A little over a year ago, I published–with much fear and trembling–my broken fairy tale collection, Shattered. (I felt sick to my stomach after I clicked the Publish button. If it hadn’t been for the fact I’d had other people working with me on it, I’d have unpublished it within the first few minutes.)
Since that time, I’ve gone on to self-publish a few more books and made some mistakes along the way (which I did so you don’t have to!). So, without further ado, I present my top 3 self-publishing mistakes (cue the trumpets).
The Downside of Diversifying
Earlier in the year, I talked about putting my eggs into lots of little baskets rather than the one big one (*cough* Amazon*cough*). To that end, I’ve started serializing my science fantasy novel, Quartz, and written short stories for specific anthologies and magazines. Unfortunately, this meant that I haven’t published an e-book since the launch of Mourning Cloak, at the end of January. Once Mourning Cloak fell off the recent releases lists on Amazon, sales dried up (Ouch, April. Ouch.)
Solution: I should be publishing an e-book (novel, novella, short story, collection) every 2-3 months. Right now, I’m working on a follow-up to Shattered. The fairy tales I’m breaking? Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid.
Scared of Sequels
I’m not a sequel writer.
There, I said it.
I know, I know. I’m a fantasy writer. But still.
I write a novel or short story or novella and instead of reusing my world or my cast, I simply move on and build another world and cast from scratch. Barring a handful of short stories featuring the same character, I don’t do sequels.
But readers like sequels. They ask me for them. I’m thrilled that they’re so invested in my characters that they want more of their story, but I’m terrified of breaking the first story or disappointing my readers’ expectations.
That’s a block I need to get over.
Solution: I wrote the first draft (zero draft) of a follow-up novella to Mourning Cloak. I’m determined to get Ironhand into shape and out to the world by late summer/early fall. After that, I’m going to write Flare, the sequel to Quartz. Once the sequels are out of the way, then I’m going to give myself permission to play in a new world (looking at you, Riven!).
It’s a rare author who hits it out of the ballpark with their first book. In the indie world, especially, most writers are successful because of their big backlists.
I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I was tracking my raw first-draft numbers. They aren’t impressive.
Look, I’m going to be brave and post them up here:
- January: 5,661 words (really pathetic)
- February: 16,683 (much better)
- March: 13, 817 (okay, why’d I backslide here??)
- April: 15, 533 (and this after being sick and undisciplined for the first half of the month!)
- May: 10, 548 (better than January, in spite of going to a con, testing for school, and getting ready for vacation).
Ideally, I’d like to write 25K worth of raw first draft words a month (a half-NaNo).
Solution: All right, this is the tricky part, isn’t it. Sure there are all sorts of motivational tricks to get you writing, but what it all comes down to is this: How much of my other activities am I willing to give up to make this happen? How much is writing worth to me right now?
Is it worth giving up sleep over? Worth giving up the time I spend researching, thinking about, and doing school with my children? Worth giving up my RSS feed and Dr. Who episodes for?
It’s a decision that’ll be different for everyone. For me–well, I’ve done NaNo. I know what it is to breathe, eat, sleep your story. I know what it’s like to have it spin through your head constantly and how hard it is to emerge from the story zone. And that’s not what I want in my life right now. I have young kids who deserve a mom who’s not checked out for most of the day. I can give a few hours a day to writing, but I can’t let it take over my life like that.
Simply put, writing isn’t my day job. Mothering/homeschooling is. It’s within these limits that I need to work on increasing my productivity (which I’m not doing too badly with now that we’re back from Disney and it’s summer vacation).
What about you? If you’re a self-publisher, what mistakes have you made? What mistakes have you seen other self-publishers make?