In 2014 I self-published my first book “ An Expat’s Guide to Ireland”, using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). In 2018, I updated that book and published a new book “ How to Manage Your Manager.” For the update to “An Expat’s Guide to Ireland” I expanded beyond Amazon, publishing to Smashwords as well.
In the process of publishing both books, I learned a few things. So, here are a few of the lessons I learned when self-publishing.
Find a Good Editor
I am notorious for having bad grammar and spelling. I tend to write quickly, spewing my thoughts onto the keyboard in half connected sentences, then do a bad job of checking my writing in the rewriting process. So, I knew that when publishing my books, I would need to find a good and patient editor.
For “An Expat’s Guide to Ireland” I let a friend read it for a first round of feedback and after rewriting based on that feedback, I sent it to a paid editor. After going to a few websites and Facebook groups I found someone who edited the type of writing I was doing, and the reviews she had were positive. I sent her the book and she sent it back with the edits which to my ignorance looked good.
After publishing the book, however, a few people left reviews on errors included in the book missed by both of us. The cost of this editor was $150 dollars. For my second book, I spent $460 dollars on the editor. He did a much better job for a reasonable price. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for” and when it comes to spending on a good editor, the cost is worth the money.
YOU Need to Promote the Book
There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of self-published books. Simply putting the book online will not create sales. The way to create sales is for you to promote it. The best time to start this is before the book is published, by creating an audience. Set up social media accounts and pages on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Post articles on those platforms to get followers and to create an audience. That way when you do publish the book you have someone who will be looking forward to reading it.
Reviews are like Gold
What helps sales is getting reviews, especially when they are labeled as a verified sale on Amazon. A great place to start with this is friends and family. When posting links on social media be sure to ask for reviews (or do the same in email lists if you use those). This is also where that audience you have already built up comes in handy.
With my second book, I tried giving it to people on Kindle for the first 3 days of release for free. I posted the news on my Facebook page and hoped that a few people would read it and take the time to write a review. They didn’t. I ended up giving away digital copies of my book for nothing in return. A lesson learned for next time: if someone gets something for free, they don’t value it.
Since most people who self-publish do so through Amazon KDP, authors can make a little extra from the sale of each book through the affiliate program. The two links provided in the intro to this article link to the books on Amazon through the Amazon Affiliate program. What this means is, if someone clicks on the link and purchases a copy of the book, I get the percentage of the sale through KDP but also additional revenue through Amazon Affiliate.
Develop a Thick Skin
If you put yourself out there, especially on the internet, you will get trolls and rude comments no matter how good your book is. I have one guy who left negative reviews on both my books and based on the reviews he (I’m assuming he) has never read either book. He decided he didn’t like the title of the first one and has trolled me since for some bizarre reason.
Also, be open to criticism. I’m sure you think you are brilliant and so is your writing, but some reviews from people you don’t know are worth paying attention to. In my case it was thanks to reviews pointing out the errors in my first book that made me aware that I had selected a cheap editor instead of a good editor.
There are plenty of people out there who will review your book for you. Usually, all you need to do is provide a free copy of the book to them — easy to do if you have it in digital form such as a PDF. Also, Facebook has groups were people will post to share copies of their books in exchange for reviews. This is a great way to get more reviews as well as get the word of your book out there. Just be aware that they might not like the book and might say so in their review.
Most people who self-publish books don’t make money from it, or if they do make money, it might only be a few dollars a month, not enough to live on. But there are things that can be done to make a profit on your self-published novel. And that is to release a quality product and then spending the time and energy to promote it in ways that will allow others to read the fruit of your labor.