After more than five years of refusing/fearing/hating the idea of self-publishing, I finally succumbed to the suggestions of many, many people that I finally publish my own work.
So I did.
And it is awesome.
Like, more awesome than I could have ever imagined. If you love the idea of seeing your work in print but either haven’t had luck with traditional publishing or you just like the idea of running your own show, this could be the path for you.
Still unsure? Here are five lessons I learned along the way that you should keep in mind when making that decision.
Self-publishing, whether you do it through Nook, Barnes and Noble, Amazon or any other platform, is a catalogue business. You will find success not through a single book that sells astonishingly well (or at least, probably not), but through a collection of books that all sell reasonably well. Even big names such as Steve Scott and Barrie Davenport will tell you this; their impressive success rides on continual good sales, even though they’re not household names.
That means if you want to be successful in the self-publishing world, you have to keep those books coming. Whether you write stories or sell non-fiction, you should always be working on a new project.
I know, that sounds pretty intense. But after all: You were the one who wanted to be a writer, and writers write. As an indie author, it’s on you to constantly be putting work into the world, marketing it and finding homes for your babies. The more you put out there, the more you can advertise.
Okay, I’ve never edited alone, per se, but I made the mistake of relying on early readers to catch errors in my first fiction book. They found most of those errors and I was able to fix them in time for the launch, but it was a very unpleasant experience having to compare various lists of notes from different readers. Was it cheaper than paying an editor? Yes.
Was it worth it? Hell no.
Now I pay a professional editor for each manuscript, then revel in the peace of mind that comes from knowing if there are any typos … at least it’s not my fault. (Kidding. My editor is really good, and yours better be too.)
Comparison is the Devil, but we all do it. Whether you’re tempted to measure yourself against the success of a traditionally published author or a successful indie writer it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that if you do this, you’ll never be happy. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what level of success you attain: If you can’t enjoy the journey, you’ll never enjoy the destination.
Now, I’m just as suspicious as you are of pat statements like this, but it’s true. Here’s a quick story that illustrates this point as well as illuminates my decision to self-publish in the first place:
As a reader and book reviewer, I started an Instagram account that enjoyed super-fast growth for a while, landing me at around 50k after a year. It was a wild ride, and I loved it, but I soon found the numbers didn’t make me happy and the unending drudgery of picturing free books (not to mention throwing away all that packaging) was stealing my love of life.
I quit, stopped taking almost all books offered to me, and now write them instead. I’m significantly less successful as an author, but I do sell a fair number of books and love watching each review come in. The bottom line? I’m so much happier doing what I love and is right for me than I am focusing on numbers. If you’re going to self-publish, it’s really, really important that you choose a path based on passion. It’s not your day job, so you get to make the calls, and that means you have to really care. Or you’ll make the wrong calls/lame calls/no calls/you’ll effing give up.
Make sure you love what you do, and do it for that reason alone.
(Exception: You should definitely focus on numbers for your Amazon ads, which is where Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian Meeks comes in. Check it out.)
I think writing and publishing is kickass, and I love it dearly. However, it is not a magic elixir. You will not get rich quick. Even the people who self-publish full time spent years getting to that place.
Why does this matter? Because if you hate your day job, you should spend your energy fixing that, not publishing books. Anywhere you have to be 40 hours a week is going to shrivel your soul if you hate it, so don’t do that to yourself. I mean it: If you don’t like your job, put your extra energy toward finding one you love first, then publish. (May I suggest you check out Overnight Direct Marketing, my course that teaches you how to write kickass direct marketing copy full-time from the comfort of your own home? Just sayin’.)
So do I think self-publishing is worth it? Absolutely. Obviously I don’t have the best advice on self-publishing out there, since I’m relatively new, but frankly I don’t think I’ll learn more important lessons than the ones above anywhere on my journey. If you want to write for a living, stop waiting and start doing. That’s all.
Just do it.
… and please don’t sue me, Nike.
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