Self-Publishing Advice: “I’m A Broke And Struggling Writer”

 

Introduction
When I would read Blogs such as this I often finish the book frustrated. There would be an author I had never heard of telling me he sold 300 thousand books within a year of publishing it. I would wait patiently as I continued to read hoping he would tell me exactly what he did to become so successful. I would never discover that vital information that could take me from a broke and struggling writer to a top-selling author. The information would be vague. He would say things like, “I published my first book and within a month is sold 50 thousand.” Though his story may be true there is always a process to success. There will always be things you have to do to make your goal a reality. In this book, I will explain exactly what I did to began seeing consistent sales. I’m not in the business of dream selling or exaggerating results. I’m not a rich author who lives in a huge house on a quiet back-road. I’m a husband and a father of three wonderful children. My oldest daughter has special needs and I needed to find a job that I could work from home. I’ve been a writer for most of my life. I’ve always known I would write a book one day. As a child, I would write short stories in the quietness of my room. The power of controlling how a story began and ended would fascinate me. When my wife and I were forced with a choice of one of us working from home my “someday goal” became a “day one goal.”

I began to research about writing books, finding editors and publishers. My research instantly discouraged me. I didn’t like the fact that I could write a book that I put my blood, sweat, and tears into just to have a publisher say, “We’re not interested.” I’ve always hated the concept of hoping someone else believed in my work enough to give me a chance. I also didn’t like the fact that a publisher could sell my book for $20 and I would receive $1.25. I understood that the publisher would fund the marketing and promotion of the book but it still didn’t seem fair. For example, if your book sold 1 million copies you would receive 1.2 million dollars in royalties. That number sounds like a lot but once you realize that the publishers took in 18.7 million from your creativity you can’t help but feel taken advantage of. Many may not agree with me and that is understandable. I have an independent mindset that some may not be familiar with. If a man tells me he has sold 300 thousand books on his own then that would be the only motivation I need. If you’re are like me and don’t have time to wait for some big publishing company to give you a chance I will break down all of my marketing strategies and tips on how I gave myself a chance. I’m not some fancy expert with plans to bore you with discouraging statistics on how most self-published authors struggle to sell even one book. I’m just going to tell you things that I found that worked for me.

Writing something good… but relatable.
I’m going to be honest with you. For every bit of advice I give you to work properly you have to be able to write something good. No matter how much money you spend on promotion and advertisement, a poorly told story will negate everything else. You must write something good. The first short story I published is titled “A mother’s love, A son’s regret.” it all happened quite random. I wrote a story about a mother’s strained relationship with her troubled teenage son. I wrote the story based on first-hand experiences. My mother and brother had a strained relationship and my brother ended up going to prison. I wrote the story back in 2015 and kept it hidden in a file on my desktop. I had no intention of ever publishing it. I was just used to writing and stashing ideas. Years later, I posted what I had written on Facebook and I noticed it was shared nearly 300 times. I was fascinated but still had no plans on publishing it. My wife said to me, “You need to publish it”, after her seeing the responses from the people who read my story. I searched Google to find platforms to help me publish my work. So many websites that offered self-publishing options wanted between five hundred to a thousand dollars to publish my book. I didn’t have it. I was ready to throw in the towel until I found out about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Amazon KDP would publish my book at no cost to me. I could price my book and would receive 70% royalties from each sale. I paid for a Facebook ad to promote the excerpt from my story and reached over 100 thousand mothers who would relate to what I had written. Now, I’m not telling you 100 thousand mothers bought the book. The book was just exposed to that number of potential buyers. I had written something good and relatable. But the process was just getting started. The easiest way to write something good is to write something you know. If you are not familiar with fantasy novels or romance books then you should stay away from those genres. People who read those books can easily recognize an author unpolished in that area. Write about something personal, something that may have occurred in your life. An inspirational story of triumph that people who read it would be able to feel. Touching the reader’s emotions would almost guarantee them to recommend someone else to read your book. Use your own writing voice. Never try to write a book using words you never knew or can barely spell. Be confident and trust your work. There may be millions of readers who will love the way you tell a story.

