Author Topic: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?  (Read 4273 times)  

Offline Bob Mayer

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What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« on: May 02, 2011, 09:38:34 AM »
This is an abbreviated version of my latest blog post at Write It Forward. http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/

Last week was quite interesting.  Wild Ride, a NY Times bestseller in hardcover, co-written with Jennifer Crusie, was released in mass market paperback by St. Martins Press.  And Who Dares Wins Publishing was selling as many ebooks in a day as we were selling in a month at the end of last year.  We have reached the tipping point where eight of my titles are ranked in the top 100 in their categories on Amazon with one hitting the top 20 in science fiction.

Ive been in traditional publishing for 20 years.  My first book came out in 1991.  I hit my first bestseller list in 1997 with my third Area 51 book.  I first started self-publishing my backlist in January of 2010.  I didnt really focus on it as I was still focused on my traditional publishing.  It was only this year that I really decided to focus on self-publishing with my backlist, and my frontlist with a couple of original titles.

So speaking from that background, what does it take to succeed in self-publishing?  I was asked that question this morning by a reporter from Germany interviewing me about self-publishing as Amazon Kindle has now opened for business in Germany (coincidentally a copy of Duty, Honor, Country sold on Kindle DE during the interview).  The answer:  The same as it does in traditional publishing.  Good books.  A lot of hard work.  Focus.  Consistency.  Accepting that marketing is an integral part of being a writer.

I see writers on Kindle Forums complaining about their sales within days of uploading their first manuscript.  I see them speculating on what they should be selling, what price point to choose, etc. etc.  And I just shake my head.  Perhaps one good thing coming out of traditional publishing is that you lose any sense of immediate gratification.  That simply isnt the way it works.  The fact you can check sales every day on Kindle, PubIt, LSI, etc. feeds into this success now syndrome.  Frankly, Im okay with it because it will cause many of the wanna-bes to quit sooner rather than later.

I think we really started to click at Who Dares Wins when we made a commitment to several things:

1.   Be consistent.  Its easy to get discourage doing all those things need to build community and attract readers.  But we made a commitment to doing those things every single day.
2.   Be positive.  Its easy to get discouraged.  To get snarky especially when people take shots at you.  We took the attitude that we would never do anything that didnt have a positive side to it, no matter what we felt.
3.   Slow down and do things right.  Honestly, we rushed our first titles out in 2010 not completely understanding all that was involved.  We had some bad covers, some lousy formatting, no marketing plan, etc.  Now we do things right, no matter how long it takes.
4.   Change when needed.  We learned from our mistakes.  We didnt try to hide or ignore when we screwed up.  We admitted it and fixed problems.  When we tried something and it didnt work, we examined why and made the hard decision whether to redo it a different way or drop it. 
5.   Be disciplined.  Self-publishing is not an excuse to have no deadlines as a writer.  In traditional publishing, your contract specifies a due date for the manuscript.  For 20 years, I always beat or, at worst, met those deadlines on my own.  This year, I sat down and scheduled publication dates.  From that date we back up, factoring in all the steps needed to publish:  beta readers, rewrites, edit, copy edit, cover, formatting, uploading, etc. etc.  This gives us our production schedule.  On the positive side for self-publishing, its much leaner and quicker than traditional publishing. 
6.   Look forward and focus on the long term.  In Warrior Writer I talk about a thing called Grit.  Ill post more on this later, but in essence the The key to success is to set a specific long-term goal and to do whatever it takes until the goal has been achieved. Thats called Grit (defined as courage and resolve; strength of character).

In essence, all of the above are the same traits needed to succeed in any form of publishing.  The difference indie publishing is that we have more control and, accordingly, more responsibility.  In fact, as I teach in my Who Dares Wins consulting, these are also the traits that help anyone succeed in any field. 

Offline Anne Victory

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2011, 09:53:21 AM »
In essence, all of the above are the same traits needed to succeed in any form of publishing.  The difference indie publishing is that we have more control and, accordingly, more responsibility.  In fact, as I teach in my Who Dares Wins consulting, these are also the traits that help anyone succeed in any field. 

I was about to say that.  Excellent post, thanks!
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Offline RobertMarda

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2011, 09:57:36 AM »
I like your advice.  You make it sound so easy and yet I know it take discipline.

I find myself looking forward to your posts here at KindleBoards.
Robert
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Offline DeclanStanley

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2011, 10:03:09 AM »
Excellent advise on how to succeed not just in publishing but in all areas of your life: consistency, being positive, change when needed, discipline and focusing on the long term will always get you success.

Offline Kimberly Van Meter

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2011, 10:16:27 AM »
As ever, good stuff.

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Offline SeanBlack

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2011, 10:17:37 AM »
Great post, Bob. The biggest lesson I have learnt so far through traditional publishing is that building a brand takes time, patience and lots of hard graft.

