Wait Until You Hear THIS! The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey


Well today’s the day: after sitting on my copy of the Taleist Self-Publishing Survey for the best part of a week, I can finally share some of the juiciest bits with you and we can all get on with the business of discussing them. Hooray!

The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey, if you don’t know, was conducted in February by Steven Lewis (of Taleist) and Dave Cornford, and asked more than 1,000 self-publishers (including me!) 61 questions related to their self-publishing experience. With such a sizable pool of respondents, this is the first time we can really get an accurate snapshot of what the self-publishing world is looking like in 2012—something that’s extremely difficult to do when most of us are inside our little self-pubbed bubbles, clueless as to how well (or not) our peers are doing, and why they’re doing so well if they are. As Steven and Dave say:

We designed the survey to answer what we saw as some of the most common questions self-publishers have. “How am I doing?” is probably the biggest of  these questions, but it’s not been an easy one to answer, as there is little information available about average sales and earnings. The majority of the information out there is about the outliers, whose success is inspiring, but as we can now confirm, bears scant resemblance to the experience of most authors. Our aim was to give authors outside the Kindle Million Club some data against which to benchmark themselves. 

You can read the survey results yourself by buying a copy, but here are some findings that I’ve personally found intriguing.

Who is self-publishing?

From the outside, I bet it seems that hordes of people are suddenly dropping everything to sit down and write something longer than an e-mail for the first time in their lives, in the hope that by uploading it to KDP on Monday morning, they’ll be upgrading their car by Friday afternoon. When I first self-published two years ago, there was definitely a large sub-section of the self-publishing world dedicated to doing just this—and for people like myself who had dreamed of nothing but publication their entire lives, we died a little bit inside every time we heard of another Get Rich Quick Self-Publisher who couldn’t name the last book they’d read. But as time’s gone by, I’ve been encountering fewer and fewer of these types of self-publishers—and the results of the Taleist survey suggest that the majority of self-publishers are serious about their writing. 40% of respondents said they’d been writing seriously for more than 10 years, while 60% said they’d been at it for more than 5 years. Only 1 in 10 said they’d been writing seriously for less than a year.

Is self-publishing what comes after rejection?

Here’s what’s interesting though: respondents who’d had their work rejected by traditional publishing and then opted to self-publish it were among the lowest earners. Conclusion: if traditional publishing said it was bad (as opposed to not good enough, no market, bad timing, etc.), it probably was, and self-publishing it didn’t make it any better. But here’s where it gets a tad confusing: self-publishers who went straight to publication without submitting their work to traditional publishers earned 2.5 times more than those who submitted it and got rejected. What does that mean? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe those self-publishers had been published before, or had got other feedback that led them to believe—to know—that their books were good. But surely there’s a few in there that would’ve been rejected had they been submitted, so does that mean that ignorance is bliss? (Please, say it ain’t so.) Or maybe it reflects what happens with the majority of a self-published author’s books. For example, I submitted Mousetrapped all over town, but I knew I was self-publishing Backpacked before I even started writing it. Now I have work that I intend to submit, and work I know I’ll self-publish. They’re not the same thing.

Rejection isn’t all bad though. 32% of the “Top Earners” (the respondents who said they could live off their royalties) tried and failed to get a traditional publishing deal before self-publishing, but now make a living from selling their work.

Click here for more Taleist Self-Publishing Survey videos.

Does spending money make money?

In a word, yes. This was the most interesting part of the survey results for me–and of course it’s confirmation of what I’ve been saying all along, which is that every self-publisher needs to hire professional help, especially in areas such as cover design and copyediting/proofreading. But now here is proof that in doing so, you not only help the self-publishing side as a whole, but you actually help yourself as well, because you’ll sell more books and so earn more money from them. Respondents who hired help for things like story-editing, copyediting and proofreading earned on average 13% more than those who didn’t. Hiring a professional cover designer earned them on average 18% more. But not all paid-for services equalled a significant crease in earnings. Self-publishers who hired professional e-book formatters (i.e. those who return a completed e-book in .mobi or .epub format, not a MS Word document) only saw average earnings of 1% more. This is great news for me, because hiring someone else to build my e-books–as opposed to fixing the MS Word documents myself and then uploading them to get automatically converted by KDP and Smashwords—is something I’ve so far refused to do.

