423 days ago I outlined ‘8 Ways to Self-Publishing LIKE A BOSS’. I detailed my very tedious but enjoyable process on the road to publishing my book. As a result, an identity crisis followed, but in it I also learned a lot of things about my identity as a writer and why it always pays off to take a leap of faith.
It’s been a year since I took the plunge, bypassed the gatekeepers and owned my business owner status by putting my book out into the world!
So what happened after that?
After fighting the urge in the first six months not to un-publish my book from Amazon at least a dozen times, I have accumulated some lessons, liberation and wonderful readers along the way. And though my book is not in the Guardians bestsellers list, the process of staying the path has opened my eyes to the reality and freedom of being a THRIVING SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR of my 5 star rated book ‘Hope & Worth’…
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ADVERTISING and PROMOTION
1. Cast Your Net
After I hit the very intimidating yet thrilling ‘publish’ button on Amazon and experiences the thrill of success, the very daunting task of marketing hit me.
How was I going to get my book out there, and who was going to buy it?
Here’s where Drake’s lyrics “started from the bottom…” began to ring true. I mean this in the most respectful way possible, but start from the bottom with the people right there with you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with blasting as many people on your WhatsApp, email list or LinkedIn about the amazing book you spent months creatively writing and working hard on. In fact, it’s an achievement most people would marvel at, celebrate with you and want to buy into. Utilise that! It’s not very often that most people get to know a published writer so milk your status, uniqueness and niche for all you can with your Aunty, her best mate and that person you used to go to school with fifteen years ago. You never know where your next book sale can come from.
2. Cast Your Net Even Further…
Now, there’s no point staying at your current level of influence.
After all, we still have to get to the “…now we’re here” part of Drake’s lyrics.
For me levelling up looked like using all my social media channels to engage the potential audience of friends of friends of friends. I’m talking all thrusters on Facebook, Twitter with a separate authors pages on these platforms, whilst on Instagram with my personal profile. Eventually I extended my reach to complete strangers in specific Facebook groups. By contacting the group or page administrators there were special days where writers like me could specifically promote my book or for it be featured on lists for more people to see it on. These groups ranged in interest and narrowed down as I went from people interested in reading, romance fiction, female writers, female readers and really anyone or space that seemed like fertile ground for readers of interest in my novel.
Joining these groups also enabled me to watch and learn from how other self-published writers introduced themselves and promoted their book/product/brands. Sometimes that meant becoming friends with other self-published writers so they could read my book (and I their book also). This was a great opportunity to be offered feedback, a review, a re-post or even tailored promotion for my book too! What a great way to make some more writer friends, especially now!
And even wider than that, it also allows you to engage with a wider community of go-getters like yourself, who are just as eager to support your work. Even though I am no longer on these social media channels, I’m still in touch with some of the people I met on there. Plus, I’m now able to use these lessons from those interactions in my subscriber Newsletter to help engage a more exclusive audience.
3. Host an Event
About six months after I released my book I hosted an online event on Zoom called ‘Waiting on Your Words’ which was essentially the launch of engaging a more exclusive audience for my work and insights as a writer.
I just didn’t know it yet…
This online event was really an opportunity for me to put my face to my book in a way that people could see and hear. I was asked questions about my process, the themes and the characters in the book and my overall mission as a writer. For me that unlocked my passion for sharing tips, tricks and overall enthusiasm for the creative magic and wonder of writing. Through that I’d discovered that I had a lot to say about stories and writing than just my stories would allow. Which then became the springboard for me to launch my quarterly subscriber newsletter!
4. Start a Newsletter
As I said, there’s something wonderful about the process of writing and knowing that you aren’t doing it alone.
The thing about meeting other writer friends and hearing about their journey is that not only does it make you feel less alone (let’s face it, writing can very much be a solo act) but it’s all HUGELY inspiring. The more I would talk to other writers, the more I found nuggets of wisdom that seemed silly to keep all to myself. So I wanted to create a one stop shop where aspiring, current, curious and all the above writers could benefit from these sit down sharings as well.
Creating a newsletter was the avenue in which I chose to do that. I’d considered a YouTube Channel, but as much as my other day job is being an actress, I’d much prefer using my words. Ha. So far I have been going strong for the past 9 months with my quarterly bulletin. The gestation period has resulted in the birth of something special that is more solid in shape and identity now more than ever.
