Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors

Rise of the Machines Human Authors in a Digital World, social media authors, Kristen Lamb, WANA, Rise of the Machines

When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing is AWESOME, and it’s a better fit for certain personalities and even content (um, social media?), but we must be educated before we publish.

Mistake #1 Publishing Before We Are Ready

The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy. When we are new, frankly, most of us are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Just because we made As in English, does not automatically qualify us to write a work spanning 60,000-100,000 words. I cannot count how many writers I’ve met who refuse to read fiction, refuse to read craft books, and who only go to pitch agents when they attend conferences at the expense of attending the craft sessions.

Additionally, too many new writers I meet do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure, and most don’t have any idea what I mean when I mention POV, Jungian archetypes, or the phrase, “scene and sequel.”

I see a lot of new writers who believe their story is the exception, that the rules make for “formulaic” writing. No, rules are there for a reason, and, if the writing is too formulaic, it has more to do with execution than the rules.

Three-act structure has been around since Aristotle, and there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers. Stories have clear beginnings, middles and ends. Without a clear story objective, it is impossible to generate dramatic tension, and what is left over is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama. Yet, many writers start off writing a book without properly understanding the basic skeleton of story.

Writing fiction is therapeutic, but it isn’t therapy. Yes, characters should struggle with inner demons, but that does not a plot make. Struggling with weakness, inner demons, insecurity, addictions are all character arc, not plot arc. There should be a core story problem that we can articulate in ONE sentence. The plot arc should serve to drive the character arc. If the character does not grow and change she will fail, but it is the core story problem that drives this change. Without the problem, there is no crucible.

Yes, we are artists, but we need to understand the fundamentals. I played clarinet for years, and yes it was an art. But this didn’t excuse me from having to learn to read music, the finger positions and proper embouchure (the way to position the mouth to play).

The better we are at the basics, the better we know the rules, the more we become true artists.

I’ve received contest winners whose first pages were filled with newbie errors. Yet, when I sent them my critique filled with pages of corrections, I would then receive a reply telling me that the book had already been self-published.


Sometimes there are reasons we are being rejected and we need to take a hard look and be honest. Self-publishing is suffering a stigma from too many writers publishing before they are ready. If you really want to self-publish, I am here to support you and cheer you all the way, but remember, we have to write better than the traditional authors.

Mistake #2 Jumping in Before Understanding the Business Side to the Business

I see a lot of writers rushing into self-publishing without properly preparing to be a small business, yet that is exactly what we are. When we self-publish, we take on new roles and we need to understand them. We need to be willing to fork out money for proper editing, cover design and formatting.

One of the benefits to traditional publishing is they take on all the risk and do the editing, proofing, etc. When we go it alone, we need to prepare for some expenses and do our research. We can be told a million times to not judge a book by its cover, yet that is exactly what readers do. Additionally, we may need to look into becoming an LLC. We need to set up proper accounting procedures and withhold the correct amount of taxes, unemployment, state taxes and on and on.

Mistake #3 Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come”

There are a lot of writers who mistakenly believe that self-publishing is an easier and faster way to fame and success. Yeah, um no. And those magic beans are really just beans. Sorry.

Self-publishing is A LOT of work, especially if we are starting out this way. I know Bob Mayer and Joe Konrath lecture writers to do less social media and more writing. To an extent I agree, but here is the thing. These guys were branded traditional authors who could slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of their names when they decided to go it alone. If you can’t slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of your name, prepare for a ton of work.

Not only do we need to write good books, but we need to write prolifically. We also need to work our tails off on social media. If you study the successes of the Amanda Hockings and the H.P. Mallorys, they worked like dogs. They wrote a lot of books and also created momentum with social media and newsletters.

When we self-publish, we need a much larger platform because we don’t have New York in our corner. This is one of the reasons self-publishing isn’t for everyone. We need to look at how badly we want the dream, and then ask how many hours are we willing to work? What are we willing to sacrifice?

Mistake #4 Misusing FREE!

There are a lot of problems with giving books away for FREE! We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage. There are ways to effectively harness the power of FREE! but too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain. This goes with my above point of us needing to understand the business side of our business. When we do choose to give away stuff for FREE! it needs to serve longer-term business goals.

Mistake #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

When Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer chastise writers to get off social media and get back to writing more books, they are giving fantastic advice. One of the BIGGEST problems I see with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT book.

They fill up #MyWANA and all the writing hashtags with link spam promoting their books. They keep futzing with the cover, the web site, the promotions. They do blog tours until they drop, and they do everything except what is going to help that book sell a ton of copies…write more books.

Here’s the thing. Self-publishing, in many ways, just allows us to accelerate the career path of the author. Even in traditional publishing, it usually takes
about three books to gain traction. In traditional publishing, this takes three years because we are dealing with a publisher’s schedule.

In self-publishing, we can make our own schedule, but it still takes THREE BOOKS MINIMUM. I know there are exceptions, but most self-published successes hit at about book three. The ability to offer multiple titles is a huge part of why John Locke became successful.

This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make money at self-publishing. It also helps us maximize the whole FREE! tactic. Even I am putting my nose to the grindstone to come out with more books in the next six months. I don’t tell you guys to do anything that, I myself, am unwilling to do.

Remember Why We Do This

Self-publishing is a wonderful alternative. Just because we self-publish doesn’t mean we cannot publish other ways, too. I feel the author of the future will actually be a hybrid author, and I do believe that the ability to self-publish is challenging all of us to come up higher. We are striving to be better writers, to be better entrepreneurs, to get better at organization and time-management and to write more books and better books. If we can learn from these mistakes and grow, then the future is ours for the taking.

A little humor from the fabulous David Kazzle

My own story…

What have been some of your challenges with self-publishing? In what areas is it forcing you to grow? Have you had to outsource? What sacrifices have you made? Tell us your story!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital Worldand get prepared for 2014!!!!


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  1. I’m totally with you on the importance of being a hybrid author. One of the best pieces of advice a literary agents ever gave me was to have my feet in both traditional and indie ponds.

    1. Great agent 🙂

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  2. Ha! I love your video – thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in my delusions of grandeur.

    1. Delusions of grandeur is all that keep us going. Just keep pressing, and write BETTER than the others…

        • Anonymous on December 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm
        • Reply

        BEST ARTICLE EVER! on self publishing. I belong to close to 500 groups on Facebooks, at least 50 of them writing oriented and the hardest conversations to get started beyond the latest vampire idea, the latest zombie idea, the last sci-fi idea is about the craft of writing, writing well, writing literature and equally important—that you’re in business now! I started an online bookstore several years and closed it down basically because I couldn’t maintain my inventory numbers and profit margin—but I was right on the cusp of ebooks so I filed away all of my knowledge and waited. A few years later having taught for years, I noticed my workshops, classes and seminars were packed. So I started a cable tv show and blog and youtube videos. It dawned on me after keeping those plates spinning that it was time to pull my fiction and notes and schoolwork into publication forms, pointedly pb and ebooks.

        I sat down and knocked out the first one in a week, revised it and it’s been selling—then I noticed I was fast going to become a one trick pony so I culled notes that didn’t fit into the first one on sexual instruction and relationships into a second and then a third and then I dropped a collection of short stories and then half a dozen more and then half a dozen more—keeping my eye on the fact that my non-fiction supported the smaller sales of my fiction and that 60% of my sales is in ebooks. The initial bookstore and an MBA have me spreadsheeting, social media-ing, Constant Contact, Clickbank, Blogger, YouTube, television incessantly but multiple books allows me to target a work to one area, to another to differing demographics, I’m now in the tail-end of releasing the last of my catalogue to total 140 books by February and able to negotiate not only control but my royalties to profit, rather than praying for sales. My first textbook is a week away from publishing as I work through the proof copy after the initial edit (I learned that too—if you’re selling someone a product that you’re pricing between $5 to $129 (so far my range) it’s got to be high end quality work. It’s got to sing with usefulness or a fantastic, accessible fictitious story. It’s got to be good.

        I walk around with Development Notebooks, marketing notebooks, textbooks I’ve bought on strategic entrepreneurial growth, affiliate creation, social media maximization and even more importantly where to put profits into other business forays. This is a triumphant blog in that it codifies so much of what I’ve learned and adhere to—it’s nice not to be in my own little bubble world but hear/read—think on this multiple levels, not just gee, I love to write or this will be the next Twilight. My thought is that 140 to 200 books selling (and revised editions to happen every couple of years) for 28 to 50 years with a static marketing plan to keep rotating them through will turn my students, viewers, clicks on webpages, tv, etc. into a nice chunk of change and freedom to write even more.

        I even am thinking, thinking, silently planning of directing my second film, I did one in high school college, on maybe one of my books that’s fiction. Of course I’m recording and branching into ebooks, VOD and DVDs for the non-fiction and starting to dip my toe into learning about foreign licensing for next year and multiple language production!

  3. I agree completely! I will be self-pubbing for the first time this coming year. After seeing many published books which could have spent more time in the production stage, I am proceeding carefully. Writing is only part of the process. If I’m going to put my work out there for public consumption, I want to create a book that I’m proud to call my own. And since the business aspect of self-pubbing is my weakest area, it’s all the more reason to take my time.

  4. Thanks for the advice and insights. I’m nowhere near this point in my writing, but I will file this away for the future.

  5. Hey Kristen, great blog! I’m a hybrid author too. Not so much by choice, but I was with Drochester and when they crashed and burned I decided to go indie. I love the freedom, but it is much more work! I use your book, “We are not alone” as a reference and have recommended it to others. Good stuff in there!
    Thanks for your tips!
    Lisa Cooke

  6. So well done, again. Some of these I made too, at first. You are right. Lessons in humility, but I strive to share them when I can, so that other authors don’t to the same things. I still fall, but I’ve learned a ton, much from you both via your blog and book. Whenever an author says “Let’s talk Marketing,” I ask “Have you read Rise of the Machines?

    I’m now a hybrid author, and I think it is the way to be going forward. 2014 will be a great year. All the best to you and yours.

  7. I have read Rise of the Machine and I found it very informative. I have been around a while but it would appear I have much to learn. Thank god I read much more than I write.

  8. Really brilliant, as always! I don’t think many self publishers (or those who begin any new business, really) understand how much work it is. I was fortunate enough to have a ready-made audience due to the success of my pet website, but when I changed genres into urban fantasy, it was like starting over. Some readers could be converted, but it takes time. Meanwhile, book two of the series has taken twice as long to write due to keeping up with the demands of life, promotion, paying gigs and more promotion. I keep the faith though, and the long hours are starting to pay off!

    1. Kristen, I forgot to mention – when I first started, I made the mistake of doing a one-time free promotion and had over 17,000 copies downloaded within 48 hrs. I almost died. Lesson learned – don’t make your book available for free. I knew this ahead of time, but fell victim to the hype on all the “how to do promotion” sites. I don’t think all those people would have bought the novel, but I think it was still a costly lesson.

        • Jason M on December 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm
        • Reply

        Stacy, the only mistake you made was using the power of free before you had 2-3 other books available. I recently set one of my books free … and gave away nearly 43,000 copies in five days, hitting #1 in the Kindle Free store. Sales of the other 4 books in the series were lifted immediately and have yet to come down. The one on sale is selling incredibly well too.

  9. Kristen, great post and good reminder. We indies do need to do everything at least as well or better than trad-pubbed authors. Having been traditionally-published and now being solely independent, I have found it interesting that I actually get MORE editing input now from my friends and colleagues than I ever did from the NY house who first bought my books. Who knew?

    1. Well said Melissa. The dreaded “Indie-Author Stigma” is everywhere.
      Just made a blog post about my process.

  10. Kristen; You’re absolutely right about new authors publishing before they are ready. When I started writing fiction a few years ago, the craft end of my writing was lacking. I recognized that and took time to take some courses, join critique groups and study books on craft. Steven King’s book ‘Steven King on Writing’ was one of the first I picked up and remains one of my favourites.

    Your blog is a hard-hitting look about self publishing and marketing, but your words ring true for me. Developing a marketing strategy, both on the ground and through social media, is an ongoing process, and the obstacles are formidable. The only reason that any of us would keep doing it is because we love to write.

    On Thu, Dec 26, 2013 at 5:02 AM, Kristen Lamb’s Blog wrote:

    > Author Kristen Lamb posted: ” When I began writing I was SO SURE > agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost > thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more > lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing > is A”

  11. Thanks for the great advise. I jumped in without doing my homework and it has been a challenge. I have entered contests and received different critiques and made the mistake of only looking at the ones that boosted my ego. It is so awesome to see someone who likes your your work and gives you praise but you must also look at the ones who’s harshness makes you cringe.

  12. This goes into that folder labelled: Invaluable Resource. Thank you for the tough love. I work on the editing end of the business, turning away far more manuscripts than I accept simply because the author has barely achieved draft status. Invariably I recommend taking classes, joining local writing groups, forming a circle of educated beta readers, and write-write-write. Now I can add *this* to the list of must-reads.

  13. Reblogged this on What I love about Life.

    • Lanette Kauten on December 26, 2013 at 9:31 am
    • Reply

    I haven’t self-published, but being published by a small press comes with some of the same issues that were brought up. Gaining traction on social media is very difficult. I interact freely with people (both friends and strangers) on Twitter, FB, and two writing websites, and sometimes I’ll promote my book, but I don’t push it continuously. I’ve contacted book bloggers and haven’t heard from any of them. The marketing person my publisher hired lined up four book bloggers for me in just a week, so it helps to have someone who understands marketing. But my biggest frustration is that I seem to have a good rapport with a lot of people. We chat and banter, which should garner interest. I realize the number one thing we can do as writers is to write a good book because it doesn’t matter how friendly we are, we’re not going to sell many copies if the book stinks. However, I won a five page critique from the talented and gorgeous Ms. Kristen, and she spoke highly of the prose but pointed out that there were too many names in the short narrative. She also thought there should be more of a lead in before dumping the readers into a crazy family. I took her advice and have had critique partners and two editors go through it since. However, it’s only my first book, and I wrote another while shopping that one, and I’m working on the second draft of a book I’m totally head-over-heels in love with. So I’m going to keep going because I figure I have another 50 years of creativity left in me.

  14. Great post. Appreciate the advice on the power of three!

  15. When I first wrote my book 10 years ago, I wanted it published immediately–so glad that didn’t happen. Ten years of writing growth made for a MUCH better read. I still find things I would change even after self publishing The House on Tenafly Road, but I can clearly see in the manuscripts I’ve written since the slow elimination of newbie mistakes. Now I have the newbie marketing mistakes to get through 🙂

    • Susanne Leist on December 26, 2013 at 9:54 am
    • Reply

    Hi Kristen,
    It appears that I’ve made most of the mistakes that you have mentioned in your blog. I’ve missed one: I haven’t given my book away for free. It is against my nature and my MBA in finance to give away anything for free.
    I self-published without a clear plan in mind. I didn’t want to send out hundreds of letters to publishers and agents. Without contacts in the publishing business, I didn’t believe that anyone would bother looking at my work. I know what it feels like to send out resumes without inside connections. It becomes a long shot.
    After my book was in print, I joined reading and review groups. Even though Outskirtspress edited my book, it still needed a lot of work. So far, I’ve made two big groups of edits and plan to submit one more.
    I’m doing the whole process backward. The book is being fixed after it has been published.
    Hopefully, I can make up for lost time. I will continue to push forward.
    Thanks for the inspiring article,

      • Jason M on December 27, 2013 at 6:54 pm
      • Reply

      Susanne, in your MBA courses, you undoubtedly learned the term “loss leader”. Think of a temporarily free book as exactly that — provided you have several titles in the series.