The message seems to be getting through about the importance of cover design, with 41% of respondents paying for help in that area. (A shocking 49% did it themselves.) But proofreading—the bare minimum a book should get before publication—isn’t faring so well, with only 29% of self-publishers hiring someone to do it. What’s also interesting is that generally-speaking, more self-publishers were willing to pay for professional help on their next book, even if they hadn’t done so on their last. Maybe acidic Amazon customer reviews has something to do with that…?

How much money are self-publishers spending? To get their books to market, respondents said they had spent, on average, $685 on direct costs (which seems a bit low to me; I’d say you’d want a budget of $1,000, minimum). But 54% of authors had already recouped their costs and if sales continued at their present rate, 68% could be expected to be “in the black” within 12 months of publication.

How much money are they making? The average respondent said they were earning around $10,000 a year from self-publishing.

What are the most successful self-publishers doing differently?

Of 1,007 responses to the Taleist self-publishing survey, 97 self-publishers said they could live off their earnings. These became the survey’s “Top Earners” and the insights we have into what they do differently are utterly fascinating. I’ve picked two practical things they do that we can do too: spend more time writing, and make more of an effort to actively seek reviews.

This is the result that stopped me in my tracks: the average Top Earner spent 69% more time writing than the average author outside of the Top Earners group—2,047 words per day as opposed to 1,557 words. Now you might argue that (i) they can do that, because they’re already living off their earnings and (ii) with Top Earners generally having multiple titles, maybe they’re just cranking them out. But it ain’t so: Top Earners aren’t just writing more, they’re spending more time doing it. They write on average a third more words than their non-Top Earning counterparts, but they also spend an average of 24% more time on those words. 

What makes their books sell better than everyone else’s? Reviews, it seems. Top Earners had almost four times as many reviews for their most recent book than authors outside of the group, and those books were earning those Top Earners six times as much revenue—and these books had only been on the market for an average of six short months. (Jealous? Me too!) But it gets even better for the Top Earners as time goes on. Read this bit very carefully: for those who reported the figures for their second most recent book, the Top Earners still had about the same amount of reviews—about four times as many—but the revenue gap rose to fourteen times the income of other author’s second most recent books, which had been on the market for about 14 months.

The most effective single tactic, however, was the least used: submitting to popular reviewers on Amazon. Authors who used this strategy received 25% more reviews than average, and more importantly, 32% more revenue for their latest release. Clearly this is a successful strategy, but I’m not sure how I’d go about implementing it. How do you contact Amazon Top Reviewers? Wouldn’t cold-emailing them be considered spamming? What do you think?

Finally, the Top Earners group spent more time writing than they did marketing, and those in the group who spent the least time marketing were making the most money. This might be a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, as surely if you’re already selling oodles of books, you don’t need to spend as much time marketing. But overall, out of all respondents, those who spent the most time marketing earned the least. So clearly, spending more time writing better books is a fair better use of your time than trying to sell them.

The survey’s subtitle says it all: not a gold rush. The majority of self-publishers have been dreaming of publication long before the Kindle was a twinkle in Jeff Bezos’ eye, and don’t view this as a get-rich-quick scheme. The self-publishers who do best spend most of their time writing, and invest money in their self-published books. Seeking out Top Reviewers on Amazon is the most effective strategy for increasing your sales, but it’s the least popular method used by self-publishers. (If you’re an Amazon Top Reviewer, I’d recommend you brace yourself for an onslaught of new review requests over the next few days…) And it’s better, apparently, to skip submitting to agents and editors altogether—but if someone says no, you should listen to them.

All in all, a fascinating insight into the world of self-published authors—and that’s just a handful of findings I chose to highlight here. You can purchase the full survey in e-book. Visit Taleist for more information.

NB: Kindly spare me your thoughts on how all three members of your writing group loving your work is a greater achievement to you than earning money from your work. The only success this kind of survey can measure is financial.

76 thoughts on “Wait Until You Hear THIS! The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey

  1. AM Gray says:

    Interesting. But not surprising that it takes hard work. We all know that refrain, right? Writing is HARD!
    I am not surprised by the cover design stat; it is often very easy to tell self made covers, and personally nothing turns me off faster than an awful cover. And the opposite. A great cover makes me pick it up and read the blurb or the summary.
    The stat on ebook formatting is also unsurprising. It is annoying to set up and format your own work, but not impossible. The day I work out how to set up a style set in Word for Smashword formatting will be a red letter day for me.
    I guess the review thing makes sense, too. Once you have a few good reviews, your work pops up in search engines and in margins of pages as a reccomendation.

