Self-Publishing Tips, Tricks, and Truths

I believe these things. If you’re the trusting sort, take my word for it. You won’t go wrong. If you’re not, use the comments or the contact form and ask questions or raise challenges. I’m delighted to explain my reasoning if you’re interested.

They’re not in order.

  1. Writing is joyous hard work.
  2. I don’t believe in trunk novels.
  3. Every minute you spend planning your novel will cut an hour off writing time.
  4. You cannot pay someone to “self-publish” your book. There are no “self-publishing” companies. “Self” means you did it. You can hire help, outsource bits and pieces or the whole thing. But you have to own the process and be in charge. Otherwise, it’s called vanity or subsidy publishing.
  5. Self-publishing is not a fall-back position for when traditional publishing fails, or if you think you’d never make it there anyway. It is a choice based on its own merits.
  6. You must have your own website and blog.
  7. Use WordPress. Use the free version if you really can’t afford $5/month. Otherwise, get hosting * and have your own copy installed.
  8. Charlottezweb is the best hosting you’ll get. Not the cheapest. Genuine personal concern for you and your website. *
  9. Update your blog at least once a week, but three times a week is better.
  10. Just say “no” to SEO. Good writing regularly updated is all a search engine needs to see.
  11. A self-published book can be the same quality as a traditionally published book, but you have to make sure of it yourself.
  12. Traditional publishing is a business, which means their criteria for choosing your book is its potential for commercial success, not its artistic merit.
  13. You can publish without any help from anyone, but you have to know what you’re doing.
  14. Hiring an editor is the best thing I ever did for my writing.
  15. You can edit your own work. In fact, you should. But then have someone else look at it. A paid editor is the best choice, but a good writer or two can work in a budgetary pinch.
  16. You can design your own cover. Hiring someone who knows what they’re doing is a better choice, but in a budgetary pinch, you can do it. Simple is better. Read The Non-Designer’s Design Book * and you’ll create a better cover.
  17. A video book trailer should cost a few hundred dollars, not thousands. Unless you hire Peter Jackson.
  18. Some people don’t buy digital books. Creating a paperback version at CreateSpace isn’t much extra effort.
  19. CreateSpace is for beginners, DIY types. Lightning Source is for publishing professionals. CreateSpace is forgiving of errors and offers do-overs. Lightning Source charges a premium price for everything. Both reach the same distributors.
  20. Getting your book into Barnes and Noble means nothing.
  21. Getting your book into your little local bookstore might mean something.
  22. Distribute your digital versions on Kindle and at Smashwords, where they distribute to everyone who’s not Kindle.
  23. Never edit as you’re writing. It prevents you from ever entering flow, the state of true artistic expression and joy.
  24. Writing is a profession. Be a professional.
  25. Write because you have something to say, not because there is someone who’ll read it.
  26. Write for art’s sake, not money.
  27. Start marketing your book (the part where you make money) the day you commit to writing it.
  28. Don’t think about your marketing as you’re writing, and don’t think about art while you’re marketing.
  29. Most books will never sell more than a handful of copies.
  30. Free is a strategy, not a price. 1,000 downloads by anonymous strangers doesn’t mean as much as 10 gifts to willing readers who like you and promise to read, give you feedback, and write a review.
  31. Check Predators and Editors before you work with anyone.
  32. No one cares who published your book — except (sometimes) other authors.
  33. Unless you write about writing, other authors are not your market. Sell your books to readers.
  34. Habits trump willpower a million times over. (See You Need a Writing Habit and Building the Writing Habit.)
  35. Don’t use tiny narrow margins. It makes your book look cheap. If you have money, hire someone who designs book interiors. If not, investigate the Van de Graaf canon.
  36. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to make a career of writing, plan on spending the first 5 years writing like mad and building a following by marketing constantly.
  37. Marketing does not require a plaid polyester sports coat. It is the art of talking to people to find out if they have a need you can fill, and whether they want you to be the one to fill it.
  38. Your next book is your best marketing. But only if your current book is really good.
  39. Marketing is the only way to sell things. If you hate marketing, don’t sell things. If you want to sell things, learn to love marketing.
  40. Stories have structure. Learn it, and you’ll save yourself endless rewrites.
  41. Knowing story form does not make your novel formulaic any more than using a recipe makes your cooking boring. If your cooking is boring, it’s not the recipe’s fault.
  42. Nobody knows anything.


* These affiliate links don’t cost you one penny extra. No amount of money would induce me to recommend something I don’t believe in.

3 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Tips, Tricks, and Truths

  1. Knowing story form does not make your novel formulaic any more than using a recipe makes your cooking boring. If your cooking is boring, it’s not the recipe’s fault.

    Nobody knows anything.

    I’ll give credit for the latter to William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride. I’m working on believing it completely. Risk. Try. Test. Experiment.

    (I pasted the ones you liked here, because the numbering will change as I shove more on the list.)

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