Exactly how I self-published my book, sold 180,000 copies, and nearly doubled my revenue
Which is kind of a book, in itself. (Read it here.) And it's a very good article about a very successful book. Non-fiction, but most of the advice translates to fiction. Here are the first two rules for self-publishing success.
1. Write a good book
Copied directly from the article. Pithy, ain't it? (I made it big and red.) After which he says:
It’s useful to remember that it’s hard to write a good book.
eBook writers have a tendency to be in a hurry. But writing a good book takes time. Time to learn your craft and hone your skill and find your readers. It takes years.
It takes accepting that:
- a first draft is actually just a really complicated outline
- writing is literally rewriting - actually "literally"
- good enough isn't
- we still have a fuckton still to learn
- so does Stephen King, so don't let that stop us
- fame is the rake not the pot
People who set a target number of books they’re going to sell don’t know what they’re talking about.
Yes, I’m talking about professionals who are in the publishing business. That’s the reason such a high percentage of authors don’t earn out their advance, even though those advances are getting smaller and smaller and smaller.
But when I sat with the question, I realized that real success wasn’t about numbers or bestseller-list status, but reputation.
It seems like a simple formula. GOOD BOOK = GOOD REPUTATION = SALES = BEST SELLER STATUS.
Can you move a lot of titles without writing a really good book or having much of a reputation?
Sure. You can pay a PR firm and pay for great reviews and a great cover designer and blurb writer and do a big push and sell a lot, or give away a lot. That is, you can buy your way to an orange tag on Amazon or a spot on one of the Best Seller lists. Then you can put that on your book cover.
But unless the book is good, that will end, shortly. Unless people trust, through experience, that you'll deliver what they were led to expect, you won't sell.
DOES THAT MEAN WE HAVE TO BE WILLIAM FAULKNER TO SELL BOOKS?
Faulkner always bored the shit out of me. Which doesn't mean he wasn't as great a writer as folks say. It means he didn't write in a way I enjoyed.
I'm a Truman Capote fan. An Alexis Hall girl. I like simple, straightforward prose. (Wish I could learn to write that way.) But as much as that's true, both these writers have an exceptional command of language and deliver powerful images. They evoke place and emotion and reveal depth of character through the action of their choices.
There are all kinds of readers and genres. You can write smut, if you want, but then you have to look at the top smut peddlers and see what works. What do their readers want? Do that - but - do it well. At least as well as they do. Better, would be better.
Mostly: write what you love to read.
WHAT FICTION WRITERS NEED THAT NON-FICTION WRITERS DON'T
A deep bench. This is our other mistake. We publish too fast. First we need a few really good titles. Book or stories or novellas. We need that so when our New Reader gets to the end and liked what they read, they can click on the link to our other titles we leave at the end. Right after the PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S HOLY REVIEW MY BOOK!!!!!! link.
The only way we get good is to write. Every day. Read. Every day. I know because On Writing told me so.