  2. Rhoda Baxter says:

    Thanks for this. It’s fascinating (and I’m going to make an effort to get more reviews!). I’m not self-pubbed, but am published by an ePublisher, which means my book went through a slush pile and was edited by a professional (oh man, was it edited. There was so much redline, I nearly cried). And there the similarity to traditional publishing ends. I have to promote my books in much the same way as a self published author – which is why I’m following your blog.
    Could the stat about successful self publishers earning more be down to the fact that a lot of established authors have now epublished their out of print back list? They would already have a following from their print books. Also, they’ve been writing for longer and it probably shows in their writing.

  3. Sarah PJ White says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this report Catherine. With regards to the top Amazon reviewers – quite a few of them have their email or website details on their profile, along with a description of what genres they review. This is great for fiction writers, however I found it slightly more difficult for a non-fiction self confidence book (aimed at females!). It’s just a case of making sure you read their requirements and then sending a polite email request to ask if they are interested in reviewing.

  4. Madame Guillotine says:

    Hurray, finally it is out!

    I took part in this as well and am one of the people who ticked the ‘I earn enough from this to give up my day job’ and ‘I do sod all promotion’ boxes (don’t worry, my day job is as a freelance researcher so I can go back to it straight away when the bubble bursts!).

    The only promotion I do is mentioning my books every so often on my blog and only when it is strictly relevant. They get a mention on Twitter when they first come out and then if I have a free promotion going on. Otherwise I get on with inane chatter and discussing goth music. I still get oodles of people, even ones who know me pretty well in real life, asking ‘Crikey, did you write a book?’ Which I guess means my promotion is at least fairly low key! However, I may not promote my books, but I work hard on promoting my blog so perhaps I’m cheating. 😉

    I submitted my first book a couple of times before self publishing and got excellent feed back but was told each time that there wasn’t much of a market for young adult novels about Marie Antoinette; the second one twice (it was accepted by an e-publisher on the second submission but they folded before it could be published but AFTER it had been edited, which was a coup for me) and the third one not at all. Guess which one is by far the most successful, selling over a thousand copies on its own every month? Clue: it’s possible that Marie Antoinette sells a lot better than those agents realised…

    Anyway, I’m glad I took part in this as it’s nice to see that perhaps I am on the right track after all – if not for JK Rowling levels of glory then for personal satisfaction.

    What we need, incidentally, is a Godwin’s Law equivalent for mentions of JK Rowling and Amanda Hocking which deems a thread dead as soon as anyone mentions either one of them and ESPECIALLY if it is done in a hyperbolic manner. 😉

  5. Christine Murray (@MurrayChristine) says:

    I took part in the survey, and the statistic that boggled me was that 50% of respondents made less than $500 in 2011. I’d never have pegged it as that low.

    The survey findings make compulsive reading, one to reread and ponder over methinks…

  6. Design for Writers (@design4writers) says:

    Great summary of the survey, Catherine. There is a huge depth of information in there and the work involved from Steven and Dave has obviously been huge. I’m going to bury myself in it over the weekend and see what other gems I can find.

  7. Susan A. says:

    One of the biggest pet peaves I have is people asking me to review stuff I don’t read. Please authors, look at what the person typically reviews on Amazon. Just because they branched out one time into something else does not mean they will make a habit of it. If the majority of their reviews are not your genre, don’t ask. On the other hand, if it’s something they read a lot of they might be happy to hear from you. I’ve found some great books from review requests. Do expect that they have a decent size TBR list so it may take some time to get to your book. Up until now I have received at least one request a week on top of all the books I’ve put on my wishlist as things I found on my own and want to read.

    My best advice is to search out books that are most like yours and see who reviews them. Then check their Amazon profile to ensure that is their regular genre and see if they listed an email address. Be very polite in your review request and tell them you want an honest review. It also helps to offer the book for free as most reviewers prefer that (I usually buy them so long as they’re under $5). Do not be upset if a review comes back as less than five stars. Nothing is worse than being attacked by an author because you didn’t give them a glowing report. This happened to me over a four star review I gave and a three star. It makes many people aftaid to review indies. You’re ruining things for everyone else if you do that.

    Believe it or not, I’ve been told some of my two and three star reviews actually made the person want to read the book. I myself have purchased books based on critical reviews. It is not the kiss of death unless you get a ton of bad reviews. If that happens, you might want to take a hard look at your writing. Whatever you do, do not have all your buddies help you neg vote a review down just to get it out of sight. Readers can still find it and they will come to the conclusion that the author is unprofessional for attacking the reviewer. This is assuming, of course, it was at least well written. If someone writes something like “this book is only good for toilet paper” feel free to neg vote the heck out of it because that would be understandable. In case you’re wondering, I saw those words written by someone about a NYT best seller.

