Self-Publishing: The Struggle

The new age of Internet and global connectivity creates a whole new playing field for authors and potential authors all around the world. Especially with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, anybody anywhere can publish anything at any time. For those of us who are poor, don’t want to be tied down by the restrictions of traditional publishing, or want to be in full control of our work, this is fantastic!

However, there are some cons. Simply hitting the “Publish” button on KDP or Smashwords isn’t going to get you very many readers, especially because, as I said earlier, anybody can publish. The e-market of self-publishing has created an Internet supersaturated with books, most of which are crap. If you want to stand out in the crowd, it’s going to be pretty damn difficult. Writing a good book is only half the battle.

Even if you're traditionally publishing, you're still going to need to become your own marketer.

Even if you’re traditionally publishing, you’re still going to need to become your own marketer.

I’ve done my research, and I’m implementing it best as I can. Here are my top ten tips for self-publishing.

The most difficult part of self-publishing is you must shed your writerly self and take on your new role as the marketer. When you’re the marketer, all personal feelings for your novel have to be ignored. You have to do what’s write, not take criticism personally, take criticism seriously, and spend time socializing and putting yourself out there in the electronic marketplace.

Here’s what I’ve found:

  1. Jesus, that's a lot of social media outlets.

    Jesus, that’s a lot of social media outlets.

    Get a social media presence. You don’t have a book published yet? Good. You need to have an online presence before any publishing happens. That means making an author’s blog (like this one), a Goodreads, a Twitter, a Facebook, a Google+, a tumblr… While you don’t have to have all of these, it’s good to have a couple that you can update regularly. For me, it’s my blog (which you are already looking at), a tumblr, a Facebook, and a Goodreads. These allow you to network and get to know your fellow authors. Because you know what? This isn’t a competition. We all want the same things, and the only way you’re going to succeed is if you get to know other authors, build a relationship, and offer and ask for help.

  2. On that note, get your own website. I got this one through WordPress, because I’m lazy and my HTML/CSS skills aren’t good enough to make a decent looking website. This means that you need to have your own domain, hopefully just Those of you with more common names might have to get creative here, since the domain you want might already be taken. Your website is the most important of all your social media accounts because it is what makes you look like a professional writer rather than some random person in the blogosphere.
  3. Update regularly. This doesn’t mean update all the time with “BUY MY BOOK,” but posting helpful, meaningful things on your blog, Facebook, etc. Once a week is a minimum, but ideally you should be updating every day. Although this can be difficult, it’s extremely important. The internet has a short attention span, so if you’re not updating regularly, you’re going to be forgotten and people are going to move on. Establish a routine, and keep to it.
  4. If you only update with news of your book, this is what you look like. Don't do it.

    If you only update with news of your book, this is what you look like. Don’t do it.

    Don’t spam. Spammers are the bane of the Internet, almost as bad as malware creators. If you spam your readers only with information about your book, then they’re going to leave, because you’re not offering anything of value. You’re just being annoying. As I said, your posts need to be helpful, insightful, funny, or whatever fits your brand, not just a way for you to scream into cyberspace about how cool you think your book is.

  5. Define your brand. This has been something I’ve struggled with. I’d like if I could just say my brand is “damn good stories,” but that’s not very specific. Your brand is essentially your tagline, a description of you and your work that defines your place in the community and simultaneously defines what sets you apart. For me, I brand myself as a “trope and genre breaker.” I’ve said before that I think the idea of “literary” and “genre” fiction is crap, and my goal as a writer is to continually redefine the readers’ expectations in genre and stories.
  6. Get beta readers. I’ve already talked at length about this, but the bottom-line is beta-readers, especially in your target audience, are going to help you immensely. If you’re not ready to show your work to a beta-reader, you’re not ready to publish it.
  7. It still warms my heart whenever I look at it (and makes me a little creeped out).

    It still warms my heart whenever I look at it (and makes me a little creeped out).

    Invest in a professional cover. I cannot stress how important this is. Do not give me your crap about “it’s what’s inside the book that counts!” Stop kidding yourself. Yes, the inside of the book is important, but your cover needs to reflect what’s inside. We all judge books by their covers. A cover can tell us a lot about what we’re about to read, not only hinting at genre and plot, but also how much stock the author has put into their work. If you come out with a crummy cover, people are going to expect a crummy book. Period. There are lots of websites where you can buy quality covers, both pre-made and custom. The cover I used for Spawn was a pre-made I found on Go On Write. It’s freaking awesome, and I only paid $45 for it. There are other websites out there, of course, but I’ve found Go On Write to be my favorite. The best part is that my cover looks great in a large format, as well as a thumbnail, so it still has the ability to attract a random browser’s eye.