So if, like me, you find that you have more than the words of a story to share with the world, why don’t you create a space where you can collate information to share with others to help in their writing journey as you continue to grow in yours too. Right now, for me, that primarily looks like a newsletter. And if you fancy sneaking a peak too, subscribe to my newsletter for some encouragement, challenge, inspiration and some darn good words too.
5. Have Some Goodies
No, not that kind. Goodies to give to your readers.
When I was promoting my book on various groups and pages, I set up a limited promotion for people to respond to and win a free tote bag. This worked a treat and actually helped me to engage with a few readers I otherwise wouldn’t have. These were people completely far from my sphere of geographical and cyber reach. It helped solidify my book as a product for consumption. Also, the tote bag was creating more advertising for me wherever the reader used it! Win, win.
So don’t knock creating a few t-shirts, pens, bookmarks or any other promotional product that can help with the appeal of your book. Your bank account and book’s sales spreadsheet will thank you for it.
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CONTINUE TO WORK ON YOURSELF
As you focus on all the out-pour for your product and writing career, don’t get lost in keeping track of only tactile progress and productivity. You are the person who is being most affected, so here are some ways you can continue to love and nurture yourself to help you best serve you and your writing…
6. Develop Your Own Rhythm
Stamina is important for any task that requires regular and long-term commitment. Being a writer is one of them.
Listening to what works for your own overall well being, career progression and creativity is so important. You can’t write well from a stressed, strained or striving place. Or maybe you can. But it would get exhausting very, very quickly.
Much like running a marathon (which I have never done) pacing is important. Sometimes you may have to dedicate just an hour a day to writing. Whereas at other times you may have a deadline that requires you to do long writing sprints instead, cancelling the week’s worth of binge worthy Netflix series with your housemates. Maybe you will need to go away somewhere and experience some focused solitude. Or maybe you just need to book a couple of days off from your day job to submit for that writing competition that could change your life.
Whatever it is, plan, make time and have energy for it.
Oh and don’t compare yourself to what your writing friend may be doing. What is useful and productive for them may not be so for you. Make room and be open to the flow of creativity and develop a stride you enjoy and that actually produces good writing.
Wait, you can have fun whilst writing? Yes!
So while you’re at it, check in with yourself too. Have you had a good meal today? When was the last time you felt the wind on your face? Have you had some water lately? Make sure you are living too. You may be a recluse, but life is not. Writing is not for the faint of heart and what you are doing requires courage, so make sure you celebrate those mini achievements along the way too. Celebrate the fact that you opened your laptop and researched carnivorous plants native to the Amazon. Or that you met your 200 word limit for the day. Or that you finished the third draft of your TV series treatment. You are a champion and should be celebrated like one!
Don’t stretch yourself too thin
Your output is totally dependent on your capacity, so don’t stretch yourself too thin.
I know I’ve already mentioned this briefly, but it’s worth re-iterating that it’s so important to track your efforts and see where the return on your investment is. Your investment being all your targeted energy, creativity and genius. For me, I struggled to keep interacting on a more public platform like social media on a regular basis because my time just didn’t allow for me to be consistently present on there enough. But what I did find was that more personal and targeted efforts like WhatsApp broadcast messages to friends and acquittances reaped a more positive and fruitful return in book sales and support. So focus your energy on wherever best suits your communication style and skill set. And don’t forget to take regular breaks to celebrate and recuperate. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
You are a business
With all my talk of product and productivity, I’m sure you’ve probably figured out by now that being a writer is a lot like owning your own business.
It takes daily and regular commitment, promotion, risks, mistakes and successes to share with the world the book you worked hard to creatively and masterfully write. So much like a business regular attention, upkeep and expenditure is required. Having business premises like my Amazon page which my book is published onto, my own website, a separate email address for my newsletter contact and even a P.O Box were all part of it. Operating like I would a business owner helped separate my output into more clearly defined and trackable tasks and outcomes.
No longer did I find myself making endless lists daily and shooting in the dark, hoping I’d hit my targets. No. Instead I set myself specific goals, for example, updating sections of my website for better interaction and flow for the viewer. Or creating images to represent my brand and then testing their effectiveness with friends and family feedback.
