts should be ‘buy my book’ type of posts. The other 70% is your brand…which should still relate to your book. My Rahki Chronicles is basically a contemporary fantasy road trip so travel is part of my brand and (conveniently enough) it is also something I love. Figure out which social media sites work for you and get them all set up with the same bio, author picture, and logo. Post different material with some overlap – use a scheduling app as needed. As you want readers to recognize your genre, you also want them to start recognizing you!
Again, let me reiterate that I’m sharing these tips I’ve received from multiple other sources as they were things had I to correct during my publishing journey. They are also still things I’m learning.
I was familiar with fantasy from TV shows, movies, and Harry Potter, but I hadn’t even heard of urban fantasy until a reviewer noted that’s what my book was (feel free to roll your eyes at my ignorance – I do, but I’m also working to correct that issue). I certainly hadn’t read urban fantasy or even read extensively in fantasy. Depending upon your goals, that may be fine for you. However, once I decided to see my writing not only as a creative endeavor but also as a business, I had to make changes. I pulled my books in 2014/ 2015 and re-wrote and changed the covers before re-releasing in 2018. I’ve since changed the blurbs again. I’m also approaching new works differently by keeping marketing and reader expectations in mind as I write new stories. No, I don’t feel this limits my creativity – I think it inspires me to be better. It’s not only writing a story I’m proud of but also writing it in such a way that it reaches and entertains fellow readers.
I’ve used 2021 as an opportunity to expand my genre reading and it’s been a fun learning experience. I blog each month about a different popular fantasy book. I review them as a reader and also as a writer. Here’s the introductory POST on that blog series if you’re interested.
As for my personal ducks, again, that was something I had to change in 2018 and continue to work to improve. Those changes were also a result of my decision that my writing isn’t a hobby, but a business. Only you can decide what your business brand means and the best to present it. However, I do think the quicker you figure that out, the easier it is to advance your publishing journey.
I use Draft2Digital to publish as they can reach a multitude of sites with a single click by me. This reduces my efforts and extends my reach. However, I would advise you to publish to Amazon directly. It didn’t matter at the beginning as I liked having all my sales records together. It did matter when I decided to try Amazon ads and can only do ads for books I’ve upload directly. I’ve also heard advice to upload directly to B&N and Kobo…but D2D is now offering promo opportunities when you upload directly with them so I’m not sure on those yet.
**5 Recommended Resources**
It is difficult to figure out who to follow and listen to when you’re starting out (or even several years into your journey like me). These are sources I’ve tried and have learned from so they make my recommended list.
Bryan Cohen – free webinars on Amazon ads
Inkers Con – annual writers conference (held virtually in 2021); author Alessandra Torre also offers free classes
20booksto50k – Facebook group with a lot of educational opportunities
Kristen Lamb – blogger with a multitude of craft posts
Your favorite author – I follow Leigh Bardugo, Ilona Andrews, and Kristen Painter for example. It helps to see their release schedule, blog posts, and social media habits.
**Second Bonus Tip**
Don’t be afraid to learn and make changes. Whatever expert advice you’re following is just that…advice. You can probably find multiple sources that contradict that resource. It is your book and your journey so it needs to work for you. Just as there’s no single book for every reader, there’s no single publishing path for every author.
No, I haven’t found the success I want as an author, but I am learning and making changes. As I’ve learned from others, I want to try to pay it forward to my fellow writers. It can be exhausting and frustrating for us and we need friends and resources in the business.
I keep my blog open for guest posts from author friends so reach out if you are interested! You can also comment below with your struggles and tips – we really can all learn and grow together.
Happy writing and reading, my friends!