Jumping on Every Self-Publishing Bandwagon Can Cost You

By: Ebonye Gussine Wilkins

Another indie publisher I know asked me the other day if I was going to put my work on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. I told her I was hesitant to do so, and I tried to explain why. In the end, we disagreed on whether Kindle’s Unlimited program would work well for our books (which are very different), but it made me think about the products and services that people are told to invest time and money in which often have poor returns on investment for the average writer.

Borrowed from: http://blogs.staffs.ac.uk/mikehamlyn/tag/moocs/
Borrowed from: http://blogs.staffs.ac.uk/mikehamlyn/tag/moocs/

When you are doing your research for self-publishing and indie publishing, you will ultimately come across dozens of tips and services that are designed to help you succeed and make the most of the market. Unfortunately for a lot of published writers, these claims and promises often fall short. Here are some of the claims and promises I’ve heard from a variety of tips and services that many writers use, and how they may not work in your favor. I am not singling out any particular product or brand here, just giving you a few examples.

  • World-wide distribution: The goal is to increase the reach of your published work. Who doesn’t want to have their work available across different continents in dozens of countries? Here’s the problem: Just because your work is available world-wide doesn’t mean that it will be bought in those countries. If no one knows who you are or why they should read your work, what is the point of buying it, even if it is available? Exactly. If you don’t have a world-wide readership, then this doesn’t help you all that much.
  • Win an award for your book: They say that winning awards will help increase your visibility and help people find and want to read your book. Unless your book wins an award from a widely-recognized organization (e.g. Pulitzer, Nobel, Benjamin Franklin, National Book Award) then winning an award isn’t going to dramatically increase your sales. The average reader may not know if your award is a legitimate one or not (so you might sell a few extra copies) but most book experts will know, and they’ll ignore it.
  • Reach a wider audience: It doesn’t matter if you’ve reached a wider audience if you haven’t reached your target audience. If you’ve reached a large body of readers, and no one is buying your book, then you’re just going to end up frustrated, disappointed, and possibly angry. Not everyone likes every type of food, so not everyone will like your genre of book. Know that in advance, and work your angles properly.
  • Digital publishing is the way to more sales: In the end, you want people not only to buy your book, but to also like it. Digital publishing is not that much of a shortcut to publishing. To do it right, you still have to invest in typesetting, formatting, file conversion, book cover design, and marketing. But here is the hard news: while many readers love having a digital version of a book, there is still a population of readers who don’t consider it a “real book” unless it also has a print version. Most of the work you’ve put into digital publishing will be similar to print publishing, minus the perceived credibility. Not to mention, if you don’t have the readership in the first place (and the elusive word-of-mouth marketing), then you’re just spinning your wheels.
  • Crowd-funding will help you produce your book: Unless you have a bunch of people who are excited for your book (based on what you’ve told them) then you likely won’t raise as much money for your project as you would like. Your pitch, your story, and your timeline all have to be clear in order for this to work in your favor.

So what’s the lesson here? You will have to spend your time building up a readership and an willing audience before you’re going to make significant traction. While people are still reading books (albeit in different formats) getting them to read yours is the challenge. Start working on a marketing plan well before your book comes out, so that you can gain the credibility that you deserve.

Have you tried a tip or service for publishing that didn’t work out for you? Why or why not? Do you know why it didn’t work, or are you still baffled why?

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