16 Things I’ve Learned After Self-Publishing 16 Books

#1 People aren’t waiting to buy your book. The shock. The horror! 😛 I jest. I think it’s common when you’re first starting out to imagine people are as excited about your books as you are. I remember thinking my books would take off one day (With no real plan other than thinking people would start catching on and my reader base would grow). In reality, your book release day is likely to turn into a few sales unless you do a killer job with marketing prior to the release. And that’s okay. We live and learn. I don’t think it’s even fair to expect the people we know to buy our books (It’s wonderful when they do, but being an author is *our* choice and people don’t have to buy our stuff unless they want to). The majority of your sales are going to be from people on the Internet after years of networking and promoting your brand/books.

#2 Having a lot of social media followers on Twitter doesn’t mean you’ll make a lot of book sales. It makes sense in theory – more followers should mean more readers and more sales. Well, okay, there’s some truth to it. Obviously, if you only have 100 followers that’s not much of a reach. If you have a few thousand followers, there’s a higher chance that some of them will be interested in your book. I noticed a boost in my sales once my following passed 5K followers then it plateaued around 7K followers. It definitely helps to attract new readers on an ongoing basis, because once your current readers have read all the books of yours they want to read you’ll need more to continue the momentum. To get bigger sales numbers you’ll need to invest in ads.

#3 Some authors will start to get competitive with you. I preface this by saying I’ve met some amazing authors via Twitter and a few are still my friends to this day. That being said, some started to get a little testy when I came out with a new release, playing the comparison game with me. A couple were once avid readers of mine, but at some point they grew tired of every new release I announced. One of them has published more than me, but still got all weird when he saw I was catching up. The relationship hasn’t been the same since which is bizarre to me. I imagine every author as a separate entity and not my competition, but sometimes envy can arise. Just be aware of that.

#4 Promoting your own work is essential. If you want your books to reach new readers, you need to keep promoting them in some way. You can get creative on social media or pay for more ads if you have the budget.

#5 A paperback sale is such a celebration! Most people buy e-books these days which is great because that’s where indies get most of their revenue. That said, it’s a lovely feeling knowing someone out there has a paper copy of your story. The royalty is also higher, which is nice.

#6 It’s okay to consider traditional publishing. I’ve been proudly indie for the entire time I’ve been publishing, but I’m still open to having some of my books represented by a publisher. The reason is I think some of my novels are strong and deserve to be seen by more people. I also started out originally thinking my writing would pay off one day, so if I could make a secondary income from at least one of my books, that would be wonderful. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay, too, but there’s nothing wrong with considering different options.

#7 It’s also okay to write simply for the love of it. Some people would never consider traditional publishing and they don’t care about book sales that much. They either don’t need the money or they view writing as their hobby so it doesn’t need to be a business to them. If you write for the love of it, that’s a beautiful thing. Be proud.

#8 You’ll want to focus on connecting with readers (particularly in your genre). Connecting with other authors is great and you’ll make some long term friends that way, too. With that being said, if you want to earn more sales on your books, it’s important to focus on connecting with readers as well. It will take a little more work and it’s of course a gradual thing. Most authors are also readers, but they tend to view reading in a different way than non-book writing readers. Connecting with people who are readers will help increase the chances of your book(s) getting read.

#9 Each book is an accomplishment regardless of sales/reviews. If you’ve completed a book that alone is an accomplishment. There’s a saying that goes “Anyone can write” and while that’s true, not everyone will finish a book and edit it several times before publishing it. 😛 The fact that you’ve released a book is worth celebrating!

#10 You make friends with other indie authors who share your vision/vibe. I mentioned this before, but making friends with other indie authors is a valuable part of the whole experience. They’ll be there to cheer you on, share your work, and often buy your books. A lot of indie authors will read and review one another’s stories. While there can be some competition or clout seekers among some authors, I’d say most are genuinely kind and want to support others’ successes, too.

#11 You may make 3 sales or less on book release day. Please don’t cringe. It’s an honest truth that most indie books make just a few sales on book release day UNLESS you have a solid readership already and you’re a pro at marketing. What you can do is look at it as a “book release month” because the sales will stream in as the days go on and more people learn about your book. Try not to put too much importance on one day – it’s about the succession of days that really matter.

