Self-Publishing Do’s and Don’ts

illustration-of-books-pvI’ve been writing a lot of posts about self-publishing over the past year, but there are, of course, still many topics that I’ve yet to discuss. Recently, I reached out to several self-published friends and clients to ask for their advice, hoping to uncover some new blog post topics. Their responses were so fantastic that I decided to compile them and present them as their own post!

So, here are several self-publishing do’s and don’ts from a group of indie authors (paraphrased and condensed for brevity’s sake):

DO

  • Learn how to write the book first. More than one author mentioned the importance of focusing on your writing above everything else. Writing a good book is the most important part of this process, and one that too many writers overlook when thinking about publishing.
  • Publish consistently. If you plan to build a career, it’s important to know that self-published authors usually publish much more quickly than traditionally published writers do, and writing more books is ultimately the best way to promote your previous works. Don’t be surprised if your readers expect you to release multiple books a year. Be realistic about how fast you can write, and have a plan in place to help you accomplish your goals.
  • Be professional. Remember that you are representing your work to the public, and be prepared to present yourself in a professional manner. Also, plan to invest money into your book; at the very least, hiring a professional cover artist and editor are well worth it in order to produce a work of professional quality.
  • Have realistic expectations. If you plan to sell a million copies on the first day, you’ll inevitably be disappointed in the results. Do the research, know how much you’re likely to sell, and set concrete, manageable goals for yourself. This will make the experience a much more positive one in the long run.
  • Do what works for you. There’s a lot of advice about promotion and marketing out there, and not all of it is going to be right for every author. If something doesn’t work for you, focus your attention on something that does. No one can do everything, so find the things that are best for you and ignore the rest. (To find out which promotional methods are working, consider using smarturls to track which links actually lead to sales.)
  • Pay attention to the market. Know what’s selling right now and what isn’t, and factor that knowledge into your business decisions. You don’t have to write to the market, but you should consider which potential book ideas will do best given the current/upcoming trends. Know your genre, and know how to best promote within that genre.

DON’T

  • Get too attached to one book/series/idea. If you plan to have a long-term career, it’s important to know when to move on to something new. If your current series is doing well, maybe those prequel/sequel/spinoff ideas are great. But if it isn’t doing as well as you’d like, it may be time to try something new.
  • Commit to a lengthy series. This is similar to the point above—if a series isn’t doing well, it might be best to move on to something new. But if you’ve already promised your readers six more books, then you don’t want to disappoint them by discontinuing the series. For this reason, it’s best not to commit to, say, an eight-book series right away. Try limiting yourself to shorter series to start out with. You can always expand the series later if it does well.
  • Spend too much on novellas/short stories. Keep in mind that novellas and short stories are at a lower price point, so it’s much harder to break even on them. Unless you know you can sell a lot of copies, you might want to cut back on the production costs (like cover art), and invest more in your longer (and more expensive) works.
  • Get too obsessed with marketing. Again, the best way to promote your older books is to write new ones. Don’t spend so much time obsessing over promotion that you stop writing.
  • Read reviews. Even if you think you can handle a bad review, it’s probably best for your sanity if you stay away from reviews altogether. Focus on what you’re writing now, and not what readers are saying about what you’ve already published. Reviews are for readers, not the writer.
  • Compare yourself to others. It can be so tempting to compare what you’re doing with other writers, but this isn’t healthy in the long run. There will always be someone who’s selling more copies or doing more promotion or getting a book deal or a starred review or whatever it is that you don’t have. Don’t compare your success with others. Instead, focus on writing the best book that you can, and don’t worry about the rest.

 

What do you think? What are some other do’s and don’ts for self-publishing? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks to Robin, Stephen, Hannah, and Rachel for contributing to this post!

Interested in professional editorial services for your manuscript? Check out my Services page for more information about what I offer.

This post is part of my Self-Publishing Series. For more information about self-publishing, check out the other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

The Pros and Cons of Offering Free Content

Self-Publishing Print Books: CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark

The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

The Pros and Cons of Physical Copies

 

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