  16. This article and ‘Rise of the Machines’ together are the best pieces of advice I have ever read.

    • K L. on December 26, 2013 at 10:05 am
    • Reply

    This is the truth–writing is hard and takes years of commitment for what is all too often a disappointing rejection pile. You have summed up the lessons well, and topped it off with a cartoon that had me and my husband laughing a sad, wise little laugh, and listing the people we want to send it to.
    Thanks for the wisdom and commiseration. 🙂
    mahereenie @ yahoo . com

  17. This is great advice. I agree that the self-publishing world is becoming over-saturated and that authors need to take their time when releasing their work. My first novel was self-published. My second novel was published by a small press. They both required hard work on my part when it came to getting the word out. It’s funny – to write you must be introverted. To market you must be extroverted. I’m stronger in the first area, but getting stronger in the second.

  18. Hiya, I read this with great interest as I’m getting ready to self-pub my first novel.
    I have been writing for a long time, but only switched to English (Dutch is my first language) about 12 years ago. Writing and reading fanfiction for over a decade has allowed me to grow in my craft and I now feel confident about that childhood dream of publishing a book. Until now, I never really knew where to begin, but thanks to so many changes, I can do it on my own.
    My first short stories were published in 2 separate anthologies and well received, so it’s only giving me another boost.

    As for the ‘rushing into it’, I won’t fall for that trap. I wouldn’t want anyone to be presented with any less than what I would expect when I buy a book. Self-pubbed or not. If you want to do it, you have to do it right. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it.

  19. Excellent article. I’m just writing. That was the good advice I got during my journey. ‘Read, write and worry about publishing later.’ I’m almost done with the second draft/rewrite of my novel and know I’ve got at least a third to go. I know platform is good and I work on that too. Thanks again.

    • Randy Rothfus on December 26, 2013 at 10:43 am
    • Reply

    Great article. Practicing what you preach makes it all the more “real”. I for one really appreciate all the information you are so willing to share! Thank you.

  20. I always enjoy your informative (and many times, fun) posts, but this is one of your best. I published my first novel 2 1/2 years ago. I did the interior, had someone edit it and hired a cover designer. It won awards and was a community read in two separate areas. I’ve worked hard for it and am happy with how it has been received.

    I’m about to publish its prequel. This time I am taking my time. I’ve delayed publishing it in 2013 so I can get ALL the copy edits and editor notes done. I added a beta reader who is a head librarian and loved the first novel. When this new one comes out in hopefully January, I’ll have the marketing plan in place and a third novel in the pipeline for publication (though I’m still pitching it traditionally). I like the idea of hybrid author. I have essays and articles published in anthologies and magazines (paid). Being more cautious and measured this time, I hope to reach that goal of three books on the shelf. Am excited that readers are asking and waiting for the next one.

    • melorajohnson on December 26, 2013 at 11:07 am
    • Reply

    Well, it makes me feel a little better that I’ve spent so much time learning the basics and just writing since I actually understand things like Scene and Sequel now, lol. I’m still finishing my novel while I decide to shoot for the agent/editor route or self-publishing. Of course, I already have the second novel started. Does that make me strange?

  21. Amazing post! Thanks for all the advice and info. 🙂

  22. Excellent information. I work with authors and write reviews of nearly every book I read. i have one self-published author with whom I’m working to get better control on her ‘business of writing’ and am pushing her to write more. That covers two. Sadly, I have a review to write for a book with a publisher that is not bad writing, except it reads like a collection of writing assignments. I kept telling myself “It isn’t your favorite genre.” and looked for anything good. A publisher has committed paper resources to some very 70s angst writing typical of a first book, offered poor typography and sent me a copy for review. I’m going to inflict pain before the end of the year because I want better things on my mind.

    • Fred R. Rodriguez on December 26, 2013 at 11:44 am
    • Reply

    Great article. In 2010 I realized that was going to live. I began writing my first book. Since then I took classes, read books and articles, and edited as much as I could. My reading habits since I was a child were at least 2 to 3 a week. I think I have that ready for a first read by a professional. Now I am designing a marketing campaign. Being the top producer in the company, where I spent so many years, taught me that you need to think about the customer more than yourself. I literally made myself a brand. This is equally important when writing. Who are the people you are writing for and how are you going to reach them.

  23. Reblogged this on Daniel F. Bowman and commented:
    Wow–great advice. It’s a long process that just begings with the final editing
    I wonder if there is anything like “4 Hour Work Week” for writers. There are ways to speed up the process, but I wonder what cuts the most time by focusing on what is most necessary.
    The end video is hilariously honest!

  24. Excellent post!

  25. Thanks for the article! Fear of Mistake #2 is why I haven’t self-published yet. I have my LLC, but I’m still trying to figure out the taxes and accounting, including separating all the business finances from my personal ones. I’m cautious by nature, so this entire process will consist of well-researched baby steps.

  26. Hi Kristen – For Christmas I asked for a got several books on writing. After the cooking and dishes and warm fuzzy time I sat down and read “Save The Cat”, as you and others have suggested. Now I want to cry. Thank you for your hard words – Silent

  27. This is hilarious!!! OOO looky that! Auto correct works!!!

    • Jennifer Rose on December 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm
    • Reply

    Totally agree about too many self-publishing before the book is ready. For example, look no further than Morgan Rice’s “The Sorcerer’s Ring” series, which is a seriously good, thrilling and fun read. At the same time, it is filled with elementary errors, like the wrong choice of the three ‘their/there/they’re’ words, an actual “_____” instead of a name at some point, etc. etc. I put up with it till the third book, but the amount of errors finally got on my nerves, pulled me out of the story, and started making me question too much if what I read was really what was meant to be read… Bummer!

    • Melissa Lewicki on December 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm
    • Reply

    I agree with Janet Oakley that this is one of your best posts. Very helpful. Thanks.

  28. Jennifer, I totally agree. As an ex-English teacher but forever grammar guru, I can’t keep reading if I find too many errors. I recently picked up one of the most beautiful books (memoir) I have ever seen. The binding and cover were works of art; however, there were so many mechanical errors on the back cover, front inside flap, and first page that I knew I could not get through it without throwing it.

    1. You can’t underestimate the value of a good critique group after a few self-editing passes. I’m always amazed at the amount of errors when I use the preview feature on Amazon.

    • Michelle on December 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm
    • Reply

    As a traditionally published author considering self publishing I appreciate your post. Thank you.

  29. Thank you for having the brazen anatomy to speak the unvarnished truth. I have said a few of these things time and again to my group, particularly re: editing, and often get met with blank stares.

  30. I’ve been self-publishing anthologies with stories written from large groups of people. It is incredibly time-consuming, so I am sacrificing time with my family and even some of my own writing time. However, I am learning so much about the editing process, formatting, and the publishing process that is all worth it, and the bonus is that I already have a long list of books out there with stories by me in them (including anthologies published by others) for when I have my novels ready to publish..

  31. Thank you, for taking the time and blogging some really sound advice. I enjoyed the two videos, laughed self-consciously at the first one and hide behind my chair while I watched the second one. OUCH. But seriously, thanks again! I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

    • Gale Albright on December 26, 2013 at 1:29 pm
    • Reply

    This article is spot on. Especially Mistake #1 Knowing When We Are Ready. I was reading books by the time I could walk, practically, making great grades in English, spelling better than everyone else. Of course I thought I could write! I’ve had to learn the lessons of writing through trial and error. Just reading great literature doesn’t mean I can sit down and start writing great literature. It’s a humbling experience. I’m still learning.

    On Thu, Dec 26, 2013 at 7:01 AM, Kristen Lamb’s Blog wrote:

    > Author Kristen Lamb posted: ” When I began writing I was SO SURE > agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost > thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more > lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing > is A”

  32. Great article! You’re right that those mistakes are pretty much everywhere. I did not understand the business side at all…at all. I’m dreading tax time.

    While I got a huge hand up in the form of Hugh Howey giving permission for me to write in the WOOL world, I wrote the books because I just wanted to tell some of the story a different way. I had no idea that writing and then publishing and THEN hearing from readers full of enthusiasm was so much like getting addicted to crack.

    I don’t know that I’ll ever be rich and famous, or that I would even want to. I have a great career but this has been like finding something I never knew was missing before. The book contract offers and such are just icing on the cake that I never expected. Articles like yours are a good way for me to keep figuring out what I don’t know so I can learn it.

  33. So many writers I work with have an excuse for why they can’t promote their work. I keep giving the business perspective but so many refuse to consider themselves a business, they want to be artists and nothing more. Thanks for saying it again! Someday it’ll sink in.

  34. Reblogged this on Visions and Revisions and commented:
    Here is good advice from Kristen Lamb to authors who want to self publish.

  35. I only started writing better after having my short stories rejected by numerous editors then investigating why they were rejected. I think every writer should start off by submitting short stories to publications before jumping into the self-publishing arena. I’ve read too many books by new DIY authors that have numerous mis-spelled words, improper formatting, boring exposition and plots that go nowhere. It makes me extremely cautious about trying new authors and actually ruins the whole market for everyone. I think every writer preparing to self-publish should HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR. Great post Kristen!

  36. YES! You can’t just write ten books and throw them up there. You must do the marketing too. I actually did an experiment to see if simply releasing a new book and announcing it on my newsletter/blog/FB/twitter would work without all the other marketing strategies (blog tours, etc). My sales were about 90% less than the book I released 6 months earlier. The point of marketing is to position you in a place where you don’t need to do much marketing-the machine is automated. Some people start out with an automated machine, so they don’t see or understand the work involved to building that fan base from scratch.

    With my newest release, I’m doing a 42 stop review tour, putting the first book in the series up for free (Wattpad is making it their lead book), and doing an ad on Bookbub (as well as all the other freebie sites). Just from putting the first book up for free (all of the other marketing hits the day of book 3’s release), all my books are now ranking on the paid lists.

    In my experience, you need to have 3 books out and then start manipulating the system (AKA Amazon) to your advantage. I plan on always having a book out for free, short stories for 99cents as lead in to the series, Bookbub, Wattpad, and blog tours. My sales are shooting through the roof!

    Something that simply wasn’t happening when I had 3 books out and I did next to no marketing.

    1. You’ve helped answer one of the questions I had when I read this post. I just can’t believe pumping a book on twitter is going to translate into real sales.

      1. It doesn’t. There are far better ways to use Twitter than spamming non-stop.

  37. It’s refreshing to read a list of mistakes for newbies that introduce areas most people don’t mention. I’ve been grateful that I haven’t self-published yet, and have been able to learn more about the business side, as well as getting feedback from others, to help me hold it back some. Thanks for another great article Kristen!

  38. I reblogged this on Turning the Pages, Great Advice!

    • Keith English on December 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm
    • Reply

    This couldn’t have popped up in my news feed at a better time. I’ve already put a few hundred into the cover of my anthology and have critiqued and been given peer edits on each story several times. I hope to self publish this long labor of love in a few months. Great advice!

  39. I agree with your points. As a self-published author of 10 novels, it’s a real struggle to juggle everything publishing requires. I think learning the business end is probably the most important. Spending the money to get software to help with cover creation, editing, formatting, and putting it all together is vital. The more you know how to do things on your own means the less you have to outsource and reduce your own profits. And once you’re good at producing your own books, you can advertise your services to other authors and it will eventually help you recoup the cost of your investment. A good wine takes time to make, and so should a good book.

  40. Very helpful, thank you! I’m considering self-publishing my first novel, but I have a lot of things to learn!

  41. Thanks for another interesting and inspiring blog post. What you say about not resting on one’s laurels is so true – write another title. Sometimes it is too easy to get swamped with social media marketing and promotion; there is the danger of becoming a marketeer and forgetting why we started out – to write. Thanks again and all the best for 2014. I have reblogged this post here on my blog: http://williamcookshowcase.blogspot.co.nz/2013/12/five-mistakes-killing-self-published.html

  42. I very much agree and am glad to be reading this advice. I’m pretty new to the writing biz (as it should be called), not in creative writing itself but trying to balance it between writing and treating it like an old-fashioned J.O.B. It’s a wake-up call, and I feel a bit awkward with the fact that I haven’t been reading fiction in awhile since getting self-absorbed in writing. It feels like a 48/7 job, working all the media venues, and it’s super tough. Hopefully I have time to read a few fiction books and books on writing/publishing after writing. Never too late to do that. 🙂

  43. This post comes at a perfect time for me. I’m *thinking* of self-publishing a novel, perhaps by the end of 2014 if all goes well. Everything you discuss in this post is something I’ve thought (and worried) about. I’m anxious about self-publishing because I know it will be a lot of work. I have a graduate degree in English, have freelanced as an editor, and worked as a technical editor. No way am I *not* going to hire an editor for my novel. My own professional editing experience has taught me that I should never rely on myself to edit my own work. And I really appreciate your thoughts on making one’s book available for free.

  44. Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    Kristen offers great advice on five mistakes that many self-published authors make. A good post to read if you are considering self-publication for the first time.

  45. Well, I have spent most of my savings working out how to do this! I hired 4 artists over the year, one of whom does the novels under my pen name, so as to get a cohesive look for the covers. I bought Jutoh for a reliable powerful ebook editor. I made many mistakes, sold a few books, and so far have made a whopping loss. Going into 2014 I have some collaborative ideas, and have just helped edit another author’s poetry and photographs into an ebook.

  46. So true. Pushing that “Publish” button too soon is such a common, an potentially career-killing step. Likewise, not being willing to invest money in an editor (and making sure you have a good one–I know someone who probably provided his editor with a summer home, a new boat, and a vacation to Europe and the book was filled with both story and basic typos/spelling/grammar problems). You don’t get to be a doctor without investing time and money in your education; cutting corners on that which produces a quality product is self-defeating.

  47. Reblogged this on Whispers in the Wind.

  48. You’re so right. While self-publishing is generally faster than the traditional route, it shouldn’t be so fast you don’t have time to get the basics in place–the writing skill, the social media platform, and the marketing effort (cover design, etc) to get it right THE FIRST TIME. I know there are more and more authors (many of whom have pursued traditional publishing or are even agented) who are venturing into the self-pub world, and they are aware of the effort it’ll take to come out of the gate with a bang. I know I wanted to hit the ground running, and part of that is making sure you have reviews/endorsements lined up, as well as writing/cover/blurb that can compete with traditional books. I think that as self-pubbed authors, we have to aim for the top…and never stop writing more books. Great thoughts today

  49. I’ve almost completed my first novel (several years in the writing) and although I want to try the traditional publishing route first, I have to accept that this may not happen, so I found your post informative and relevant. Thanks!

