Thursday, 11 December 2014

Things I've learned

I can't believe it's barely 18 months since I published my first book on Amazon.

I also can't believe how naive I was back then. In fact I almost cringe at the mistakes I made at rushing out that initial draft.

I thought at the time that it was OK to paste together a set of blog entries and various other bits and pieces of writing I had knocking about, shove any old cover on it, don't bother proof-reading it and call it a book. Then try and market and sell it to family and friends without even thinking about the bigger picture.

That the book sold at all was a minor miracle, but in fact it was relatively successful. However, the book's shortcomings were soon picked up on. I went back, cleaned it up, put a new cover on it, edited it into some sort of sensible format and put it back out there.

That first book, Fortysomething Father has attracted more reviews than any other (well it has been out the longest), and is also the only one that has 1* and 2* reviews. Some of these are justified, others are unduly harsh, but as writers we must take it on the chin.

Fortunately I learned from my mistakes, and each subsequent book has benefited from my increasing experience. Here's a couple of things that I now swear by:

1) Judge a book by its cover. It never ceases to amaze me how many people spend months or even years toiling away producing their own personal masterpieces, and then just stick any old cover on it that they've knocked up themselves using the cover creator on Amazon. Talk about lamb dressed as mutton! There are literally millions of books on Amazon now, and in order for people even to click on a book, it's got to have a cover that stands out.

I was very disappointed with the initial sales for my latest novel, Global Cooling. I came to the conclusion that it was the cover that was the problem. It wasn't a bad cover, just a little bleak and uninspiring. I went back to the designer of my Time Bubble cover and asked her to produce me a new one. Result, a stunning new cover, and sales took off almost immediately it went on.

The only book of mine I am still unhappy with the cover of is The Sausage Man. I did get a new cover designed for that which I thought was good, but sales stopped, so I've gone back to the old one. At some point, I may have to revisit it.

2) Don't waste time endlessly tweeting and posting book links on Facebook. People don't want to see it. You are either preaching to the converted (people who've already bought it), other authors who are busy trying to sell their own books, or annoying your friends who are fed up to the back teeth of seeing your book links clogging up their news feed. Remember, we are selling to the entire world of Amazon customers - potentially billions of people. Flogging your wares around a relatively small group of friends and family is never going to get you famous.

I ask myself, how much of the general detritus that comes down my Twitter and Facebook feeds do I actually read? Hardly any. It's just a nuisance.

Far better to join in with a community of other writers on Facebook, Goodreads or the Amazon KDP boards. Work together as a team to promote your works, share ideas, help each other. You learn an awful lot that way too, which helps avoid making all those newbie errors that I did. The best and only place to market your books is on Amazon itself and what you really want is for them to do that marketing for you.

Next time I plan to talk about how to get the best out of Amazon's Kindle Countdown Deals.

See you soon.

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