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Self-Publishing A Novel

So you’ve got a great idea for a story and someone told you to write a book. You’ve got a laptop, how hard can it be?

Before we delve into the details, let’s first outline a success story. A regular guy sits down and writes a novel. He uploads his book to Amazon and after a few days of nothing, he moves on to his next project. Three months later he goes to his KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account to upload his next book to find he’s sold 30,000 copies of his first book and earned $120,000. True story, and he went on to make $1 million in the first year.

That kind of story has inspired millions of first-time novelists, but 99.9% of them end their short writing careers in disappointment and rejection. If you’re serious about becoming a writer, there’s a few things you should know before you invest the time and effort. If you just want to write one book and don’t care if it makes any money, then our advice is to just do it! Otherwise… read on!

Writers Steps

First thing you need to do is plan your story, from start to finish. You’re going to need a character arc for virtually everyone. This means (for example) a weak guy has an awakening, finds power from within, and becomes strong. Shy girl becomes brave, mean winner becomes a loser, etc. Your plot will need an arc too. Situation is comfortable, things go bad, things get worse, but then they live happily ever after.

Throw in some surprises, sadness, joy, anger, frustration, love, loss, and you’ve got a potential best seller. Time to start writing.

Point of View

Some write from a single character with past tense.

I was sitting at my desk when I heard a knock at my door. I opened the top draw and cocked my revolver. “Who is it?” I asked.

Other writers prefer to step back and view the events from a Godlike point of view.

He was sitting at his desk when a knock at the door made him stiffen. He opened the top draw and cocked a revolver. “Who is it?” he asked.

The second one is someone like a ghost hovering in the room who can jump into the head of the characters and hear their thoughts, but head hopping is a common mistake. Try to stick to one perspective per scene.

Final Draft

You ideally need around 90,000 words, so if you can write 2 pages per day, you’ll be done in three months. Now it’s time to edit. Read it, reread it… read it again. You’re looking for spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, and boring sentences that can be deleted. Be harsh, delete around 10,000 words and the pace of the book will be faster and more entertaining. Watch out for the common mistakes such as their/there, your/you’re that don’t show up on spellcheck.

Everybody judges a book by its cover

The cover and title is your greeting card and the first thing a potential buyer sees. Keep the cover simple, and clean. Have at least one human form or face, and have clear and easy to read text. Best sellers often have short titles that are unique and yet familiar, and easy to identify but not commonplace. Take your time with this. You spent months writing, the cover deserves the same attention. If you rush it, people might never read your masterpiece.

Catch and Release

You’ve uploaded your file to Amazon and checked it to make sure everything is right. You’ve got 1” margins, 0.5 indents, page breaks, 12pt Arial font, and page numbers. It looks good. You’ve somehow managed to explain your clever and complicated plot and characters in a few paragraphs for the description and you’ve priced it fairly at $5.99. Now what?

Get your friends to buy it. It’s harder than you think so be persistent, but not pushy.  Don’t be surprised if half the people you asked don’t get around to it. Asked them to give you honest stars and a fair comment. Don’t write your own reviews. Amazon will know and you will be blacklisted.

Don’t Expect Exposure

Your sales have dried up, and you don’t know what else to do. Why isn’t anyone buying your book?

Because you are invisible. Amazon gets around 1 million new titles every year, and around 99% of them sell zero after the second month. You need to sell enough copies on launch week to hit the first page of a list. Any list will do – Hot Movers, Best Seller, Vampire Fiction, something that people actually search for. When people run a popular search they need to see your book. Sell more books and you’ll be able to sell more books. Don’t sell enough and you won’t be able to sell enough. Seems like a catch 22, because it is.

Remember our lucky author at the beginning? There were two things I didn’t mention.

  1. He had a science blog with 6000 loyal followers and his novel was about science.
  2. He spent money on advertising

If you can find 3000-5000 people who are interested in your book and will buy it in the first month, you will hit the best sellers list. From there on, millions of people will see your creation. If your cover, title, and description are good, you’ll stay in the top ten for a while and make plenty of money. If the book is good, most of them will buy your second book too. If you don’t do all of the above mentioned you’ll be lucky if you earn enough to pay for the coffee you drank while you were writing the novel. Still want to write a book?