It was November, 2014 when I actually got semi-serious about self publishing, deciding to participate in NanoWriMo 2014, and managing to spew out my entire 110,000 word novel during that short four week span.
Then, for the next nine months I began this strange twisted journey towards the world of self publishing, learning a lot on the way…mostly learning what not to do again. When I finally launched my first self-published novel in August, 2015, I felt like I’d made this great accomplishment.
That no one would apparently ever read.
My friends and family were absolutely awesome and supported me whole hog. I had days when I came dreadfully close to actually breaking a certain Amazon rank, but far more days where that KDP report bar remained depressingly flat.
So here we are, six months from the day I first published, and I’m on the verge of publishing again (a second edition as well as book two). So what have I learned?
1) Adjust your expectations
This may sound harsh, but don’t click that “publish” button on your Amazon page and just assume you’re going to be an overnight success. Sure, there are success stories all over the place, but more often than not, it comes from very hard work, not just writing, but marketing, networking, and developing your “brand”. If you’ve done none of those things, there’s a good chance your book won’t get read, even if its the best book ever written.
2) Fiverr is your friend, just not your best friend
If folks aren’t aware of Fiverr, it’s a great job networking site that
connects folks looking for services to folks who offer those services,
generally at a very affordable rate. I used Fiverr quite a bit throughout my
initial publishing push. However, the old axiom “you get what you pay for”
needs to be considered, and at the end of the day, especially if you’re
writing a full blown 75K word novel, Fiverr isn’t necessarily any cheaper than other services. I’d recommend dipping your toes in first at some low paying gigs before going whole hog and gauge your satisfaction from there.
3) Network, network, network, then network some more
Interact with the community. Make friends. Read others work then ask them to do the same. Learn and absorb as much as you possibly can, and not just through pseudo superficial social media interaction. I’d recommend checking out the Amazon Write-On forums, Reddit’s Self Publishing subreddit, NanoWriMo, or any other countless places where struggling authors get together to commiserate. Without the glories of Reddit or NanoWriMo I wouldn’t have the fantastic editor and cover designer that I do now (plugging KAEditing and J Caleb Design here!).
4) Invest wisely
One thing I learned quickly is that, like it or not, it’s going to cost money
to get your book published, at least if you want to do it right. You need to
learn where to invest your money to get the most bang for your buck. It may be tempting to shoot over $50 to a few different marketing websites who promise a huge return, but I’ve found investing in editing and cover design is a much better use of your hard earned money. And if you’re self publishing through CreateSpace, I highly recommend leveraging their “Custom ISBN’s” rather than paying through the nose through Bowker directly. They give you just the right amount of flexibility at 10% of the cost.
Now don’t take all that to mean marketing isn’t important, it definitely is,
but I’d say the best kind of marketing is the stuff you do yourself. Folks
are much more likely to latch on to a quality blog post or a genuine person on Social Media rather than a barrage of paid out Tweets and ReTweets that lack the heart and soul of the person who wrote the work. I think those certainly have their place, but not when your first starting out.
5) KEEP WRITING
This is the most important thing. It’s easy to get discouraged when you spend over a year working very hard on a book that’s a part of your soul, only to see it languish with no purchases for weeks on end. It can feel like a personal failure. I speak from experience as I look at my sales rate for The Fog of Dreams and try not to think about how much I spent to get it made versus how much income its generating. Thankfully I have terrific family and friends who have been exceptionally supportive, but beyond that small circle, I haven’t gotten much traction.
You know what, though? I’m willing to bet you didn’t write that novel just to make money on it. I bet you wrote it because you enjoyed it. So keep doing it. KEEP WRITING. DO NOT STOP. As long as it brings you joy, do it, and you never know, something might catch on. If nothing else, developing a large library of your work will catch interest on Amazon or in other places, and the more you write, the better chance you have of getting noticed.
As I sit here typing, I’m on the precipice of publishing a second edition for
The Fog of Dreams as well as the second novel in my Operation: Harvest
trilogy, Loose Strands. I’ve received at least two dozen agent rejections,
and spent six months frowning at my KDP sales report, but every single day I continue to sit down and keep writing, because it brings me joy. I’ll likely never be rolling in cash doing this, and heck I’ll be lucky if I start
breaking even, but as long as I love doing it, I’ll keep at it. Any financial
gain will just be gravy.