Why you might not be succeeding at Self-Publishing?

I’m sitting at my desk this morning with my cup of coffee, my emails open, and an urge to slap someone I don’t know upside the head. Why? Because there is this erroneous myth floating around the Internet that self-publishing is the easy way out and it’s easier to succeed at self-publishing your books then going the traditional route.


In my opinion they are both hard routes, just in different ways. The end goals of the two are also different. I’m not going to go into details. It’s not why I’m writing this post.

SPAL has had more than a few self-publishers email us for advice, one of the reasons we started the Writing as a Business series. No, the person I want to slap upside the head isn’t one of these people. He is someone else entirely, He asked another writer a question and when she tried to help him he didn’t really listen to the advice she gave him (outside link), but looked for an easier way to do it.

Self-publishing isn’t easy, It isn’t a straight path to success. Success, of course, being defined by most as a “make tons of money right away” venture. (I don’t define success this way, but I realize most people who go into self-publishing might.) If you think you can just slap up a book on Amazon, B&N, etc. and become the next Amanda Hocking, you are in for a rude awakening.

Self-publishing is hard work. You have to do everything yourself, or hire someone who can, and in a way that can compete with the big boys. From writing the book to book setup to marketing and promoting. Each book should look like a traditionally published book you can find in a bookstore. Yeah, you can hire someone to do some or most of it, but search for someone who can produce quality work.

If you plan to succeed at this business, be realistic. Things take time. You need a backlist of books with each book being the best work possible. Don’t skimp on polishing it up (outside link). Also, keep in mind that not everyone is going to be a bestseller. Even if you do hit the bestselling charts, you won’t maintain it forever and your next book might not sell as well. You can never predict which book will resonate with readers and which won’t. Each book is unique.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a bestseller to make a nice amount of money. With enough good quality books, it’s possible to make a nice secondary income or even your main income. But this is going to take dedication, time and lots of hard work.

It means that you need to be professional in your conduct. Don’t play the games that authors without integrity do. People are watching what you do, and you never know is some unethical action might come to light.

It means pricing your book where the market will hold and you are getting sales you’re content with. While researching what others are pricing their books at be aware that some people can price their books higher and sell. Other price their lower and earn more than when they had higher prices. Experiment and find a place you are happy with.

Special thanks to Ruth for helping me with this post. 😀

21 thoughts on “Why you might not be succeeding at Self-Publishing?

  1. lornafaith October 4, 2012 / 3:31 pm

    Thanks for the good information here Stephannie:) The links are a big help too!

    • Stephannie Beman October 5, 2012 / 2:01 pm

      You’re welcome, Lorna. Glad they were helpful. 😀

  2. LC Cooper (@LC_Cooper) October 4, 2012 / 8:56 pm

    Now wait a cotton-pickin’ minute … you mean to tell me that it is unlikely I’ll crank out a gem this weekend that becomes a NYT bestseller by Wednesday?! Well, shoot, there go my plans for wintering in Bermuda.

    Although I appreciate the reminder, it’s a shame it had to be written. I found self-publishing to be quite a humbling experience.

    If an author’s goal is to make enough money to live on, then keep in mind the struggle any startup entrepreneur faces: The first five years of revenue will generally go to paying off startup-related debt and ongoing overhead. During this timeframe, both days off and income are virtually non-existent. So, set a realistic goal to evaluate where you are at the 5-year anniversary of pub’ing your first book. Similarly, J.A. Konrath implied, from his own experience, a benchmark of 1,000,000 words (a backlist of around 10 books) written is plausible before expecting to make a dime.

    Then, there are those, like me, who write because we love to share our stories. Sure, it’s inane to say I want to write 80 novels over the next 20 years and not make any money doing so. I look at the money as a reader’s way of rewarding me for providing an entertaining escape. Heartburn, then, for me, comes from thinking readers don’t like my stories.

