An Indie Publishing Journey: Mistakes I’ve Made with my first book

It was always inevitable. I was always going to make mistakes on this journey, and I always said I’d be upfront when I do. I’ve learned from those before me, so hopefully, I can share my experiences and it will help you too!

So here we go… Mistakes I made with my first published book (so far!)

Not being meticulous in the proofreading

I always set out to make my book as professional as possible. I engaged a structural (developmental) editor, a copy editor and also a proofreader. However, by the time I received my manuscript back from the proofreader I was sick of the sight of it. I didn’t want to read another word! So I took the easy way out. I skim read the manuscript, checking and approving the proofreader changes/edits. But, I didn’t do a thorough enough job.

We’re all human. No matter how experienced the eyes on it, things get missed. And they were. Including a grammar issue on the very first page!

When I picked it up (after publication!!!!) I was mortified. My only saving grace was none of my early reviewers had mentioned it. They either missed it or were being kind to this debut novelist.

What I’d do differently next time.

Next time, I will make the effort to carefully read through after the proofreader and not just accept her edits. Afterward, I also plan to engage some early readers to read the final manuscript through and check for errors. That’s not to say it will guarantee an error-free manuscript, but it certainly will keep the errors as minimal as possible. And I’ll be reading that first page over and over again!!

Pre-orders mistakes

There are a few different trains of thought on pre-orders for indie authors – particularly debut indies or those in the very early stages of their careers. On Amazon in particular, pre-orders don’t count on the official publication day, they count for the day of the pre-order, so hoping to get a spike in sales on the official publication day to help boost rankings, isn’t a given. But, that wasn’t my reason for doing a pre-order. I decided to do a pre-order period to build hype and get my book out there. And I think in that sense it worked. I’ve had many comments from people saying they keep seeing my book pop up on social media, so, that’s a good thing.

I did, however, make a mistake setting up the pre-order. The Amazon KDP author dashboard can be a little confusing to get used to. So when I came to set up my pre-order dates I accidentally read it wrong. I thought I was setting up the pre-orders to start on a particular date, but I had actually set that date as the publication date and the pre-order date to start immediately. Yikes!

The mistake being, on Amazon, you can’t change pre-orders willy-nilly. There are strict rules enforced, including the one that says if you cancel a pre-order you can’t set up another pre-order for a whole year! (Although at the time of writing this, there are whispers that this rule is being changed.) So, without being able to change the date, I was forced to bring forward publication, which definitely ramped up the stress levels!

What I’d do differently next time

Next time I plan to research more into the pre-order option and decide if it worth doing. Yes, it’s nice to see those sales come through and build anticipation from a marketing point of view, but is it worth it? That’s what I’ll be looking into. And I’ll be making sure I set the date right. Double and triple-checking!

Double check links!

Building a mailing list is an integral part of an indie authors success. After all, it’s the only direct marketing source you have.

I’ve been building my list for a few years now, but only really started working it over the past few months. Working it included, getting a decent lead-magnet (in my case a prequel novella) up to entice sign-ups, and an onboarding sequence.

An onboarding sequence is the series of emails that get sent to a new sign up. Typically the first email is a welcome and here’s your free book/novella/prequel whatever. The next email (5 days later) is a quick email to check they didn’t have issues with the download and remind them who I am and why they signed up.

In my third email, (in another 5 days) is another thank you for signing up and hoping they had a chance to read the free book, and I also introduce myself a little more. This begins the process of connecting with the reader and sharing more of me as a person rather than an author. In this email, I also offer them another freebie. If they’ve already downloaded my novella, I offer them my collectiton of short stories. If they signed up for the short stories I offer them my novella as a prequel to my book. It was in this email I made a huge mistake!

Instead of sending them a link to the free novella, the link took them to my actual book to download for free! Yep, you read that right! They got my debut novel for FREE!

Fortunately, one lovely reader advised me of this early on and I was able to rectify the situation. I think there were about seven readers who benefited from my error. And all I can hope is that they enjoyed the book and stick around to buy the next one.

What I’d do next time

Double-check everything. Every email, every link, everything!

Be organized further in advance for the print version

I’m not too proud to say that I wanted to see my book in print. I wanted to hold it in my hands and see it the shelves of my local bookshop. And, mission accomplished!

But print is so much more complicated than ebook production!

What I didn’t know going in was that to get a cover designed for the print version isn’t as simple as liaising with the designer, and them delivering you the cover to upload to your chosen aggregator/distributor. The ebook cover is that easy, but not the print.

For the print cover, your designer will need the size of the book you wish to print and the final page count!

That doesn’t sound complicated but it means that you can’t get the final print file until the final formatting is complete and you know the exact page numbers.

It also means that if you edit anything in the book that changes the page number count, yep, you guessed it, you need your designer to amend the cover file! Which often isn’t a quick process especially when working with a busy, sought after designer. They aren’t sitting around waiting to edit your cover on a whim!

What I’d do differently next time

It’s all about timing; making sure there is plenty of time between the final proofreading, formatting, and publication date to get the print file designed. I need to make sure I’m 100% happy with the font size, size of the book and the contents before I request the print file from the designer.

I have thought about not even doing a print version next time, but readers of contemporary women’s fiction do still love a real book (as do I). For my rom-com series, I will only be doing ebook. So my suggestion is to make sure you research what format readers in your genre like to read in and go from there.

Not having a detailed marketing plan and release strategy

I call this one, the ‘mistake I had to make’ (Aussie readers will get this pun).

I always knew that I was jumping in the deep end with my first book, and I kind of wanted it that way. I firmly believe that jumping in and ‘doing’ is the best way to learn. With so much advice out there on marketing and launching your first book it’s impossible to take it all in. The only way to learn is to understand the basics and then jump in.

What I’d do differently next time

Develop a timeline from copy edit through to proofreading (including advanced readers!!), cover design, uploading and publication and then the first 4-8 weeks thereafter.

I will be making a list of people to contact such as reviewers, advanced readers, podcasters, book bloggers and when to contact them giving them enough time to fit me into their schedules. And that’s the key. Their schedules are all different. One book blogger may be fine to contact a few week’s before release date, but another one may need four months’ notice!

I’ll also be making a marketing plan on how to market during the pre-release period, around publication day, and beyond.

I’m still in this learning phase with The Memories We Hide right now, so I’m making lots of notes on what needs to be done next time. It’s also something that will change with each release. Obviously, with my early books I won’t be sinking a lot of money into paid advertising and marketing, but with more books under my belt (read through opportunity) then I’ll need to look at a plan to factor that it.

Releasing your debut novel as an indie author isn’t ever going to run smoothly. In fact, I don’t think releasing any novel will ever run perfectly, but I know it will become easier as I streamline the process. It’s all a learning curve, and I’m sure over the next few months there will be more mistakes I realise I’ve made. So, keep your eye out for Mistakes I’ve Made Part II!