Can you be successful self-publishing?

In the last ten years self-publishing has changed dramatically. This is down to a number of factors: the emergence of the Kindle and ebooks. Digital print processes. The rise of social media. The rising standards of self-published books and the dedication and understanding of many self-published authors to be more professional. So, can you be successful self-publishing? Yes, you can, if you get the fundamentals right – and many don’t.

There are four components to having a successful book: 1 – writing 2 – publishing 3 – marketing 4 – selling. If you don’t put equal effort into all four areas, you run the risk of the book not doing as well as you might have hoped.

Polished, well-written and exciting.

1 – writing. You’d think this was obvious, but you’d be surprised how often authors send out a first draft of their book, full of typos, grammatical errors and weird inconsistencies. Your primary job, as an author is to send your book in the best shape it can be. Jeffery Archer will do as many as fifteen drafts of a novel before it is seen by the public. Make your book as great as you can make it. Polished, well-written, exciting and something that a reader will love. That’s as true for non-fiction as it is for fiction.

No one will get past the cover.

2 – publishing. Don’t skimp on this. Get your cover professionally designed and produced. It shouldn’t cost a fortune and the impact will be immediate. A shiny, grainy cover with a low- quality image will turn off your readers in their droves. And don’t worry about reviews. You won’t have any because no one will get past the cover. Get the cover right, with a barcode and the logo of the publishing company this way you’re off to a great start. I can’t recommend the importance of good editing and proof-reading enough. We fall in love with our books when we write them, but we also develop terrible word blindness and no matter how many times you read the text we all miss words and grammar. An editor will also pick up your writers quirks. Repetition of words, strange grammar, forgetting characters, forgetting plot lines; it all happens and an editor will pick that up. There are a myriad of things that a good publisher will pick up and at the end of the process you will have a brilliant book that is easier to sell.

Your readership.

3 – marketing. You have to build your ‘tribe’ – your fanbase. Your readership. Whatever you call it, then it has to be built. This is where the marketing comes in. It begins when you are writing the book. Who is going to read these words of yours? Can you imagine a person sitting in their favourite chair, devouring them? This will help you define your audience and shape your marketing. Spread the word amongst friends and family first and build from there. Use social media. Set up your website. Contact the local media, but make your book exciting and unique. The local newspaper has heard thousands of stories from authors; make yours stand out. Try to understand as much as you can about Amazon and the way it works. Look into Smashwords to sell more ebooks. Write a media pack. Invest some money as well but invest wisely. Be wary about spending thousands on a PR campaign; that money can easily be swallowed up with little to show in book sales. Take advice where needed and discuss the best strategy with your chosen publisher.

Where to sell your book?

4 – selling. If no one buys the book, all the time and effort will be for naught. Where to sell your book? Everyone immediately thinks of Amazon but that is only one seller. Approach your local bookshops, be smart about it though. They are approached every day by authors peddling their wares; you have to stand out. If you have a ‘tribe’ already, they will be more likely to sell your book. Offer a good discount (typically 30-45%) and they will be more ready to sell it. Sell from your website. Sell from your publisher’s website. Sell at local fairs, literary festivals. Do talks at the WI, host pub events. Avoid supermarkets in the early days, unless it’s one locally who may do you a good deal. Otherwise, they want too much of the price of the book and it becomes unprofitable.

Can you be successful self-publishing? Yes, you can, but you have to do all the above and plenty more besides, but if you’re willing to do the work – or pay others to do it for you, then you can make it very successful. There are many stories of authors who make a great living from writing, but they make sure the rest of the process is done as well.There are also those that are not willing to do the work and that’s where it goes wrong.

As always if this has inspired more questions contact us at 3P Publishing on 01536 560410 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

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