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How To Be Successful In Self-Publishing

Self-publishing has come a long way over the past few years.  The introduction of websites such as Create Space and Lulu along with the emergence of e-readers like Kindle and Nook have paved the way for more authors to get their work in front of an eager audience.

More to the point, an increasing number of authors are finding true success through self-publishing.

James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy is a worldwide bestseller and is now published by Warner Books.  But originally Redfield had the book published himself and sold copies out of the trunk of his car.  

Mark Dawson is perhaps the most well-known example of modern self-publishing success.  His spy series looked like it wouldn’t take off at first – until he decided to give away the first book for free.  Now his series focused on spy John Milton is an Amazon best seller and he’s reported to have made more than $400,000 in the past year.

Tim Anderson’s first self-published book, Tune In Tokyo, didn’t make many waves until he finally landed a review in a magazine.  That review caught the attention of an acquiring editor at Amazon.  Amazon, in turn, republished the book under its Amazon Encore imprint and it took off.  Anderson’s has gone on to publish another popular memoir and has plans for a third.

With this in mind, self-publishing has been enjoying a renewed popularity as well as a newfound respect.  Fewer people see self-publishing as pure vanity or as a reflection of the writer’s work.  Still, the stigma can make some authors experience self-doubt at every stage of the game.

Whether you’re working towards a goal of being published or you’re struggling to get your published work recognized, success and self-publishing begin with you.

How To Be Successful in Self-Publishing

Define Success

At first glance, this tip may seem a bit silly but success can mean a lot of different things.  For some it’s about simply publishing something – about meeting that goal of productivity.  For others it’s about getting their message to a specific audience. Still, for others it can mean making more money through writing alone or using it as a way to promote another business.  Then, of course, there are those who dream big – the ones who want their names of the Bestseller List.  Whatever your goals, start your journey by knowing where you want to be.


Don’t Overlook Motivation

Simply finishing a publication-length project is a huge undertaking.  It doesn’t matter if your opus is an epic of fiction, a critical look at iconic fiction or an exhaustively researched piece of non-fiction – writing a book isn’t easy.  Staying motivated throughout the process is a challenge in and of itself, especially for first-time authors.  Without an audience with which to connect, new writers can wonder if they really have what it takes.  

Self-doubt and feeling overwhelmed are part of the creative process.  People who create things often wonder if their efforts are worthwhile so it’s important to remain motivated by any means necessary.  There are dozens of writer’s forums online thanks to chat room, forums, message boards and social media groups dedicated to the craft of writing.  Many groups are for writers of any stripe but there are also plenty of niche groups from which to choose.  There are groups for everyone from historical fiction and pop science to fan fiction and fetish erotica.  Connect with a group you like and use their communal support to assuage your fears or vent some spleen.


Remain Accountable to Your Audience – And Yourself

Being a writer means you’re only accountable to yourself – at least in the beginning.  While you may get to a point where, like Games of Thrones author R. R. Martin, you have fans demanding a schedule for upcoming works, when you’re first starting out you have only yourself to answer to.  While that seems like the ultimate form of freedom, it can be a massive pitfall for those who might have a hard time staying on track independently.

Keep yourself accountable by setting and hitting specific deadlines, even if that means pulling an all-nighter.  Be realistic about your expectations without losing your sense of structure.  Posting about your progress in writing groups, through your social media or on an independent blog is a great way to build an audience and stay accountable to others.


Know Your Reader

As you write your book, keep your audience in mind.  Self-help authors, for example, should understand the various challenges, obstacles and issues raised by the issue they’re addressing.  A book on how to get organized should appeal to everyone who wants to improve their life through organization – from executives and professionals to housewives and university students.

Similarly, fiction authors should be in touch with what their audience wants.  That doesn’t mean you have to give your audience everything they want but you should be sure to include elements that apply to your chosen genre.  It helps if you are personally a fan of the genre in which you’re writing.  If you’re working on something outside your comfort zone, read related books, articles and online forums popular with fans to understand where they’re coming from, what they want and any pet peeves they may have with other authors and books.


Diversify Your Publication

Once you’ve completed your project, increase the chances of it finding the perfect audience by publishing it in every format you can.  This includes ebooks, print on demand and even audio options if it fits.  Consider all your options by checking with personal printing companies like LuLu, Create Space, Amazon and others to ensure you’re getting as much exposure as possible.


Consider Inviting Criticism

Too often, writers work in a vacuum.  You’ve written your book with your audience in mind, but how close have you hit the mark?  The only way to really know for sure is to await feedback.  You can do this by checking in with early buyers as your book begins to sell or you can seek out help by hiring beta readers or offering your book to reviewers for free before your intended release date.

Neither beta readers nor reviewers will proofread or edit your manuscript, but they will give you valuable feedback on how well it flows and what they thought of the work as a whole.  Inviting criticism is never easy and it can be hard to hear negative reactions.  But this can help you improve your book if you’re willing to listen to what readers think and remain open to what they have to say.  


Think Beyond ‘The End’

Finishing a book is hard enough, but the job isn’t done just because you’ve reached the end.  With so many books available on the market today, authors who self-publish their books have to work double time as their own marketers.  This includes everything from setting up an author page on reading websites like Goodreads as well as promoting their book through social media and directly to review magazines and publishers.  

Writing and publishing a book is a huge undertaking – one that’s fraught with pitfalls and challenges.  But it’s always taken a special kind of person to be a successful writer and the new age of self-publishing hasn’t changed that.  If anything, it’s made it easier for niche authors to find their perfect audience if they’re ready, willing and able to put in the work and the time it takes to not only write their book but to seek out their perfect readers.

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