Top Three Words of Advice to New Self-publishing Authors
It’s been a year now since I started self-publishing. I’ve learned a lot, and the first thing I’d tell myself a year ago is “Don’t do it.” But I’d do it anyways. Why? You learn a lot.
Self-publishing is hard. Any blogger with their book prominently placed on their site will tell you the same. Self-publishing is lonely and without support—unless you have it built in, ie. a voice inside you or a strong spouse. If anything, I feel self-publishing is like the freshman year of college: it weeds out those who don’t plan on staying until the end.
In that same way, it vets you. You begin to see the trends and, with kind and sometimes not so kind words from others, you pick up your weaknesses. At first, many optimists claimed self-publishing would rid the world of the gatekeepers, the traditional publishers. That clearly is not true. But, if anything, I have a feeling it will begin to replace MFA programs. And the best part: self-publishing is virtually free.
Every little notion and detail about publishing, both traditional and self, abound on the web on the very same blogs of authors who are, or aren’t, self-publishing. MFA programs will soon have their work cut out for them. To add to this, and somewhat reiterate, I’ve decided to compose the top three things I’ve learned so far.
1) There is no magic route to getting people to buy your book!
This comes after seeing the plethora of scams that target guilible authors with messages claiming that they can boost book sales. The deal—pay a certain amount and they blast your book around the web.
Simply put: this doesn’t work. Authors always talk about platforms. Platforms are used to announce and spread word of your book, but they are used based on relationships built with other budding writers or loyal readers. And, usually, they work hand-in-hand.
Recently, an author I reviewed sent me a message saying that he was about to release a new book and asked if I’d review it before his release. I said I’d love to and did so. In this way, I sent out a good vibe about his book on my own, having it not tied to any money given to me. It was genuine. As a result, my blog visits went up as well, not to mention page searches for my own book.
Twitter and Facebook blasts don’t do this. If anything, they are the equivalent of infomercials, and as far as I know, not to many avid-readers are big into them.
2) Do not buy ad space
This is based off my own experience with using Goodreads’ ad space option. I decided to drop twenty-five dollars to see what results come out of it. Later, I found a Facebook option that did something similar but for a much heftier price tag. I was wise to have used the Goodreads one first because…it sucked!
The way it works is on each Goodreads page, down on the right hand side, there’s a little box that updates with new books every time the page resets. This is their attempt at marketing. I’ve been on Goodreads enough, yet never even noticed it there. I was unaware of it when I tried and clearly it was a waste.
This somewhat falls under the same heading as above, but deserves it’s own number in the list because many people, myself included, think these bigger entities—Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook—might actually know what their doing and talking about. Wrong! Ads are ads—they are a way to make money. That’s it. So don’t buy into it.
3) Book giveaways don’t work so much either
After starting the aforementioned Goodreads ad, I thought maybe a giveaway wouldn’t be so bad either. The Goodreads prompt promised 80% response rate for reviews from their giveaways. So I thought why not. Reviews could mean more people will give my book a shot. Wrong!
First off, their ‘80%’ is misleading. I did my giveaway six months ago for ten books. Since then, I have received three reviews. You don’t need to be a math whiz, but that’s only 30%, and there’s the catch! Goodreads never said over what timeline those reviews would come in. A year from now I could find another one has been posted. People don’t all read books at the same speed or in the order at which they received them. So on a long enough timeline, Goodreads end up right. I just don’t know if I want to wait that long.
Also, as another blogger pointed out, during giveaways participants click to join and by doing so put your book in their ‘to-read’ list. This doesn’t mean they will read it. On top of this, the most activity comes at the beginning of the giveaway—when it’s at the top of the list—and near the end of the giveaway. Any time in between is wasted. Therefore, if you do a giveaway the best length is not two or three weeks but two or three days, and as the review rate is lower than expected, doing one book at a time may actually increase your viewability.
Besides that, if there’s anything else you guys can think of that I missed, please add it. Someone else may find it extremely enlightening. Thanks!