Writerly Rant #21 ~
5 Things Self-Published Authors Need to Stop Immediately
I have been assisting with the marketing and promotion of self-published and indie authors since 2012. I’ve been through the ups and downs with many authors and seen a lot.
That experience allows me (if you indulge me) to rant.
So here it is….
There are quite a few behaviors that authors engage in that set all of us up in the self-publishing industry for failure. Here are five of them.
1. Stop complaining about the industry. Self-publishing is still a developing baby compared to the traditional publishers.
If you don’t know by now, self-publishing has received a pummelling from the press. The Guardian and other sites have grabbed onto the fact that the majority of self-published authors will receive less than $500 total. Many of those will receive $0. Yep, that’s right. Some authors will receive nothing for their efforts and may even incur a loss.
Let’s face it. Publishing was always a high-stakes game to begin with. Self-publishing is an even higher stakes game. You are competing with everyone from big name authors, like Stephen King to the the Grandmother who lives across the street. As a result, many authors will come away from the eBook publishing experience disgruntled and with a little less cash.
But this is only half of the story. Self-publishing in the 21st century has given rise to a whole new era. Readers are able to connect with authors in ways that were unimaginable before. Authors have a variety of options instead of being limited to getting accepted by a publisher or vanity press. They can pick and choose how they want their story to be told, where, and have a solid say about it all.
There have also been some great financial successes too. I won’t detail them here, but the world of indie & self-publishing has seen an incredible rise in the number of authors who are able to make a good living from their income. They are winning awards, opening businesses, and branching out in all kinds of ways.
So, don’t be so quick to judge or complain about the self-publishing industry. It’s still a baby compared to the publishing companies that have over hundreds of years of experience and contacts. If you are making good money as a self-publisher, continue writing good books. If you aren’t, figure out if you can persevere to get it right or if you would rather do something else.
In summary, just write your best book. Readers don’t take the time to consider if a book is self-published or not. They just want a good story or good information.
The only exception to this rule I have seen are reader-bloggers, or reviewers who have had horrible experiences with self-published/indie authors.
2. Stop waiting for validation.If you have created a “labor of love,” you’ve earned it.
The second part of my rant concerns the supposed battle of ‘self-publishing versus traditional publishing.’ You will have bloggers who rail and moan about how self-publishing is destroying the book industry. Really? Honestly, how many readers do you know quit reading altogether, because they came across a couple of bad indie books? My guess is zero.
Self-publishing is a different creature than traditional publishing. There are new technologies, new ways of marketing, a lot more competitors and new measures of success that make self-publishing different. Stop comparing the two!
3. Stop begging for reviews and stop paying for fake ones. They don’t help.
Here is a pet peeve of mine. Authors who beg constantly for reviews in social media. In my opinion, it is all right to ask for reviews from someone, to beg on occasion, and to post a call for reviews on forums and social media. (A gray area is whether paid honest reviews and review exchanges are ethical.) It is a totally different story to:
- constantly beg for reviews
- spam groups with your call for reviews
- post these calls for reviews without regard to the context of the place you are posting
- provide a copy of your book to a blogger BEFORE they have agreed to it
I understand that reviews are essential for word-of-mouth marketing. I understand that it impacts sales. I know that reviewers are hard to find. I know all of this because I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I’m a blogger who has received a deluge of book offers. I’m also a marketer who has contacted hundreds of bloggers.
As far as the fake ones, they REALLY don’t help. I’m talking about the 5 star “fluff’ reviews that don’t really add substantive content except, “This is a great book.” Stop it. You’re not fooling anyone.
If you can’t convince at least one reader, without strings attached, to read your book something is wrong. Ideally, you want to establish a connection with people before you ask them for a review, but the principle is still the same. Your book should have something of interest to a reader. Your job is to find that reader or have a book so good they find you.
4. Stop trying to do it all. You can’t be an expert writer, marketer, book cover creator, illustrator, and editor at the same time.
There is a reason that authors worked with (and still choose) traditional publishers. Writing a good book takes more than one human. We need to break the image of the solitary self-publisher who could handle it all. Think about all of the services that a traditional author can get:
- Book cover design
Honestly, think about that for a minute. When an author takes on the role of a self-publisher. They are assuming or taking responsibility for all of these activities in order to create a good book. Not every format of eBook needs all of these services, but every eBook will need some of these services.
So far, no author I am aware of can handle all of this alone.
In other words, get comfortable with the idea of a team. When it’s time for a book cover, if you aren’t a skilled graphic designer, look for a good one. When you have finished your book, find an editor. Find a critique group. Look for a formatter. Find a website designer, if your web skills would scare a tree.
5. Stop fantasizing about success and start making it.
It is so easy to get caught up in the stories of the authors who have made hundreds or even thousands with one book, seemingly overnight. What we don’t see is the countless hours that author:
- Wrote their book
- Developed and refined their blog
- Contacted bloggers for reviews
- Did guest posts on their topic
- Created ads and scheduled promotions
- Developed promotional content for their book
Reports only focus on the final product. They don’t show the process. That could take months or even years. They also don’t show the author’s other books. The ones that didn’t receive all of the success. The failures. This doesn’t make the headlines, but it is part of an author’s journey.
(Bonus) 6. Stop creating recycled crap just to get a buck. The internet doesn’t need anymore and you won’t earn the buck.
I am getting tired of authors who believe they can pull together an eBook in a few days (or less) recycling what can easily be found on the Internet. Then there are the fictional knock-offs. Neither one will make a sale, giving the author and the reader a bad taste in their mouth.
In summary, do your best, then progress. Take the time to create something that will be worth the effort of marketing and promoting on a regular basis.Take the effort to create something that people can get excited about.
Then take a look at decide how you can be better.