Tuesday, January 21, 2020

4 Mistakes Amateur Self-Publishers Make That the Pros Don’t

By Dave Chesson, @DaveChesson

Part of The Indie Authors Series 

JH: It's easy to make mistakes when venturing into self publishing. Dave Chesson shares four mistakes new authors make when they go indie, and shows us how to fix them. 

Dave Chesson is the founder of Kindlepreneur.com and creator of Publisher Rocket, a software that helps authors market their books more effectively.

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Take it away Dave…

Self-publishing can be pretty intimidating for new authors. It’s easy to make mistakes without knowing you’re making them, and with competition stiff nowadays, being on top of your game has never been more important.

There are a few simple mistakes that amateur self-publishers make that pros don’t. In this article, we’ll look at four of them--and we’ll learn how to fix them in an actionable and easy way.

Mistake 1: Not Doing Your Homework

A common mistake that I see with beginners in the self-publisher business is just writing ‘the book that they want to write’. While there’s nothing wrong with writing your ideal book, if you’re looking to turn your writing into a profitable business, you need to be customer-centered. What does that look like?

It can mean that your dream novel is exactly right--you might have written it perfectly to market, just because you read a lot in the genre. Or it can mean you need to do some homework and reconsider your story before you go any further.

It boils down to this: do you research in the genre you’re set on.

Not learning about the tropes and expectations of the specific book genres you want to write in will set your career path on the wrong foot early, and can lead to disappointing results.

Chris Fox had trouble with his first book for similar reasons. Rather than stick to the classic tropes of a specific genre, he created a mish-mash of a book that he loved but didn’t really have a home. The result was underwhelming sales and a trip back to the drawing board. Chris steered the ship right afterward, sharing his experience in his book, Write To Market.

Moreover, fully understanding your genre will make it easier for you to see what gaps are in the market. You can write to market by sticking to its tropes, cover conventions and character archetypes, but still aim to fill that niche.

So… don’t lag behind the competition or fall into the trap of the first mistake. Don’t forget to do your homework.

(Here's more on Writing to Market: What Is It and Should You Try It?)

How to Fix It

In short, research, research, and more research.

The best way to get a grasp on the genre you want to write in is to visit Amazon and see what sells. Take a look at the best-selling books in your category. Figure out what sells and what parts make it successful — tropes, likable characters, common themes, even keywords.

You can do all of that by picking up a few of these books and reading them. Writing in a genre you’re passionate about will help you get this done quicker, and you’ll enjoy it too. 

Mistake 2: Not Giving Enough Thought to Your Cover and Title

They say you should never judge a book by its cover. Now, that’s great advice in a metaphorical sense, but the truth is, your book’s cover and title play a huge role in its success.

Your book cover is one of the first things your potential readers notice, whether they’re browsing through the Kindle library or in physical bookstores. When folks look at your cover, they’re making an initial judgment on if they want to know more about the story. And that means, reading your blurb.

The same goes for the title of your book. Many authors will just pick a title that they think sounds great to them. Your book title needs to be engaging to your reader while also using the relevant keywords. Your potential readers are already typing particular phrases into Amazon when searching for books to read, so you need to consider that in naming your book.

In urban fantasy, for instance, you’ll see a lot of authors using words like ‘witches,’ ‘magic,’ ‘spellbound,’ and so on.

So while you’ll need to invest a lot of time into the writing and editing process, you need to take your title and cover just as seriously. You can have the best book ever written in your genre, but if the title and cover aren’t any good, nobody will buy it.

(Here's more on Titles: The First Impression a Novel Makes)

How to Fix It

You don’t have to be a designer to create book covers that sell. To get cover inspiration, start by checking out the best-rated covers in your genre or category.

For example, check out some of the top-selling crime books. Even though we’re only looking at the top 10, there’s a common theme running through them with the contrast of yellows or reds on dark backgrounds. You can narrow it down even further and say that half of the top 10 have large yellow text on a dark background.

