Lessons Learned from Self Publishing

I am a Resource Management Support Clerk. I deal with a multitude of policies and procedures that are constantly changing or being updated. In order for everyone to be on the same page, I am a strong supporter of sharing knowledge and networking. That is why I would like to tell you about my experiences with self publishing thus far. I should clarify, I published The Evolved Trilogy through Flea Circus Books which have coined the term “Royalties-Based Collaborative Self Publishing” or what many may refer to as going the Indie route.
I wrote my first novel, Altered – Revelations of the Evolved, in 2009 while living in Winnipeg. There, I met the man behind Flea Circus Books, Dave Culhane, a fellow author who had previously self published and decided to assist others that were overwhelmed by the publishing industry. We spoke briefly about his new website but I didn’t contact him until after I moved to Ontario in 2011 as I wasn’t yet ready to put my work out there for the world to read. He had explained that Flea Circus Books was a venue for members to gather such as writers, editors, cover designers, beta readers and other collaborators to complete projects with no money up front as payment would be based on royalties from book sales. At the time, this was the best option for myself as I was finally ready and quite anxious to get my book out. After months of doing my own rewrites and edits, there was still much to do. I had to accept or reject the suggestions from my editor, reread the book a few more times, come up with some descriptions for Amazon and provide the front and back covers which was an adventure in itself. Dave tweaked the formatting, fiddled with the covers and added the bar code so they would pass the CreateSpace upload process, obtained the ISBN and uploaded the kindle version to Amazon (March 2012) and paperback to CreateSpace (Sep 2012). Then we both put up our feet and placed our hands behind our head and watched the money roll in……………..just kidding. We decided to repeat the process two more times by publishing the remaining two books of The Evolved Trilogy: Broken – Afflictions of the Evolved (kindle Dec 2012, paperback Jul 2013) and Choices – Complications of the Evolved (kindle Nov 2013, paperback Jan 2014). All the time and effort to publish the trilogy (young adult books about time travel and psychic abilities) was just the beginning. With millions of books available to readers, how does one go about getting noticed? Below are just a few things that I have done or am contemplating trying in the future that may be of interest to you. These are only suggestions so take what you want and leave what you don’t. Writing is your own personal journey and it may take some trial and error to find out what works for you. Don’t give up!
1. Create your own blog: This involves some research. I ended up going with FatCow which was fairly easy to use. I followed the prompts and created a domain in a few hours. There is a yearly subscription cost to this so if you don’t want to fork out the money, there are some free avenues you can try. I knew absolutely nothing about having my own blog so it was a bit overwhelming at first finding a theme, making pages and publishing posts. I didn’t even know what a widget (sidebar) was but now I add and delete them all the time. Every couple of months I download a new theme just to mix things up a bit.
2. Create a Facebook page: Again, after a bit of research, I created a Facebook  page called Shawnda Currie Books that is managed by my main profile. That  is where I put all sorts of random stuff not necessarily related to my trilogy but pics of what I’m currently reading or quotes I enjoy. It was quick to make and a few months later I decided to make another page dedicated specifically to The Evolved Trilogy where I post things like free download days and my book trailers.
3. Join Twitter: Twitter  is real time so it’s a good place to advertise free download days. I actually have my Shawnda Currie Books Facebook page linked to my twitter account. I work full time, have a family and am currently working on a fourth book so anywhere that I can save a bit of time is a blessing. It won’t take you long to figure out hashtags or current trends. Like all social media, be cognizant of what you post. It only takes one distasteful comment to ruin you.
4. Join Goodreads: I absolutely love Goodreads. This is a place for book lovers to get together, review and recommend books. There is also the Goodreads author program you can sign up for to promote yourself. I have completed an autographed paperback copy giveaway for Altered, Broken and Choices. I don’t think the giveaways actually helped with book sales, but they did help getting my books added to members’ “to read” shelves. There are many groups you can join and some offer Read to Review options (you provide the ebook for free and state a timeline reviews are to be posted by) which is also another great way to advertise. A lot of reviewers will cross post their reviews on sites like Amazon or Shelfari or even their own blog.
5. Contact Reviewers: This one is probably the most time consuming but may very well be the one that pays of the most. Reviews get you established. I write Young Adult Fiction so I seek out bloggers that review my genre. Carefully read their review policy to see if they’re accepting requests (especially from self published or indie authors) and follow the procedure they set out so you’re not wasting their time or your own. Explore their blog. Get their name right when you contact them. Don’t despair if you don’t hear back from them right away or ever. Many of these reviewers are bombarded on a daily basis for requests and have a huge TBR pile. Instead of reviews, some bloggers did interviews which was a fun way to connect with readers. They may also advertise giveaways such as one I did through Rafflecopter.
6. Learn to Accept Criticism: This one is the most important tip. Not everyone will enjoy your book. Some will actually hate it. And that’s okay. We are all entitled to our own opinion. After all, they’re not criticizing you as a person, they are stating their reasons of why your story just wasn’t for them. Some of it is just personal preference. For example, I use some swear words in my books because I feel that in today’s society, cursing seems to be the norm especially where teens are concerned. Of course, not all teens and adults swear. I on the other hand swear like a trucker. Also keep in mind that even bad reviews can be helpful. What someone else didn’t enjoy might catch another reader’s attention. Whatever you do, NEVER EVER comment on a bad review. I’m even leery of commenting on good reviews. All you have to do is google “Authors Behaving Badly” and you can read all sorts of craziness such as one author going so far as to show up on a reviewer’s doorstep. Bloggers/reviewers are a close knit community and as stated in number 3, once you post or do something offensive, you might as well kiss your writing career goodbye.
7. Carefully Select a Cover: My original cover is not the one I ended up going with for Altered – Revelations of the Evolved. I worked for months piecing together a really neat cover only to decide at the last minute not to go with it as I used pictures from the internet and was terrified of possible copyright infringement. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the cover for Altered that I have now but it isn’t necessarily appealing to those that read Young Adult. Some have even gone as far as to call it ugly or say they hate it. Again, this is personal preference. But I do value all feedback I receive so I am actually contemplating creating new covers. I opted to go with nature themes for all three covers to keep them consistent and each cover represents a scene from their respective book.
Below are some ideas for new covers I’m toying with:
altered borderbroken borderchoices border

 8. Make Business Cards or Book Marks: I will be the first to admit that I’ve let long periods go by where I haven’t done any marketing whatsoever. If you check out my books on Amazon or Goodreads, you’ll see that Altered – Revelations of the Evolved has quite a few more reviews than Broken – Afflictions of the Evolved and Choices – Complications of the Evolved combined. Another thing I will mention is that it was suggested to me to choose longer titles (originally the books were Altered, Broken & Choices) so “key words” would get picked up during internet searches. I’m not sure how effective that is but I don’t think it hurt any either. I decided to order some business cards through Vistaprint. They were relatively cheap and I put a few in with my paperbacks for giveaways and hand them out to friends and colleagues. I’ve even left a few on community boards. I may order book marks at a later date and drop them off at local libraries and bookstores.
Business cards
In the beginning, I joined almost every site I came across but quickly realized that it was impossible to dedicate the required time to them to make any valuable connections. Now that I’ve limited myself to just a few, I have met some awesome people from all over the world. So far my publishing experience has been a positive one. I just have to make it a point to request some more reviews in between working on my latest project to keep the momentum going.
I would love to hear about your experiences with publishing (self or traditional). Please leave a comment below or just say hi! To avoid spam, all comments are moderated so they may not appear right away. Best of luck to you all :)

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