Is it a year already? Phew. Twelve months to the day when I pressed the button and my first novel, Mrs God, entered that vast library in the cloud called Amazon. It’s still there and people are still checking it out and giving it great reviews.
Looking back, there are many lessons I learned about the whole weird and wonderful enterprise of self-publishing. But here are the main ones that you may find useful:
1) No one cares – Well, obviously your family and friends and colleagues and acquaintances will all tell you well done and pat you on the back and shake their heads and ask where the hell you found the time to bash out 100,000+ words. But you wouldn’t expect anything less from them, would you? Otherwise they’d all be estranged family and former friends and ex-acquaintances. The point is, that ubiquitous ‘man on the street’ won’t give a tuppenny cuss that you’ve just published your pride and joy. You’ve got to let everyone know about your book – starting well before it’s even finished – via every means possible. The good news is that social media allows you to do just that. Once everyone knows it exists, it’s up to ‘word of mouth’ to do the heavy lifting of selling your story.
2) Consider a paper option – If I hadn’t offered folks the chance to experience my book in the paper form, then I would have lost out on a considerable number of readers. Even apart from that, I would also have missed the thrill of seeing my novel on AN ACTUAL bookshelf in AN ACTUAL bookshop. Generating such a medium on Createspace – which I used – may give you a migraine and make you a formatting wizard but it’s well worth the effort.
3) Do not overprice – My book started out as $4.99. I thought this was a happy medium – low enough to clock up serious sales figures, high enough to make me mind-batteringly rich. Wrong. Simple economics: the day after you publish, interest in your book will still be fairly low (unless you’re an immensely popular person) so your price should be also. Other authors with far more experience recommend the $2.99 pricing plan. I followed their advice. So should you.
4) Throw a party – You’ve spent a year moulding your story into a shape you’re happy with, now get out and celebrate with all the people you had bored the pants off telling them that you were moulding your story into a shape you were happy with. Drink. Laugh. Dance. Wave your book in the air like you just don’t care. You won’t remember too many of the lonely writing sessions, but you will never forget the night that was all about you and your book.
5) Write big, think small – By this I mean don’t expect to get rich and famous on the back of your book. I can almost guarantee that you will not even be able to buy a reasonable small car with the proceeds. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t write your book as if you’re polishing the next New York Times bestseller and have Hollywood execs kicking down your door to nab the film rights. Writing the best book you can + lowering your expectations = achieving happiness.
6) Keep writing – A wise person once said that thinkers think and writers write – are you a thinker or a writer? Do you think about writing? Or do you write about thinking? Learn from the process of physically finding the time and space to write, and mentally getting into gear to allow the words to flow. Find your groove and plough on. Writing is its own reward. Sales and kind reviews are a bonus.