What I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

I try never to give advice. There’s something about guiding another down a road paved with my suggestions that feels risky. Even if I’m only reinforcing their own beliefs, I always wonder:  what if I’m wrong? What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander. I’d rather pretend to have no opinion, than to take responsibility for leading someone astray.

That’s right. I’m a coward. Believe it or not, I’m mostly okay with that.

Occasionally, someone will ask me about writing, publishing, promoting, etc.  I’m good at smiling and nodding and saying a whole lot without giving any actual information. People let me get away with this. I can ramble a little long, a little incoherently. After a while, I think most of them are just anxious to get away.

In a lot of respects, they’re better off for that attitude. I don’t have much in the way of good advice to give. I’m new, I don’t know jack, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Yesterday, a very nice woman complimented me on my book covers. I am, unfortunately, a sucker for praise. When she asked me who designed them, I didn’t hesitate to give her the name (Celairen, if you’re curious). When she asked me for my opinion on KDP Select, I told her what I thought. We ended up having a lengthy, pleasant conversation about writing–where we find inspiration, the basics of character development, a few notes about dialogue–then she asked me if I had any advice for her.

Though honest, “no” simply isn’t an acceptable answer. It comes across as harsh, if not rude. I try very hard not to be either. So what did I do? Well, I rambled a little long, a little incoherently, and gave her absolutely nothing at all.

To my dismay, the woman called me on it. She was polite, but insistent. “Surely, you’ve learned something,” she said.

Yeah, you’d think so, wouldn’t you? The truth is, though I can give you a list of the many, many things I’ve done wrong, pinpointing which decisions produced positive results is more difficult. I have no advice for success. Really, the only thing I have is a cautionary tale, what NOT to do.

When I told her that, she asked for it. I thought she was joking. Turns out, not so much. After I sent it to her, she wrote me a very nice thank you–not because she learned anything, but because it made her laugh. Here’s hoping it does the same for you…

How NOT To Self-Publish Your Novel:

1.  Rely on your own proofreading abilities. You’re literate. You pay attention to detail. If there’s a typo, a problem with consistency, or issues with plot, you’re sure to find them.

2.  Design your cover yourself, even though you’ve never even opened your computer’s Paint program. A cover is a picture and words. Wing it!

3.  Advertise at any given opportunity. Did your new online friend get her purse stolen? Let her know that your main character fought off a criminal in Chapter Four, and she might learn something.

4.  Argue with reviewers. Your characters are not vapid and narcissistic. Your plot is not unrealistic. Your book is NOT boring. Perhaps those reviewers missed your subtle exposition. Sending them a message detailing how they failed to “get” your story is the best way to change their minds (you might also make some new friends).

5.  Finally, it’s absolutely essential that you trash other authors. Their books aren’t as clever, as gripping, or as thrilling as yours. They are not as smart, nor as worthy. Find some forum posts about someone else’s book, and tell everyone exactly why yours is better.

It might seem obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of people make these mistakes…some over and over again. The truth is, whether we realize it or not, we’re digging our own graves.

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8 Responses to What I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

  1. beetle22 says:

    I dunno; I think giving advice when asked is a good thing – if someone takes it and doesn’t succeed, it isn’t your fault. It’s just they haven’t had the success you have. But by not giving advice, you aren’t providing them with the opportunity to succeed as you have. I personally would prefer having the opportunity and failing than having no opportunity and failing (if that makes sense!)

  2. arranbhansal says:

    Great post thanks

  3. Damyanti says:

    When asked for advice, I typically say: Write everyday, read a lot, and allow yourself to write shitty first drafts. I always read a lot, but the the other two took me a while to catch up on. I keep hoping I don’t sound didactic. 🙂

    • elletodd says:

      I love that word: didactic…

      The shitty first drafts took me a long time to accept, too. Eventually, I learned to ignore my mistakes the first time around. For me, its essential in completing anything. Otherwise, I’ll edit and rewrite until I end up with three or four chapters that never go any farther.

      Great advice!

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