    Good luck to the writers out there. I wish you the best! Sorry for the long comment, but it was stuff that needed to be said.

  8. schmublisher says:

    Reblogged this on Schmublishing and commented:
    Self-publishers “who hired help for things like story-editing, copyediting and proofreading earned on average 13% more than those who didn’t”.’ Surprised it’s only 13% more?

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Just to note: those who did this but *not* cover design earned only 13% more, and with covers being so important in the decision to buy, I can’t say I’m surprised. But writers who hired an editor for story editing, copyediting and proofreading AND a professional cover designer earned 34% more than those who didn’t hire anyone. I think that’s a far more impressive stat.

  9. idiosyncratic eye says:

    Your final comment was the one that got me thinking most. It’s not really the financial gains that are important but the pats on the back. (I don’t know which is a more superficial motivator however!) If you take your writing seriously then the only benchmark for success is ‘publication’, this is what validates you to anyone else who you’d risk describing yourself as a writer. But if you take your writing seriously then what you really want is other people to appreciate it in all its nuances, you want feedback, concrit and reviews not money. I think. 🙂

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      We’ve been having this conversation a lot lately, it seems! ;-D

      My argument is this: I love writing. I don’t want to do anything else because there is nothing I love as much. In order for this to happen, my writing has to earn me a living. Obviously I also have a desire to produce good work and to get great reviews, etc. (if a bad book made me a millionaire, for instance, I wouldn’t be happy), but money IS important. It’s important because if my writing doesn’t make at least some of it, I won’t have as much time to write as I’d like.

  10. Nancy Christie says:

    All fascinating reading, especially this: “Respondents who hired help for things like story-editing, copyediting and proofreading earned on average 13% more than those who didn’t. Hiring a professional cover designer earned them on average 18% more.” I teach writing classes and I find that many of my students believe that: 1) their work NEVER needs editing and 2) they will make a fortune if they self-pub. The reality of the industry in general and self-publishing in particular escapes them.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      One of the things in the survey I found interesting is that self-publishers who hadn’t paid for services with their last book were generally willing to do it for their next (if I’m interpreting/remember right!). I always wanted my book to be professionally put together, but it wasn’t really until I’d released a book and suffered (!) the feedback, etc. that I realised just how important professional help is. I often say to self-publishers that if they could just feel for one second how horrible a bad review that mentions typos, etc. is, they’d never consider not hiring professional help ever again.

  11. Sarah says:

    Excellent post; thank you, Catherine. I’ve always agreed with you re.the importance of putting out a professional product (and investing in that product as you would with any business), so it’s nice to see that gut-feeling validated by the figures.

    • Steven Lewis says:

      I hope it’s whetted your appetite for more — there are six chapters’ worth in the report itself 🙂

  12. SD Writer says:

    Fascinating to have data, but I wonder if this really is a large enough sample to be fully representational. I also think that a rejection has to be looked at for the “why” — a rejection due to a publisher not knowing how to market a book, or not being able to put the book into a marketing slot is a different animal from a book that has structural flaws or writing issue that need to be fixed.

    But it’s nice to hear write more to make more.

  13. Raventide Books says:

    “Finally, the Top Earners group spent more time writing than they did marketing, and those in the group who spent the least time marketing were making the most money. This might be a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, as surely if you’re already selling oodles of books, you don’t need to spend as much time marketing. But overall, out of all respondents, those who spent the most time marketing earned the least. So clearly, spending more time writing better books is a fair better use of your time than trying to sell them.”

    This is our marketing mantra. It basically means that right now sales are slow and will be until we can get more books out there, and I’m ok with that. We honestly spend little time marketing, never use twitter for it, and are spending our entire days writing or reading through our author’s back list. Glad this survey pretty much confirms that we’re doing the right thing.

  14. janicelanepalko says:

    I just recently found your website. Wow, it is a wealth of information and is rapidly becoming my favorite go-to site for great advice.


  15. lettersfromawhoremongerswife says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I’m somewhat new to your blog and not familiar with your humor/scarcasm style…so forgive me if I read this the wrong way: “And it’s better, apparently, to skip submitting to agents and editors altogether—but if someone says no, you should listen to them.”
    We’ve all read of the successful authors who were initially turned down by agents and publishers:

    Kathryn Stockett – 60 + rejection letters for The Help
    Gertrude Stein submitted poems for 22 years before having one accepted.
    J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses, all of which rejected it.
    Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind was faced rejection 38 times.

