Advice To The Self-Published Author, From A Self-Published Author

As a self-published author, i.e. one who currently doesn’t have a formal publishing contract or a regular agent; it’s a daunting world out there. Just because Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu and a host of other places make it easy for anyone to “publish” a book; doesn’t mean that this isn’t a professional world.

So if you want to be taken seriously, what should you do? Well like any other endeavour, you need a plan, think of it as your book’s business plan, how you are going to get from a blank page, to a published book and beyond.Here are ten tips:

1.       Don’t rush. If you think you’re going to write this book in a matter of weeks, think again. Even if you have nothing else to do, it’s probably going to take you a year. If you have a full-time job, and you’re writing in your spare time, then you can double it.

2.       Plan…Plan…Plan. Think about your story, how’s it going to fit together, which bits go where, who are the characters, and how much does a reader need to know about them. Some people plan in detail, others just a few notes, either way you’ll need something to work from.

3.       Write. Set aside some writing time, and treat it as just that; time to write. Don’t sit there and get side-tracked by the internet. You don’t need anywhere fancy, but sitting in the lounge with the television on, isn’t going to work for most people.

4.       Get an editor, and revise. Find someone who will edit you manuscript, and be prepared to pay! You’ll need a developmental editor and a line editor/proof-reader. I can’t empathise this enough, particularly if this is your first book, or you’re writing fiction when you’re used to writing technical reports. Take on-board their comments and recommendations, they know what they are talking about, and it would be stupid to ignore them.

5.       Find some beta-readers, people who are prepared to read your manuscript for you, and honestly tell you what they think. Preferably they should be a fan of the genre you’re writing in. If you’re book is a crime novel, don’t ask someone who only reads romance. Listen to what they have to say, and ask them to rate your book. What did they like, what did they hate, what would they like more of, etc. You don’t have to take on everything that they say, but if you get lots of similar comments, or they spot problems with the plot, then consider revision.

6.       Cover art. How many times have you bought a book for the picture on the cover alone, or it was the reason you picked it up to read the blurb on the back cover? Good cover art, sells books.

7.       How much are you doing to sell you finished book for? It’s up to you, but if it’s a novella or short-story, don’t price it the same as a full length novel. People will feel cheated, and they will give you bad reviews and ratings, as a result.

8.       Marketing and publicity was part of your books business plan, wasn’t it? No? Well it should be; you’re still going to need to work out when to publish and how you are going to spread the news. Track down those sites that review books, check out their review policy, and if your book fits, see if they’ll review it. I could write a whole piece just on marketing alone, but suffice to say, if you want to sell copies, don’t underestimate.

9.       Make sure you read what people say about your book in reviews. Accept that some just won’t like your book. That’s fine, but what are the others saying? Use and learn from these comments, either straight away or take them on-board for the next book. Use the good reviews in you marketing and publicity, but don’t get into an argument with a reviewer. If they have been rude or offensive, then you might want to raise that with them, but arguing with someone simply because they didn’t like your book is wrong, and looks unprofessional.

10.   Budget. You will need to spend some money. Editors, proof-readers, free copies to give away, marketing and publicity; all of these things will require spending some money on. How much is down to you, but it can be like the proverbial piece of string, an estimate based on my experience; expect to spend £1,000 to £1,200 (US$1,500 to US$1,900), for an 80,000 word novel.

If you don’t like what I’ve said above, don’t give up and don’t be disheartened. If you’re really serious about this you’ll find a way, just keep at it!

AlanWilliams is a UK based, independent and self-published author.
He writes about natural history and crime, and is the author of “Killer Bytes: A Novella of Intrigue”, which is available from Amazon, and Smashwords. You can follow Alan on his blog or via Twitter or Facebook.


  1. Good advice Alan. Being a first-time novelist I overlooked many of these points. I never realized how much work was ahead of me after writing the story. Funny how often we think that once it is written then the worst is over. Marketing itself is an art. Thanks for sharing.--Stephan James Gathings

    1. Thanks for your comment Stephan. I totally agree, Alan shares some good advice in this article. Writing the book is almost the easy part :)

    2. Thanks for hosting me today Jo, as part of the Killer Bytes tour. It's been a pleasure to be here.

    3. You're welcome Alan. All the best for your tour and book.

  2. Excellent post! I would add one more that dovetails nicely with all of the points you listed:

    Print your first draft and use that to mark revisions. Reading a draft in a medium other than the one in which it was created will allow you to use "fresh eyes". It is amazing what you will catch.

    I always write in Word or Scrivener, and I always mark revisions in hard copy.

    I can't claim the idea as my own, but I can say that it works!

    1. Good point Brant. I always print out a copy when editing. It really does help.


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