PSA for Indie Authors – Part 2: Revision

Image Description: a picture of a wooden table with (from left to right in a clock-wise circle) a piece of paper, a pair of thick-framed black glasses, a pine cone, a dusty green-leather bound book, a green vintage type-writer, an open blank notebook, a wooden stick, a small tan-coloured rectangle with black writing on it and an empty glass ink-well.

This post is about self-promotion and marketing for Beginner Writers who want to write Genre Fiction or Genre novels, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, fair enough, feel free to pass on this post.

This post will be covering basic tips and advice so this post may come across as stating the obvious, however, we all have to start somewhere. I’m going to be talking about Beta Readers and Critique Partners, so here’s some videos by the wonderful Jenna Moreci on the subject:

Jenna Moreci:
~Writing Tips: What if No One Likes my Writing?
~Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Beta Readers
~Getting the Most Out of Your Beta Readers
~How to be a Good Beta Reader
~What is a Critique Partner?
~How to be a Good Critique Partner

I’ll make up a case study of the typical situation I get asked questions about.

Shannon has just finished writing and self-editing their latest Work-In-Progress Novel Project, they are super excited about it, they have put their manuscript up on Smashwords/CreateSpace/Amazon as soon as possible and then told all their friends and relatives that they’re a “REAL Writer” now (as opposed to those Fake Writers) and have published their book all by themselves. Then, after a few months or even years, they notice that they are not selling a lot of copies (perhaps four or five when they first released the book, but pretty much nothing since) and they don’t know what went wrong.

And that’s when I have to ask a huge laundry-list of questions:
~Did you have a critique partner look at it and give you constructive feedback on your novel?
Critique Partners are people who are Writers that have agreed to read your manuscript and give you feedback from the perspective of a writer, what works, what doesn’t, what a novelist did well, what a novelist needs improving on. If you are a person who can’t handle criticism or your highly sensitive towards your work, I think you need to consider the following: take a step back (mentally, physically, whatever), take a deep breath and ask yourself if you want to be a published writer or a good writer.

Because, quite frankly, Writers don’t improve unless they are willing to accept feedback and criticism and are willing to acknowledge these problems AND fix the problems pointed out to them. Wouldn’t you rather accept criticism now while you are still able to fix the problem?

In my view, a writer needs to have another pair of eyes look at their manuscript before they even consider sending their manuscript off to a professional editor, let alone publishing options. I recommend authors find and join a Writing Workshop group (or create one if you can’t find one) and workshop each member’s novel on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

Writing Workshop groups can be found on Facebook or Tumblr and my advice would be a writer who likes to read similar books to you but have a different writing style. For Example: Kim is an amazing Critique Partner (they deserve all the kudos) and we both enjoy fantasy books, however, Kim is a primary a character driven writer and is excellent at editing.

While I’m more a plot orientated writer and I am not skilled at editing. But because we both have different strengths and weaknesses, Kim can point out stuff to me that they felt was unclear/could be better written, like how it’s not always obvious what my characters are thinking or feeling at that specific moment.

~Did you have at least two Beta Readers look at it and give you constructive feedback?
A writer needs people who are not family members to read their work and give an objective view-point on whether or not their novel project is readable. You also need someone willing to review your book once it’s been read, websites like Goodreads and Amazon recommend books based their rating system, although I will acknowledge that the Goodreads review system is easier to understand than the Amazon one.

As an Indie Author, I understand what it feels like to yearn for people to read your book, you’ve worked so hard on your novel and you want to know what people’s reaction to it is. Does it make them think? Does it make them feel? Are they eager to read more?

But you need that Feedback BEFORE you publish, not AFTER (trust me, learn from my fail in this regard). Personally, I can’t stand it when my family and close friends tell me (after reading a small sample of my novel) that’s it’s “good” or “nice”, Writers need honest and constructive feedback and there’s nothing constructive about “nice” and “good”.

This is where a Beta Reader comes into play. A Beta Reader could be a fellow indie writer who is apart of your regular writing group/class. A Beta Reader could also be blogger like myself who reads and reviews books.

