Self-publishing success stories

Getting your manuscript published into your novel or book can be a draining process especially if you are an upcoming writer. Getting publishing firms that will take your manuscript and get it published can take series of rejections and months of consideration. And hey, the fact your manuscript got rejected does not mean it was no good, several acclaimed authors and novels got rejected as much as twenty-four times.

You can avoid all the hassle by self-publishing, but this also is no easy feat, although it does bring success.

The days were self-publishing was downplayed and regarded with skepticism is gone, now, the world is filled with stories of self-publishing successes.

If you are not sure about self-publishing, here are a few inspirations from successful authors who self-published.

Andy Weir, The Martian

I’m sure you might have watched the Hollywood blockbuster that featured Matt Damon, that bestselling novel went from a side blog with a science-loving audience of Weir’s blog. As a science guy, he posted chapter by chapter of a story of a guy stuck on Mars. The interest of his sci-fi fans and literature lovers made him compile all the chapters and sell them on Amazon. The book became a New York Times bestseller and the film rights sold in 2013.

E L James, Fifty Shades of Grey

Everyone knows the Grey film franchise. I remember being at a bookstore and the bookseller asked me to buy the just published trilogy, not being a romance reader, I declined to buy them. Next I heard was a rave of Fifty Shades of Grey film that everyone wanted to watch, you can guess the rest. I watched the films of the same books I didn’t want to buy at first.

The Fifty Shades trilogy was first posted on a fanfiction website under the title Master of the Universe, but was taken down from the website due to its sexual content. But James did not back out from that throwout, she rewrote the story, changed the title, and reposted it on her own site as an original story. Thereafter she got published and then came the film rights.

William P. Young, The Shack

This is one of the famously rejected manuscripts by traditional publishing firms for 26 times that finally became a Times bestseller. Young wrote this story for his children at Christmas and first printed only 15 copies which he distributed to family and friends. They encouraged him to get it published, but after the rejections, in 2007 Young self-published The Shack, and now have several novels and books on different topics and genres under his name.

 L.J. Ross, Holy Island

Ross has said that self-publishing was the best decision she made about her novels. Her crime thriller series has become wildly successful and sold 5.5 million copies five years after she first self-published in 2015, with 18 of her novels hitting the #1 spot on the bestseller lists.

Due to the success of self-publishing her novels, she has turned down several offers from publishing firms and publishers, stating that she loves every detail of self-publishing. She was the first self-published author to be shortlisted for the British Book Awards and is called ‘the queen of kindle’ due to her successful eBook sales on the Amazon KDP platform.

Christopher Paolini, Eragon

There are several success stories of Indie writers, but one that fascinates me is that of Christopher Paolini who was just 15 years old when he wrote his first epic fantasy Eragon, and self-published it with the help of his parents when he was 19 years. From then, he tirelessly promoted his book, embarked on tours, festivals, and anywhere he could be. This got the attention of Random Publishing House to publish the rest of his books.

Due to Paolini’s success in self-publishing his first novel, he remains to date the youngest author of a bestselling book series according to Guinness World Record.

Rapi Kaur, Milk and Honey

This successful self-published author wrote, illustrated, and self-published her first poetry collection, Milk and Honey at 21 years old as an undergraduate student of a university.

She explained at an interview with the Times of India, that “The literary world didn’t even see me. I was 20-year-old, brown, Punjabi Sikh woman from a working-class immigrant family.’ Self-publishing was her way of taking control of her own narrative without depending on the approval of anyone else.

She has grown to become a name identified with ‘Instagram poetry’ and has sold over 8 million copies of her first two poetry collections.

STEPS TO SUCCESSFULLY SELF-PUBLISH

So, now that you want to make a living as an author and turn dreams into stories, and stories into assets that payout for the rest of your life, you should know the straightforward steps that can get you that life you dream of as a writer. The self-publishing market has been saturated with several other ways and cheap tactics that make self-publishing harder than it used to be.

Let’s look at the steps for self-publishing your book.

1. Decide if self-publishing is right for your book.

Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. For some, this may be a great deal-breaker, but for others, it might be the biggest mistake they venture into. Every writer is different and so are their works, you should not follow the path of another writer without knowing what that writer’s plan is.

These questions can help guide you through making that decision if self-publishing is right for you and your book.

  • How well do I understand the marketing structure?
  • Is writing a hobby or a business for me?
  • How much control do I want to have over the cover design, the content, and the editing of my book?
  • Am I willing to learn the requirement of self-publishing?

So, if you love getting involved with the entrepreneurial part as much as the artistry, then independent publishing makes sense for you.

2. Define the term “making a living” to yourself.

The traditional method of publishing has been toppled significantly by the economics of self-publishing. The money you make from self-publishing can be great if you treat your writing like a business even without being a bestseller. Several authors are earning comfortable pay from being indie writers.