Offline BuddyGott

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2011, 10:25:14 AM »
Another great posting, Bob. I've learned a lot from what you post here and on your site. You're a great friend for aspiring writers.  8)

Offline Lisa Scott

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2011, 10:33:25 AM »
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and insight with us.  Always so helpful and inspiring.

Offline Ian Kharitonov

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2011, 10:33:57 AM »
Top post, absolutely spot on.

Offline Andrew Neudecker

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2011, 10:34:58 AM »
Great post, Bob.


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Offline foreverjuly

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2011, 10:40:35 AM »
There are two major omissions to your list.

1. Posting pictures on Kindleboards.

2. Networking with other authors in addition to trying to reach readers.

Offline Amyshojai

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2011, 10:44:56 AM »
I launched my first Ebook (kittens) last April. It took 3 months to really start selling. And as Bob says, I learned from mistakes with the first book, improved with the second, and so on. It's only been since Nov/Dec that I really started consistently marketing--that's every day, no matter what--and not in a "buy my book" kind of way but through networking and one-on-one interaction with readers. Here it is about 3-4 months after that initiative, and I've just had my best month's sales to date. Tipping point, indeed.

Thanks again Bob for the post--I continue to learn and appreciate all the tips and support!

Offline Amyshojai

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2011, 10:48:40 AM »
There are two major omissions to your list.

1. Posting pictures on Kindleboards.

2. Networking with other authors in addition to trying to reach readers.

Hmnn....I do post pictures. Great headlines do the same thing, though. Combine 'em and you get rockets!

For me, I love networking with other authors--and I belong to several writer organizations and can personally contact 300+ animal-specific book authors. But they don't need my books, although sometimes they'll review 'em (and I return the furry favor). Networking with readers IMO should be the focus. Now, if the other authors are also readers of what you write, good on ye.  *s*

Offline Tiphanie Thomas

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2011, 10:51:57 AM »
Bob, thanks for the post! So true. I've just beginning, but I'm really enjoying having the control and responsibility. Makes each day exciting, but it also comes from previously being an accountant/financial analyst in the business world. Now, I can use that background for marketing and figuring out what will be profitable and practical.

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Offline Victorine

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2011, 10:53:07 AM »
Great post!  You're right on.  And I totally agree with Jason, networking with other authors is very important too.  Posting pictures here?  What, in the Not Safe For Work thread?  Putting David's head on J-Lo's body will get you sales?  Go figure.

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Offline Grace Elliot

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2011, 10:53:39 AM »
Interesting and encouraging.
Thanks.

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Offline Bob Mayer

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2011, 02:30:58 PM »
Oh yeah, work as hard at learning the craft of writing as promotion.  We can always learn to be better writers.

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #17 on: May 02, 2011, 02:36:21 PM »
Thanks Bob, for a new Indie, it feels like encouragement to me and I'll take it~! TR

Offline aaronpolson

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #18 on: May 02, 2011, 02:44:16 PM »
Excellent advice--it's so easy to lose sight of the big picture in the daily grind.   

Sorry mixing my metaphors.  :-\

Offline Chris Northern

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #19 on: May 02, 2011, 02:52:33 PM »
Just emerged from a very dark month of doubt. Good to be reminded that this is the wrong business for those who crave instant gratification. Your words always ring true, Bob, thanks for taking the time to share them.

 
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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #20 on: May 02, 2011, 03:08:51 PM »
Good points, all, Bob, 1 - 6.  I try to use them myself.  The one that I don't see there, and the one that vexes me the most, is promotion.  Some folks are really good at it and some are deep down in the learning curve.  Any tips on that?
Best!

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #21 on: May 02, 2011, 03:13:04 PM »
Thanks, Bob, for another great post.

I would agree that the KDP report page is a huge problem!  I find it much easier to sit back and let things ride over at Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc. because I distribute through Smashwords and I have no data for those places.

I completely sympathize, however, with checking sales all the time and wondering if what you're doing is right, especially in the first weeks and months of uploading a book.  A week goes by and no sales . . . what am I doing wrong?  I'm glad, too, that I didn't have the option of indie publishing five years ago after I wrote my first book.  That would have been a mistake.  It's just hard to detach when you're in the middle of it . . .

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #22 on: May 02, 2011, 03:50:02 PM »
Quote
Slow down and do things right.

Thanks for an inspiring list. The reminder to slow down is especially good in this fast-paced environment.


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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2011, 04:29:56 PM »
Hi Bob:
Thanks for the list. If you could go into promotion in more detail I would be forever grateful. I know what you mean about going too fast. I am now redoing my cover and writing an epilogue. May take your class sometime. We are practically neighbors. I live on Bainbridge. I seem to remember, hope I'm right, that you were a navy Seal. Good day for the Navy Seals today.
Ann.

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Re: What Does It Take To Succeed in Self-Publishing?
« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2011, 04:38:23 PM »
Loved this post. Thanks so much, Bob.