Thursday, November 13, 2014

5 Things I’ve Learned About Self Publishing

Three years ago, I published my novel, Stealing Mercy. Since then, I’ve learned a few things.
1.       To be a writer, you need to be okay with long stretches of solitude. You need to not only be okay with it—you have to need it.
2.       To be a book seller, you have to be okay with interacting with people. Lots of people. Sound contradictory? It is. If you want to write books and sell them, you have to wear two types of hats—a black, fade into obscurity sort of thing that no one will pay attention to so you can take notes on everyone around you and a flamboyant, look at me and buy my book sort of thing that will most likely embarrass your mom.

3.       But as a book seller and book writer you need people to not only buy your books, you need people to help you sell your books. You need a tribe, or two, or three. I personally belong to a writers’ group, and a critique group (they’re different). I’m part of a group blog called the Authors of Main Street and these women are my friends, even though I wouldn’t recognize them if I saw them on the street. I’ve glommed together with other authors for anthologies—this has been invaluable. I would guess that most of my readers have found me through anthologies. I regularly haunt the Kindleboards, Writer Café, and I’ve learned a ton from them. The writers on the boards have often buoyed my flagging spirits.13 PARANORMAL CHRISTMAS ON MAIN STREET AUTUMN'S KISS
4.       It’s easy—too easy-- to find anything on the internet. To prove my point I typed in goats in snow and this is what I found. But because it’s so easy to find free and nearly free books, finding an author you love out of the millions out there, is hard. That’s why authors need to hang together—we’re easier to find that way!goats in snow
5.       You also need a support team. You need beta readers, an editor, book cover designer, and maybe most importantly, someone to hold your hand when you get a nasty review.
Although it’s been three years now, I feel as if I’m still learning. The game keeps changing. I used to think that to sell books I needed to have a book make an Amazon bestseller list. Once that happened, the book would continually sell itself. I don’t think that’s true anymore. The lists help, but they aren’t the ultimate answer. I think it’s possible that too many people have learned how to skew the system and algorithms. Do I think this unethical? I wouldn’t do it, even though it’s probably not any more right or wrong than publishers purchasing a spot in a Barnes and Noble window. So why wouldn’t I do it? Because scamming the system won’t have a long term effect. It’s like taking a diet pill. Drugs might help you shed some weight, but unless you create a healthy lifestyle you can maintain—day by day, spoonful by spoonful—the weight will haunt you. Same thing with selling books. You can scam the system and put out a shoddy book, but readers won’t flock to your next release. They may buy from you once, but not twice.
But if you consistently put out great books, readers will find you and haunt you.

A few nights ago, I asked my husband what’s my number? He didn’t know what I meant. When will I think I’ve made it? When can I feel like I can hire someone to do all the things I don’t want to do so I can just write? He reminded me that a number or a bank statement shouldn’t be my goal. A great book should be my goal. 
Numbers are tangible and attainable, but everyone defines a great book differently. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s the way it should be. And if one of my books touches someone, makes them think, or even provides a few hours of escape from a pressing problem, then as a writer I’ve made my goal. It’s not about numbers. It’s about people. Even when I’m wearing the black, fade into obscurity sort of thing that no one will pay attention to.

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