How to Find Success as a Self-Published Author

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Got stories?

Maybe you have an idea or a story that you’d like to share with the world. Have you ever thought of writing it down and becoming an author?

There’s no better time than right now to achieve that goal! Sure, there are a few things that you need to learn to make it happen, but it’s completely doable.  

notebooks and laptop next to a pool

There are many would-be authors who have never been able to find an agent and get picked up by a publishing house, but good news: there’s self-publishing!

Self-publishing allows you to:

  • find a solid fanbase
  • become a fulltime author 

the non-Traditional Route

Years ago, everything had to be traditionally.

Wanna get published? Go through a publishing company. 

Wanna get that company to actually look at your manuscript? Get a literary agent. 

The problem? Literary agents were extremely selective in the clients that they took on.

Writers were refused simply because the publisher or agent had just taken on a book with a similar theme, not because the writing quality was bad. 

Giving Up

Too many would-be writers gave up on the thought of ever publishing anything because it was just too difficult to break through. Considering some of the mindless drivel that used to get published, I’m sure there are agents kicking themselves for the projects they accepted/rejected.

Undoubtedly, there are tons of incredible stories that fell by the wayside due to the power of traditional publishing route. 

There’s a lot to be said for traditions, but not all of them are good if they keep your dreams from coming true. When you have an idea or a story to be told, you deserve the chance to bring it to life and get it into the hands of readers.

Fast forward to now: it’s so much easier to get published and you don’t have to wait for callbacks or be subject to a publisher or agent and their whims. 

there is an audience for you

I’m positive there are plenty of people you can:

  • entertain with your stories
  • help with your knowledge

You no longer have to send out queries and pray an agent will pay attention and bring your work to a publisher. You just need to decide and commit that this is what you want. Yes, it really is that simple/easy. 

You may have seen the lists that showcase traditionally-published books, like the NYT’s Bestseller List or the USA Today Bestseller List. 

If you’re like some, you might be under the impression that those lists are reserved solely for those who are published in a traditional manner.. but that no longer holds water.

Yes, there are certain criteria that must be met (like selling a certain number of copies in order to even be considered a “bestseller”), but that’s not as hard as you think. 

There are a few steps you can take to ensure your book sells well, so if you have a book in your brain, NOW is the time to make this happen. 

Good news? You can absolutely take the non-traditional route to getting published, whether you write fiction or non-fiction. 

"Learning Your Craft" means more than just writing

Learn your craft.

That’s what everyone tells you, right? Basically, it means that you’ll need to know how to tell a good story, but it doesn’t end there. 

Yes, obviously you need to write well, but you also need to know about selling. The more that you learn about the art of writing and selling that writing, the more money you’ll make and the better your book will be received by readers and reviewers.

Being self-published means it’s going to be up to you to make sure your book sells, but that doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel. There are already so many ways that you can get your book in front of an audience. 

a strong online presence

You need to make sure you have a strong online presence with social media accounts that you update regularly. Each social media platform has ways that you can use them to promote your book.

Part of your online presence should be a website or blog where people can visit to find more information about:

  • current books
  • upcoming books
  • bestsellers
  • etc. 

Accurate Blurbs

You want to be sure that your book blurbs are spot on.

Best way to do this: do a search for other books in your genre and study how those blurbs are done.

Basically, your blurb needs to introduce:

  • the main character
  • the inciting event
  • the conflict 

Ads

You should also learn how to use ads to market your book.

A few things to know before diving into ads:

  • your target audience
  • relevant keywords
  • how to analyze your ad campaign to see what’s working 

There are low-key or free places you can use to place ads, such as with sites that are open to self-published authors.

These might be places like:

  • blogs with decent followings
  • influencer’s social media platforms
  • social media

TIP: don’t just slap up an ad everywhere and hope it does well to advertise your book. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re wasting your money.

You can buy ads on places such as Amazon, so it might be worth investing time to learn about that.

You can also advertise on Facebook. Just set up your author page and then create your ad campaign. Though the site will walk you through it step by step (just like Amazon) if you don’t know what you’re doing, so you can learn that way. 

