Guest post: 5 Useful Principles When Self Publishing (Or The Only One That Matters)
Hi, my name is Timandra, and I’m a self published writer. Just a few weeks ago I published my debut fantasy novel Touch of Iron which Dan reviewed here. And today he’s being so kind and letting me take over his blog. So, strap up your boots, and let me march you through self publishing; what works, what doesn’t, plus 5 useful principles I learned along the way.
So let me get my teacher hat (and chalk) and write on the blackboard of your mind a truism you’re gonna have to deal with when self publishing: a lot of self published books out there are shit. Shit nobody wants to read. So how do you get people to read your awesome book when there’s so much sewage out there?
Enter the indie writer gurus. These are the people who have been in the scene for years now, have carved out a living from their writing, and teach others how YOU CAN DO IT TOO. Our heroes. The people we look up to, listen to, want to emulate.
Baseline? Your self publishing strategy should look like this:
- WRITE, PUBLISH, REPEAT.
- Write your first book.
- Publish it. Set the price to zero $.
- Distribute it as widely as you possibly can.
- Advertise it over Facebook Ads.
- Do giveaways to get even more people in front of your book.
- While doing this, write the next book in that series.
- Keep doing this for at least five or six books (two trilogies for example).
So, last year I was determined to do exactly what my gurus were telling me. Until suddenly, caught up in the middle of publishing, I found I wasn’t. Why?
First up, my credentials: at the time of writing this guest post I’ve been published 6 weeks. In that time I’ve sold 84 ebooks, and 4 print copies. And I’ve given a number of books away for free in exchange for reviews. However, Touch of Iron ranks pretty consistently in the 300/400’s (fluctuates a bit) in the category Dark Fantasy in the Kindle Store on Amazon.com. It has 16 reviews, averaging on 4.4 stars. Is that any good? I dunno really. It’s my first time. I think so. Here’s how I deviated from the Self Publishing Formula™
I started out like all others do: I wrote a book. Only I didn’t write in the preferred money-making genres of Romance or Thriller. Instead, I wrote a fantasy story. Grimdark even. In my defense, it was the story I wanted to read, needed to write. But, sheesh, fantasy? Ain’t no one got time for fantasy. Audience is too busy watching Game of Thrones.
So I wrote and tweaked until I was sure I couldn’t improve it anymore on my own. I didn’t publish it, though. Professional authors, the big names you love to read, well, the publishing houses that pay them … they also pay for editing those books. So I got myself an editor and listened to him.
Then I rewrote.
Then I paid for beta readers who weren’t related or befriended to me. At all. I randomly picked a handful of beta readers on Fiverr.com.
Then I rewrote.
You know what other service publishing houses pay for? Copyeditors. These are the people who check your manuscript line by line for your grammar errors, typos, and language glitches. Got me one of those, too.
I made changes accordingly.
But see, I still hadn’t hit that publish button. A weird compulsion drove me to diverge from the pattern the gurus had laid out so neatly, and instead adopt a marketing strategy as though my book were traditionally published.
You know who else publishing houses hire? A proofreader. Someone new to the project to read over the entire body of work and check everything. Every-fucking-thing. So I paid for one of those.
I made changes accordingly.
So, I’ll stop here, but I hope you’re seeing the pattern: I paid for quality control. In fact, I’m paying a lot for quality control. On what should be a free, scatter-it-to-the-wind kinda book. Why? Remember that foolproof marketing strategy, Timandra? It really does work, you know.
Yes. It worked three years ago, and probably will work for a bit longer. But not forever.
It’s pointless to follow guidelines when everyone is still making it up as they go along. So maybe you too have to make it up as you go along.
There are two basic ways to market your self published book.
One is quantity.
This is what has become the Self publishing Code. You produce the best book you can as fast as you can. You’re gonna give it away, remember? Besides, you can easily upload an updated, typo free-er version later on. Change the suck-y cover. The point is to get your shit out there fast. Outshit the others, so to speak.
I can’t. I have one demanding day job, two lively, young kiddos to parent, a husband who does occasionally yearn for my attention, and I already sleep less than 5 hours most nights (it’s 00.03 AM and I’m jittering on my 4th cup of coffee as I write this). There’s no way I can outshit the others by writing quantity.
So what else could I do? The gurus had no answer.
I was in the middle of publishing and realized I had to figure it out on my own
Scary, but it boils down to this: quality.
Granted, the product I’m selling won’t appeal to everyone. I don’t want it to. But it is the highest possible quality I could pay for, and I believe there’s an appreciative audience out there waiting for those kind of books. Sure, I’ll have to wait longer for my single book to earn me back the cost. I’ll have to take longer writing the next book in the series, because it too must attain to my set standard of quality. I’ve involved a lot of other professionals in my venture. They each have their own schedules and can’t work faster than they already are. Also, I want to keep this writing business up for a long time, my whole life preferably. There is no (Kindle Gold) rush.
Summing up, I’m not doing it according to the Self Publishing Formula™. I messed up the guidelines. (I’m sorry, guys. It’s not you, it’s me!) I improvised, I binge studied the night before, and frankly, on some days simply bluffed my way through it all. So …
5 Useful Guidelines When Self Publishing:
#1 Write the book you want to read.
#2 Make it the best you can. Get an editor already.
#3 Nothing beats word of mouth. You need reviews. So … hustle with the book bloggers out there. Hustle hard.
#4 Most of all in self publishing: you ALONE are responsible. Take the advice out there, but make things work for you. The industry is ever changing. No one even knows what’ll be the deal next year, let alone in five years time.
#5 Write the next book you want to read. No one will do it for you.
Sean Platt & Johnny B Truant with Dave Wright: Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) (The Smarter Artist Book 1)
Mark Dawson, Facebook Advertising for Authors www.selfpublishingformula.com
My beta readers and proofreader: www.fiverr.com
About Timandra Whitecastle
Timandra is a self-confessed nerd and a writer of fantasy. She is a mother to two children and balances this with her writing AND a day-job!. Her debut novel Touch of Iron was released recently and is also an entry into the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) hosted by Mark Lawrence. The book has already been voted into second place for best cover by the adjudicating bloggers (it is seriously cool) and it’s easy to see why!
11 random things about Tamara:
- Best ISTJ of all times? Batman.
- I was born in Germany, but on British ground. (Interesting 1980’s legal technicalities.)
- I hate pizza. It is known.
- My favorite reading genres are Fantasy and Cook Books.
- In my class, I was the geek. (We were over twenty girls and only six boys. No one ever dated.)
- I used to play Everquest II online, but then … (wait for it!) I took an arrow to the knee.
- I sometimes use the TV as a babysitter AND promise my kids dessert if they eat their dinner.
- My goal in life is to leave behind as little as possible that my children have to throw away.
- I mostly eat a paleo diet. Except when I’m on the stuff-your-face-with-chocolate-diet. Then I don’t do paleo.
- I studied Literature at University. Finally I got to read as much as I wanted. And more. It was great.
- Now I’m a teacher for English as a Foreign Language. Basic principle? Message before accuracy!
My book: Touch of Iron (Click the image for the link)
Finding Tim (in a super non-creepy way. No, you can’t have her address)