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

Hey there! I'm a philosophy dropout and book cover designer with a PhD in Literature. After spending a decade as a starving artist, I vowed to create the life of freedom my restless spirit demands. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write young adult fantasy novels and do a few editorial critiques to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles. FREE GUIDE: Book Marketing is Dead.