I've read through a zillion blogs. I've looked at success stories and horror stories. I've been told what I should do, and what I should never do. And now I'm going to add to that abundance of unsolicited advice by sharing what I've learned in these past six months.
- Be a cheap-ass. Almost all the horror stories I've read about self-publishing start with someone spending thousands of dollars on their book. Um...bad idea is bad. Sometimes, I see blogs/sites suggesting this. Before I self-published my first book, I had no experience in self-publishing. A few of my stories had been published but I had no idea about the process. Those works vanished into the ether after I signed my contract. Why would I spend thousands of dollars on a business I have no experience in? If I decided to sell cookies, I'd bake some, package them, sell them to neighbors and slowly expand bringing in help as needed (my first employees would just happen to be blood relatives), and maybe even starting my own website. I would not take out a loan and buy a bakery on day one.
When it comes to your first book, you need to be Scrooge McDuck. Make them pry every penny out of your cold dead hands. Demand to know why you should spend 300 dollars on a professional cover when you can't tell any difference between that and the 30 dollar pre-made covers you can find on several website. Work under the assumption you will never get back a single penny you spend. Then you won't pour money down from the sky like you're a baller making it rain.
- Publish short stories individually. We're used to seeing short stories published in collections. And we are used to hearing how no one reads short stories anymore. I strongly believe those two things are connected. I'm not going to pay 6.99 for a book that has one story in it that I'm interested in reading. However, I would pay 1.99 for just that story.
Plus, the more "books" even super short ones, you have out there, the more attention you draw to yourself as a writer. Every book you publish is an advertisement for the rest of them. Just don't publish a novel one chapter at a time. People realizing the power of multiple works have started doing that and it just makes readers angry.
- Have someone that doesn't like you read it. Your mom and closest friends think it's great. It must be ready to publish, right? Wrong! Your mom will lie. Your friends will lie. Or even if they aren't lying, they are so impressed you wrote it that they can't give an impartial view.
Do not put your stories out there until you've gotten some hard hitting advice from people who have absolutely no investment in your happiness. Because people that buy the book, they'll write reviews as if the author can't even read them. So put forward your best work or you will be burned alive in the court of public opinion.
- Keep writing. So you've published your first book. Great! Now write another one. I know it took you ten years to get it just right. But guess what? How many famous writers can you think of with a single book? Off the top of my head I can think of one. The woman that wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. Other than that, famous writers have books, not a book. So, stop trying to pimp your book and start working on the next one. Books sell each other. Way better than you or I could.
- Dream moderately. People often use the statistic that half of self-published authors make less than 500 a year. I heard that and thought, wait! That means half make over 500 a year! Woot! So if I work hard, spend wisely, and get lucky. I may just make a profit off my passion. Sweet!
I think a lot of sadness and disappointment comes when people think they will upload a book and be famous a day later. It doesn't work like that. Most of the time, these things take years of hard work and good planning. But if you're willing to invest in yourself and your writing. In time, you may come to find yourself extremely pleased with the result. It's only been six months and I'm damn proud of how far I've come in this venture.