This post, by Patty Jansen, originally appeared on her Must Use Bigger Elephants blog on 1/19/12.
This month marks my one-year anniversary at Smashwords. I started with His Name In Lights, which had been published previously, and now have sixteen items up, ranging from hard SF to non-fiction to fantasy. Short stories, novellas and novels.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in the process shared here for the beginning self-publishing writer.
1. You know Amanda Hocking, and Joe Konrath and them?
Yeah, you are going to forget their names and the fact that they’ve had phenomenal successes right now. They exist in a different universe where possibilities and probabilities have been interchanged and where luck smiles down on everyone. That is the universe you’ll find if you take a right turn at the sign that says winners only. But the way is almost always blocked.
2. Don’t expect anything
That way, you’ll be pleased with modest successes, because modest, they will be. Most of the successful self-publishers have a few things in common: they have already sold well in paper or, they have a large stable of available novels, preferably both. They are also likely to have a fair bit of experience in the literary world. And luck. See point 1.
3. First, make sure you can write
This issue should be an open door, but you only need to visit the Kindleboards briefly to see that some authors rely on their Amazon reviews to tell them what’s wrong with the book. For crying out loud, don’t slap your first finished novel on there without having an inkling of whether it’s actually any good style and technique wise. Join a workshop, a critique group or similar. Do they tell it it’s all fine and dandy? Go and find someone who tells you your writing sucks. Listen to this person’s arguments. Tighten your prose. Fix meandering plots. Learn to write. Sell a few short stories first. I made the pact with myself that I wouldn’t self-publish until I had met the criteria to join SFWA as full member. Make sure you can write. I cannot say this clearly enough.