What I’ve Learned from Self-Publishing


I’ve self-published a number of Kindle e-books as part of my blog. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of the blog. A few lessons: 

  1. People love free content… I had heard that one of the best ways to promote a book on Kindle is to mark it for free a few days after release. At first, I dismissed this. I am going to price this book at under five dollars, I thought.Who wouldn’t buy it? Boy, was I wrong. The day I set it for free, my ebook launched to #1 in the Guitar section of the Kindle store (for free books). A small accomplishment, but it was incredible to think that all over the world, people were going to check out my first book. It felt like getting angel investors — for free!
  2. …but only if they’d pay to get more. One source of traffic I really overestimated was my personal social media. I thought that sales and reviews would come flooding from friends and family. But they are not this book’s tribe.Most of my social network couldn’t care less about buying a first guitar. Why would they check out my book, even if it’s free? On the other hand, people who had never heard of me downloaded it: folks from guitar forums, Facebook groups, etc. If I publish a second (paid) book, they would be more likely to purchase than even my closest friends. I learned here that I can’t depend on everyone to buy my product — I have to find the right audience.
  3. Getting reviews is hard. Now I know why every podcaster I know ends with a request to “please review this show!” Come to think of it, even I haven’t reviewed some of them — and I’m a daily listener. How much less likely, then, for someone to review my obscure debut book. Related to the second point, getting reviews comes down to finding your tribe.
  4. You are not a one-man show. My first objection to trying a Kindle book was “I don’t know how to do all that design work!” Turns out there are people a click away who do know. From cover to proofreading, ebook assembly is a collaboration. This showed me that to accomplish things, I don’t have to know how to do everything — I just need to find the right people.
  5. Writing is fun. I attended a liberal arts college where some classes required 60+ pages of writing per term. Fast forward a few years and it would be rare to write that much in a year now (emails excluded). I was afraid that after college, I would not have an outlet to write. Now I found one that extends far beyond a rural Michigan campus.

Posting this short ebook on the Kindle store has taught me a lot. And it’s great when lessons come the fun way.

Photo courtesy of Gratisography.com

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