As I’ve said on many occasions, I am a self published writer – and I love it. I love the way that I am in control of how I want to write, distribute and publish my books. Whilst I am sure having an agent and a publisher would be a great help to me, I feel that I’ve accomplished more by publishing myself than I would have if I had either of the two things. Mainly because I have faith in my project and producing it the story the way I wanted it to go, without it having been changed to conform to any current trends in the book world.
You may be thinking, if I love it so much, why I am doing a blog post advising against it? Short answer – I’m not! In fact I openly encourage any author to try it as there is more ways to publish your book than ever these days. That being said, there are certain dos and don’ts that follow with self publishing – and today I’m looking at the DON’TS.
These are five ways of thinking that I don’t think any author should go into if they plan to self publish as, if you follow these lines of thinking, you will fail pretty quickly. If you’re just going to self publish for fun, fair enough, you probably don’t need to read any further. But if you are SERIOUS about making a go of being a self published author, then these are the thoughts that you must banish quickly if you think to succeed.
Like with any of my Top Five Tips, this list is purely based on my own experiences of being a self published author and these are all five things that I myself believed when I was younger. Believe it or not, I actually had another book out before Trapped on Draconica called Satopia – which I believed would be the next big thing. But I was young and naive back then and didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so the whole thing went wrong and today I don’t really like to talk about that novel as it was, in my eyes, a failure. But I also know that part of that was done to my complete lack of understanding of the writing world. These days I’m a little wiser – I’m a long way off from being a famous writer, but at least now I have a better understanding of what I need to do. The best I can do is warn other new writers out there of the dangers and hopefully they won’t make the same mistake I made.
I should also like to point out that this list is NOT intended to discourage new writers, but rather give them a heads up as to what to expect.
1. Self publishing is easy to do and I’ll get a lot of sales
With so many companies out there offering ways to publish a novel (such as Createspace, Lulu, Amazon, Smashwords, etc), it’s easy for a new author to think that once print or upload their masterpiece, all they have to do is play the Waiting Game until the cash comes through. But let me tell you, if this is all you do, you will be playing this game for a LONG time! The companies I’ve listed above are simply means to get your book uploaded or printed – they are not selling tools.
Here is the hard truth – you’re a new writer. You’ve never put out a book before. Why should anyone, outside of your friends and family, buy your book? If a regular reader comes across a choice of your book, or that of a more established writer, which one do you think they will choose? I’ll give you a hint, it probably won’t be you. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not a bad writer – readers are more likely to go with what they know than something they aren’t sure about. As the old saying goes ‘Better the devil you know, then the devil you don’t’.
That being said, maybe you’ll get lucky and one person will buy a book and love it so much that they tell their friends about it and it becomes a huge hit. But the chances of that are small and you can’t rely on just that alone.
The solution? You need to promote your book where you can! Wherever it’s blogs, Facebook, Twitter, approaching shops, review sites, whatever. You need to bust your ass to get people to hear about your book and try and convince them to buy it. How you go about advertising it is up to you – there are no real right or wrong ways to promote a book in my eyes, but some work better than others. If I can give one bit of advice on this subject, what I would recommend that if you use Twitter, if you get a new follower, don’t DM them straight away giving them a link to your book. I get this all the time on my Twitter and it gets on my nerves – and others usually feel the same as well. Leaving a link to your website or any other page on your Twitter profile is usually enough and if people are interested, they will check it out.
Long story short, self publishing is not easy – but the rewards are great if you work at it.
2. Self publishing will make me rich
Short answer – no it won’t! For all the reasons listed above. Authors like Terry Pratchett and Stephen King may be raking it in money wise, but that’s only because they worked hard at it for years to get where they were. And even J.K Rowling wasn’t a major success at first and had to gradually build up a following. Maybe your book will make you millions – but you shouldn’t go into self publishing thinking that as you will only end up disappointed if it doesn’t.
Self publishing is not a get rich quick scheme, so don’t think of it as so. If you want to get rich, get yourself a high paying sales job and be a first class seller – you’ll be better off trying to get rich this way than publishing.
3. All my friends and family think that I’m a great writer
When I hear these words, I cringe. Mainly because I can automatically see where this is going!
Now don’t get me wrong, there is NOTHING wrong with getting support from your friends and family – in fact I think those things are important in life. Your friends and family should support you during your writing career, or through life in general. But, with all due respect, are your friends and family alone going to make you a famous writer? Unless you have a thousand friends that buy a thousand copies of your book, sadly I’d have to say no.
