Last week, I looked at one of the main myths I’ve encountered since deciding to self-publish my work – that self-publishing means inferior quality. Hopefully, I managed to convince you that the belief really is nothing more than a myth, and one of many surrounding self-publishing at that.
Another common myth which I, and other indie authors have had to face, is the belief that us self-published authors quite simply don’t sell any books. We don’t have a publisher, so how could we possibly hope to market our book, gain a sale, and get on the shelves of Waterstones and the like?
Marketing is the same for published and self-published authors
Let’s tackle the issue of marketing first. For some reason, many people seem to be under the illusion that self-published authors can’t market their books, thus meaning no sales. This belief is not only wrong, but completely naive and nonsensical.
I’ll tell you a story about a friend of mine who may or may not exist. She wrote a brilliant book, and was signed by a relatively large publisher.
‘This is it,’ she thought. ‘I’ve written a book good enough to be signed by a publisher. I’ve made it!’
This friend of mine who may or may not exist was dropped by the same publisher after just six months. Why? Because nobody knew about her book.
That’s the publisher’s fault though, isn’t it?
No. This is where even the most brilliant of writers can fall down. All authors, whether traditionally publishing or self-publishing, need to take marketing into their own hands. If you’re an author, you need a platform. You need to be blogging, and connecting with people. You need to be using social media wisely. It’s our responsibility.
I’ve encountered one or two, ‘But you don’t even have a book out yet, so what do you know?’ critics since I started blogging. My answer? It’s common sense. You know it and I know it; I just happen to blog about it.
The illusion that being published = more sales is absurd.
Can I ask you a question? When was the last time you bought a book because you enjoyed another release by the publisher? Not the author, but the publishing house? Exactly. Books aren’t like music. Sure, you might like the works of some niche fiction publishers, in the same way that many music fans enjoy Domino Records artists, but do you really care whether it’s a HarperCollins or a Penguin?
Really, the ‘answer’ to this myth as it were, should be that all books, self or traditionally published, can sell, if given the opportunity to do so. I despair to think of the millions, literally MILLIONS, of fantastic writers who have fallen down through either a lack of marketing understanding, or a false belief that publishers do all the work for them. Don’t be one of those writers!
A word on good, old-fashioned book stores
Book stores are dying. Or at least, they are changing.
Self-publishing a book and getting it into a brick and mortar book store can be difficult, sure, because as the publisher of the work, you are required to do all the necessary pitching and proposing, etc. If you decide to do a book signing, you might have to tell your friends and family because you ain’t gonna get no help from anyone else!
This is all doom and gloom, right? Again, absolutely not.
Just chill out a bit about the book stores. Statistics prove that more people buy books online now, and the closing of more and more shops nationwide just about reiterates where the power is shifting.
The simple fact of the matter is this: you can get your book into any major online store with minimal to ‘some’ effort. You can give that book an opportunity to sell by marketing it. I’ve just had the best post-launch week of sales of my short story, Something in the Cellar, in the UK, and that’s just been through blogging, and tweeting.
Remember though, if you do market your book, be sure to use the right tactics. I’ve got a whole library of marketing blogs, and Joanna Penn has some great social media advice. I urge you to head over to her site if you’re serious about writing and marketing, especially if you’re considering self-publishing.
Conclusions? Some self-published authors don’t sell any books. Some traditionally published authors don’t sell any books either. Very few authors make loads of sales on their first few books. That’s just how it is, and how it always will be. But, if you set up an author platform and market your releases, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of success, and a considerable head start.
Are you a self-published or traditionally published author? What methods do you use in order to give your book the best possible chance of success?
Which other self-publishing myths would you like to see dispelled?
Image courtesy of Phing via Flickr
Great post! I have to admit that when I started thinking about self-publishing, I thought that it might not be worth the effort because I wouldn’t get much on the return; that is, without a publisher to promote me, who would bother buying/reading my work?
Of course, the reality, as you point out, is that this will only happen if the writer doesn’t do anything. Marketing is a huge responsibility–and I would argue that, without a publisher, a writer might have *more* freedom to market, and get a better reaction. As I get ready to publish my first collection, this is something I’ll need to think a lot about in the coming weeks.
As for other self publishing myth, how about this: Self Publishing is Easy. My first thought when I learned how accessible the e-book market is for writers was that it would be a snap to get my work out there. It may be–but actually selling is a different matter.
Thanks for the post Tobias. I was in the same shoes as you as well; ‘is it worth it?’, and other doubtful thoughts. Marketing is a MASSIVE responsibility, but through experimentation, and perseverance, we reap the rewards.
