I'm an idiot. A complete jackass. Let's just get that out of the way first. I thought that simply writing a book would be enough. Marketing? What's that? I thought that people would think - "Look at him! He published a novel at only 19 years of age! Let's all read it and love it and make him happy!"
Boy, was I wrong.
Since I don't want anyone else to repeat my mistakes, here are the top five lessons I learnt from self-publishing both my novels -
- Writing a book is only half the battle - Actually, perhaps even less than half. Ever wondered how a novel you hate has so much positive feedback? Or how a first-time author has so many reviews? It's because they properly marketed their book. Trust me, I know a few books that deserve awards, and are instead sitting idly on dusty, untouched shelves. If you self-publish, you won't have your publishing house doing all the marketing for you. No, that burden will fall squarely on your shoulders, and it's very hard work. Which brings me to my next lesson...
- Be prepared to spend some money - Even if you find a publishing house with whom you can publish your novel for free, you will have to spend a good amount of money to promote it. Buying promotion packages, social media advertising, advertising in general, all require money. Prepare to run at a loss for the first few months, even years. If you've got an image in your head of hitting Publish and watching piles of notes fall into your lap, you're out of luck.
- Be active on social media - This is the one area I will never be able to commit to, because I am a born introvert. Twitter and Instagram are great social media platforms for spreading the word about your book. But social media marketing goes beyond simply tweeting a link to your book and then wondering why no one's clicking on it. You have to make connections first, healthy relationships. Build a following.
- Speaking of a following - In the first line of this article, we established how I'm an idiot. Here's another reason. I didn't have a following when I published my first novel. Hell, I wasn't even on social media. Think of it this way. A bullet travels fast, but the universe is expanding at a faster rate. If you fire a bullet in space, it won't reach nearby stars. Not at the speed it's going at. Similarly, unless you have an established fanbase, a group of dedicated followers, you won't be able to keep up with your competition. Simply publishing a book and expecting people to read it is like walking out of the cave you've been in for the past 5 years, standing in the middle of Times Square, and yelling - "I've published a book!" Pardon the language, but no one gives a shit. No one knows you. If they don't know you, they don't trust you. If they don't trust you, they don't trust your work. Ergo, they won't read your work. I cannot overstate the importance of having an organic, dedicated following prior to publishing your book. In a way, you're not selling your books. You're selling you.
- Some of the backlash toward self-publishing is justified - I hate ending on a bad note, but you will not believe the kind of absolute filth I've read in the past two years. I won't name names, obviously, but here's the thing - self-publishing makes it accessible to publish a book. Literally anyone can do it. Which, in a way, is a very good thing. But it also means that every once in a while, you will come across writing that makes your skin crawl, that makes you feel ashamed of identifying as a self-published author. Yes, it's that bad. Of course, then there are those works that'll make you wonder why they aren't winning any awards. There seems to be no middle ground in self-publishing. Either it's very good, or it's crap. All of this is to say that you'll face some judgement when you declare yourself to be a self-published author. Don't let it faze you - as long as you're confident in your writing ability, you'll make it.
In case anyone's interested, I write crime thriller novels that also tackle various mental health issues in today's time (based on my own experiences with clinical depression and GAD). They've both been favorably-reviewed. You can find The Rage Within here.