1. Publishing for the first time: yes, it's terrifying!
Are you nervous about seeing your work out there? About total strangers entering the world that, up until now, has existed only in your head and on your laptop screen? Don't worry - it's the same for everyone!
The other day a newish writer asked me this question: How did you feel when your first word-baby was about to see the world for the first time?
I thought back to the first book I published, in 2011, and remembered how exposed I felt, seeing my book sitting there on Amazon, almost as if I was inviting strangers to read my diary. The bad news is that it doesn't get any better; I still panic every time, and I'm soon to publish my nineteenth book. I still feel sick with nerves when I send it to my proofreader because she is the first person to read it (while she's correcting all the duplicated/missing words that I managed not to see through six or seven drafts), and ditto when I send out mobis to book bloggers. And as the first sales start. It never ends.
The good news is that you get used to it - and it's still worth it, for the lovely feeling (and relief!) of those first good reviews. 😀
2. If you don't read the rest of the post, please read this bit
...and I won't apologise for saying it again, because it's so important, and I hate seeing fellow writers wasting their money. Please, please, beware of the scammers and the inept:
- The publishers who lead you to believe you have a real publishing deal but ask you to contribute to the cost (unless you have made an active choice to go with a vanity press, of course. But please don't be fooled into thinking it's a publishing deal in the traditional sense).
- The editors with no proper training or professional editing experience.
- The critique services by people who have no proven experience in the market. I would not pay anyone to critique my work who doesn't have professional, developmental editorial experience, and you shouldn't, either. If they don't have this experience, you're better off looking for beta readers - many will test read your book for nothing.
- The writing competitions that require a large entrance fee. Mostly, these are just money-makers for the organisers. Even if you win, it only makes you the winner out of the 60 people who entered the competition, not all writers of your genre, and the badge they give you is unlikely to turn your book into a best seller. There are so many online awards and competitions for writing these days that they tend not to mean very much, sadly.
- The proofreaders who can't punctuate, don't have a sound grasp of English grammar, and use 'proofreading software' instead of the human eye.
- The promoters who promise exposure to thousands of readers in your genre - you need to question this. It may just be their social media following.
- The publishers who expect you to fund the process by online begging.
- The promotional courses that promise you thousands of sales if you sign up, pay out and adopt their methods - if their sites feature testimonials from authors, get in touch with those authors. I did, once, and found that her words had been taken out of context.
Please note: sometimes, these services might be offered by authors themselves. It's worth checking out how successful their own books are and if they are qualified to offer all they do, or if they are just trying to top up disappointing book sales - do not assume that, just because they have published a book or two, they necessarily know their stuff.
Repeat: always get recommendations from established writers!
3. Book bloggers are not your employees!
I've seen so much written about this lately. Please remember that the majority of book bloggers have a life, and work on their blog in their precious leisure time. They don't owe you anything. They don't have to take your book for review, and, if they do, they do not have to give it 5* and say it was brilliant. If you're disappointed with a blog review, please remember that they gave up their time, free of charge - just say thank you, and leave it at that.
Even if you are paying them, either by a set charge or by donating to a blogger's Patreon, they still do not owe you a great review if they do not think the book merits it. You are paying for their service, not a dishonest endorsement.
A few less than glowing book reviews will not harm a book's sales. Look at the best selling books in your genre - you will notice that they all have a range of ratings.
A tip: it's a bad idea to send a book to a book blogger until it has been through its final proofread and edit, even if you assure them that all errors will be corrected before publication; they can only review what they see.
4. Sadly, not everyone will be as interested in your book as you are
...so please don't be tempted to send tweets and Twitter DMs (or whatever people do on other sites) asking random strangers to review it. If you want reviews, take the time to check out book bloggers. On Twitter, you can find them by putting #bookblogger into the search. Study their blogs, see if they take your genre, and if they're currently accepting submissions. Submit as per the guidelines stated. This is a much better plan than picking on new followers and diving in with offers of mobis and PDFs and long explanations of what the book's about, telling them how much they will love it. Everyone hates these. Yes, even those who are kind and polite enough to show some interest.
Eventually, if you engage with people in a genuine way, and take time to use the sites properly, they will discover your book for themselves. Don't forget the 'social' in social media.
Try not to become obsessed with getting reviews. They may or may not come after people have taken an interest in your book, bought and read it. Don't hassle people for them.
5. It's a good idea to build your 'platform' on social media
...before you publish, but it needs to be authentic. It needs to be you. Yes, marketers talk about creating your 'brand' (😩), but making grandiose claims or tailoring your real self to what you think sounds good doesn't work in the long run. If you decide to say you're into, say, veganism, sustainability and gin, because they're trending right now, you'll find yourself having to 'rebrand' as soon as those things go out of fashion....
Authenticity is the key word. One of the best examples of pre-debut-release platform building I've seen is that of Icelandic blacksmith Bjørn Larssen (Twitter HERE). His book is not even out yet, and he's already clocking up the pre-order sales and reviews. I think it's working so well because he's just blogging and talking to people about the things he's passionately interested in, and taking the time to find out about others, too.
Incidentally, when I pointed this out to Bjørn, he said he'd been reading books about platform building and didn't think he was going to be much good at it.
This, I think, says it all. 😄😉
You will find lots more useful articles for writers, new and otherwise, by clicking the link below - some by me, and many more by editors, book bloggers and other experienced professionals.