    And on and on the list goes….My feeling is you should never allow another persons’ “No” be the period at the end of your sentence. And if self-publishing is the way to finish your paragraph….go for it!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I think it all depends on the *type* of “no.” If you have submitted your book to hundreds of agents and editors and have never received anything but photocopied rejection slips, chances are your book isn’t suitable for publication. But if you’ve got some personalized rejections, or full manuscript requests, or someone has told you that they can’t publish your book for reasons other than the quality of the book (no market, list full, similar book already on the list, etc.), then that’s different. There are different kinds of rejections.

      We can all list numerous bestselling authors who faced rejection and then went on to sell enough books to become household names. But they are the exceptions to the rule, and I don’t think it’s helpful to set out believing that we will be exceptions to the rule too. The survey showed, out of 1007 self-publishers who responded, that work that had been rejected by agents and editors sold the least.

  16. bellewhittington says:

    A wealth of information! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂
    ~Belle Whittington
    Author of “Cicada”

  17. char says:

    Very intriguing survey! Thanks for sharing. I love picking up little nuggets of gold from your blog posts; I didn’t even realize there were ‘most popular’ reviewers’ on Amazon.

  18. Larry Kollar says:

    One thing you barely touch on, at least in your summary here, is whether there’s a correlation between sales and the number of titles on offer. I know of only one person who’s doing very well with a single book out, and she’s now working #2, 3, and has an idea for #4. From what I’ve seen, the really successful ones (defined by me as those who can quit their day jobs) have multiple titles on offer, sometimes in multiple genres.

    Oh, and I can shed some light on generally-speaking, more self-publishers were willing to pay for professional help on their next book, even if they hadn’t done so on their last: I’ll put a doughnut on them planning to use the proceeds from their first book’s sales to fund professional help on the second book. Me, I paid for a cover but found a retired copyeditor sitting next to me in the church choir who offered to go through it for free. I’d have released this weekend if I wasn’t waiting on the rest of the edits, but this means I’ll have a MSS I won’t feel bad committing to CreateSpace print as well as eBook.

    One more thing: if I hit that average of $10K/year, I’ll be thrilled. I know how many sales I’ll need to quit my dayjob, and it’s a lot more than that. 😉

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Hi Larry

      This post only picks a couple of a highlights from the survey. The full report did not that the Top Earners had more titles for sale, and that each of their titles were doing better than the titles of authors outside of their group.

  19. Diane Capri (@DianeCapri) says:

    I subscribe to the Taliest blog, but didn’t participate in the survey because I’m too new in the indie pub arena (started less than a year ago after trad publishing for about 15 years). I’ve been wondering how the survey worked out, so thank you for your post.

    It will be interesting to see what the numbers are after the self-publishing boom levels out in five years or so. I’m guessing there will be an even bigger gap between those indie authors who do the things trad pubbed authors do before and after publication and those who don’t.

    Every business requires seed money and indie publishing is no different. Sometimes, we can get by with a little help from our friends, but most authors I know have been hiring professional help for all the years I’ve been writing and publishing. Even Hemingway had editors, after all. Most trad published authors (at the very least) exchanged help from other writers for critiquing, plotting, proofreading and such before submitting to agents, who also proofed, revised, etc. before submitting to publishers who, once again, edited, proofed, designed covers, and so on, before books were printed and distributed to readers. I’m actually pleased to know the indies that are succeeding are doing the same.

    Again, thanks for sharing the info. Very helpful.


  20. goinghome says:

    Hi Catherine

    I am appreciating all the information so energetically found and communicated. If I put it all into practice some day soon, following most of your step-by-step approach, I’ll let you know and raise a coffee-cup.

    I came across an article today on an issue relating to the e-publishing side of things. The evolution of the book and the possibility of ads showing up in e-books soon, is considered – http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175532/tomgram%3A_lewis_lapham%2C_machine-made_news/ It might be of interest.

    Much thanks and admiration : )

  21. cooper says:

    Those that are committed and willing to do the smart (professional) thing reap the benefits. Outstanding verification. Thanx for posting.

  22. Orville Hahn says:

    You’re giving away the real meat and potatoes, real useful tools for the tool bag. This survey has me thinking maybe I should give my book away free to build a buyers list for future products. Do you know anybody that’s ever tried this?

    I was researching self-publishing, when I came across your blog two or three weeks ago. I don’t know if it’s because you made freshly pressed or not. I greatly appreciate you sharing your experiences in self-publishing. The dose of reality has been helpful.

