This post is going to deviate away from my usual progress updates and such and touch on a different topic: publishing and sales. These are things I’ve done wrong while publishing my books. This list below is by no means all the mistakes an author can make, of course. It’s a summary of what I messed up on in particular and how I could have done things better. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes (I think) and hope that someone else can, too.
So, if you’re looking to publish a book, or have already taken the leap, it might be a good idea to keep these “don’ts” in mind:
1.) Don’t slap on a cover that doesn’t look professionally made. I think this is the most important “don’t” on this list. If your cover doesn’t look great, nobody’s going to click on your book on Amazon. There’s too much about what makes a great cover to go over here, so I’ll link you to this blog that has tons of good cover advice: http://booksat.scarlettrugers.com/bookcoverdesign/
The first cover I had looked terrible. In fact, it was so bad that I’m not even going to post it here. I went through several better versions over the past couple of years until I reached the one I have now.
2.) Don’t get too original or unique with your cover. Look at the covers on Amazon for your genre. Which kinds of covers are on books that sell well? Chances are, they follow a pattern and have most of the same elements. That’s because readers need to be able to look at a cover and know what kind of book they’re getting.
For example: YA book covers are usually one of two things: a girl in a dress or a half face shot with a quirky eyeball. While I did have the quirky eyeball shot in my old covers, and I loved the cover another author made for me that had one such shot, the covers didn’t have the right colors or fonts to attract a YA audience.
So I experimented and slapped a girl in a dress on the cover, with a more fantasy-looking font.
Downloads for my first book instantly tripled, so it certainly didn’t hurt doing something that wasn’t very original. I can only wonder where I’d be now had I started Tempest off with this cover back in 2010.
3.) Don’t take a year to release the next book in your series. I made this mistake and worked on other projects instead, and many people who read the first book didn’t realize that Destroyers was going to be a series. I know I missed a lot of sales doing this: when I released the second book, I was lucky to sell 20 per month.
4.) If you want to sell lots, don’t waste time in genres that don’t sell well. While letting that year pass between Book 1 and Book 2 of my YA fantasy series, I was putting out and trying to promote a middle grade book. This is something I will never do again. Middle grade, in general, does not sell well. Neither does YA humor, I’ve found out. I will finish my middle grade series, but it won’t be the top priority and it won’t be at the expense of my YA paranormal and fantasy stuff.
5.) Don’t waste time trying to market a book that just won’t sell. Some books are just duds. I’ve had two that no one will touch, including one that is no longer for sale. This was another time-waster for me when I could have been writing another book that could possibly sell well.
6.) Don’t let your average star rating for a book fall under 4.0 on Amazon.com. Really. Don’t. This is the kiss of death, unless your book is already selling hundreds per day and doesn’t need to be promoted.
If your star rating falls under 4.0, most promotional opportunities will slam shut in your face. Most ebook-promoting websites, particularly the big ones with thousands of followers, will not consider letting you promote your book with them if this happens. Unfortunately, your star rating is also the factor that you have the least control over if you play the game honestly and don’t pad your Amazon page with fake reviews. (Which you shouldn’t, by the way. People can tell. If you do, you’ll get caught someday.) Sometimes, someone hates your work no matter what.
My mistake here? When some of my first 10 or 20 reviews came in for my first book, I wanted to do some minor edits to clean up some things. I asked around about this, and some people told me to leave it alone. I did. As another year passed, my average star rating got lower until it crossed that Threshold of Unpromoteableness. (Is that even a word?) Now that I have a lot of reviews, it will be much harder to crawl out of that pit.
I did finally make the edits I wanted to make a long time ago, but it might be a bit late for that now. Free books by nature tend to garner lower rated reviews because they’re perceived as having less value by consumers. I believe there’s a study about this somewhere.
So it definitely might be worth doing some small tweaks here and there if you catch wind of any problems with your book to minimize the chances of this happening. It can never be eliminated as there will always be people who hate your work.
I’m starting a new YA paranormal romance series, and I vow never to make these mistakes again. While I do risk having a star rating under 4.0 no matter how many times I edit and how many times my crit group tears my drafts apart, I’ll take every measure possible to make sure it doesn’t happen. I won’t wait a year between sequels. I’ll focus mostly on YA fantasy and paranormal from now on, which is a genre that sells well. I’ll probably get a cover artist for 2:20 if the jury says I need one. (I probably do.)
So hopefully, my next post about something like this will be along the lines of, “Things I Did Right and How I’m Going To Do Them Again.”