This is a guest post by Mark Benjamin.
About three-quarters into 2015, I decided to self-publish. My novel was stuck in that phase of completed / nearly done, and I had been agent shopping for three years prior, and the brief thought (if at all) of self-publishing had been pushed out of my mind by the traditional method. That is, until my wife, Lucy, sent me the Amazon Kindle Publishing link. At the end of May 2016, my debut novel, A CHANGE OF HEART, Book One of The Royal Blood Chronicles, was released, an urban fantasy novel bringing back vampires from whence I first found them, cue in Lestat and Louis.
There was a lot to learn throughout the entire self-publishing process; emotions ranging from doubt to hope, anxiety to determination, fear to belief. I would like to share my experiences, then and now, and how I would have done things differently.
1. Just Do It
Those three words are the beginning and end of it all. The story hit me and I ran with it. I could have waited until I thought I was ready (mentally, emotionally, financially, psychically), or until I studied my MFA, or when I was old and retired, but I went through with it and here we are now! Published! Put all the negative emotions aside and write, write, write! Just Do It!
What would I have done differently? I wouldn’t have taken a hiatus from writing so I could party wild and hard, and I would have been here a whole lot sooner.
2. Do Yourself Write
When I write, I do so by writing books which I would be excited to read. I know there are some who say you should think of a specific market or focus on one specific (imaginary) reader, but I do it for myself. If I don’t enjoy writing the story and figuring out all its twists and turns, how would I expect others to enjoy reading it?
What would I have done differently? Nothing! I can still read my book a million times more than the 15,478 times I’ve done already.
3. Avoid the Bestseller Money Trap!
First of all, don’t think about money. Okay, don’t think about the money toooo much. I remember when I was writing, imagining the millions of book sales I would hit to make me an international bestseller; or when my book was launched, how often I’d look at the sales report (every half hour if not more). While in the writing process, having those imaginations of selling truckloads of books was actually a pretty good driving force; checking the sales reports isn’t. After a while, I decided to stop lest I went clinically insane. What I took from that was that the publishing journey is just that. A journey! Enjoy the ride! I’ll be writing for decades of years yet and whether I sell ten books or become the next male J.K. Rowling (hopefully the latter), I fully intend to take the utmost pleasure in it.
What would I have done differently? I would not have spent all that time hitting the refresh button after my book launched! My sanity would have been a lot more than it is right now.
4. Hardest Part – Self Promotion
This was the most difficult for me. I thought once the book was published, every single person who read it would not only love it, but spread the word on how amazing it was! Even though I’d read posts and blogs on how an author shouldn’t expect instant success, I thought my novel an exception. Boy, was I wrong! You have to put in the effort to make readers know that your book is out there! Use social media, your website, blog and subscriber list to promote your work! Do what I’m doing right now…feature in a guest blog too!
What would I have done differently? I would have promoted the novel about three to four months prior to publishing instead of my one month. I had no subscribers and I was the most unknown author out there. Seriously, I was known only to my wife.
5. Self Belief
Believe in yourself. Through it all, the negative reviews, the days (or weeks) when you have zero sales, the self-doubt...push through it all. Not only that, but enjoy and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. You sold one book this week whereas last week you sold none? Celebrate! Have an ice-cream! Eat chocolate! Drink whiskey!
What would I have done differently? Absolutely nothing! Maybe reduced on the ice-cream and the chocolate, but definitely not the whiskey!
Mark Benjamin is barely thirty (as at now) indie author who daylights as a banker. Married with a barely three-month-old daughter (again, as at now…but regarding the number of children and not the number of wives) he grew up being a passionate reader of whatever he could get his hands on. A CHANGE OF HEART is his debut novel, the first in a series with plenty more to come.
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