5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about

A timely sanity check for the self published authors out there and those about to embark on that route.

Suffolk Scribblings


One of the hardest thing to watch on social media is an author, usually a debut author, getting excited about their upcoming book launch and knowing they are about to get hit around the head with a hard dose of reality.

Theyโ€™ve done the right things, built up a twitter or Facebook following, blogged about the book, sent copies out for review, told all their friends about the upcoming launch, pulled together a promo video and graphic, maybe taken out some adverts. The first few days after launch are filled with excited tweets, mentions of early positive reviews and chart rankings. Then, after a few days, maybe a few weeks, the positive tweets stop and an air of desperation sets in as the reality of life asย an indie author hits home.

Part of the problem is thatย the authors most vocal on social media are those that have already seen self-publishingโ€ฆ

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About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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37 Responses to 5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about

  1. lorilschafer says:

    It seems wrong to hit the “like” button on this rather depressing post, so I’ll simply say this – it definitely bears out my experience. My memoir is still selling 3-4 copies a day two months after release, and although that isn’t fabulous, I’ll frankly be thrilled if it stays that way. However, in no way does this come close to compensating me for the time I’ve put into marketing – yet if I hadn’t done the marketing, I suspect that I wouldn’t be selling any copies at all. That’s a horrible feeling, as spending the remainder of my writing career working my butt off trying to sell books isn’t all that appealing. But I think it’s true – you either have to work hard enough to reach a tipping point in which your sales become steady, or simply watch as your book falls off the charts entirely. There doesn’t seem to be any solid middle ground that you can stand on, and based on the sales rankings I’ve seen for many traditionally published authors, I suspect that that’s as true for them as it is for indies.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Charli Mills says:

    The book industry is over-saturated marketplace. A writer’s task in marketing is to reach a niche market. I’m amazed at the number of genre writers that follow me on Twitter but never ask what type of books I like to read. Many send me a DM to buy a book that they have no clue if I’m even interested to read let alone buy. Or on Goodreads where it’s pretty darn clear what books I’ve read or want to read. If someone writes gory YA vampire tales that author should do a search for readers of “Twilight.” Those are the readers such authors should be following on Twitter.

    Marketing a book begins with identifying your target audience. Take for example your current dog WIP. Define dog lovers who read or pitch a few articles to dog magazines or set up a future book signing at a local charity event for dogs. Lori Schafer has a great opportunity to define readers interested in mental health and with her writing ability she can be doing pitches to magazines with the authoritative backing of having published a memoir that examines what it is like to lose a loved one to mental illness. Obviously you would have different interested readers. It’s a matter of defining audience and then creating a strategy to get in front of those niche readers. It’s a given that one’s writing needs to be quality and it has to stand out in the crowded marketplace.

    I also believe in the power of synergy when it comes to creating a market presence. For example, one co-op in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul doesn’t get much notice. But 14 co-ops in the same area can pool resources and gain a bigger presence. Thus it matters that authors find other authors to stake out a bigger territory with. So if someone sees the bigger presence, they’ll find multiple authors of many books not just another lone writer hawking solo. So in that over saturated market, a synergistic cluster can stand out. Of course, readers will still make a choice based on interest, but a group can gain the attention of “new shoppers.”

    And keep building. Especially relationships. Marketing is more than a launch and really you are marketing your “brand” which is you as the author and second you are selling a product, your book. Thus marketing is about building up who you are and creating both synergistic relationships and reader relationships.

    This is a great topic to discuss because writing is the easy part; revising is harder and marketing is challenging given the glut of books available. New authors need to find the readers and that takes time.

