Wednesday 13 July 2011

Self-Publishing Mistake #4

Every year, in the middle of winter, we huddle under our blankets and watch Le Tour de France. 

Every year, I’m awestruck at the abilities of these champion cyclists. No other sports event tests its participants as much as this race does. Each cyclist must be a team player, and yet be able to strike out bravely on his own if needed. Each cyclist must be a sprinter, a mountain climber and a time trialist. Each cyclist must have indescribable physical endurance, and yet the race is won on tactics and mental agility. In my eyes, even the last man who crosses the winning line on the Champs-Élysées in Paris is a Grand Champion.  
Saxo Bank rider and yellow jersey holder Fabian Cancellara arrives with his team
mates at the finish line of the fourth stage of the Tour de France
in Montpellier, 7 July 2009.

(Photo: Reuters/Charles Platiau)
None of these winning athletes could finish the race, let alone win a stage race or the coveted maillot jaune (yellow jersey), unless they were 100% prepared.
And that was my final self-publishing mistake: I was not as prepared as I should have been.  Before my book hit the shelves, I should have:
*applied for an IRS tax number
*applied for unique ISBN numbers for each different edition
*prepared a full media kit
*set up a separate blog for the book promotion
*set up a book blog tour at least three months in advance
*requested book reviews at least three months in advance
*planned advertising costs and booked my slots
*had both print and eBook editions available
*thought how my title would tweet
Think about that last one: my title is “Dancing in the Shadows of Love”. I love that title! But it’s 32 characters long. A tweet can only be 140 characters long. If I want to include the title in a tweet, I’m left with only 108 characters left to say something interesting or sensible. That’s not much space!
Some mistakes can be blessings in disguise. Take not having an IRS tax number. I had read as much as I could find before I leapt like a Fool into the waters of independent publishing. Nowhere, in all my reading, had I found a single mention of a foreign author publishing in the United States needing to be registered as a taxpayer with the IRS.  Then blogging friend Lauri Kubuitsile asked me a simple question, I started researching and realised there was no easily accessible article on foreign authors and paying tax.  I wrote a simple blog post called “No Escaping Tax Payments” and, much to my surprise, this article was picked up by numerous on-line writing sites and newsletters. The exposure I got was incredible. Even mistakes can have silver linings!
In South Africa, we have a saying, “Dis my skoolgeld!” Directly translated this means “This is my school money!” The  essence of the saying is that some things cost you but, if you learn from it, the cost was well worth it.
Much of this, my first self-publishing experience, has been more chaotic, stressful and disorganised than I liked.  Looking back on the three months since my eBook first hit the shelves, a lot of the mistakes I made—some of which I discussed over the past few days—were simply “skoolgeld,” the cost of learning a new business.
In any new business, some things you can prepare for and should, if you want to cross the finish line wearing the yellow jersey of a champion of champions. Other things, you simply can’t prepare for, but have to learn, out there in the heated field of battle.
As I think back on this writing journey of mine, I’m reminded of a favourite quote:
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.                     (Theodore Roosevelt)

I stumbled. I could have done my deeds better. I erred and came short.  But I have spent myself on a cause that is dear to me. And I dared. I dared to put my words and my thoughts and my heart out there for friends and strangers alike to pick over.
So what if I made mistakes? I did this without a trained and experienced team behind me. I had to learn a multitude of new skills as each unexpected challenge was thrown up at me. 

Next time, I won’t make those same mistakes. I may make new ones, but I won’t repeat the mistakes I made this time around. 

But I sure will repeat the small successes I gained from taking the leap and becoming an independent author.  And who knows how big those small successes will grow?


Linda Cassidy Lewis said...

I love that quote, Judy. You did well. I too "earned my school money", but it was rewarding to do so. We've been given a great opportunity and it's fantastic that we took it.

Debut Indie Authors unite and slap each other on the back!

Frances Garrood said...

Judy, you ARE giving yourself a hard time! You have written a book, published a book, publicised a book, and it's very early days. Of course you made mistakes; we all do. Give yourself a break (and a pat on the back). Think of all those people who say "one day, I'll write a book" but never do. You did it. You can hold your book in your hand and say "I wrote that".


Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

LINDA: I'm giving you a well-earned pat, your "Brevity of Roses" is terrific and deserves many accolades!

FRANCES: I give myself some pats tomorrow, I promise! :) I was getting the worst out the way first! And my book cover is getting worn thing from all the times I hold it and say "My precious, my precioussss....!"

Anne R. Allen said...

I don't know who told you that you should have set up a separate blog for book promotion, but social media guru Kristen Lamb says that's a total no-no. Your brand is YOU--not just one of your titles. Every separate site you have dilutes your brand. Your blog is brand central. It's about Judy Croome, the South African writer. That's how you're known, and you want to keep it that way.

You've already got a separate page on this blog for your books--which is great. I'd put photos of your book covers front and center, but otherwise, I wouldn't change a thing.

The tax thing--that's a pain, and Amazon should let people know that stuff. But the rest, relax. People will come.

I don't know if you hang out at the Kindleboards, but they're a great place to promote yourself. Both on the UK boards and US. Momentum can take time to build. But time is what you have when you're self-published. I think you're doing more right things than you realize.

