“Minding your own business” is bad advice when it comes to publishing. You can learn a lot by keeping tabs on your fellow authors. You’ll find out what genres and tropes are hot, what kinds of book covers are trending, ideas for promo, what no longer works, where to advertise, what social media platforms are “in.”
You can learn all this stuff the hard way, by trial and error–and possibly never get it right–or take a shortcut and follow (copy) what other authors are doing.
Lesson No. 3: Follow the crowd, except when you don’t.
I’m not a jump-on-the-bandwagon kind of person. I tend to do my own thing, but I’ve learned the hard way that I need to pay more attention so that I can catch the train before it leaves the station. I finally started doing things this year that I am kicking myself for not doing sooner.
For a long time, I was resistant to making a book (perma) free because I couldn’t shake the notion it devalued my work.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!
Making the first book in a series free makes it a perfect funnel to lead readers to the other books. You’re not losing money on a free book, you’re using it as advertising. I made book one of Stranded with the Cyborg free, and it served as a natural conduit to the other Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance books.
Another mistake: I didn’t start my newsletter soon enough. I started it in Nov. 2015 when I went Indie. I’ve been kicking myself for not starting it sooner, for not being more aggressive in recruiting subscribers when I did start it, and for not setting up an autoresponder campaign until this year. I could go on and list all the other things I should have done but didn’t, but then you’d really know what a doofus I am.
However, I’ve also learned to trust my own instincts and measure opportunities against my goals. People copy others when they shouldn’t, when it’s counterproductive, when it doesn’t work, when other people give bad advice.
A case in point:
Authors are not readers. Yes, they read, but they have a different perspective than the general reading population. What readers want, what readers will buy, can be quite different from what authors think is important.
I specifically wrote Alien Mate for the market and wanted a commercial title. I tested titles in author Facebook groups. The author consensus was that the Alien Mate was trite and overused. My gut told me that I had a winner. Authors value titles that are unique or uncommon; readers value what they like. Maybe readers bought Alien Mate despite the title, but it has become my second best selling book ever, and my gut tells me tells me the title played a part. It tells readers exactly what they’re getting.
I believe you’re better off with a common title that sells books than a unique one that isn’t nearly as marketable. If you can do both, great, but I know of authors who have rejected really good titles because someone else has used it.
In summary, I’ve learned that when everybody is doing something, I need to take a close, serious look. But then, I need to evaluate it in light of my own goals and experiences.