Self-Printed Preview #4: What Does The Dream Look Like?

Welcome to the Self-Printed Preview Week! Today’s excerpt is from Part 2: Preparation and it’s called What Does the Dream Look Like? One of the main reasons self-publishing leaves self-publishers disappointed is because they have completely unrealistic expectations about what they can achieve. So before you decide to embark on your own self-publishing – or self-printing – adventure, consider whether or not what can be achieved is what you want to achieve. 

Now that you know more about the logistics and the plain onto which you’re about to walk, I want you to think about your master plan. How are you going to go about this? And more importantly, what does your dream look like? As I see it, there are five things we can realistically achieve here. Now is the time to make sure that what you want out of this is one or more of them. If it’s not, then perhaps self-publishing is not for you and your writing.

Let’s do the bad news first. The chances of the following things happening to you because of this are on a par with you getting struck by lightning:

  • Becoming rich
  • Breaking into the official bestseller charts
  • Bookstores stocking your book without you asking them to
  • Having your book chosen for a TV book club
  • Winning a literary award.

The chances of the following things happening to you because of this are on a par with you getting stuck by lighting twice:

  • Becoming rich, breaking into the bestseller charts, bookstores stocking your book without you asking them to, having your book chosen for a TV book club and winning a literary award.

But now for the good news: lots of good things can come of this. Even some amazing things can come of this, but luck will be a factor if they do. Still, I think it’s reasonable to aim for the following, if you are prepared to do this whole self-publishing thing right, get out there and promote it, basically do everything I tell you to do and consume vast amounts of coffee (or better yet, send me some!) while you do it.

See Your Book in Print

I would dissuade you from doing this if this is your only motivation, but no one can deny that finally seeing their book in a form other than a stack of 400 dog-eared, double-spaced pages is very exciting, and it’s especially exciting if you’ve done it well, and done it well yourself. If you produce a good-looking, quality book, no matter what else happens, no one can take that achievement away from you.

Build an Online Platform

Regardless of what happens to your book in terms of sales or reception, building an online platform, i.e. establishing an effective blog, winning a following on Twitter, finding fans on Facebook and then delivering quality content on a regular basis, will help your writing career no matter what direction it ends up taking. Doing this and selling books might give you a writing career right now.

Find Readers

When I had sold 100 books, I imagined what 100 people lined up would look like (clue: a lot of people) and then reminded myself that that amount of people had read my book. So I hadn’t exactly cracked the bestseller list, but 100 people had read something that otherwise would have still been in a drawer, unread by anyone but me, if I hadn’t self-published it. If those 100 – or 500, or 1,000 – people read and like your book, then what do you think they’ll want to do when you release another one? Every time you find a reader for something you’ve written, you are putting another brick in the wall of readership, finding someone who will look out for your next book, recommend you to a friend or add your blog to their list of favourites.

Prove You Can Sell Books

If, like me, you are still pursuing traditional publication for a different book while you self-publish this one, then proving that you are both willing and able to get out there and sell your own book can be one of the most valuable aspects of this entire operation (especially if you can build an effective author platform while you’re at it). Imagine how much more attractive this makes you to a publishing house. The global economic downturn has affected them along with everyone else, and with the rise of e-books and the other changes revolutionising the book industry, there just isn’t enough money or personnel to get every author on TV or reviewed in the newspaper. Showing that you will do something when your book comes out other than lying on the sofa and waiting for the accolades to roll in will put you head and shoulders (or head, shoulders, knees and toes) above the rest.

Improve Your Financial Circumstances

I’ve worded that carefully because while everyone loves to repeat the headlines of million-dollar e-book success, for most self-publishers self-publishing just about keeps them in ink cartridges. (Or coffee. Or if they’re really lucky, ink cartridges and coffee.) But you can earn money and if you keep at it and do everything right, you might even make a not-completely-insignificant amount of money. Self-publishing, just like its traditional counterpart, also offers writers opportunities to get paid for things related to writing that isn’t actual writing itself. For instance, I have been paid to talk to other people about using social media to sell books. Theoretically I could also offer classes and, hey, you paid money for this handy little instructional guide, didn’t you? If your self-publishing adventure goes really well, you’ll not only be earning money from your book sales, but perhaps also from things like speaking engagements. But very few self-publishers end up giving up the day job or start using gold-leaf toilet paper. Keep this in mind.

All of the Above

What if you managed to do all of these things? See your book looking damn fine in print, established a kick-ass online platform, discovered an army of readers, proved you could sell books by selling loads of them and, ultimately, earned money from it all. It can happen, but only if you work really, really hard at selling your book and make sure that the book you’re selling is in really good shape. As luck would have it though, I’m here to help you do just that.

Tune in tomorrow for the final excerpt, What’s With The “Be Professional” Thing? 

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