Because this past week has been strange and yesterday was a very emotional day for most of the nation, I’m just going to get right to the point. These are some of the mistakes or missteps I made on my self-publishing journey.
If you haven’t yet, read 5 Reasons I Chose To Self-publish
Not sticking with middle-grade fiction
I started out writing for kids. It’s what I always wanted to do. The books I queried were middle-grade. The first book I published was middle-grade, which did okay in 2013. A few years later, I released another middle-grade and it went absolutely nowhere. I panicked and began thinking about what I should write in order to make a living because writing for kids wasn’t going to give me an income. Which brings me to the second point.
Making fear-based decisions
My response to not busting right out of the gate had me grasping at any idea to make this whole thing work. Because of that, I began writing whatever was hot at the time instead of writing for kids, which is where my heart is. Now, a lot of writers are capable of doing this, writing whatever, but I’m not one of them. That doesn’t make me special or anything. It’s just how my brain works. That’s also not an insult to those who are prolific at writing whatever they want.
Chasing trends and genre hopping
This fear-based mentality had me chasing after markets and trends I had no business writing in. Trends are fleeting, and my inability to write fast and publish quicker had me scrambling for anything and everything to build a writing career. This left me drained mentally and emotionally, which led to a severe case of burnout that lasted for years (still have it to be honest). I tried writing everything—cozy mysteries, urban fantasy, romance, steamy romance—but it only made me unhappy. During this time, I realized I write from the heart not from the head. Sometimes I wish I could be the latter, but I can’t fight nature. If I’m not invested in what I’m writing, I won’t want to do it.
Listening to business advice not meant for me
In the writing community, you’ll find a lot of helpful people willing to part with advice. On certain web forums there’s a concentration of these kindhearted folks. But the biggest thing to keep in mind is that, while good intentioned, not all advice is good and what works for one person’s career may not work for yours. Once I realized this was a true thing, I stopped taking anything anyone said, no matter how well they were selling, and trusted my own business sense to guide my career because my goals are not the same as others. And like I said, what works for one person may not work for you. There are too many variables to sales success and sometimes it’s not as obvious as a lot of authors think. Besides, selling isn’t why I write. Sure, I want to find my audience, but that’s just it. I want fans of my work not customers.
Having unrealistic expectations
I thought things would happen a lot faster than they did simply because of the nature of the business. But they did not. And when they didn’t, I freaked out. Daily. If you take this step keep in mind a few things: no one cares about your book especially if they can’t see it or can’t find it. You may not make any money. You’ll get bad reviews. You’ll get returns. It may take ten or more books over five or more years to see a return on investment. Don’t expect success. Plan for it, but don’t expect it. And keep your day job. This business can be brutal. If you expect to make it on your first book, this business will eat your soul.
Imagine what kind of writer you want to be, what kind of books you love to write, how much you have in your budget, and what your sales goals are. Build a business plan from there. Don’t freak out when it doesn’t work out. Learn to adapt and be flexible. You’ll need it. Always remember: this is your career and you get to decide how you want it to go. Just don’t make fear-based decisions that might be a quick fix but have long-term consequences. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
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