Mistakes… and more mistakes.
When doing anything for the first time mistakes are inevitable. Some may quit when things aren’t perfect. It’s human to have a moment of discouragement or doubt. It’s what you do after you’ve made mistakes that separates you from those who’ve quit. I’m going to tell you all of the mistakes I’ve made when self-publishing my first book. When formatting my book I forgot to insert page numbers. Instead of me asking questions I just tried to do it all on my own. I should have asked my wife for help being she was pretty savvy with Microsoft Word. Instead, I published my mistake for the world to see. I also had spelling errors and I had already sold about 15 copies to my family and friends. I felt embarrassed. What made things even worse was that I priced my 29-page short story for $9.99 (paperback). I will talk about pricing later but that was also a huge mistake. Failing and falling short is ok. Just make sure you are learning and correcting in the process. I Googled information about professional editors. I wanted to find someone to correct any grammatical errors I may have missed. To get my book professionally edited would cost me nearly a thousand dollars. I couldn’t afford it. Statistics show that nearly 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies. I would have to sell 100 copies for 10 dollars just to break even. I began to improvise. I started writing everything using Grammarly.com. Grammarly would correct errors as I would write. I then created a readers group that included my wife, brother, and friends who would read books often. Whenever I would write something new I would email the readers group for feedback. I felt if I used Grammarly plus had 5 sets of eyes on my work the chances for mistakes would be significantly less. I created my book cover using Canva.com. I was already pretty creative in graphic design which would serve to help me save money in that area. I love Canva because you don’t have to be an experienced graphic designer to create some professional and attractive to a reader. Before I created my book cover I studied the covers of well-known books, from the fonts that were used to where the author’s name was placed. Don’t make the mistake of not competing with the top authors in the world. You don’t have to be an NYT bestselling author to present yourself as one.

Study and Mimic
I began studying other authors. I would visit their social media pages to see what they would post and how active they were online. I looked to see how they advertised and promoted their work on social media. I would visit the websites of many authors to study the format of their sites. I paid attention to the colors and fonts that were used. All of these things were important. Certain colors such as red, yellow, blue and other bright colors are more attractive to the eyes than other colors are. Choosing certain colors can help your book stand out. I would search their book covers to see how much time was spent on creating it. Once I studied these things I began to mimic. I didn’t copy their work but rather tried to duplicate the professionalism of it. I created my website using a free WordPress template that I googled. I created an account at Godaddy.com to purchase my domain name (WritingsByCoreyPorter.com) and hosting. I once again used Canva to design my website and it all cost me about 100 dollars. I once made a mistake years ago hiring a designer from the UK to create a website for $500. I waited nearly a month for him to finish just for him to disappear leaving me $500 in the hole. I learned from that experience and began playing with WordPress blog templates. I realized that designing websites was actually easier and cheaper than I thought. I realize that not everyone is artistic and internet savvy as others. I’m just telling what I did to achieve my goal of consistent book sales. Don’t take short cuts when it comes to professionalism and presentation. If you need graphic and website designers to create your professional look, by all means, invest in yourself.

Social Media
Some authors may not need social media platforms to help sell their books. Publishers do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to making an author’s book visible to the public. A self-published author simply can’t afford to ignore the power of social media. Imagine you’re on an expressway with bumper to bumper traffic. As your car moves 1mph you are forced to read all of the billboards that are displayed on the side of the highway. This is how the internet works. You have to create the billboards that internet traffic is forced to see. I do this by creating posters for each of my books that I post 2-3 times a day. The more people see your banners telling them to read your amazing book the more their curiosity will force them to click on your links. I use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These three platforms or all different from each other. Twitter is great for news feeds and trending topics. Facebook is for readers. People who use Facebook would take the time to read a lengthy post. Instagram is visual. People who use Instagram like to see photos and videos. You have to keep this mind because your success can depend on how well you are using each platform. Timing is everything. The best times to post on Facebook are between 1-4 pm during the week with Wednesday being the best day. This is important when trying to reach as many people as possible. Facebook is for readers so posting book excerpts and paying to advertise your work will be effective. Weekends you’ll find people are less interactive. The best times to post on Twitter are between 8 am-4 pm Monday-Friday, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays being the best days. I post banners on Twitter with links to my Amazon page. I also include trending topics in my post to reach more people. For example, if #TuesdayMotivation is trending on Twitter I would add that hashtag in my post. By doing this you reach people who are not currently following you. The best times to post on Instagram are Tuesdays – Fridays between 9 am-6 pm CDT. Instagram users love to see photos and videos. Posting photos of customers holding your book will be effective on Instagram. Show your daily life on Instagram. Allow fans to see what you do for fun. Show them photos of you on vacation with family or a simple walk in the park. When fans feel like they know you personally they will engage more and also buy nearly any you’re selling. Remaining active on social media is how you build a following but your activity may not be enough. You have to introduce yourself to each potential buyer. Find an author that writes books in the same genre as you on social media. Follow as many of the author’s followers as you can. These may be people who would appreciate what you write as well. People usually follow back on social media and when they do send them a message thanking them for following you. Repeat this process once a day. Don’t mention you are selling a book right away to your new followers. No one likes a salesperson. Let things happen organically. They’re following you and they’ll see your book eventually.