    Take care,

    • Stephannie Beman October 5, 2012 / 3:50 pm

      Sorry to be the harbinger, LC 😦

      Too many writers expect to be writing full-time in a few months or years of publishing. They can’t seem to figure out why they can’t be the next J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking. The simple answer is hard work and finding what works. What works for one writer might not work for another.

      The other is as you said being realistic and understanding that all money goes back into the business for quite awhile, Also writing a book people like to read… Ok, there are a lot of reasons that someone might not succeed at writing.

  3. Independent Authors (@AiAuthors) October 5, 2012 / 2:36 am

    Great post, Stephanie. Could not agree more that ‘professionalism’ is also key. If you want others, including readers, to respect your work, then you need to behave accordingly. If they google your name and find a stream of posts that don’t stand you in good stead, they’ll wonder why they should spend $3 on one of your books.

    Melanie Walsh
    Director, Membership Services
    Association of Independent Authors

    • Stephannie Beman October 14, 2012 / 2:30 pm

      So true. Professionalism is key. Doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you, but it does mean acting as a professional in all aspects of your business, even when telling people no.

  4. Ascension For You October 5, 2012 / 8:15 am

    Thanks Steph … Indeed this is a reminder that to reach ones goals takes hatd work and dedication too. Like LC coopers comment too…cheers for links via Ruth …Peace Dave

    • Stephannie Beman October 5, 2012 / 3:51 pm

      You’re welcome, Dave. I had Ruth look over the post when I was done and add her thoughts into it. She made some really good points. 😀

  5. Diana Jackson October 8, 2012 / 7:59 am

    Thanks for the post. It’s so good for someone to write this, even though we should know it anyway. Some good advice I was given, which first surprised me, but made sense was that if you break even in the first year then you are doing amazingly well. Publishing ‘real’ books of quality (and it takes research to find the right people to do this including comparing sample copies…. not the cheapest….) is not for the faint hearted and you are certainly up against the big guys. (Not sure how only publishing as an e book compares)That’s why networking with people who understand what you are going through is vital. You also need a business plan, back up cash for unexpected eventualities, loads of time and energy, eternal optimism but a trifle common sense. (not forgetting a willingness to be humble……. a steep learning curve, as in any enterprise)
    thanks again

    • Stephannie Beman October 14, 2012 / 2:34 pm

      Thanks for commenting Diana. So much goes into self-publishing and business, yet there are those that expect to make it big without the work and sacrifices that are sometime required. Learning about business for creative types would help a lot of people succeed where they might not have succeeded before. Sometimes patience is needed. 😀

  6. fcmalby October 8, 2012 / 10:56 am

    This is a great post. Really helpful and informative. Thank you for the reminder that it takes hard work and a professional attitude.

  7. VensinGray October 14, 2012 / 11:54 am

    Great post! As a self-published author myself, it takes a lot of work to self-publish. Just writing a complete piece is hard enough, getting it edited is another mountain, then finding the right place to publish, gathering the funds, and getting it ready for print (or ebook) for that matter is another mountain. And we haven’t even gotten to the marketing and promotions, gathering fans, getting positive and or constructive reviews, and not to mention you have to do all of this basically by yourself. I appreciate blogs like this to let self-published authors like me know we’re not alone out here! Thank you!

    ~Vensin Gray

    • Stephannie Beman October 14, 2012 / 2:45 pm

      Nice to meet you, Vensin.

      Self-publishing is a lot of work because we have to do it all ourselves or hope to find people that can help us do what we can’t. Not an easy task and there are those looking for a quick buck and not willing to do that work for it. But when you find the good, professional editor/cover artist/etc hold tight to them.

      • VensinGray October 14, 2012 / 4:02 pm

        Nice to meet you as well Stephannie.

        Thank you for your reply, and yes I found an editor and a cover artist and I’m holding on tightly.

  8. Stephannie Beman October 14, 2012 / 2:36 pm

    You are welcome, fcmalby and William.

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