This whole venture into self-publishing has been a learning experience for me. After four years of doing this, I suppose it is time to share what I’ve actually learned. This one’s for the #WritingCommunity.
- Success is Hard No Matter What
I began self-publishing in 2016 after failing to obtain an agent the year prior. Your odds of actually obtaining an agent are low, but I recommend starting there. There is no better way to break through than getting an agent and being professionally published, but the former does not even guarantee the latter. Still, you should try. Query until it breaks you. And then take time to recover and create an Amazon Author Account.
- You Have to Spend Money to Be Noticed
Once you’ve self-published, do not expect anyone to suddenly purchase your novel. If you’re an new independent author without an already established fan-base, your book on Amazon or wherever will go completely unnoticed. There are hundreds/thousands/too many writers putting their works up on Amazon. Fortunately, there are places to advertise. Amazon offers their own service. Plenty of promo sites and newsletters exist. Use them. But be advised: the money you spend adds up quicker than you might realize. And results can be inconsistent. DO YOUR RESEARCH ON THESE SITES.
- Use Those Free Promos
I only started offering free promotions last year, but I went from selling tens of digital copies at a discount to “selling” thousands when I went free. It’s worth it just to get eyeballs. Maybe you’ll even make some fans. But more people seem willing to take a chance on an unknown indie author when their work is free. You’re spending money to get eyeballs rather than to make money at this point, but isn’t that just as important?
- Sales Can Be Very Short Term
If you’ve read my post-mortems, you can see that I once “sold” nearly 4000 books in a month. But after the promos ended, I don’t think I’ve ever sold 5 without them. Once those promos are done, my pile of books fall back into oblivion. So, if you’re not constantly promoting, don’t expect to be constantly selling. (Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program might get you page reads months after your promos end, however.)
- Be Bold
Take chances. Self-promote whenever possible. As a generally anti-social person, I am hindered by my own character. But you, the person who’s brain is reading these words, might be more outgoing. So do what I cannot. Use social media everyday. Go wide (as in sell on other sites besides Amazon). Get friends to promote your stuff. Because following in my footsteps will only get you so (not) far.
- Keep Your Day Job
Self-publishing online will not generate an income which allows you to support yourself. Unless you’re very wealthy, or have an already established fan-base, DO NOT QUIT YOUR JOB. Seriously. You can make time to write if you set yourself a schedule. You cannot buy food if you no longer have any money.
- Be Resilient
This one’s harder. After, say, three years of doing this, and you still have’t had much success, you may not want to do it anymore. Completely understandable. And maybe that’s the universe’s sign of saying you should stop. But if you are a writer, you will keep trucking along no matter how many successes or failures you have. In the end, you have to write for you. Not for money. Not for fame. FOR YOURSELF.
- Know the Benefits/Drawbacks of A Series
The first book I published was the first in a series. The problem is, I’ve probably improved as a writer since then, but it’s still the first in the series. Part of me likes that each book in the Kings of Ghumai series is an improvement. But, ya know, future readers still have to get through it to get to the others. It averages a four-star rating, which isn’t bad, but what if it’s rating was significantly lower. Book Three could be a five-star book, but no one would be reading it. So be careful if you start with a series. It could lead to sales for your sequels, but it could also mean that you’re writing sequels that no one will ever read.
- The Cover is Important
As an independent no-name author, having a professional-looking cover is all the more important. I have an artist friend of mine create all of my covers. If you want something specific, you can contract someone online to make it. Otherwise, there are websites where you can purchase pre-made covers at reasonable prices. Don’t throw something together in MS Paint or Photoshop yourself. DO NOT. It is noticeable.
- Follow Your Intuition, Ignore Conventional Wisdom
I have two standalone books. One is a novel. The other is nonfiction. And, contrary to what I once read, they do “sell.” If you have an excellent idea for a standalone, write it. Don’t start a series just because you heard it’s the only way to find success on Amazon. In fact, follow your intuition and ignore conventional wisdom. I heard that I should publish different genres under different names. No thanks. You can find everything I’ve written under D. N. Meinster. Read advice, but don’t take it as gospel. Know the conventional wisdom but recognize it can be wrong. Everything I’ve just written may not apply to you at all. But it applied to me, so I thought I’d share. Your experience will be yours alone. Good luck to you, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Until I write again.