The following is a guest post by Michelle Muckley, author of Psychophilia and 3 other thriller and mystery titles. If you would like to write a guest post on my blog, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although I am a writer, and spend most of my time working on that aspect of my career, there was a time when the balance tipped heavily in the direction of my previous job. You see, when I was at school I decided to play it safe. I picked a degree that lead directly into a career, and this resulted in me working as a scientist for fourteen years in the health service in the UK. It was a job that I loved, worked hard at, and took a lot of personal satisfaction from. But the working environment was very different. Whilst most days were routine, and I could plan my week ahead as per the patients on my work list, it was always necessary to be ready to move at a moment’s notice whenever something unexpected occurred. You cannot plan an emergency in advance.
Being adaptable was necessary. Situations arose and they had to be dealt with. But life as a writer has a different pace. I could, should I wish to, spend all week without talking to anybody and plan each day with a level of certainty that I never could before. In fact, I’m sure that I could organise a whole working week in advance and not once have to deviate from my plan if I didn’t want to. But doing this would be a bit like planning a story with every detail in place from the outset, and when writing it never allowing myself to deviate. It would mean ignoring the characters as they develop and grow, and dismissing the changes that come to me as the story takes shape. Sometimes, making a plan and sticking to it is a great idea. But just like in my previous life as a scientist, as a self published writer it is important to remain flexible to change in order to react to situations as and when they occur.
When I released my first book it was with a cover that I created myself. This cover, I am almost ashamed to admit, was created in Microsoft Paint. The image was far from appealing. A close up black and white of a man’s face, of which the nose and one eye were the predominant features. The text wasn’t very clear, and some of it you couldn’t actually read. But at the time I thought it was great. At the time I was fuelled by excitement which stemmed from the publication of my work, and nothing was going to tear me down from that high. Not for a while anyway.
But the moment when you look back and reflect upon what you have done always arises. I decided that my book wasn’t selling well and that there had to be something that needed fixing. So I posted my cover to Kindleboards and asked people to tear into it and tell me what was wrong. They did. I got all sorts of responses, but the vast majority were negative. I pulled the cover down and quick-stepped my way to hiring a designer. I also found some typos, so I fixed those too. It was necessary to perform a constant assessment, a self assessment in fact, of what I was doing and what I had done, and what was working and what was not.
My old cover is just an example of how I needed to adapt, but this principle also applies to price points, keywords, blurbs, and book descriptions. Perhaps that site you found for advertising works like a dream, but maybe that $50 a month is just lining the pockets of somebody cashing in on the uninformed indie writer hoping to make it big. The trick is to try things, test them out, evaluate their performance and then go back to the drawing board. I heard that $3.99 was the new sweet spot for book sales so I upped my prices. Not a single sale for a month. I dropped it back to $2.99 and things recovered.
Sitting down at my desk and writing like a demon all week is great, but the time for reflection at what has already been done and how that can be improved must also come. If your book isn’t selling, why not give it a makeover with a new cover? Have a fiddle with the blurb. Change the keywords. Until you hit the best seller list, always consider that there might be something you can do in order to help it on its way.
Imagine for a moment in my old life as a scientist if I had just stuck to the plan. By Friday afternoon there would be no beds left on the ward, and more than likely eight emergencies lined up in the corridor. It would be chaos. Back then the changes found me, and I had to react to them. But as a self published author it is necessary to find that which needs changing myself. There is no magic trick when it comes to selling books, so it is important to look at everything I do and evaluate it for its worth. Accepting the need for change is not always easy, but maybe those changes that you make end up being the very trick you were looking for all along.
Michelle Muckley’s books: