Have you ever heard a published author asked what advice they would give to aspiring writers? The answers are usually the same and may include things like “read all you can,” “finish your manuscript,” “do NaNoWriMo,” etc. Being an aspiring writer is not the same thing as being an aspiring publisher of your own work. I haven’t heard a lot of people give advice on how to best go about publishing your own book – because most of the people getting published aren’t doing everything themselves. So today, in this post, I’m going to be sharing some things that you should know if you want to be a self-published author. This is written for people who have already finished a book, have chosen to self-publish already thinking it’ll be easier than the traditional route and are able to hear some hard truths.
It isn’t easy.
It is a wonderful journey and one I do not regret making, but it isn’t always easy.
You can’t do it alone.
When I wrote my first book at age 11 and published it at 14, I thought that I could do self-publishing all on my own. Truth is, you need a lot of people on your team in order to publish a book with the potential to be successful. You need an editor(s), beta readers and/or critique partners, cover artists, and people who are willing to promote your book before and after release. The cover artist part is something that a lot of indie authors also do. There are many artists who also write so that one is optional. But you cannot be the only editor/feedback giver of your book. You get so used to your own style that when editing, you are more likely to auto-correct a mistake in your head and not fix it on paper. You need fresh sets of eyes, active minds, and honest feedback.
You need a following/online presence to get people to read your book.
Someone told me this a while ago when I was just starting to publish and I kind of blew the advice off. Gaining followers seemed tedious and unnecessary to me. I thought, “People just will see my book and hopefully read it and like it.” Truth is, you can’t depend on your book to sell itself. And since you won’t have a publishing house doing the marketing and distributing for you, its all something you have to do yourself. I thought for a long time that having mass amounts of followers on social media or subscribers to a newsletter or readers on a blog wouldn’t really “put me out there.” But it does. And you have to do it. Followers aren’t everything, sure, but making connections with people who read and write like you do is everything if you want your book to be successful.
Giveaways and ads are REALLY helpful.
Yeah, yeah you think those Facebook ads don’t really reach people. They do. Yes, the algorithms are against us sometimes, but the majority of the followers and engagement I get are from ads. Repetition is key. If someone sees your book over and over and then reads a review from someone else they follow, they are more likely to go and buy your book. Ads help with this. And people are more likely to engage with your ad if you are offering them something: like a free copy of your book. Giveaways are a lot of fun, too! You get to meet a lot of people who are excited about the chance to get your book for free. This also gives you a chance to be creative. Don’t just give away books. Create swag, including gift cards, annotated copies, etc. A majority of the people who have bought and read my books found me through ads.
Reviews > sales
If you’re watching sales constantly, you are going to find yourself doubting and perhaps downright sorrowful at how little you are making – at first. No sales are promised. Consistent and frequent sales are not promised. You may have a lot of sales right after release, and then it dies down. You may have very little during the release but many later. Instead of getting people to buy your book, ask them to review it. Reviews are everything. Once you’ve gained some sort of following, contact fellow indie authors, reviewers, bloggers, and other creators to read and review a free copy of your book. Reviews on Amazon help to get you onto recommended sections on the site. Reviews on Goodreads are often looked at by potential readers. Even if you receive a bad review, count it as a blessing. What some disliked or criticized about your book someone else may like and praise. Don’t be discouraged by lack of sales and look for people who are down for reading a free copy.
Sometimes, publishing takes a lot longer than writing.
Formatting, cover creating, formatting again, hours of Amazon review, FORMATTING AGAIN. It is a process, and sometimes that process is loooong. BE patient. listen to audiobooks and music while you do it. Just don’t expect that since your manuscript is polished and finished that you can publish in a day. Usually, publishing is a 2-week process for me. (This differs from author to author and book to book. I’ve heard from some authors of it taking months and others just a week. So, don’t compare your process to others.)
Just because you have self-published with Amazon, doesn’t mean you own your book.
Let’s talk about ISBN’s. When publishing on Amazon’s platform KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you are offered the option to use Amazon’s free IBSN or to buy your own. (most IBSN’s cost around $200…so for an indie author starting out I know this is a daunting price.) BUT it is worth it. Long-term, if you use Amazon’s IBSN, they own your work. Not you. Essentially what is happening in this situation, si you are publishing through Amazon but you’re not getting an editor, cover designer, marketing team and everything else that comes with traditional publishing. If you buy your own IBSN, YOU own your book, which long term, is worth it. Most people chose self-publishing for creative control and to be able to own their own work. Don’t let Amazon have it if you want to keep it.
You are NOT the only young, self-published author out there.
Being self-published does not make you unique. For a long time, I thought I was special since I was the only teen author self-publishing her books. I was very, very wrong. Although the traditional publishing world is much bigger than the indie author one, you would be surprised at just how many people are doing exactly the same thing as you. There. Are. SO. Many. This can make one feel disconcerted and discouraged sometimes, but it is also a huge relief in other ways. You aren’t the only one, and those who have come before you know a lot and can teach those things to you.
You have to understand the world you are publishing in.
What is trending? What is being overdone and what is being beaten to death? What do readers want more of? If you aren’t looking into these things, you’ll be writing another fantasy with a love triangle, a dark lord, and no diversity. Now, if you’re already an active reader, you know most of these things. Sometimes, when we are writing, we get so caught up in our own stories, we forget about all the other stories out there. Go and read them while your beta readers are reading your book.
Being an indie author is very lonely.
Just because you aren’t submitting your book to publishing houses and agents, doesn’t mean you are free of rejection. In fact, rejection, I think, is harder when you’re self-publishing. Not many people care about your book. Maybe a handful of people: your grandma, your best friend, your mom’s high school teacher, your other grandma.
*insert lotr meme*You will hear the same questions over and over: How much money do you make from your books? How many copies have you sold? Do people like your book? What’s it about? this last one is a question usually asked by someone who wants a short answer and not your long-winded Goodreads summary.
In the end, the lack of support you will have for your book at the beginning will make you even more grateful for all the rando, beautiful, kind people you will meet on your journey. I’ve made so many friends as a result of self-publishing and they are all wonderfully supportive and gracious.
Being an indie author is highly competitive BUT your fellow indie authors are highly gracious and compassionate.
Making connections with people at first may seem tedious and unnecessary, but before you know it, you’ll be meeting a girl in line at BookCon who does graphic design and wants to make you a book cover. You’ll be emailing with a girl who crochets and wants to be an editor. You’ll be having coffee with a writer who lives in your city. You’ll be writing blog posts with other authors. You’ll be beta reading for other aspiring writers. Every single one of these is a scenario that is real for me now and has been for the past year. Meet the people who are doing the same thing you are and support them. You will be amazed at the support you receive in return.
For anyone who read this post and is left thinking, “Okay, I get what I need to do, but how do I go about doing it?” I’ll tell you that most answers lie in the self-publishing community. I learned 99% of the things I know from other indie authors and their experience. Go find them on social media. Read their blogs and watch their YouTube channels. I’m going to link some of these people below! And I am always open to answer questions in the comments about how I accomplished all the above! So, questions? Let me know. I have some answers.
Happy writing AND PUBLISHING, my friends! 🙂
Some indie authors you should be following:
Find me on Instagram
And Pinterest if you like aesthetics and mood boards?