The Secret to Self-Publishing Success

by | Dec 13, 2010


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-publishing 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, https://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4297809244/

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

10 Comments

  1. Rudi

    awww thanks Theresa! I’m so happy to have made you at least laugh :) My book is caleld, “The Last Page” and it’s chick lit :) It’s a light hearted read but deals with the very real issue of loving again when you feel like you can’t go on. I was talking to my friend today at work who is from publishing in Nasvhille. I told her about the comment I had left you about editors. She told me that it’s very true. When she was an editor, she would have meetings with 4 other editors, and their boss, and would have like only one hour to go through FIVE manuscripts and choose 2 or 3 to continue on.So many books fall through the cracks! But I’m glad to see yours is getting such exposure! Think about it, 5,000 books in ONE month? That’s more than most first time authors sale first time around with print “with” a publisher! Or it at least is what most are getting for their entire book advance! haha. Can’t wait to see your update for latest sales!

    Reply
  2. nitpicker

    Sorry, the last few parargaphs make no sense. Do you even know what e-learning is? And you switch from talking about e-learning in general to “this type of e-learning”. Which type of e-learning are you referring to?

    And when you say, “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” what is the comma doing between the “fields” and “have”? Is that a typo?

    This post feels like fluff, I don’t actually see any substance to it. “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.” What exactly does that mean? What type of e-learning?

    “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.” Sounds like the kind of hype one might hear at an e-learning conference keynote. Everyone cheers and applauds but does anyone know what that sentence actually says? Sounds just like empty fluff to me.

    Reply
  3. Sue Collier

    Thanks for the mention. =) This stuff is not rocket science, but too many authors don’t look before they leap. Authors who enter into self-publishing after learning as much as they can, are much more likely to have a good experience–and sell more books!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Sure, Sue, my pleasure. You know this ground well, and all of us working with self-publishers have an interest in seeing them get the education that will help them have a chance to succeed. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  4. Anne Stormont

    Joel, Another excellent post. I completely agree with all that you say.

    Anne

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Anne. I’m working on ways to bring this kind of education to self-publishing. More to come!

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Cliff,

      That’s very flattering, thanks Cliff. Hope your readers get something from it.

      Reply
  5. Jeff Bennington

    Thanks Joel. I love your blog. I’m a new reader, but I’ve already learned so much. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Jeff, thanks for that. Glad you’re enjoying it.

      Reply

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