Category Archives: self-publishing

Self-Publishing Disaster: 3 Tips To Rebuild Your Confidence

Self-Publishing Disaster: 3 Tips To Rebuild Your Confidence

You had huge hopes for your latest book but those hopes have faded. Three months after publication, you’ve sold few copies. Whether you’re a self-publishing pro, or a newbie, you’re disappointed.

Let’s unpack your “failure.”

Here’s the reality. Books fail. Indeed, most books fail. Ask any author. Bestselling ebooks/ books (let’s just call them books) are rare. Luck boosts many books to bestsellerdom. Concentrated effort boosts others.

That said, you don’t need to write bestselling novels or nonfiction books to make a nice living as a self-publishing author.

Why self-publishing fails…

While there are any number of reasons you can self-publish a book and winces at its sales, here are some common reasons for failure in fiction:

  • The author didn’t pick a genre at all, or picked an overcrowded genre;
  • Readers can’t find the book: the description is skimpy, and there’s no meta data, so Amazon has no idea where to “file” the book;
  • The book’s cover gives no clear indication of its genre. Readers are confused, and pass the book by;
  • A lack of promotion.

What about nonfiction? Reasons for the failure of a nonfiction book include:

  • An itty bitty audience, or an audience which is well-served with a large number of new books, and the author’s offering doesn’t stand out;
  • As with fiction, above — the readers can’t find the book, because of a lack of attention to meta data;
  • An unappealing cover. A cover needs to grab readers, and make them FEEL something. If you’re selling a diet book, an apple and a tape measure can make for a great cover, depending on the book’s title, and the photography. Or it may not;
  • As above, a lack of promotion.

There may be no clear reason a book fails

Mainstream publishers publish lots of books. Simon & Schuster for example publishes around 2,000 titles each year and most of those titles will lose money. The occasional bestseller helps any publisher to stay in business.

Please be ware of this: publishing houses expect slow sellers and abject failures in the books they publish. Like you, if they had their way, they’d publish only bestsellers. 🙂

You’re a publisher too. Take the attitude that you’ll publish many books. Some will succeed beyond your dreams.

Now let’s look at how to rebuild your confidence.

1. Publish the next book, and the next, while trying to learn from your failure

Yes, keep publishing. It’s amazing how often a “meh” book you don’t particularly like will shock you with great sales. It happens.

While you keep writing, and publishing, if you think you know why a book isn’t selling, fix what you can. BUT: don’t spend too much money on your book’s revamp. A new cover may help. On the other hand, it may not.

Ask other self-publishing authors their opinion on whether spending money will help. It’s best to spend money boosting books which already sell.

2. Always be learning: the self-publishing industry changes rapidly

Many authors who made huge incomes in 2014 have left the industry. When self-publishing changed, they didn’t keep up. Their books stopped selling, because they stopped experimenting and and growing.

Try new things; keep learning and growing.

3. Build your platform on social media: get readers onto your mailing list

Today, with several million ebooks and many, many millions of books widely available, reaching readers who will love your books is more challenging than ever. Make a real effort to build your platform. Social media is essentially free, other than the time it takes. Use social media to grow your mailing list.

Keep self-publishing: your next book may hit the bestseller lists

Someone once said that success doesn’t last, and neither does failure. Who knows? Your “disaster” may be a sleeper title, which suddenly sells hundreds of copies a day.

In the meantime, success or failure, keep publishing. 🙂

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Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

eBook: $5.99
Genre: Writing
Today, the opportunities for writers have never been greater. Back in the day a writer who was making six-figures a year seemed a creature of myth. These days, highly successful writers are making six figures a month. More info →
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Self-Publishing: 3 Tips To Sell More Novels Via Short Stories

Self-Publishing: 3 Tips To Sell More Novels Via Short Stories

Self-publishing is becoming a lot more challenging. Things are changing quickly, and you need to change too, especially if you’re not having the success you want. Even if you’re thrilled with your sales, keep in mind that self-publishing changes quickly.

