Thursday, May 24, 2012

Self-Publishing: The First Three Steps to Success

As a self-published author, I have to be doing it better, longer, and smarter than everyone else. I don't have a team of editors and proofreaders at a publishing house to make sure my manuscript is in tip-top shape. I don't have someone who handles the logistics of creating my cover for me. I don't have a high-paid, New York-based marketing team with their fingers tapped on to the pulse of every major book distributor in all the hottest markets.

No, I don't. I have to perform all those functions. Oh, and did I mention I also have to write the books? For we independent, self-pubbers, it can be daunting. I mean, hell, I'm the primary editor, the primary proofreader, the one who comes up with the vague idea for a cover so that my cover artist can work her magic and give me what I've described, and I'm my own marketing manager, even though I do have a team of folks who help promote me (God love 'em and thank them one and all!).

With that said, in the May/June issue of Writer's Digest, I found confirmation that I'm on the right track as far as what I need to do to eventually achieve success as a self-published author:

According to Writer's Digest, here are the first three steps to success:

  1. Make sure your story is good. The same rule applies to self-published e-books as it does to print books. You have to start with an enticing, top-notch story in order to persuade readers to keep turning the pages.
  2. Edit, edit, edit. If you can, hire a good freelance editor. Agents and publishers will reject a manuscript pretty quickly if it's not well edited. And if you go the self-published route, this step is even more important. To reverse the perception of self-published books as amateur, assume they'll need to be even better than traditionally published books, at least for a while.
  3. Build your marketing skills. Given that publishers offer increasingly limited promotional support, and self-publishing authors are entirely on their own, much of book marketing in today's environment is in creating "discoverability." You can't sell a book if no one knows it exists, so you'll need to create awareness however you can, whether it's through social media or blogging or passing out fliers on a street corner. Apply "the rule of setting 100 small fires": The best way to start a roaring bonfire is to strike many matches, because you never know which one is going to catch on and create a conflagratioon.

Just a couple of points of interest from that list:

My writing tip from last week was about editing, and I said that editing is second to writing only because you can't edit without writing first. Editing is also the #2 point on this list from Writer's Digest (WD), second only to writing a good story. So, yep, you've gotta write first, edit second, and both are just about equal in importance. But for self-publishers, edit is even more important than for traditionally published books.

Regarding the last point on WD's list, I often feel self-conscious that I'm promoting too much. I see other authors criticizing authors who promote a lot, but really, promotion is pivotal to self-publishing. This point on WD's list just proves I need to get over my self-consciousness and get more creative about where I promote and how. What WD says is true: If you want to start a huge fire, you need to start several smaller ones. As a person who knows this first-hand from building fires at my dad's house as a little girl, I can say with conviction that if you only strike a couple of matches, that kindling won't light up. I want my kindling to light up.

If you are an author reading this, where do you promote? How do you promote? Do you have any favorite sites, blogs, or tips for other authors who want to become better promoters (like me)?

Happy reading and happy writing!


  1. Thank you for the helpful tips Donya! :-)

    1. You are most welcome. :) And thank you for commenting.

  2. Well, I think you really do a great job, you are the most active author I can think of - and it's not like you always post..."buy my book"...but you actually have very interesting blogs and discussions. That makes it even more fun to follow and interact. The blog about dialogues was so inspiring that I went through all my written stuff and started editing... ;)

    Unfortunately I can't give you more advice about marketing yourself because I have never published a story and have no experience at all.

    Probably the best is to have reviews in amazon and goodreads and people in fb groups who support your writing and post about it.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Sunne. I will admit that I don't just want to be one of those authors who goes around saying, "Buy my book! Buy my book!" Sometimes I feel like I am posting a lot of marketing and promo links, but according to Writer's Digest, I don't do it enough. So...ugh! LOL.

      I love sharing what I've learned about this whole writing thing. Not that I"m necessarily always right, either. I have opinions like everyone else, but I do try to make my posts on writing informative, educational, and interesting. To that end, I'm glad you found my dialogue post so helpful. :) I just love dialogue, but I think some authors try too hard rather than keep it simple and conversational. There is an art to writing good dialogue, and even I am still refining how I write it.

      Stay tuned, I'm getting ready to tackle (drum roll) narration and POV. This should be interesting. Hee hee.

  3. Hi, My name is Melissa... Seen this posted on FB and the Rise and Fall Series caught my eye and it looks AMAZING... also sounds very intense, and it appears to have a different Vampire sense to it but different than what I have read. I really look forward to reading this series, I have added it to my Amazon Wishlist. Thank You.


    1. Welcome, Melissa! I'm glad you've discovered Rise of the Fallen, which is book one of the All the King's Men series. I've been amazed and humbled by the wonderful response the book and series are receiving so far. Book two (Heart of the Warrior) just came out, and it's already taken off at an astounding pace. I hope you enjoy it when you get a chance to buy it. :)

      Please stop by and say hi again, and look me up on Facebook if you haven't already. :)

      Happy Reading!