How to be a success in Self-Publishing

Plenty of people have written how-to manuals concerning self-publishing. If you wish, you can probably buy a new one every week. How does one become a success? The basics are fairly intuitive, though I am somewhat dismayed at the number of self-publishers who ignore these basics with all the dedication of an ostrich with its head plunged happily in the sand.

First, write a story. Write a good one that other people will want to read. You can write for yourself, true, but why don’t you write for yourself and others at the same time?

Second, write the story well. To do this, you must have a good understanding of English or whatever language you’re writing in. The main way you acquire a good understanding of good writing is to read good books. Try to avoid bad books. They are the equivalent of fast food. They might taste good, but they will make you fat and give you a coronary sometime down the road. Watching a lot of television or cute kitten videos on Youtube will not help you become a good writer.

Third, have lots of mean people read your story and then tell you what’s bad about it. Listen to them. If you aren’t emotionally capable of handling this kind of criticism, you shouldn’t be a writer.

Fourth, rewrite.

Fifth, hire a professional editor to rip your manuscript to pieces.

Sixth, rewrite. Repeat steps three and four if necessary.

Seventh, hire a professional cover designer to design your cover. Do not have your little sister do it, even if she owns a copy of Adobe lllustrator and Photoshop. There is a reason why some people are professional designers and some people are not.

Eighth, upload your manuscript and cover to Amazon’s KDP & Createspace, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Smashwords. Write an amazing, compelling blurb as part of this process (go read other people’s blurbs to get a good idea of how to do this). Hit the publish button.

Ninth, peruse a lot of book review sites. Carefully read their guidelines about submitting books for review. Politely submit your book for reviews if acceptable. Do a paperback giveaway on Goodreads.

Now, here’s the thing. Writing an amazing book, having it edited well, hiring a good cover designer, etcetera, will not guarantee sales of any kind. There’s a large amount of luck or fate or providence or what-have-you involved in book sales. Wonderful books languish and die in the Amazonian ditch. Mediocre books sometimes skyrocket into the sales stratosphere. Mystery abounds.

It’s kind of like that with the rest of life. Take a good, hard look around you. I’ll bet there are plenty of talented, decent folks that you know who never get anywhere in life. And by “anywhere” I mean success, material gain, money. Entrepreneurs start up businesses, plunging their life’s savings into the affair, and promptly go bankrupt. Smart, well-intentioned people can beat their heads against the brick wall of life and get exactly nowhere after fifty years.

Other people, however, talented or not, seem touched by a golden hand. Everything they do seems to prosper. They pick the right stocks, they get the promotion at the right time. Their start-up does tremendously well.

There’s not often a rhyme or reason to life’s wheel of fortune. You can do your part, your due diligence and sweat equity, but it is not a guarantee of success. The book industry is like that as well.

So what’s the takeaway here? Contentment. If you can choose to be content, regardless of the outcome of your book, or your job, or the quality of your bank account, if you can choose to be content despite all that, then you’ve done very well. In fact, I would say you are a legitimate success.

Be content, even if you don’t sell well. Be content, even if you do sell well. Mind you, I’m not saying you should stop trying to get reviews, stop trying to write, stop trying to get your stories out there. But, regardless of what’s going on, be content.

Are you content?

2 thoughts on “How to be a success in Self-Publishing”

  1. Thanks, for that second-to-last (third-to-last?) paragraph. I needed to hear that just now, not with regards to my writing, but other aspects of my life.

    1. I needed to hear all that myself. Actually, I need to hear it every day. Contentment is a freakishly difficult lesson. It almost seems like it’s only partially learnable.

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