Happy Sunday my lovelies! I know it's a little late in the day, but, here I am.
Have you ever heard the saying “Poor planning produces piss-poor results?” I think it's common among military people. Anyway, those words fell from my dad’s lips a-many-a-times when I was growing up. And since I married a man a lot like my dad (mostly only the good parts), I’ve heard that saying a lot in my adult life, too. So last night as I tried to sit down and write this blog—so I could check off one day from my goal of scheduled blog posts (ha!😂)—that saying reeled through my head for some reason. In fact, it weaseled its way in and got me really stuck on what to write about. It took me a minute, but I think I've figured out how to make it fit in as a writing post. So today, I'm giving you My Two Cents on all the unseen steps to consider when deciding when/how to publish your book.
To be clear, this post is not going to be about the tangible expenses that go into publishing—editing, cover design, formatting, etc. I'm talking about the unseen intangibles that go into making your published (or about to be published) book successful.
When I first started this journey, several years ago, I had every intention to either publish my book with a publisher, or not publish at all. Those were the only options, in my opinion. Not only because I knew I didn't have what I assumed would be tens of thousands of dollars to publish a book, but because I had zero clues where to start. So I figured I needed someone to guide me. But as I got farther into the journey, I made friends. Bookish friends in all walks of their writing journey. Some were querying, some had been published by traditional publishers, and a lot were self-publishing.
To be quite frank—and if you go back and read some of my early posts, it’s confirmed—I had a bit of an attitude against self-publishing. Because as a reader I'd never taken the time to actually look to see which books were published in which way.
To be fair, I have read—or attempted to read—a lot of self-published books that were terrible. Everything from a million typos/grammar mistakes, to stories that weren't well developed or needed a good scrub to get rid of all the superfluous words. But—and this is a big BUT—I’ve learned that the same can be said about traditionally published books. And I've learned through my journey that some of the indie books are actually better, because the author is so worried about people feeling the way I used to—that indie can't be done right—that they spend way more time on their books than any publishing company can really afford to.
Here’s the thing, because I've gotten off-track. There is a ton of intangible/unseen work that goes into publishing a book, no matter which way you decide to publish. And I've also learned that even if you get published traditionally, the author is responsible for a lot these things.
The marketing—which in today's society is done mostly on social media—for example, becomes mainly the author’s responsibility. That is where the piss-poor planning potentially comes in. While I think publishing companies can likely point you in the right direction, and potentially have ideas for dates/deadlines for said marketing, they probably aren't going to do a lot of it for you. You have to do them yourself. As an indie author, I am still dialing in the right timing for all of these things to happen, so I'll share my experience, and what I think I could do better.
Here are just a few examples of the intangibles I thought of off the top of my head:
Building your audience
Building your audience is one of the things that I think takes the most time and is likely where most authors get it wrong. To be clear, I don't think there is a specific number of followers you need to have or even a certain type, but you need to have spent a lot of time—before even considering self-publishing—on this. Your audience should be filled with followers who like the same books, laugh at the same memes, and who ultimately will be your readers. This is one of the most important steps and should be started months or even years before your publication date.
I’m not saying I’m sure I've got it right. In fact I'm sure I don't. But the authors who do well (and by ‘well,’ I'm specifically talking about their book sales, even though ‘well’ is subjective and can look differently to everyone). Anyway, the authors who do well, have followers/fans who like the things they like. Again, I'm not saying I have this 100% pinned down. I don't have a huge following, but I do have a small, loyal fan base, who read most everything I publish. So have I reached 10M followers? No. But will the people who follow me ultimately read my book? Potentially. The point is, in the realm of how much time you should plan to spend building your audience, that number is likely going to be counted in years, not days or weeks. So when you're planning, make sure you know it's a marathon not a sprint
When to post your key dates
This is where the real helpful information comes, and to be clear, I'm not an expert. I've published one Vella series and one Novella. I don't have all the answers. But I do have a bit more clarity than I did when I'd published nothing. Or at least I know when is probably too late to post about these things.
There are probably a lot of things I'm missing, but here are some of the key marketing dates that need to be planned out properly in order to achieve fair publishing day results.
Release Date reveal
This should likely happen months before your book is set to release. I've seen authors post the date up to a year (or even longer) before their release date is set to happen. Personally, picking a release date puts a lot of pressure on me, so with my novella (Irish Whiskey), I set a tentative date early on but didn't finalize the exact date until a week or so before and I didn't announce until a day or two before. It didn't kill my book, but let's just say, release day sales were not what I hoped, and the lack of hype was underwhelming.