  50. This will come off as snarky. I don’t mean it to. I apologize in advance. But really, who are you? I came across this because someone shared it on facebook, but honestly, “Best Selling New York Times Author”? I just took a peek. The book on this page is 100,000 at the moment in Amazon Kindle rank. How do you define the term “New York Times bestselling author”? You don’t appear to have published much fiction, at least none I can find on Amazon. You’ve blogged and written about writers using social media, as a gazillion others have. How does this make you an expert on what makes a good story?

    1. I never claimed to be a New York Times Best-Selling Author. My first two books hit #1 on Amazon in many categories. Rise of the Machines was in the Top Five on Amazon (which is a very accurate ranking) for many weeks and in multiple categories. At least once a week it goes back up into the top 50, if not top 10 (depends on when you look at the ranking). People are enjoying Christmas, not buying books right now. Alas, no book stays on any best-selling list indefinitely. Would be lovely, though.

      Though I did have one of the top NYC agents, NY couldn’t publish a social media book because their lead-time is a minimum of a year.

      I’ve written easily two million words, published well over 900 blogs and worked for many years as an editor. Also I am a columnist for Author Magazine. But, if you don’t care for the blog or the advice, there are many other fine sites that might suit your needs, though I do hope you stay :D. As far as fiction, I’ve published award-winning short-stories and am currently contracted to continue a very successful thriller series. Yet, my expertise is generally from the position of an editor, since that is where I began my career.

      As far as why am I an expert? When it comes to social media, my methods have sold millions of books. When it comes to fiction, I’ve turned aspiring writers into best-selling novelists. The rest? Up to you. But it is good to question WHY people are experts.

    • ronnie c on December 26, 2013 at 5:37 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this …I’ve been rejected once…I have a short story in with a publisher now…and a novel ready for publishing after it’s edited…if I get rejected enough times I was thinking of self publishing, but was told it’s a hard road to take…

  51. I don’t have the technical expertise to self-publish, Also I value my (independent) publisher’s editors and cover artists. But – success hits at book 3? I think not. I have had 5 books published in the past 3 years (and all have received 4 and 5 start reviews – not from family or friends either!), and I know others with many more than that who are still struggling to sell, despite excellent reviews. There is a very fine line between promoting one’s work and over-promoting, and in the end I don’t think anyone really knows what ‘works’. I live in hope for my 6th novel which will be published next February!

    1. That’s a generality. More books=more chances of succeeding so keep pressing!

  52. As a self-published writer getting ready to release that third book you talk about, I agree. Traction comes over time. But the hardest part of self-publishing is that the tools you have are less strategic than the publishers use. For instance, if you want to time your release to a specific date, forget about it. Work with date ranges.

  53. Reblogged this on Paws4Thought.

  54. This came at a good time. I’ve just finished my first MS and have been wondering whether to take the plunge into self-publishing or to try hard for an agent and a publisher first. After reading this it only solidifies the fact for me that there is a whole lot more to think about than just getting that book wrote, though that’s a good start 🙂
    Happy holidays,
    Jacquie Biggar

  55. Reblogged this on jbiggarblog and commented:
    some great advice here

    • Carina Bissett on December 26, 2013 at 7:26 pm
    • Reply

    Wonderful advice! Thank you. I think it is too easy to get trapped in the business side of writing. You have to keep writing and writing and writing. I suppose it’s all about balance — whatever that is. Thanks again.

  56. There is still hope.

  57. Your article is wonderful and I agree with all your great advice. I self published my first book in August 2012, knowing very little about this industry. In my enthusiasm, I am sad to say that there were mistakes in my first book, but I was treated very kindly by generous readers who were prepared to overlook them. It taught me the valuable lesson of being proof read. I now have a team of six women who scan my work meticulously and I now have two more books out there, typo free and a fourth about to be released in January. My books have done extremely well and I am a dedicated advocate to self publishing, and helping others to make their dreams come true.
    Yes, it is very hard work, and I spend a lot of time on promotion when I want to be writing, but the rewards are incredibly satisfying. The feeling of self achievement alone is amazing.
    Articles like this are valuable resources for anyone who wants to be an Indie author and I thank you for sharing with us,

    Catherine Taylor,

    • kingmidget on December 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm
    • Reply

    “You can’t put junk out there.” I’ve self-published two novels. Each of which took me a minimum of two years to write to a final draft, followed by more months of major edits. I’ve spent a lot of 2013 reading manuscripts for other self-published authors and marvel at their need to publish immediately. Yes, there are a few very talented people who can write a quality full-length novel in a few months. But there aren’t many. I wish self-published authors would slow down, breathe, and give their stories more time to grow before rushing to publish. To me, that’s the only way to avoid putting junk out there.

    1. I can’t answer. I have seen writers work for YEARS on manuscripts that were still unpublishable. I do agree that we need to slow down and at least get beta readers and editors, but some people have no problems writing quickly. Fahrenheit 451 was written in a matter of days and is a classic.

        • kingmidget on December 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm
        • Reply

        Both possibilities — years of effort producing something unpublishable and a quick masterpiece — but in the vast and mush middle are decent stories that take time. Traditional publishing needs to speed up its turn-around time, while self-publishers need to slow themselves down. The single biggest reason I gave up on traditional publishing is my lack of patience with months and years of waiting.

        1. COMPLETELY AGREE. I had a BIG agent for TWO YEARS, but NY couldn’t bring my book to market in a reasonable time. So I published alone. A lot depends on the personality of the writer, the content, and how quickly we can write. There are writers who just cannot turn out multiple books a year. They are an EXCELLENT for NY. On the other hand, there are writers who are very prolific and write excellent books and indie and self-pub is a better match. Finally we are not in a ONE SIZE FITS ALL WORLD, but we DO need to be educated before choosing a path.

  58. Reading posts like these makes me glad I’m taking it slow and trying to learn all I can before I publish. One area where I’d love to see more info though is “Mistake #2 Jumping in Before Understanding the Business Side to the Business”. I’m trying, but there seem to be fewer resources when it comes to this side of things. I’m curious – have you blogged on this in the past (I looked, but I didn’t see anything), or could you?

      • tmycann on December 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm
      • Reply

      Check out Dean Wesley Smith’s blog for some very good insights into how to approach indie publishing as a business, from the perspective of someone who’s successful at it. 🙂

      1. Thanks, I will!

  59. From my own experience as a self published author I have to agree with most of what you say in this post. Great blog!

  60. This article really hit home with me. I self-published my first book a) before it was ready, and b) before I was ready. I have since been working on my craft and have started several other books. My biggest regret about the first book is that, though the story is great, I short changed my audience, the book, and myself by publishing it when I did. I have learned much since and have much more to learn- as your article proves. Thanks for the advice to us newbies!

    • Joyce Gobin-Hutchinson on December 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, I’m glad found your blog through a friend on Facebook. I’ve watched your video…thanks for making it fun to watch. lol… I’m self publishing my first community poetry book in a matter of a couple of weeks… I hope… been working on it for six months at least. I am also editing, formatting and doing a lot myself with a partner, but will welcome what the team has to offer. I like the advice about continued writing and not too heavy on the promote what you just wrote. I know there’s lots to learn I will take what you’ve offered and do some homework.. I’m mainly a painter but writing has been a wonderful way to diversify the art of creating. I am looking forward to your emails from your blog and more. 🙂 Cheers to a great 2014!

  61. I am one of those who remains dubious about the value of social media…so often social media is just singing to the choir (people who are already one’s readers) or into a vacuum (tweeting to 20,000 random strangers is just so much spam….the only book I ever bought based on tweeting was Tom Siedell’s, but he is clearly an exception to the rule). I agree with your assessment that writing the next book is better use of time than MOST author’s use of social media. I am willing to believe that YOU know what you are doing on social media, because I often read your column, but that makes you an exception to the rule too. And, um, haven’t bought your book either. (Though to be fair, I might have if I didn’t already have a publisher interested in my book…once I, you know, finish writing it.)

    Must say, I really enjoyed the humour video–amazed I hadn’t come across it before, given that it accurately describes about 20% of my client base. Painfully funny. I posted it to my blog with tip of hat to your column for bringing it to my attention.

  62. I’m surprised to hear about writers who won’t read fiction. My love of writing stemmed from my love of fiction as a child.

  63. I disagree with many points you make in “Mistake #1.” Firstly, a writer does not need to understand about Jungian archetypes to write a novel. I say this as a retired psychotherapist: you just do not need that information. Jung did not invent archetypal figures as they appear in the history of human storytelling. He merely named and discussed them in ways that fit with his views of human psychology, which also spill over into the borders of the spiritually mystical, as he believed in something he called the Collective Unconscious, which is a theoretical construct with no basis in physical reality. Personally, I love his work, but I would not ever say that a writer must understand about his archetypes in order to write a book, because that is a very deep and rich part of his theory that I dare say most people claiming to understand, understand only very superficially or not at all.

    Secondly, whenever someone makes a statement beginning, “there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that …”, I want to see their sources, which I tried to do. Your link goes to another blog site, from what I can tell, that is not a neuroscience site. Also, the article is no longer there. I would like to see the “lot of evidence”.

    Thirdly, none of what you say about “three-act structure” is relevant to Modernist or Post-Modernist literature, which is much of what’s being read these days outside of genre fiction. Additionally, some of the best genre fiction I’ve read lately leaps right out of a traditional narrative structure, which keeps it lively, challenging, and interesting. You seem to think that readers cannot cope with anything but what they expect to see happen, structurally speaking. I would say many readers would (and do) find that a crashing bore.

    I still read traditional narrative, but not solely. None of my reading friends read only traditional narrative, either. Also, there are many ways we have diverged from Aristotle’s “Poetics” since he wrote them, and ever since they became available (giving birth to literary criticism as a form), critics have diverged on their opinions of his ideas. Generations should be free to invent their own forms and to experiment. What you seem to suggest is that everyone should write in a prescribed fashion, which is just death to literature (and the arts generally, too, in my opinion).

    I do not read a lot of “expert” internet writers on writing, because of these types of comments you have made, which I think are misleading. I read this article only because a friend sent it to me. I think many of your points (other than the first) are valid and useful, when it comes to marketing information. But perhaps being a great marketer is different from being a great novelist. Many literary-award winning novelists would not fit within your constraints.

    1. Thought this might interest you. It’s an article by Tim Parks discussing the limits of the traditional novel: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/oct/28/novel-trap/

      1. I would not agree with all that he says there, and I myself still enjoy traditional novels as well as other forms; but, it’s food for thought and many of the comments are compelling reading.

    2. We have to understand the “rules” before breaking rules. When a writer doesn’t know an antagonist from an apple, that is a problem. It isn’t art, it’s self-indulgence. Archetypes have been around for thousands of years (Jungian and otherwise). Yes, deviate. Meatloaf used his training in opera to make his music art. Jazz musicians were often schooled in classical forms and then added that to their riffs. BUT THEY STILL WERE NOT EXCUSED from learning the basics.

      When we don’t understand personalities and archetypes, we can risk writing characters that are one-dimensional tropes or that act in ways unsuited to the personality. For instance, I once edited a work by a new writer who had a character who began as a misogynistic rapist killer who then went on to move west and start running casinos and indulge in money laundering, but there was no logical explanation in the narrative for such a gross deviation in behavior. Even the FBI knows that a person doesn’t suddenly stop raping and chopping up women to take up card games and blackmail. As a psychotherapist, you should appreciate the necessity for writers to understand humans, behavior and how to then use that knowledge to create arc.

      And if you would like to “see a lot of evidence” regarding the Neuroscience of story, I recommend James Scott Bell, Joseph Campbell, Jonah Lehrer (despite his controversy), Larry Brooks, the beloved and late Blake Snyder, and Proust.

      1. I replied to the wrong comment, so I am moving this. My apologies for that.

        Regarding your final paragraph: the people you mention are not neuroscientists, but novelists, so your answer is confusing and unhelpful. (I have read much of Proust and Campbell, thanks. I’m not very interested in the others.) I’ve also read journal articles and books by neuroscientists, and I was interested in the study/studies that you mentioned, which I assumed you were linking to when you made your statement, but none were there. I wanted to read these, but I guess you no longer have access to those resources, so that’s fine.

        You specifically mention Jungian archetypes, which is why I responded to that.

        Regarding what you believe I “should appreciate” as a psychotherapist: well, I appreciate many things, not the least of which is that humans and their behaviour and rules of creating art — and what should or should not “be excused” — is a vast sea of complexity. I simply disagree with your reductionist view on what does or does not make for good narrative structure.

        What you have described regarding the story of the rapist killer sounds like a case of bad writing. My argument to you, which stands, is that your own ideas of “mistakes” in point 1 do not much fit with my own ideas or that of many others, because many talented and well-regarded writers do not adhere to such rules — especially regarding structure.

        Also, while it is true that some experimental visual artists, musicians et al. have sprung from a classical tradition, it is also true that many did not. They started, very simply, from precisely where they found themselves in space and time and social context: the result being art that is fresh, vibrant, original, and unconstrained.

      2. In reference to:

        “When we don’t understand personalities and archetypes, we can risk writing characters that are one-dimensional tropes or that act in ways unsuited to the personality.”

        I just wanted to say that I have found the opposite to be true in a lot of cases. If you study the shortcuts, you have a tendency to use them. I started out in writing by inhaling every copy of Writer’s Digest and The Writer and writing craft book I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, by the time I was fourteen years old, I was fabulous at making every word count and eliminating filler and writing clean copy and editing, etc., etc.

        Then I had to unlearn it all. I still struggle with clarity issues to this day because I thought I was supposed to make every word count and only later learned how terrible such “rules” are when carried to their logical extreme. I am also now a chronic underwriter and am thoroughly bored with the generic fiction you are here espousing.

        The one thing I never messed up because I kept hearing that it was my strong point was characters. I KNOW my characters like nobody’s business, but I never develop them from a skeleton, which is a recipe for a stereotype. When I met the archetypes for all of ten minutes, I quickly recoiled and never went back. They’re cliches. They’re one-dimensional, flat, and useless for anything but plot-centered fiction.

        I take the old-fashioned method of character development for the bulk of my characters. (Most classic genre writers based them on real people.) I consider them people. To quote a comment I made elsewhere once:

        “My characters aren’t real to me until I’ve gotten under their skin. I play out their stories in different worlds, in different ways, what ifs, premises, etc. in my head, seeing through their eyes. When who they are, the core of them, is solid to me regardless of anywhere they end up (with permissible broad variations for fantastically varied upbringings and backstories), then I’m comfortable letting them bump up against anyone in anyone world I end up commandeering their appearance in. :grins: I’m hard on my characters. I put them through the worst possible, the best possible, and then see what can’t be broken without them being someone else.”

        I don’t think everyone needs to do that, but en brief, an archetype is an easy way to throw in a character that turns out to be cardboard. It’s not the rules. It’s a shortcut.

        As for what gives me the “authority” to write declarative sentences, I will simply say that I have written more than 2 million words of fiction, original under multiple pen names and fanfiction, and spent a good year being one of the most popular writers in my fandom. On all of my stories in all my plentiful feedback, it’s the “fascinating” characters and takes on characters I get complimented on. I never build from a cliche. I build from people and so those characters come alive.

        Which is the long way of saying that understanding craft is not the same as understanding jargon or understanding film and tv formulas to apply to your fiction.

