Originally published on Medium.com
I made the decision to self-publish my first novel back in May of 2019. In a way, it was a bit of an impulse decision. I had a completed manuscript and nothing else to do with it.
I never thought the traditional publishing route was for me (though maybe it will be in the future), but I was definitely not ready for the rollercoaster that would become self-publishing. When I first put my book out into the world, I had no clue what I was doing or where I was going. Now, I have eight titles self-published and a ninth that I pressed publish on about five minutes before writing this article.
I’ve learned a lot along the way, all of which I included in my first non-fiction publication that should be out by the time I publish this article. I wanted to document the self-publishing journey, especially having done it with no experience, no budget, and a lot of learning gaps to fill. Here are my biggest takeaways.
Having an audience when you start is helpful
Having an audience is what I did not have when I started. Sure, I had a small following on my blog where I did diary entries of my minimalist journey. They weren’t interested in a fantasy, young adult story. Neither were my 500 Twitter followers who were mostly interested in softball and getting me to recruit them to play in college.
When I published my first book, I had no goal in mind. I really just wanted to say I published a book. Granted, I didn’t know writing and publishing was going to be my future work and something I’d fall in love with. Now that writing is my full-time thing, I really wish I had done things differently. Building an audience that was waiting for my fiction work could have helped me launch into more success. I still got sales, and that book is still my best selling one and the start of a series, but I missed a huge opportunity.
Nevertheless, I am still proud of myself for getting the courage to publish my book to an empty crowd. It taught me a lot about being an authorpreneur and running my book publishing like a business.
If you’re looking to self-publish fiction but you don’t have an audience, I gave some helpful tips in this article:
You need to know business, or at least be willing to learn it
If you want books to be your main income, or at least a healthy one, you have to understand the ins and outs of a business. Luckily, I had some experience from my undergraduate and graduate degrees plus a year in marketing.
From finance to graphic design to simple copy in a Tweet, I learned that every single thing I did had some sort of impact. I needed to be familiar with ad copy if I wanted my ads to generate revenue. My covers had to look like they were professionally done even if I didn’t spend a dime on them. The editing needed to be as close to perfect as possible.
Being a self-published author means you wear many hats. You don’t just get to be the writer. Those are actually things I enjoy, though. I basically run my writing like a business. I write the book, make it look professional, and then market. I manage the finances, income, and money spent to make sure my operation runs smoothly.
Your book won’t be for everyone
Your. Book. Won’t. Be. For. Everyone.
There’s always that one person online who gives you a one-star review and says “I don’t read fantasy or young adult. I don’t like this book.” It sucks, but it exists.
Not everyone reads your genre. Not everyone will like your book. Not everyone who would like your book will see it when they are in the right mood and like your book. That’s just how the world works.
Those first few negative reviews definitely hit me hard. I wondered if writing was going to be my thing. I questioned whether I should even try to write a sequel or even a different type of book.
But your book will be for some people. Those people will (hopefully) tell you, like some of my readers did. It’s important to understand that you should be writing for you. If you like it, no one else should get to bring you down about it. Love what you love, write what you write, and be happy that you have a published novel.
It’s okay to promote yourself
One of my biggest hesitations when I started was announcing that I published a book. I felt like all of my friends and family would be confused about it or think I was promoting myself too much. After all, I wanted people to buy it. There’s no guilt in admitting that you want to make some money from your book that you worked so hard on.
Once I got over that awkward feeling of pushing my links, it became fun. I had wonderful conversations with people who wanted to write a book but had never found the time. I got to share my strategies, my experiences, and encourage others to do something they were passionate about. Half the time it wasn’t even about writing.
You are your marketing department as a self-published author. You can’t wait around for someone else to drop a link to your book. Find a balance between sharing your work and shoving it in people’s faces 24/7, especially because people can be annoying.
Following your creative ideas has an invisible stigma in the world today. It’s really unfortunate because there are many who don’t believe art or creative endeavors are worthy of being paid. I’m happy that I can change some of those ideas and help make an impact just by putting my work out into the world.
You don’t actually have to spend a lot of money
I’m sorry, but I strongly believe it’s possible to publish a high quality book by spending $0. Not everyone is capable of it, but it is possible.
I’ve spent a grand total of $1 to publish all nine of my books. I really liked a cover for one of my short stories and figured it was worth the investment. I made that $1 back.
Ignoring that I later invested in a writing software (Scrivener at $49) which helped streamline my writing and formatting process (saving me time and allowing me to produce more books faster), I’ve seen success by spending nearly no money at all.
Sure, higher quality images, fonts, editing, and other things might come at a cost, but there are plenty of great options available for free. It does require a lot of work on your end as the authorpreneur, which is what scares people away from doing it, but in the end it saves your budget so you can treat yourself to ‘fancy’ writing software and a $1 cover image.
It’s fun being in control
The greatest joy I’ve had is actually being in control of my work and how I market. I don’t have to rely on anyone but myself.
For some, that’s a terrifying reality. For someone with an authorpreneurial spirit, it gets you excited. I love being able to share my knowledge with others. I love getting to put that little call to action at the end of my articles that says I’m releasing another new book. I love my small community on Patreon that listens to my commentary episodes on the first book I wrote.
You get to drive the bus when you self-publish. You’re in charge of your efforts. Your name is on those covers. Isn’t that amazing?
You can find my self-published books here and under my pen name. I just published “The Low-to-No Budget Self-Publishing Guide” to help you minimize your costs as you look to self-publish your own books. If you want to join my tribe to hear when all of my newest releases come out, join here.