Self-publishing? Three or four years ago I knew nothing. My biggest challenge was formatting my first book so that it would look plausible on a Kindle. Actually selling it once it was online was a challenge for later.
Now, with a couple of years’ experience under my belt, I could take the view that I’ve moved forward. I’ve gradually notched up a few dozen really positive Amazon reader reviews, and people are actually buying my books. Not a lot, but hundreds, anyway. (If you’re one of them, thanks!) Being a half-full kind of person rather than the half-empty kind, I know I should feel pleased.
Yet I’m strongly aware that I’m still very much a novice. If I’d progressed further, I would be selling loads of books, not just the modest numbers that people are buying at the moment. I still seem to be a thousand miles from joining the league of seasoned Kindle authors – people who apparently sell thousands of copies of every book they publish. Why?
Well, not for lack of making the right moves. I’ve notified the top readers’ websites each time I’ve published a new book (Goodreads and so on). I’ve circulated press releases about each new book to the printed and online press. I’ve uploaded author profiles to readers’ websites and responded to author interview requests. I’ve set up Facebook pages, a Twitter account and a website, and tried to keep them up to date. I’ve contributed to writers’ online forums, Facebook groups and book blogs. I’ve put my books into Amazon’s Select scheme and run periods of free days – supporting these with paid promotion, of course. I’ve run paid advertising on Facebook and Amazon.
Some of this has created short-lived blips in sales (mostly run-ons following the free Amazon days, I have to say). But some spending has yielded zero extra sales. Write it off to experience, I’ve told myself philosophically.
I’ve also set up paperback versions of all my Kindle books, complete with my own ISBN codes (yet another investment). So no one can pass on a purchase merely because of technophobia.
With all this under my belt, in a way I’ve matured from a tyro into a fairly seasoned campaigner. I now know which book promotion web sites seem to work for me – and which of them will never accept my books, however good they are. I know how to contribute to writers’ forums without being dismissed as an idiot or getting too many rebukes for inadvertently offending someone. I know roughly how to distinguish between snake-oil merchants and people who can provide genuine help with selling e-books. In short, I’ve graduated from my basic training.
But where has all this got me? Not terribly far! I know that people like my books, and I know the books stand up well in comparison with many on the internet. But that tipping point into steady, substantial sales remains as elusive as ever.
Friends sometimes smile encouragingly. “At least you’re a published author now, and you’re doing what you always wanted. You’re writing your own books, which gives you pleasure in itself, and you know that if people want to read them, they can. Surely that’s enough?”
Well … no it isn’t!
(a) I’m not “published” in the way they mean. I did it myself. When thousands of people start flocking to buy the books, perhaps I’ll accept that notion. Not until.
(b) I’m not writing to please myself, I’m writing to please other people. So unless people do read the books in reasonable numbers, I can’t with hand on heart feel that the primary objective has been achieved.
I hasten to add that I’m not blaming anyone else for not having progressed further or faster in this market. I was the one who chose the self-publishing route, and it’s down to me to make it work.
I’m just saying it’s no easy ride. Clearly I haven’t made all the right moves, even though I keep trying to persuade myself that I have. So if anyone can see what I’m missing, please let me know!