Birdie said...

Hindsight is always 20/20. I don't think anyone could come out of writing her first book without making mistakes, lots of them. Be kind to yourself!

What did you do right?

Anita said...

I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I admire your honesty in these posts. You are an incredibly intelligent woman and still made mistakes. People need to know they shouldn't jump into epubbing unaware, not if they want success. I have confidence in you and I hope you do, too! You will rock this thing!

LynNerdKelley said...

I agree with Anne about Kristen Lamb's advice about having just one blog, which is to promote you, and you are the brand, not your books. When people get to know Judy, they'll want to read Judy's books.

I also agree with Anita, you are very brave for sharing all this, but also very kind to us, giving us a heads up so we don't make the same mistakes. I would encourage you to keep writing and publishing more books. Once you get a good fan base, they're going to want to read all your books and not wait a year or so.

I didn't know that about the IRS and foreign authors. Who woulda thunk?

Thanks, Anne, for mentioning the Kindleboards. I didn't know about that!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Judy .. strikes me you've done loads of things right .. and Judy Croome the South African writer rings true ..

People want to travel .. South Africa is a great place to visit and promote ... another avenue to more sales perhaps ..

Anne's given you some great ideas .. and interesting about being picked up for your Tax post ..

.. a learning point here .. we just don't know what's going on out there .. keep going.

Enjoy the process and journey .. you've done so much .. cheers and enjoy Cape Town .. Hilary

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

ANNE: Whew! You’ve raised so many points. Can’t remember where I read that about separating the blog – what made me concerned was that the article said blog readers complain about blogs of self=pubbed authors being too full of promotional stuff and that promo stuff should be moved to a specific blog. But Kristen Lamb is good ( I follow her on twitter) so it’s heartening to know what she thinks. I joined the Kindle boards when I first published, but just haven’t been able to spread myself thin enough to be active on them beyond a question or two. I’m putting together a petition asking for each day to be stretched to 28 hours not a mere 24! :) Thanks for your encouragement – I also love the idea that time is on our side when we’re independently published.

BIRDIE: Too true! Today’s post will look at what I did right – I thought I’d end the series on a high note! :)

ANITA: Ha ha! Well, at least one of us has confidence in me! (sounds like a song – a la Sound of Music!) But you’re right – I did this series because I believe in ePubbing and independent publishing as the way of the future and the more we share our mistakes, the more things we, as a collective of independent authors, can get things right!

LYNN: Hmmm. That’s one thing I must still work into my blog – I want to be the natural me, so that – as you say – when people get to know me, they will want to read my books.

HILARY: Yes, that’s been a big surprise – how much more is going on “out there” in blog-o-land than we realise. And I really want to promote South Africa – it’s such an inspiring place to live and write in, and we have so much potential if we can just shake off our bad reputation! (Hope your Mum is better now)

Judith Mercado said...

What a wonderful series this has been. How generous of you to share the good and the bad of this journey. We are all in your debt. And maybe that won't get you any additional sales, but if there is such a thing as karma you really have developed quite a reserve of good karma.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

JUDITH: It's been my pleasure! And I'll take a bank full of good karma any day, before I take a bank full of money. The karma I get to take with me into the next life; the money I'd have to leave h=behind anyway!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

What I find interesting is that almost every single friend of mine who has self-published has put up posts like yours talking about what they did wrong or what they could have done better or what they learned or stuff they want to share...and yet, they are ALL doing it and sharing the same things over and over and over. I keep wondering - weren't they paying attention to what everyone else was saying? I know they all run in the same circles! I put up a whole self-publishing guide on The Literary Lab. Why don't people follow that and listen to my advice?


The thing is, they probably DID! However, everyone's experience is completely different, and it just goes to show that you have to learn the path yourself and what works for you and your books. This is kind of why I keep wanting to pull away from sharing my experiences online anymore, but it's so nice to get it out there, and I keep hoping it will help someone somewhere, even in the smallest measure. Who knows.

Anyway, I do appreciate you sharing your experiences here. It's so important to connect!

I think it was you who shared that Theodore Roosevelt quote with me awhile ago. I have it taped on the wall at my work station. I've had it up for a long time, and I read it almost every day. :)

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Judith has such a good point about karma!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

MICHELLE: haha! I really *did* think I'd learnt from your self-pubbing experiences, but as you say - each experience is so different and personal. My posts didn't add anything earth-shatteringly new to the pool of self-pubbed experiences, but writing them out helped clarify and organise the experience in my mind. SO, perhaps, that's why everyone who has been through this path of fire blogs about it - as a catharsis! Yes, I sent you the TR quote - it's so inspiring, I love it; glad you enjoy it too!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Oh, yes, that's why I blogged about it, was to clarify it in my head, and I wanted to share. It did help. :)

Nancy J. Parra said...

I love this series- I am proud of how brave you are. I am glad to be your friend. (Love the quote as well.)

Thanks for posting!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

MICHELLE: Blogging about things definitely helps me process them too!

NANCY: I'm very glad to be your friend too, Nancy! You're always an inspiration with your steady kindness!