I'm an author. Now what?

November 29, 2018

So, you have published your first book. What should you do now? This isn't about marketing - you should really do that - or about writing craft - you should really improve that - but rather about the best practise or the right etiquette of authors. I hear about authors who game the system or others who copyright their series and then hunt down other authors who have one word the same in their titles - you can't copyright titles - so there are certainly things you shouldn't do but there are also things you should do as an author.


1. Author Central and Goodreads

Your fans need to be able to find your books. To do this you should collect them all together in one place. Author Central allows you to put up a bio and put all your books under one page so someone who loves one of your books can find your other books and even follow you and Amazon will send them an email whenever you put out a new book. Goodreads is a place where readers gather and they like to find those unknown short stories in some vague collection you've done. These are where super fans meet and you want them to be able to read your books in the right order and not miss anything out.


2. Clean links

When you copy a link. Particularly from Amazon they put in information like when the link was used and what search terms were used. When you share your book link you need to strip it back to the essential. Usually this is just after the ASIN number.


3. Don't reply to reviews

I know you want to and even if you reply to nice reviews you are getting into troubled waters. If you reply to a bad review you look defensive and like a jerk. If you reply to a good review you look arrogant. There is no good reason to reply to a review so don't. You can learn from reviews as this is your target market. If you are getting consistently bad reviews there might be something wrong. Either you need to up your craft or you are targeting the wrong market.


4. Don't over promo

If you are part of a writer's group or other social media you have to be careful not to saturate the market. What this means is be careful about promo posts. Great to celebrate but don't have every post, tweet or comment about how people can buy your book.


5. Don't over share

Some author's newsletters become comments about their pet dog and the dramas in their lives. Unless you are doing a life blog I wouldn't do this. Share things that are peripheral to the books. Things like snippets, dramas with the book writing process. Something not too personal is also acceptable. A new puppy or a new haircut are acceptable. I'm a teacher by day so I know this rule for my workplace. You want to share enough that your fans feel like they know you and can trust you but you haven't given over enough that you will wake up with a dead rose on your pillow.


6. Your readers read more than you can write

What that means is that it is alright to work with other writers in your genre because it is impossible to write as fast as people read. Even the casual readers will outstrip your writing ability unless you are the kind to write a million words in a year. So don't be afraid to share your fans with others and do NL swaps. Also, that means don't see them as your competition. Well they are but it doesn't work the same way it does in business. Think of your book like food. Everyone eats, some more than others but no body can eat the same food all the time. So go ahead and convince people your book is the better brand through marketing but you are literally competing apples against oranges.


7. Network

I'm an introvert so I made this mistake. I wouldn't talk to other authors and I basically sold a few copies - I still don't know how - but once I started networking my sales picked up through NL Swaps, interviews, group giveaways and facebook parties. These are all free and all they do is take up some time. Set some time aside every week to do some networking and you might be surprised by what you learn.


8. Beware of ego

On many of those networks there are people at all sorts of levels in ability on their path. The people who annoy me the most are the ones who are 'superior' in their knowledge. I learn something every day and I'm happy to let others teach me. Here is a list that you should avoid correcting or putting on social media as you come across as very arrogant. Mainly because most of these questions have more than one answer.


Book length - everyone asks how long is enough. The right answer is until the story is told. But you will have others state certain word length are correct and anything shorter is not a novel. This isn't true. For instance in epic fantasy 100k is normal so a 40k story is a novella. But Great Gatsby is 47k and is considered a novel. Romance tends to be shorter than epic genres. Check out your genre for how long you should aim for but I still stand by that your book should be as long as it should be. 


Grammar - Grammar changes as people use it. For instance Flyer used to be British use only but now everyone uses it. Correcting grammar is like telling an artist you don't like their brush work. Writing is an art and grammar is there to help you tell the story. If the grammar gets in the way of the story then you should correct it but be careful of those that tell you they are right and you are wrong. You will definitely get egg on your face at some stage because there are actually different grammar rules depending on the country of origin for the author.


Writing RULES - That is in caps because there seem to be this idea that you have to keep to the rules. I would call them guidelines on a good day and annoying on other days. Things like saying you can't have any telling in your stories or any passive voice or fragmented sentences. Then there are others like how you can't use adverbs or adjectives. Okay, you should make your story as engaging as possible and that means showing not telling for most of your story. Other rules are just things that have gone out of fashion like omniscient third person.


Cover Design - I design covers and do a lot of research because every genre has different rules so most people who comment on covers have to be sure they are commenting on their own genre where they know the rules. Otherwise, you might give really bad advice. On the flip side. I you ask for advice on a cover and someone gives you advice don't dig in your heels. What was the point of asking for advice if you weren't going to take it in the first place?


Chapter length and writing process - Chapters can literally be as short as one word. There is no wrong answer for that. But it leads in to the writing process. Many people write in different ways. You have probably heard of Pantser and Planners. That is a clear sign that everyone approaches writing in their own way. Let them. 


Copyrights - This is a thorny subject. You have every right to copyright your work. In fact your book already is the moment you write it. You can't copyright titles or author names. But some like to be sneaky and copyright series names that are so vague they can use it to bludgeon others to change their books. This will blow up in your face.


Other shady practices - Bot farms and book-stuffing are some examples of shady practices. Anything that gives you an unfair advantage is like sabotaging others in a race. Unless you want to be the next Lance Armstrong of writing I suggest avoiding these get rich quick schemes.





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