I’ve been fortunate to work with many indie authors during the publishing of their first book. Self-publishing your first book is a thrilling, empowering process, but may also overwhelm or intimidate the unprepared. Once you’re through it the first time, you learn many valuable lessons that make the next one even easier.
Here are three things I wish first time indie authors knew about self-publishing.
1. Exact publication dates are very difficult to meet.
Publishing is a long and complex process. A great many opportunities for things to go wrong exist between all the editing, cover design and formatting that must be completely perfect before your book is live. Even if all goes well, you could hit the approve and publish button the night before your publication day only to find it will take 5 days for your book to actually appear on Amazon.
First-time authors can get themselves in tricky situations when they pre-pay for advertising to run on launch day or make public promises about a specific day. This is easy to avoid.
Take a tip from startups, be very specific with yourself and your publishing team about your date. Manage the process tight to make sure everything stays on track. However, be more vague publicly. Instead of saying your book will be out “December 20th”, you can say it will be available “late December”. Small difference, but a huge impact on stress levels.
2. Your book will not sell thousands of copies simply because it’s on Amazon.
Do not tell me about the exceptions because you are not one of them.* Once you hit publish and post the link to your book on your Facebook page, your work is far from over. Your friends and family may buy 20 copies of the book, but then what?
There are over 48 million titles already available on Amazon. Traditional publishers add another 300,000 new titles each year. On top of that, add the legions of your self-publishing peers using CreateSpace to publish ebooks. Your book desperately needs your direct help to stand out above the rest.
I encourage my author clients to ask themselves “How many people did I reach today?” Your reach is how many people heard about your book. Scale matters when it comes to sales. If you build an author platform online, that will increase your reach. You can also purchase ads to increase your reach. You can look for reviews, blog appearances and media coverage to increase your reach. If you aren’t working to market your book, no one else is either. It’s up to you to get the word out. You can’t rely on your book’s mere existence on Amazon to bring you sales.
*If you are a celebrity, you are an exception as you already have a great reach and an audience that will buy your book. In fact, you should probably share this blog right now with your loyal followers. Thanks!
3. A stranger will read your book and it will feel GOOD.
A 2012 survey of indie authors found that only half make more than $500 on their books. However, only 5% considered themselves unsuccessful. Even the most artistically, altruistically-driven among us agree that it would be very nice to earn money from our creative pursuits. However, turns out that we’re not all that upset if that doesn’t happen. Why is that?
Imagine you’ve come home late on a Monday evening from the job you tolerate to pay your bills. You log in to check your sales and find you’ve only sold three books this month. Crushing bummer. But then, what’s this? A new five-star review from someone named MaryGold12 from Toledo says the story in your heartfelt novel was not only deeply moving and cleverly captured in beautiful prose, but also gave her the courage she needed to tell her own story. You sit back as the warm glow of meaningful human connection triggers all your dopamine transmitters and floods your body with pleasing chemicals. The joy of making a real impact on another soul, or even of having your art recognized by one person, is a better high than all the red wine and shiny new things can bring you.
Indie publishing presents an excellent learning opportunity. You may have great fun and find the experience wholly satisfying. I hope that the first book you publish will not be your last. Onward!