        If all you mean is writers need to understand how a story works, how to write, and what makes a good character, then you should say that. If you mean everyone needs to study a particular approved theory before they can write well, then you’re wrong. There are so many rich literary legacies that ignore the particular “rules” you’re espousing in favor of their own traditions. Very little, if anything, in this world is without exception.

        1. Oh good grief. Why is everyone so pissed about learning the BASICS? Diversify. Break rules! But this doesn’t excuse us from knowing writer ABC’s. Very thoughtful comment and if this was a CRAFT blog, I might engage further. But since it is an article from an editor who’s edited THOUSANDS of writers who believe they are ready for publishing and aren’t? I will delay. I’ve run a 20 page contest for almost FIVE years. Three of those five were EVERY WEEK. Out of ALL those submissions, TWO were ready to look for an agent (but still needed refining). Yes, you are a writer. I write from the perspective of a FIFTEEN YEAR EDITOR. Most thought they were ready and 98% were wrong.

            • Aften on December 31, 2013 at 1:58 pm

            I already commented, and have been following the comments coming in on this post. Honestly, I know nothing about writing and I value the insight and advice provided and made available to people like me. This post is truly needed for someone as myself who tinkers at writing. I need to be informed, I crave the advice and experience of those who have it, Even more appreciated is the editor perspective that I truly lack. I may not ever become successful at the hobby I love, but I hope to at least continue my hobby with skill and learning. It seems wise to follow writing guidelines and technique, especially for me- who is unestablished and inexperienced. Thanks again! Just want to give you props for sharing good advice.

        2. I just flat AGREED that we need to study and understand craft, and I established pretty firmly that I DID study far more than just the basics, but also rejected Jungian archetypes because they are NOT the basics nor are they the rules or the “right” way of doing something. They’re cliches and stereotypes and skeletons from one literary tradition among many. It’s like saying someone HAS to learn to create something from a set of templates and only a particular set of templates that isn’t always applicable.

          I never said those writers understood their craft or were ready to publish. I said in fact that if you meant knowing craft then that’s true and you should have said it. I said it politely too, not pissed.

          I continue to flat disagree that jargon is craft. You need to learn how to write and to tell a good story and to know what one is. You need to understand what makes a good character and you need to understand the tools of language, techniques, etc. I never disputed that. I disputed the one point that Jungian archetypes are prerequisites for not building a one-dimensional character. Unfortunately though, Jungian archetypes ARE one-dimensional characters.

          1. I think Jungian archetypes are a START. We must begin SOMEWHERE. Do we have to remain there? No. Never said that. In fact, true artists don’t. I refuse to argue that understanding plot, basic archetypes and POV is jargon. It’s the beginning point that many wanna-be writers wish to skip. Skip those steps, and it sets you further back. Sort of like Chemistry 101 sucks if you don’t get the Periodic Table. As a long-time editor, I would have been HAPPY if people even stuck to Jungian archetypes. But they didn’t. They were all over the MAP. Get the basics, and build from there.

            And I don’t mean to seem antagonistic. I think your approach is brilliant. But many people who seek to be writers want to skip to the top without appreciating fundamentals. I’ve witnessed this THOUSANDS of times. Characters out of context, psychologically inconsistent, etc.

            It’s like trying to get a person who wants to play guitar to “riff” when they don’t know the basic finger positions. Your point is VERY valid, but I am talking about what halts most writers. MOST don’t take time for the basics.

          2. I appreciate your perspective, but I repeat, I NEVER said not to understand plot and POV.

            Jungian archetypes? Pretty much jargon. Scene and sequel? That’s jargon for one set of definitions for those words. When they first showed up, I noticed how confusing they were for those raised writing on a different jargon. I know scenes and transitions and exposition and dramatic monologues, etc. and have written “sequels,” but was writing them long before someone stuck together a theory about them and repurposed a perfectly good term for something that already had other better names.

            The classic writing terms have survived because they are self-explanatory and not jargon. “The Mentor” requires a theory to make sense (jargon). Pacing requires some understanding of how to do it but means the same thing in other contexts. Same with scene, point of view, transition, dialogue, etc.

            I have noticed that every successful 15+ book fiction novelist I’ve ever read disagrees with you on this: they are inclusive of ALL types of writing techniques and never suggest you MUST understand and use Hollywood’s and that those are the fundamentals of writing all fiction. P.C. Wrede in fact just finished a whole series on plot types, which validated a truth I have often discovered for myself: three-act is beyond not the only one out there. LeGuinn also provides a much better view of such things in her book, Steering the Craft.

            Writers need to learn craft. I never said they didn’t. You would have my FULL agreement if you didn’t reduce that to one single theory that is altogether patently useless for literary-style or non-Western fiction.

          3. Again, it wasn’t a CRAFT post. It was a post regarding what was hurting people who wanted to self-publish. You win. You are smarter than me.

          4. I have made no effort to make this a craft post, and I am certainly not smarter than you (though being heavy on the sarcasm myself in real life, I’m quite aware that you are not complimenting my intelligence but implying I have a need to be right).

            In your post and your comments, you made one point that I disputed. One. Only one:

            You MUST understand archetypes as that is basic writer’s craft or else risk having one-dimensional characters.

            Uh, no. You must understand people to write characters and should know what makes a character well-rounded. That is basic writer’s craft. Archetypes are an option, but not a requirement.

            I’m amazed that you keep making this discussion about something it’s not. You are the one who has said writers must have a grasp of the fundamentals of craft. That’s true. Saying that fundamentals are one theory that is not universally applicable and that it is a REQUIREMENT for all writers to learn THAT THEORY if they want to write well is not true.

            That is all I said, all I disputed, and is not about how do you feel about how should we best write characters.* My repeated iteration that I believe in writers learning their craft is in response to your repeated iteration that I’m suggesting they don’t.

            *which would make it a derailing discussion of craft

          5. Which means we AGREE and should be drinking something FUN! ((HUGS)))

  64. So much of this hit home. I certainly queried before I was ready, but I learned a lot in the process of reading between the rejection lines. I recommend querying even if you plan to self-publish, it can be enlightening! Now I’m back at editing again and have been more selective with Beta Readers. My big fear with self-publishing is HOW and WHEN do you know you’re ready (that you’ve done enough editing?) Any advice for that???? Thank you again 🙂

    1. Regarding your final paragraph: the people you mention are not neuroscientists, but novelists, so your answer is confusing and unhelpful. (I have read much of Proust and Campbell, thanks. I’m not very interested in the others.) I’ve also read journal articles and books by neuroscientists, and I was interested in the study/studies that you mentioned, which I assumed you were linking to when you made your statement, but none were there. I wanted to read these, but I guess you no longer have access to those resources, so that’s fine.

      You specifically mention Jungian archetypes, which is why I responded to that.

      As a psychotherapist, I appreciate many things, not the least of which is that humans and their behaviour and rules of creating art — and what should or should not “be excused” — is a vast sea of complexity. I simply disagree with your reductionist view on what does or does not make for good narrative.

      What you have described regarding the story of the rapist killer sounds like a case of bad writing. My argument to you, which stands, is that your own ideas of “mistakes” in point 1 do not much fit with my own ideas or that of many others, because many talented and well-regarded writers do not adhere to such rules.

      1. In my third paragraph, I was responding to your comment about what I “should appreciate” as a psychotherapist.

      2. Jonah Lehrer IS a science writer and has written multiple books about art and neuroscience and how the two are related. Despite his disgrace, the books are very good. He used poor judgement. And since you wanted evidence regarding story related to neuroscience, I gave you people who’d written about this subject.

        If you want more, then I recommend “The Gutenberg Galaxy.” It’s close to a thousand pages but well-stocked in research. Marshall McLuhan was a genius and explicates how communication changes the physiological structure of the brain as well as the structure of society. Neil Postman is another excellent resource.

        And bad writing is birthed often from lack of a knowledge base. Had the writer studied more psychology, he might not have made such an error. And granted, great writers don’t always adhere to rules. I never said they had to. I stated they had to UNDERSTAND THEM. Otherwise we are no better than a six-year-old pounding on a piano and calling it a “nocturne.” We agree to disagree. And since I’ve edited thousands of works, I can attest that a lot of the “mistakes” were birthed from a failure to understand the creation process more than a lack of talent. We can have pages of beautiful prose, but that is rarely enough to make a good story.

        And blogs, by their nature have to be reductionist ;).

        1. Sorry, I had to repost because I screwed up the thread flow. My mistake! Thanks for your replies and the interesting convo. I can settle on agreeing to disagree. Good luck with your work. Cheers.

        2. Sorry, but being a science writer is not being a neuroscientist. I take exception to this statement, which is specific, and not just a general comment on the physiological effects of reading great books: “… there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers.”

          When you make statements like that, I think it’s important to say where you got your information, especially since I am fairly certain that there are no neuro-scientific studies that have made the observational claim that you make here. I have read, of course, McLuhan and Postman (as well as Proust, extensively) and while there are many things to say about them, none are relevant to this claim you have made here about the hard-wiring of the human brain to a three-act structure. It’s a somewhat absurd claim that has just been brushed past as if it were accepted knowledge. If you ever do find valid source material to support such a claim, I would be interested to read it, and would eat my words.

          Blogs are only as reductionist as a blogger makes them, actually.

          1. You win. You are smarter than me.

          2. Great job sparring with Whittle. I generally dislike attack trolls, but understand how fun it is to have healthy debate and since she accidentally posted to my thread, I thought I ‘d just drop in a kudos to you! 🙂 I’m sure as you know, who between you two has 30K followers and best selling Amazon books 😉 Thank you Kristen for your continued generosity, love and support!

          3. Yeah, there is a point where I need to defend my assertions, but then it gets to the point where I don’t need to. I’ve written two million words in blogs alone and have earned the right to use declarative sentences. If he doesn’t like it? Find another blog or he can write it himself. ((HUGS))

  65. Hi Kristin! Great blog. I like this post. We all need to be considering the truth written here. (Btw, there’s a typo when you say, “they power of free”…I think you mean “the power of free”. Enjoy the holidays!

  66. Hi Kristin,

    I an emerging indie writer. When my second agent left agenting before she got me a book deal I decided to go it alone. Your post is very realistic and inspirational. My novel is coming out in the new year and is entitled, The Mother-in-Law Cure. In the mean time I’m writing web fiction that incorporates Boston tourism entitled http://bostonchronicles.wordpress.com

  67. Brilliant post. I still haven’t decided whether I want to try and publish traditionally or self-publish but this post certainly has given me a few things to think about 🙂

    • Melissa Lewicki on December 27, 2013 at 12:09 am
    • Reply

    I’ve been thinking about this post all day. When I was in high school and college, I operated on the premise that it was from God to me to the page. No revision or editing required. And I got A’s and was praised for my writing ability. Obviously, I need to rethink that premise.
    Tomorrow I begin the rewrite/revision of my first completed fiction novel. Wish me luck.

  68. It’s always good to see that something I kinda figure out on my own validated by someone who has done some study on the subject. I started looking at traditional best selling authors and realized most of them weren’t until they had a few books out. (I kinda figure the 4th one is where the traction hits, but it could be #3 … and then #4 nets them the big contract.)

    Also nice to run across another Save the Cat enthusiast. I’m mostly skeptical of people that have claimed to “crack the code” for how to write something. But I find most of them are written by academic types who are basically trying to reverse engineer the answer, because they’re not actually writers. I liked Snyder because – although coming to some of the same conclusions – he came at things as a writer. And I could relate to that much more.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts….

    • Melissa Lewicki on December 27, 2013 at 12:21 am
    • Reply

    This is embarrassing. “Fiction novel”? What was I thinking?? I need an editor for blog post comments. I have to go to sleep now. Happy New Year, y’all.

  69. Brilliant article! I absolutely agree with every point you have made. I never even considered self-publishing as an option before I gave it a try, putting out a free book I had previously published on my blog in chapters. Half of my books currently are with a publisher, and half are self-published. I have had to learn a lot of the back stage hard work, but am fortunate that I am handy with GIMP and software in general so I only have to invest my money in a good editor. Still, it’s the social media part, the legwork of creating a following that always kills me, since I am not naturally a social person. If I had the money to invest in PR professionals I would! =)

    Thank you for writing this. I will be sharing it with my writer friends.

  70. I know why you say to focus on writing more books, BUT I’m seeing authors who can’t write one book properly taking this advice and rushing off to write another book. So we’re getting even more terrible books on the market. What self-published authors need to hear most is that they need to seek professional opinions on their work and then listen to those who are kind enough to tell them the truth, like ‘actually, your book isn’t worth publishing.’

  71. I think td Whittle missed the point here too. It’s not specifically about whether or not you know about archetypes or follow ‘rules’ (though be aware that without a beginning, middle and end you don’t actually have a story), it’s about whether you know enough about writing to write a good book, and that, I think, is Kristen’s point. Pointing out well known or popular books that fit outside the usual guidelines does not help the fledgling writer who really just needs to learn the basics. If more of them did, less of them would get offended when reviewers tell them the truth – if they’re lucky enough to find one who will.

    1. No, I did not miss the point. I replied to precisely what was said, which is quite didactic, and which leaves out entire literary forms, or dismisses them implicitly as “wrong” because they do not adhere to these rules — if take what has been written here as it is written. Also, I believe that if you are going to position yourself as one who tells others how to write, you should be clear yourself.
      I think both this post and these replies are speaking to a specific type of writing, and that that should be clarified.

      Really, what is said here may apply to traditional narratives and some genre fiction, but not other forms of fiction, which are vital, relevant, and sweeping the literary scene at present. You are mistaken in thinking that your statement establishes what you’ve said as fact regarding “be aware … that you don’t actually have a story” … and would do well to read Lydia Davis, or other post-modern or modern fiction which absolutely challenges that, before stating it as fact. Have you ever read any of the French existentialists, for instance? Or Ulysses, for Heaven’s sake?

      I am not arguing for the sake of arguing. The problem I have with this post as well as some of these comments is the way some of you are speaking of “facts” about things that are NOT fact but opinion. It is true that many people support those opinions, regarding how narrative should be structured, what makes a story a story, etc. It is equally true that many other people disagree and write books that are nothing at all like what is being discussed here. Even a cursory dive into modern literary criticism would show you that.

      1. Kristin, I apologise for (again) replying to the wrong post and having to re-post my reply. I am finished commenting anyway.

    • Jennifer Douglas on December 27, 2013 at 1:54 am
    • Reply

    Hi Kirsten,

    Thank you for your great blog 🙂 I am a Literary Publicist and have shared your blog on my Facebook page encouraging all to read it. You speak words of wisdom.

    You may like to come and join me on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/jdliterarypublicist

  72. An excellent article that does not mince words. I wish all writers would read this, it would save them, and the poor readers, a lot off time and money. Thanks for sharing.

  73. I just write novels. I don’t worry about publishing, self-publishing. Or even marketing.

    In this age of social media blitzkriegs, you just get lost in the clutter of cyberspace. And nothing you write will ever stand out as a result.

