Things I Thought Would Be Different About Self-Publishing

This self-publishing thing hasn’t gone exactly the way I thought it would, posting my books on CreateSpace and Smashwords. I tend to think more positively than reality affords, and I’m aware of it, so I’m not surprised very often when I am wrong. Things I was mistaken about:

1. Visibility for my book is low. For some reason I thought people would see my books. My sales numbers have been waywayway lower than I thought they’d be. I’ve been writing so much about self-promotion because I’ve been trying to fix this. You can’t just put them up and see them sold, though. You have to work to draw people toward your books even if they only cost 99 cents as an ebook.

2. Most of my Facebook friends are not interested in my book. They don’t want to read it, or comment about it, or tag it. I have a few wonderful friends who are the ultimate fans, but overall (unless I am also completely invisible on Facebook) people aren’t interested. I had thought that I could get at least 50 sales from facebook. Oh well.

3. Promotion is endless and can take up all your time. I couldn’t just put up my website and go. To promote, I have to constantly post (see these words in front of your eyes), converse in various places about my book and others, read others’ posts, and squeeze each contact out of the internet like the last of the toothpaste. I have recently said ENOUGH and I’m not looking for more promotion ideas, or joining any other communities to promote. There are too many and I do want to write and pay attention to my family occasionally.

4. I may not “pay off” my book with profits before the end of the year. I made deals with my editor and artists, as a concession to my first book status, to accept payment when I made money on the book. I can’t exactly send them checks for percentages of an $8 month’s profits. If things don’t pick up, I’ll have to dip into my household budget to pay them off at the end of the year. I also was (heh) hoping to make enough to pay up front for editing and art for the next book. Yeah, I know. Now I am wondering but not brave enough to ask my husband if we can just suck it up and pay it to get another book out. I really want to keep going, you know?

5. There is more money to be made in promoting someone’s book than in writing and selling a book. If you really want to just write and have somebody else worry about it, you can. I would love to do that, but it will cost money I can’t spare. If I could get paid to do for others what I have done for myself, that would be awesome. But again there is my whopping $8 monthly payout, which wouldn’t cut it with another author paying me to promote them. Grrrr…

6. There was another one that I thought of between 4 and 5 and if I can remember it again I’ll put it here. Yes, this is how I roll. I know. If you have kids or anything else to do in life besides read blogs, you’ll know that it gets worse, not better.

***And I remembered #6 a day later. Dur. I thought when I emailed/filled out forms to get reviews from book review blogs that I would get responses in a week or so. Nope. It’s at least 4 weeks I guess for the bigger blogs if that.***

Anyway…I’m tired of writing and I know most of you won’t read this far. I’ll pull a joke off some random website to end: I Googled “joke write” and got a bunch of tutorials for writing a joke. You know that your joke writing is going entirely the wrong direction if you need a tutorial. I’m just sayin’. So I Googled “joke writers” and found and picked the first joke, which was good enough to be first.

“There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer. When asked to define great, he said, “I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream, cry, howl in pain and anger!” He now works for Microsoft writing error messages.”

(Note for the author of jokesaboutwriters: Why did you use such a tiny font and put so many spaces in your post?)

Also, I can’t see that there is any way to change font size in WordPress. If you know this vital information, please comment. I just clicked “remove formatting” to un-tiny the joke. I will write a review for your book in exchange (unless it is erotica. Women with wild imaginations like me shouldn’t mess with erotica. Bad things happen.)

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Categories: Self-Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “Things I Thought Would Be Different About Self-Publishing

  1. I enjoyed your post. I too have self-published some books and they just sit there and don’t do much. My newest book is traditionally published and there’s a lot of work involved in marketing. It wears me out! But it’s also opening up doors to share Jesus with others so I’ll keep at it. Keep up the good work and don’t give up. Have you considered submitting to publishers?

    • I have, but the work involved in that path would be more difficult with my family situation. I could put my work out there right now with self-publishing instead of waiting, revising, and mailing and all the other work involved in courting a publisher. Also, I get to choose which publicity work is best for me and not what a publisher wants me to do.

  2. quillwielder

    Hey Kate,
    I’m sorry that you feel so disheartened at the moment. I understand how you feel and I haven’t even gone into self-publishing yet. I’ve been following your progress and this is the first time I’ve seen you so down.
    I know it can be hard and I wish I could think of something amazing to write here that would make you feel better. I’ve gone through some rough patches myself and people have always tried to encourage me to keep going.
    Maybe we need to think about why we got into writing. Was it for the money or the joy of writing a book? This probably doesn’t help at all and I sorry if this just annoys you.
    When I’m feeling down I like to just write the first things that come to my head and eventually I get to the root of the problem and I feel better afterwards.
    Really I just think I’m rambling on awkwardly now because I’ve been trying to think of something to solve or your problems, but I guess life isn’t like that, unfortunately.
    So I’ll end by saying that I always read all your posts and check your site everyday for new ones. Please don’t give up and I hope things get better for you soon.

    • Thank you for your encouragement! I DIDN’T write my book to make money. You’re right! It’s so easy to lose track of what is important with all of the promotion hype out there.
      I am so glad you like my posts! Thanks for commenting and making my blog more valuable.

