The world of publishing has evolved over the past 13 years, all thanks to the birth of one product: the Kindle. As soon as Amazon started giving authors the chance to self-publish their own books, on their KDP platform, traditional publishers were no longer the arbiters of what books would ‘make it’. But, in order to make any profit at all, self-published authors have to get just as good at advertising and marketing, as they are at writing.
In 2021, any author who wants a career, as a writer, has two options. They can either publish traditionally or they can self-publish. The difficulty of getting a traditional publishing deal and the poor monetary returns, have caused many authors to turn to self-publishing.
The technical process of self-publishing, on Amazon, is not hard. It takes a matter of minutes to upload a book onto Amazon, and other platforms, such as Kobo. What is challenging, is what comes before and after.
Firstly, writing a book that is good enough that people want to buy it and read it, is a challenge in itself. Then once the book has been written, a self-published author has to learn how to market and advertise it. These days, the competition, on e-reader platforms, is so stiff that without advertising, it’s very unlikely that the book will achieve any sales.
Many experts believe that the process of marketing the book starts before the book has even been written. An author should research his or her intended market and observe the books that are doing well, within that genre, then attempt to write a book that contains many of the same tropes as the books that are currently popular.
There are vast online forums in which self-published authors exchange tips for success. One common technique is to write a novel or novella and give it away for free, in exchange for potential reader email addresses, in order to build a mailing list. Another common technique is to write an entire trilogy or series and then release the books quickly, every few weeks, in order to gain traction with Amazon’s algorithm, and maintain reader interest.
Another challenge is the cost of getting a self-published book to market. It can cost between £500 – £1500 to get a novel professionally edited. If you’re writing non-fiction, the cost of formatting and illustrations takes this figure higher. Then there is the cost of a good cover, which is normally £150 minimum, but can run into the thousands for the best cover designers. Sadly, the old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is ignored by the majority of readers. Readers do judge books by their covers and if a cover appears sub-standard and unprofessional then the book will not sell, no matter how good the story, inside.
You may be reading this article thinking ‘why is she such a Debbie Downer?’. My intent is not to dissuade you from self-publishing a book. I’ve self-published three novels and it was the best decision I ever made. I merely wish to give you the real, warts-and-all picture of what self-publishing is like. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It is not a way to get famous. These things may happen but you may also get hit by lightning – the odds are about the same.