So, you want to know what it’s like to write a book in the 21st century? Better strap yourself in.
It's f#%king hard work. And no, it has nothing to do with actually writing a book. That’s the easy part. When you write a book, the real work only begins once you hit ‘Publish’ on the Amazon self-publishing portal, www.kdp.amazon.com.
Well, it’s a bit like this.
I released my first book on Amazon just over three months ago now, so how about I tell you what it has been like for me.
It’s true. Getting your book published has never been easier. You no longer need an agent or a high-profile publishing house, although, if you do have either of those, most of the hard work may be transferred to them. But even if they are invested in your success, they will never have as much at stake as you.
Self-publishing has finally come out of the cupboard and into the light. And it doesn’t come with the associated stigma of what used to be known as vanity publishing. But don’t think for one moment that self-publishing frees you from the responsibility of producing a quality product.
If anything, your readers will be more critical of your work. EBooks are so cheap, and often free, these days, that if you don’t grab your reader’s attention fast, and hold onto it tight, your masterpiece will fall down the Kindle rabbit hole never to be seen again.
You have to self-edit, several times, and you have to have an external editor. Or two, or even three. The more the merrier. No excuses. No shortcuts. There is nothing worse than reading a potentially great book only to have the whole experience ruined by typos, grammatical errors and sentences that just plain don’t make sense. Edit, edit, and edit again. Then, give it to a professional to do the same. And stop crying.
Next, put on your marketing hat and promote, promote, promote. Talk to people. Tell everyone you meet. Hell, I’ve even struck up conversations in doctors’ surgeries while awaiting my turn. You need readers to leave reviews of your book on Amazon and you need reviews to get more sales. But you can’t have readers without sales. It’s a frustrating loop-the-loop.
You need to build an email list of loyal fans, but you need to attract readers to your book in the first place. And you need to offer them an incentive to sign up for your next masterpiece – damn hard work if you only have the one book.
You might even have to give your book away for free in order to attract those readers in the first place, something a lot of writers have trouble getting their head around. After all, you put your heart and soul into this book. It’s your baby. It’s precious. Why on earth would you even consider giving it away? Wasn’t the whole point of the exercise to become a bestselling author and retire on the royalties?
Time to rethink.
An email list of loyal followers will solve many marketing issues for you, but if they don’t know you who are from a bucket of prawns, they need a reason to trust you. Your writing might be shit. Or you may well be the next Stephen King, or J K Rowling, but that doesn’t mean anybody else will know that, or even care. And no amount of wishing will make it so.
There are so many catch-22s on the path to publishing success. Time to get back on the horse.
Advertising might help, but where to start? The possibilities are endless - Facebook, Amazon, Instagram, or Twitter maybe? Then there are all the promotional websites – and that list is HUGE. From free Facebook sites to paid distributional sites, there are so many channels vying for your advertising dollar it’s easy to end up completely overwhelmed. Not to mention, a little obsessed.
Then, once you’ve found a home for your baby, there are the endless revisions of the stats to consider. KDP, Author Central, CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, Medium, Wattpad, Draft 2 Digital. Smashwords, Kobo, Nook, iTunes – they all have dashboards that update hourly with new data relating to your sales, or lack thereof. Oh, woe!
You become addicted to gadgets, going from one to the other checking for updates. Is it selling? Is it climbing up the charts? Why isn’t it selling? What’s wrong with it? Do I have enough reviews? Where can I get more reviews? What are the reviewers saying? Do they like it? Do they hate it?
What?! A one-star review?
Congratulations, now you are an author. Be careful what you wish for.
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