But unfortunately, many novice writers do rely on their friends and family for praise of their work and, in my experience, this tends to lead to overinflated egos. They get so much praise from their loved ones and five star reviews on Amazon (or whatever) that they truly believe that they are a god amongst writers. And, inevitably, once they get their first negative review, they become overly aggressive – sometimes even attacking the reviewer. I think the reviewers of the website Big Als Books and Pals can relate to this when they reviewed the book The Greek Seaman over a year ago, giving it a negative but critical review, and the author lashed out at them online. In the end, all it did was show that she was unable to take criticism and I think she is now regretting her outburst!
When you decide to be a writer (or any form of expressive art for that matter) you have to be prepared to take criticism as not every review you get will be a good one. Friends and family are great, but they will generally be overly positive of your work because they want you to succeed. I’m kinda lucky in this respect in that I always get my father to read my novels when they are done and he reads them as a reader – not as my father. He can sometimes be a little harsh in his criticism, but it is always fair and I do listen to him.
That’s not to say that you can’t use friends and family to promote your work. Word of mouth is a great selling tool. Get your friends to tell their friends about your work, and then tell their friends, and their friends, etc! When Trapped on Draconica came out, my parents did this and I actually got some decent sales out of it. I even got some sales from people who weren’t my friends in the long run.
The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t always rely on your friends and family for praise of your work. You need to be level headed – critical and open minded to criticism. This way you won’t take it so personally if you get a bad review.
4. Self publishing is a back door to getting an agent or publisher
I think this probably used to be the most common way for people to self publish – and indeed, there were a few self published authors that did get a publishing contract this way. Christopher Paolini being one of them. But, if truth be told, this happens very rarely – like once in a blue moon!
You might think that if you self publish you will get an agent to recognise your work and be offered a massive publishing contract – but this doesn’t really work. Agents normally get hundred (or thousands) of submissions from authors that are asking them to represent them and they just don’t have the time to go out looking for new authors unless there is something about them that catches their eye. So if you go into self publishing with this idea (like I did), then you’ll be disappointed.
That being said, I do kinda find this method of self publishing a little hypocritical. As I said earlier, the advantages of self publishing is that you are in control of your own project. If you get an agent or publisher, you will have to relinquish control of that somewhat to fit in with their publishing guidelines. You have to ask yourself, would you be prepared to do that after being in control of your own work for so long?
My opinion is that if you’re really good at selling your own book then you don’t NEED any of these things. If you really want to get a publisher or agent then that’s great. But don’t use self publishing as a “back door” as you’ll be waiting a long time (possibly forever) for this to happen.
5. I just want to self publish as it’s the current trend at the moment
Yes, there are plenty of people out there that get into writing just because it seems to be popular at the moment. But not just writing, music, art, poetry, acting, the list is endless. There are loads of people who get into something just because it looks cool.
Personally, I have never been fond of these “creators”, because for me, art in any form should be a personal expression – a love of a certain genre or feeling. The best artists (which included authors, musicians, artists, actors, poets, the list goes on) are the ones who don’t try and conform to any trends and write from the heart. Those who just do it because it’s cool just end up churning the same mediocrity that is overly clichéd and dull. And this doesn’t just go for self published authors – but even some in the mainstream. Ok, J.K Rowling isn’t my favourite author, but at least she writes because she loves it (and hopefully still does despite her fame).
For me personally, I write because I love telling stories – and I tell stories that I myself would want to read. Occasionally, I do take inspiration from certain characters and other writers, but I would never willingly conform to any trends within the genre. I have no interest in making millions and millions of dollars from my writing – just enough for me to live. I know that if I work hard enough then I will achieve it and I hope that any anyone that enjoys creating art will make it.
I don’t mean to sound angry – I just get frustrated when people that churn out the same crap get the attention and people who put their heart and soul into it get overlooked. However, that being said, there are plenty of artists out there in the mainstream that I have respect for and did actually make it because of their love for their art – so I know it is possible.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, write because you want to, not because you HAVE to. Self publish because you want to share your works with the people, not because you want to be famous. Self publishing is a way for unknown authors to finally share their works – we should be able to use it in that way.
Phew! I just realised how preachy that last comment sounded, so I apologise for that. I just get passionate about these things – so I hope I didn’t overstep the mark.
Again, I want to assure you all that this list is not intended to discourage any new authors who wish to self publish. I just believe you need to go into this understanding what you are getting yourself into and not end up making a hash of it like I did. I also want to assure people reading this that this email is not intended to discourage those who want to try and get published the traditional way. Whichever way you want to try and get published, I wish you all possible success in your endeavour.
Please feel free to comment below if you found this helpful or not. I welcome all comments. Thanks for reading!