1. Be Bold: Try New Things and Always Challenge Yourself
Write what you love, but don't always write the same thing. The only way to truly grow and expand is to gain new skills, and the only way to gain new skills is to try new things. I wrote Bitten because I had the odd notion that my first novel should be a genre I was entirely and wholly unfamiliar with (in this case horror). It pushed me to grow as a writer because I was forced to learn new techniques, styles, and open myself up to new possibilities. What's more, it seemed to work. One of the best reviews I ever received was from a test reader who informed, "I couldn't read this book without turning on all the lights in the house. It's that scary!"
Apparently I succeeded. But only because I pushed myself. I could have just as likely crashed and burned, but that too would have been a learning experience which would have helped me grow.
2. Be Wise: Writing a Book isn't a Sprint--It's a Marathon
As an Indy author, you will likely be doing everything, or at least mostly everything, yourself. This considered, it is wise to take your time and pace yourself. Keep a schedule or a calendar on hand to help with your pacing. Even if you're like me and rarely ever follow it with any precision, it still helps to keep things organized so you don't have any conflicts later on down the road which might jam you up. I learned that the hard way.
Also, don't rush to publish just because it's now easier than ever to self-publish. Additionally, once you do publish, realize this ins't the end, but the beginning of the second half of getting your book made. The first part is making the book, but the second part is letting know people that you have a book, otherwise what would the point of making it be?
Advertising and selling your books takes more time, at least I find, than the actually work on the book. I tend to finish a book every sixth months (give or take). But I am still trying to find readers for my very first novel, along with all the subsequent titles, and this seems a never ending process. So don't expect a hundred Amazon.com reviews the first year. Even if sales are good, for example my first novel Bitten has sold upward near a 1,000 copies in one year, but it has only one four-star review on Amazon.com. I don't know exactly whether that's a good or a bad thing, so I asked my friend Mark Tufo, author of the Zombie Fallout series, and he said it took three months for him to sell even one copy of his first book. The reviews, he stated, didn't come until much, much later. After the word of mouth had gotten around. So I'm still waiting--with fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I am pacing myself, taking my time and trying everything I can think of to make my next book even better than my last. Which brings me to my third tip.
3. Be the best you can be: Make your next book even better than the last!
It seems like simple advice, but it's easier said than done. When I began writing Bitten two, I was thinking, what could I do to make this one stand out? What could I do to separate it from the first? Well, I did something drastic. Even though it's part of a series, I made Bitten 2 a stand alone novel. Instead of being a continuation, it simply is set in the same universe. The first book involves and intricate story-line with over 52 characters! Bitten 2 only has a grand total of 12 characters. This allowed me to focus on the characters more. Get more involved in their relationships. And create interesting dynamics. Moreover, it caused the story to go in an interesting direction. Bitten 2 is a romance novel. But with zombies in it. Bitten one is entirely an action, survival-horror, with thrilling twists and turns. It's part mystery, part western, part science fiction. Bitten 2 is a much more simple story. It's about a fledgling love ruined by the inconvenience of the zombie apocalypse. It's tragic. It's scary in a much more realistic way. The sheer horror of the zombies takes a backseat to the horrible realism of real life relationships and the hardships the characters endure. It's about trying to fight for love ... but losing out ... and then having to figure out what life is about when the world lays in ruins around you just like your failed relationship.
Did it make the book better? Well, that remains to be seen. But I feel that technically, my writing became better, because of the mistakes I made with Bitten 1, so that by the time I wrote Bitten 2 everything was clicking, and the smaller story allowed me to focus on telling a strong character piece. Ultimately, that's what stories are about, people, not the monsters. Not the action. But the interactions.
Bitten 3 is halfway written, and it combines everything I learned from writing the first two into one novel, so it promises to be the best of the series, but at the same time, it is also proving to be the most challenging to write. Probably because I don't simply want to fall into a formula. I want to break the mold, always push myself, and have the next book be better than the last.
Because that's the only way I, as an author, can ever be satisfied with my work. Like most Indy authors, I have the luxury to state that I write for myself. If people fall in love with what I write, then that's the best compliment I could ever receive In the meantime, I keep on writing, and the only way I could be happy is if I was improving.