Last week I wrote a post titled 5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about. It caused a bit of a reaction. For most of the following week my blog received 10 times its usual daily traffic and to date the post has received 130 comments. To receive such feedback was wonderful but at the same time there was a problem. My initial reason for writing the post was to let new authors know that self-publishing is difficult and not a guaranteed route to riches, but also to reassure writers that if their book doesn’t take off immediately that they weren’t a failure. However, in some cases the post was interpreted as “this is your fate, accept it.”
Today, Heather Hill, a good writing buddy of mine, wrote a great post about what’s required to be a successful self-published author, which I’ve reproduced with her permission below. I’ve known Heather since before she published, and one of the things that struck me about her (other than she’s very funny) was her determination to succeed. Since first publishing her book, The New Mrs D, Heather’s gone through lots of ups and downs, but for the past few months she’s been riding high in the Amazon charts on both sides of the Atlantic. So, if you are looking to understand what’s required to make a success of your writing career, have a listen to what Heather has to say.
Take it away, Heather…
There are people that are writing in the hope of getting rich, and there are people that are writing for the love of the craft. I would firmly plant myself between these two extremes.
I suspect that those writers who are most disappointed are in the first category.
I love writing, have reached a point in my life where I recognise I have always loved it, yet was hampered by an inaccurate belief that making a career out of it was out of my reach and capabilities. Today I’m ready to pursue it to the death, only with the hope in my mind that I might make a decent living out of it.
Since the moment I first began working on my book, I knew I’d never stop writing again. I know that even if I never sold another word, I couldn’t stop. I’m forty three years old; that’s how long it has taken me to be in this place
Do I hate the idea of getting rich quick? No. I’ve almost accepted around four email marriage proposals from Nigerian Princes in 2014 alone. Do I care if I don’t make my fortune with writing? No, I do not.
I’m not taking my rejections personally, not watching my sales figures hour by hour asking why the world isn’t recognising my genius and I’m not dying inside every time a fellow author has heaps more success than I do. This is my journey; my dream. I’m not going to dilute it or belittle its significance to my life’s journey by making it all about money or the competition. I wish we could live a little (okay a lot) easier and I do imagine that big cheque landing on my doormat, of course I do. But my ultimate goal is having a better, more fulfilled life experience. It is doing what I think I was supposed to do with my life and being in love with it.
I’m offering you here my best advice on how to overcome your obstacles as a new writer. It is an A for attitude – and the greatest thing about attitude, is you get to choose yours. There are too many articles telling writers to be careful what you wish for and I for one don’t like reading them. It is good to know the pitfalls you might face, but not good to focus on them too much.
Let me break it down in to a simple sentence: Don’t let people tell you can’t do something.
A few months back, I wrote to hundreds of book shops all over the world, asking them to put ‘The New Mrs D’ on their shelves. I emailed scores of book reviewers, joining what I don’t doubt an absolute sea of similar requests they have from other self-published authors just like me. As well as the rejections this book has had, I also have the biggest pile of ‘no thank you’ emails you’ve ever seen. The ‘no reply at all’ pile is so big, I’m considering climbing it for charity. 🙂
The one that sticks in my mind the most is the book I bought and posted, as per the submission guidelines on their website, all the way over to Barnes & Noble in New York asking that they please consider stocking it on their shelves. Their response was (something along the lines of), ‘in our experience, self-published authors only sell on average two hundred copies for the lifetime of the book, many of those to family and friends.’ In case you haven’t guessed where this is going, they declined my request. Yet I had already sold a thousand copies by the time I read their letter, and believe me, I don’t have that many family and friends.
I read this particular line again: ‘Most self-published authors only sell on average 200 copies for the lifetime of their book.’ I’d already proved them wrong in my own case, but instead of internalising this statistic, as some might be inclined to do, I decided to smash it. And no, I haven’t yet. This is not a victorious, ‘I told you so, you short sighted bookshops, agents and publishers’ post. I didn’t sell thousands of copies, but to date over 32,000 people have downloaded ‘The New Mrs D’ and of that 32,000 I gave away just over 29,000 in a free Amazon promotion. It’s not a huge, life-changing income, but it’s a very promising potential readership for book two. Although, in a personal way, it is life-changing. It taught me I’m ever-so-slightly addicted to being read.
I can’t offer advice from the perspective of a long in the tooth, experienced writer who has made it to the top. I can only offer the perspective of a long in the tooth person with years of life experience behind her. And my advice is, if you love it don’t let it lie.
Don’t be a bloody statistic.
Am I selling dreams of writer success to people who can’t write? I don’t think so. If writing is what you truly love and truly believe is inside of you, even if your first attempted sucked you are going to work hard to get better. You’ll spend your last pounds on editing, getting the best cover you can afford and you’ll read your submissions feedback, searching for the common elements and taking at least some of the advice given to make your project shine. You’ll give it all you’ve got and stop wallowing in bitterness and self pity.
(Okay, give yourself an hour on this last one, then move on) 😉
You won’t spend your precious writing time emailing the agents that reject you with a stream of profanities telling him/her they have missed a golden opportunity and don’t know what their talking about. You are writing all of the time and reading about writing all the time.
So I guess I’m talking to YOU.
If you enjoyed this post, I would recommend you follow Heather’s blog, hell4heather.
I would also recommend her book, the New Mrs D, which I enjoyed very much. You can read my review here or can buy it using the following links:
I’d also recommend you follow Heather Hill on twitter @. She’s very funny.