    1. No, I did not miss the point. I replied to precisely what was said, which is quite didactic, and which leaves out entire literary forms, or dismisses them implicitly as “wrong” because they do not adhere to these rules — if take what has been written here as it is written. Also, I believe that if you are going to position yourself as one who tells others how to write, you should be clear yourself.
      I think both this post and these replies are speaking to a specific type of writing, and that that should be clarified.

      Really, what is said here may apply to traditional narratives and some genre fiction, but not other forms of fiction, which are vital, relevant, and sweeping the literary scene at present. You are mistaken in thinking that your statement establishes what you’ve said as fact regarding “be aware … that you don’t actually have a story” … and would do well to read Lydia Davis, or other post-modern or modern fiction which absolutely challenges that, before stating it as fact. Have you ever read any of the French existentialists, for instance? Or Ulysses, for Heaven’s sake?

      I am not arguing for the sake of arguing. The problem I have with this post as well as some of these comments is the way some of you are speaking of “facts” about things that are NOT fact but opinion. It is true that many people support those opinions, regarding how narrative should be structured, what makes a story a story, etc. It is equally true that many other people disagree and write books that are nothing at all like what is being discussed here. Even a cursory dive into modern literary criticism would show you that.

  74. Great article, which I totally agree with. We all think our first novel is the most amazing thing ever written, until we write another one and then another one and keep learning. I think I sold the fifth book I wrote and there was a very good reason for that. 🙂 I’m NY published, small press published, digitally first published, and I self publish too. I choose which platform best suits the project and I’m glad to have so many choices.
    In my humble opinion those who are mega successes in self publishing like Bella Andre, Amanda Hocking and Gemma Halliday etc work their socks off, write well, run a business and promote 24/7. It’s not for everyone. But taking the time to learn about the craft of writing,and the business of publishing and writing the next book is great advice.

  75. It’s all good advice for people who want to write for a living, but very few people write for a living or can make a living out of writing. I’ve been hobby writing for over 30 years and self publishing means that I can finally get readers. I’m happy to give the work away free and glad when anyone is willing to pay.I write for fun and for enjoyment, the way some people knit, hunt or bake. Finally I did a degree in literature, taught English for 16 years in state schools and taught creative writing too and the idea that there should be any rules about what people write is a nonsense; of course if one has ambitions to be a money making writer then everything you say has some elements of truth as money making books are boringly formulaic as they have to be to sell to Joe average in a mass market; for those people who can write for fun and enjoyment and for whom self publishing is a chance to have people read their work, then none of what you say applies, as it’s just a bit of fun. Please don’t enter me for your draw, by the way, no offence intended, but I’m happy with the stuff I’ve written, and that’s all that matters as far as I’m concerned. Curiously enough though I do sell a fair few books on Amazon, but not enough in any month to register very high at all in rankings and I think that says a lot about the whole Indie Publishing market place.

  76. Do the three books need to be in the same genre?

  77. The President of the Nebraska Writers Guild posted your article on Facebook, with good reason. There’s much great information in your writing, composed with intelligence, publishing savvy, and humor. Of course, I’m getting your “Machine Age” book! Thank you so much.

  78. Thank you for your blog post. This is exactly what I need to know. I’m totally committed to not making these mistakes.

  79. Reblogged this on Carole Gill Official Author Blog and commented:
    I just read this reblogged by Author, William Cook and I have to say this is the best writing advice I have come across. Thank you so much for this post.

  80. Kristin,
    This latest post was so timely for me; I am simultaneously writing my first non-fiction book and starting a social media marketing campaign. It is a lot to do at one time, but I do understand the significance of the marketing aspect. I also have to force myself to make sure my book is worth marketing, so as much as I want to publish it quickly, I won’t allow myself. While my mother, a writer/journalist, has been editing my book, your article has helped me to decide to pay yet another editor to weigh in and edit it as well. I’m wondering what you know of selling one’s book rights? I have an interested party. I have no idea if this is something I would want to consider. They have also offered to publish it for me, and give me royalties. This book being my first, I have no idea how well or badly it will do if I publish and market it on my own. Do you have a fountain of information on this subject that you would like to share with us??? FYI, my book title is “Have Home, Will Travel” and the subtitle is “The Ultimate International Home Exchange Guide for Families.” It’s a niche subject, falling under the umbrella of Peer to Peer Travel Services.

  81. Great post! I found this on Scribophile [thanks Ashley Capes]. Reblogged with a link back from my WP site.

    Totally agree about learning the craft, and also the need to be better / more polished than trad pubs.

    I considered going on a long rant about my seemingly vain attempts to break into the New Adult category, but why clutter up your beautiful site? I can rant all I want over on my pages 🙂

    Def following you now though! Thanx for the insight…

  82. Some great advice, here. I wrote my first novel online, with lots of criticisms that lead me to rewrite entire chapters, but I can tell that I still need to rework it a fair bit before considering self-publishing. Do you have advice for critically analyzing your plot once the first draft is complete? I’d think that would one of the hardest things – tossing out masses of already polished prose.

    1. This is my question too, but it got buried beneath an avalanche of troll guano. LOL. When do you know it’s READY to self-publish?

      1. Find beta readers. Seek out people who love books and your genre and ask them for feedback. Other writers can be okay, but they might edit your voice right out of your work. I will have first chapter critiques for sale soon. Generally I can tell a lot with just 5-20 pages.

        1. Thank you! I queried after my “friends” LOVED it, and now realize, after many informative rejections (but requests for partials and fulls), it wasn’t ready. More editing and experimenting with tense and 1st vs 3rd person.

          I knew I didn’t know what I was doing, but I had no idea how far I was from not knowing what I was doing. LOL. First Chpt Critiques sound interesting…can’t wait.

          Balance is hard too. You’ve got to keep writing new, but keep editing the old. I suppose there’s a tipping point when you learn the craft and have LESS editing to do?

  83. Self-published author here with a short list of books. I’m getting there! This is great advice. I learned with book #1 that I like the publishing/business part too, and also that without “National Geographic sponsored” in front of your name, you won’t be Peter Jenkins and sell millions of books about a long walk. haha. My ego recovered and I’ve done well, even so. Branched into fiction, and so far so good. Working on book 4 in a cozy mystery series. Right now I’m suffering from cold feet to put out the money to turn the mystery ebooks into paperback too.

    • Patty H. on December 27, 2013 at 10:00 am
    • Reply

    Such a great blog, Kristin! Thanks! One commenter said they had a short story rejected by an agent–once. Now they are thinking of self-pubbing. No one likes rejection, but it’s what you do with it that is important. I have friends who won’t submit because they are afraid of rejection and get defensive when they get critiqued–and they want to self-pub. Sigh. Please, submit, get rejected (lots of times!), listen, learn, edit. And then, maybe you are ready to self-pub.

  84. Kristen, thank you…your tips are always excellent. I let go of my Manhattan literary agent–a good one–after i realized she probably would not be able to sell my novel–despite all the praise it was getting from certain Manhattan publishers who had read it in its earlier incarnations – the genre was not an easy one to push — eastern spiritual fiction. I finally opted to self-publish without almost no knowledge of how to go about doing it…fortunately a couple of kind friends chipped in and it’s out and doing pretty well…amazingly, i knew all along that pushing just one book just would not cut the mustard–and i am already working hard on my second–while a third–perhaps the big mama of them all–is simmering in consciousness. Love your blog!

  85. Hi Kristen, Thanks for the excellent advice. I’m en route to becoming a hybrid author and must resist the temptation to release early. I will be bookmarking this post and referring to it often. Thanks again 🙂

    • M. B. Dahl on December 27, 2013 at 10:09 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for your article. My book was published by a small independent publisher, but I found all of your tips extremely applicable to my situation. Thx!

  86. What an appropriate post for year’s end. You’ve summed up self-publishing as it exists in 2013. There’s so much excellent information here that it’s difficult to absorb it all, but it’s more than worth the effort. I’ve concluded that self-publishing is for me and I agree that it’s a monumental amount of work. I shall have to rise to the occasion. With that in mind I’m making changes in my life that will facilitate my efforts. Thank you for a year’s worth of excellent advice.

  87. Great post, Kristen! As someone who’s did marketing in the “real” world, you’re spot on. The one thing I’ve discovered is that the subgenre you write in directly impacts sales. Historicals aren’t all that popular these days, so I’ve not seen a rocket explosion of sales. But it’s a steady growth, and a street team takes some of the pressure off me marketing wise by doing word-of-mouth advertising. I plan on publishing another paranormal from my Berkley series (they didn’t want anymore) to see if that change up makes a difference. Thanks for illuminating this aspect for new writers.

  88. I can’t believe I’m just now discovering your blog! Great info here. I hope all authors looking to self pub read your blog :)Thanks!

    1. Fabulous to meet you!

  89. In reading this blog, I’ve read some of the best advice a writer could find. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  90. Reblogged this on The Eclectic Zaftig Chick and commented:
    Came across this and thought Kristen had some very valid points.

  91. Reblogged because this post is awesome. Very good valid points on the world of self-publishing. I might strive to be a hybrid author too as I haven’t tried self-publishing yet. I love the point of free reads too. I did one through my publisher after I had several books out. I choose to go with a holiday theme one.

  92. Fantastic article. Thanks so much for sharing. Great tips in here. 🙂

    • Carolyn Birrittella on December 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm
    • Reply

    Great advice as always. I’m planning to publish independently in 2014 and appreciate you sharing your wisdom.

  93. Thank you for this. I’m still in the editing process of my first novel after getting suggestions from the small group of friends making up my beta readers, and I’m not sure how I’m going to try to publish when I’m done. It’s good to have all of these things in mind, though!

  94. I found this article very easy to relate to. I wrote my first novel six years ago, and I thought it was so awesome and was expecting publication within the first year of completion. How little did I know. I joined a writers group and learned how much I sucked. There is one new member of our group who does the self-publishing thing, and after hearing his stuff, I can tell he sort-of jumped the gun there. I know I am not ready for self-publishing, not because I don’t have anything published or worthy of publishing, but because I just don’t have the time to advertise myself as well as I think I need to. This is a great article. Enjoyed it a lot. I am following your blog now, so I hope to see more good things to come.

  95. Hi, Kristen. Great advice! I’m not sure which path I will try for publication, but I’m leaning heavily towards self-pub. Thank you for helping me feel better about slowing down to learn structure and craft. And, yes, successful writing requires talents beyond merely getting A’s in English. 🙂

  96. How did I not know about this blog before? Thankfully a friend of mine shared this on Facebook, so I know about it now! I have one ebook out there with very modest sales, and I’m planning on releasing two next year (one a sequel and one unrelated) so these tips are great for me. 🙂

    1. Great to meet you!

    • Nancy Beck on December 27, 2013 at 2:17 pm
    • Reply

    Came over from The Passive Voice’s blog. 🙂

    My number 1 challenge is writing despite all sorts of personal worries (mostly financial). Being stuck in a temp job I don’t particularly like doesn’t help either. 😉

    If I had to re-do all this, I would have had my first series edited before I uploaded, even though I consider myself to be a pretty good self editor. It still makes sense to have others to look not only for typos but other things, like continuity. It’s taken me 2 years to get to this point, and I just want my life to stabilize just a little (I’m not asking for much, lol) so I can concentrate more on my writing in 2014.

  97. Reblogged this on raven newcastle.

    • Liz on December 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm
    • Reply

    I have to say, this post has re-opened my mind to the idea of self-publishing. When I was younger, I had to present a presentation on writing and I spoke to some local self-published authors. I would always ask about their editing process and one of the authors told me he didn’t need an editor because he knew english. After purchasing his book and looking through it, I was surprised to find it filled with elementary grammatical errors. It was not just one or two throughout the book. The entire story was written in poor english with incorrect punctuation. Even periods and apostrophes were in the wrong spots or not there at all. I realize this was one author, but I spoke to many of them and many of their books they had already published were not ready to be published. That sort of put the idea into my head that self-publishing was lazy and the easy way out and I didn’t think much of it, but, after reading this I find my mind has been altered. I now see the steps these authors didn’t follow and how self-publishing is far more than just getting the book printed. When done correctly, self-publishing can be a great way to become a published and I’m considering it for my book.

  98. What a fab article! Thanks for the excellent advice which makes complete sense. Now for the hard work, putting it into practise…..

  99. Great advice. I too wish I’d had my series at least three books done before self-pubbing. I’m trying to not make the same mistakes as I move forward. Like the writing craft, learning the business takes time and, for me, forgiving myself for not being able to learn it all now. Two years in, I’m learning more and more every day and hope to continue for years to come. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! 🙂

  100. Hi Kristen – Great advice all around. Too many newbies jump the gun and become disillusioned when they aren’t met with a ticker tape parade on their first run out of the gate.

  101. Really enjoyed this post Kristen, it takes time to develop any skill/craft and writing is no different. Thanks for the reminders and new advice. Success is rarely an overnight thing and with so much product out there, those of us with big best seller dreams have to really work and treat this business with as much respect as we want from readers, editors, publishers, etc.
    What a lovely opportunity you have offered, as well. Many thanks and blessings in the New Year ahead!

  102. Thank you for this article. One of my professors in the MPW program at OU linked this article on your blog in an email to us, and everything you said in the original post rings absolutely true with what I’ve paid to learn thus far. In my eyes, that not only validates your assertions, but also the education I’m receiving in my master’s program.

    It’s helpful to have a ball park figure on how many books to have ready to self-publish. I will finish the final revisions on my first narrative nonfiction book this coming semester, and have a related short story also coming together in February. I’ve waited so long to believe that someone might wish to read my writing that I’m willing to strategically wait a little longer to begin with a solid marketing strategy.

    I do teach English Literature to high school students, and teachers understand that you have to think about your thinking, namely indulge in metacognition, in order to truly understand why something works or doesn’t work, Your advice on stepping back and looking at how a piece of writing is constructed, and which structures would enhance or cripple it, is crucial to successful acceptance. Turning these skills to my own writing has been delightful and horrifying at the same time, and I appreciate very much your advice.

    Happy to have found your blog!

  103. Wow. Is there room for me to leave a comment?

    I think most of what you say, Kristen, needs to be said more often. I’m sick of seeing someone write a novel in two months–or one–and then publish it on Amazon. I have to wonder how much thought, re-write and editing (“my editors are fantastic”), has gone into those many novels a writer puts out in a year just to jam Amazon with their name and works. I use at least a year, possibly more, before I put a book out there.

    And using the social media to death to get people to buy is a huge waste of time. I really would rather write than do this, but when I do, I try to do it sparingly so people don’t become sick of me. It doesn’t really work that well, anyway. Got too many people out there giving away freebees…

    And on that subject I really have reservations about the idea of giving my work away for free. If people are getting free books to read, then why would they pay for one? I don’t like the idea of giving away something I’ve worked hard on. No. I refuse to do it. I’ll knock the price down, but that’s it. Maybe when I have several books out in a series, I might consider it. I’ve only given away to individuals who have won the promotional copy. That’s usually how I do this.

    I tried for 4 decades to get into the traditional market. For some reason agents just are not crazy about my writing, and yet when I had a publisher (very small), my books sold well, and I do have good reviews. So, I figure I’m doing something right. I follow plot, structure and so forth, although some of the things you’ve mentioned were not something I’ve ever come across… and I took courses in creative writing early on. Probably missed this stuff.

