5 Things I Learned in My First Year of Self-Publishing
Wow, I can't believe I'm writing this.
TRUTH REVEALED, the last book in the ESI series, came out this morning.
If you had asked me this time last year, I NEVER would've imagined that I would self-publish 4 books in one year. It has been a rollercoaster of an experience: exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, depressing, and inspiring... all at the same time!
If you're thinking of self-publishing a book or if you're just curious about the process, here's a list of 5 things I learned in my first year of self-publishing.
These are the things I wish someone had told me when I started.
1. It's Not The "Easier" Option
Before I decided to self-published, I watched a lot of panels and read a lot of articles about the pros and cons of self-publishing instead of traditional publishing. Traditional publishing, as you may know, consists of querying your book until you find an agent that agrees to represent you. That agent then sells your book to a publishing house, and most of the time, they do most of the work. Self-publishing, on the other hand, makes YOU the publisher (as the name implies). This means that all the work falls on you.
I've seen and heard people say that self-publishing is the route that writers go when they can't get their books published. And while some may do it for that reason, I've found that most writers have legitimate reasons for choosing self-publishing, and it's definitely NOT a backup option or an easier path than traditional publishing.
In fact, I would argue that it's MUCH harder. Not only do you have to be self-motivated and extremely organized, but you have to learn a ton of new skills - like editing, formatting, and marketing, to name a few.
When I published my first book, DUAL INNOCENCE, I had no idea what I was doing. I read a lot and watched a lot of YouTube videos by authors a lot more successful than me. It went a lot better than I expected, but I learned so much through the process!
2. Consistency Is Key.
When it comes to self-publishing, consistency is key. This advice applies to ALL areas of self-publishing, especially if you're writing a series or multiple books in the same genre.
It's important that your writing is consistent through your books, yes, but not just that. Think about your cover design, branding, social media presence... It all needs to be seamless. When a reader stumbles across your Instagram page, for example, they should get a feel for you as an author. That feeling (light and airy, dark and broody, humorous, etc) should match the books you write and your presence on other platforms.
I wish I had thought of this from the beginning. I had a Facebook and Instagram page, but when I published my first book, I hadn't yet figured out what my brand looked like. Now that it's a little more cohesive, I get much better returns from my readers!
3. Don't Waste Money On Ads*
... Unless you do your research first.
If you're self-publishing through Amazon like most authors do, you'll soon learn about Amazon ads. I cannot stress this enough - DO NOT mess with them unless you take the time to educate yourself first.
I dove into Amazon ads right away, thinking I could figure it out as I went, but it was an expensive mistake. After 6 months running ads, I've spent roughly $750... but I've only seen $360 in sales from those ads.
Amazon ads can be extremely lucrative and I know a lot of authors who have seen amazing returns (especially with KDPRocket), but it can be a money trap if you don't know what you're doing. Yikes!
4. Community Is Everything.
I can't even begin to express how much I love the writing community. You won't find a more supportive community anywhere else on the internet!
If you're looking to self-publish (or even if you're going the traditional route or just writing, period), start following other authors on Instagram. Join some Facebook groups for authors (I highly recommend 20Booksto50K) and start connecting with other writers. This is a great way to find writing advice, tips and tricks, and real insight into the publishing industry! Or, heck - even just a virtual shoulder to cry on as you're pushing to the end of your deadline.
5. Rapid-Release Isn't For Everyone.
If you're just dipping your toes into self-publishing, maybe you haven't heard of rapid-release yet. Don't worry - you will.
Rapid-release is a self-publishing strategy where you write and publish books really quickly - like within weeks or a couple months of each other - to generate buzz and rapidly increase your revenue.
If you look around on the 20BooksTo50K Facebook group, you'll run across this really quickly. Some authors over there swear by it, and it has worked wonders for their bottom line!
When I published DUAL INNOCENCE (my first book) in July, I had the second book in the series ready to go, and the third book was halfway written. I rapid-released book 2 a few months after book 1 (in October), then set a rapid-release date for book 3 in January.
By the time book 2 released, I still hadn't made any headway on book 3. So I rushed to finish that book. Then when it released, I hadn't written ANYTHING for book 4. Now I had an audience expecting the 4th book a couple of months later, but there was no way I could write a book that fast. So I had to delay the release until 5 months later.
Whew. I get anxious just thinking about it.
Rapid-release works really well for some authors, but it makes more sense in my life (while juggling being a full-time mom to a toddler) to take it easy and space out my releases.
Moral Of The Story
At the end of the day, I'm so grateful that I've had the opportunity to self-publish. I've learned so much along the way and I've had so much fun learning all these new skills. I know that I will continue to learn as I publish more books, and I can't wait to see where the future takes me!
Are you thinking of self-publishing? What about traditional publishing? Let me know in the comments below. I'd love to chat about it!