A big thank you to the Storyreading Ape for allowing me to bestow my knowledge . . . Nope. Couldn’t write that last part with a straight face. You see, I went full-time author in December of 2012 and I’ve learned a lot since them. Though most of what I learned is rather ‘me specific’, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t figured a few things out that can help a new author avoid a few pitfalls. These are all general ideas and observations that can easily be undone from the start.
I say this every time someone asks for advice:
What works for one person might not work for another. This means you should research every marketing and writing path to see if it fits what you want to do. One way to figure this out is to see if you’re getting opposing suggestions. For example, I write in a present tense style and I’ve had people recommend that I switch to the more common past tense. Right off the bat, I know this won’t work for me, but I also have people telling me how refreshing it is to read something like this. You see, everyone makes suggestions off their own experience and preferences. If you go along with one group then you might alienate another and even lose your own preference. Follow your gut and stick to your guns unless there is overwhelming evidence that you need to change.
Speaking of change:
Take a step back from what you’re doing every month or two. You would be surprised how often an author beats his or her head against a titanium wall without realizing it. Some things simply don’t work and you need to be ready to accept that. Now you may find yourself in a situation where you’re so far in that you can’t back out. Like starting your career with a long fantasy series and not realizing this until you’re 6 books in. All you can do then is maintain your confidence and remember that you’re creating something big. If not that then weigh your options between stopping for another project and continuing on. The former risks losing momentum and the latter has a risk of bombing without the influence of the bigger series. Either way, it comes down to personal preferences and you shouldn’t have other people make the decision for you.
One of the biggest tools that I’ve had to figure out is social media.
I still don’t see how Tumblr and LinkedIn help authors, so I’m going to leave those alone. I also tend to forget Pinterest and Google+ exist, which means I only have the big two. Facebook is useful for having an author page and promoting on indie groups that allow it. I don’t do the latter anymore because I wasn’t getting anything besides spam and headaches, but there are many that are great for interacting with other authors. This requires time, so you have to be very good at managing your day to maintain this venue and your projects. Not to mention sleeping, eating, showering, exercising, and any non-computer events like birthdays and holidays. As far as Twitter goes, I can sum it up in the following list:
- Use hashtags for genre and author groups, but don’t overdo it.
- For promos, find sites that can shrink a large URL.
- Tweet at least once a day. For more, you can use Hootsuite to schedule stuff.
- Return retweets and do hashtag searches because you’ll get followers and retweets by retweeting. I try to do this every 2-3 hours for maybe 10-15 minutes at most.
- Never forget to Pin tweets and switch it every few days. If you retweet a lot then you don’t want it to be a long hunt for your own stuff. Also, if you keep a single tweet pinned up there for too long and rarely tweet new stuff then people might think you have nothing to share.
Let’s see here.
I covered social media, researching suggestions, my golden rule, and author self-awareness. This post isn’t going exactly by the numbers . . . Oh yeah. You’ll be tempted to check your sales numbers, blog numbers, Amazon rankings, royalty numbers, and so many other stats only a daily, if not hourly, basis. Long ago, I recommended that you find the most positive number to hang onto as a pick me up. I’m changing that stance because I’ve come to another personal decision. FORGET THE NUMBERS! Seriously, I’ve lost sleep and driven myself insane over these things. Other authors have made a name for themselves analyzing these numbers and explaining them. Here’s the thing with that: If everyone knows the trick then it doesn’t really change anything. Say every indie author discovers that an Amazon category has fewer authors in it, so it’s easier to get on the Top 100 List. You have a flood toward that one and now it’s a bigger challenge that requires you focus on outside influences and puts you back to square one. The numbers and what creates them is always changing, which means you can find yourself chasing them more than actually writing. Not saying you shouldn’t do that because I don’t know you, but personally I think an author shouldn’t let the marketing and number side of things sink the writing side.
A final suggestion before I leave:
Take breaks. I’ve learned this the hard way and you assume it’s an easy thing to remember. Until you get into the marketing side and have a book idea that won’t leave you alone. It’s always easy to say you’ll take a break or to tell someone to take a break. Once you’re in the thick of it, time flies away and you’re exhausted before you realize what’s going on. This goes for everything in life, which boils down to do things in moderation including the dream job or hobby. One hour away can revive your mind and give you the energy to get more done in the week. Not just the day because fatigue builds up. That one late night to get ahead can cause you to fall behind because you’re moving slow for the rest of the week. I say this from experience because I pushed myself like mad in 2015 and ended it barely able to make it through a day. Even a good night’s sleep had little effect some days, so I truly, honestly suggest that you don’t push yourself to exhaustion. Besides, sleeping can lead to dreams and those can create new stories.
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