So you’ve spent the last few months working on the next great novel. Maybe you’re almost done and have started thinking about how you’re going to get this book out there and in front of people. You might even go as far as thinking “it’s a great story, it’ll become famous on its own merit!”
Unfortunately, I’m here to bring you back down to Earth.
If you’re just starting out as a self published author, the reality is you don’t have a clue what you’re doing yet. You can read all the information there is on self publishing and you’ll still be nowhere near ready. The only real way to get good at this and make it your full time job is through experience and some good ol’ fashion trial and error.
Save your novel. Put it on a shelf for the moment. You’re not going to be able to get it the exposure it deserves.
Start with short stories
Now that your novel is shelved, let’s get you some experience! A common theme I’ve seen in the writing community is that authors think the best books magically float to the top while the worst sink. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. The books you see in the top 100 lists on sites like Amazon have been expertly crafted and marketed by those with the knowledge to do so.
We’re going to apply a concept from the startup world. The basic premise is to fail fast. Accept the fact that the first few things you publish are going to fail. Hell, my first short story didn’t sell a single copy until I published my third! Had I written full length novels, I probably would have given up and thought I was a terrible writer.
However, because I published short, 5000 word stories in my target genre, I was able to quickly see what worked and what didn’t. These stories each took about a week to get from blank page to published, so I didn’t have as much invested in them and it was okay to see them failing.
Each short story you publish should be better than the last. Focus in on your keywords, your covers, titles, blurbs, and the hook on page one. See what works and what doesn’t. When you’re getting consistent sales on everything you do, that’s when it’s time to go back to your novel.
Use a pen name
At the start, resist the urge to publish under your real name. Publish under a pen name (which, I might add, Book Sprout makes incredibly easy). When you’re confident in your ability to get at least ten sales out of the gate without promotion, that’s when you should switch to either your real name or a new, clean pen name. You don’t want all of those old trial and error books getting in the way of your future customers.
Novels take a long time to write. Learning how to self-publish properly takes a long time too. Minimize the time spent gaining experience by writing short stories until you have the required knowledge to get your books in front of the readers who want to read them.