June 26, 2013

It's My Anniversary

No, not that anniversary...I'm one of the relatively few people who got married in December, so that's months away.

It's my indie publishing anniversary!  My first Bunderful Books title, Save The Best For Last, made its debut on June 26, 2009 (in hindsight, that is the day after the death of pop icon Michael Jackson...funny that I don't remember that going on as I uploaded my book).  At that time I Harlequin had given me my walking papers, although I was still writing for Dafina.  I didn't know where this indie publishing thing would lead, if anywhere.  But a year later Dafina cut me loose as well, and it occurred to me that I would simply tell my stories through Bunderful Books.

I proceeded to do just that.  The Heat of Heat (2010), A Kiss of a Different Color (2011), Isn't She Lovely? (2012), Something Real (2012), Man of Her Heart (2013), and the soon-to-be-published Love Will Follow; plus the backlist titles A Love of Her Own, Accidentally Yours (formerly titled Prelude to a Kiss), Where There's Smoke, and A Love For All Seasons; and the prequel to Love Will Follow, Lost That Lovin' Feeling (2013). Many more eBooks and backlist titles are penciled in...there's no end in sight.  I'll probably still be working on my idea list when I'm 80.

To commemorate this occasion, I am offering my backlist title Where There's Smoke for the special price of $1.99 (regularly $3.29) from today through June 30th, at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  If you missed this title, this is your chance to grab it and save!  Or tell your friends about it!

I've learned a lot in the last four years, and while I'm far from the most successful writer on the planet, I'm doing reasonably well, and I thought I'd share a few of my recommendations for success in this business we've chosen:

  • Be prolific.  Joe Konrath says, "If you can't write fast, learn how."  I recognized early on that this would be a key to success; it's kind of a no-brainer.  The more products you have available, the more you will earn.  On the other hand...
  • Don't publish before you're ready because you're in a rush.  This can lead to poor quality work.  Putting out poor quality work is like having body odor...once you get a reputation for stinking, it's hard to shake.  Don't announce a specific publication date unless you're damn sure you can make it (best to make it two or three weeks ahead of your announcement).  I personally don't like giving specific release dates.  I've had enough problems uploading to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble to know that things can very easily go wrong, and Amazon has a habit of moving the upload date up by a day.  Besides, the pub date will not match the release date (it's going to be two or three days earlier), so why bother?  Traditional publishing houses announce on-sale dates, and the retail sites release the books at the stroke of midnight on the publish date...but you know what?  I'm not a traditionally published author, and I don't see the point in pretending that I am.
  • Writing is not something you can get into with no investment at all.  Unless you are a graphic artist (not someone who merely knows your way around the software), you shouldn't design your own cover.  I've seen covers with nice artwork that have weak fonts that give them away as self-published, montages of art that don't work, fonts that blend into the art and can't clearly be read, and covers that are just plain hideous.  Even if you are an English teacher or an experienced editor, unless you are collaborating with another experienced author (chances are that you can successfully edit each other's work), don't try to edit your own work unless you are simply pre-editing before submitting to someone else.  Again, no one is expecting perfection; you won't even see that from traditional publishers in these times of cutbacks.  But you don't want your work riddled with incorrect words, bad punctuation, sprawling narrative, and misspelled words.  There are good, qualified people out there who will work for reasonable rates.  I've heard it said numerous times recently that the sub-quality indie published book is becoming more and more rare, which is good news for all of us.  Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • Don't talk back to reviewers, yes, even when they're wrong. I recently undertook a major ad campaign for my romantic comedy Accidentally Yours, which resulted in tens of thousands of free downloads and respectable sales after the special expired. Free books are frequently targets of harsh reviews because some people will download and read anything that's free, even if it isn't their type of book.  I don't mind saying that I suspect that some (not all) of them have a direct correlation to the book being about African-American characters, which is not reflected on a cover without people (although the mention of a "dark-skinned beauty" in the product description should have given it away) and likely caught them by surprise and maybe even made them feel a little cheated.  I have been accused of changing my characters to black mid-story (as if I didn't know who I was writing about), of publishing a book ridden with errors (two reviewers cited one-time use of the word "set" when it should have been "sat," with enough venom to suggest it was an offense punishable by jail time when one of them gave another book 5 stars "despite the errors on every page").  Other readers were annoyed that this contemporary romance contained (gasp!) explicit sex.  I've seen people complain about "atrocious editing," (no examples given, which would surprise Arabesque, since I used the scanned file of the book and other than the aforementioned "set/sat" interchange saw no other specifics).  One reader expressed disappointment that the characters always seemed to notice if they were the only black people in the room, saying she thought we were past such trite observations.  (I can't help wondering how aware she would feel if she were to be dropped on the corner of Lenox Avenue and 125th Street.)  Just let it go, for life's too short to fuss with people who've already decided whether or not they will read any more of your work.  Just be grateful that they tried your book and don't alienate them and possibly other readers who do enjoy your books but who will be put off by an argumentative personality.  
  • Keep experimenting with your pricing.  Nothing is carved in stone.
  • Series is the way to go.  Just create a project you truly love; you might be stuck with it for years to come.  Many readers just don't want to see a story end, and sometimes writers get trapped into continuing with the same characters behaving the same way without learning a thing because their readers demand it, which isn't very challenging.  Remember, there can be a common thread other than stories about members of a family, which is by far the most frequent basis of romance series.
  • Some books are going to be more successful than others, yes, even books by the same author.  Don't get discouraged if you release a book that doesn't sell well...just get busy on the next one.

Happy Anniversary to me!


Cerece Rennie Murphy said...

Thanks for the sage advice and Happy Anniversary!

bettye griffin said...

Thanks, Cerece! I hope you found it helpful.