self-publishing secret sauce

4 Servings of self-publishing secret sauce

Choosing to self-publish a book is choosing to take control of your own creative destiny.

When you make the decision to go the independent route, you say no to gatekeepers and the glacial pace they work at over in the traditional publishing world. 

Instead, you embrace total creative control, freedom, and the ability to move at a speed that suits you and your lifestyle.

Inevitably, there will be a learning curve and some bumps along the way. But why wouldn’t there be? Even writing a book on its own is no easy process. Self-publishing involves that and much more, such as formatting the book, choosing a cover, launching it, and overseeing marketing efforts.

Sadly, too many authors throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty. It’s painful to imagine how many promising authors we’ve lost who could have achieved great things if they’d simply had the tenacity to keep going. 

In order to make the inevitable growing pains a little less discouraging, we’ve gathered together some tips to help make the process of publishing your first book a little less taxing.

Read on to discover the secret sauce to being a successful first time indie author we’ve prepared to help you along your journey.

Treat the first book as a learning process

Too many authors go into the process of writing and releasing their first book with expectations that simply can’t be met. 

This is somewhat understandable. After all, there is definitely a ton of potential to reach readers and achieve huge levels of success as an indie author. However, most of the major success stories follow a period of learning the ropes and getting a feel for how things really work.

Try and treat your first book as a learning process. It’s a practical education in what it actually takes to go from having a book idea to having a book available for purchase that is worthy of attention.

This isn’t to put a downer on your ambition. The sky’s the limit with self-publishing and we’re in no way doubting that. However, see your first book as you would any other new skill – something that is merely paving the way for your later success.

This is an attitude that people naturally adopt in other areas of life but sometimes seem to overlook when it comes to book publishing. If you started running you wouldn’t expect to achieve an amazing marathon time within a few months of getting started. So why should publishing a book be any different?

Instead of seeing your first release as ‘sell tons of copies, make lots of money, or see the whole thing as a failure’, try and consider whether the following attitude shifts would serve you better:

  • “My first book is a trial run. I’m learning what works, what doesn’t, and how long different parts of the process take me.”
  • “Most authors don’t experience major levels of financial success with their first book, including traditionally-published authors. If i break even that’s a major win, and if I don’t, it’s an investment I will recoup and profit from in the future”. 
  • “Seeing my first book available for sale is a win in and of itself. I will use it as a springboard to my future success and simply being able to call myself an author is enough for me”.

There is a whole range of wins available to you with your first book that don’t have to include runaway financial success. Try and find some that excite and motivate you and hold onto them. 

Allow buffer time for every stage of the process

It can be hard to know exactly how long all the moving pieces of writing and releasing your first book will take. 

Even if you take the time to learn from those who have done it before, you are likely to come across a range of answers. Within that range will likely fall your own personal time. But you only get to discover what it is by getting hands-on and finding out for yourself.

One of the easiest things to estimate is how long your first draft will take, provided you have a solid track record of being a writer. If you do, you most probably know how many words you can get down in an hour.

By starting with your target word count for your draft, for example 40,000 words, you can work back and estimate how many hours you need to finish your draft. For example, if you produce 1000 words an hour, you’d need to schedule 40 writing sessions of an hour to hit your goal.

It’s always wise to include a little buffer time. Life happens – you might get sick or something else could get in your way.

However, don’t include too much buffer time, or you will end up taking longer than you need to complete things. Allowing 10-20% longer than you think you need is a good starting point. You can always revise it with future projects. 

Follow a proven plan

One of the worst things you can do with your first book is trying to reinvent the wheel.

Some authors are naturally creative souls and a little bit rebellious to boot. This can lead to an aversion or resistance to following someone else’s process.

However, experienced authors have a lot to teach you. Following their guidance allows you to do things in a way that’s proven to work, avoiding many common pitfalls and headaches along the way. You can still refine their process over time – but don’t throw away countless hours figuring out parts of the publishing process others already have. 

Walk the path that’s been trodden before you and stand on the shoulders of giants. 

Budget carefully

While it’s possible to self-publish a book for almost zero money invested, it’s usually not wise. 

That’s not to say you need to spend the Earth. Be frugal by all means and look for savings. But also be honest with yourself that spending less is likely to lead to two outcomes – 

  1. Often, a lower quality end product than if you’d invested the money.
  2. More time spent. How much is your time worth? Often, spending cash is a way better choice than having to invest multiple hours of your time into parts of the project instead.

Of all the things it’s worth spending money on, your book cover designer and your editor are two of the most worthwhile. 

Your book cover is a sign of your book’s quality to the outside world. Even the best book is likely to be ignored if it has an unappealing or cheap-looking cover. 

Editing is the major sign of quality once someone has opened the book. Even the best writers have many rounds of editing on their work. As good as your idea is, if it’s badly-edited, your readers are likely to give up and be hesitant to check out any of your future work.

If you want to save money on self-publishing, you can consider:

  • Carrying out initial self-editing using a top of the line tool like ProWritingAid
  • Choosing a reputable premade book cover to get quality at an affordable price
  • Trading services – for example you could carry out some writing for an editor in exchange for them working on your book

Ultimately, you don’t need to spend more than you have, but frugal, careful investment is likely to pay off and lead to greater levels of success early in your author career. 

Are you ready to get cooking?

So there you have it – four doses of secret self-publishing sauce for first time indie authors.

Our parting advice is, above all, commit to releasing more than one book.

You’re unlikely to hit a home run the first time you swing the bat. 

Unless during the process of writing your first book you decide it’s absolutely not the thing for you, then you owe it to yourself to see where your second book takes you.

Simply by making that commitment you put yourself ahead of the vast majority of aspiring authors who throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty. 

We wish you every success!

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