As for your myth suggestion, I might just run with that actually. It’s different enough to the others, and not as ‘negative’ either. Great shout, cheers!
Ryan, I agree with you.
I self-published my first novel, Avogadro Corp, in December. In seven months, I’ve sold more than 5,000 copies. The sequel has sold 2,500 copies in just four months.
While I am social media savvy, I would not say I started with a “huge” platform. I had a few hundred Twitter followers, and some regular visitors to my blog. But by striving for the best possible quality for my book on the budget I had, and reaching out to my friends and family to get initial sales, and following that up by utilizing as many tools as possible to get the word out (targeted Facebook ads, Goodreads giveaways, free copies to blogger, my own blogging and twitter, and a mailing list), I’ve been able to build sales. I also actively experimented: I took notice of what I was doing and the impact on sales, and focused on the things that had the most impact.
I also have engaged with my readers as much as possible. Every person who emails me get an personal email back. If they’ve taken the time to email me, I think they deserve a nice response back. I think cultivating relationships in this way is not just personally rewarding for me and them, it also motivates readers to share the word even more.
I’m working now on a book describing all the marketing I did, and hope to have it out in a month or two. Feel free to sign up for my mailing list at http://williamhertling.com if you want to get notified when I published it. 🙂
Good luck with your novel!
Thanks so much for a great comment William!
Your story is really inspiring. Real pleased to hear self-publishing has been/continues to be a success for you. It just goes to show that with a platform, even a small one, in place, you can gradually build and grow your readership from there.
I’ve signed up to your mailing list, and your book sounds brilliant. I’ll be sure to check it out!
For 20, Ryan you have a good head on your shoulders, thanks for the great tips…good luck with your endevours :0)
Thanks very much for the comment, and it’s very kind of you to say so. 🙂 Good luck to you too!
Ryan, I’m impressed by your energy and writing talent! You’re absolutely right, and this is a myth that needs to be dispelled.I also enjoyed reading the comments, in particular William’s that in a nutshell has pointed out all the things you need to do to make your book marketing a success and the places you need to work from: blog, Facebook Twitter and Goodreads…mainly. Throw in LinkedIn and Pinterest and you’ve got about the whole lot!
Trouble is, it’s as you say, massive work! I know, I just launched today two books, A Hook in the Sky (a BB novel – stands for Baby Boomers, the protag is in his early 60s and his marriage to a much younger woman is collapsing) and Twisted, Four Tales of Love and Hate.
If I’m going to launch these books in the right way, it means in practice that for several days I can’t write! Takes up too much time and energy to think that creative writing is also possible. That is the real price we pay as Indies. But of course, since traditional publishers only pay attention to their big blockbuster writers and leave newbies to do their own marketing, one might as well go ahead on one’s own and reap the (70% royalty) benefits instead of the standard 8% on nothing once “costs” have been paid…
Thanks for a fantastic comment, Claude!
Thank you for the compliment. Great to hear you are enjoying the posts and the like. 🙂
Great to hear about your recent book launch. You are spot on though – it is a hell of a lot of hard work, and creatively energy sapping. But again, the knowledge that through perseverance, we really can achieve something, is well worth it.
And you’re right about the 70% vs 8% thing, too. Until that changes, I can see more and more would-be traditional authors embracing the indie revolution.
I have self-published on Kindle/Nook and had two books with small publishers. I’ve sold more of one of my self-pubbed books. I like designing my own covers but hate the formatting part of it. There is no one way for everyone, I am a hybrid and I like doing both ways. If you want to check out my books here is my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=kathleen+s+allen&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Akathleen+s+allen
I agree that marketing is the hardest thing to do. I’ve done social media and blog tours and that helps. I spend one day a week doing promoting. I’ve made some of my books/short stories free on Kindle. I also publish on SCRIB and fanfiction.net because every time a reader reads something of yours, you may have hooked a reader who wants to read more of your work!
Thanks for the great post!
Thanks for the comment, Kathleen!
Glad to hear the hybrid approach is working for you. It must be invaluable being able to compare the effectiveness of both methods too, right?
I think your marketing tactic sounds pretty solid to me. A word on formatting: have you checked out Guido Henkel’s guide? It takes a while to get used to the ropes, but after a few hours, I was delighted with the results. Here’s a link if you want to check it out: http://guidohenkel.com/2010/12/take-pride-in-your-ebook-formatting/
Very helpful article. Getting your idea into a printed book could be one of your greatest lifetime achievements. As a self publisher, you can target perfect markets and write the best book possible-and the easiest to sell. Thus, more and more people are turning to self-publishing as their preferred way of publishing a book.