Treat your writing like a passion, but treat your novel like a business.
You’ve done it. You have achieved a dream—maybe one that was lifelong, or perhaps more spur-of-the-moment, but an achievement to be commended for. Take a minute and think about that. Thousands of people want to write a novel. Of those, only hundreds begin, and of those, fewer still ever get beyond crafting a very long, wordy file that pulses in electronic bits on their computer or fades from ink to obscurity in a notebook. But not you—to paraphrase T. S. Elliot, you have turned blood into ink, and now you are ready to hurl it at the ravenous hordes of voracious and inkthirsty readers. Or, you know, sell it.
Yet I encourage you once again to take a moment to congratulate yourself on your achievement. You are already a success; you are already a writer. You’ve earned the golden ticket through hard work, persistence, determination, and, more than anything, a powerful and enduring imagination. You have so much to be proud of.
Okay, the moment of self-gratification is over; now it’s time for the reality of marketing.
It takes time and continuous effort, and you are just one of many who has words to peddle. Be prepared for disappointing sales, but also be prepared to remember that this is one of the realities of being an author, self-published or otherwise. The competition is fierce, the ebook market is saturated, and marketing and promotion is most likely not your most developed skill.
There is no abracadabra magical spell that, once cast, ensures a lifetime of comfortable royalties, except this: Write more books; write every book you have in you; and make sure each and every one is your best. Never look at one of your novels and think That’s good enough, time to try and sell it. Good enough is not your best, and the only way to gain a dedicated and expanding readership is to put the highest quality novel in the world that you can. And that usually requires help in the form of beta readers, editors, cover designers, and sometimes even a PR team.
But take heart. Read this post about easy ways to market and promote your writing in small, manageable chunks: The Domino’s Pizza Approach: Promote Your Book in 30 Minutes or Less. Subscribe to the below listed blogs, all of which are curated by seasoned self-published authors and industry leaders, and study their marketing and promotion posts. They can help you figure out a marketing routine that works for you. The three Ps of marketing and promotion are Patience, Practicality, and Persistence. Again, remember these words of wisdom: Writing (and becoming a success) is a marathon, not a sprint.
The final piece of advice I leave with you is, unlike marketing strategies that may (and hopefully will) work to sell your novels, there are surefire ways of guaranteeing your novels won’t sell well:
1) Amateur-looking cover. Easily fixed by finding and hiring a vetted designer.
2) Poorly edited and/or proofread. Easily fixed by finding and hiring a vetted editor and/or proofreader.
3) Overpriced. Do some experimentation. Try price pulsing. David Gaughran has a good post about the science of this, combined with choosing your novel’s listing categorization at distribution sites, here.
4) No reviews or poor reviews. When you’re a new author or releasing a new novel, reviews are more important than sales. Start searching out and requesting reviews before your book officially releases (though you will need to have your novel listed on the major distribution sites for reviewers to post their reviews before the official launch day).
5) Being obscure and staying that way. Unless you’re already famous (or infamous) for something besides your writing, your name and the title of your novel will not automatically provoke interest. But if you’ve done 1–4 above right, and work a little every day to increase your literary presence in the world, eventually you will emerge from behind the veil of obscurity.
And there it is. I hope those of you have read some or all of this series of posts have gained new and useful ideas, strategies, and motivation for your own self-publishing adventure. But most of all, I hope you’ve come away knowing that you are part of a wonderful collective of fascinating and creative people and that each of us, working separately and together, are contributing to an incredible future body of literature. We are Borg, but we are also making our own unique marks in history. Being an author is as close to being immortal as we’re ever likely to get (though, you can never say for sure), which makes us sorta kinda like Word gods. And what’s not to love about having our own personal little streak of divinity? Enjoy your success, and happy writing!
Create your business plan and publishing calendar.
Learn how to create an ebook or hire someone to do it (including pros and cons of each option).
Research the different distribution sites, their requirements, and how long they take to set up and use.
Learn how and where to find an editor, proofreader, and cover designer.
And finally, learn how to market, including using social networking sights, blog hops, and review requests.