We’re supposed to learn from our mistakes.
It’s what makes us grow as people or something. Usually I find it better to learn from others’ mistakes. It saves me the embarrassment that comes with the lesson.
But, sometimes making our own mistakes is unavoidable. In those cases we should default to the conventional wisdom. I’ve made my share of mistakes and I’m trying to learn from them. But, there’s no reason you shouldn’t benefit from my errors as well. Today I’ll be focusing on those relating to self-publishing because you don’t have all day. Even then, I’ll keep it to five though I’m sure I’ve made many more.
Before we begin, let’s look at where my mistakes have gotten me just so you have a sense of scale.
I began self-publishing my work three or four years ago. Right out of the gates I was fortunate to gain some positive attention. I was selling thousands of books a month. 25,000 in the first year. At it’s peak I was just waiting for my boss to ask me to work the weekend so I could storm out.
But things have changed. The market has changed a lot and sales aren’t what they were. Not even close. Not even remotely close. Other authors that began publishing at the same time as I did have gone on to tremendous success. Looking back at what they did there are some clear discrepancies in my path. Here are five places where I’m pretty sure I went wrong.
I DIDN’T FOCUS ON A SERIES
My first book was well-received. Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors sat in the top 1500 on Amazon for a year. It held one of the top 3 spots in comedy for six months straight changing places only with my other titles. Did I write the sequel right away? No. I’m working on it now. Three or four years later. It’s what my readers seem to want most. I should have written it then.
Instead I wrote several other titles that were also intended as series: The Bulletproof Adventures of Damian Stockwell, Dumb White Husband, Pilgrim, Tortugas Rising. Those were my interests and where my passion was at the time. It was what I wanted to do. Not what the market wanted. Readers like a series. Many say they won’t start a book unless they know there are at least two more to follow it.
I should have focused on a series before branching off into other works.
I IGNORED MY EMAIL LIST
Many people graciously invited me into the their inbox but I’ve always struggled on how to make an email worth their time. I’m so active on social media that I feel they must get tired of hearing from me. This dilemma always made me shy away from building a decent newsletter list.
But, having a decent mailing list is the surest way to reach readers. Readers that are eager to hear about new work. Now, I’m very focused on it. You may have noticed that for the past few months, signing up for my list gets you a free story. I intend to keep that up and build that list because…
I CHASED WHAT WAS WORKING AND WHAT WORKS CHANGES
I had tremendous success with Twitter. And I had so much fun interacting with everyone. But time goes on and things fall out of favor. Twitter seems a wasteland compared to what it use to be. Usage is way down. Interaction is way down. It’s changed.
Then Facebook changed their algorithm. If someone wanted to see what was on your page all they had to do was like you. Now they have to like you and comment on posts if they want to see you. Or, I can pay for the people that liked my page to see my posts which is cost prohibitive. I get why Facebook did it. But, it’s effectiveness has dropped far below useful.
The advantage of free books were destroyed by their abundance. Bookbub and like sites give you a boost but no sustained lift. (Unless you have a series, I hear.) And the effective ones have grown so big they are restrictions are hard to meet by average sellers.
Things change and they’re out of our control. The only items an author has complete control over are things he or she owns. That’s a mailing list and a website. (And my website’s a mess. I know.)
I SPREAD MYSELF TOO THIN
I wanted to do everything. When I came home to write full time I had so much energy. I was going to illustrate. I was going to write a book a month. I was going to do freelance copywriting. Guess which one took off. The freelance has been a blessing but I hardly have the time to write that I use to.
But, the family stays fed and that’s important, too.
I SLOWED DOWN
But my biggest mistake—I slowed down. I was releasing titles consistently. I was on a roll. Once that streak was broken, it’s been hard to get back up to speed. The lack of new releases combined with a lack of visibility from the reasons above were death to sales. I still had people waiting for my next release. But they never got the news. And the more I’ve slowed down, the less news I have to share.
So those are my five biggest mistakes. I’m sure I’ve made others and would be willing to hear what you think they are. I want to say I learn from my mistakes. And hopefully you can learn from them without having to make them yourself.
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