    I read a lot. Not just in my genre (urban-fant.), but mysteries, and suspense too, some YA, and enjoyed Harry Potter, as well.

    Anyway, I think I’ve come away with something for having read this, and have become a follower.

    1. Lorelie, there is ALWAYS room for another comment, :D. Free is a great tactic, it just needs to be more than handing away our art. It’s a wonderful way to encourage people to buy a series or a trilogy. Give the first book free. Great to meet you!

  104. Great advice! The biggest one on the list, I’ve found, is indie newbies not understanding the business side. Lots of folks have told me, “I got into writing to write, not to worry about all that marketing and business stuff.” And usually those are the ones who wonder why they’re not selling more.

    I love to write, and if that’s all I did, I’m sure my friends would enjoy my books, but I want to expand beyond that crowd. Sometimes we have to delve into what we might not like to truly become successful.

    Writing is the fun and (sometimes) easy part. Being successful requires so much more.

    • Deb Pines on December 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm
    • Reply

    Great piece!! As the author of a self-published murder mystery set in Chautauqua, NY, that has sold nearly 600 copies, I’ll add my two cents. The book cover, I agree, is KEY to gaining credibility with readers. Also I’ve found my best promotional efforts have focused on my target audience — mystery readers and Chautauquans. Rather than efforts aimed at my neighbors, spin-class pals or readers, in general.

  105. I’ve been self-published for a year and nine months. The first drafts of some of my books spill out of me in weeks while others take months. My best-selling book went from draft to publish in four months, but that was the exception, not the rule. None of my books take less than eight months from start to finish now. I put each draft through 5-10 editing phases, have a huge beta group who I encourage to shred them to pieces, and an editor who does an excellent job. However, the result of all my work has led to multiple awards, including an IPPY and a couple of eLit Awards, as well as third place in a huge RWA chapter contest. Also, I had been writing for over ten years by the time I published my first book. Most of that earlier work was crap not fit to be toilet paper, but during that ten-year span, I took two extensive writing courses, which lasted about four years total, and read a TON of books on writing craft. So by the time I finally wrote my first self-published story, I’d been studying fiction writing and publishing for over a decade, honing my skills from nothing to something worth reading through hands-on writing projects and assignments.

    With that said, I agree that too many self-published authors rush to publish. I’ve seen one gal finish the first draft, and then self-publish the work three weeks later. You can’t put a draft through good edits and proofs in three weeks. That’s insane. And many don’t understand how much work goes in to being a self-published author. I work 12-18 hours each day, and that’s seven days a week, even though I might only put in 6 hours on Sunday during football season. Admittedly, I LOVE what I do and know I was meant to write for a living, so long days don’t feel like work to me. But I would rather write than go shopping or to the movies. I would rather write than do just about anything else. 🙂

    Obviously, if I’m putting in these kinds of hours, I don’t work outside the home. I started writing seriously after losing my job in 2010. After publishing two books, a friend offered me what was supposed to be a short-term job working as an admin assistant. A year later, I was still there, but when I made more in three months selling books than I did in a year of working the day job, it became clear I needed to rethink my profession. I decided to “retire” so I could focus 100% of my time on my writing. I’ve got over 40 books in my head, and I’m not getting any younger, and since I’ve proven to myself I can do it, the time was now to jump in. I’m still learning, but it’s by reading blogs like this one that I continue to do so. Thank you for a terrific post.

  106. Self-publishing is a long term strategy so being a one-book-wonder really doesn’t work. Great article. 🙂

    1. It happens, but playing career lotto might be a tad risky, LOL. And, if we are writers, we should love writing, right?

      1. “And, if we are writers, we should love writing, right?” Absolutely! However I’ve noticed that I feel more trepidation with 2nd, 3rd books etc than with the first. I had nothing to lose with the first one, but I know so much more now, and somehow the psychological bar has been raised. Does that make any sense?

        1. Try having a blog go viral, LOL. Um, no pressure *sweats bullets*. I know what you mean :D.

            • acflory on December 28, 2013 at 4:39 am

            lmao – you’re coping beautifully. 🙂

    • Julee J. Adams on December 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks, as always, for excellent advice. I agree that professional editing and covers are critical. In fact, I was only half joking when I wondered if I should put in the blurb “Professionally edited.” 2014 is my “butt in the chair” year. Appreciate you sharing your time and wisdom!

  107. I’m self published but… I own a horror dvd label so instead of Unearthed Films, it’s Unearthed Books. I have a rather decent fan base for the films I release so I piggybacked on the success of my film company. I also know there is a lot of self published rubbish out there. I pay for editors, proofreaders, cover design, layout and everything else a publisher does to make sure my books are as close to perfect as possible before release.

    My third book, Satan Reborn is sitting there, waiting for me to release it. I just released Dialogue With The Devil in August and was about to push SR in October but figured, allow the second book to percolate and give me time to push and promote it. Hellucination: A Memoir was released in 2011. I’ve sold about 2000 copies. Something I learned from my comic book industry days is alternate covers. Make one limited to 200, signed and numbered with different artwork and a supposed mass market version sure does help recoup the costs pretty fast as well as the kindle and eBooks.

    I’m constantly writing to build the library up. Reviews have been wonderful and their starting to stream in for Dialogue now, so I am happy. My fault was coming out with books too fast and I noticed that… hence the hold up on my third book.

    I’m very lucky. I have a name in the horror industry already and that has helped me immensely. If I was going in cold like a lot of people I know, I see their struggles and very glad I have a jumping off point.

    Good article1 Will pass it along to my writer friends who I know need it.

  108. Brilliant post, thanks Kristen.
    I’ve just completed my first novel and wrote half of my second during NaNoWriMo, so your article is timely!
    Thanks so much. Reposting it on my blog.
    Regards from NZ!
    Lizzi Tremayne

  109. Reblogged this on Lizzi Tremayne, Writer and commented:
    A great post by Kirsten Lamb on Self-Publishing! Reblogged for you!

  110. Great article, Kristen – thank you for posting. I was very interested to read your thoughts on the future of publishing for authors. I’m a hybrid author and still very new to the business (one year actually on 1st December), so I have a lot to learn. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the promo / marketing aspect of the business. I did for a time throw myself into this deep water and floundered about for about three months before I realized if I didn’t knuckle down and write the next book, I’d be a distant memory in readers’ minds. Self promotion is hard, really hard and its difficult to know what really generates sales / interest. Also, it takes a lot of time. Since I need to work full time I’m time poor. I read a post once (I think by Jon Konrath) advising 80% of what time you have, give to writing the next book and 20% to promotion. So I’m trying to adhere to that advice. At the beginning of every year I do up a ‘writing business’ plan whereby I set my goals out for the number of books I want to write over the next twelve months, then the number of books I think will actually be published in that year (difficult to judge due to submission and publishing time frames from publishers) but I make a guess. At the end of this year, I’ll revisit my business plan and see how I went, what I could do to improve / meet my goals.
    What I really need to do is make more time to read.
    All the best to everyone for a bright and shiny 2014.

  111. This is probably my favorite of your posts. This is what I’ve been talking about. For the sake of knowing, I purchased and read a small handful of self-published ebooks online and have been sorely disappointed by the poor quality. Editing would have helped greatly. It seems the internet is overflowing in half-baked, rushed stories, that I think are bringing down the rest. It creates a stigma and oversaturates the market. What bothers me is the story ideas are not uninteresting, the writing not entirely bad, they are just rushed. I don’t understand why writers would throw their work out unready. Why do you think that is? Is it impatience? Ignorance?

    1. They are naive. I was once, too. In the old days, we were able to mature privately through rejection letters. Gatekeepers prevented writers from publishing too soon. Of course the other side of that conundrum was a lot of great works were missed, overlooked, or ignored (I.e. “We have too many vampire stories, thanks.”)

      1. That is a good point. All of my writer friends tell me I’m spending too much time editing my work and having it looked over by other editors. I even shocked them by paying a trustworthy editor to review it. They suggested I get feedback from the readers after publishing, but I think the readers would be disappointed by my product. I want them to feel as though the book should have been published traditionally but wasn’t. I don’t want them to think of it as a high school creative writing project. (Also, yes, too many vampire stories)

  112. Great article! My biggest area of improvement needs to be on social media and spending more time and effort in that area. I’m an introvert, so putting the spotlight on myself is very awkward. I completely agree with needing a good editor and to take time making sure my book is top notch. I self-pubbed a small story too early and learned valuable lessons that I will make sure to improve on for my next book, which is truly my baby and what I will nurture so it can grow.

  113. Reblogged this on Sarah Hart – Author and commented:
    This is great advice!

  114. Reblogged this on Helen Ruby – Author.

  115. Interesting things to think about. I’m getting close to having my first novel edited. I’m not sure if self-publishing is for me, but I’m looking at all my options. Thanks.

  116. Thanks for the tips! I might have to take notes.

  117. Really useful post! It both confirms (where I am grateful to have confirmation) and offers practical help. Thanks! http://mindwanderweg.wordpress.com/

  118. Thanks for those excellent comments – I am sitting on three self published fiction and two non-fiction. Now for the next ones! I have one ready to go and two in edit. Love this writing business! Reposting on https://www.facebook.com/HelenEllisAuthor

    • Aften on December 28, 2013 at 1:56 am
    • Reply

    I scrolled through the endless list of comments. I’m impressed you are able to respond to so many. I loved the article. Organizing and Editing are my eternal enemies despite numerous attempts to come to some peace treaties. I struggle with descriptions and tend to delude myself that the words I write clearly illustrate the image imbedded in my mind. I loved this post about being a better writer, really no matter the method of publication, we all must do our due diligence in order to produce the quality of work we believe we can produce. I have a favorite fantasy of seeing multiple books with my name glistening from bookstore window shine as I stroll by. I don’t even care that it’s a second hand store front in the same fantasy 🙂

    1. I try :D. I at least read them all.

    • AJ Collins on December 28, 2013 at 2:22 am
    • Reply

    So much truth, but so few that listen until they’ve made the mistakes themselves (myself included).
    Happy to share 🙂

    • Jae Hall on December 28, 2013 at 2:39 am
    • Reply

    I love your blog. Great advice for the newbie and the multi-published author.
    Now I will go back to my manuscript and continue editing and creating. I have to get book 3 finished. 😀

    • captainjaq on December 28, 2013 at 3:25 am
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on Getting the Hang of Thursdays and commented:
    After you read this, you’ll think this is all common sense (which it is). But how nice of Kristen Lamb to put it in such a great, easily read format so everyone can understand what NOT to do when considering self publishing!

  119. Right on the money. And as it happens again and again, everybody say those things and yet the majority fall into repeating the same mistakes on and on.
    Two advices are jewels for Indie writers: write better than traditional writers, and write more books and more often. There’s no marketing engine pushing your titles, you are the engine, the producer, the writer, and the publicist. One book does not create a sensation. Three, four, maybe five are needed before readers can truly ‘discover’ a “new” Indie author.

    1. Most people don’t see opportunity because it’s wearing overalls and looks like work, 😀 (Henry Ford)

      1. 🙂 Exactly.

  120. Reblogged this on Phasers and Spells and commented:
    Some good advice here.

  121. Great blog (found it through Allison Brennan’s link on Twitter =)). I self-published my last book, and while the reviews are wonderful, the sales aren’t. This is my third novel (but only self-pubbed one). I’m planning to self-publish a previously published novel next month, so I’ll definitely take into consideration everything you’ve posted. =) Thanks!

  122. You have shared some great tips. I loved the one about not giving away your work for free! Wow!!! Something to truly think about.

    I am currently writing my 1st book: the untold story of my life. I never dreamed I would actually do this, but am very excited about it. My friends have suggested and requested I do this and it wasn’t until this year with some turn of events that I actually decided to lunge into doing this. I don’t anticipate it being easy to get it published, but nothing in my life has been easy thus far. That is my personal blog is called Courageous Journey! I also blog for my business at http://www.medicalaccountsolutions.com/blog but this is not nearly as fun as my personal blog is!

    Michael Hyatt’s Platform 2013 Conference was outstanding this year. A must for anyone trying to build a platform. There were lots of great speakers there and it was a dynamic time.

    Thanks for sharing!

  123. Excellent advice. I’ve finished a first draft (and will make sure it’s well-edited) and am agonizing over whether to self-publish or try to shop it to traditional publishers. Saw this shared by Kevin J Anderson. Apparently I should read more of your blog!

  124. Excellent article thank you

  125. Excellent article! #5 may be my favorite on that list.

  126. Great words of wisdom! I couldn’t agree with you more!

  127. Thank you for this honest and so true blog post. As a traditionally published author, I cringe when the newbie authors tell me how easy it is to self-publish and that I’m a fool for being traditional. As a well published author in the traditional way, I swore up and down that I would never self-publish. I lied. Now I’m a hybrid author.

    1. Ah, certainly, hitting the “publish” button is extremely easy but it’s the way the slush pile gets published these days. Self-publishing is NOT easy if done with having as a goal to produce the best possible product ever, from cover to cover, and everything in between.

      The taxonomy is not complete in the publishing universe. It isn’t split in trad-pubs vs self-pubs. it is Traditional publishing, Independent publishing, and Trash publishing.

  128. I suffer from a lot of the issues listed in #1. However it’s hard for me to see a lot of these issues as negatives due to the very positive reactions to my writing at the stage it’s reached, although I know that there’s room for improvement in those dimensions.

    While I think that the position you’re taking – that the rules are there for a reason, etc – is a valid one, I would argue that only following the three act structure is shutting writers off from a world of storytelling options. I use the three act structure a lot, but I don’t go out of my way to follow it. Writing a novel is one thing, but writers writing comic books or TV series where there is no 3rd act, where things have to end about where they started, can create great plots as well. Also, in my opinion, Japanese storytelling techniques aren’t adopted often enough in the Western world, and these sometimes involve no conflict at all. In addition I read a lot of nonfiction, and have written ‘mockumentary’ style stories that have gotten great responses. In some ways I see the 3 act structure as just another writing technique. It’s one that works for many genres and artforms, but shouldn’t be the beginning and end of plotforming in my opinion.

    I don’t have much of a publishing record, so this may just sound like me being a self-inflated jerk, but I just thought I would bring this up in response. I agree with the rest of your post, that’s just an issue that irks me for some reason.

    1. I have no issue with writers deviating from three-act structure, just know the rules to break the rules ;). And other types of writing aren’t novels.For instance, comic books can go on for years like soap operas. A lot of Anime is very much like a soap opera, yet even within each storyline, you’d likely spot a three act plot arc.

    • mark on December 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm
    • Reply

    WIsh I’d read this before jumping into self-pubbing. Truth….

  129. This is brilliant advice that I wish all writers could read. I have been writing for a long time. At first, I thought traditional was the only way. As a matter of fact, I had never heard of indie publishing at the time. Then I found the vast world of indie publishing and stepped right in. I’ve had success and failures. I’ve helped start companies and wished a few demises on the way, because it is sad but true that not every indie company is there to support writers. My book has been published and pulled as I’ve left companies but it hasn’t slowed me down at all. I expect to publish at least two books this year and have a lot on my table in the works. Over all, Calvin Coolidge had it spot on. Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

    ~ Calvin Coolidge

  130. Thank you. Your article helped.

    I’ve published one technical book and am debating if I could write (and publish) a pedestrian version for larger audiences [Frontiers of Propulsion Science, AIAA 2009]. Many of my friends are sci-fi writers – tempting me to dive in with fiction writing too. Recommendations came in both ways; self-publishing and using a publisher, adding to my doubts.

