The Secret to Self-Publishing Success

POSTED ON Dec 13, 2010

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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What is it that separates successful self-publishers from the people who end up with the proverbial “garage full of books” and a feeling of hopelessness?

Why does one author publish and promote their way to regular monthly income while others are still trying to move their sales figures into 3 digits?

And why is it that despite networking, blogging, Facebook pages, promotion, and website development, some self-published authors accumulate a strong, active community of readers while others never get any community traction?

A really good book. Planning. Realistic goals. They all come into play.

But the single largest influence on self-published author success seems to me to be education.

The Hidden Difference Between Self-Publishers

Why education? When you sat down to write your book you probably knew nothing about publishing, distribution, marketing, promotion and sales.

You may not have even intended to publish the book yourself, but had thought of getting a contract from a traditional publisher.

At some point in the journey from writer to self-published author, everyone has to come to the realization that they are starting a publishing business.

And when you realize that, and begin to find out all the big and small decisions you will need to make to get your book into print, you understand why education is so critical.

  • For instance, vanity presses and abusive subsidy publishers would have far fewer clients if those authors were better educated to begin with.
  • Books with horrible covers that turn off prospective buyers would be less likely to get into print if authors knew even the most basic elements of cover design.
  • Books typeset in unreadable typefaces and bizarre text arrangements would be less likely to disappoint their creators if the authors knew even a bit about what a book should look like.
  • Books filled with hundreds of typographical, grammatical and factual errors would be much less likely to see print if authors found out how essential the editing process is to successful publishing.
  • And books written with no regard to what their intended market is interested in or willing to pay would be less likely to fail if their authors had some idea of how to find out what their market wants.

Of course, this list could go on and on. There is usually no single reason for success or failure in the real world, that’s simplistic.

But education—or the lack of it—has more to do with success and failure in self-publishing than any other individual factor I can think of.

Okay, But How Do We Find The Time?

Every day I talk to self-publishers and authors thinking of taking the leap into doing their own publishing.

I’ve explained how book distribution works, how to calculate discounts, how print on demand works, what you need to do to copyright your book, dozens and dozens of times.

Some people prepare diligently, hunting out sources of reliable information and doing everything they can to give themselves the best chance of success. But even for these people—and they are the minority—the odd practices, ancient conventions and rapid pace of technological change can be daunting.

There are a number of excellent books on self-publishing, and they are all very valuable to newcomers. Books from Dan Poynter, Sue Collier and Marilyn Ross, and others, attempt to offer encyclopedic compendiums of every question that a self-publisher might come up with.

Other books from Susan Daffron, Aaron Sheperd and others concentrate on one aspect of self-publishing, offering practical advice on that area.

Although I own these books and recommend them, in our fast-paced, on-demand, 24/7 world, sometimes it seems a bit regressive to tell someone, “Just order this book and when it arrives a week later look up the chapter on ISBNs and barcodes and you’ll find everything you need.”

E Learning to the Rescue!

I’ve spent the last year writing about self-publishing, book design, book marketing, social media and new publishing technologies that offer new markets and new ways to distribute the content we, as authors, create.

Over that time I’ve had to study intensively in areas like blogging, internet marketing, ebook creation, electronic workflows and a number of other fields. But I haven’t bought one book on any of these fields that I had to sit around and wait for at my mailbox.

That’s because most of these fields, have embraced the latest in e-learning, and deliver educational material in creative ways to people who need them.

I think self-publishing can borrow some of this technology to make education—the greatest indicator of potential success in self-publishing—available to more people, more easily, and more efficiently than ever before.

So for the last several months I’ve been investigating what the best ways are to bring this type of e-learning to the people who can use it.

This is the wave of the future. Delivering just the information and education people need, exactly when they need it. It’s up to us as self-publishers to both make use of this type of learning for our own education, and as educators ourselves, each in our own area of expertise.

Now that’s exciting to me, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

Because it’s education that will make us stand out from the crowd, and show each of us the secret to success lies in helping other people grow and succeed themselves.

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by Alan Cleaver,

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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