4 activities to avoid as a newly published indie author

11.07.15-ast_ft_decision-signs-421913814_582_387 Congratulations, you’ve made it. You’ve uploaded your ebook and cover, entered a sales blurb and selected your product categories. You’ve decided on a price, agreed to the terms & conditions and finally, with no small amount of trepidation, pressed publish. Within a few hours an email arrived to confirm your book is live. You are now a published author. The next thing to do, of course, is let everybody know. So you spend a few hours promoting your launch on your social media of choice, phoning friends and family, sending emails and mentioning it to everybody you meet. This is great. Enjoy the moment. But then what? What should you do next? Well here are five things I recommend you don’t do.

Constantly check your sales stats

While the sensible advice is to write the book you want to read, in reality most of us write books we hope others will read. When you publish your first book the natural urge is to check your sales stats, an easy thing to do if you’ve published via Amazon KDP. Checking your sales once a day after launch is a perfectly healthy thing to do. Having the sales report fixed to your computer/smartphone on permanent refresh is not. If you do ignore my advice and continually refresh the sales report page you will learn that 1) not everybody who says they will buy your book, does buy your book and 2) most people don’t drop everything they’re doing and buy your book as soon as it becomes available. This is not a reflection of you, your book, or your relationship with others, but more to do with people living their lives and having priorities other than your book launch. Yes, your book is not as important to them as it is to you. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Over time people will remember to buy your book (especially if those who have read it tell them about it). There are many options open to you to try and stimulate your sales but ‘checking one last time to see if the numbers have gone up’ isn’t one of them. You will ignore this advice.

Compare your book’s performance to others

Another really tempting thing to do is compare the performance of your book to others. It could be a book published around the same time as your own, a novel from one of your favourite authors or somebody you know, or one in the same genre of yours that you read and hated. Whatever the reason, you will find yourself looking to their sales ranking almost as much as you look at your own. Don’t. It’s a pointless exercise. You have no control over how well their book is performing, so stop worrying about it. After the initial spike at launch, your sales will drop off.  This is normal, but it happens at different rates and on different timescales for each book. Then there is the promotional activity the other author is doing, how big a platform they have, whether this is their first book – and not forgetting lady luck. Whether another book is selling at a better or faster rate than yours is of no consequence to you. Just focus on your book and the many things you can do to build an audience.

Chase reviews

If you’re organised, you will have some reviews ready for launch (either through book reviewers or friends who have read the book prior to publication). After that the reviews will slow or stop altogether. This is a tough time for an author as a hundred questions run through your mind, fuelled by our familiar friend self-doubt. Are people reading your book? Have they stopped? Why have they stopped? Do they think it’s awful? Of course they do. I’m a terrible writer. Why did I bother publishing in the first place? The temptation here is to chase reviews. Try to resist. It takes time to read a book. Many people only read at night before bed, some not even that. You will be amazed how many people don’t read except on holiday. As long as you left a polite request for reviews at the end of your book (you did do that, didn’t you?) the reviews will come. By all means remind occasionally remind people but don’t pester. Plus, you shouldn’t really be looking at reviews anyway…

Stop writing

If you follow the advice of most indie authors they will tell you one of the biggest mistakes new authors make is to publish and assume people will buy the book. You need to promote, they say. You need to have a marketing plan, a promotional plan and you need to take every opportunity to mention your novel (here’s a link to mine by the way, Second Chance – it’s had loads of great reviews in the UK and some in the US too). I would argue that the biggest mistake is to stop writing. It is very rare for people to build a career from one book. Those more experienced authors (Hugh Howey, Sean Platt) argue that you should concentrate on your writing until you have published at least three books. That doesn’t mean launch and ignore, but your priority should be writing, not promotion.

And what should you be doing…?

Writing your next masterpiece!   So, these are my top four but I’m sure you have others. What have I missed? I’d love to hear from you.

61 thoughts on “4 activities to avoid as a newly published indie author

  1. I as lucky in a way. I was so gripped with writing at first that I wrote 5 manuscripts and published two before I thought about marketing and what the books were doing. Everything in your great post will stop a writer dead in their tracks.

    • Thank you. Yes, I think you probably were lucky. The hardest part for many writers to understand about self-publishing is that it’s a long game. Most writers only make money through a combination of a small (from a traditional publisher’s point of view) but loyal audience and a good portfolio of novels. I’m nowhere near that yet but that’s my overall goal.

  2. Some great advice. As someone who is looking into self-publishing, advice like this is really useful. It’s a scary step to go it alone and I think any author will be tempted to flagrantly disregard this whole list, myself included, but at least we can come back to it as a reminder to keep calm and carry on.
    Thanks for a great post.

