3 New Lessons I’ve Learned From Self-publishing My 3rd Book

3 New Lessons I’ve Learned From Self-publishing My 3rd Book

Getting a book into the world is really like delivering a baby.
You care 24/7 for it, make sure it gets the best treatment and then you punch it for not performing well.

Now seriously. I’ve just released my 3rd novel, a space opera called Fear The Liberator. Thanks to my email list, the book’s doing better than the first since I have already 7 person reviewing it on launching day. Doesn’t sound much, but seven good reviews are sooo much better than zero. Y’know, social proof and all. Now to be honest, my first two books flopped, partly because I didn’t have any experience and followed ideology instead of business sense. Below, I want to reveal my 3 new lessons I’ve learned from self-publishing my 3rd book:

Going exclusive on Amazon, at least in the beginning, is the way to go.

You’ve heard the same old saying all the time ‘Don’t put your eggs in one basket’, which is English for: don’t be Amazon’s bitch.
I say bullshit. Amazon’s the biggest bookstore on the planet and has the best track record of reaching genre readers.
Even the big indie authors that say you should diversify make 90% of their income through Amazon. (I know because I’ve asked some of them).

The authors doing well on Apple iBooks and Kobo do so because they get special promotions and discount deals, either because they know the folks in charge
or they have performed so well on Amazon they get preferred treatment from the other platforms. For a beginner with no track record, you might as well fire your manuscript into the void. And your hopes with it.

So, unless you’re publishing romance, which seems to perform well on all platforms, I say go exclusive on Amazon, build up your track record and then spread out. That’s how Hugh Howey, Jen Foehner Wells and Marko Kloos did it.
(As far as I know, Marko Kloos is still exclusive on Amazon and makes a little fortune. He just received an Amazon ‘thank you award’ for selling over a 100,000 books of his last book.)

You have to spend X amount of money.

Otherwise Alterrian trolls are gonna eat ya!

Seriously, I’m tired of all these blog posts that vomit some kind of arbitrary minimal cost for your book. It’s like the book’s lobby sponsoring those articles.

I’ve seen people spend up to 5K on their books.
I’ve seen people spending ZERO K on their books.

I’ve three books out, and so far, I’ve spent a whopping zero dollars on them. I have proofreaders that love to read my stuff, and a freelance editor that I exchange services with. Sure, it’s not as perfect as having a dedicated pro editor, but it’s good enough for the early career. Most people tend to forget what hungry genre readers really want:

Story, story, story.

Seriously, I’ve seen so many indie books, especially in the sci-fi and fantasy genre, with cringe-worthy misstaykes that make you question the author’s mental stability (maybe there were penned by monkeys from the Arkham Asylum)
And you know what?
They’re still attracting good sales and good reviews. Sure, some reviewers point out the errors out, but according to the sales ranking (often in the 1000s of Kindle sales), they’re doing just fine.

Remember, you don’t want your book to be an error parade–but if you’re low on cash, you have to be creative and compromise.

Lesson: whenever someone tells you that you HAVE to spend X amount of money on your book, they’re probably following ulterior motives. It’s obvious why an editor tells you to spend good money on editing, they have to secure their future. If you have no money, you can ship your book for free. You just need to spend extra time, approach people who dig your genre and/or swap services with proofreaders/editors. If there’s a cheapo will, there’s a cheapo way. I would only make an exception for the book cover-that has to be top-notch, so if you can’t create it yourself, find a person who can. Once you make money from your minimum viable book, invest it back via edits to make even better and thus make more money.

Unique is the death call to the unknown

Be unique! Stand out! Separate yourself from the masses!
These lines from second-rate self-help books make you all fuzzy inside, but they’re usually divorced from the reality of genre book selling.
I always believed gurus like Seth Godin who said you have to be a linchpin, a so-called creative ruckus maker who poop-a-loops on the conventions and dances outside the box.

Maybe that’s true for some markets, but especially in the self-publishing genre, unique can be the kiss of death for your fresh career. The following sentence hurts me, because I’m all about uniqueness, but even I realize the realities of the market:

People want what they already know with a dash of freshness.

