Co-written with Amy Edelman.
This is part three in a series about what authors who are self-publishing need to know -- not sugar coated and not exaggerated.
Part One is here, you might want to peruse it first. We covered: First you need to Write a Great Book and Self Publish for the Right Reasons. In Part Two, here, we covered Damn It, Learn the Business, and Watch for Pickpockets.
5. No One Owes You Anything
Like we said -- and it bears repeating-- even if writing is an art, publishing is a business. Even self-publishing. So you need to act like a business person, with all the people you deal with, and treat everyone with respect.
From the copy editor, to the people the people you try to get reviews from -- don't act as if anyone owes you anything. They don't. Yes, you may be broke. And yes, your book may be the best thing since Harry Potter. But everyone has to make a living. Don't ask for favors from strangers. Don't ask them to lower their prices for you for no good reason. Even if you are in your bedroom wearing bunny slippers and pjs -- when you email the cover designer you need to treat her right if you want her to treat you right back.
There's an old saying ... you get what you pay for. And if you aren't willing to pay for things that are important (an editor, a cover designer, pinpointed advertising, a publicist to help you get reviews) you may as well file the book into a folder on your desktop and get a job at the Gap.
6. Embrace the control
One of the biggest differences between you and a traditionally published author is that a self-pubbed author is responsible for everything. Not just writing the book -- but cover design, editing, producing, distribution and publicity as well.
An author can look at that as either a good or a bad thing. There are many traditionally published authors who have hated the cover their publisher's decided on. Or the title or the marketing or the advertising. But there was nothing they could do about it.
As a self-published author you have the choice. Embrace the power to create a book that is truly yours. Don't be a whiner or a copycat. Remember, for every author who gives you his tried and true method of how to do it, there will be another author who did it exactly opposite and succeeded too. Learn what you can but be true to your vision.
Money is tight and books -- especially these days -- are bountiful. People don't buy books --even $.99 ones -- without reading an excerpt or a few reviews on the page at the online bookstore. Ten thousand people may click on your book, but not one will hit "buy" if it doesn't grab their attention, intrigue them, amuse them, or move them.
Writing a book is a creative process. Think of publishing and selling your book as an extension of that process.
7. Not Everyone is Amanda Hocking
Amanda Hocking is one in a million. Literally. Over a million books were self published last year. No one else even came close to the number of copies she sold.
In fact you might be surprised to know how few authors sold more than a thousand copies.
In a recent article in the Washington Post, Smashwords founder Mark Coker said, "We have less than 50 people who are making more than $50,000 per year. We have a lot who don't sell a single book."
Amazon's Jeff Bezos concurred: "There are a lot of books, even low-priced, on Kindle that are not selling at all."
As we've said in Part One and Part Two, you shouldn't self publish because you are impatient. Or because you don't like rejection.
And you shouldn't self publish based on the exceptions either.
It's easy to name the five or six authors who have gotten famous self-publishing. But they are still the exception. The hard cold truth is success is a long shot whether you self publish or traditionally publish.
So if you decide to do it, please, do it for the right reasons.
Learn everything you can. Arm yourself with knowledge. Be rational. Be careful. Be bold. Embrace the creativity and celebrate the accomplishment because no matter who publishes you -- there's nothing like setting out to write a book and achieving your goal.
M.J. Rose is the internationally bestselling author of 11 traditionally published novels, one self-published novel and one self-published nonfiction book -- Buzz your Book. In 1999, Rose's novel, Lip Service, was the first self-published book (e and print) to be discovered online and bought by a traditional publishing house. Rose is also the founder of the first marketing company for authors -- AuthorBuzz.com -- and one of the founding board members of ITW. She can be reached at AuthorBuzzco@gmail.com.
Amy Edelman is the author of two traditionally published books and one indie that she sold to a traditional publisher. She has been a publicist for two decades and is the founder of IndieReader.com. She can be reached at Amy@indiereader.com