The Secret to Self-Publishing Success

Thanks to the explosive growth of self-publishing, it’s never been easier to get your book onto the market. While this is a fantastic opportunity for independent authors, it’s not as simple as just writing your book and sticking it on Amazon. If you want your book to succeed – that is, if actually you want people to buy it – then you’ll need to take a slightly more structured approach.

The self-publishing revolution

It’s not difficult to see why so many new authors are choosing to self-publish. Snagging an agent or publishing deal is notoriously difficult, and many writers relish the opportunity to take back control.

However, self-publishing is no less competitive. With the gatekeepers gone, any aspiring author can throw their hat into the ring. Unfortunately for the authors, most of those hats are swiftly buried.

Having a fantastic book will clearly help your chances, but the fact is: that alone isn’t enough. If you can’t get your book seen, or you can’t convince people it’s a quality product that’s worth their time, then you’ll never reach critical mass. All that potential will be wasted.

Thinking like a publisher

In the world of traditional publishing, writing your book is only the first step. Your publisher puts that manuscript through an extensive process of editing, formatting, and design to forge it into a finished product. Alongside that, they still have to market it. Someone has to figure out who the target audience is and how to get the book in front of them.

How much of that work ultimately gets done by the publisher and how much falls back upon the author might vary. If you’re self-publishing though, there’s no question. It’s all down to you.

Let me repeat that, because this is absolutely key: As an independent author, you’re no longer just doing the writer’s job. You’re also doing the publisher’s job.

Far too many new authors labour over their book only to cast it out into the void and call it ‘self-publishing’. If that’s you, then you’re hamstringing your own efforts by only doing half a job.

Let’s go back to traditional publishing for a moment. You might not have the resources of a publishing house behind you, but that doesn’t make those additional steps any less necessary. After all, I doubt you’d be happy signing up with a publisher who wasn’t going to market your book, or wasn’t going to have it edited.

If you’ve decided to be your own publisher, be the kind of publisher that your book deserves.

Getting it all done

This all makes sense in theory, but like I said – you don’t have the resources of a publishing house.

The good news is that you can do a lot of the publisher’s tasks yourself, without spending too much cash.

Take marketing, for example. You probably already know the kind of person who would enjoy your book. Nobody is better placed to go out and spread the word than you are. Have a plan for getting your book out there, even if that plan is just writing more books until you’ve built up a catalogue.

On the other hand, there will be some tasks that you can’t easily do for yourself. Some jobs require specialist skills, or are better done by a fresh pair of eyes. In some cases, it’s simply more economical to secure the help of a specialist than to teach yourself everything you’d need to know in order to do a professional job.

Cover design is a fantastic example of this. I strongly recommend you don’t try to do your own cover design unless you really know what you’re doing – contrary to the old saying, readers absolutely do judge a book by its cover and hiring a professional cover designer will probably be the smartest money you spend on your book.

Most people will tell you that editing is another. I agree, but then I suppose I might be a little biased!

The beauty of self-publishing is that it’s up to you. You have complete control over when and where to focus your efforts. You can decide where it’s worth it.

If you can learn to approach those decisions like a publisher as well as like an author, you will give your book a far better shot at success.

To summarise:

  • As a self-publisher, you have the responsibilities of the publisher as well as those of the author.
  • Like a traditional publisher, that means doing some tasks ‘in-house’ and hiring a professional for others.
  • Take advantage of the freedom that self-publishing gives you, but make sure you’re still doing a complete job.