Marketing Tip Monday Seven Self-Publishing Mistakes I Made That You Might Want to Make Too

JA Huss

SEVENMISTAKES

Well, yes. We all make mistakes. I make a lot of them, and usually I’m a cynic in the best of times, but honestly, my mistakes have made me what I am today. So I’m going to share them with you and see if you might want to make the same mistakes I did. There is no such thing as failure if you learn something new. And by the way… BRAND NEW web design! Check out the whole site if you didn’t get a look the other day!

MISTAKE NUMBER ONE – Not Understanding Genre

MISTAKE O NE

OK, I’m going to confess that I have no formal writing training. I went to school to be a scientist. I have a master’s degree in forensic toxicology and a bachelor’s in equine science. I’m a nerd. But writing has always been something that came naturally. I went back to school late. I was like 28 or 29, I think. And I hate math, which doesn’t seem logical since I am a scientist. And I wanted my major to be English so bad because it was easy. I remember dropping out of trig and telling my advisor I was changing my major from science to English because I couldn’t do it. He said sleep on it, and I did. And I didn’t change it. Because I like a challenge. Majoring in English would be easy for me. Majoring in science would not. So I stuck it out.

Fast forward ten years and I found myself writing non-fiction. I wrote hundreds of nonfiction science workbooks for K-12 kids. It was fun, easy, and I made pretty good money doing it. But then I really wanted to write a science fiction series and that’s how I Am Just Junco started. I thought I knew what that series was, genre-wise. But I didn’t. And I only found out I didn’t after the fact when my editor said something like, “Great Sci-fi thriller” in a post she made on Kindle Boards.

I was like, Wow, I write thrillers? Holy shit, I don’t even know what a thriller is! I swear to God, I had no idea that there were these things called genres and I had already written like four books in this series.

The Junco series didn’t sell well, which is why I count this as a mistake. And I think it didn’t sell well because it doesn’t have a clearly defined genre. It’s something in-between paranormal romance and science fiction. Which is not a good mix for sales.

But… I wouldn’t change this mistake for anything. Number one, it got me interested in learning more about these things called “genres” and I took an online class from Dean Wesley Smith. Number Two – I learned that my natural genre, the one I write as a default, was thriller. I still write thrillers, I just add graphic sex scenes to them now. And Number Three – by not knowing what I was doing I just wrote the fuck out of my story and didn’t pay attention to anything or anyone while I did it.

I learned to write a twisted plot, I learned to write great characters, and I learned what not to do next time. So if you have a book like my Junco series that can’t be easily defined by a genre, don’t worry about it. Just learn from your mistakes and write the next book with your new knowledge base.

MISTAKE NUMBER TWO – 99c Pricing

MISTAKETWO

When I finally got my genre shit together a few months later I wrote a book called Tragic (after I finished my genre class and deleted 45,000 words of my first draft). Tragic was all things New Adult and this was back in 2013, so it immediately did a lot better than Junco. Back then it was easy to get sales and visibility with 99 cent pricing so I released Tragic at $3.99 and then a week later I had a Book of the Day feature with eReader News Today. My first Junco book, Clutch, actually had that slot, but I asked for Tragic to take Clutch’s place and they agreed.

Tragic was my Breakthrough Book. I say breakthrough and not breakout because it was not, by definition, a bestseller. It sold well, I think like 10,000 copies in the first two months, but it was at 99 cents. So I wasn’t making any money off it. I was already writing full time. I got laid off in January 2013, so I didn’t have a backup option. I needed to make this work.

So I raised the price back up to $3.99 and… crickets. No sales. I’m talking like, dead. “Well,” I said. “I’ve got the next book written already, so I’m just going to put that out at $3.99 and make “new release money’”. That was Losing Francesca, which did OK for a YA book – it releases in the Top 20 of YA, but typically that’s not saying much. 😉 I made a few thousand off Losing Francesca but now I’m starting to panic. I’m a single mom with two kids. I gotta pay the fucking bills. I’m going to get serious about this money shit.

My strategy was to NOT release Manic (book two of Tragic series) at 99 cents. That price is just not sustainable. I can’t live off 99 cent pricing. If you’re a reader and not a writer and don’t know this, we get about 30c per sale at 99 cents. For a $3.99 book we get about $2.80 a sale. So huge difference.

Anyway, I made Manic $3.99 and even though it had a crappy release compared to Tragic, I stuck to my guns and just started writing Panic, book three in that series.

I also released Panic at $3.99, but here is where things changed. People like Book Three in a series. It feels like it’s over. They can pick them all up and read the whole story. Book Two is the middle of the story. Book Three is the end.

