I’m 21, I’m Romanian, and I write fiction. In English. I also self-publish my stories on Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, Kobo, and all other major e-book retailers. Ten years ago this wouldn’t have been possible.
Ten years ago, I would have had to leave my country and work hard to get noticed. To find an agent, to land a book deal. It would have taken me years to find an audience. It still takes years via the traditional route, but now we have an alternative.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that we live in a new world. An interconnected one. And there are plenty of new opportunities, self-publishing being one of them.
But the thing is that a lot of people don’t really understand what self-publishing is all about. I’m sorry to say it, but I’ve seen countless self-publishers furiously trying to sell their books to other self-publishers, I’ve seen self-publishers do nothing to market and promote – they sell 2-3 copies of their book in the first two months, and after that they unpublish it. I’ve read terrible self-published books, I’ve seen self-publishers do grave mistakes with the stories they choose to publish: bad editing, ugly covers, execrable interior formatting.
Basically there’s a lot of crap. Because no one can stop you from publishing crap. And I’m not talking about the writing: this is not the idea.
Maybe the biggest mistake self-publishers make is that they release books before they are ready. You have to do your best, to make your story look as professional as possible. Whether you like it or not, self-publishing is a business. So be professional about the stories you publish – because you’re expecting people to pay for them. If you can’t do your own formatting or covers, pay someone else to do it for you.
Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. There are writers who are great at their craft – but they would fail if they’d self-publish, simply because they weren’t cut out for this. You can learn, from your own mistakes, from reading other self-publisher’s blogs, but, like I said in earlier posts, there’s no recipe, no universal formula. And there will never be one.
What’s maybe ironic is that it’s not the writing that makes the difference. Oh, far from it.
Those who are successful at self-publishing have one thing in common: they love to interact with people. Even though they’re hiding behind a computer screen, they’re out there, blogging, promoting, connecting with readers and other writers. They’re building an audience, they’re always searching for new readers and new ways to reach those readers – they’re always experimenting, trying to find alternatives.
And there’s one more difference: they’re realistic. Set achievable short term goals and crazy, crazy dreams. No one has ever died from dreaming. In small doses, of course.
But don’t expect to win the lottery. Don’t self-publish and expect to become the next Amanda Hocking, or J.A. Konrath, or John Locke. Don’t expect to be selling half a million books in six months and then sell the movie rights to Warner Bros. Actually, never expect any sales. It’s something that you can’t control, unless you buy copies of your own books. Instead, work hard at gaining more and more exposure. How many people have read about your story? How many bloggers have reviewed your book? This is what you should be aiming for.
Self-publishing is for people who are enjoying themselves even when no one seems to be reading what they’re writing. I know it’s difficult, I know how it can ruin your mood when you see those stats on your blog – but remember that it takes time. Years and years before you find your audience. Don’t hold grudges, don’t cry when people give you one star reviews, don’t hate those who are successful.
And be realistic.
Let me tell you a bit about my own plans for this year.
By June 2013 I want:
– to have a pretty cool author platform. A real central hub for me as a writer, as a brand
– for people to say they’ve read Cristian Mihai and loved/hated him without really having to pay one dollar, meaning that I intend on publishing at least 1o-15 free short stories and one novel (more on that in August this year)
– to have one novella (Jazz) and at least one novel available for sale
– to have fun, writing great posts
– to help people – writers, readers, etc
– to earn enough to support myself as a writer (this is the trickiest part)
Maybe I’m not the best guy to offer advice on selling stuff. I know that. But I love to write, and what comes second to that is my love to be read. By anyone, by everyone. But I love to write, and I’ll keep writing no matter what. Everything else comes as a bonus.