There Is No Magic Bullet in Self-Publishing

Today’s post is based on this video I watched yesterday on You Tube:

I really like Dale’s videos. He’s usually quick and to the point, and I find that he does a good job of offering a balanced view of things.

That in mind, he also did a video on why you SHOULD publish on Amazon, too. Here it is so you don’t have to rush over to You Tube to find it:

For today’s post, I wanted to piggyback off of the first video because a few thoughts came to mind as I was watching it.

Quick disclaimer: I believe you should be on Amazon with ebooks. Dale brings up a situation where the author did better not going on Amazon, but most of us will have ebooks under $9.99 to sell over there, and in that case, it’s wise to be on Amazon.

That disclaimer aside, let’s get into the content of this blog.

There is No Magic Bullet in Self-Publishing

1. Just because you write it, it doesn’t mean people will find it.

I know this isn’t exactly breaking news, but there’s still this idea floating around out there that if you’re on Amazon (especially KU), you’re going to be earning a livable wage in under a year. Yes, there are people who are killing it on Amazon. I’ve met them. But it takes work to get noticed.

Dale is right about 2015. Before 2015, it was super easy to get noticed over there. You pretty much could write the book, publish it, and go off to write the next book. The algorithms on Amazon pushed you up without much effort on your part. It was a beautiful thing. Early on (like 2011 to 2012), Kobo and Barnes & Noble would push up indie books, too, but that lasted for maybe a year. So Amazon was definitely the indie author’s friend.

Despite everything, Amazon is still the friend of the indie author because even if you aren’t in KU, it’s still easier to get noticed over there. There are some authors who make more wide, but a lot of authors still make more money on Amazon than the other wide retailers. I’m one of them. Even not being in KU, I still make more on Amazon. That’s why I suggest being on Amazon with your ebooks. It’s one more piece of the pie you can have.

However, you have to do some marketing to get noticed. You can’t write the book, slip off into a corner, and watch the money come in. You have to work at it. The term “pay to play” fits. I don’t run a lot of ads. An author friend I have ran Amazon ads on her KU books and her wide books, and she found that Amazon pushed the ads with the KU books a lot more. So I don’t bother with Amazon ads.

I do, however, find success with Freebooksy ads, and I’ll run those to help give my backlist a boost. The first in a series free strategy still works, thankfully. I’m not a heavy marketer. That’s why I don’t make the kind of money I did back in 2013-2015. But the ads and permafrees do keep me afloat.

I’ve also found some success with pre-orders on Apple. This isn’t a big and wild success, but it does help to pay the bills. The longer you can have a pre-order up at Apple, the better. I even find that I make more on a new release on Amazon if I have it on pre-order for at least one month before it comes out. But again, you have to let people know about these pre-orders. You can’t just put it up and never mention it.

You should pick the marketing method that best appeals to you. I hate marketing. I find it physically draining. That’s why I use the path of least resistance. (Freebooksy ads, permafrees for Book 1 in a series, and pre-orders.) And guys, my strategy doesn’t yield megabucks. It’s enough to get by if you are getting books out on a consistent and frequent basis. The minute I go longer than two months between new releases, my income takes a nosedive. In my opinion, fresh and new content is a necessity if you’re not very good at marketing. If you are good at marketing, you can utilize your backlist to your advantage if you don’t want to be writing all the time.

2. Amazon has strict and ambiguous guidelines. Being on all retailers is, in my opinion, the best strategy.

Dale mentioned this in the video at the 3:49 mark, and he’s right. Things change. Nothing stays the same. You have to be flexible.

One of the benefits to being in this business for a little over a decade now is that I’ve seen things change across multiple retailers. I remember when Barnes & Noble wouldn’t publish an indie book. I remember when Kobo was created. I remember when you could make paperbacks on Amazon using CreateSpace. I remember when Amazon didn’t require exclusivity in order to get special visibility on their site. I also remember when authors weren’t able to do pre-orders unless they were with traditional publishers. Heck, I remember when traditional publishing was considered way better than indie publishing. I’ve been around so long, I even remember when MySpace was the place to go! 😛

During all of these changes, I have found Amazon to be the most punishing retailer out there. Sometimes it is the author’s fault when they get banned or have titles removed from sale, but sometimes the author did nothing wrong and it was a “glitch”. I had a title that went “off sale” in the US store for a week. When I mentioned this to KDP support, they put it back up without telling me why it had been removed. I had a few titles that were unavailable in Australia. I have NO idea why it happened, and my publisher was never able to reconcile it. So any time, for whatever reason, stuff happens on Amazon that you just can’t predict.

This is why I refuse to be exclusive on Amazon. I believe in being over there, but I don’t want to trust my entire author life to the whims of one company. As the financial advisors tell investors, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Some authors will put some titles in KU and have the rest of their books wide. I prefer to have all of my books wide. That way if, for whatever reason, Amazon decides to pull my books from their site, I still have my books on the other retailers. I’m willing to take less money from not being in KU in order to have the safety net of knowing Amazon can’t single-handedly destroy my years of hard work.

3. Not every book will be a hit.

For whatever reason, some books take off better than others. Even if you get emails from people telling you that they are eager to read a certain book, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a big seller. Then at other times, you write a book that doesn’t seem to be interesting to your readers, and that’s the one that takes off. Feedback from people does not equal sales.

That’s one of the reasons why I finally decided to write the books I wanted to read. I had pushed myself into writing a few books that I wasn’t all that interested in because I was getting feedback from people who wanted to read those stories. And there were times I didn’t go far out enough and take a story in the direction I wanted it to go because someone told me they wanted it to go in another direction instead. I even rewrote a few books early on to please my critics. Then I got comments from my readers who wanted the original versions, so I reverted the stories back to what they once were. Despite their many flaws, those books are in their original form today. Lesson here: don’t try to please the critic. You’ll only end up pissing off people who love your books.

We all want people to fall in love with our books. It’s natural. But at the end of the day, these are your books. You’re stuck with them. Everyone else can move on to other books, and they may even write their own books. However, you will always have this book in your backlist. Years from now, do you want to go back and read your books? If not, then feel free to write for other people. But if you do, then I think it’s best to write the books you want to read. That’s just my opinion based off writing books that I have written and have no desire to ever read again.

Anyway, the fact that not every book is going to be a good seller is why it’s important to keep getting books out on a regular basis. When you have books coming out regularly, it helps to keep the income steady. One bad release can be propped up with a good one. The money you’re bringing in isn’t so much like a roller coaster. It’s nice and steady.

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So that’s my two cents on the first video I posted on this blog. If anyone has thoughts they’d like to share, I’d be more than happy to listen. 😀

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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