Tips for Self-Published Authors
I began self-publishing in 2004, long before Kindles and Nooks, back when email, personal websites, and social media were in their infancy. Before I opted to self-publish, I worked hard to find a publisher or agent. I sent out query letters using guidebooks such as Writer’s Market and spent thousands of dollars mailing manuscripts only to receive boilerplate rejection letters. In the beginning, I really doubted myself, thinking, Is my writing that bad? Do I not have what it takes to be an author? The reality was, I was attempting to do what many people told me was impossible: to get a book deal or land an agent to help sell my writing.
There was nothing wrong with my writing. I was simply competing in the now-archaic traditional publishing world where it’s more about “who you know” than what you wrote. It was the order of the day, and the rules were set by the “Old Boys and Girls Club,” those traditional publishers and agents known as gatekeepers. Happily, things have changed. I now have more than twenty books in print, with great reviews on all of them, and have been accepted into the Authors Guild. I’ve earned my way into the company of some of the most respected authors, so I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped me, and I hope they’ll help you succeed as a self-published author.
#1 Don’t limit your reach. It’s easy to be lulled into complacency when publishing on a single platform like Amazon’s KDP. However, this is a proprietary platform, meaning you can’t publish your eBooks anywhere else. With the release of Kindle Unlimited, authors in the KDP Select Program are at the mercy of Amazon, and their overall market exposure is reduced.
#2 Use multiple platforms for your eBooks. Smashwords has the widest distribution, and if your book is accepted into their premium catalog, you’ll get further distribution on B&N, Nook, Apple, iTunes, Kobo, Scribed—and it’s free.
#3 Publish your books in all formats. Readers want options (hardcover, paperback, eBook), and multiple formats equate to better sales. Get your labor of love into the market by using a POD (Print On Demand) company, like Ingram Spark or LightningSource (which I use for both my hardcover and softcover books).
#4 Hire a professional editor. I cannot emphasize this enough. Your book might be your baby, but, as the author, it is very, very hard to be objective. An edited book is going to garner you better reviews and gain you a larger audience. Don’t shortcut the process. After all, bad reviews never go away (even if you hire someone to do triage after the fact).
#5 Hire a professional graphic artist for book layout and cover design. Think of this as having a friend take your picture instead of trying to take a selfie. Your book cover is the money shot. It needs to be attention-worthy. Couple that with the perfect interior layout, and you’ll reap greater rewards.
#6 Write compelling back and flap content. Next to the artwork, the book description is the most important sales feature you have. The more concise and compelling it is, the better your odds of attracting readers.
#7 Join a writers’ group such as the Authors Guild, The Independent Book Publishers Association, or another organization in your writing field. These groups are invaluable and can even help you promote your material.
#8 Don’t quit your day job! The odds of being able to earn a living as a professional author are slim. According to the Authors Guild, the average yearly income for a professional writer is only $17,500. Sobering, huh?
#9 Remember that writing is a business. In addition to your passionate outpourings, you must also market and build your brand. And if you’re not marketing your work, who is?
In the end, authors live in a very competitive world. Even a well-written, professionally edited, beautifully designed book can only take you so far. If your reason for writing is to become the next Stephen King or John Grisham, then you’re writing for the wrong reason. I write to leave a small part of myself in the world. In the case of the Iron Eagle Series, I write to both terrify and educate through fiction. Your book is your legacy. Write well and write for yourself first.
By Roy A. Teel Jr., Author of the Los Angeles-based, Iron Eagle Hard Boiled, Suspense, Thriller, Crime Novel Series. For more info visit: