Self-Publishing Catastrophe? 3 Tips To Write, Thrive And Sell

Recently, a local authors’ group asked me to chat with them about self-publishing. It was a fun evening with a mix of traditionally published folk and self-publishers.

After a brief presentation, the authors asked questions—with many questions about marketing, as well as failures, books that just won’t sell.

Everyone has duds, but there’s always something you can do. We’ll look at how to fix dud books shortly, but firstly, let’s talk about readers.

Find loyal readers who’ll love your books

In Tips To Attract Loyal Readers, we suggested that continuing a marketing push with a dud might not be the answer:

My preference is to do minimal or zero marketing for new fiction, whether it’s a novel, novella, serial, or short story. I want to see how the product does on its own.

If you’re a new fiction author, you won’t have readers, so that’s your first step—to find them. 🙂

Often you’re advised to “build a mailing list” by offering freebies and sending out regular mailings. That can work. It can also be a waste of time. A friend with a big mailing list finds that the members eagerly download freebies, but fight shy of his pre-orders.

Build a mailing list, but avoid heavy promotion—promote in your books’ backmatter, so you know your list’s members are those who’ve either purchased one of your books or downloaded it via a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Now let’s look at some things you can try to fix with your non-sellers.

1. If it’s not selling, you can fix it, sometimes easily

If a book doesn’t sell, look at easy solutions first—fix what isn’t working:

When I chat with authors, I’m frequently shocked at how few consider changing their book once it’s been posted. Why wouldn’t you change things if the book isn’t selling? Always give your books the best chances to succeed.

Very few authors use all the free advertising space in their books. You can overdo this, of course, but try the tactics in the article.

2. Occasionally, a book is a dinghy, not a ship: try compilations

My preference is for writing in series rather than standalones. The series acts as a ship, pulling along the dinghies, which are the others in the series. This is easy if you’re self-publishing.

If you’ve got a couple of books that aren’t selling, create a compilation of several books, and enroll it in KDP Select. It’s wise to be wary of Select; it either works or it doesn’t. But if books aren’t selling anyway, you don’t have much to lose.

I enjoy writing short stories, so if a book isn’t showing signs of life, I’ll add a couple of short stories to it and enroll the result in Select.

3. Chop shop: wield a knife on a non-seller

Last week I gave up on a novel, after writing 23,000 words. I hated doing it, but it had problems. I made a list of them and realized that it would be faster and easier to write something new.

So, this partial is for the chop shop. I can carve out three short stories from it, with minimal effort. Incidentally, if you’ve got a partial to chop into short stories, check out Quick Fiction Fix.

Similarly, you can carve up books you’ve published. I published a crime novel in 2014, which I intended as part of a series. But it never sold in numbers, so a couple of months ago I sliced it up into a couple of novellas.

In publishing, avoid thinking of a book as a failure; look for solutions.

Especially in self-publishing, you always have options

With traditionally published books, you need to wait until you get the rights back, but when you’re self-publishing, there’s nothing stopping you from doing whatever you choose with your books.

One of the group’s authors admitted he has several NaNoWriMo novels he hasn’t published. If you’re in the same situation, you can use the above tips on your own unpublished books—and have fun. 🙂

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