All of these things can start off as trial and error, but once again if you focus on developing your rhythm and listening to what works for you, you’ll soon find you’ve got yourself a pretty successful system going.
Your dream can be made reality
I have to admit now that I’ve made my dreams come true of publishing my very own novel it was hard to not just sit down and book a year long cruise (travel restrictions permitting). But actually in all this I have learned that staying focused, putting in the work and trusting the process is making the dream a reality. No fairy dust needed. Okay, maybe a little. But we writers are dreamers and therefore innovators by nature. So don’t be phased by how big the dream may seem initially. Size it down to goals and daily commitments. And once you hit those targets and develop your oh so graceful and unique stride, you’ll look back and be so impressed with the mammoth task that you took on and accomplished. How?
Like a boss, obviously.
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Reflective practice is said to be important for anyone desiring to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their professional practice. It allows you to identify strengths and weakness, stay open to learning and improve on overall quality of experience and productivity. Being a writer is no different. As I’m sure I’ve established by now, you are building something. And building requires planning, resources, process and reflections. Especially if you hope to do it all over again, but better.
8. Learn Some Lessons in What You Would Do Differently
Now that I’ve outlined what worked and what may not have worked, I’m certainly wiser for it. More than anything, this journey has taught me to not give up. But if I could do a few things differently, I would…
Hire a book designer
I love my books design. It’s simple, memorable and does the job. But I also know that someone else could’ve brought their vision, creativity and knowhow to take it to the next level.
I love collaborating with people, but unfortunately I missed an opportunity here in my haste to get the book out there by my deadline. I missed out on the first and most vital point of contact for the reader: the book’s cover image. The storytelling begins with the first image, usually the book cover, and as such it provides a compelling and accurate representation of the story and its characters.
In hindsight, I think I played it safe. If I had given my book more time, I probably would have had a more music inspired book image or let my designer run free with their inspiration. So for anyone else who may be as impatient as I can be, take your time in deciding your book’s cover image. Your book will thank you for it.
Hire an editor
My words are my own, and I’m very grateful for the flow of the creative universe that has gifted me with them. But I also know that getting a second opinion can be helpful.
In all my bravado and risk-taking nature, I deliberately chose not to hire an editor to glance over my manuscript (which would later become my book). As a result, I had to suffer the cringe worthy moments of having friends and family message me about a typo or format issue along the way. Of course, I have much thicker skin for it, but I definitely could’ve benefited from far fewer weeks of panic editing than I had to do. At one point I actually had to force myself to stop for fear that I would start writing a completely different novel!
Thankfully, now I’m open to helpful criticism. But if my manuscript had gone through the scrutiny of a skilled editor, I probably would’ve saved myself a lot of sleepless nights and cringing.
Not stress or worry as much
Having said all of that, I wish that I had enjoyed the process of trail and error a whole lot more.
With hindsight, I can see how necessary and beneficial it was for the continued success of my book and the growth of my writing career. But whilst I was in it the strong and wrong desire to be at Dorothy Koomson level notoriety made me sell myself short. Everyone has to start somewhere. Even if that somewhere is misspelling your character’s name once or twice. Or even taking the risk to leave social media altogether to focus on engaging your audience better in a way that suits my skill set. Certainly on the other side I can irrevocably say that all the risks and mistakes were worth it.
So having said all this, would I do it again? Absolutely! Bigger and better and with a whole team of smart, talented and skilled people with me.
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Want to start your own Self-publishing journey?
Check out my blog 8 ways to Self Publishing Like A BOSS.
IS THERE GOING TO BE A BOOK SEQUEL?
Thank you for reading my second blog post! If you haven’t read the first book ‘Hope & Worth’ yet, what are you waiting for? The second one?
Well, here’s some good news. There will be a sequel to Trent and Nora’s love story! I am in the middle of working on Trent and Nora’s next adventures in love, emotional intelligence and healing. There will be travels, romance, drama and a whole lot more music too. I know you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I am enjoying writing it. So hang tight, release date to be announced on my website soon…
Still need to read ‘Hope & Worth’? Buy it here as an ebook or hard copy now.
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