In the last ten years or so, self-publishing has gone from strength to strength, and it’s something many more people are considering as an alternative to traditional publishing. It’s easier than it’s ever been to get your story out there and get paid for it. Going the indie author route can be both incredibly frustrating, and incredibly rewarding. Here’s a brief rundown of my experience self-publishing over the past three years.
What made me decide to self-publish?
I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I loved reading as a small child, and I would always say I wanted to write books. As I got older, I lost sight of the dream a little, choosing the ‘sensible’ options of office work and management, and a steady salary.
While my jobs have often involved some kind of writing: automated emails, customer communications, web copy and the like, I never got around to writing any of the fiction that I always wanted to.
I might have continued without ever writing a book if I hadn’t decided to complete a degree as a mature student. I opted for an English degree, and one of the modules I chose was creative writing. I loved the module, it reignited in me the passion for writing I’d had when I was younger and receiving good grades spurred me on.
One of our assignments was to find a market for a short story we wrote, and I was fascinated by how many options there are. During my research, I came across self-publishing. I vaguely knew of it but hadn’t realized just how straightforward it could be to get your work available to readers.
As much as I’d enjoyed the course, I hadn’t expected to start writing seriously. The daunting thought of getting an agent, the months of waiting to hear back from publishers. I had a day job I enjoyed, and I didn’t want to write the next critically acclaimed novel, I just wanted to monetize my hobby.
Self-publishing was the ideal solution, and I jumped right in. I researched like crazy for weeks before I wrote my first novella, looking at the different genres and identifying what was both potentially lucrative and enjoyable for me to write.
Why I use pen names for my self-published books
In the end, I chose to focus on writing erotic romance, primarily because it’s a huge market. Although I do read books in the genre, it’s not actually my first choice of reading material. I chose it because it’s fun, and can be lucrative. It’s competitive for sure, there are a lot of other similar books out there, but romance readers are voracious, so there’s room for everyone.
I also write some spiritual non-fiction as well as straightforward non-erotic romance, so I publish under three different pen names to keep my genres separate.
I also keep my pen names top secret. Mysterious, right? Mostly I just do that for personal reasons, if I shared them with my family and friends I might get more sales, but I prefer to keep each ‘persona’ completely separate, and I find it helps my creativity on racier scenes when I’m not worried about whether my mother might read it!
How it costs me less than a coffee to self-publish my books
During my intensive research phase, I came across a lot of differing advice. Many people advised to pay an editor, a cover designer, and use paid advertising. All great things if you have the budget for it, but I’m a huge believer in the principle of MVP – or minimum viable product. Basically, I like to spend as little as possible to get the job done to a good standard.
I’m an English graduate, so I edit my own work. Paying an editor might polish it that little bit more, but the return on investment would probably be minimal for me—my reader reviews give me a good barometer, and they’re all happy with the writing quality.
I design my own covers, mostly with free stock that has a creative commons license for unlimited use. I occasionally pay for a good stock image, but I try not to if possible. Then I use Canva to create the cover. I always check out the best sellers in my genres and choose fonts, colors, and themes that emulate those.
How I maximize sales of my self-published books
I do use social media to market my books, but I don’t market them heavily. I run Facebook ads occasionally with a minimal budget of up to $3 a day for one week, and mostly leverage my email list to promote new material, which is pretty much free.
The best way I’ve found, by far, to get readers to buy more books, is to have more books written and available for them to buy. So when I think I want to sell more books—the first thing I do is write and publish another one.
The other thing I make sure to do is to have my books translated. In the same way that having more books available gives readers more chance of discovering you, having translated versions of your books gets you in front of readers that would never have found you otherwise.
To do that, I always use Babelcube because their business model means I don’t pay upfront for a book translation service. Instead, I share the royalties with the translator so that I’m never out of pocket. More readers, more money, no risk. It’s one of my secret weapons for increasing sales of my books.
Why I’ll keep on self-publishing in 2018Besides anything else, I enjoy writing—and the fact that I can get paid anything at all for doing what I love is reason enough. There’s so much opportunity available for getting your work out there, that self-publishing is something of a no-brainer for me. There’s so much potential for expansion in the global market, and with more translated versions of my books through Babelcube, I’m sure 2018 will be my best year yet!
Written by Lisa Flynn. Lisa is a freelance writer, content marketer, and social media manager who developed a love of reading and writing from an early age. She has self-published over eleven racy novels under several top-secret pen names and also ghostwrites in the romance and erotica genres.