I published The Snowflake Effect on July 5th, 2014 and started this blog the following week. Since that time, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two, even though I probably haven’t. It seems fitting to commemorate the occasion by looking back on what I’ve gleaned from the experience.
- Self-publishing is really, really easy.
I’m not kidding at all. I was shocked at how easy it is to publish a book. For months I procrastinated, refusing to research ways to publish a book, mostly out of fear that I’d find out it was impossible and I had wasted a lot time and energy. Much to my delight, I discovered that self-publishing was a viable option for essentially anyone with a keyboard and the internet. There are no hidden costs or criteria for quality – it just has to be somewhat arranged like a book, and you have to be able to fumble through a pretty simple interface.
- Self-publishing well is extremely difficult.
The act of self-publishing may be incredibly easy, but doing it well is a beast of another nature entirely. Self-published authors who care about releasing a quality product are fond of saying that writing the book is the easy part – I am no exception to this. The actual writing was fun and fulfilling, and I enjoyed every second of creating. Slogging through the manuscript several times to get the formatting correct, wrestling with section breaks, spacing issues, and headings was tedious at best. Writing was as fun as a barrel of monkeys. Preparing the manuscript was as fun as a barrel of spiders.
The unfortunate reality of self-publishing is that no matter how good your book is, bad formatting and a presentation that seems thrown together will prevent most readers from making it past the first page.
- Manage your expectations.
Everyone believes in their book, otherwise, they probably wouldn’t publish it. Most of us have a tendency to daydream about our book becoming a best-seller, making us rich and allowing us to become a full-time author. That’s not going to happen.
Take your expectations and divide them by a very large number. Now take the square root of that number, and then you’re closer to rational expectations. Most self-published books sell less than 200 copies. If you’ve done better, then you’re a successful indie author. If not, just know that there are several million people out there who share your disappointment.
- Nobody gives a shit about you, or your book.
Going along with managing your expectations – nobody really cares that you wrote a book, unless they know you, and even that is often passing interest. Nobody cares, and why should they? What makes you and/or your book so special that it’s worth the time it takes to read? Which brings me to my next point:
- Marketing is difficult and also sucks.
As much as I disliked formatting my book and dealing with proofing, corrections, and edits, at the end of the day I was still (sort of) creating, which was semi-validating. Marketing proved to quite a bit more difficult for me. At first I was blindly hurling handfuls of darts at the board, hoping that any of them hit the bullseye without really paying attention to what was working and what was wasted energy.
Marketing is hard, time consuming, thankless work. But it has to be done if you want people who aren’t your friends or family to hear about your book.
The silver lining in my own marketing journey is that I’ve managed to avoid the largest pitfall in self-published marketing – blasting Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know exactly how or why this strategy became so popular among indie authors, but holy bejesus, a ton of people out there post some variation of ‘BUY MY BOOK!!!!!’ several times every day on their preferred social media sites.
I’ve admittedly learned very little about effective marketing, but here’s the only thing I (probably) know for sure: if you are using social media for marketing, use it to be social (which seems like a really obvious statement). For The Snowflake Effect’s Facebook page, I share relevant articles and pictures that I come across in my internet wanderings, share posts from this blog, and write snarky things about self-esteem. I’ve only mentioned the book itself or posted purchase links a few times. People like to be engaged – commercials are not engaging. The benefit of this is that the more engaged people are with my posts, the greater ‘reach’ the post has. I’ve noticed increased likes and link clicks on weeks when a post of mine has reached well beyond the people who like my page.
- Some folks aren’t going to like your book, or the way it’s written, or you…and that’s okay.
It should go without saying that you can’t please everyone. Some people are not going to like things about your book, and it’s not the end of the world. After pouring tons of time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into writing a book and then summoning up the courage to publish it and release it into the world, it can be tremendously hurtful when people don’t share your enthusiasm.
Fortunately the worst I’ve heard about my work is that it’s ‘too personal’ or is overly general for the sake of snark and cynicism. Both of these things are probably true, but they stung a little bit. Until I get my first ‘bad’ review I don’t know how I will react, but for now, I acknowledge that not everything is for everyone, and people are entitled to their opinions of my work.
- Blogging doesn’t really count as marketing, but it’s pretty fun.
I started this blog as a way to showcase a couple of pieces from my book and have a home for bits that were cut out during the editing process. At the time it seemed like a good place to point people potentially interested in reading my work so they could get a feel for my style and decide if they would like to read a few hundred pages of it. It didn’t take long to figure out that blogs don’t really count as marketing, especially when you start a blog after publishing your book, which is what I did. Some folks powerblog and build a massive audience before writing or publishing, which is probably a more effective way of using a blog to market and sell a book.
This blog may not have generated tons of sales on its own, but it has allowed me to continue generating content to share on Facebook and Twitter, which may have helped sales. I guess a more fair statement is that blogging alone generally isn’t effective marketing, but a blog can be a great tool to incorporate into your marketing efforts.
Even if I’ve never made a sale because of this blog, I don’t care. I have enjoyed blogging over the past year, and hope that I continue to find things to blog about. Having a blog gives me a platform to continue my strange musings about self-esteem. It keeps me in the habit of writing and allows me to express small ideas that would otherwise be lost.
- It was completely worth it.
Becoming an author has been an odd journey for me. I never set out to write a book, and had exactly no idea what I was doing after finishing my first draft. It’s been chaotic, frustrating, riddled with mistakes, and all sorts of fun. I can say with certainty that it has been a completely worthwhile experience and I hope to have the opportunity to do it all again one day.