Are you ready for the ultimate truth? Well, here it is: nobody is born famous. Unless you’re already a house-hold name, achieving self-publishing success takes dedication, but not the kind you should be afraid of, or discouraged by, because being smart about your choices when going the self-publishing route can make all the difference in the world.
This shouldn’t surprise you!
Yet, I interact with so many authors that seem to feel self-publishing success comes by simply putting a book up on Amazon.
They’re above the strategies I recommend to ensure they’re building their platform, they feel bloggers with only a couple hundred followers are a waste of their time, they think the only measure of success is sales.
Spoiler alert: when you’re just starting out, or you have lots of books but haven’t consistently promoted your backlist, sales are not a measure of success. Self-publishing success requires a real foundation with super smart book promotion.
So if you’re one of the projected 90% of authors whose titles sell less than $100 a year, this piece is for you, and it’s not time to close the tab and stop reading because it’s too depressing, it’s time to face the music, dig deep, and work smarter this year.
Why is self-publishing success so complex?
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that publishing is a deceptively tough industry. And many authors simply don’t realize how hard it is to become successful. Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do was write the book and the rest … just happened? I once said in a presentation that publishing isn’t the Field of Dreams.
And just because you wrote it doesn’t mean people will beat a path to your door.
You have to tell them about your book.
And then you have to tell them again.
And guess what? Then you get to tell them some more, on different channels and platform and through different tactics – that’s what book promotion is in today’s market.
And it doesn’t end there! So if you’ve never chatted with a book marketing professional, I highly encourage you to do so. Their recommendations could really open your eyes to key areas you’ve been neglecting. And even if you’re not ready to invest in a big marketing collaboration, you can still learn a lot. Check out the Resources and Free Downloads section at the end of this piece to learn more about the super affordable, ultra-customized assessment with recommendations we do!
You need to knock even when there’s no door.
You have to love your book so much that even when no doors are opening for you, you still knock. Or maybe, you find a window. You’ll find yourself working tirelessly. You’ll accept every opportunity that appears and making the most out of each interview, even those at 3 am, because someone is listening.
In fact, this was a key strategy for the creators of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. And it doesn’t end there. You say “thank you” for even the smallest opportunity because the savvy author knows that small opportunities leads to bigger ones. Today’s “nobody” could be tomorrow’s J.K. Rowling – and I don’t care how you feel about Harry Potter, her story is no joke, she worked her ass off.
Walk the walk, don’t just talk the book promotion talk.
An author once told me, “I listen to you because you walk the walk, you’re an author yourself and you do what you tell us to do: grab every chance you can to get your name out there.”
It’s true, but it stuck with me. Because even though I have the email addresses to producers of the Today Show and Ellen ( and maybe even a cell phone number or two), the truth is, I’m right here in the trenches with you and struggle to find time and creativity for my book promotion. And we all find ourselves hunting the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Persistence is key. Because you have to keep following it around every corner, every day.
Don’t let yourself generate negative talk around how you “meant to” start marketing your book last month, or you “just don’t have time” because it all comes down to choices. If you really want to make it work, you can, many others do, don’t allow yourself excuses anymore.
No opportunity is too small on the road to self-publishing success.
I still love and appreciate every opportunity I get. Sometimes I’ll even get emails from people who say, “I’m sure my blog is too small for you to consider appearing on, but I thought I’d ask you anyway.” You know what? Nothing is too small. Not now, and not ever. And for such a humble pitch, I’ll clear my schedule.
We work with a variety of sites on author promotion and we get book and interview requests for our authors as a result. And what I’m about to tell you will shock you. The other day I was scrolling through a list of authors who received requests for interviews and copies of their books, but who never turned in the requested information or didn’t send the book.
In fact, out of ten on the list, only one had responded appropriately. The others blew it off, said they weren’t interested or just forgot. In ten years, guess which of the authors will still be writing? Yep, the one who busted their tail feathers to get the requested content out the door.
And they’ll probably be successful too, having continued to pound the pavement for more opportunities. As for the others, they’ll be back at their jobs wondering why the world never read their book, and why they aren’t famous.
Stay dedicated to the long-term.
I love self-publishing and I’d never want to be anywhere else. For all of its challenges and obstacles there’s nothing it. But being a successful author requires a dedication that most people will never understand, as well as a daily dose of humility.
Bottom line: never, ever assume that just because you wrote a book you deserve fame. No one deserves fame, it’s earned, and for many of us, always elusive.
At a recent conference presentation, before the event started, I heard a voice call out: “It’s really you!!”
A man approached me with my book in hand. “I’ve been following your work for years, you are such an inspiration,” he said breathlessly. I looked around to see who he was talking to. Sure enough, he meant me. I was floored.
He went on to thank me for my work, my website, my blog, and our monthly newsletter. Finally, he took a breath and asked me if I would sign a copy of my book (I still find this incredibly thrilling, by the way). I told him how much I appreciated what he said, he seemed surprised. I just smiled and said: “Thank you, because you remind me why I do this, each and every day.”
Always be amazed and appreciative of every chance that comes your way. Every review. Every rating on Goodreads. Every sale. Each is a win, don’t throw it away for a goal that keeps you feeling discouraged.
Take advantage of every opportunity and thank the person giving it to you.
After all, you weren’t born famous, and the industry doesn’t owe you anything but a chance to put yourself out there and publish your book on Amazon. You got that. Now what will you do?