With my first two books, I had a unique story and cover, and they bombed like proton torpedoes. The comic-style and different story lines deterred readers like I was selling rash with plague flavor.

My new story and cover is mainstream-ish, and it’s doing much better (I hope it continues to).

Why is that the case? Well, you have to think about the reader. He loves his genre, let’s say sci-fi, and he doesn’t know you. When he sees your unique book cover, he’s confused. Is that still sci-fi? Is it going to be so much different from my previous reads?

Add a unique book description and the confusion climaxes.

Your ‘unique’ book is a risk, the reader may waste time and money. Which means he’s going to ignore you. There goes your sale, sailing away to your competition. Remember, most humans are creatures of comfort. That’s why millions of people watch Avengers Versus Batman Versus Ninja Turtles and Transformers 7. They want more of the same, slightly different.

Once you make a name for yourself, i.e. become a genre niche star, you can write more unique stories since you have a built-in audience. That gives you leeway for experiments. But if you’re unknown, going for special means going for broke. I know from x-perience.


Writing books no one wants is bad for the wallet and your ego. I hope you can learn from my lessons and use it to create novels love to read and pay for.
Ah, yeah, if you want to check out my latest sci-fi space opera, here you go.

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  • Amelia Robin King

    1.-Exclusivity- I wonder why I didn’t suscribe my ebook to KDP from the beginning! My results are way more better, nothing spectacular but they improved, so when I published my second ebook I didn’t think twice. Exclusivity with Amazon is kind of the only option to doing decent sells, specially in my country where other plataforms are unavailable. Also the 98% of my sells come from the US and Europe so Amazon is my door with the outside world. (sorry if I sound like a commercial but it’s true!)

    2.-Spend money- Not me! I’m lucky because my sister do all my covers and my readers from Wattpad tell me if there is any typo or grammar mistake. Sure, having professional editors sounds great, but as you say, if you are starting there is no point on spending so much. I guess every author experience is different, but if it’s not a bad idea to do a little research or sailing in the DIY ship for a while. I understand many writers only want to write and that’s why they feel overwhelmed for all the things to do. I’m on the team of writers who really like to be involved in every step of the self publishing process even when sometimes is exhausting.

    3.-Uniqueness-So true. I mean I posted my YA/Humor/Romance novel on wattpad so I know what stories are popular there.

    There are many many stories about a hot and jerk guy who is mean with the female lead all the time (or One Direction fanfictions which follow the formula I mentioned) and most of those stories hited the Million of reads, so…

    In my novel there is this “bad boy” which is not a bad boy at all -He is not abusive or mean- and my readers love him. It’s funny because I can’t believe I wrote a novel with a bad boy on it,but now I have proof , some formulas or cliches actually work and if you can add your style or ideas great!

    Completely original it is death as you say.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Thanks for that insightful comment. Damn, girl, it’s almost longer than my post;)

      Now seriously–your experiences are very helpful. Self-publishing is a lot about experimentation, and I wish I could have applied the many lessons I know now. Amazon is THE indie publisher, but sometimes, I’m a little bit afraid–what if it falls apart or what if Amazon changes the rules drastically?

      Common business sense says: never lie your eggs in one basket.

      But on the other side, when you get more successful as an indie author, you can sell your book to traditional publishers and thus diversify your income. The next 2 years, I will focus exclusively on Amazon to build up my brand and then see how I can spread. Let’s keep in touch and share details and tips;)

      • Amelia Robin King

        LOL writing long comments it’s pretty much my thing.

        I’m a little worried about the omnipresence of Amazon in my self publishing life, and yeah I wish I could rely on other plattaforms like Google play, Smashwords and Itunes? (you know the Apple store). But I hear there aren’t many readers buying there.

        I guess I’m gonna try when I publish more books so I could subscribe some titles on KDP select and publish the rest on different plattaforms .

        Also, I’m ALWAYS thinking what if Amazon dissapears or if the policy of the service change drastically, just like Paypal.

        Experimenting, that’s the beauty of being an indie author.

        Another long comment, I did it again! :)

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