So Panic actually sold well. And I did put Manic on sale at 99c for the first time just before Panic released, and I think Tragic was 99c too. So yeah, that was a good strategy. It hurt during the Manic release, but it paid off with Panic.

Yes, you do have to be very careful with 99 cent pricing. If you do it too often people will not buy your books at full price.

With that said, 99c got me on the map. People found me. And the rest is history.

MISTAKE NUMBER THREE – Trusting People

MISTAKETHREE

People suck.
People want to fuck you over.
People Lie.
People Cheat.
People Steal.
PEOPLE SUCK.

I have been lied to by distributor employees. I have been fucked over by “friends”. People have threatened to sue me. People have lied about me. People have stolen my covers, my books, my ideas.

But… even though people suck, I have found a lot of good friends in the Indie world. And even though people suck, you gotta take a chance on a few of them and hope for the best.

Fair warning – take a chance, sure. But don’t trust anyone. Get it all in writing, kids. Because you’re gonna need it.

And be prepared to hire a lawyer as soon as you start putting out bestsellers. You will thank me later if you find one early. I have two.

Trusting the wrong people was a mistake, but it would also be a mistake to not trust anyone. If I didn’t take a chance on a group of people back in December 2013 then The Bend Anthology would never have happened in May 2014. And that my friends, was the BREAK OUT BOOK. First USA Today Bestseller. (It got banned on Amazon after four days, but… wahtevs.) I got CD Reiss out of it. I got K. Bromberg out of it. I got Shay Savage and Alessandra Torre, and KI Lynn out of it.

I’d do anything for those ladies. All they gotta do is ask.

MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR – Releasing over Holidays

mistake four

Thanksgiving and Christmas!! Sounds like a fantastic time to release a book, right? WRONG. Turns out the traditional publishing world practically owns the holiday book buying season. I found this out in December 2013 when I released a prequel to my Taut book called, Slack.

Crickets. Dude, it tanked. So don’t release in December.

Unless… you do.

I released Eighteen the week before Thanksgiving 2015 and it sold 23,000 copies the first week. I also released it at 99 cents. So I broke two rules. 🙂 But it’s a bad idea. I still think this even though I’m releasing Mr. Match this December too. Not at 99c either.

If Mr. Match tanks, oh well. I have to release it in December because I’m starting a new series in January and that release day is non-negotiable. Not much I can do about that.

MISTAKE NUMBER FIVE – Insane Release Schedules

MISTAKEFIVE

Oh, how I have a love and hate for the insane release schedules. I released the Social Media series novellas two weeks apart from August through November in 2014. Shit almost killed me. I spent an insane amount of time at my desk. An insane amount of money on covers, and editing, and all the bullshit that goes with six new releases in the span of twelve weeks. I was so tired, I could barely function. And I was releasing another full-length novel, Coming for you (third in a trilogy) in November. So once again, breaking rules. I had zero energy to promo Coming for You. It didn’t tank, I have a lot of fans for that series. But it definitely didn’t get the attention it should’ve.

However… the Social Media series was fucking fantastic for front list sales. I can’t even tell you how well it did, how it improved my visibility, my paycheck, and sales of all my backlist books. I released these at 99 cents too, Pre-order only. The price changed to $2.99 on release day. See, I was getting smarter.

Two Week Release Schedule sucks and kills it at the same time.

I’d definitely never recommend it.

I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who needs a sales boost.

MISTAKE NUMBER SIX – Thinking “I’ve made it!”

mistakesix

You never make it. You gotta work that book like it’s 1999, people. You can never just assume readers will want it. You can never assume you can take off for a year and they’ll still be there. In this day and age of overflowing eBooks you have to have a presence. You can’t just drop out of sight and think your fans will one-click the way they do when you’re paying attention to them.

I have actually never made this mistake, but that’s only because I’m so fucking cynical. I know the world could end at any time. I could write a horrible book and people never buy again. Amazon could suddenly say, “Yep, we’re done selling self-published books” Assume the worst is my motto. Things can always get worse. I try to be satisfied with everything I have.

I haven’t “made it”. I don’t even know what that means, but I’m not there. Because if you’ve made it then the journey is over. The journey is the only thing that counts, kids. Getting there is all the fun. Being there is not what this is about.

Not for me at least.

Plus, you know, once you sell 23,000 books in a week you look at the three books ahead of you in ranking in the Amazon store and suddenly realize that there is always someone else selling more, it hits home. ‘Making it’ is relative. Unless you’re number one in the store, in which case, OK, you made it. 🙂 I bow to you.

