7 Things I Didn’t Know About Becoming a Self-Published Author
You need to know these things.
When I decided to embark on this adventurous, and most of the time lonely, journey I was coming into it optimistic. In 2015, I decided not only to write my first book, but to self-publish by myself. That’s right, I became a self-published author. The road to literary glory was always one reader away and I was ready to reach whoever I could. But there were things that I had to learn before I could earn my stripes. Some of the lessons came fairly easy while others came after the fact. I just had to remember to do those things for my next book. Here are 7 things I didn’t know that can help you prepare you for your literary glory.
Know What You’re Writing For
Whether it’s for the money, fame, or just a hobby that you would like to be recognized for; knowing what you’re writing for can make all the difference in how your novel comes out. There are pros and cons to both, but having a clear understanding of your needs and wants can help reduce the cons. When I was a young, novice writer I wanted the money and fame. I thought my writing was a gift to the world and everything I did would make history (Ah, I was so dumb). So with chasing the money and fame over the dream I ended up writing for the trend instead of what I loved.
Let me say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with writers who do this. But most of the time if they have the capability to do this then they’ve already earned their stripes in the literary world and specialize in the subject they’re writing for. When I got older and more seasoned as a writer I decided, “Don’t think about the money. Do it for the love.” Now the quality of the writing is better because I was doing what I loved, but it came out slower than I wanted to because I was focused on myself and not the readers. So a happy balance is always recommended. Find something marketable to readers, but also something you have a passion for.
Know Who You’re Writing For
Now this kind of ties in with my first point and is almost too obvious to make it a point, but trust me there’s a difference between a New Adult contemporary romance with a splash of Erotica versus a New Age Erotica with a splash of… well, more Erotica. As subtle as it might seem, the difference can range from age, sexual preference, all the way down to which part of the world your book is being read the most. The mistake I made with my debut novel, The Color of Love, is that I grouped every romance fanatic under the same romance umbrella. So when I asked for reviews from people who were readers of the “genre”; the reviews were mixed because my type of writing wasn’t for everyone regardless of them being under the romance umbrella.
Research must be done so you can target a specific group of people who will give you honest feedback and not a poor review just because they don’t like the name of your main character. If you know who you’re writing for then you know how to tailor your style to their needs and maybe you can get them to convert to your way of doing things.
Know Who to Choose For Distribution
This can be a little tricky simply because there are so many distribution companies with so many packages and deals that can get so published with the click of a button. With the popularization of POD (Print-on-Demand) over the last several years, self-publishing isn’t considered a “vanity press” market anymore. There are respectable authors who are making a real living off self-publishing. Some have used their platform to sign to a major publishing house while others choose to stay the indie route and enjoy their freedom. They have found a way to monetize their passion and turn it into a business. And that’s how you should think about your first book. It is a business, you as the author are a brand, and your distributor is your business partner.
But which one will you choose? There’s lulu.com, createspace.com, ouskirtpress.com, iUniverse, and many others that I had to sit down and really think about what was the best fit for me. I ended up choosing Createspace because not only was it good for my price range, but it also an Amazon company. And if you didn’t know Amazon is one the biggest book retailers in the world so it only made sense. That doesn’t mean that the other companies weren’t good.
In fact, my first choice was Outskirt Press for the longest, but I saw a lot more success stories come from authors who went through Createspace. The customer service was great and I got everything done from the cover art, copyediting, line editing, and formatting for a reasonable price. It’s ultimately up to you who you decide to go into business with, but if you still can’t make up your mind, you can click here for a top ten list for you to compare the best companies out there now.
Marketing is Your Right-hand Man
This is probably the most underrated fact when stepping into self-publishing. The one thing that new authors almost always overlook is the marketing aspect of self-publishing. Oh, you thought you were just going to write a book and be done with it? Like I alluded to before, this is now your business and it can be a very lonely road. For most of us that’s not a problem because writing is an isolated sport anyway. It’s just you, your laptop, and your story. But when your book is finished and ready to be published there’s a whole different monster that needs to be slayed. And that my friends, is marketing.
The reason marketing is your right hand man is because it should be with you every step of the way. Which means it should start months before you click that publish button and it will continue months after. Now, it’s never too late to start marketing your book, but you don’t want to be like me a scrambling when that time comes. Mistake #79 that I made when The Color of Love was published was I announced that I wrote a book the day it was released. I explain why that’s bad in my article 5 Tips for Making Self-Publishing A Part of Your Passive Income.