You can also keep a ‘swipe file’ handy to gather inspiration for your next book. For example, when I shop for books online, I always keep a close eye on the book covers. If any cover really catches my eye, I save the image in a folder. That way, when I need to design book covers, I have a folder of great covers to look at for genre inspiration.

You can do the same when searching for a book title too. Not only should you keep a ‘swipe file’ of great titles, but you should be checking out the best-sellers and completing your own kindle keyword research. Keyword research will help you find out what phrases your ideal customers are actually searching for. From there, you need to incorporate those into your title. Don’t be heavy-handed, of course.

When all is said and done, the goal here is to sell more books and make a living from your writing. Your cover and title play a huge role in your success.

(Here's more on How to Find and Select a Cover Designer)

Mistake 3: Listing Your Book in Only Three Categories

The genre and category that you write for will play a big part in your book’s success. One thing I see a lot of beginner authors do is list their books in three categories, when, with a small hack, you can list yours in up to 10.

Amazon has over 16,000 book categories and sub-categories on the platform, but when you first list your book, you can only choose from a tiny selection. These categories are some of the most popular and most competitive categories. The problem with only choosing from these categories is that you’re drastically limiting the likelihood of your book becoming a best-seller. That’s because the best-seller list is calculated at the category level, not the site-wide level.

(Here's more on Where Does My Book Fit? Figuring Out Your Genre)

How to Fix It

First, you need to choose what categories you want your book to be listed in. You can browse the categories and find out how many books you need to sell in order to get to reach best-seller status--use this calculator to gather an estimate. Or, you can use Publisher Rocket, which will do the research for you in a matter of seconds.

When you’ve chosen the different categories you’d like to be listed in, here are the steps you can take to change your book’s category listing:
  1. Go to the contact page in Author Central and sign in to your KDP account
  2. Go to ‘Select an issue' and choose ‘My Books’
  3. Click to ‘Update information about a book’
  4. Choose the ‘Browse Categories’ option in the field that appears
  5. Select ‘I want to update my book’s browse categories'
  6. From there, email Amazon and ask them to change your book’s categories, politely

Remember to include the full category string in your email. Also, make sure you mention your book’s ASIN number.

By doing the extra bit of work and manually changing your book category, you’re giving yourself an opportunity to rank higher and sell more books. 

Mistake 4: Not Building Your Author Platform

Copywriter, Gary Halbert used to pose the following question to his marketing students:
"If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers, what advantages would you most like to have on your side to help you win?"
His answers would vary, with some wanting the best ingredients, others wanting top locations, and others wanting the lowest prices. Regardless, when the students would finish telling him their ideas, he’d say that the only advantage that he would want in a competition is a starving crowd.

As an author, you need to develop your starving crowd of would-be readers. You need a group of book-lovers waiting for you to release your next book. Otherwise, you’re basically starting from scratch with every title you publish. The best way to build that crowd is to build your author platform early.

(Here's more on Building YOUR Indie Author Brand)

How to Fix It

It’s never too early to start building your author brand. You can start with a Facebook page and Instagram account to start making connections with potential readers.

You should also look to build an email list as soon as possible so you’ll have a pool of potential buyers ready for your launch. Here are a few steps you can take to build your email list:
  1. Write up a freebie--a short giveaway book that you can use as a reader magnet to gain followers.
  2. Pick an email provider. This is totally up to you, but there are a few great options you can look at, depending on budget or the time you have to set it up. 
  3. Find your readers. Bookfunnel provides a platform for authors to get together in promotions and give away their books to hungry readers who want to sign up to their mailing lists. 
  4. Send out your freebie. You’ll do this by onboarding your readers when they sign up for your mailing list. Tammi Labreque wrote a fantastic book on everything email that’s a must-read.

Final Thoughts

What separates the professional self-publishing writers from the amateurs is the extra steps they take to elevate themselves. It’s about upping their marketing game, not just honing their craft.

If you want to reach the next level in your career, you need to put in the time and effort to get there. Best of luck.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I'm working on building my author Platform. I have a blog my book is being reviewed by my editor. I'm getting better at IG.. and my Facebook page. This is helpful.

    ~ Ms. Zipporah