From Michael Wallace: I've trekked across the Sahara on a camel, ridden an elephant through a tiger preserve in Southeast Asia, eaten fried guinea pig, and been licked on the head by a skunk. In a previous stage of life I programmed nuclear war simulations, smuggled refugees out of a war zone, and milked cobras for their venom. I speak Spanish and French and grew up in a religious community in the desert.
Advice from Michael:
- Go all in. If you're going this route, don't hold back your best work, or shirk on paying a few hundred dollars for professional covers. If you throw the books out there with no support, they will disappear into the void. I'm still working on getting professional covers for all my books and have noticed that my good covers are selling and my bad covers are not, regardless of the quality of the books themselves.
- Pay attention to details. I knew better than to put out a poorly edited book, but I didn't realize that there would be HTML problems with the document converted by Amazon's software. I casually scrolled through the finished product and missed some funky indentation issues. There was also an unclosed italics tag generated by Amazon that threw off the formatting in an annoying way for some readers who still owned older Kindles or were using Kindle for PC. Readers care. The only negative reviews for my books are those who found themselves frustrated by weird formatting errors, and they will be there forever, long after the errors have been fixed. I know that it's a pain to comb through your manuscript and then dive into the HTML to make fixes, but you've already spent hundreds of hours on the book. A few more hours may make a big difference.
- Finally, only publish your absolute best effort. Pretend you're still trying to hook an agent or editor and you need to polish that manuscript until it's so shiny it hurts you to look at it. Don't kill your career through sloppy behavior. This last lesson is one that I've known for years, but it bears special mention here. Your career is 100% in your own hands now, with all the risks and rewards that implies. There is no editorial safety net in this business.