It’s only been a few days since I introduced my Welsh coalmining disaster story duplex Aberfan and Senghenydd to the world, but already the lessons have been coming thick and fast. Here are ten of them:
- It’s easy. It really is. I can see why it becomes so addictive. No covering letters, no synopsis, no interminable wait for a reply to your submission. And no wondering if the small press that’s accepted your work will go under, leaving you unpaid and your friends and fans ripped off. But there’s a touch of the Admiral Ackbar’s about this too: I’ve seen writers elsewhere saying things like: “On the last chapter now, book goes on sale tomorrow!” I can’t agree with that: self-publishing should be an option; it should not be a short cut. And being easy to publish doesn’t mean it’s easy to sell …
- You don’t need to spend. Which is not to say you mustn’t spend, or you shouldn’t spend. Formatting services, editorial consultation and quality cover art can all enhance your product, and I know a lot of trustworthy and talented people offering them. But I didn’t need it on this occasion: the short stories had been workshopped and redrafted until I got them how I wanted. I had a beautiful picture of the Senghenydd Memorial which I’d taken myself, capturing the only blue sky of the day, and with the flowers marking the anniversary of the disaster freshly placed. And I got lucky with the formatting, as the contents of the Word doc transferred seamlessly over.
- Self-promotion is a soul-destroying task. Especially for an introvert like myself. By the third post on my own Facebook page I was getting sick of it, and after a few posts on various groups I found myself apologising for being there, and telling people where they could read the stories for free without buying the book. Nevertheless …
- Facebook groups that aren’t set up for advertising might not welcome self-promo. Even if the product is precisely what they’re interested in. I joined a group commemorating the Aberfan disaster and posted a link, not even to the Amazon page, but to this blog, where they would have the option of clicking the Amazon link or going back a few pages to where the story is posted on this site. Instead, the group admin chose option three, kicking me out of the group and blocking me from accessing it again.
- Conversely, Facebook groups that are set up for advertising will never generate any sales. Because everyone’s there for the same reason: they log on, post their link, and go away again. They won’t look at my book, let alone buy it. Why would they? I never looked at theirs.
- Not all likers are buyers. I got a much a warmer welcome on the Senghenydd page, where the group members rushed in their droves to give my link the thumbs up. But according to my sales figures, no more than two or three of them could have bought it. Of course, I knew this already: if everyone who’d liked my debut novel announcement and offered congratulations had actually bought the book, I’d be a full-time author by now. Likewise, if I’d bought every book I’d clicked Like on, I’d be bankrupt.
- Not all buyers are reviewers. Again, this is where I reap what I sow: there are hundreds of books out there that I love but have never put a review on Amazon for. In the last few years I have put reviews on my own site, and before that I never bothered at all. I will rectify this as soon as I have time. As for my book, it still has just the one review, but it is very reassuring to know that it compares favourably to a novelty Father Christmas toilet seat cover.
- It doesn’t take a lot of sales to make it into the charts. I remember an online conversation with Gary McMahon in which he remarked how many authors call themselves ‘Amazon Best-Sellers’ and I said that with so many different charts, anyone could claim that. Well, now I’m an Amazon Best-Seller, having reached Number 85 in the UK History chart by shifting a whopping four copies in 24 hours. And if your chosen sub-genre is niche enough, I bet you could make Top 100 on a single sale. Which is why …
- I will never earn any sort of worthwhile income by self-publishing e-books. I think I knew this already, deep down, but it’s been proven now. I know some people do, and they deserve every penny they make, because they must be working harder and smarter than I ever could. I never really thought I could make a proper living at this, but right now even making a handy few quid on the side feels like a distant dream. Not that I was trying to make any money on this particular release: it’s just a trial run, I was going to make it free, and anything I do earn will go to charity, but there’s nothing to suggest sales will be easier to come by when I’m doing this for real.
- End the article with a link to the book. You never know. You might have gained the sympathy of your reader enough for them to take the plunge, or you might be the beneficiary of a lucky mis-click. That’s not so far-fetched: I’ve already heard from my dad that he bought the book, but didn’t actually mean to. Says it all, really.