Ace is the king of the cat tree.
In this post I want to touch on the things I had to learn. Keep in mind that I have a full time job, I’m neurodivergent, and what works for me, especially with my non-writing obligations, won’t necessarily work for you.
Here are the things I learned that were absolutely important to the process, and I’m very glad I figured them out early on:
Trust the Editing Process
If you hired an editor or enlisted the aid of one (and good for you if you did), listen to them with an open mind. In my opinion, the two types of editors who can really help me are content editors and copy editors. Content editors focus on the story elements and structure like plot, characters, continuity, and flow. Copy editors look for technical errors such as grammar errors or misspellings. Don’t be afraid to listen! Don’t be thin skinned. Their input is not an attack or an implication that you’re a bad writer. Remember that it’s literally their job to make your work better so that your audience will want to come back for more.
Double check your work. Before you submit it to any publisher, use a program like Pages or Calibre to view your work as an ebook. Order a physical copy and read it cover to cover. I didn’t do that because I had read it so many times that I was positive I had everything covered. I didn’t realize that the ePub layout structure for my first book would change just enough to make the paragraph breaks wonky or that I had a typo (which really drives me crazy, but that’s okay. I’ll live).
I chose readers who covered my target audience but who came from different demographics. My goal was to make sure that my story did not fall flat, that it was comprehensible, and, more importantly, that I received feedback. No one likes giving or getting negative feedback, especially when it’s your friends. But if you paid or recruited someone to read your book, then you need to listen! These readers represent all of the people who you want reading your book. If someone suggests a rewrite or modification that you know won’t work because of something happening later in a series, then figure out how to rewrite that scene to achieve the same end goal. That actually happened to me quite a bit because I know what’s happening two, three, even nine books out. It was too easy to forget that the readers didn’t have the same insight.
Know How Much You’re Making
No matter what platform you use to publish or sell, you have access to sales reports. If you don’t, then you need to find a new platform because that information should always be readily available to you. I use WooCommerce on my website, and Ingram Spark for physical copies and Draft2Digital for my ebooks. All three have great reporting as do Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple.
But in addition to royalties or sales, you need to remember to take a bunch of other stuff into account:
- Get your tax and use certificate in your state if you have to pay sales tax
- Know how much you pay for shipping to your customers
- If you ship yourself, consider a shipping label printer (I found a great one from Amazon for $53)
- Shop around for packing material and make sure you calculate how much it costs per unit (if you buy a 25 pack of boxes for $26 after tax and shipping, then you just added $1.04 to your cost)
- Adding little giveaways like bookmarks and thank you cards are a nice touch, especially for early buyers (I wrote thank you cards for everyone who bought from me in the first two weeks my web store was open), patrons, and contest winners; just make sure you keep track of how much all of that costs though.
- Don’t forget about subscription and dues if you’re a member of things like the Author’s Guild or ALLi
- Try to identify which of your expenses are one time costs (standing posters for your author events) versus renewed (giveaways and swag) and try to buy in bulk if you can while factoring those costs into the price of your books
- If you’re comfortable making your own files and have access to a good quality printer, try to make as much of your marketing material as you can
- Consider a subscription to something like Quickbooks to help manage your books and taxes
Budget Your Time
Burn out is real! Writer burn out is too! There is so much that goes into self publishing, and the more you do on your own, the more work you have. Mailing lists, Patreon accounts, social media, maintaining your presence on the various platforms that are out there (more on that later), are you buying ads? Gotta maintain those too, tracking sales, submitting for events, festivals, conventions, and author appearances, submitting to libraries and book stores (more on that later too), submitting to magazines and publications, not to mention you’re still writing your next book(s). And if you have a full time job, a partner, kids, any responsibilities that take a significant amount of time, you have to factor all of that into the mix.
Personally I use Apple reminders to make lists of things that need to be done. Then at the start of each day, I copy whatever I want to get done that day into a separate list app. I don’t let myself work on anything outside of that second list. If I don’t do that, then I’ll get sucked into how long my original list is, feel overwhelmed, get derailed by ADHD, and either get nothing done or try to do everything and get no writing done. If I know I have a lot of other things going on that day, I set a timer for each task. If I don’t finish a task that day, it’s okay. I can finish it later.
Oh, yeah. Stop beating yourself up if you don’t get something done.
Rewards are a big incentive for time budgeting too. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but I used to reward myself with a glass of nice Scotch or wine. Now I make a really nice pot of tea. Or I watch an episode of something in one of my many streaming queues that would take about three lifetimes to clear out. Writing is a reward too. Knowing I can write a chapter or flesh out an outline or give a character new life is something to look forward to, and it’s an incentive to A. put the phone down and stop getting distracted and B. stop trying to take on too much at one time.
You’re a writer. That means you create words for other people to read. Consider reading to be your form of research. What new styles and authors are out there? You just spent a day in your own head, how would it feel to take a break in someone else’s?
I swear that sounded a lot less creepy when I started to write it down.
Join a book club, join a reading challenge on social media, and share what you’re reading. It’s a great way to support fellow authors (and maybe get a little support yourself).
Next time I’ll go into how I learned about submissions for events and stores and the importance of an online presence when you self publish.