New Year Resolutions 2014

Happy New Year!

2013 was a busy year for the website. With the publication of The Samurai Poet in October, the real value of having a site already up and running became clear. Not only did I have a destination to list in the many author profiles I had to fill out, but having this announcements page proved to be the best way to share links as booksellers around the world added it to their sales lists.

As important as it is for an independent author to have a web presence, I did not neglect Ishikawa Jozan or Shisendo either. During my July trip to Kyoto, I was able to shoot video and new photographs. This allowed me to add a new site feature that gives easy to follow visual directions to Shisendo--an idea I got from Japanese travel guides that tend to be far more visual than English ones. As I organize the photos and edit the video, more content will be added throughout the year, so check back for updates.

Lessons Learned in 2013

While publishing a novel is an accomplishment, having an audience of readers is necessary to really bring it to life. The initial response has been slow (as expected), but I still learned some lessons that might be of benefit to other authors considering indie publishing.

1) Manage your expectations and it will be easier to avoid disappointment. The general consensus is that 100 book sales is a meaningful milestone for an indie author. The Samurai Poet is not there yet, and I know how much it will mean to me when it makes it.

2) Don’t expect a huge response from your personal network. Your friends will buy you a latte, treat you to lunch, and lend you twenty bucks without expecting you to return it. That doesn’t mean they want to buy your novel--even if it costs less than the proverbial latte. Can you blame them? Buying a novel implies a time commitment to read it and makes a statement about a person’s taste. Have you ever felt burned by a bad book and hesitant to try another based on the experience? So have your friends.

Based on an earlier experience at the website Authonomy, I was prepared for approximately 10% of my personal network to support my writing career by purchasing TSP, and that’s about what happened. Will more of them buy it after reading a review or hearing a recommendation from a mutual friend? No doubt. Just be prepared if your friends don’t all open their wallets right away.

3) Reviews are important. If you can find unbiased reviewers willing to write up your book in exchange for a free copy, offer it to them. If you are a reviewer or a book blogger, contact me and I’ll set you up.

Looking Ahead

Normally, I make a New Year’s resolution that is within my power to realize. This year, they are mostly beyond my control. I’ll call them resolutions; you might call them wishes:

1) Be discovered. I try, but I am just not a social networker. What I really need in 2014 is for some well-connected Tweeter, Facebooker, blogger, or Goodreads reviewer to discover my website, blog, or novel and then share their discovery. I have a feeling that this is the only way to experience a breakthrough short of publishing another novel that catches someone’s eye.

2) Get more likes and +1’s on my website and blog. Google+ has recently emerged as my favourite public social network ahead of Twitter for the following reasons:

+1’s seem to help move links higher up on Google’s search pages--more of my blog posts are appearing on page one searches than ever before
Google will display your profile photo and post introduction on the search page--seeing the writer’s face seems to entice more clicks and consequently drive traffic to your website or blog
Posts on Google+ are “stickier” and more discoverable than tweets that disappear as quickly as they are posted

3) Sell a copy a day of The Samurai Poet. One book per day means nothing to Stephen King, but I would take 365 sales by the end of the year. If the book has merit, those 365 readers are sure to tell someone and it will find its audience.

Thanks for reading! Have a great 2014 everyone.