Saturday, April 20, 2013

Things I've Learned (So Far) From Self-Publishing

1. There's no easy road to selling books

I hear too many people say: "If I can't find an agent, I will self-publish my book!" As if self-publishing is the easy route that anyone can do.

Self-publishing is very difficult. It's hard to convince people to buy your book. You have to do everything yourself, including creating your own covers, running your own web-site, formatting your book using codes, and more things that take up time that you could be using to write faster.

No matter how much you read on what little tasks you need to do in order to self-publish a book, you'll actually get there and find out there's a million other jobs that no one mentioned that you need to perform.

2. Sometimes the formulas work

People often make fun of formulaic books. They call them predictable and boring. But the thing is, these people always buy those books anyway. It's why they have the formulas memorized-they've purchased and read so many books that followed those rules. Readers like their comfort zones.

It's not a huge sin to write a book that breaks the rules, but it's much easier to sell a book that doesn't. People get greatly disappointed at times when your books break the rules.

3. Sometimes the formulas don't work

If you self-publish, you will hear mantras of how to do it successfully. You need to get an editor. You need to get a professional cover. You need to advertise yourself this way or that.

The truth is, I've talked to some successful self-published authors. I've met people who started out with bad covers and no editors and still got thousands and thousands of downloads.

What I'm saying is that if you don't have enough money to hire an editor or advertise in a certain way or anything else, then do your best to find something equivalent. Like a friend who is a grammar nazi or a bunch of free sites to advertise on.

Following the rules to the letter (like I did with my first book) is no guarantee that you'll sell. And giving up on self-publishing because you can't follow the rules is a guarantee that you won't sell.

Do what you can. Try new things.  It doesn't matter that your first book isn't perfect-no one's is.

The people who mock self-published authors because their books have mistakes in them or problems with their covers also forget that even traditionally published books suffer from the same a lot of times.

4. People love free things

The difference between a 99 cents book and a free book is astounding. I had a book available for 99 cents on Amazon for a month and got zero sales. As soon as it was made free, 300 people had downloaded it in two days without me even announcing that it exists. It's a good way to get people to hear of you who would otherwise not.

5. Most people who follow you will not buy your book

It's hard to get people to read your blog, twitter posts, or facebook posts for free online.

It's even harder to get them to buy your book.

Most people will tune you out when you mention it, regardless of how many followers you have.

6. It's difficult to know where your sales are coming from

I do contests and other promotions, but I honestly have no idea where my sales come from. I can tell on some days I am having certain promotions and selling more books on those days, but usually I am promoting myself in a variety of ways. I have no idea who buys my books or where they heard of me from. I make guesses sometimes, but I don't know if they are accurate.

7. You can write for the trends

You can't do this when you are traditionally publishing. From the time you finish a book to the time it gets published, you have to wait two years. Not with self-publishing-it's pretty instantaneous. If you can write quickly, then you can finish a book within a few months, which will allow you to publish it before the trend is over. Because of this, if you want to, you can actually latch on to trends and benefit from them while they are happening.


T.J. said...

So very true!! I can research, and prep, and ask all the questions I want...and break some rules, or follow others, or do one but not the other - and still flop miserably. Which, frankly, is what I'm expecting. That way if it DOES sell, I'll be happily surprised :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the excellent advice~

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