What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
Iíve been in traditional publishing for 20 years. My first book came out in 1991. I hit my first bestseller list in 1997 with my third Area 51 book. I first started self-publishing my backlist in January of 2010. I didnít really focus on it as I was still focused on my traditional publishing. It was only this year that I really decided to focus on self-publishing with my backlist, and my frontlist with a couple of original titles.
So speaking from that background, what does it take to succeed in self-publishing? I was asked that question this morning by a reporter from Germany interviewing me about self-publishing as Amazon Kindle has now opened for business in Germany (coincidentally a copy of Duty, Honor, Country sold on Kindle DE during the interview). The answer: The same as it does in traditional publishing. Good books. A lot of hard work. Focus. Consistency. Accepting that marketing is an integral part of being a writer.
I see writers on Forums complaining about their sales within days of uploading their first manuscript. I see them speculating on what they should be selling, what price point to choose, etc. etc. And I just shake my head. Perhaps one good thing coming out of traditional publishing is that you lose any sense of immediate gratification. That simply isnít the way it works. The fact you can check sales every day on Kindle, PubIt, LSI, etc. feeds into this Ďsuccess nowí syndrome. Frankly, Iím okay with it because it will cause many of the wanna-beís to quit sooner rather than later.
I think we really started to click at Who Dares Wins when we made a commitment to several things:
1. Be consistent. Itís easy to get discourage doing all those things need to build community and attract readers. But we made a commitment to doing those things every single day.
2. Be positive. Itís easy to get discouraged. To get snarky especially when people take shots at you. We took the attitude that we would never do anything that didnít have a positive side to it, no matter what we felt.
3. Slow down and do things right. Honestly, we rushed our first titles out in 2010 not completely understanding all that was involved. We had some bad covers, some lousy formatting, no marketing plan, etc. Now we do things right, no matter how long it takes.
4. Change when needed. We learned from our mistakes. We didnít try to hide or ignore when we screwed up. We admitted it and fixed problems. When we tried something and it didnít work, we examined why and made the hard decision whether to redo it a different way or drop it.
5. Be disciplined. Self-publishing is not an excuse to have no deadlines as a writer. In traditional publishing, your contract specifies a due date for the manuscript. For 20 years, I always beat or, at worst, met those deadlines on my own. This year, I sat down and scheduled publication dates. From that date we back up, factoring in all the steps needed to publish: beta readers, rewrites, edit, copy edit, cover, formatting, uploading, etc. etc. This gives us our production schedule. On the positive side for self-publishing, itís much leaner and quicker than traditional publishing.
6. Look forward and focus on the long term. In Warrior Writer I talk about a thing called Grit. Iíll post more on this later, but in essence the The key to success is to set a specific long-term goal and to do whatever it takes until the goal has been achieved. Thatís called Grit (defined as courage and resolve; strength of character).
In essence, all of the above are the same traits needed to succeed in any form of publishing. The difference indie publishing is that we have more control and, accordingly, more responsibility. In fact, as I teach in my Who Dares Wins consulting, these are also the traits that help anyone succeed in any field.
Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
Nice list! You here about the random success stories that can be inspirational but a little depressing when you realize it's not you! I think these tips are important (and, even better, realistic) to keep you in the self-publishing game.
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