Self-publishing is still a mystery


I figured that after the first time, self-publishing a book would be a piece of cake. I was wrong. It is just as stressful, still just as time-consuming and nerve-wracking, and most of all, it is just as frustrating.

I had no idea what I was doing when I self-published my first two novellas. I just did it. And when one of them got to number #25 on the Western List, I was thrilled. (And I was dumbfounded as to why that certain book made the list when it only had one review and not many sales, opposed to the other, more popular book.) Also, I had no idea about marketing. I didn’t have custom cover art, beta readers/editors, or even a following for my blog yet. As a result, I didn’t get many sales.

So, I had a plan for my next book. I’d do more marketing. I’d do Twitter. I’d do Goodreads. I’d do Pinterest and Facebook (my personal page and the other two pages I manage). I got beta readers. I even got a cover artist. I posted a release date. I posted excerpts. I revealed the cover art (several times!).  And then, to my joy, I had four book sales the first day (on Amazon.com). I was so happy! I thought I’d figured out the system. I ranked at #88,970 in paid sales. But that was the only List I made it to. Since then, the ranking has steadily declined, and now I’m to #393,082 (it was #220,546 day before yesterday). I’ve sold one eBook on Smashwords and two paperbacks through CreateSpace. And that’s it.

I’m not sure how/why that happened. I thought I’d done everything correctly, and surly, this time, I’d have made it on to the Hot New release List or back onto the Western List. And I had no doubts that the book sales would have been better.

Where did I mess up? Do you ever really figure out the self-publishing system, or are you just throwing your book out to the wolves and hoping for the best? I welcome any and all advice. Though, I will warn you. I’m cheap. Marketing sites have to have options under $10 ($5 would be better, but I know I’m pushing my luck).

Or maybe it is just me. Maybe it is the genre I’m writing. After all, I don’t know if there is a big demand for YA Western books.

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25 thoughts on “Self-publishing is still a mystery

  1. I’ve been at it a year and I still feel like I know next to nothing about the industry and am making lots of wrong choices, especially where marketing is concerned. It’s so crazy…. always in flux, and extremely complicated. You’re not alone, for sure.

    • Glad to know I’m not the only one struggling! And marketing is the toughest for me, too. (I think marketing is the biggest part of self-publishing, and also the most difficult and time-consuming. It can also quickly become the most expensive.)

  2. I wish I had some advice but I do pretty much what you have said: the social media circuit. Being unemployed I don’t have funding to throw money behind marketing right now. I’m selling to some extent, but not great… I’ll take what I can get, is my philosophy. Thanks for opening up this discussion; I might learn something as much as you from other commenters 🙂

    • I think social media is the best route. Twitter especially. There are just so many people on there! You can only go so far with Facebook, unless you can pay to advertise.
      And I know where you’re coming from. I don’t have a ‘real’ job either, and with no income coming in, it is hard to do everything ‘properly’. But even with paid marketing, there isn’t a guarantee for book sales.
      So hopefully, someone out there will give us some extra-helpful answers! 🙂 Thanks Victoria!

  3. So sorry for you, bad time of year I think, loads of people over here are on holiday now. Charles is suffering too. If you could put any of your books into the “romance” bracket, I’m just planning a September promo covering 2 continents.

    • Thanks Rosie. You’re so sweet! And yes, I’ve been told that summer is a terrible time for the indie author.
      Actually, ‘The Untold Story of Margaret Hearst’ is actually a romance. (YA romance, more of just a love story I guess.) And even ‘A Girl Named Cord’ has an underlying love story. If you are interested, I could send one, or even both of them to you, so you could see if they would fit into a romance bracket.

  4. I don’t know of anything that cheap right now. The issue is the summer and people aren’t selling much. I went KDP Select instead of hitting the other readers. That seems to have helped a bit and the author sites on Facebook. I’m not sure how the Western genre works, so the individual quirks of it might have something to do with it.

    Have you considered finding an on-line Western writer group and asking for advice?

  5. This is kind of a tough situation. I don’t have anything self-published or published in general, so I can’t really offer any advice.

    But I can say kudos to you for doing all this work. Maybe this book is having a slow start, but it might get better. You never know. And I’m sure with more experience you’ll get the hang of it.

    • Aw, thanks Rachel! And I hope you’re right! But so far, it doesn’t seem to matter if I did my homework correctly or not! There doesn’t seem to be a pattern that I can follow. But who knows? Only time will tell! Thanks again! I hope you have a great day! 🙂

  6. I have no idea as I’m just starting out too and have no brilliant sales record to point to as knowing anything at all about the business…so I’m really just here to show support. 🙂 Everything I’ve read suggests self publishing is a slow burn route to success…it can take a long time to get traction, no matter what marketing you do. Also that getting a range of product out there in your genre eventually pays off, so you are on the right track I would think. So is Charles. I’m doing the rather dumb – probably – thing of publishing a second novel in about six months time that is in a different genre, so go figure…I have no idea, and am just doing this to get the work out there!! I am experimenting with some marketing through lulu.com for The Seed, but that isn’t inexpensive, so it is an experiment – and one that hasn’t started yet and won’t for a month or two from now – so I have no idea and won’t for some time yet – whether it will work. In any case, best of luck my friend, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of A Girl Named Cord to arrive in the mail. Also, when is Me and Billy the Kid out -last time I checked your website they still had it in pre-order mode? 🙂

    • LOL! Well, I thank you for the support! It is very much appreciated! I hope your experiment pays off! That would be awesome! My fingers are crossed for you, my friend!!! And I hope you’ll enjoy “A Girl Named Cord”! 🙂
      As for “Me and Billy the Kid”, I do not know. I’m guessing either October or November. But as soon as I find out, I’ll let you know!!! I hope you have a lovely day!

  7. The only advice I can offer is: be patient. While technology has made it easier to self-publish, it’s also made it harder to get noticed. There is a sea of self-published authors out there, as wide as it is deep, all clamoring for readers. And I think readers get overwhelmed by the expanse. I know that 99% of my ebook purchases have been of your books, Charles’ books, Helen’s book, SK’s book, Victoria’s book, Sarah’s books; in other words, books of people whose writing I already love and enjoy. If I had to rely entirely on what I saw in my Twitter feed or on Facebook, I might never find you because there are so many authors vying for my attention. I think you’re right that the marketing is the hardest part and also the most time- and energy-consuming part. You can’t stop promoting your work. You have to keep at it, keep the momentum going regardless of your sales. Keep in mind how many best-selling authors out there toiled for years before they became “overnight” successes. You will get your following, Briana. You will get there. I have utter confidence in you 🙂

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