I’m gonna do it – I’m gonna self-publish!
Didn’t you already do that?
Um, yes, I did. But if you read my last blog post, you will know I also recently un-published the three books I published.
Right…so you’re just sticking the books you unpublished back online?
No! I’m doing something else, let me explain:
I’ve written six books in the Gallantrian Legacy series. They all have pretty covers, as shown above (pretty covers that need work – but I’ll come to that, later).
The six books have been written in two trilogies with a twenty-year time gap in-between. I deliberately wrote the second trilogy so it could sit as a stand-alone, as well as a sequel trilogy. Think Star Wars episodes 4 – 6. After I’d written all six books, I proceeded to self-publish my second trilogy first.
Why would you do this? Just because it worked for George Lucas…
Let me finish!
I did it this way primarily because I knew books 1 – 3 (especially book 1) needed a lot of work, and I wasn’t really in the head space to go back to my first trilogy and swing the axe. That’s the real reason – although I often cite others, such as these:
- It gave me the opportunity to have a second launch, I could start again with book one and run through to book six.
- It allowed me to try to seek the traditional publishing route for book 1 (if you’re not aware, traditional publishers don’t normally touch books that have been previously self-published).
- Books 4 – 6 needed less work, so I could get them to market quicker.
Mmm, I’m not sure the primary reason I cite is the best of my reasons, but you know what? Looking back I’m certainly glad I did things this way. Why? Well, pull up a chair…
In January last year, I found myself newly unemployed and eager to get my books to market. I was desperate to make a success of being an author, I ignored everything I read about author success rarely coming quickly, I thought I could buck the trend.
So off I went, I threw money at editors and cover designers and did loads of random self-promo stuff online. I published all three books of my second trilogy on Amazon, six weeks apart. In the early days, things were looking good. I managed to flog quite a few books and earned over £100 in each of the first two months. But things went downhill from there, see below (I’ve no idea what the September blip is about, by the way).
£534 might look like a respectable figure for a self-published author, but when you consider what I spend on ads and ad agencies, I’m running at a significant loss. I’ve not added up everything I’ve spent, as I know it would depress me. But I know for sure its way above £534.
So, come January this year, I decided it was time to re-evaluate things (see my last post). In summary, I realised my read-through wasn’t as good as it could be, and I concluded The General’s Son needs work – which is now underway.
This is all backstory, of course, I know I’ve not answered my own question about why I’m glad I did things this way.
Well, basically, its because I’ve just learned so much! I’ve learned what is worth spending time and money on, and what isn’t. I’ve learned the importance of patience, of proper preparation for launch, of building an author platform, of making sure I have a good author presence on Amazon, Goodreads and my own website.
I’m no expert by a long stretch, but I think I’m far better placed to launch a book now than I was this time last year. Which brings me to my current plan.
I’m going to re-launch, but I’m going to start with book 1. Last summer, I re-wrote The Queen of Vorn. I queried it for a time; I’ve now given up. Why? Because I’m not convinced it’s the right book to attract an agent or publisher. They’re after certain things, I’m not sure my book ticks the right boxes. So I’m going to self-publish it instead. But first, I’m going to do work on my covers. I’m going to prepare a marketing plan in advance. I’m going to make sure the book is as good as it can be before I release it into the world. I’m going to do everything I can to set myself up for success. Then I’m going to hope for the best.
Wish me luck!
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The world of Charlotte Goodwin… it’s a crazy old place. It often moves at a million miles an hour. Blink, and there’s a good chance you’ll miss her making some crazy, rash, life changing decision.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m impatient, impulsive and prone to turning my life upside-down on a hairpin. Sorry to disappoint, but on this occasion there is no life-changing decision afoot, but I have made quite a monumental step in respect of my journey to trying to become a successful author. I’ve taken all my books offline.
Yep, my three published novels are no longer available to buy on Amazon or read with Kindle Unlimited. I’ve also taken my short stories offline, too. I had four of them on Booksie and Wattpad. Not anymore. Just one remains, it’s a bit of fan-fic I wrote which I’m keeping live on Substack. Why? I’m not certain, it just seemed the right thing to do.
What are you doing, you crazy woman? I do talk to myself a lot – mostly in my head. It helps me maintain a veneer of sanity to the outside world. To answer my own question, I’m embarking on a reset.
Late in 2022, I decided to quit my job at Amazon and try to make it as a writer. I blogged about it. Feel free to read my post, here.
In January 2023, I jumped on a writing roller coaster. I really was convinced I could sell books. I didn’t think I was about to sell thousands of course, but I did think maybe I could shift a few hundred, maybe I could begin to build some momentum and then I’d see my sales go up as I grew my profile and got more reviews.
