In publishing, as in any industry, you'll occasionally run into service providers from the "do as I say, not as I do" school of business. They talk about building relationships online while spamming the heck out of subscribers or followers. They post writing advice that, while perhaps containing decent information, clearly hasn't been proofread. They pitch us about using their social media services while not bothering to maintain their own accounts or develop a following of more than 100 or so.
As we prepared to launch my good friend and co-founder's latest book, she and I made a decision to document her steps and share a more detailed picture of the way Amelia Indie Authors supports authors at various stages of writing, releasing, and marketing a book. I like to think of it as the time one of my favorite authors got a taste of her own medicine -- and liked it. Of course, always the consummate professional, Nancy prefers to think of it as "getting more from your membership."
Get More from Your AIA Membership
Since 2016 and taking our first small steps to move Amelia Indie Authors from dream to reality, I have sometimes wondered about the inertia some writers might feel coming into a co-op, perhaps without a clear understanding of how it could help them and how they might become part of something bigger.
Although I’m a co-founder of AIA, I’m also a member who needs the services offered. To prepare When Starlings Fly as One—my most recent historical novel—for publication, I needed to cover all kinds of territory, including editing, objective reader perspectives, proofreading, design, production, advertising, event planning, social media coverage, and so much more.
The process is completely daunting for an independent author, right? It might not be as complicated as launching some sort of spacecraft, but there were days my desk looked like those movie images of NASA's early days in Houston.
But I'm fortunate: everything I needed was right in front of me.
Before Launching? Better Betas
First—because the manuscript must always come first—I needed fresh perspectives and feedback. With each book I write, I try something new to stretch my skills. I had already been through several revisions but knew I still needed a few more careful read-throughs to be certain my new direction ‘worked’ for the reader. AIA connected me to four readers specifically selected as beta readers for this particular project. They combed through the chapters, not only giving me perspective about the story, but also honest feedback about the writing and structure, personal observations about the characters, and helpful suggestions such as including maps to clarify the locations and listing character names which—being mostly ancient and Irish—might be unfamiliar to American readers.
Next came design and production. I didn’t need as much help in that part of the process because not only are those tasks my own forté, they're something I often provide for our members.
What I needed was to be sure my cover design was compelling. And objectivity. I know that, as the author, not only do I sometimes get too close to the story, I can be blinded by my own preferences. AIA not only got me objective feedback but also used the process as an opportunity to help readers take a more personal, vested interest in my book.
I had already created some cover design options to consider: my preferred cover was a lovely 17th-century portrait of a young woman. The initial feedback I received was that the image, while beautiful, would suggest that the book was intended for women, possibly leaving male readers behind. This book is about a castle siege during a rebellion and war -- it's not a sexy romance. I loved that portrait, but not enough to potentially discourage up to 50% of my readers.
Using my own Facebook and Twitter accounts, AIA posted several cover designs side-by-side, inviting subscribers and readers to choose which ones they liked most and to offer comments about them. The Amelia Indie Authors' social media accounts, as well as some belonging to other members, also invited people to offer input about the cover. This not only brought invaluable feedback but also boosted—quadrupled—the number of people viewing my page.
And using that feedback, I came up with a fresh design that is beautiful, compelling, easy to read, and representative of the story. Not only that, but AIA was able to recommend a designer who could animate my cover for a very low fee. It was a wonderful specialty to post for the cover reveal and lead-up to our launching date.
Can You Release a Book During a Pandemic?
Next came the challenge of launching a book during the COVID-19 pandemic. As has been my custom, I scheduled two in-person events with the local bookstore, only to cancel both because of the vicious spread of the virus. What could we do?
I wrote a series of blog posts about the book’s protagonist, which AIA helped me promote. Then our author assistant designed a series of social media posts featuring images and quotations I supplied. She arranged and scheduled them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to give my book high visibility during the early release period. Each of them drew lots of likes, comments, and shares, and I’m certain they helped maintain the spike in sales I realized during the early post-publication days.
I’m grateful I had help through the launch process. It reduced my stress level considerably. Yes, I paid for services just like any other writer would have to do, but the prices I paid were significantly lower than you would find elsewhere -- and paid to reputable, vetted professionals.
But one more thing -- and this is of the highest value—I knew I had someone I could call on, friends who understood what I was going through and who had my back. Other writers invested in me, my book, and our success. A village.
And truth be told, that is really what Amelia Indie Authors is all about.