It’s been a week since we published Things They Buried. It seems like a month. My eyelid still won’t stop twitching (I think it wants me to do more work).
We sold far more copies than expected, and I can’t thank our friends and families enough for helping to make that happen. We haven’t had a day (yet) without at least one sale, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
We’ve also learned an absolute ton about indie publishing (including that we have a ton more to learn). We’d researched a lot before publishing, but after? Woof!
Here are a few points that surprised us in one way or another. I hope they help other indie authors.
- Be sure that not one single stray line drifts into the margins of your paperback layout unless is obviously is meant to bleed. They will send it back and tell you margins are sacrosanct even if you marked the file as “bleed,” you intended the lines to be there, and you fully expect them to be trimmed.
- As an author, Amazon doesn’t give a damn about getting your book to you. Don’t get me wrong, I love that they offer us the ability to be indie publishers, but authors are definitely their lowest priority. Michael and I still don’t have our author-copy paperbacks. (They should arrive this week, though originally Amazon said March 5 when we ordered on February 17!) Authors can buy proof copies before publication, but they have a “not for sale” stripe, which ruins the cover. Authors can only order regular print copies after publication, and Amazon takes its sweet time printing them. Plus, we have to pay shipping—and shipping on fifty 492-page paperbacks is no small fee. This situation made me feel like a jerk with friends and family because I couldn’t hand out free copies, but no one called us out on it—they just bought the book. (We have super supporters.)
- Amazon advertising is addictive. They’ve managed to “gameify” it and they change it so often that we couldn’t find any current guides—everything still mentioned display ads, which Amazon has discontinued. My advice to anyone wanting to use Amazon advertising: (1) set aside at least $100 for first-week advertising, (2) really research your keywords before starting, (3) use a lot of keywords to start and weed out what is an isn’t working (or what’s getting clicks, but costing too much money w/o equaling sales), (4) test, test, test. I spent hours every day tweaking bids then searching Amazon for keywords, products, and categories to see when/where we showed up. (Do NOT click your own link.) The whole process reminded me of playing a less-visually appealing version of Grepolis. It’s easy to quickly waste coin without results, so it’s good to keep a close watch on it until your tactics solidify.
- Kindle Matchbook downloads count as sales, so offer those ebooks for free with the paperback and encourage readers to download them. Essentially, an author will get “double credit” on their sales chart for one paperback purchase if the reader downloads the ebook as well. (I am not 100% sure if this translates to sales credit in Amazon’s ranking system, but no one outside of Amazon can say that for sure.)
- Along the same lines, Kindle Unlimited and “download a sample” can be really helpful. As part of KDP Select, we get paid for every page read on KU (I think the same goes for the sample, though I can’t be sure). We’ve seen both turn into sales, so the program is definitely worth being part of (at least initially).
- Reviews are an Ouroboros from the depths. Authors can’t get on BookBub or Ereader News Today or any of the others to advertise a free-book or Kindle Countdown promotion without already having reviews on Amazon. The whole point of the giveaway campaigns is to get readers who hopefully will give reviews. It’s understandable that those services don’t want to push crappy books on their users, but it’s still frustrating as an author to find so many roadblocks with the same “you need reviews” sign on them. There are services we could pay to do reviews, but Amazon (rightly) doesn’t accept those as customer reviews. So I’ve been combing the internet for bloggers accepting books for review or asking for authors to do Q&As/interviews. We have a couple Q&As coming out later this year (Dusty Pages & DZA Marie) and I’ve managed to net a handful of interested/available reviewers. So now we wait while everyone gets through all 492 pages.
- Which brings me to the final point: Patience and persistence. I am NOT good at patience, but I am good at persistence (some might say “obsessive”). This whole process has been an exercise in both. Wait to be approved for publication. Wait for the paperbacks to arrive. Wait for someone, anyone, to post a review. Wait to hear back from reviewers you’ve approached. And on and on. Keep plugging away the whole time, writing, requesting reviews, monitoring that ad account, etc. Be ready, indie authors, and keep plugging away.
Our friends, family, and supporters are beyond great—early reviews, pimping us on Facebook, buying copies, I can’t even imagine how we would have lived through last week without their help and support.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!