  8. Hire an editor. This is going to require some money. Unless you have spent years doing professional editing, you’re not qualified to edit your own work. Spend some money on an editor (and it will be quite a bit of money). They’ll ensure that you have a polished manuscript that is ready to be seen by the world. T.L. Gray edited my first work, Spawn, and she did an excellent job of finding my errors. If you’re interested in seeing her rates, then go ahead and email her: authortlgray at gmail dot com.
  9. The price needs to be right. This is some tricky business. Price too high, and no one will buy it because it’s too expensive. Price too low, and no one will buy it because they’ll think it’s cheaply made. Recommendations that I usually see are pricing $2.99-$4.99 for a new novel. Not too cheap, not too expensive, and bringing in about the same revenue.
  10. Get your book reviewed. How many times have you gone shopping for anything on Amazon, seen a product with no reviews, and thought, “I should buy this”? Probably close to never. Reviews, on everything, are major super wow important. Reviews are quality-assurance for readers who are on the fence about purchasing. Of course, this leads to the dreaded cycle of “I need book reviews to get readers and readers to get book reviews.” Fret not! There are ways to get reviews. Goodreads is a good place to start. There are a lot of groups with Read for Review (R4R) threads, where you can post your book and ask for honest reviews. You can do similar things on the Kindleboards, some subreddits, MobileRead boards, etc. But do not, DO NOTDO NOT buy reviews, solicit reviews, or in any other way do something that will encourage fake, winkwinknudgenudge kind of reviews that are only meant to benefit you. Remember: karma’s a bitch, and the internet never forgets.

Those are what I consider to be the most important tips. What about you guys? Do you have anything you want to add? Do you disagree? Leave a comment and let me know.

Alicia recommended Autocrit in the comments for finding repeated words and comparing how much you used a word compared to a database of general fiction.

Here are some of the resources I’ve used along the way:

10 Winning Marketing Strategies for your Self-Published Book

How to Start a Professional Author Website & Blog (And Why You Should)

The New World of Publishing

Social Media Basics for Authors

How to Get Book Reviews

8 comments on “Self-Publishing: The Struggle

  1. TheGirl says:

    True….especially with building your brand and platform….

    • Everything I’ve ever read basically screamed, “AUTHOR BRAND AND PLATFORM BUILD” at me, so I had to be sure to include it. Hopefully I gave a better definition than those articles, too, because most of what I read never really made it clear.

      • TheGirl says:

        No it was clear, and everything I read about marketing a book screamed the same thing. Because if a potential customers sees you at an event but wants more information, they should be able type in your name or book title and find it “like that”. I dunno if I’m doing the right thing as this book release thing is making me more anxious than excited…especially when reviews come in.

  2. ABE says:

    I don’t think you always need an editor, but you ALWAYS need to learn everything you can about self-editing.

    Using someone else to catch errors is lazy writing, IMHO. It means you didn’t bother to dig out The Handbook of Good English to see if you ‘might’ be using ‘may’ wrong, or haven’t figured out that ‘Let’s eat Daddy’ is significantly different from ‘Let’s eat, Daddy.’

    People put out a lot of money for editing, when they haven’t bothered to get a few good books and learn how to edit themselves.

    And then, after you get the edit, you still have to figure out how to fix the errors – unless you are willing to let someone else ‘correct’ your work.

    Autocrit – and similar editing programs – can help you find the more common errors (for example, you used the phrase ‘he took her hand’ four times in the same scene) by flagging them for your attention. I find it very easy to fix those errors because the program has no ego: it counts how many times you use ‘was,’ compares it to a database of general fiction, and tells you you used was 37 times and you should consider eliminating 20 of them.

    Then, alone back in your wordprocessor program, you Find each ‘was,’ and decide whether you could do something different, and whether you want to.

    Maybe I’m just too old to take criticism well, but the more I do this, the less I want other hands on my work.


    • Oh, I completely agree. Before I ever give anything to ANYONE to read over, I read it through once more to catch things like that, as well as pace, dialog, description, etc.

      I saw another article (which, of course, I’ve never been able to find again) where it suggested going through your story and highlighting which parts were description, dialog, moved the plot forward, and then using that to help determine your pacing, what needs to be cut, what needs to be added, etc.

      I’m going to add Autocrit to the article, because I think others who come across this article will find it very useful. Thanks for commenting!

      • ABE says:

        I have bright yellow highlighters for dialogue, a hot pink one for emotional stuff, and green for description – I’m literally hands on (down to cutting stuff into strips with my scissors and rearranging them on my desk) when necessary.

        It’s amazing what you catch (example: in scene with a bunch of characters, if your pov character hasn’t said or thought anything for about 6-8 interactions, he/she seems to fade out of the pov); or boy, do I have a lot of description of plants in here.

        It helps you be deliberate about doing things when you are aware of what you are actually doing, instead of what you THINK you are doing.

        I say you can do ANYTHING you want, as long as you know what you’re doing, and you are in firm control of it. Power hungry, that’s me.

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