I decided to self-publish my first novel before I even put the first word on paper. There are a number of reasons I decided to go this route, and I’ll attempt to lay them out below. If you’re not interested in my blabbering, you can check out Brandon Sanderson’s 2013 lecture on traditional vs self-publishing which contains a lot of useful information on the subject.
Self-publishing gives you complete control over every step of the process. There’s no one other than you deciding what is right for your book – no in-house editor asking for sweeping plot changes and no need to manage tricky relationships with agents. On the flip side, you get no help with the stuff around the book, such as proofreading and marketing. It’s very much a double-edged sword, but if you’re willing to put in the time and learn, self-publishing offers complete control over every step of the process.
Selling a book and getting paid an advance is fantastic, but sitting around and waiting for your work to be accepted by a traditional publisher is not. Since the dream is to earn a living writing, it’s logical start with the self-publishing route because it lets you sell books and earn money from day one rather than sitting on an ever-growing pile of dusty manuscripts.
I see many established authors recommend self-publishing over the traditional route, including the magnificently-bearded Alan Moore in this short video. Many authors have great success with solely self-publishing. JA Konrath has been making his living this way for years, and often posts about the subject on his blog.
If I ever want to attempt traditional publishing in the future, putting the work in to self-publishing now will only be a benefit later. What publisher would turn down a solid book from a writer who already has interested readers and an online presence? Also, I would be sure to keep my ebook rights if I ever signed a contract with a publisher, that way I would keep my established revenue stream.
So those are my main reasons for deciding to start with self-publishing. Of course, because of that decision, any and all of the dreaded marketing falls squarely on me. So I spent a bit of time figuring out my approach, and this is what I came up with.
Approach To Marketing
- A book launch, with four weeks of content on my blog leading up to release.
- During this time, I’ll collect a list of book reviewers in my genre and submit my work, following all their guidelines and hoping a few might be interested.
- I’ll be releasing my book at 99p/99c to begin with, because readers are more important than royalty rates at this point. This also lets me collect a list of free 99p/99c promotion sites and post my submission there on release.
- I won’t be spending any money on advertising. My plan was to work from the ground up, and spending money before I earn any seems counter-intuitive. Maybe when I have a few books out I’ll consider testing the waters.
- Amazon is king in the ebook market, so I’ll be using Amazon exclusively to start with. After 90 days, I’ll consider withdrawing from the KDP Select program and putting my book up for sale on other sites, such as Smashwords.
And that’s about it really. It’s more than the bare minimum, but it’s not a particularly aggressive or time consuming strategy either. My logic goes like this – I could work my arse off to market my book, putting in the time to keep it in the top 100 of the sub-genre on Amazon with ads, guest blogs, podcasts etc. This would undoubtedly scrape together a few more sales. However, if I put that same amount of effort in to writing the next book instead, it’ll be easier to make a living long term because I’ll have a larger bookshelf of content for sale. As an added bonus, I’d be able to spend more time actually writing, which is the entire point of being a writer.
If you self-published your book, feel free to rant about your experience. What worked for you? What didn’t? Would you have done anything differently? Let me know in the comments.