  3. maggiepublishing

    Kate – I read your post last night and have been turning it around in my head since then. I’m only a little baby step ahead of you in this self-publishing process (I put my first novel up for sale on 9/17), so I have no particular wisdom! Like you, I’m just feeling my way through all of this. I did want to say just a couple of things though:

    First, what you’re doing with your blogging is AWESOME. This might sound strange, but I think the fact that you post such interesting/useful information, and that you do it so regularly is actually doing you more good than the actual tips you’re digging up. Truly! And not because your tips aren’t useful!! It’s that you have such a good voice for the kind of writing you’re doing. You’re an enjoyable read, in addition to being helpful. This is really, really, really good marketing for you. Don’t discount that! I haven’t read The Disenchanted Pet yet (I’m sorry! It’s in my queue of things to buy, I just haven’t had time lately to think about buying new books.) But I really want to read it, because I like your blogging so much.

    I’ve also recommended your site to others on my blog – because of its usefulness, and because of its readability. Not that I have many readers as yet (so I don’t imagine I’ve helped you much there!) But I’m slowly getting more, which might then turn some more readers your way. One bit of promotion begets more, begets more, begets more…right? I think your blogging is so well-written (and I’ve read lots and lots of publishing blogs in the last year). You’re positioning yourself so wonderfully within the community of people who are interested in publishing and writing (doing it, or reading about it.) Don’t feel that you’re wasting your time with this! I would even say that you’re talented enough at this kind of writing that you might want to think about doing more things like this (“helping other writers” kinds of things). Maybe do some reviews? Let people solicit you, and spread the word of your site to their friends (who will go to it to read the review you wrote.) I don’t know if that’d be interesting to you or not – but you just have such a good voice for talking about books/authoring/writing, I think you’d be really good at it.

    Beyond that, I want to say: don’t allow concerns about paying out for editing and cover art keep you from publishing more books! There are ways to get these things for free. Take a look, if you get a chance, at the cover for the short story I put up on Smashwords recently (City Wedding). It’s a papercut that a friend did for me, and then I converted it to be a cover myself. I think it came out really nice. And FREE! I would highly recommend working out some sort of trade with an artist for cover art (they give you something to use, you give them exposure in return.) I can give you some names if you don’t know anyone. But this is a cool way to get something that looks pretty – and also help out another struggling artist (which is good karma, right?!)

    As for editing, you can always do what I did: give your book to somebody with a good eye, who doesn’t read your genre (and, hence, won’t get caught up in the story so much and miss something.) For me, it was my dad. I gave him my medieval romance novel (love scenes and all). It was a little embarrassing – but I ended up with a meticulously edited novel!

    The point is, do whatever you can (as cheaply as you can) to get more stuff out there. I think, frankly, that there’s nothing more important for marketing than having multiple books for sale. I was a bookseller for a lot of years – and I really, really think multiple publications makes a big difference. More than it should. It’s the subtle assumptions we all make, as readers. Don’t you kind of thing somebody’s more “the real thing” if you walk into a bookstore and see several titles on the shelf? You just kind of inherently assume they have a readership (and hence, must be good) if they have that many books. Not to mention that everybody loves to “find a new author” – somebody they can discover and then sit back and read through all their stuff. I know I do, as a reader.

    My advice (again, with all my vast experience!!): don’t worry anymore about direct promotion of The Disenchanted Pet. Continue blogging. And then put all your other energy toward getting more publications. You’re coming up on the holiday season. Play with that a little! How about taking a side character or plot or something from The Disenchanted Pet and writing a short story or novella about it? Or a few of them, if you can manage it? Get them up and out before the holidays with the best covers you can manage on short notice and see what happens. Maybe nothing will happen…but you never know. Play around with ideas like that.

    To give you some perspective: I had this idea for a romance series recently. I wrote a short story introducing it and put it up on Smashwords on 10/17, for free – essentially as a teaser for the first novel in the series (which I put an excerpt of at the end of the short story.) I had a nice cover (this is City Wedding, that I mentioned earlier) and a decent product description.

    Since the 17th, it’s been downloaded 66 times. 66!! My medieval novel, in contrast, had been (by 10/17) excerpted 5 times, with about as many copies sold on Amazon (poke all you want at your $8…you’re ahead of me in profit!!)

    I haven’t done a thing to promote City Wedding. I have lots of things I PLAN to do, but I haven’t done them yet. I’m blown away by this 66 number. And, after weeks of doing nothing, excerpts and sales of my medieval novel have also increased – I’m certain as a result of City Wedding. Same thing with readership to my blogs. It’s kind of nutty.

    I think it’s all about plugging away at writing, being patient for the slow build, playing to your strengths and being creative about your marketing…and above all, trying not to be disheartened!!! Seriously…you’re too good a writer not to achieve the success you want eventually. Hang in there!

    (This is like the longest comment anybody’s every written. Sorry about that!)