If you don’t learn a bit about ads, you’ll waste your hard-earned dollars. You can find free tutorials on ads for authors simply by doing an online search. 

Branding

Branding is something else that you need to learn about the craft, so readers know what to expect from your work. Ex: if you specialize in sweet/romantic sap stories, it would be completely off-brand to write about horror (or not, depending on how you feel about sappy love stories).

The point is that readers have a general idea of what a book will be about when they see your name on a book cover. They see your brand colors, fonts or imagery on a book or website and instantly recognize it as yours. Branding creates cohesiveness across your products. 

Here are a few of my posts about this subject: 

Writing to Market &
Editing for Success

There’s a lot of confusion about writing to market and exactly what it is.

Some writers think it means you have to write books that you don’t enjoy writing. That’s not true – you can write what you want! 

Writing a book to market means you’re writing a story that has a market or audience that wants to read that story and you’re meeting their expectations. This market is already there and it’s found in the type of genre you write in.

Example: you might write in the romance genre.

If you look under that genre, you’ll find it broken down into subcategories 

  • romantic fantasy
  • romantic suspense
  • paranormal romance
  • holiday romance
  • etc.

When you’re writing to market, you’ll want to locate your main genre’s top 100, then find stats on the books that are the top sellers in that genre. 

book Ranking

You’re paying attention to the book ranking because it will tell you:

  • if that category is oversaturated or not 
  • if there’s a market or not 

The less saturated a market, the less books you have to sell to hit a top 100 list in your genre/category.

You want to find the sweet spot where there’s a market for your book, but not necessarily one where you wouldn’t be able to stand out. Writing to market means that in any given genre, your audience wants something specific.

Example: in paranormal romance, you’ll find that shapeshifters are a hot seller.
Now if you were to write something totally obscure like penguin shapeshifters, you’ll probably have a hard time finding a market for that.

So we’ve covered:

  • finding a genre you enjoy writing in
  • looking at what’s selling in that genre
  • leafing through subcategories to find one that best suits you 

Next step: well, once your book is written, it must be edited. 

Editing

If you’re starting your career as a self-published author and there’s just no budget to hire an editor, you have choices:

  • read the manuscript aloud to yourself to catch mistakes 
  • find beta readers 

You can find beta readers to help catch typos and grammar mistakes in your book in groups that you can find on social media platforms, like Facebook.

Remember: they’re spending their time for free to help you with your book, so they’re doing you a favor. Be polite and professional, whether they love the book or not. 

TIP: Don’t turn in a first draft to an editor or even a beta reader.

Edit the manuscript yourself first.

Check for:

  • consistency
  • plot holes
  • typos
  • grammar issues 

If you can afford to outsource to an editor, choose the type of editing that’s most needed for your manuscript. If you have a good grasp on sentence structure and you’re great at spelling, then odds are you probably don’t need a copyeditor or a proofreader.

What you may need is a developmental edit. This is when an editor looks at the entire book. He or she will check:

  • the pacing of the book 
  • the emotional growth of the characters 
  • conflict 
  • the dialogue 
  • to make sure everything is well done and balanced out 

If you’re new to writing, you may benefit most from getting a developmental edit. 

picking a publishing platform

There are plenty of platforms to put your book on.  Some authors stick to one, while others put them on several (a practice known as going wide). 

Amazon KDP

One of the easiest platforms to use is Amazon’s Kindle publishing. 

Amazon is one of the first places that comes to mind when it comes to self-publishing because Amazon has a huge audience reach and actively promotes books on their site.

Bonus? You can upload both eBook and print versions on the site. The amount of royalties you can earn will depend on the price you set for the book as well as whether or not you set it up for the book to be exclusive to Amazon.

Should you be exclusive to Amazon?

Consider these reasons as to why you should probably choose to go wide and not put all your financial eggs in one basket:

  • Yes, you can earn more royalties.
  • Yes, you might get better advertising from the site.
  • If your book is pulled for any reason, it’s gone.
  • Not only is the income gone, but your book is no longer for sale anywhere.