    Lori and Geoff–you both have rock solid books and writing talent so don’t cave in to the difficulty in finding readers. A better article to read is the one Rachel Thompson published today on Huff Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-thompson/authors-are-aholes_b_5636287.html. Don’t mind the title, it’s good stuff. And she says, “It typically takes FIVE books to start making a living on your work. FIVE.” So keep writing…and marketing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      I much prefer your positive outlook and encouragement to the dismal picture painted in the previous article. It’s one thing to be realistic, but don’t go killing off all the enthusiasm and motivation. I agree with you about the writing skills of both Geoff and Lori, and it’s interesting that you said their books would appeal to different readers. I have purchased both books. I am thoroughly enjoying Geoff’s (almost finished) and Lori’s is next. I read a variety of material but especially enjoy anything that develops character and relationships well. Geoff has done an excellent job of this, and I know, from excerpts I have read, that Lori has too. Two very different books,but both amazing reads. As soon as yours is available, Charli, it’ll be high on the list to read also. I know the relationships explored in it are complex and intriguing: a work of fiction, a memoir and an historical novel/exploration. What a wonderful variety of friends I have! Keep up you fantastic writing! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Great comment Charli and the article fascinating. I have done a small fraction of everything Rachel mentions and some I have no clue what she’s talking about ( but I can find out) and more needs to be done. Part of it is a stupid reluctance to promote oneself in any way because it is so against what I’ve done up to now. Save of course in my job where self and corporate promotion was essential. So why is this different? It isn’t. So just get in with it. As you say a very good topic for discussion. And oddly I didn’t find the original negative as much as thought provoking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        A good point, Geoff–that promoting one’s book is different than promoting one’s employer or work. Maybe we are more attached to what we write? Maybe more vulnerable? You might roll your eyes at the suggestion, but I wonder if having a marketing plan might make you feel more comfortable with promotional tasks. Sounds silly, but sometimes having a plan or checklist is enough of a separation that it feels more like promoting “work” than “self.” The article is thought-provoking! Look at all the provoked thoughts here. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s a bit skewed though and I wonder at the writer’s background. I don’t think it’s in marketing. Rachel on the other hand was a marketer and now has a published career writer she does a good job of blending her experiences. I was a marketer, but I know I don’t know the book publishing industry that well…yet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I do need to sit down and list what I can do, that’s true. This week’s non resolve: ring Dulwich books to see if I can host an event. It’s a start, if I actually do it. But a full, all singing thought through, properly punctuated plan? That’ll be a first.


  3. Annecdotist says:

    I think I saw someone link to this post elsewhere recently, but glad to have the opportunity to read it again, along with the useful comments Lori and Charli from their perspectives.
    I do think it comes down to why you write in the first place. While I’d love to have my books on the shelves โ€“ or better still the tables โ€“ at bookshops, I’m really grateful that anyone will read my writing, especially if they connect with it, and say so. I think we all owe it to ourselves to do SOME marketing โ€“ and especially targeted marketing, as Charli says โ€“ but it’s a conscious choice on how much to invest in these versus the writing.
    It was interesting to note from the article that freebies don’t help an awful lot these days and 100 sales is the average. I remember Alison Moore (shortlisted for the Booker prize with her first novel) saying that the initial print run from the respected but small publisher (Salt) was just a little over 100. With an even smaller publisher, I think I’ll be pleased to achieve that many, although that doesn’t stop me hoping for a lot more.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Norah says:

    Geoff, I’ve said quite a bit in response to other comments, so I won’t add anything here; other than to reiterate how much I am enjoying your book – not finished yet – taking my time to enjoy. I think it’s called savouring, though as the complexities increase and excitement heightens it is difficult to put down. It’s a great read that I recommend. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No, really?! I just wrote this huge comment and it’s gone. Roar.

    I basically said this seems true but it’s a bit harsh in the truth-telling. Then linked to Anne R. Allen’s post: http://www.annerallen.blogspot.com/2015/01/why-self-published-ebook-is-no-longer.html She basically says that self-publishing is here to stay but that if you want to get noticed or picked up by the biggies or traditionally published, this probably isn’t the best way to do it.

    Liked by 2 people

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