Three-Month Check In
I unwittingly pushed publish on the paperback editions of Acorn and Sapling on January 1 and thought it was time to provide an update on how it's going.
Spoiler alert: self-publishing is hard!
Everything I read said it would be, but it's hard not to think you'll be the exception. After all, only you know how hard you've worked. Surely the people having a tough time don't have the thousands of hours and dollars invested in their books that you do? But of course they do. Novel writing is not a vocation for those who require instant gratification. The process naturally weeds out the hobbyists.
With that in mind, here are my takeaways from my first three months as a self-published author:
YA is the wrong genre for self-publishing. The internet warned me, but I didn't listen. I would strongly caution anyone who is writing anything other than romance or certain types of fantasy, such at LitRPG, against self-publishing. I couldn't even get people interested in ARC reviews on my book because there aren't services set up for my audience.
Bookstores and their owners are amazing but competing in a sea of books is almost impossible. I am incredibly grateful to the handful of bookstores who were willing to take a chance on an indie author. However, trying to get my book to stand out in a sea of professionally published books is a challenge. No one is walking into a bookstore with the goal of purchasing my book. I'm an unknown and when you pick up my book it doesn't have starred reviews and promo quotes from established authors. In retrospect, I probably needed to do a better job of conveying genre on my cover but live and learn.
Selling locally works! That said, I paid to have my books in a local variety store in downtown West Jefferson, NC where I live and that's working out reasonably well. Tourists seem interested in a local author, and having a sign next to the books to entice readers is incredibly useful. I have signed up to sell the books at a couple of local events and am hoping that also proves fruitful.
Amazon ads also work but are expensive. I watched and took copious notes on the Kindlepreneuer Amazon Ads course, which I highly recommend. I set up ads and they did work. I was getting sales and Kindle Unlimited reads, but I was spending about 20% more than I was making. When I finish the trilogy, I will revisit my ad budget and strategy as I do think that with more effort and understanding I could wind up net positive.
I should have finished the trilogy before I published. That was always my plan but I found myself editing instead of writing because it was easier. I reasoned that if I published, I wouldn't have editing to fuss with and I'd get back to writing. Well, I'm no longer spending my time editing; now I am spending it marketing. I'm putting marketing efforts on pause until I publish White Oak.
I have to finish the trilogy so that I can shift my focus to marketing. With a full-time job and a hobby farm, I don't have the metal resources to write and market at the same time. I've made a few promises that the final book will be out in September. That's just on the cusp of do-able if I can get my head on straight.
This was a lot of whining, so we will wrap up on a happy note. Thank you to the friends and family who have supported me in this journey! It's been a rocky road, but the kind words I've received on my writing have kept me going. I appreciate you!