Our new self-publishing environment in 2017

Authors who have been self-publishing for years realize that today, self-publishing is mainstream.

In 2015, The Passive Voice published several posts on indie authors quitting their day jobs; they were the most commented-on posts in the history of the blog. Many thousands of authors revealed that they went full-time in 2015.

However in 2016, things got a lot tougher. Not only did Amazon tighten its spam-fighting algorithms, some authors found that their ebook sales were dropping off a cliff. I wrote blog posts on both those things…

More on Amazon tackling spammers here.

More on ebook sales’ slumps here.

One of the decisions I made for my own self-publishing plans this year was to publish shorter ebooks in addition to the novels I have planned. Short stories, and short nonfiction, can definitely help the sales of your longer ebooks.

Let’s look at the tips.

1. Use short stories as a valuable form of painless marketing

Sometimes when I suggest to an author that he publish some short stories, the response is: Yes, but short stories don’t sell. I’d take issue with that, because many authors are making a lot of money from short stories. In some cases, they’re making more money from a 5,000 word short story than they’re making from an 100,000 word novel.

Readers don’t care how long or short your story is, they just want a GOOD story.

In My Top 6 Tips for Self-publishing Fiction In 2017, I suggested:

Here’s the thing about self-publishing: your ebooks can be as long, or as short as you please. Strictly from a money angle, if you can get $2.99 for a 10,000 word short story, OR a 60,000 word novel, it makes sense to write more short stories.

When you write short stories, not only do you build your visibility, you also improve your fiction writing skills.

Short stories are brilliant for increasing your visibility on the ebook retailers. When you’re on Amazon’s Just Released lists, you’ll make sales of your other ebooks too.

2. Reward your fans’ loyalty: send them your short stories, then publish them

Your readers are GOLD. Treat them well.

Show your mailing list subscribers that they’re part of an exclusive club. When you’ve completed a short story, send it out to the fans on your mailing list first. A week or two later, you can publish the story on Amazon.

Several authors make their short stories available on their blogs for a week or two, and then they publish the stories.

Anything you can do to reward your fans is worth doing.

3. Create serials: use cliffhangers to get more readers

Some authors HATE cliffhangers and they refuse to use them. However, publishing short stories as a continuing story — as a serial — works. Just be sure that your short story is a real story, with a climax and resolution, otherwise you’ll annoy readers.

As I said in Kindle Publishing: Serialized Fiction Strategies:

Your challenge with serial fiction is to make each episode in the story satisfying. Yes, you want readers to read the whole thing. However, each episode has to deliver entertainment and value. So each episode has a throughline, with a setup, action, and climax.

Also, most importantly, add “A Short Story” both to the title, and to the description of your short fiction, so that readers know what they’re getting.

Add a few short stories to your own self-publishing plans for this year

I enjoy writing short stories; I like instant gratification. 🙂

You never know, you may find as I do that you sell more of your novels when you include short stories in your publishing plans.

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
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Your Easiest Self-Publishing Strategy: 5 Tips

Your Easiest Self-Publishing Strategy: 5 Tips

Do you find self-publishing a challenge? Many writers do. I’ve been working with three writers who’ve been traditionally published, helping them to adjust to our brave new self-publishing world.

These three authors know how to write books. However, they’re intimidated at the idea of becoming publishers of their own books, so I created a mini-challenge for them: write a book in a week, and publish it. Yes, all in a week. (I gave the challenge as a writing exercise on the Fab Freelance Writing Facebook page.)

Write short and publish fast: the easiest self-publishing strategy

Traditional publishing tends to be slow. From memory, the last time I was commissioned to write a book by a traditional publisher, it took around 18 months for the book to hit bookstores. Believe it or not, that was FAST. (Giggle.) It seems unbelievable to me now, but back in the day it wasn’t unusual for a book to take three years from the initial idea to publication day.

Self-publishing is very different from traditional publishing, and to give authors confidence I challenge them to write and self-publish a short story, or a short nonfiction book, of between 5,000 and 10,000 words, in a week.

