It is now nearly six months since I self published my first book, Rise of a Champion. I crossed a personal milestone recently selling the hundredth copy, which I am absolutely buzzing about. When I set about becoming a self published author, I honestly expected to sell perhaps a book a week, so to sell an average of twenty a month to this point is a real boost to my confidence as a writer.
Having neglected this blog because of a hectic ‘normal’ life, and having learned a thing or two about the publishing world so far, I thought I’d share my experiences with you all.
The Writing Process
Writing as a self published author is both easy and difficult. It is easy because you are your own boss, you don’t have anybody above you telling you to shorten chapter two and add more to chapter seven, and you can write at your own pace. The first three books in the Legend of the Cid series took around three and a half years to plan, research and then write. I took a break before ploughing on with book four, in case I made some big changes in the previous books. Then when I broke off from my agent at the time and decided to self-publish, I dove straight in to designing my own front cover, map and everything else within the book, and honestly enjoyed doing it.
But that is the thing about self-publishing; when you are done writing the manuscript, you have to do everything else yourself. I have not got the budget to hire a professional editor to comb through the final draft and check for grammatical errors, consistency with names and places and any other words which are not picked up by a spellchecker, so I have to rely on my own keen eyes. I will be the first to admit there will be an error or two still in there, just because my eyes will not pick everything up. And though I enjoyed designing the front cover, it took ages, just because I am a perfectionist and will constantly tweak to the point I am happy with the design…then tweak some more, because why not? And another thing which I hated and I wished I could pay someone else to do…marketing.
So I finished the book and put it on Amazon at the beginning of April with a release date for the end of the month. How do you get people interested? Well, I thought I had a decent grasp, but it turns out I didn’t really do it properly. I had started to build up a social media presence, particularly on Twitter, as well as creating this website and a Facebook Author page. Then I started interacting with other writers, to the point some of them must have been sick of seeing my mug popping up on their notifications, liking their posts and being a nuisance. But it worked to a point, as when I was tweeting about my own book, people were becoming interested and sharing them with their own followers. And over on Facebook I did the same with some Historical Fiction writing groups, making myself known to others. I even had a few pre orders, undoubtedly from my posts being shared with others, and when the book came out it began to sell quite modestly, but it sold nonetheless.
One thing I did, but perhaps did not do enough, is get reviewers involved. Reviewers usually offer to review your book for free in exchange for a review on Amazon/Goodreads, and usually on their own blogs. One thing I have found is that a book with more reviews on these platforms perform better. If loads of people have read it and given it 5* reviews, it must be good, right? So whilst I did send Rise of a Champion out to reviewers, and got some really good reviews at that, I should have searched high and low for more. I think I managed to get around 4-5 back; in truth, I wish I had gone for at least 25.
When you self-publish a book on Amazon, you get the option of enrolling it on KindleUnlimited, which means you can only sell it through Amazon for the first three months, but people can read it for free if signed up to the program. I didn’t know if KindleUnlimited would be worth it when I signed up the first book, but I would say it totally is. The way it works is that there is a global fund for all books signed up to KindleUnlimited, and you get paid for each page of your novel which is read based on how much is in the fund for that month. From my experience, I have been getting about 0.3p per page; if someone reads the full book, at 488 pages, I end up with around £1.63, which is better than paperback royalties, and slightly less than an ebook. And because people aren’t actually buying the book, they are more likely to at least give it a try, and if they like it, they will probably end up reading the full thing. When sales of ebooks and paperbacks dry up for a short period, I have found KindleUnlimited sales have slowly dripped in to boost the royalty pot.
I have already touched on Twitter, but I’ll give a few more of my findings. First, it is a great place to connect with the writing community and like minded people. In the early days, I would post links to my book almost daily, sign up to retweet groups where we would all share each others posts, in an effort to share the post far and wide and bring in dozens of people to buy the book. Or that is what I thought.
Unless I am doing something wrong, in my experience Twitter is a bad place to try and market a book to sell. Getting exposure for it is no problem; all it takes is a few retweets from people with lots of followers for people to reach a wide audience. Yet I have noticed a lot of the followers of people who share my posts are writers themselves, who follower other writers to boost the follower count. There are a few real ‘readers’ who follow writers and comment on their posts because they are fans, but I have yet to see many thus far (although this may simply be because I have no fans!).
So that was what I found out about the self-publishing world with the release of Rise of a Champion. In the next post, I will look at what happened when I published book number two, Blood Feud, only four months later…