THE DOS AND DON’TS OF PUBLISHING YOUR OWN MYSTERY NOVEL
Having written and published three cozy mystery books in the last year, I’ve had the good fortune of receiving a lot of feedback from readers. My latest book is Running from Arrows: A Running Store Mystery. Although it can be read as a stand-alone, it’s the follow-up to summer’s Running from Scissors. This last November also saw the release of Slay Bells, the successful first entry in my Christmas Village Mystery series. The feedback I’ve received from these titles, combined with my own research and a modicum of common sense, has provided me with a set of golden rules that every self-publishing and small press author should follow.
1. DO: Use professional editing software to help improve all elements of your manuscript, such as flow, syntax, and word choice. I use Autocrit. DO: Utilize the service of a professional editor. It can be a local English professor or someone who proofreads/edits for a living. Your best friend will not cut it. DON’T: Assume you know everything about everything and think that just because you’ve read your manuscript through three or even five times that you’ve caught everything you need to catch. You won’t, but your readers will, and they’ll mention it in reviews. I know this from experience. Even Stephen King still uses a proofreader/editor who eliminates about 10% of every manuscript he writes. I’m not suggesting anything so radical for your own book, but if you’re putting your work in the marketplace to compete against King, or James Patterson, or (insert name of well-known author in same genre you write in), then you need to do your best to compete at their level. The readers you share deserve as much.
2. DON’T: Assume you’re a wiz with Canva or Photoshop and cobble together your own cover. You might be impressed with the result but readers will not be. DO: Seek out a professional cover artist. There are some wonderful services available that offer professional artists experienced in creating breathtaking covers. I recommend EbookLaunch, 99Designs, Damonza, or any sort of smaller companies that offer great designs. If you’re not planning a series then you might check out SelfPubBookCovers dot com for great deals on premade standalone covers.
3. DO: Enjoy marketing your book and letting people know it exists. Participate in blog tours, engage in social media, submit for BookBub Deals (but don’t be too disappointed when they tell you no; they say no a lot more than they say yes), and spend whatever amount you’re comfortable with on Amazon and BookBub ads (you control the budget). DON’T: Spam every page you’re on (including your own social media pages) with posts about your book. If you look desperate or pushy, you and your book will be seen as amateurish.
4. DON’T: Spend enormous amounts of money on book marketing sites that promise the world. If you don’t see them recommended by authors more successful than you, they probably don’t deliver on their promises. I’m speaking from experience when I say that services that promise to tweet or e-mail an ad of your book to thousands of people sound better than they are. They are not cons, per se, but the ads do not result in heavy sales or reviews. I suspect this is because most of those thousands of people receiving the ad are authors themselves also trying to market their books. DO: Ask yourself where YOU go to learn about or purchase books. That will tell you where you need to focus your advertising efforts. If you are not a BookBub member, join now. Not only will you get great e-book deals sent to you daily, but you can’t lose money on a featured deal with them, or a featured New Release e-mail. You CAN lose money running ads with them if you’re not smart about it.
5. DON’T: Blow your budget on marketing just one book. DO: The best marketing you can do is to put more books out. If one takes off readers will find the others and purchase them. If you want to write a series, you’ll notice sales picking up as more books come out in the series. When you have a handful of books, pick one (the first in a series, or the one that’s most marketable if they’re all stand-alones) and reduce the price on it, run free or 99 cent deals on it, and focus a large part of your marketing on THAT book. You might also put that book on all ebook platforms (not just Amazon) to find new readers. Right now, all my books are Amazon-exclusive so I can benefit from the 70% royalty structure. But when I have more books out in a given series, I’ll discount the first book, put it on the 35% royalty structure, and place it up on Kobo, Smashwords, etc., in the hopes that those readers will dribble over to the other Amazon-only books.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Research is never a bad thing, so keep an eye out for what is working for other authors. And don’t be afraid to be innovative and come up with new ways to let the world know you’re there. Above all else, keep writing. The more you write the better you will get, the more product you’ll have and the more readers you’ll gain. That is the best can’t-miss strategy of them all!