I didn’t. Here’s why – I rushed things. I took a sub-par product to market. There are some logical reasons why I did this; they’re logical, but not necessarily sensible. Anyway. Life goes on. I spent 2023 learning stuff. A lot of stuff. Here are the highlights:
- No one becomes a writing success overnight (except a tiny, tiny minority of very lucky people).
- Your first novel will suck. Your second one probably will, too. You won’t realise this until you’ve written at least three of the things.
- Throwing money at your books won’t make them good – you can pay for great editors and great cover designers, but they will only ever work to your brief. Books become great thanks to the work you put in.
- Don’t rush your books to market. It can be tempting in the world of self-publishing, but it rarely pays off in the long run. Take time to build your author platform and make sure you book really is as good as it can be first.
- Listen to Baz Luhmann – he wrote a song called Everybody’s Free. It has some great lyrics. Here’s some highlights.
"The race is long and in the end, it's only with yourself."
"Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it."
There’s loads more wisdom in that song besides, if you’ve never heard it, you really should look it up.
- And of course, BE PATIENT!
Now I’ve decided to start again with all those lessons in my head. I’ll do some work on The General’s Son. I’ll do some work on the covers of all my books and on my on-line presence. I’ll build my newsletter subscriber list. I won’t publish writing that is bad – including short stories. I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep learning. And maybe one day, if I learn enough, and put what I've learnt into practice, I’ll achieve the success I hope for.
So, I was waffling all about my latest book, Magic Breakers in my last blog post. I've not abandoned it, I'm currently ploughing through the first round of editing, slowly. Life, Army stuff, Christmas and DIY just got in the way (quite a lot) recently.
Anyway, you've probably noticed that the picture above features the cover of The General's Son, with a big 'V2' slapped on its front. "Why is this?" I hear you ask. Well, quite simply because concurrently to working on the editing of Magic Breakers, I'm also working on a second version of The General's Son, the first novel I published.
I published this novel in March 2023, and at the time I released it, I thought it was as good as it could be. I was wrong. It has flaws, primarily in the early chapters.
Why has it taken so long to spot this? It's an interesting question. Loads of people have read The General's Son and I've had plenty of positive reviews from those who've finished it. However, when I look at my Kindle Unlimited stats I notice something - my read through isn't great. It looks like around half the people who read The General's Son don't read the sequel; yet most of those who read book 2 go on to read book 3. I have a suspicion I'm losing readers early on - those who stick with it enjoy it and forget the early chapters, but for many, it ends up in the 'did not finish' pile.
It's easy to be blind to your own work, it's easy for readers who finish a book to forget a poor start. Sometimes it takes a second pair of rather critical eyes to spot some major flaws in your structure.
Twitter has been one of my few success stories, in terms of follower numbers at least. On last check I was on 26.7 thousand, in September 2022 I had just 1 follower - my husband. It's also allowed me to connect with a host of interesting and in some cases, very helpful people. Peter, from Snowdon Publishing Services is one of these people. He pointed out my first chapter stank and when he explained why, I was inclined to agree. He helped me see my novel in a whole new light, it was like my blinkers were ripped off in respect to my story and I was able to look at it a whole lot more objectively.
I now realise I have tried to plug too much back-story into the start of the book. I know why I did this, but I won't bore you with the details. It's not the first time I've done this either. You'd think I'd have learned!
The first stage in moving towards improvement is identifying where you went wrong. I think I've done this, so now it's time to make The General's Son better.
Don't start with Aran! Aran is my antagonist. I always battled with thoughts of whether or not I should start with his story. It turns out my instincts were right. It was a bad idea. Garrad is my protagonist, I have a nice second chapter which features him. I'm going to start with Garrad - almost.
I think I need a prologue first.
Not a prologue! Everyone hates prologues!
Um, I've done quite a bit of reading on the subject of prologues and it's certainly true that some people hate them. I've never really been a fan myself. But I've managed to convince myself that they can work, if appropriate and kept short.
I'm axing chapter 1 from Version 1 of The General's Son. But the thing is, there was some key info in there that the reader still needs to know. I think my new prologue covers this. I'm axing another four chapters after my protagonist is introduced too - I'll be adding details into some later chapters where perhaps some key detail may now be lacking. The long and the short of it is, I'm chopping back-story and getting to the meat of my tale more quickly. In doing so, I hope I'll hook more readers for longer. Let's see if it works...
Curious what my draft prologue looks like? I've copied it below:
Love it? Hate it? Think it needs work? Post your comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts!
Charlotte Goodwin is the author of the Gallantrian Legacy series. A set of six books (and counting) set in a universe where magic is real, there's just not much of it on Earth.