Now let’s look at our tips.

1. Think “short”, and write your blurb FIRST

The key to writing short and publishing fast is to choose something you know well. It cuts down on the research. If you’re writing a short story, choose a genre you know and love. For me, that’s the mystery genre.

Similarly, if you’re writing nonfiction, write about what you know. It can be anything, from how to bake cookies to how to sell on eBay. Once you’ve chosen a nonfiction topic, choose a slant. Your “slant” is your angle; your point of view, or opinion. For example, if you’re writing about cookies, your slant could be baking perfect chocolate chip cookies, from scratch.

Once you’ve chosen your genre, or topic and slant, write the blurb — the book description. In traditional publishing, the blurb is the back cover copy. In self-publishing, as we’ve said, it’s the book description.

In addition, find keywords. Amazon gives you seven keywords. Explore Amazon to find your seven.

Look on your blurb as your book’s outline. It may change, that’s fine. Writing your blurb before you start writing your book ensures that you’ll actually publish. Self-publishers tend to find blurbs and keywords challenging. Get it done now, before you start writing, so you won’t procrastinate when it’s time to publish.

2. Buy (or create) a cover image before you start writing

I never feel that a book is “real” until I have a cover for it.

For short ebooks, paying $500 for a great cover is pointless. Buy a premade cover (search on Google, you’ll find many designers selling premade covers.) Reasonably competent? Design your own. Alternatively, for the simplest option, choose to use Amazon’s Cover Designer when you upload to Amazon.

3. Write your ebook in three days: schedule the time

Can you write 5,000 words in three days?

Of course you can. Just schedule the time. Even on my worst days, I can manage 1,000 words an hour. If you’re a new author, it may take you longer. That’s OK — schedule your time.

4. Edit fast — slash, add, and then revise: keep your blurb in mind

Words done? Kudos to you. 🙂

Now it’s time for revision and editing.

I’ve written about editing your writing here.

Pay attention to your blurb while you’re editing. You may need to change your blurb, that’s fine — after writing your draft, you have a much clearer idea of what your book is about.

Slash away everything that’s not needed. Then add content. Next, read through what you have. I use Scrivener, which makes it easy to compile a book into MOBI (Amazon) format, and read it as a reader will.

A common question I receive is: “do I need an editor?” For longer books, yes. For shorter books, edit it yourself. I know it’s challenging; you’ll get better with practice.

5. Publish to KDP Select: it’s not ideal, but why not?

You’re all done. You’ve written and edited your book.

Your book matches your blurb, and your cover is done.

Publication time… 🙂

I wrote about ebook sales here. Since September, many authors are finding that their numbers are down. To counteract this, they’re removing their books from KDP Select because it gives Amazon an exclusive, and makes their ebooks available for free to Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscribers. All those KU readers tend to cannibalize sales.

Here’s what I suggest. Publish to KDP Select. Even if you make no sales, you’ll make a little money with KU’s pages read, and KU definitely helps your visibility, so you’ll sell more ebooks overall. Ditto if you’re a new author.

These days, many authors are pulling their books from KDP Select, and are “going wide” — that is, publishing on several ebook retailers. For short ebooks however, unless you have a real reason not to opt for KDP Select, I suggest enrolling your ebooks there. It eliminates hassles.

You can always change your mind and remove your books in three months if you’re not happy. 🙂

Self-publishing is easy. Paradoxically, it’s amazingly complex too

The days when you could publish an ebook, and make hundreds or thousands of dollars a month have gone, for most authors. These days, you need to promote your ebooks.

That said, I’ve found a tendency among my students and other authors to over-compensate on the marketing side. They spend so much time fiddling with their Facebook advertising and finding new venues to promote that their writing suffers.

Self-publishing is easy, and amazingly complex at the same time.

Everything starts with writing, however. So write an ebook and publish it, in a week. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and about self-publishing. You may even make a little money. Have fun. 🙂

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →