I recently completed a self-publishing course, which you can find at the UK Writers’ College. The goal of this course is to help authors succeed in an field that essentially made me as an author and a freelancer.
This article was quickly put together for another website, but I wasn’t entirely happy with it and quickly shelved it. After launching FWU, I figured that it would be of use to readers on this site. So, if you want to try your hand at self-publishing, take a look. If you want a more comprehensive guide, the course might be better suited, as it covers every aspect of self-publishing, from writing your first blurb to selling your first copy.
Self-Publishing Tips: How I Sold Half a Million Copies
“That can’t be right, can it?”
“Am I looking at the wrong page?”
“Am I dreaming?”
It was 2012. Christmas was a few weeks away and I had just spent the night at my father’s birthday party. I was checking my Amazon account before going to sleep, but as tired as I was, I wouldn’t be sleeping much that night.
I had been writing for ten years and getting nowhere. I had been published in magazines and newspapers, but my novels had been rejected by agents and publishers alike. After doing my research, listening to and ignoring obviously flawed advice (if the ones giving the advice can’t sell books, then you won’t either) I decided to self-publish.
And that night, on December 1st, I discovered that in a single day my debut novel had been downloaded thousands of times.
In a few days, it passed 5,000 downloads. By the time the free promotion ended, my sales matched those free downloads. I was able to repeat that success with my second book, and in the Summer of 2013, I rewrote and released some old novels under a different pen name. I didn’t expect much. Lightning doesn’t strike twice after all. But those books sold even more than the previous ones.
A year later, I had gone from broke, depressed and struggling, to wealthy and successful. And what’s more, my books were finally being read and accepted. It was everything I had hoped for.
Following in my Footsteps
I have tried my best to help others follow in my footsteps since, but there is a reluctance to believe what I say. Most of that comes from the belief that you can’t make money from giving things away. That may be true, but that’s also the only way for an unknown indie author to break into the Amazon system. The more free downloads you get, the higher you climb in the keyword searches and the more you feature in the “Also Bought”. Unless you’re a famous author, you’ll get nowhere without these free downloads, but with them, you can get the exposure you need to become a bestseller. I know that because I did it myself, working with a budget of $0 to shift over half a million copies, half of which were actual sales.
I have since moved over to the dark side (trade publishing) and Amazon has changed a lot in the interim, but many of the methods I used still apply. So, if you want to give yourself a chance to succeed as a self-published author, it’s all about the following:
Once you have polished your actual story, all of your focus should be on the cover and synopsis. Don’t half-ass this and don’t try to do it yourself to save money. I was lucky enough to have a close relationship with an exceptional designer who did it for free. You may need to pay, but it’s the only expenditure you will need. Keep the blurb short and sweet, two or three paragraphs will do, and include keywords here and in the title (in brackets after the title, and not in the subtitle section).
I have seen books sell 500 copies a day at $0.99, 100 copies a day at $2,99 and less than 5 copies a day at $4,99. You don’t have the overheads of a trade publisher, and regardless of what you might think, your book is not worth more than $2,99, not when so many other successful indie writers are selling at that price and lower. Your debut novel is all about sales figures and not income, so set the price at $0.99 and look to build a fanbase before releasing your other novels at a maximum of $2,99.
Before you do anything, you need reviews. These are easy to come by when you’re on your second or third book, but not on your first. Look to other writers, bloggers and reviewers. Look to friends and family. Do what you can, but don’t break the rules. Hard work is all you need.
When you have at least 8 positive reviews, set a free promotion for 2 weeks in the future. Use at least 3 of your free promo days.
Push this promo on as many sites and blogs as you can. EBookBooster and similar sites will make this process very easy for you (if you don’t have the reviews, they won’t include you and you won’t succeed). Social media is useless for this, focus instead on Kindle specific blogs and sites.
The day your promo finishes is the day the sales will come in. They will reach a certain point and then stall. The free promotion will basically take you so far. The trick is to take yourself further with other promotions. So, schedule book tours, BookBub/Book Gorilla ads and more to run on the day your free promo ends. Don’t spread them out. Just focus on that 1 day.
If you make it into the top 100 as a free book, success should be guaranteed. If this fails, then wait a few weeks and use the remaining days that you have. But in my experience, if you do this right and if your book is good enough, you will succeed to some degree.