    Your insights struck me as sound.

    My one ‘take-away’ is that I should get some writing rhythm down before asking myself ‘how to sell it?’ I’ve got plenty of qualified friends and colleagues to help with editing/feedback.

    What I do not know is if I will find writing satisfying enough to merit the investment to find out if I am good enough to make it worth adding to my life.

    Thanks again,

  131. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. And I totally agree with writers who “don’t know what they don’t know”; I had the “privilege” of sharing a table at a convention with one of those. She wrote Harry Potter parody books and acted as if she knew everything. Very annoying. I was going to ask if I could link back to this on my own blog Adventures in Self-Publishing (http://paranormalmysterybooks.com/wordpress/) because I always write about being a business person when you self-publish – complete with owning ISBNs and all.

  132. Thank you so much for this info! I agree absolutely! Though while I will always go with self-publishing, being an indie artist that I am, most of my work consists of making graphic novels and movies, most definitely grapbic novels and I am working on a series of four books as we speak and I thank you again for this great info I will carry with me in the future, while remembering it’s the story I want to tell. 🙂

  133. I am very interested in your comment about the three-act structure being hardwired in the human brain. Could you post links to these studies? I’d love to follow up on this.

    1. There is a book called, “Wired for Story.”

  134. I agree with the “do it right” sentiment. I returned two books to the library in the last two weeks, for being poorly written/edited. Both were “Major” publisher books. My problem is in finding people to “test read.” Back in the 1970’s (mid), I edited wrote for a Fanzine (SF), and wrote a two page critique of a 2(?) 1/2 page story, and sent it back. My reading approaches 25-50K books in my lifetime, so I have the “material to know how/what.” It’s the “can’t see the forest for the branches,” I have trouble with. 🙂
    I’m also handicapped by a serious back injury that had me on “maximum effective dose” of narcotic pain medicines, from 2006 to late 2013. Then the Quack I see at a pain clinic, refused to even look for the records from before he took over, two years ago. He’s treating me for what he THINKS is wrong, not what is. Functional for 2 hours a day, twice a day, is not good for getting much done.
    I currently have a non-fiction “rant,” a YA/Christian book, and 3 cookbooks in progress (various stages). I’m trying very hard to find readers to give an honest critiques. So far, very little luck.
    P.S., I’d love to follow the blog/comments, but am drowning in emails now. (100+/day, until I can get them weeded down to the minimum possible.)

    1. LOL. Yes, my blog usually has healthy comments, but this is a blessed anomaly. Thank you for taking time to comment, though ((HUGS)).

    • Charity A. on December 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm
    • Reply

    I was really glad to find this article. I self-published this year and have really kicked myself over it. I’m not convinced it was ready, though I was never sure what else to change/fix/do/write. I loved the story and found myself pressured by the timeliness of the work (Myth Loki meets Avengers Loki). I’m going to continue on book 2, but I’m going to work harder to perfect it.

  135. Just beans, eh? Which, coincidentally, is what I could end up eating for the rest of my life if I don’t get on with the writing! 2014: the Year of Finishing What I Started…

  136. My plan is to be a hybrid author. The idea that you have to be one way or another is ludicrous. We must be like water.

  137. My first self-published print book resulted in 600 copies with an inaccurate table of contents. Because when I proofed, I proofed the content but failed to remember that the changes sent in for the content would affect the TOC and change page numbers. Lesson learned. And I’d hired a book designer, an editor and cover designer. Now I know to also get a copy editor for the final proof.

    The biggest take away for me from your list is the idea of becoming a LLC. Professionalizing my business as a publisher if I continue with independent publishing is vital. Thanks!

  138. Hi Kirsten. You are so right about self published books needing to be better than the traditionally published ones. As a reader I find myself being more critical of indie books. I don’t mean to be, but I can’t help it. I’m a picky reader and a picky writer. I’m planning to put out my first indie novel this year and I keep hearing ‘Isn’t it done yet?” I know that my fans (okay, I admit it, they are all my family and friends) are anxious, but I don’t want to be that writer who publishes too soon.

    • Lady Legacy on December 29, 2013 at 12:04 am
    • Reply

    A great article, a friend of mine has given me the same advice. I know my first book hit #1 on you list. In my case though, I went through a vanity press, and they had so many services, it just cost more than what I wanted to spend. From my experience of blogging and using social media, I managed to network into a great group of people that gave me honest feedback, and two years later I’m still growing and learning. I still have more to learn, and my love for writing hasn’t changed, but I certainly have a more mature approach in my writing.
    I don’t need to be in any drawing, or anything, your article is straightforward, simple, to the point. My goal one day will be a hybrid author, if I never make it, at least I didn’t give up trying.

  139. So true! I published a romantic suspense this year and signed up for a blog tour, FB’d it, twittered it. And strangely people did not line up to click the Amazon buy button. I put up the first of my chocolate mystery series and while again, I didn’t notice hordes of people waiting to buy my book sales did increase. By now I was hearing Christmas was the biggest time of the year for book sales so I worked hard to finish my Christmas novella in the chocolate series. It’s the best seller so far but definitely not quit your day job sales. In the meantime I have an agent interested in the medical thriller I pitched during Thrillerfest and another editor is interested in a short romance I’ve done. So I’m crossing my fingers and working on those while also planning on publishing two short romances I’ve already written and a novella for the chocolate series. And I know I need to spend more time marketing but…

    • Archana Sarat on December 29, 2013 at 8:03 am
    • Reply

    Totally agree with you. Too many writers are rushing into self publishing these days. It is definitely not a good idea especially for newbie fiction writers…

  140. Thank you for this informative blog. I am an unpublished writer working on my third book. I have some money put aside and plan to search for an editor to edit my first book. Initially, I thought finding an agent was the way to go, however, I am glad to have the option of self-publishing if the editing goes well.

  141. I think giving away books for free is fine when you are first starting out. However, if a newly self-published author chooses to do this, I think that person should be smart about it and not give away their book for free so easily. Yes, we need reviews and word of mouth to sell our books, but we also shouldn’t be too desperate for that either.

    1. Free is fine if it serves a longer term strategy, yet, too often it doesn’t.

      1. Absolutely. That’s why I think self-published authors should be very careful about doing free giveaways. It may garner more readers and word-of-mouth, but there won’t be any financial compensation for it.

  142. Thank you for this wonderful article. It’s going in my favorites file and I’ll be sharing on FB!

  143. Fantastic post! I agree with everything you said. Several points stick out, but this one the most: “We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage.” I agree to the umpteenth power. Way too many authors think they can just build an audience simply by flooding the market with another free book, which, I believe, is false hype. Many of those free downloads won’t be read. I mainly give away free print copies of my novels for reviews from bloggers/reviewers and possible inclusion in a book club. I also make my shorter e-books free sometimes, using them as “breadcrumbs” for my novels. If free isn’t part of a strategy, I think it’s a waste of time. In my journey as an author, I took an unusual route in that I once had a top literary agent, but when that didn’t work out, I joined forces with two other authors and started an indie publishing company. We’ve done very well, and a lot of our success derives from the fact we avoided the mistakes mentioned here.

  144. I really loved this article. I am an editor by trade and love working with those who are beginning authors, but often times I feel like I am failing when I tell them that they need to prepare for a lot of hard work in the future AFTER the book is finished. I will definitely refer them to this and let them decide for themselves if this is the route they are wanting to take. And seriously, the PLOT ARC and CHARACTER ARC abuse! *headdesk* My biggest pet peeve as an editor, lol.

  145. Very informative, especially the bit about becoming and LLC. In the time since I first started indie publishing, I’ve found it extremely difficult (so much conflicting advice out there), and time-consuming, especially when you have a full-time job and commute. Combine that with little to no money to pay for editing, covers, etc. it paints a dark picture indeed. On the bright side, nearly everyone who’s read my work has loved it, often raved about it (only one detractor so far, that I know of), and begged for more. So that’s what I’m doing: writing more. Currently, book #14.

    Always enjoy your blog, Kristen!

    • Tracey Steinbach on December 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve heard many great things about you. Authors I look up to highly recommend your book. Thank you for taking time to share your knowledge and experience.

  146. Great post. I agree with everything! I shared your post with my author group because a lot of info in your post relates to motivation to write as well. One of my favourite quotes is one by Michael Connelly who said something like, “when asked what I did after I got my first book published, I write 37 more.” I’m up to 3 published and writing my 4th. I’ve read many comments from authors who moan about the hard work and sometimes I selfishly say to myself, “great, get off the stage and leave more room for me.” But then I also understand that it can be a demoralising experience to work so hard for such little reward. Writing is a business. It takes determination and skills in more areas than just writing to succeed. “Remember why we are doing this” – great quote which I live by. I’m also lucky that I have both an accounting and a sales background. And while I haven’t made a lot of sales, I’m starting to get traction. I’ll definitely check out the rest of your blog and your books after reading this post.

    • pakaalito on December 29, 2013 at 6:43 pm
    • Reply

    One of my writers posted this. I had to Tweet it before even reading past #1. Very nice overview of things to avoid!

    1. THANK YOU!

  147. Thanks for taking the time to write such an informative, interesting and helpful article. I started out in fan fiction and have just had my first book published by TWCS with two more scheduled for next year. I had no idea how little I knew when I began, those ‘A’s in English not counting for much. Fortunately, I could tell that my writing didn’t ‘sound’ the same as the authors I love, so I contacted Project Team Beta and began honing my grammar skills with my fan fiction stories. After close to 20 000 mostly positive reviews from my fan fiction readers, I thought my writing was in reasonably good shape. Then I started working with a professional editor, and the pain began! I was determined not to be ‘precious’ during the editing process, but I couldn’t believe how much I had to learn. It was like the death of thousand cuts, a form of torture I was ill-prepared for but for which I am now incredibly thankful. The most important thing I learned is that I ‘need’ to learn and keep on learning as a writer. I am also aware that my first two books are far from perfect (reworking a behemoth of a fan fiction story for publication is a nightmare all of its own), but my third is a huge improvement I hope to build on.

    I’ve been researching self publishing, as my publisher can only schedule one or sometimes two books per year per author, but I’m determined to tread carefully. After reading and ‘flouncing’ dozens of self published stories (the lack of editing just kills me), I’m determined not to self publish until I can afford to pay for a proper substantive and copy edit first.

    I had wondered about the pitfalls of overusing ‘Free’. From the comments, it seems that a ‘free’ or sale priced book can be a terrific marketing tool…if it’s the first in a series or you have other, similar, stories available. I’ve also had the ‘three books to gain traction’ explained to me by my publishers, with some of my new writer friends saying ‘three to five’ to build momentum. Having said that, they need to be good!

    Thanks for your terrific blog and youtube post. They were much appreciated!

  148. Glad to see that I’m not making those mistakes.

  149. Great advice! I’ll add this to my weekly blog wrap up 😉

  150. Reblogged this on Roxy Wilson and commented:
    Some very good advice is offered in this post.

    • Morgan Alreth on December 30, 2013 at 2:11 am
    • Reply

    In my case, you are preaching to the choir. I am working on the third book of my trilogy right now, and I have also published some short stories. I made most of the mistakes you mentioned. The big one was rushing to publish before the work was ready. I got eager and excited. *smack* I was lucky in one respect, I already had some experience in page layout. But the hardest part was finding editing help on a shoe-thread budget.

  151. I would love to have someone reading through my first pages, but I write in German 😉

    Well, I like your article and will think of it when I’m ready to publish my first book. When I’m really ready 😉

    1. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut genug. Es tut mir leid :(. Ich wohne im Texas. Ich keine Übung haben. I still hope this helps ((HUGS))

  152. Thank you for this, what a helpful article. It has got me wondering if I have rushed to self publish though. But I have been writing for twenty years, this novel alone has been in production for seven years and has been subjected to two lots of drastic revisions. I have a marketing strategy in place and have already written 30,000 words of the next in the series, with two further books plotted out. But it has been less than a year since I decided to self publish and I have not submitted it for much in the way of professional critique. I’m currently waiting for my author’s copy to arrive for me to check and approve and then it will be available for the public to buy. Of course, I can pause here and make more revisions if I decide to, but I have to ask myself: is there such a thing as taking too much time to get a book out? Will I ever be 100% satisfied with what I have written? I can tinker for years or I can take the plunge.

  153. I appreciate this article’s advice. I recently finished writing the first two books in a series and a third unrelated book. I am beginning the outline of the third book of the series. I’m still in the editing and revision process for all three novels so I’ve been doing some research as to whether I should self-publish or have a go at traditional publishing once the manuscripts are ready. This is helpful information. Thanks!

  154. Thank you for saying exactly what I’ve been thinking! It worries me particularly that people will rush out and publish far too early, before their writing has had a chance to mature.

  155. Thanks Kristen.

  156. Reblogged this on moniquerockliffe and commented:
    A great thought-provoking blog from Kristen Lamb! Sorry I’ve been scarce, but I needed a good break and time to reach the end of Book 4 before the end of 2013! I promise to return soon. In the meantime, have a fantastic New Year’s day, and prepare for an awesome adventure ahead! 2014 is going to be a fantastic year!

  157. Superbly written and loaded with good advice. Thank you for this article.

  158. Wonderful blog post. So glad Lana Axe shared this so I could find you!

    I never thought I would self-publish. For a number of years I wrote fanfiction on a forum and developed a following of sorts. One of the fans turned out to be a professional editor who emailed me, asking whether I had anything of my own. I did. She edited my manuscript at no cost and took it to her publishing house. Despite telling them how good of a book it was, they said it wouldn’t sell because it had a nymph in it and readers associate nymphs with ‘Lolita’. It was shot down without even looking at the first page. Considering I had an insider vouching for my book, I pretty much gave up on traditional publishing.

    After that, I entered and won Annelie Wendeberg’s Writing Contest and she was so enthusiastic about self-publishing that I began researching it and with her help published my first book a few months ago. Self-publishing, like writing, has been great fun. I taught myself formatting and cover design for both ebook and PB. And I’m currently having a grand time navigating the marketing end of things while working on my second book. To get my name out there, I am doing a Free promo and have met with success, making #2 on Amazon’s Top 100 Free Epic Fantasy list and receiving some wonderful fan messages from readers who found me through the promo.

    Self-publishing is a lot of work, but so is writing. I view it as an extension of creativity. And when I look at the end product I know that from cover to the last dot, it’s all my own.

  159. I see a lot of people publish unedited books and I cringe. They don’t want to wait, they want to be Published, and it’s worrisome for me. I decided self-publishing was way too much work and so went Indy (as in small press), and I still have a ton of work to do. Not sure how they do it.