MISTAKE NUMBER SEVEN – Pre-orders

mistakeseven

I think everyone has a love/hate relationship with the pre-order. Yes, selling 5000 copies of your book before release is awesome. No, seeing your rank of 1000 on release day is not.

But they do work when you use them right. I used them (very successfully) with the Social Media serials and The Mister Series is going very well too.

Hell, a pre-order worked for my Sexy book too. I don’t think that book would’ve made USA without a pre-order.

Mr. Perfect had a one-week pre-order and still made USA twice. Mr. Romantic has a pre-order and won’t even release for two more weeks and probably has enough to make USA on release day right now.

Social Media never made USA when it was releasing (it did make it when I put the omnibus on sale a year later though). So, you know, it’s a give and take.

You can’t EVER predict what a book will do. On my 321 release day I refused to look at the sales until the late afternoon because I didn’t want to be depressed. It sold like 2500 books that day. No pre-order. I thought that book would rot in hell and no one would ever read it.

On Eighteen’s release day I didn’t look until midnight. It sold like 3000 books that day. I was floored. I had no idea this book would sell. I wrote it to promote my Anarchy Found book, which sold OK, but wasn’t a bestseller. So joke’s on me, right?

You never know what will work.

So here’s the whole point of my post:

Try everything. Try it more than once. Try it a different way. Stop doing it. Start doing it again. Fail, fall down, learn, get up, and try again until you get it right.

Do not be afraid to try new things. To write new things. I can’t predict a bestseller. You can’t predict a bestseller. So why bother? Just write a book and then market it to the best of your ability. And if you fuck it up, that’s the greatest thing about writing. You can just write another one.

Thanks for reading. The 321 Audiobook released today and the eBook is on sale for 99 cents. It’s Whispersynced, so if you buy the 99c eBook you can get the audio for $3.47. Warning – You cannot listen to this hot as hell audio around other people. You will be blushing in Chapter Two if you try. 😉 (Unless of course, your partner is listening with you. In which case you will never finish it because you’ll be having a good time together after the first sex scene.) 😉

LISTEN to clips from the 321 Audio

CAUTION – NSFW

650321_AUDIO_PROMO

Three, Two, One (321): (A Dark Suspense)

Three, Two, One (321): (A Dark Suspense)

Author:
Series: Audiobooks
Genres: Dark Romantic Suspense, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Thriller
Tags: Contemporary, Dark, Erotic, Thriller
Publisher: Science Future Press
Publication Year: 2015
ASIN: B00SURBNCE
ISBN: 9781936413782
Now a NYT and USA Today BESTSELLER! ONE GIRLBattered, barefoot, and huddled under a bookstore awning in the pouring rain, Blue only knows one thing. After fifteen months of captivity, finally... she is free.TWO FRIENDSSelf-made millionaires JD and Ark are not out to save anyone when they stumble upo...
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About the Book

Now a NYT and USA Today BESTSELLER!

ONE GIRL
Battered, barefoot, and huddled under a bookstore awning in the pouring rain, Blue only knows one thing. After fifteen months of captivity, finally… she is free.

TWO FRIENDS
Self-made millionaires JD and Ark are not out to save anyone when they stumble upon a wet and shivering girl one early Sunday morning. But when you sell sex for a living and salvation rings your bell… you answer the call.

THREE SOULMATES

After years of searching, love lifts the veil of darkness, and three people–with three very big secrets–find themselves bound together in a relationship that defies the odds.

Or does it?
Love. Lust. Sex.
This trinity might be perfection… but not everything should come in 3’s.

WARNING: This is a STANDALONE non-traditional M/F/M ROMANCE with a non-traditional ending.

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About JA Huss

JA Huss is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty romances. She likes stories about family, loyalty, and extraordinary characters who struggle with basic human emotions while dealing with bigger than life problems. JA loves writing heroes who make you swoon, heroines who makes you jealous, and the perfect Happily Ever After ending.

You can chat with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AuthorJAHuss), Twitter (@jahuss), and her kick-ass romance blog, New Adult Addiction (www.newadultaddiction.com).

If you’re interested in getting your hands on an advanced release copy of her upcoming books, sneak peek teasers, or information on her upcoming personal appearances, you can join her newsletter list (http://eepurl.com/JVhAr) and get those details delivered right to your inbox.

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3 Comments

  1. “Try everything. Try it more than once. Try it a different way. Stop doing it. Start doing it again. Fail, fall down, learn, get up, and try again until you get it right.” Holy carp. I’m crying because of these words! I’m about to release my first self pub and this is what I need to hear. I had a book release in Jan with a publisher…as you say, crickets. I read reviews on goodreads and was crushed. Just getting back to the flow of things now. Your words are exactly what I need! Thank you.

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