Some Book Reviewers only read and review books that are Traditionally Published, I know quite a few book-bloggers that refuse to review self-published books (due to quality control problems).Some Book Reviewers are happy to read self-published authors but won’t accept books in eBook format. Some reviewers will only read and review physical books.

Some Book Review blogs only review books in a certain genre, which has resulted in a large amount of Young Adult book-review blogs (there’s a big trend in Australian Publishing and Book-Blogging communities to use hash-tags like #LoveOZYA). It pays to do some research and to investigate what a book-blogger’s book review policy is (here’s a link to mine).

I think it also helps to check out the Categories section of book reviews, there’s no point asking a book-blogger who primarily reads science-fiction to read your historical romance novel. Also, don’t just bombard the book-blogger with a unsolicited requests to read your book, go through their blog-posts, check out book reviews they’ve written for books within your genre, perhaps leave a comment.

Mutual interest in each other’s work via engagement and building a connection is super important. I mean, you wouldn’t walk up to a random stranger in the street and ask them to read and review your book (or at least I hope you don’t do that, if so, please stop immediately), so don’t do that on the internet.

~Did you organise to have a professional editor look at it?
Okay, you’ve got feedback back from your Critique Partner and Beta Readers, you’ve even managed to acknowledge that maybe they made a few good points and, as a result, you’ve revised your manuscript and made some significant improvements.

What’s next?

Well I guess it depends on what kind of Writer you are. I’m a Writer that is not particularly skilled with the editing segment of writing, I’ve previously written about my experiences with the editing element of self-publishing, so go read that blog-post and then come back. I would also like to add that I’ve recently had some more Melbourne-based Editors recommended to me, here’s the link for them:
~Kathryn Moore
~AJ Collins

Have you researched and/or organised how you’re going to format your book?
Are you going to format the book yourself? Do you know how to do that? I’ve seen some self-published books lacking some standard formatting elements, such as not doing a page break for a new chapter. I prefer a new page for a new chapter, it looks nicer, it’s easier to read and it’s not hard to insert a simple page break.

I myself have difficulties with formatting and page-layout. The Table of Contents is more complicated than I first anticipated. I’ve invested in a copy of InDesign but I have yet to use it for anything, mostly because I have no idea what I’m doing with InDesign. This is why I’ve signed up for Skillshare classes and I’ll be looking into basic tutorials.

While All That Revision Is Going On…
What’s your social media marketing campaign look like? Have you been making sure to make regular blog-posts on your social media platform of choice? How big is your established audience exactly? What motivation does your Potential Audience have to buy your book?

Obscurity is the Enemy of the Author

If Potential Readers don’t know you exist, how can they possibly buy your book? Also, can readers purchase your book from your website? I’ve scrolled through a few Indie Author’s websites and I haven’t been able to purchase their books. Always make sure readers have access to your books, it’s not hard to set up a separate page on a WordPress Blog with links connecting to Amazon or Smashwords.

Do you have a fixed release date? Are you doing a give-away to celebrate the release of your book? I’m not saying you have to do a give-away, that’s entirely up to you and your monetary limitations. Would something like InstaFreebie appeal to you?

You don’t have to do all of these things, but you do need to know what it is that you are doing, you need a plan in place, the “Publish the book and Readers will Come” mentality just simply will not work for the majority of newbie authors (although I’m sure there are exceptions).

And you might be wondering, “But B.R. it’s not possible to do all that self-promotion stuff and work on my novel at the same time!”

Well… Maybe it’s not possible, you need to figure out what you can and cannot do, and then work within your limitations. Figure out a promotion plan that works best for you.

Perhaps you can send your novel out to your Beta Readers and Critique Partners, then start working on your promotional stuff. I recommend giving your manuscript some space before sending it off to be professionally edited, you don’t want to burn out (self-care is your highest priority). Perhaps you could put working on your novel aside for a few months before revising it.

Publishing a Book is a collaborative process and it takes a team effort in order to make a good book. Try not to rush it.

~Book Bloggers Australia
~The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

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