    • AlisonStanley says:

      Orville, I have seen many authors give their book away for free as a promotion to build up readership before release of their new work. I’ve tried this and I was overwhelmed with the number of people downloading my book – people love free stuff

  23. dianabletter says:

    Catherine, As usual, I have a LAL moment when I read your post — as in “Laugh And Learn.” I’ll let you know what happens to me — my first book was traditionally published and now I’m printing “The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle” on on my own. I appreciate all the help you’ve given me so far. Thank you so much.
    Oh, yes, you inspired me and I started my free coffee giveaway yesterday!

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  25. Samantha Rawson says:

    Absolutely fascinating results – both for me as a proofreader that works with self-publishers and as an author who want to self-publish one day. The finding that really stood out for me is that authors who write more (both in terms of number of titles and word counts) tend to earn more, which I think could also be attributed to them refining their craft and style through more writing experience. I don’t even know if I should consider publishing my first full-length piece or ‘write it off’ as a learning experience and only attempt publication once I’ve matured as a writer a bit more. I suppose with enough edits it might be salvageable!

    Even though I intend to first proofread my novel myself once it’s finished, I wouldn’t dream of self-publishing without giving it to another professional beforehand. I strongly believe you can’t proofread your own work effectively and it’s such a shame that real treasures of books are hidden beneath errors. At the same time, authors should not feel that getting a proofreader/editor is an admission of fault or something to feel guilty about, even if the work comes back with lots of changes. The role of the author is to produce an original piece of work and portray their ideas, not to refine it as an editing professional would. I would even argue that trying too hard to be grammatically perfect or editing as you go along when writing can be creatively restrictive. It can be hard to switch it off though!

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  27. carolynrae1 says:

    Catherine, Your article is most enlightening. Although my book will be published by a “traditional” e-book publisher, I have several novels rejected by Harlequin, which is very choosy, and I am considering self-publishing for them. I do plan to hire an editor and a cover artist, but now I wonder if I should reconsider using some of the rejected ones. I do write romantic suspense, which is a good genre to self publish. I hope a series of three, one of which I have just finished, will be a good start. Carolyn Rae Williamson

  28. Walter Daniels says:

    As an about to be self published author, I have a few responses to your comments about “The Survey Says . . . .” 🙂
    1) I’ve owned/operated “real” businesses, until I had to give them up due to injuries (twice). Marketing is not as easy/simple as many think, especially if you’re “low cost.” (Tip: join LinkedIn and join _at least_ the Guerrilla Marketing group.)
    2) Get involved in communities (author and others like Goodreads). Someone may be willing to “preread/proof read” if they know and like you. Definitely, hire good editors, and cover designers.
    3) *Do not* fall into the trap of. “If I say something controversial, people will be offended, won’t buy my book(s). *False.* People will be *offended* no matter what you say/do. (Note: if you engage in real, not fake/PC, “Hate Speech,” you will acquire a hard to shake reputation. *If* you’re good enough, it won’t matter, but don’t count on it. _That_ market is only a little bigger than Vampire Dinosaur Porn.)
    What to do? Start with it takes about 1 1/2 _hours_ at minimum wage, to buy a $7.99 book. People want to be *entertained* for their money, not belabored with a “message.” The message can be there, but plot and entertainment value come in slots one though five, message is number six. Next, find a good, objective, editor. They are worth the cost. As is the effort to become known, and find people willing to trade “beta reads.” Covers, let’s face it, are what catch the eye of a buyer. The “blurb” sells them, as can a quick scan inside.
    As for “marketing,” here’s where being part of communities are a big help. I started on LinkedIn in late spring 2008. Six years later, I’m somewhat well known, in a couple of forums, and on Facebook as well. I got there by being helpful to _other_ people. Passing on information (jokes as well on FB) that helped other people. Sometimes that meant saying things that didn’t always sit well. So far, for the most part, my opinions are seen as being mostly correct, even if they upset people. IOW, share what you know, and help others, to build community. That “community” will help spread the word about your books, and maybe write reviews for you. In Biblical terms, it’s called. “You shall reap what you sow.” OTOH, don’t be afraid to be silent. “Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak and be known for one.” 🙂
    Finally, yes there are “distribution” challenges. That’s where the “community” can help. If you know someone that lives near the PoD printer, maybe they can pick up/ship to “small bookstores.” Or, maybe you can get together with several authors and work out a “joint ship” deal. My point is that you can find a way around the problems, if you “think outside the box.”

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