Now you’re back at square one.

For more information, click HERE

apple Books

Another platform you can use to publish your book is Apple Books.

It’s a simple step by step process to upload your book to the site. You can upload your book in something like Draft2Digital, which is a publishing aggregator.

This is a service where you upload your book in the site and in turn, it handles the distribution of your book to various platforms so that you don’t have to do all the work. 

Ingram - Kobo - B&N Press

You can also sell your book through Ingram. This is a site that can also distribute your book.

Many self-published authors also use Kobo. All you have to do is upload your manuscript. You can choose the price, line up pre-orders and the site adds your book to their list of books for sale. You do not have to be exclusive with Kobo, so you can choose to use multiple platforms to sell your books.

Barnes & Noble is another platform for self-published authors to use. Their site is called Barnes & Noble Press. To put your book on the site is similar to how you would do it on Kobo. You upload it and choose the pricing. Barnes & Noble will showcase your book using their marketing materials, such as their promotional emails. 

How About Teachable? Hear Me Out..

Another suggestion you might not have thought of: publish it as a course on a site like Teachable.

Why do I suggest this? Because Teachable’s Basic Plan has everything you need.

Think about this: 

  • Each chapter could be a lesson (you can drip chapters and publish once a week or publish it all at once).
  • You can offer bonuses (like a “deleted scenes” type thing).
  • You have the option to create a community, so you can interact with fans and either get new ideas for your next book or turn a stand-alone into a series. 
  • You can add an affiliate program so your biggest fans can recommend your book and receive a commission.
  • The possibilities are endless! 

ToS & Pricing

Whichever platform you choose to use, make sure that you understand the terms of service. Violations will get you kicked off the platform.

Platforms will want their cut. Since the percentage each platform takes can vary, make sure you set your price point to earn the amount of royalties you want to get after the platform’s cut. 

Following up with a series

Yes, standalone books can:

  • take off, “go viral” , whatever you want to call it
  • do well financially
  • make you a recognizable name among readers 

Let’s discuss doing a series though. Why? 

If done right, a series could mean serious success/money. 

A series can even become part of your brand.

Ex: a series about a detective. Multiple books in that series could end up being what you’re widely known for. Readers get hooked on the character in the first book and look forward to going on a journey with them. 

A Backlist

Creating a series helps you build what’s known as a backlist.

Example: if you’re now writing book seven in a series, books 1-6 are your backlist. 

You use book seven to promote your backlist simply by talking about them in the back of the book when you’re linking readers to your website or social media.

If you know you will be doing a series, you can hook your reader in by providing a sneak peek (like the first chapter) of the next book in the back of the current one. 

You don’t have to stick to just one series, either. 

Expanding on a series

You can have multiple series by adding prequels or spinoffs.

Prequels: what happened to the characters before the books started.

Spinoffs: a story about a secondary character and their own journey.

A great thing about a series is that just one book can hook your readers all the way through. Each series you write stands to earn you more in royalties because readers will go through them and might even buy them all at once. 

The Boxed Set

Your next course of action would be to put the series in a boxed set, which is a bundle of all the books in a series. Instead of selling them individually, you lump them together for a discounted price. 

Since readers love feeling they’re getting more bang for their buck, you will probably earn more royalties with a boxed set.

Keep in mind: readers don’t like waiting forever to get the next book in a series, so you might want to write ahead. 

If you plan on uploading the book to any platform, make sure you have more than one book ready. It might be best to wait until you have three books ready to go. You don’t have to upload them all at the same time. You can publish the next one in a few months, but at the very least, the next book should be ready or almost ready when you publish. 

Basically: create a publishing calendar and stick to it.

Example: a book every two months or whatever you can handle.

If you choose to write a series, keep track of all of your:

  • characters and their details
  • timelines and time periods
  • world building
  • publishing schedule (including pre-order dates)
  • marketing

GOOD LUCK! 

Stock Photos:

Ivory Mix 

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