    • You’re more than welcome. Don’t be scared. Yes, you can make mistakes but it’s also very easy to correct your mistakes. How do you think I drew this list up in the first place?

  3. “You will ignore this advice.”—Hahaha. That’s probably true. I can’t check my sales–my publisher gets that info–but I can check the book’s ranking. I don’t really do that much now since it’s been out for two years. My emphasis is on your last point–getting more product out there. But when my pub ran a BookBub promotion for TSS, I was refreshing that page regularly. Each time our rank improves, it’s like a little slice of chocolate. So good, you just have to keep going back for more. 🙂

    • It’s the old “do as I say, not as I do” advice! I don’t blame you from wanting to follow your rank jump with a BookBub promo. That must have been one hell of a ride. I think you make a good point. When you are running a promo (or a series of promos) then of course you want to pay close attention to understand what works and what doesn’t. Bu not every 5 minutes…

  4. I really needed this advice today, Dylan! The first week or so I had all the relevant pages open on my computer at all times, refreshing them regularly. I’m weaning myself off slowly, but what did I do as soon as I’d read this? Went and checked for reviews, of course! LOL! Quite honestly though, I’ve burnt myself out on all that and have finally got back to the business at hand – writing the next one!

    Thanks for a great post!

  5. Reblogged this on Wendy Anne Darling and commented:
    I really needed this advice today, Dylan! The first week or so I had all the relevant pages open on my computer at all times, refreshing them regularly. I’m weaning myself off slowly, but what did I do as soon as I’d read this? Went and checked for reviews, of course! LOL! Quite honestly though, I’ve burnt myself out on all that and have finally got back to the business at hand – writing the next one!

  6. Good advice, I’ll have to remember this once my novel is published! … I probably won’t though, especially the first part, but I can try. At least I have a few other projects in my mind already, so I know I’ll keep writing.

  7. I play this weird game with myself where I make myself go as long as I can stand without checking my sales, and then POOF! They’ll go up! So I definitely needed the reminder that it’s pointless to keep checking. It’s not like I write for money…

    One thing about reviews that does piss me off, though. People, particularly book bloggers, saying they will write a review and then don’t. Signing up for blog tours and having more than half fail to publish reviews is extremely disappointing.

    • It is hard to gain reviews but you need to remember that reviewers are people too. Unless you’ve paid for a review – which I wouldn’t recommend you do – reviewers are doing the service out of the kindness of their hearts. Yes, they are getting a free book but unless it’s a paperback it will have cost you nothing. If reviewers don’t review your book, just move on. I don’t sign up to blog tours for the reason you stated, not because I’m worried people will let me down, but that for whatever reason I will let others down.
      If people like your book enough, they will review it. If you haven’t already, put a friendly request for an honest review in the back of your book. I’ve seen my reviews grow considerably since I did this (in the UK, sadly I’ve yet to sell well in the US).

      • I love the idea of playing a game with yourself to resist looking at the data…and then POOF! it goes up. 🙂

        I have two books coming out next year with a traditional publisher and I’ll only get sales data once a week. Instead of that protecting my sanity, I’m afraid that I will become a slave to the Amazon sales ranking. I will try to keep all of this advice in mind. 🙂

      • Many congratulations on your book deal. Getting your stats once a week is pretty impressive from a traditional publisher. Just remember not to get too caught up in the sales rankings. They don’t just take into account your sales, but everybody else’s as well, so there is only so much you can do to influence them.

  8. Great post. It reminded me of a quote by Thomas Edison. “I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that will not work.” I believe the analogy of his quote to be applicable to more than one area of our lives. My inspiration and proof of success, Mr. Jack Canfield. Great Post and keep writing.

  9. I really enjoyed this post. Such sage advice for us newbies and wannabes.
    And I took the most from your last point- WRITE. Isn’t that the solution that fixes everything?
    Well, maybe not my leaking faucet.

  10. Perfect advice, and I’ve added it to my file of ‘excellent self-pub advice from Dylan’… It feels like we’re treading the same path, but you’re ahead of me, hacking back the undergrowth and removing all the trip hazards!

    By the way, apropos of ‘activities to avoid’ and further to chasing reviews, what about responding to bad ones… Did you see the cautionary tale on Michael J Martinez blog http://michaeljmartinez.net/2014/10/21/how-to-respond-to-bad-reviews-hint-dont/ – click on the link to the Guardian article for a scare-story!

  11. Pingback: 4 activities to avoid as a newly published indie author | ldbush21

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