My wife, Brenda Hiatt, self publishes and makes a decent living at it, better than she did when publishing through traditional publishers. Yes, she sells fewer books, but she gets much more per book. Here are some of my thoughts about it.
Control: The great thing about self publishing is that you get to control everything. The bad thing about self publishing is that you have to control everything. From the book cover, to the marketing, to your webpage it is all on you.
Time: Controlling everything takes time, time that takes away from writing. My wife’s biggest resentment is the administrative, formatting, marketing and other busy work that takes her away from the keyboard and writing. Finding the balance between these things and more writing is one of the biggest challenges of self publishing.
Marketing: When self publishing marketing is like shaving, if you don’t do it for a day, it’s going to get noticed in your sales. It is a constantly daily grind. Everyday is work to maintain that social media presence, build your subscriber email list, submit the book to online publicity sources (Bookbub being by far the biggest, but there others), maintaining and updating your website and so on. Even a brief pause depresses sales. We know. The cross pressures of consuming time to market what you have vs. writing the next book can drive you crazy.
- Work hard to cross market with other authors in the genre. Combine your marketing power by boosting each others books in your newsletters (see below).
- Your best marketing is a periodic (at least monthly) newsletter to people who ask to get it. Building that list is the most important marketing thing you can do.
- Try to get a Bookbub promotion if you can. If they take you, it will mean thousands of 99 cent sales, or tens of thousands of downloads if you make your book free. Bookbub is very competitive, but keep trying, it is worth it. If you can’t get it there are other similar services that while producing lesser results can still be worthwhile.
- If you have a series, make the first book in the series free. Put the first chapter for the next book at the end of that book. We could not believe how well this worked when Brenda made the first book of her Starstruck series free.
- We have little pocket size pamphlets for the Starstruck series. A batch of 1,000 or so can be made for about $50. We hand them out everywhere. I gave out several at a party last night. When we go to a restaurant we give one to the waitress. In her newsletter Brenda has free paperback versions of books to give away in contests. The winner gets the book and a dozen or so of those pamphlets. I’ve given them to the cashier at the grocery checkout line. Do it anytime you can come up with an excuse. Shoot, I sometimes leave a few on the shelf in the grocery store where they sell books . . . trying to figure out a way to leave one here . . .