The common issue and fear most writers have with becoming self-published is the idea that they can’t sell as many books without publishing firms. You don’t need luck to make self-publishing a full-time writing career for yourself, all you need is to sell 100 copies of your books a day.

That doesn’t sound easy right? So what’s the best way to sell 100 books a day?

3. Research the market of your genre.

Learn everything you can before you self-publish.

A lot of writers do not do this, both indie and otherwise. Making a huge income from your self-published book depends on how much work you put into knowing your genre and researching the market.

Write books that people want to read and not just stories you like to hear yourself. When you research, it helps you know how your book would resonate with your audiences because you took the time to find out.

Writing to market is not a bad thing. Successful books should be about the readers.

Even when you are writing for a market, you should never lose sight of the fact that you are the writer and should love what you write first before your readers can feel what you also felt. If you don’t, then it won’t be sustainable and might garner you poor reviews.

4. Write and edit professionally.

Every book you write is an asset and should be treated as such. Write books that earn you readers and fans that will always look out for your next work.

When writing, think long-term and build a strong catalog of quality work. Avoid shortcuts especially with editing, this could ruin your work for a long time.

5. Write and keep writing.

If you are a first-time writer and this is your first book, you are excited to get it out into the world of readers, you are ready to be the next big writer.

Don’t!

This is not a hard and fast rule, but publishing your first work immediately after writing it may cause you to realize you are not that special a writer. This is not because you are not good, but they are better writers out there who have worked harder and written longer than you have.

Consistency in writing makes you a better writer, gives you a stronger edge that makes your work eventually stand out. So after that first work, set it aside and write another, and maybe a third. Then return to the first, see the difference? Great, now you can work on that again and publish.

Also, writing more than one book helps keep your name fresh in the minds of readers, but if after one book, you vanish and there’s no second one, they tend to forget you and move on to other writers who are consistent in their writing.

6. Publish.

You’ve got your books ready to go, you are ready to start the engine and self-publish, before you do that, there are two things you must invest your time and effort into before you publish your book.

  • Invest in your cover page. Your book cover is the first attraction that invites readers to your book, so you want to be detailed and expensive about it. Avoid looking for cheap online covers, instead engage the service of a designer to get you a cover page that will sell your book before your story does.
  • Write an outstanding description. Okay, personally, I can write 400 pages of a novel and get stuck writing a few lines of description for my book cover, and some writers have similar issues too. But the synopsis makes a reader want to dive into your book or abandon it on the shelf. So, if you’re like me and have difficulties writing a description that sells, pay a copywriter to do it for you.

If you have to do it yourself, drop tantalizing highlights that make readers eager to know more.

No matter how beautifully written your book is, people do judge a book by its cover.

7. Do it again.

So, you have self-published your first novel or book, the sales are coming in big, reviews from outsiders are great, you are making the money you dreamed of. Don’t stop. Do it again.

Do not make the mistake of seeing the success of your first self-published work as the finishing line. See it as a starting gate and continue writing.

It’s important to note that readers loved your first work for a reason, if you are a fiction writer, do not jump rails or change genres immediately after your first novel. You have built a fan base for your work, continue in it for a few more novels, grow your author platform, bond with your audience, and then gradually you can expand to other genres.

8. Recapitulate.

After you have published your work, don’t go sitting down and waiting, the following points are necessary to boost sales of your novel;

  • Constantly promote your work. Be consistent with your marketing and learn new strategies daily that can promote your work without looking like you’re in the faces of people.
  • Keep learning.  Things are constantly changing, and the book world is not exempted. You need to keep up with those changes and understand them. This way, you can apply those changes to your book.
  • Build your catalog. This is the portfolio of your work, and every work in your catalog matters, so don’t focus on new content at the expense of older titles.
  • Paid adverts. One of the easiest ways to get your book the success it deserves is via paid adverts. Find the right online channels, get a well-written description of your book that is eye-catching, professional covers, then, downloads and sales will be in tons.
  • Connect with your readers in new ways. If you have to begin a podcast or a blog to connect with your readers, then do that. You can also have an audio book recorded for those who do not have the gift of opening books to read, or make your story into a screenplay. You have a fan following now, show them that you are committed to giving them new things to love.
  • Outsource. Most writers are best only at creating ideas and writing those ideas into books. If you are one of such, don’t fret. You can still have successful sales of your self-published work. Just outsource the marketing, websites, advertising, and anything else that will bring sales to your book.

When you self-publish, you have to think like an entrepreneur, because you are launching your book, and also your publishing business.

Awe Ogon

Awe Ogon

Awe Ogon is a lawyer, an L.L.B and a B.L. holder with over 9 (Nine) years writing experience, a Nigerian who resides in Accra, Ghana. She is a Christian, an ardent reader, a prolific writer, and published author of Misnomer (a collection of poems), and a non-fiction book, Conversations with God, and two fiction novels in view. Writing has always been her edge over life; her work is outstanding and captivating. Her goal in life is to become a great writer that inspires others through her work.

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