There is no conspiracy against self-published books – just shitty ones.

This is a short post: I hear a lot of indie authors complaining about how everybody is against them. Reviewers won’t touch their book. They can’t get into bookstores. Everywhere they try to promote their book they hear things like “we don’t work with self-publishing authors.”

That can seem like prejudice.

It can seem unfair to group all indie authors together into a big group, to generalize and stereotype.
Surely there are some great indie books, if only everybody would give them a chance!?

Here’s the truth

Publishers, bookstores and everybody else desperately want to find and get a piece of that next great self-published novel. If your book is the next Twilight or Shades of Gray – people will work with you, no matter what.

Here’s another truth: there are hundreds of thousands of self-published books and many of them are shit.

Some of them have covers so ugly nobody will take them seriously. Some of them have amazing book covers but the story is boring or poorly written.

Even if the product itself is pretty good, you’re probably screwing things up by being unprofessional or having an ugly website.

People working in the publishing industry get hundreds of queries a day, and they need to find a firm, polite way to dismiss amateur book projects without being mean. They could just write back and say, “Sorry but your writing was terrible and your book cover looks like my 4-year old’s refrigerator art.” But instead they give you a line about not working with indie authors.

It’s an easy blanket statement.

How to win at self-publishing

You don’t need to whine and complain that nobody will give your book a chance. You don’t need media or bookstores or big companies to accept you. You don’t need anyone’s permission or anybody’s help.

You don’t need to fight against “the system.”

With a 5 day KDP select free promo and $100 dollars in targeted ads, you can have your book read by 10,000 readers.

At that point, it will either change people’s lives – making them gush about it to all of their friends and score hundreds of glowing reviews – or it will earn a “meh” response and do nothing.

Most of the indie authors I know are out building big self-publishing platforms and networking and marketing… working much harder than they have to because they’re still using a mediocre book cover. They’ve either never done a good free campaign or they have and figure “all those people downloaded the book but nobody reviewed it… maybe people don’t really read the books they download for free.”

In short, they’re wasting a lot of time and energy that they should be using to improve their writing. Yes, you can make a lot of money self-publishing, if you write really good books.

Really good books don’t come easily, and it takes a lot of practice to get good at writing.

Writing one book is not enough practice.

If you sell it, they will come

The industry is changing so fast a lot of mainstream publishing houses are finding ways to allow indie author submissions, just in case. But the most straightforward way to succeed in self-publishing is to sell a lot of books. If you sell a lot of books, people will come to you with offers.

You don’t need permission or help, you need sales. And while you can market your way up the bestselling lists for awhile, you can’t hit the big numbers unless your book is amazing.

So if your book isn’t successful – it’s your fault, not anybody else’s. Go write another.

 

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
  • It happens. It’s hard to avoid with the first book, you’re blind to the faults. But we learn.

  • Desmond X Torres

    Well, a little tough love here, man– and you’re right. I’m
    an indie author, and I rarely read works by other Indies because they’re too
    hard to get through. And I’m talking about books in genres I enjoy! I can only
    imagine what it’s like for general readers.

    I have found in many places on the web a general consensus
    from many successful writers that you don’t get good at this thing until you’ve
    committed a million finished words to paper. I so didn’t want to believe that
    when I started self pubbing, but my own experience proves that out. It’s too
    easy to hit publish, and many of us have done so before the book’s ready.
    Whether it’s the title, cover, blurb or the writing, not enough time, effort or
    $ was spent developing skills.

    Hence the flood of dross- the overwhelming flood.

    My first four books… well, they shitty shitty sucked
    sucked. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, because my ego got in the way.
    The market fixed that, believe me.

    Honestly, it wasn’t until I had 400K finished words that I
    started to begin to kinda get good. I kept at it, and developed patience. As in
    let the m/s sit for a few weeks in first draft, THEN go back to it. (King’s On
    Writing talks a lot about this).

    All together as of today I’ve put about 700K words down.
    I’ve gone from shitty shitty suck suck to ‘hey, pretty good shit’. Under a
    different pen name, I’m doing about $2K/ month. Not great, but considering my
    royalties for July of 2013 was six dollars, I’m doing something right. I’m also
    spending more time on the craft. I can’t afford conferences, but I can spend
    time learning from some masters anyway- YouTube is a gift.

    One difference I’ve seen between TradPub and IndiePub
    websites is that the TradPub sites (blogs for the most part) devote a lot of
    time to the craft, whereas the IndiePub sites spend most of the time on sales
    and marketing. Yes, the NY Big 5 and Company have heinous contracts, are more
    interested in paper sales, and look at new authors as totally disposable. OTOH…
    they respect good writing.

    Writing’s a long game, the Gold Rush of Indie Pubbing is
    over. I only began to write in 2012, and felt I missed the boat! Sales are
    harder to come by across the board from what I’ve seen on the forums I belong
    to.

    However, I do believe that we’re entering the beginning of a
    Golden Age of Indie Pubbing that’s going to last a long, long time. More
    readers are entering the market every day thanks to Google Play and Amazon. The
    overall market is increasing daily. Those of us who are willing to do the scut
    work of re-writes, edits, and so forth are going to do well. Those of us who
    aren’t willing to do the hard work will fail. It’s a cliché maybe, but ‘Successful
    people do the stuff that unsuccessful people won’t’. And it will center on
    improved quality of writing.

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