Pricing: Play the long game
Most Self-Published authors don’t pay enough attention to pricing. The price of your book can be the bridge between selling a bunch of books and not selling one at all. I made this vital mistake when publishing my first short story. I priced my 29-page short story for $9.99 for the paperback and $5.00 for the ebook version. The problem was I didn’t do my research. A friend of mine brought it to my attention that she pays $7.99 for 300-page novels. I was over-pricing. When I lowered my paperback book to $4.99 and the ebook version to $0.99 is when I began to see sales regularly. I had to make a choice. Either I could sell 20 books for $9.99 or sell 200 books for $4.99. I call this playing the long game. The goal is to sell books consistently. You want to see sales each day even if it’s just one. You have to learn to appreciate the process. When you see one person has bought your book you have to visualize that person taking out their debit card, typing in each number and pressing purchase. They didn’t have to do it. They could have found a well-known author that they were familiar with and played it safe. Someone gave you a chance. Appreciate it.

The Ground Game: Marketing and Promotion
This is the part that separates those who want to be successful from those who quit. I call this the ground game. When self-publishing a book you have to be prepared to do all of the work. Marketing and promoting your work becomes your job. There is no big publishing company advertising your book for you. Promoting your book us just as important as writing something great. You determine how aggressive you want to approach Marketing and promoting. I’m going to tell you all of my tips and strategies that work for me. Be prepared to give your book away for free. I know it sounds crazy after months of writing and editing to recommend giving the book away for free but trust me. You are playing the long game. Giving books away for free helps build a fanbase of future potential buyers. Don’t approach self-publishing like a “get rich quick scheme.” Take your time a build your name. Amazon KDP allows you to give your ebook away for free for 5 days. I use this feature for all of my books a few times a year. You have to keep in mind that no one knows your name or your work. Humble yourself and put your pride aside even if you feel you are the greatest writer. You don’t want your amazing book just taking up space on Amazon’s website. You want to sell books. Most self-published authors sell less than 100 books in total. I’m going to show you how to beat those odds. Another promotional strategy I find that works are buying my own ebooks and giving them away in exchange for an email address. Write a post on your social media platforms informing your friends that you are having a limited time only book give away. All you ask of them is to direct message their email address to you and you’ll send them the Amazon link to download your book for free. Emails are like gold. Once you receive a potential buyer’s email you can alert them every time you release a new book. If they like the free ebook then they may purchase your second book.

For those who will have paperback versions of their book, I have promotional tricks for you as well. On the last page of all of my books, I have a social media contact page. It’s a page that tells the readers where to connect with me online. I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Amazon allows you to buy author copies of your book at the print price which is $2.14. Order 10 copies of your book for about $25. Go to your local Starbucks and leave your book on the table. Visit a Barnes and Nobel and leave your book on the table. If you live near a train station like I do leave your book on the train. I do this every few months. This allows your book to travel and create word of mouth. A person has an hour commute on the train and finds your book on the seat they may read your entire book. If they like what they read they’ll find you online and began following you on social media. You now have a potential buyer for your next book. That’s why it’s important to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with you. Always have a social media contact page in your book. I also leave my books in laundromats, barbershops, and waiting rooms. Any place where a person has to wait is a great place to leave your book.

Consistency
You’ve written and self-published your first book. You are averaging about a sale a day. Consistent sales are an indicator that people are talking about your book. They like what they’ve read and are now recommending your book to others. This is good but it’s not the time to relax. Authors with consistent content will build their fanbase faster than an author who sits marveling over their only release. Get to work. You are still in the building process. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes an author can release one book that changes their financial life forever. Maybe that author is you. If not, be sure to remain consistent. It’s nothing worse than being an author that everyone loves and you hardly release new material. Quality or quantity of course. That plan is to consistently release amazing work.

Get Better
Don’t ignore your weaknesses but rather conquer them. If you struggle with grammar then read books to help you become a more seasoned writer. Read books by authors that have found success in the same genre as yours. Figure out the differences between your book and theirs. What did they do that you can learn from? Never settle for being an average writer. Do whatever it takes to become the best version of you. Use Canva.com and practice creating better book covers. Your book cover can be the reason a person buys your book or ignores it. Study marketing and promotion. Remember, self-published authors, are responsible for their success. Again, I’m not an expert or a wildly successful author. I’m just a self-published author who’ve found success doing the things I’ve shared with you.

 

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