Us as writers can be arrogant at times. We think that are stories are the deepest and our characters are the most relatable, and our readers will come grovelling to our feet to thank us for writing the second coming of literature. When in reality, no one showed up for me.
Plus, a barrage of marketing questions came my way. Where’s your virtual blog tour? Did you set up any giveaways? Did you take out an ad on Amazon? Do you have a Goodreads account? Did you pay for any professional reviews? Have you entered any novel competitions? Here I thought I was doing something extraordinary with my life, but really I was just beginning. So I am begging you, from one writer to another, pick up these books on marketing: A Year of Book Marketing by Heather Hart and 9 Strategies to BUILD and GROW Your Author Platform: A Step-by-Step Book Marketing Plan to Get More Exposure and Sales. Do as much research as you can. There are tons of free information out there waiting to help you be the next big thing.
Build Your Audience Before You Publish
This is exactly what I’m doing as you read this. Marketing and socializing doesn’t always have to be a chore. Take me, I am a writer and I write for a living. I have this blog to connect with other writers to share my experiences and hopefully help them along the way of their literary journey. Now if you like what I write then maybe you’ll come back for more. Maybe you subscribe to my blog (that would be awesome of you). Maybe you start to share my articles, comment on it, or give feedback. This is me building that trust in our new-found relationship. I give you free, but also valuable, content on the consistent basis so when the time for my next book comes, I have a loyal audience to go to first and market to them.
Remember before when I was talking about the readers grovelling at your feet and thanking you for the second coming of literature? Well this is how you get those crazy fans grovelling at your feet (metaphorically of course). You can start a blog, a podcast or join forums that involve your niche just to name a few. I only recommend following one or two active forums because it can be a pain trying to keep up with more than that. In the great words of the whispering voice, “if you build it, they will come.” SN: I know the voice says “he” will come in the movie, but as writers we make our own rules.
Know Your Worth
If someone walked up to with a hand designed t-shirt and told you this would be the best t-shirt you ever bought in your life would you be interested? Maybe, even if you didn’t believe them. Then what if they told you the t-shirt will bring you joy and you’ll be wearing it for years to come, but the price was $100. Would you buy it? Probably not. The crazy thing about this, is neither one of are wrong in your judgement. As a supplier, if he feels that his product is good enough to call for $100 from you then God bless him.
On the other hand, as the consumer, you have the right to say it’s not worth it to you. This is how readers look at your book. No one wants to feel like they’re over paying for a product. So in turn, your first couple of novels might have more than a few freebies given away. Mistake #37, I was very stubborn in my ways. My first novel was available in two formats, Paperback for 12.49 and Kindle for 3.99.
Now I felt like these prices were fair and for most seasoned authors it’s more than fair. The problem was I wasn’t a seasoned author. I wasn’t even a proven author. I had no credentials, no reviews, and absolutely no reason anyone should trust me to give me their money and buy my book. So I ended up lowering the prices and once I got my credentials up so did the sales. But was it too little too late? Only time will tell, but don’t sell yourself short. Can you really be considered a best seller if your eBook is $0.99? Technically yes, but that would literally be taking the cheap way out. Bet on yourself, but be reasonable.
There’s No Need to Rush
This is something I had to learn with a grain of salt. On one hand you’re anxious because you can’t wait to put out your masterpiece that you’ve been working on for months or even years! On the other hand, you have to make sure that you’re giving out the highest quality of work that you can give and that requires patience. I was so stressed about getting my first book out that I didn’t think about everything else.
Meanwhile, I didn’t build an audience. I didn’t take advantage of a marketing strategy. And I didn’t take the time to make sure my baby was properly clothed before I put it out into the cold world. Meaning that if you look hard enough, you will find some typos in my book. There are crucial elements missing from my book where I could have gotten personal with the fans.
When you are self-publishing a book, you are a million in one million and one… and counting. There are hundreds of thousands of books being published every day. You don’t want the reason you stand out is because of something negative. That’s why my next book that I’m currently working on, I’m taking longer to develop. Six months of that will be dedicated solely to marketing. That’s how important it is. So take your time and put out the best work you can possibly create. Your readers will thank you for it.
So what do you think? Will you be able take my mistakes and apply them to your literary journey? If you’ve already self-published a book, what have you learned from your experiences. Leave a comment below and let me know what you have to say. I read everything. Don’t forget to subscribe. May your literary journey be a smooth one. Good Luck!
Author: Ty Mitchell
I write books and help writers get through their literary journey. I am the author of The Color of Love. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity. Follow me on Twitter @Ty_Mitchell or on Facebook @the-vpf.