    • Thanks, Maggie! Your post wasn’t too long at all! Thanks for the feedback about my blog (especially since it was so positive! 😉 It makes me feel better to know that I’m not foundering in the sea of self-publishing, but just swimming at the level of my “age”. Hopefully that is something else good about my blog, that people can see what it is really like to self-publish. I think you’re right that I should push to publish my second book soon.

    • quillwielder

      Wow! That was very inspired Maggie. I enjoyed reading this.

  4. alchemyofscrawl

    I hear ya and have been somewhere on that spectrum at some point or another. I made the decision to love the process no matter what the outcome. 🙂 Kinda takes the pressure off.

  5. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for “Liking” my post, it led me here. 🙂 I enjoyed your post and I’m looking forward to reading more. It sounds like we’re at about the same place in our self-publishing careers. My first book, VEILED MIRROR, was released by a small press. My second, LIGHTBRINGER, is my first indie release. It came out for Kindle and Nook and on Smashwords about three weeks ago and I’ve sold five copies so far.

    From what I’ve read, Maggie has it right. Getting more of our work out there on the virtual bookstore shelves is our best promotion. That, and building word of mouth by getting reviews.

    Have you read David Gaughran’s book, LET’S GET DIGITAL? It’s very good, and one of the best things is that he includes the personal success stories of 30 self-published authors. If they can do it, we can!

  6. Great post for me right now because I feel pretty much the same way. Excellent advice in the comments too. You have great readers, Kate. I have 304 friends on facebook and 81 on my fan page, over 400 twitter followers and despite great reviews, I have sold the grand total of 10 books in one month. I wasn’t expecting much (it’s a short story) but that is pretty pathetic for that number of contacts. I also have email newsletter lists of around 100 people (different people often). I figure they don’t really care or they’re really good at ignoring stuff that comes their way. (I’m going to write a post on that) I’m doing what maggie said now, concentrating on getting more books out there. I’ve just published an anthology of ss and am in the final stages of finishing a novella, the hsort sotires are planned to be freebies once the novella is out… I might post my business plan on my blog sometime. The point is that I have to remind myself that this is all part of a plan, that all I’m doing rigt now is setting it in motion. One step at a time – I just brought your book by the way and if I like it, I’ll be retweeting your tweets and hope you’ll do the same for me.

  7. er – where’s your twitter link? You are on Twitter aren’t you?

  8. Thalia,
    Same problem, different book. Shrug. C’est la vie, mon ami. I’ll read your book soon 🙂 PROMISE!

  9. Kate, Thanks for visiting my blog earlier today. Yes, it seems we are experiencing similar frustrations but we’re both still plugging away. Not sure if this means we’re determined or just stubborn. Who knew promotion and marketing would end up being the main focus of writing? I know I didn’t. But that’s just one of the potholes on the indie writer’s journey. I wish you good luck with your self publishing adventure. I’m sure our paths will cross again.

  10. Promote. (Createspace too, of course). Lulu gives you an automatic pdf anybody can download anywhere – nice price!

    Money just keeps leaking in — I don’t keep track until tax time.

    Write the next one, post it too, do your morning 1 hour marketing, keep going.

    Now go find out some more weird stuff to write about. And learn to draw, if you want art – or get a camera! Most private persons CANNOT afford first-class illustrations — not good ones — and they certainly can’t afford art copyrights. It’s why even Steven Hawking’s books look like the art was chipped out of some magazine and GIMP’d.

    SOME people have my art. I wish I could clone my latest author client, but he’s used to Hollywood, and I wish he would give classes on being a client.

  11. Oh, and what we REALLY want are first-class proofreaders and grammarians. But people give their money to the editor and not the proof-reader…

  12. My favorite part of self-publishing is those 5 people that read your book really loved it, and they can’t wait for you to make more… and nobody else will buy it. Seriously, I have four books available on Amazon that NOBODY will touch with a ten foot pole, and you want me to put out more?.. sure. Just wait a year, okay.

  13. Great post!

    I just self-pubbed my first novel and have had a similar experience. I’m learning not to look at my sales numbers, but every once in a while (like every other day or so – *snort* ) I find myself checking the danged stats.

    Maggie and many others have it right: the more titles a writer has out there, the better chance a writer has of getting noticed.

  14. Special thanks to for featuring this article on their Self-Published Author Daily!!stories

  15. Hang in there, Kate. I feel your pain… I’m learning what to keep doing and what to let go for awhile. Are there any holiday opportunities where you live [craft shows, etc] that might be a place to showcase your work? The thing keeping my chin up is a holiday event at the local cultural center. We’ll see what happens….

    Most importantly, keep writing!

    • I recently consigned some of my books at a local book store! Hopefully I won’t cancel out my profits with that, but even if I do, the publicity is good I guess. Plus, this morning I got my first acceptance for a book review blog! I think things are moving forward, just reeeeealllly slowly.

  16. Hi Kate,

    Don’t lose heart. You’re on Twitter, I hope? Twitter is a great marketing tool. Be sure and tweet your blog posts. Interact with others and develop a diverse following. Diversity is good, IMO.

    It takes time to develop a good Twitter following, but it’s worth the effort. Keep in mind, you’re building a small business. There’s no such thing as overnight success. Be persistent and work hard. That’s the key.

    Hope this helps. 🙂


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