Jeff Haws is a published author of fast-paced, suspenseful fiction, an award-winning journalist, and an obsessor over words and writing. He's gone from documenting the world around him to creating worlds of his own for him -- and you -- to explore. He's been writing for more than 20 years, from shivering outside at high school football games to walking the halls of the Capitol in DC. … Read More about Welcome
While my next novel faces my editor’s red pen, I’ve been thinking about how to make this next book release better than my first one. Not that it was a disaster or anything, but I figure I should always try to improve. When you’re a self-published author, it’s all on you. So if you don’t find ways to improve, nobody’s gonna do it for you, and there’s plenty of competition ready to lap you if you’re moving slow.
So, I was looking back at what I did for that first book release, and I picked out three mistakes I want to make sure I don’t replicate. And, hey, if you’re an author, maybe you can learn from my stupid mistakes so that you don’t make the same ones. Because I’m a helper. Here goes …
- I wasn’t diligent enough about getting the formatting right
This was the biggest mistake, and it cost me. When I went over all the various formats on Kindle Direct Publishing’s website, everything seemed to look fine. I had it set up how I wanted it. With the author-friendly word-processing software Scrivener, it’s kind of idiot-proof, anyway. Well, other than for this idiot, anyway. Since everything looked good, I went ahead and placed my first full book order. But what I wasn’t able to tell on the screen was how the font size would look in print and, when the books showed up and I opened one, the font was a couple of points too small. That was enough to make it difficult to read, and my first order of books was basically a bust.
The lesson: Always get the proof copy to hold in your hands and look at before placing a full order. Of course, this mistake was partially caused by the second mistake …
- I scheduled a book-release party before I knew for sure I’d have books ready
I really wanted to have a book-release party at the house for my first book. Who wouldn’t? It’s pretty frickin’ exciting. I don’t really like being the center of attention, but it was a good excuse to have a bunch of friends over, and to peddle some books too. I scheduled the party and invited everybody, thinking it was far enough out to be fine, but it turned out that I put myself under a time crunch. The party date was approaching, and I didn’t have the books yet. If I didn’t have the books yet, it sort of put a damper on the party, eh? So that got me rushing, and that was part of the reason I pressed myself not to go with the proof copy, and that cost me $$$$$$.
The lesson: Don’t fully commit yourself to a release date until you’re 100% sure you can make the date work. And if something comes up to make it not work, call an audible. Don’t cut corners.
- I didn’t reach out to anyone
Now, granted, I didn’t know a lot of people in the author community then. But I also didn’t make much of an effort to know them either. So, when my book hit the street, so to speak, there was very little way for anyone who wasn’t connected to me in some way to know. No bloggers were writing about it. There were no press releases, or podcasts, or Thunderclap campaigns. If you weren’t already following me on Twitter/Facebook, you probably had no idea “Killing the Immortals” existed. That’s not gonna do, from a marketing standpoint.
The lesson: Enlist some help in getting the word out. Don’t just rely on your own network to tell people your book exists.
So, that’s it for now. There were probably other things, but those three stand out. Hopefully, I’ll suck a little less with each book. And there will be more. Oh yes, there will be more.