These days, I feel the same way about self-publishing as I do about social media: I was there at the beginning and at one point I really knew my stuff, but it’s been a while since I got involved with anything new and what the fudge even is Snapchat anyway?
The tech side of self-publishing has moved on leaps and bounds since I last self-published in 2014 and so, from what I can see, have self-publishers. Apart from the odd eejit who thinks hijacking a tenuous hashtag and pretending not to be the author of his own book is a viable marketing plan (I’m looking at you, guy who I saw tweeting about how great his book—I mean, this book he’d read was and tagging it with the London Book Fair’s hashtag because, yeah, that’s going to work), I never really see self-published books anymore. What I mean is, I don’t even realise the books I’m looking at are self-published until I visit the author’s website or scroll down on Amazon to see the publisher’s name. To be honest, I’m a little jealous. There’s a part of me that wishes I was self-publishing for the first time, now. (A little bit – it was a LOT of hard work!)
But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: self-publishers still have The Fear.
(When I explain what The Fear is, I always use Aunt Mary as an example, but I should say that even though I have two Aunt Marys myself, one on either side, this is a generic term.)
The Fear goes something like this:
You self-publish an awesome novel in e-book. You have it edited, you commission a fantastic cover, your marketing plan is on point and, within days or weeks of publication, you sell oodles of copies and start climbing the charts. Everything is going amazingly well. Everything is going just as you hoped it would.
But then Aunt Mary says, ‘Where can I get it in an actual book? I don’t do the e-books.’
And. You. PANIC.
And you do something you know is not a good idea, business-wise: you rush to publish a POD paperback, because you are feeling The Fear – the fear of a lost sale.
Maybe it wasn’t Aunt Mary. Maybe it was your dad, or a friend, or a group of your friends. Or another author who you approached for a blurb. Maybe it was an entire book club – a dozen readers, all eager to drop their hard-earned cash on your book. And you are a knot of nauseated anxiety because they want to buy your book but you can’t sell it to them. This is The Fear.
And you must learn to ignore it. It leads to so many bad decisions. I see it time and time and time again.
I’m just using the e-book/POD paperback thing as an example. It might be that you have a series and you have a plan to release one book every six months. But then, a week after your debut goes live, a reader gets in touch and says they’re going on holidays tomorrow and they’d REALLY love to read the second instalment on their sun lounger. And. You. PANIC. You want that sale. You don’t want to lose it. So you change your plans and rush out the second book, just because of Mr Sun Lounger, which torpedoes the marketing plan that would’ve worked so well. It’s basically self-sabotage, aided by Aunt Mary.
Don’t do this. You have to think bigger than Aunt Mary and the local book club and Mr Sun Lounger. Stick to your plans. Don’t be swayed from them for one, twelve or even a hundred sales – not if those sales interfere with your ability to sell a lot more than that in the future, and especially not if, in order to get that one, twelve or a hundred sales, you have to spend more money than you originally intended to.
Get over The Fear!
(c) Catherine Ryan Howard
To find out more, come join us on The Inspiration Project in Seafield, Ballymoney, Co. Wexford on May 25-27. It’s a writing retreat with a difference, a creative time-out run by three bestselling Irish authors – me, Carmel Harrington and Hazel Gaynor – that offers you the space and time to focus on your writing dreams and all the information and tools you need to turn them into goals. Plus, gin. Find out more on http://www.theinspirationproject.ie.
About The Liar’s Girl:
Her first love confessed to five murders. But the truth was so much worse. Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person – the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes. Alison Smith has spent the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget.
Order your copy online here.