It’s time to talk about this. I’ve been thinking of writing another little booklet for other writers on the lessons I’ve learned about self-publishing – more of a memoir, really. During that thought process, it just came to me that I have literally done everything wrong. Let me explain:
- When I became convinced I should self-publish, I rushed through it so fast that I didn’t have ANYONE edit or proof-read my book. After all, I had edited it several times and proofed it 6, count ‘em, 6 times. Let me just say – only a fool relies on their own editing! That was me. Why would I do that? It’s very simple. I was so afraid that someone would criticize or offer suggestions on the story itself and I would then be paralyzed and NEVER, EVER publish it myself.
- I had 40 copies of Red Mojo Mama printed and began selling them to friends and family before my sister Julie was kind enough to tell me what a mess I had produced. I ended up labeling the remainders with PROOF COPY and giving them away.
- I published Red Mojo Mama in paperback first. At the time, I didn’t have a Kindle, nor did I have a marketing plan. I really had no idea what I was doing. I sold a few paperbacks online and then, of course, sales petered out. I sat around wondering what to do next for a couple of months until a friend suggested, very strongly, that I buy myself a Kindle. I did and the minute I pushed the order button an email from Amazon arrived advertising John Locke’s new book How I Sold a Million eBooks in 5 Months! I ordered it as soon as I unpacked my Kindle, read it in one sitting and knew I had to epublish. The excitement was almost unbearable.
- I uploaded the revised Red Mojo Mama as an eBook a few days later. Here’s the thing. Revised meant that two of my sisters and my mother proofed it for me. (Until just a few days ago, that’s the copy I’ve been selling – one that was full of errors)
- I ordered the e-version of Red Mojo Mama, read the first few pages on my Kindle and it looked fine. I had run into bad formatting in another book I’d read, but the formatting problems had begun on page 1 so I didn’t think to look any further in Red Mojo Mama. Unfortunately, my book remained full of errors and contained bad formatting for much too much longer.
- Along comes my dear friend Dannie C. Hill, who reads the book, loves the story and has the gumption to tell me my formatting is screwed up. He even volunteered to help me out with the problems. I will love him forever for both kindnesses.
- I uploaded Dannie’s corrected copy – and still didn’t look at it to make sure it was okay. At the time, I didn’t know we can preview our uploads before finalizing them. On KDP, once you push upload, the instructions urge you to go to the next step while you’re waiting for the upload to complete. Silly me – I did just that, never knowing that after the upload was completed this preview option came up. It took another kind stranger, who responded to a blog post I wrote (ironically about double checking our work before publishing) to point out this feature.
- Finally, I gave away over 12,000 of Red Mojo Mama recently that STILL had the errors and bad formatting. Two wonderful women took the time to write me emails and tell me that although they loved the story, the errors and bad formatting got in the way of their enjoyment. I will always be grateful to them as well. I recently had a very good proofer revise Red Mojo Mama, and happily, she’s now pretty as a picture. I checked!
- Along the way, I have learned to make my own covers. I did purchase one and the response to it has been less favorable than to the ones I’ve created on my own.
- When I started on Twitter, I knew absolutely nothing about it or how to interact with others and even less about how to market my book. Frankly, I’m still learning the marketing part on a daily basis, but again I had help with the Twitter etiquette. Rachel Thompson, @RachelintheOC, sent me a very sweet direct message and told me that I shouldn’t put the link to my book at the end of every tweet. I had begun following someone who looked very experienced who put the link at the end of each of his tweets, whether they had anything to do with his book or not, so I had just followed along. She was a lifesaver. Who knows how long it would have taken me to pick up on that one? I also got a lot of information from Rachel’s free social media webinar.
Here’s the good news: 1) I had so much kind help along the way and 2) except for the lack of editing and proofing early on, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I would still advise people who are like me, who learn by doing, to just jump in.
There are others out there who learn by reading up on a subject and approach things very carefully. I’ve never been that way. I don’t read instructions unless I need to do something specific, because quite honestly it doesn’t translate for me unless I’m in the midst of doing it. And even then, I’m bound to get stuff wrong. That’s just how it is for me.
Am I embarrassed by my mistakes? Yes, but they don’t keep me up at night. At least I did it. I jumped in and now I’m proud to say I have six books online and I’ve learned how to do most of it fairly well. While I fervently wish my product had been a little better in the beginning, I’m happy to be able to say I’m an author and I’m really happy with what I’ve published now. Does it get better than that? Wishing for perfection is a waste of time and paralyzing.
What I lacked for many years was encouragement and finally received it in my mid-thirties from the wonderful man I married, my late husband Pete. Because of that support I began writing screenplays and was even able to get an agent. It gave me my start. So, for the past decade or so, I’ve made it my mission to encourage other writers and writer wannabes. This post has been a part of doing that. I hope by freely admitting my mistakes, someone out there will jump in or keep going in the face of a failure.
Writers are a special breed and need to stick together, leaning down whenever possible to help the next guy up.
Keep on trucking, people.