The earlier you can announce the release date (and feel confident you can hit that date), the better off you'll be. Because the point is to build excitement. For example, season 3 of Bridgerton has been teased on social media for months. By the time it finally comes out, it'll have been teased for over a year. As a true fan of the show, I'm DYING to see it. So they are fully achieving their goal of building hype, because the tension is killing me and I will likely watch it on release day!
The point is, if you don't announce the date early enough, the risk is, release day numbers will be low, because you didn't leave enough time for people to learn about it. Of course, that's not the end of the world, because release day isn’t the be-all, end-all date for book sales. But starting off on the right foot is important, and I can tell you from experience; if your numbers start off really low, it can make it hard to find the motivation it takes to bring them up
With The Cupcake Cowboy (book 1 in my Nashville Singles Series) I am close to being done with it, and the release date is about 3 months away, so I feel confident finally announcing that my release date will be March 22, 2024!
Ok, so I got this pretty wrong on Irish Whiskey. I waited until really late in the game to get my cover designed. Then I had two really great covers and I just couldn't decide which to use! In fairness, I helped build the hype by trying to get people to vote for their favorite, but I didn't end up doing a cover reveal until the week before.
Most authors do cover and blurb reveal at the same time, and they generally do it at least 3-6 months before release. Again, this builds hype and gets readers thinking about reading your book. If you wait too long, you'll get similar results to the release date reveal. I read somewhere recently that followers only see less than 10% of the content you post on social media. Which means if you spend 3 months posting your cover, one time per day you'll make 90 posts. Each of your followers will see it at most 9 times (and that is if every one of those posts is the same/similar). So if you have 100 followers that's potentially 900 views. But if you post only one or two times the weeks leading up to it, you get the point… just post as soon as you feel confident that's the cover you're going to stick with so you can get the idea on your reader's radar.
Again, I waited until way too late to finish editing my Irish Whiskey, therefore I couldn't schedule it for pre-order. I invariably lost readers who may have purchased the book had they seen the post then clicked the link to purchase. It's important to get the book up for pre-order almost as soon as you start teasing it and at the latest at least 30 days before publication date so you don't waste any of the views you may be getting. That's all I'll say about that because honestly, I still haven't quite gotten this right, and I feel a little weird telling anyone what they should do, since I honestly don't exactly know.
I had very few ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) readers with Irish Whiskey, because again it just wasn't done in time. But I had a couple dozen or so and of those, a handful left reviews. From everything I've read, ARCs should go out at least a month before publication date.
This time around, I plan to use Netgalley (and if you haven't read Kathryn Kincaid’s guest blog about how to save money on that with Victory Editing, now’s the time to do it-find it here. Also I want to get ARC copies out very soon. My direct ARC sign-up is now available for Cupcake Cowboy, and I'll be sending out copies in late January/early February, once the edit, formatting and cover art are done. I hope to open up ARCs on Netgalley in February as well. So if you're interested in joining Cupcake Cowboy’s Arc team, please make sure you sign up here.
I will say, one thing I've heard from a lot of indie authors is that the ARC readers are one of the hardest lines to walk, and I'll agree. I didn't get that many requests for Irish Whiskey (again, my fault for waiting so late), but those I did, I got a very small percentage who actually left reviews. I have to admit, I find ARCs a little hard because of the fact that so many don't actually result in a review. The estimate/average is that only about 10% of readers who receive ARC books, actually leave reviews. Personally, I find it hard to hand out free books that I had to pay to promote on an ARC site like Netgalley/Goodreads and if I use Bookfunnel (a service that helps send out ARCs), I'll have to pay for that service too. Ultimately, it's part of the cost of doing business, and I get that. But it's just another one of those unseen costs/things that indie authors have to figure out.
Building a Street Team
Ok, so I've never had a street team before, but I know a lot of indie authors do, and I am going to try it out.
What is a street team, you ask? A team/group of loyal friends/fans who help promote an author’s book. And my street team I hope to fill with other authors and bookstagrammers who want/need help promoting their books/reviews and want to help me grow my audience. Sign-ups and more information are available here but ultimately it's something I hope to get going ASAP. I plan to keep it going all the time, but I think most authors open their street team at least 3-6 months before publication date.
Ok guys, I've rambled on enough about a lot of things that weren't completely related but I hope it was helpful to someone. Ultimately, I think the point I’m trying to make is that there is more to publishing a book than editing, cover design and formatting. And most of that—regardless of how you publish—is the author's responsibility. So make sure you plan ahead, and remember it's a marathon, so don't try to squeeze it into the time of a sprint.
That's it, that's My Two Cents on Unseen Steps to Consider When Publishing.
Have a good week friends!
-Rose Rayne Rivers
Comment below and tell me something you think should be added to the list of intangibles!
Also, let me know if you have any topics you want me to cover in the upcoming weeks!
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