There is a lot of negativity floating around in the world…
…well in general, but also particularly in the world of self publishing. I have seen quite a few dejected posts from newbie authors claiming that they’re going to give up because they published their book on Amazon six or eight months ago and have only sold half a dozen copies and why did they try this in the first place?
They didn’t become Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath or Bob Mayer (the latter two of which, while stand up guys, shouldn’t be counted in the self publishing world as examples for all to follow because both were traditionally published and had a crapton of backlist, which real, newbie self-published authors do not).
Newsflash. While everyone would LOVE to see the kind of successes these folks have seen, chances are you won’t. Because they are outliers. Studying them is nothing but a source of frustration and skewed expectations.
So if you ARE in the boat of unsuccessful sales you have two options:
you can give up (in which case, you were never meant to be a success in this business in the first place)
you can analyze why you aren’t selling.
- How is your cover?
This is often the number one thing I see people do wrong. You know that old adage “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? Well it was wrong. People can and do judge a book by its cover. It is the first, and sometimes the only thing that people see. This is NOT the area to skimp and try to save. Shell out the money for a professionally designed one. I don’t care how good you think you are in Photoshop. There is no replacement for a pro graphic designer who knows how to correctly blend and flatten layers and has an eye for style and overall layout. I highly recommend Robin Ludwig from Covers By Robin. She’s fabulous, speaks writer, and is very reasonably priced. /shameless plug for my cover artist. I see so many truly horrible covers out there and it is somehow taboo to actually say so to someone. So be honest with yourself. Is your cover lousy?
- How is your blurb?
I know, I know. That back cover copy is freaking hard to write. After spending months or more hanging out with THE WHOLE BOOK, how on earth can we condense it into a paragraph! If you can’t, you need to find someone who can. There’s no shame in asking for help. You’ve got to come up with a hook that makes people want to read your book.
- Do you have a platform?
If you thought you didn’t need to start building one until your book was actually out there, think again. If nobody knows who you are, then publishing your book and expecting to sell any copies of it when you are one in a sea of hundreds of thousands of titles is akin to taking a shot in the dark with your eyes closed and hoping to hit the bullseye. Dude, the Force is not with you and you’re gonna blow yourself up instead of the Death Star. If you happened to go this route, you need to be building that platform now (run, don’t walk, to purchase Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide To Social Media). Just don’t expect overnight results.
- Did you actually write a good book?
Now I realize this is a subjective question, but did you actually run your book through a good editor, beta readers, critique partner to make it the best book that it can be? Have you spent time working on learning your craft and applying it to your magnum opus? Chances are, if you’re in the quitter camp, you probably didn’t do this. So either pony up and do the work or get out of the workshop.
- Are you relying on one book to make your career?
Who are you? Harper Lee? A writer’s career is not made on one book alone. If your first book tanked, go write another, and another, and another. Stop focusing exclusively on the book that is out there not working for you, and write more that will. Work on your craft, get feedback, and become a better writer.
Whether you chose self-publishing or traditional or some combination thereof, writing is a long haul game that takes years of time and hard work, so stop looking for short cuts and get that butt back in your chair and those hands back on your keyboard!