#12 Giving people ARCs of your book can help boost your reviews. If you’d like to get more interest in your book, you can send people free copies of it. A lot of indie authors are happy to help with this as they know the value of book reviews themselves. Book reviews definitely make a story look more valuable on Amazon, so it’s worth it for a lot of authors.

#13 Book promotion is an ongoing thing. The work isn’t done after the book release is over. You need to keep promoting that book (If you want it to reach more readers). Of course, feel free to take a break at any time. You don’t want to spam people’s feed, but balance it out so you’re marketing it enough that people know it exists.

#14 You prefer reading indie books over traditional books. This is a common side effect of being a self-published author. You tend to want to read more indie books to help support those like yourself and give back to the community. It feels good to support a small enterprise. ❤

#15 It’s better to have regular readers than super fans. I’ve found that the people who want to buy up all your books in one go or have daily DM conversations with you aren’t that interested in your work – they’re more interested in *you*. While I’m a proponent of being friendly with people online and I’ve made some lasting friendships with other authors, the “super fan” comes on to you quickly and out of nowhere. It can be uncomfortable as they’re a stranger and you know they’re just using your books as a way to get more information on you or form a quick attachment to you, etc. Your true readers will support your writing without crossing the line. They don’t expect anything in return and they don’t ask for a lot of your time – if you organically become friends it’s because you’ve both shared a mutual respect for one another. Those are the people you want buying and reading your books. When someone idealizes you too much, it can turn ugly pretty fast – you disagree with them on something or react to something rude they said and it’s all over. After some experience, you start to learn the difference between a real fan and a fake fan.

#16 Free book promotions are a great way to boost your book’s rating, gain new readers, and attract more interest to your books.

I’ve written a post about this before. Whether you love or hate free book deals, they do actually have a benefit and it’s reaching more potential readers. I always see a slight boost in sales after my free book deal ends. It’s worth it to run a free book deal for a couple of days. You might even get a review out of it!

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  1. Curious about your paperback royalties. I set my prices so whatever the sale, I make about the same royalty. I know paperbacks cost my readers more – but that is their choice because they prefer paper. The pricing structure is different, but not the end result to me.

      • Many indies underprice their work as a matter of principle; many have free days; many participate in genre joint promotions.

        I can’t. I have one book out, and am working on publishing the second in the trilogy. I write what used to be called ‘big books’ – 175K word range – and most indies write shorter genre novels.

        I aimed for $5-6 royalties for both ebook and print – and provide about eleven hours of reading for the $9.99 and $21.99 price. I haven’t yet had someone complain about the price (except when I get unsolicited advice from occasional SPAs), and my competition – mainstream authors from traditional publishers – often charge a lot more.

        And data: when I’ve lowered prices to participate in some of the promotions, it hasn’t attracted new readers, AND I don’t yet have the remaining volumes in the trilogy for the ‘readthrough’ to help.

        I’m in my little niche – it’s a good thing I love the writing. I was pretty sure traditional publishers wouldn’t want my stories, so I skipped the submission process.

        If you check out some of the reviews, you’ll find I simply have a different audience. Some of the reviews are embarrassingly good. I’m satisfied, just want more of those readers.

        If asked for my opinion, I’d say to indies: don’t charge too little for your work.

      • But, as David Rose pointed out, I’m not for everyone. Which was funny.

        It’s not that I write hard literary fiction where you have to look things up if you don’t have a rarified education, it’s just that a ‘big book’ has a lot of interconnected threads, and requires paying attention to enjoy the subtleties. I like creating them – my favorite books are things like Dune and Rebecca and The Thorn Birds and The Name of the Rose and Jane Eyre, though I’m not sure I’m going to take many more onto the reading list – the brain is getting slower.

  2. This is a great post, so relatable and encouraging! With every point I was mentally saying “yep…yep…I needed to hear that…yep!” 😂 Thanks so much for sharing such valuable thoughts and insight into indie publishing! Would you mind if I shared this post on my blog (just a short excerpt and a link back to your post)?

  3. #7 hit the nail on the head for me. Of course I want other people to love my book as much as I do. But in my late 50s to be able to hold a paperback copy of my book felt like the prize.

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