I am an indie author, a writing entrepreneur. The following comments are based on my experience and are in no way intended to discourage anyone from self-publishing. I get – and occasionally sign up for – “helpful” blog posts about how I can make a six-figure income using my writing skills. I want to laugh with all the derision my body can muster.
Maybe someone can do that, but not me, at least not up to now. Maybe? Someday?
Let’s start with the cold, hard truth that, according to a Bowker report, nearly four million books were published in 2019, 1.7 million of which were indie-published. For those who don’t know what Bowker is, you can find out more about it here. In a nutshell, Bowker provides tools to help authors promote and sell their books — and resources, such as the Books In Print® database — to help make their titles more discoverable. Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, is the official ISBN Agency for the United States and Australia. (From Bowker’s website).
There are countless self-publishing platforms. Countless. Researching what each offers is straightforward. Most list different levels of what is available through their platform. The more you pay, the more services you get. If you’re able to go for the gold, or premium package, you will get a ton of help. That does not guarantee success for your book.
These platforms have one goal in mind: selling you services. There’s nothing wrong with that, these are businesses operating from a proven business model. Ultimately, selling your book is not what they are designed to do. Yes, these platforms will give you helpful hints about revising, uploading, editing, publication and marketing, but in the end, it’s your book and selling it is your responsibility.
Everyone wants to help you, for a price. There are many writing gurus who have wonderful ideas about how you can sell your book. Wonderful ideas. All you need do to get this magic formula, is pay a small fee. It could be $27, $67, $87, for a course that would normally cost $367, or $587, or any way higher price you can think of. What a bargain! Well, no, it’s not. If you want to take that course and glean from it what you find helpful, go for it, but it is not a guaranteed path to a best seller.
To be an indie author, you must believe with everything you have in you that your work is the best thing ever written. If you don’t believe that, you will spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself. Equal to that, your responsibility is to make sure it is technically the best thing ever written. Bad grammar, poor spelling, sloppy writing, all these factors will turn a reader off. Fiction authors will want to pay particular attention to plot, character development, and story arc. And believe me, folks, that’s a short list!
Writing entrepreneurship is a business and you must treat it that way. If you aren’t comfortable with self-editing, find a reliable editor with references. It will cost, but worth the expense. Unless they are professionals, don’t rely on your friends and family to review and make suggestions. Even the most honest will hedge in favor of not upsetting you. The cover is your book’s most important marketing tool. Invest in a qualified designer. Cost varies. But it’s not just the image on the cover; it’s the typography, the title, and the book’s back blurb – the first thing readers look at to decide whether your book is worth their time. These critical details done right, will build your confidence in the work you have created.
And, speaking of business, keep track of sales. I know, sounds like a no brainier, doesn’t it? Find a method that works for you, but keep track of sales, where the books were sold, and your earned royalties or margin. Also keep track of books you buy for resell. Your accountant will tell you all this, but in case you don’t have one, it’s a sound recommendation that you’ll find useful over time.
Happy Writing (and Publishing)!
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