Friday, September 21, 2012

The Biggest Single Mistake

By Peg Brantley

I'm stoked. My second book will be published next month if all goes according to plan.

The Missings will have been written, self-edited, beta-read, edited again and then edited once more as a pre-edit edit, then professionally edited, then proofread. Then it will be formatted for both ebooks and paperback.

It has a great cover. (I love this cover!) There are even some readers who are waiting for it.

That's all it needs, right?

I've been thinking about this, and I've come up with what I think is the single biggest mistake indie authors make on the business side of their books. And I'm pretty sure I know it's true because I'm sooooo tempted to make the same mistake.

We get too damned anxious to publish.

We all know about the pipeline involved with traditional publishing: that long and seemingly Endless Wait for your book to finally become available. One of the pluses for doing everything yourself is to be able to be more immediate with readers; more immediate with your career.

But we miss some things—some important things—if we rush too fast. These are a couple of the things a traditional publisher would be working to put in place during the Endless Wait.

Since I just published my first novel, I know these items might be more difficult with a debut novel, but for a second? I think they're imperative, and should be done before publication:

  • Line up some reviewers—preferably reviewers who read and liked your previous book—and have those reviews ready to go;
  • Ask at least one published author (in your genre) who outranks you in terms of sales and readers, to endorse your new book;
  • Line up some advance readers who are willing to help you hit the floor running with some Amazon reviews, blog reviews, list reviews, tweets, Facebook, etc.

The hard part is letting your book that is ready sit for a week or two longer in order to get these other plans in place. But a week or two is a whole lot better than a year, don't you think?

The exception to this line of thought might be the author out there who is publishing his or her eighth or  ninth or eleventh book—they're a known quantity and might not need the bump from reviews and endorsements.

But for those of us in the early stages of the game? You've taken the time to do everything right up until the book is ready to publish. You've fed it, nurtured it, educated it and clothed it. Now make sure it has the support system and social contacts it will need to rise above the millions of other books that are out there.

Writers, what other things do you think help impact the success of a well-written book?

Readers, what helps pull you toward a relatively new author?

Peg Brantley's debut thriller, RED TIDE, has found it way into the hands of more than 30,000 readers in the six months since its publication. THE MISSINGS, a police procedural, will be available in October.


  1. You're right about all that! I would also line up a couple of paid sponsorships like Pixel of Ink or Ereader IQ (which have to be done early) and you might consider a giveaway on Goodreads and LibraryThing to kick start some early reviews. Best wishes with your launch. It's a great story.

  2. I'm impressed with your diligence and thorough approach, Peg. You haven't skipped any all-important steps so far. And I absolutely love the cover!

    But most of all, as your editor, I have to say that all your self-editing and pre-edit editing (!) have definitely paid off! Your writing is excellent and the story is riveting! I'm almost finished and can't wait to get to the end! I love your characters, too - they seem so real, and the dialogue is true to life. And you explore a thought-provoking issue, involving some scary illegal activities that maybe a lot of people aren't aware of.

    Overall, a real page-turner. This book will sell!

  3. Good adds, LJ! My To Do List is growing!

    And thanks, both of you, for your encouragement and support.

    Jodie, your collaborative approach to editing has made this process not only enjoyable, but fun.

  4. Peg, I think this is true for those of us being published by small presses as well. I'm amazed at how fast everything proceeds--from edits to promo--and know that I have to do plenty to promo for myself with a small press. Thanks for the reminders.

  5. Reader checking in. :)

    I'm in a lot of online mystery discussion groups, and if the new author is someone (in one of the groups) whose postings I've enjoyed, that'll get me to try that person's book even if it doesn't sound like something that would normally be up my alley.

    But - and this is a HUGE but - if it is someone who continually self-promotes, that has the opposite effect, and I am unlikely to try the book even if it appears to be something that would normally appeal to me.

  6. Jan, thanks for your comment!

    After the book is out, a lot of authors feel some kind of weird pressure to sell, sell, sell. You said it very nicely, but I hate to feel like I'm being manipulated. I usually respond to manipulation by doing just the opposite.

    As authors, we need to try and remember that it's really important to "announce" only those things that are significant, not a daily broadcast to buy our books.

  7. Peg,

    I don't feel like I'm being manipulated when the BSP starts, I mostly find it tiresome. I don't mind someone announcing that a new book is out, but as you pointed out, it doesn't need to be done on a daily basis. When it gets to that point, what it really sounds like is desperation, which I'm sure is not the image anyone wants to project.

    But that's just me. Others may feel differently.

  8. I agree. But I'm still annoyed. Especiallly with Linked In. I hope I've reset my notifications to not get the constant spam (mostly from authors, by the way) about why their book is special.

  9. As the old saying goes: Too fast never lasts; slow and steady wins the race.

    I think that says it all.

  10. The 'blurb' has to suggest it is something I am interested in, and with a new author there has to be a page or two of her writing style. Style kills it for me everytime, no matter how 'supposedly' well written, we all have an individual style.
    Promo is mandatory, but those who think joining writers groups and blasting their covers daily is going to sell anyone is simply setting themselves up for being ignored.

  11. Pat, I agree with you. There are certain sub-genres in crime fiction that simply don't interest me. Between the cover and the blurb, I can weed out a lot of books.

    One of the things I love about ebooks is the ability to sample a significant amount of the story. A lot can be learned from just the first few pages.

    An author who is ignored… hmmm… I wonder if that might not make an interesting plot line…

  12. Peg, you are so right on all counts. It's almost like a chess game and if we're not thinking three steps ahead, we'll wind up getting stuck. Part is trial and error to see what works for each of us individually, but so much is planning. And, then, of course, there's always our good old unknown, Lady Luck. BTW, would be happy to do an article on you for my National Crime Fiction column.

  13. From a reader's perspective: The first step is for me to be aware of the new author. I find many new authors through word of mouth and from reading blogs. Voice and writing style is everything to me. If I'm reading a blog and like the writer's voice, I'll link to her site to learn more about her book and possibly make a purchase. That's how I first discovered L.J.

  14. Terry, I'd be honored for you to do an article on my. I'm not sure how interesting it would be, but I'm game if your are.

    Kelly, your input is terrific. It's good to know that sometimes we find readers indirectly. I "discovered" L.J. in a somewhat different way, but like you, I'm so glad I did.

  15. Hi Peg
    Readers finding you is tough. I'm still waiting. A few have but no where near the number that you show. I put a children's story up for free, but that didn't translate into interest for my epic fantasy. I think it will be harder still because of the out cry over paid for reviews. However, eventually, I will be found.

    Thanks for the advice. I'm adding this URL to my blog pages under promotion.


  16. Nancy, I think what Drew (Andrew E. Kaufman) said really applies: slow and steady wins the race. We're all building our reader base one fabulous reader at a time. They are gold. Too fast (and I'm sure you can think of one or two or fifty books that have hit lately) and there's a chance they won't have what it takes to last.

    You're books are in two different genres (unless I'm reading you wrong), and that's a lot like just having one book out there.

    When I put RED TIDE up for free recently, I didn't just put it up and hope for the best. I'd done that before. This time, I went on the hunt for support to get the word out. I blogged about it here:

    The increase in sales I received from that lasted well over a month. Another third-party site provided another bump just as the afterglow of the free days was fading.

    You'll build your readers just like we all do. One at a time. And because we're more on the "slow and steady" side of things, we'll probably appreciate each of our readers a lot more.

  17. Save me. I'm so sorry about all of the mistakes in my last comment. But I'm not going to take it down one more time. Sheesh.

  18. Too many things on the go all at once, Peg! Happens to all of us. LOL :-)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.