My experiences of being a self-published writer
The best thing you can do as a writer is to simply keep on writing. It doesn’t matter if this is in the form of more books, short stories or reviews – everything helps and it stops you going insane from marketing. I’ve been doing this for nearly two years now. After releasing my first book I didn’t write for eight months and it was really getting me down, the non-stop marketing and trying everything possible just to get one sale a month!
For the last few months I’ve changed tactics. I still market, but I do it on a small-scale, person-to-person basis and more importantly, I make time for doing what I enjoy: writing. I write because it’s my hobby, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to make money from it. I dream of being paid to write three or four books a year by a publisher, even though it would pay less than my current job it would make me infinitely happier.
Goodreads is a huge website, and very confusing for a beginner. If you’ve just released your book don’t spam every forum, it’s a sure fire way to make enemies and get booted out. Instead, join groups that you want to join because you are interested in discussions. For example, I joined many fantasy groups where we talk about our favourite fantasy series and discuss Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. I don’t mention my books, ever, unless someone asks me about my writing. Think long-term, like years, and build up an audience by interacting with readers and reviewing books. Spend your day writing, and when your brain is numb and tired; then spend thirty minutes on Goodreads.
Do not waste your money on advertising, you will never get your money back because even if one hundred people saw your book, maybe five would click on the banner, and then only one, or none, would go on to buy it.
What is effective, however, are a few, small number of websites which have subscribers and a tailored, target audience for your genre. Because I’m nice here they are: Bookbub and Enewsreadertoday.
Bookbub is expensive but I’ve read and heard nothing but good things. A promotion with these guys will boost your book sky high. The tricky part is being accepted so you will have to read the guidelines very carefully. I’ve yet to be accepted, sad face, but you’re allowed to re-apply every two weeks. Which I will keep doing until they are sick of me, like Andy does in The Shawshank Redemption sending out letters every week demanding a library fund!
But ENT is great because you pay them a share of whatever sales you make, so it’s a win-win.
Of course, the hardest part is getting reviews in the first place. Unless I have a new book out, I don’t discuss my books anymore with my friends or family because I know they are sick about me going on about it. You will have to do the hard part, research bloggers for your genre and contact them, but make sure you read their review policy. I’ll be honest, it looks like it’s getting incredibly tough to do this now because the market is saturated and reviewers are inundated with hundreds of requests a week.
Amazon is also getting tougher with its reviews, they clamp down on friends and family posting reviews, especially if that person has never reviewed products before on the website, then comes along with a five star for your book. The reader isn’t stupid either, they will see this.
Don’t be disheartened either by one star reviews if you get them, I’ve seen a huge rise in one-star reviews dished out for such silly reasons. I’ll judge a book by its cover, the quality of the blurb, and the ‘look inside feature’ – if I’m still hooked by the end I’ll buy it regardless of the reviews.
Also: think long-term. I plan to release two books every year until I’ve got perhaps twenty books out. At the end of every new book, you can put a link to your other books and a little note saying: “Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this book please check out my others.” It might not lead to sales, but it might do, especially if the reader enjoyed your writing style. That’s the good thing with self-publishing, you are free to edit your manuscript and re-publish whenever you want.
Get a professional editor; that goes without saying. They can be expensive, but quality prevails and if you’re serious about being a writer, why would you take shortcuts on the most fundamental part? As many times as you re-read your own novel, you always miss mistakes because your brain is reading it differently and letting you see what it wants you to see.
I don’t know what constitutes success for being a self-published author. I made 76 sales in January, my best month ever. But it’s highly likely I’ll make less than ten for February just like the other months. I honestly believe word-of-mouth is the best marketing strategy. Think about it, how many times have you bought something because your friend has mentioned it? Or you have stayed clear of a product or a shop or a firm because others have bad-mouthed it? It’s the same with books: the best thing you can do is a put a well-edited, quality manuscript out there and keep on writing.
Have faith that if someone enjoys your work, they’ll let others know too!