I’m pleased to say that my first novel, the snappily titled “The Mutilated Merchant” has now launched worldwide on Amazon.
When you write a book, the work doesn’t simply end when you complete the final draft. From that point on, you need to take off your author hat and put on your book marketing hat. The book becomes a product that you need to sell and there are dozens, if not hundreds of steps in that process.
I found myself bogged down in my first draft and it took far longer than I’d have liked to complete. The Mutilated Merchant is about 72,000 words. That is a comfortable length for a novel but it’s not a long book. In an ideal world, I would have had it completed in the first quarter of 2017, spent a month preparing for a launch and then put the book out there with a full plan behind it.
If you were to scrape the best advice available, from the most successful fiction authors, you’d probably conclude that you should have your author platform completed and that you should seek to launch the first three books within three months. Not all on the same day but spread a few weeks apart. Why do that? Because it extends the tail of sales and keeps your audience coming back for more. Sales are going to drop off after the first couple of months, that’s just the way it happens, if your next book comes out within that time frame, you’ll get a bump and then again when the third one comes out.
I will certainly be using that strategy at some point in the future when I have enough income to have the luxury of completing an entire trilogy (or the first few books of a longer series) before launching any of them. For now, though, it was important that I commit to the book and series I was already writing. For me, it was better to keep writing the first book, complete it and hit publish. Many new indie authors get bogged down in analysis paralysis and simply fail to publish anything at all. It’s easy to succumb to impostor syndrome and assume no-one will enjoy your work and then think you should rewrite it, ad infinitum until you’re finally sitting on a masterpiece.
That’s fine if you actually want to do that. However, I’m under no illusions that I’m likely to become the next Patrick Rothfuss. He took 14 years to write and traditionally publish The Name of the Wind and it’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read, certainly worth the effort. He doesn’t recommend others follow his model though. It wasn’t something that he sat down at the start of writing and consciously choose to do.
Nothing bad happens to an author if they publish a book that no-one writes. In fact, that’s very likely to be the case and even if people like it, you aren’t going to have financial success on your first book unless you are exceptionally lucky. The indie author business is full of stories of people who made it big on their first book but most of those are click bait rubbish that does NOT come from the authors themselves. As a rule, it’s not the first novel they completed, it may not be the first they put out through traditional publishing or self-publishing as an indie author. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard (and trust me, over the last year I’ve listened to a LOT of advice – even more over the last twenty years of wanting this) is to hit publish. After you’ve done that, you’ve hmm… the first version that springs to mind, is a touch vulgar so let’s go with, taken off your training wheels?
There was consternation, there was a file upload that included the wrong character name for most of the first chapter, there’s the knowledge that none of my author platform is properly in place yet. But you know what? Sometime after midnight I had the thing formatted properly in Scrivener (I so desperately want to get Vellum) and uploaded it. I slept well, woke up refreshed and it went live sometime during the night. The first copy sold several hours ago. Only one mind but that’s three author goals ticked off in one week. Finish the book, publish the book, sell a copy.

Marketing the book

What I have to do now is start marketing the book. That means I have to get my website in ship shape, I have to sort out my social media presence (Facebook page is now live). I have to make sure my mailing list is ready and prominent so I can start to get subscribers. If you wish to be a successful author (or really any business) you need an email list. It’s free to set one up and the ideal time to have done all this would have been before I published. If I’d done that though, I would still be weeks away from completing the book. If procrastination is a problem for you, you need to finish the book first. If it isn’t, you’re probably not an author.
I need to get some ads out there, nothing fancy or expensive, it’ll be AMS ads for the time being. Hopefully, I can sell a few copies, enough to show that I’m not completely useless. Maybe I can even get a review.
Right now, I have just a few minutes before my parents arrive in Cardiff for a couple of days. I’m going to be able to tell them that I’ve written a book, it’s published and I’ve sold my first copy. Admittedly to my flatmate who I’ve known since secondary school which was QUITE SOME TIME AGO but still, I told him not to and he went and bought one anyway. Then he started asking about problems with the book, which I will collate and try and tweak for the next upload (I already uploaded a new version to fix one issue I spotted myself).
There’s a huge list of potential things that I could be doing to market my book (if my parents weren’t about to get here). I shall do as many as are of value but I will be trying to apply the Pareto Principle as best I can (the 80/20 rule if you’re not familiar which says that 80% of your output or success comes from 20% of your efforts – the key is to do the most useful things first and either not do the others at all or do them last).
Oh and after all that? I need to write the next book. While continuing to do other marketing work for the first one. I need to write, publish and repeat.
I’ll be putting up blog posts occasionally about my writing process and the fiction I’m working on. Hopefully, it will be of interest to some people but right now, if I don’t put my contact lenses in, meet my parents and get some food, it’s possible I’ll end up cannibalising my flatmate so I’d best stop 🙂