    1. It’s more “how they don’t do it” as in they don’t have beta-readers groups, they don’t work on multiple manuscripts, don’t hire proofreading services, skip line and copy editing with a professional editore, and hit the “publish” button on Amazon as soon as the word “The End” appears on the screen. 😉

      1. In practice, as I did with the comment 🙂

  160. Reblogged this on Vanessa MacLellan and commented:
    Great article. All those planning on going the self-published route should give it a read.

  161. Excellent advice, Kristen!

  162. Great advice…as an author about to self-publish I appreciate learning from those that have succeeded.

  163. Loved the piece. Guess I’m still looking for an agent for my literary novel (completed in ’05), but am definitely self-pubbing my history of Cincinnati and its music and record labels. After several folks took a pass (some of which surprised me: the project would have been mother’s milk for their press AND made them a nice buck) I decided to DIY 100%. For a project 20 years in the researching and writing, the heck with putting it into strange paws anyway!

    1. Just because you go indie, doesn’t mean an agent can’t help you. Modern agents are innovating.

  164. What an excellent article, I’m going to bookmark this site so I can come back and look at the other ones! Self-publishing is something I’ve skirted ever since winning nanowrimo last year as a possible future for my novel if I ever finish the rewrites. Thank you for the frankl outlook and tips.

  165. Definitely some good advice here, but I’m surprised you’d used John Locke as an example of success by multiple books. One might argue a large part of his success came from buying both reviews and verified purchases. The reviews gave his work artificial social proof while all the purchases that went with them helped to raise the books profile, putting those paid reviews in front of more readers.
    He might not be quite the poster child folks thought him to be…
    Still good advice about concentrating on writing more books.

    1. I don’t agree with all of his tactics, but he DID sell a LOT of books. And I said “part of his success”… 😉

  166. Hui, Kristen. You hit the nail on the head with your post on the difficulties newbie authors face today. One of my readers sent me a link to your post and asked me what I thought. I first replied to her in an email and then decided the whole thing was well worth posting myself, so I did. In short, you are correct in what you say, and I thank you for putting it out there.

    Here’s my post: http://www.garyshowalter.wordpress.com

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Kristen!

  167. Great advice, especially about having to become a businessman/woman in addition to being a writer. You could be one of the greatest writer of our times, but if you can’t market yourself (and you’re not already known enough to have someone market for you), no one will ever see or read your books.

    Nice post!

  168. Kristen,
    just stopped by to say hi. Great piece of advice, thank you. I’ve written one novel, which I’m holding onto until I’m sure that it’s ready to leave my laptop. I’m working on my second, with a third in my head which will have to stay put until I’ve got more time to handle it. Slowly but surely my writing is getting stronger. You are right: learning never ends!
    All the best and a very Happy New Year!

  169. Dear Kristen – I’ll keep this post high up my priority list! I’m thrilled to have all this advice from you which will surely help once my book is up and out!! Thanks for sharing your experience and your really valuable advice!! Thank you!!

  170. Great post. I think #1 applies to bloggers and other on-line writers as well.

  171. This is some great info and I wish I would have found it 5 months ago. I had to learn this all myself. You wrote of having multiple books to achieve success. I didn’t intend to write my book or become an author, but I didn’t mean to become a nurse either and I was great at it. One day it began to flow out of me thanks to acquiring a laptop. I feel this is the most important thing I could ever share, that nothing I could write would be as much so, and so I am being very careful about how to get it out there. The most important thing to me is for this to reach everyone everywhere, the financial aspect means nothing. Do you have ideas on how one makes the biggest initial impact? I have already sacrificed things I cannot verbally convey, willing to sacrifice whatever to make this particular project available to every human. The big problem is being on disability with no resources but my wiles. Right now I try to find others on the same path trying to gather us together to share info and help each other, maybe even someday make a website with all of us to take over the self publishing cyber world! Do you like what you read? If so, contact me. Even just to write “hi”.

  172. Thank you! This entry was I informative, especially the sound advice of “the best way to sell books is to write more books.” I will carry that nugget with me throughout my writing career! Also, I will link back to this piece from my blog. http://www.earthatone.blogspot.com

    By the way, I learned of this article via Tumika Cain. This very generous author posted your link on the Say What?? Bopk Club’s Facebook page.

  173. I agree with 99.9% of the advice given here. There is one caveat, and it isn’t something that was said, but perhaps something that others could read as being implied; You should market your first book. I’m not saying you should spend six months doing that, but I would definitely put in some effort around the time of release.

    You probably won’t become a bestseller, but every fan you bring to the fold will be less work for each subsequent book launch.

  174. Wonderful article–thanks so much 🙂

    • Faith Benoit on January 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you, Kristen for this great article! Now I have a back up for all my fellow writers who are encouraging me to give my first for free.

  175. You bring up 5 very valid points here. But what I would like to see is some solutions to each of these issues. Like recommend a book or books on the craft that you would feel are helpful, or give resources for a writer to learn more about the business side of things. What are some of the solutions to getting known out there and when do you want to use free? If someone is reading this because they want your advise, (which is why most would read it) then they want answers to the problems.

    1. Today’s blog gives such a list ;). I have to be careful with blogs being too long. Wordy enough as it is :D. And I hyperlinked in this post to blogs I did regarding how to properly use FREE as a tactic.

  176. Kristen,
    I find your blog well written and informative. I am fairly new to blogging and all that it entails. I have written a memoir about losing my parents in relatively close proximity, what going through the experience was like, and the slow peeling away of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that once covered a more judgmental, less compassionate, me.
    I’m wondering if you do editing (I’m slightly more advanced than the newbie you speak of…) and would be interested in further discussion. BTW, in case you’d like to preview my writing style, go to: http://wendykarasin.com.
    Wendy Karasin

  177. “The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy.” This is an excellent point. Just because you can quickly self-publish doesn’t mean that you should rush the writing/editing process. If your writing isn’t top notch you will get a bad reputation. It’s better to take your time and publish something great.

  178. Yes, write more books, but not until you’ve rewritten the last one until you’re sick to death of it!

    1. I’m afraid I can’t agree on that one. Yes, be sure to go over it several times, checking something different each time. Yes, get editing help (content editing, proof reading, etc.). Yes, get as many beta readers as you can, and try to find merciless ones. Then listen carefully to their feedback. But there comes a point when it’s time to admit that you have done all you can do. Publish it and go on to the next one. Otherwise you can reach the point of diminishing returns. There is a limit to what you can learn and accomplish on just one story.

      1. I completely agree. There is no such thing as the perfect book and the world rewards finishers, not perfection. But, there are a lot of writers who rush before even getting the most basic editing and that can be problematic.

  179. This is excellent advice Kristen! And I’m very happy that I came across this now, when I’m at the beginning of my writing journey. I know there is so much to learn, especially about the mechanics and the business aspects of writing. I’m looking forward to learning more and to applying your very practical tips. Thank you.

  180. I am a publicist out of Los Angeles and if you google me….you will find I’m real. I take on authors with marketable books, I have very reasonable rates, packages, also per item fees for publicity and marketing of your books. I have the ability to get you the author and your book known around the world via social media, press releases, media interviews in news papers, radio and television. I also have the ability through my connections to have your book on the largest electronic billboard at Times Square in NY….feel free to contact me for review of your books possibilities. rod@rlhtalent.com Rod L. Harrell

  181. Reblogged this on This College Dropout.

  182. Thank, Kristen! I really enjoyed this article. I’ve written two books and about to write a third. My first book was a failure when I first tried to publish it, but my second book is being looked at by a small publisher as we speak. I was curious what you thought about writing short stories and poems on a blog. I’ve seen other authors do that and I am curious your thoughts on the matter.

    1. You can. Don’t rely on them, because search engines won’t favor them. Search engines are a blog’s best friend.

      1. I realize that this is probably not a simple question. But, how do you get the search engines to notice your blog?

      2. Thank you! I appreciate it!


    1. Yes, that’s what my Antagonist class does.

  184. Reblogged this on The BiaLog and commented:
    Some fantastic advice!

    • julius b goode on May 20, 2014 at 3:01 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for a great article. Self publishing presents a lot of challenges that could actually discourage a writer. The point about writing a minimum of three books is particularly important.

  185. Reblogged this on Being An Only Elgon and commented:
    Great advice in this article about the pitfalls of modern publishing for new authors.

  186. Absolute Gem. I can appreciate #1, Recently self-published, and I see so many that rush a potential good book, and muck it up with untidy errors. Just because SP has less rules, your work needs to be edited strongly. So many are in a hurry just to say I am a “published author”, yet your work looks unpublished. #4, #5, My time is not free, paper, electricity, coffee 🙂 =$$. I always look at authors who give their work away for free, and I would love to know why? And, most have a following of over 5k, which is interesting. There are so many articles that suggest giveaways as a # 1 promotion to bring in customers???( I see this everywhere). I recently deleted & revamped some of my sites on social media, too much nonscence, and you do have to search for beneficial or non-beneficial. Great post.

    • Rhonda Stock on May 21, 2014 at 4:40 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for this great advice! I am just in the planning stages for my first self-published book (I’ve written a few but never tried to publish yet) and find this very helpful.

    My biggest struggle right now is deciding that I’ve edited the book to death and need to go ahead and get it out there. There is always something I can change or “fix” even if now it’s at the stage where half the time my edits are to change it back to what it was before the last edit. Lol.

  187. Awesome advice!

  188. Reblogged this on IndieWritersReview and commented:
    Great info guys!

  189. Hi Kristen, thanks for another great and helpful post — cannot agree with you more, although I am far from an expert. Hybrid authors — that’s the wave I plan to ride as well — and your advice to self-pubbed authors to get their work in as good shape as possible before they send it out into the world — which one would think was obvious — is clearly much needed. I took 20 years before i was ready to publish my first novel — not that i intended to – it’s just that it went through many incarnations as my own views changed — and today i get 5-star reviews and realize that work was crucial. Thank you for sharing so eloquently what we all need to hear!

    1. I work hard ((HUGS)). Congratulations on getting your work out there! And with praise.

  190. Reblogged this on drakosden and commented:
    sound advice for us self published authors

  191. Just curious – what do you mean by “comments for guests?” Would it be the comments on my blog that appear on the related post?

    This was written the same month I self-published. Fortunately I already knew enough to have tons of beta readers and have the book professionally edited and designed before I put it out there. But I’ve found it a hard balance to actively blog, market my book, and work on my next novel. So I think I err mostly in not spending enough time writing the next manuscript. Throw in three young kids and a part-time teaching job and it’s almost a recipe for disaster.

    But that’s my biggest takeaway from reading this.

    1. Meaning people who guest post like comments too :D.

  192. When you mentioned publishing too early, I thought you were going to say, you should give your book six months of promotion before publishing. I think that’s the big mistake I made. I wish I had sent advance copies out earlier rather than trying to get publicity after the book had been published. The rest is great advice. Thanks for reminding us.

  193. Something that has really helped with me marketing my books is using both Pacific Book Review and also Hollywood Book Reviews. Both of these services have provided me with a professional book reviews and also helping me with marketing my books which provided more book sales. I have used both of these services over the years and found it to be most beneficial. Hope this info helps. They also have a wonderful Book Awards Contest.

    Pacific Book Review:

    Hollywood Book Reviews:

    Book Awards Contest:

  194. You left out a really big one—crappy covers. Many good self-published books never sell because the covers are awful. Terrible art, hideous fonts, and unreadable in Amazon-sized thumbnails will kill a book’s chances of selling. Pay a cover designer—a professional cover designer is as important as a good editor.

  195. This is a really great article. I think another problem with new authors, myself included, is the misconception that your publisher is the machine. I published my first book “traditionally” and I was shocked at how much promotion that I had to do on my own. In fact, I had to do a lot of my own editing. Lesson learned. My biggest piece for new authors is have plan.

    What are you going to do to promote your new book? Are you going on a book tour? What types of blog posts will you be doing? Plan all of those things before you release your book. That way, once it is released, you have a better chance of having readers that are excited to see what all the hype is about.

  196. Thanks so much for this fantastic article. I recently interviewed best selling author Rachel Van Dyken, http://bit.ly/RBSSrachelvandyken; Rachel does blog tours during the release of each of her books. However, I think she’s definitely found a great mix of promoting her work and writing new books just like you suggest. She highly recommends that you continue to add new books to your backlist of work. Thanks again for a great article!

  197. >>The better we are at the basics, the better we know the rules, the more we become true artists.<>Just because we made As in English”

    Ha Ha. The letter A gets an apostrophe before the s when pluralized.

  198. thanks a whole lot for the timely advice. I am at the crossroads undecided between both paths, now I’m better armed with some guiding information. Thanks once more.

    • Elaine moore on September 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for a great blog post. Really great advice.

  199. As a new writer I think I have a lot to learn from you. But on a lighter note, since we were not present in the Aristotle era we usually miss the three-act structure.

  200. The 1st tip was most relevant to me. I think there’s a subcategory of beginning fiction writers who have somewhat-discerning taste in fiction and read the best writers they can find. This subcategory includes at least one person. The problem is those writers want to start with the most technical work they can write. It’s as if someone were just starting out as a music composer and decided to write an Archspire song. One has to master the basics before one can go experimental and technical on the world. Usually. I’m sure some have bypassed the basics straight to the harder stuff. Knowing that there must be some who have makes me think I could do it. The cycle continues.

  201. So far my struggle was definitely self publishing too early. I’ve accepted the mistake I’ve done and I’m going to do better with my next book. I remember getting criticism about bad editing from my readers in certain areas of the book. It was a total embarrassing experience especially since I forked over some cash to get it edited by someone I THOUGHT did a good job. Now, I’m a bit reluctant to publish anything else. I went back and had novel edited again, but traction has slowed down so I’m hoping to have a come back with my second book. Thanks for the advice! I’m going to reblog this on my page.

  202. Reblogged this on William Lloyd (Author) and commented:
    Good read for self published authors/ writers looking into self publishing

  203. I dropped by to thank you for visiting and following The Vision of Poets. I’m honored that you enjoyed it. After arriving on your site, I became quite involved in reading and lost track of the time, so I suppose I would have to say that you have a very interesting site. Very informative with some excellent information, especially for those of us new to the writing experience. Thanks for introducing me to your site and for sharing yours with us.

  204. This is such great advice! I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I had never even heard of 3-act structure. Luckily I’m inquisitive and driven, and I quickly discovered it. Still learning and growing. Your advice is much appreciated! Good to see that people are making it work. 😉

  205. Hello Kristen,

    And thank you for this blog, even though it has come somewhere between four and eight years too late! I am stuck, like the other countless and nameless you have mentioned, without credentials, platform or a formal education, with a wonderful southern-take on a woman’s miraculous novel that is already titled What’s Love Got to Do with It? Up and published.

    It’s also caught between the inspirational genre cracks of traditional and contemporary Christian opinion where neither side will look at it, and I’m not about to mention the issues concerned with mainstream, not now.

    And last, if emotional could possibly be summed up in one long sentence, a new organic author with a gift is plastered to local promotion and sales, only… due to “Its” being shoved from an editor’s nest, immediately after the “upload” to Amazon KDP and Createspace and without my knowledge of the importance of reviews and Bowker’s second step of information and registration. Wanna’ talk about that?

    Thanks, Mariah Stone, prime example of newbies from school of ignorant!

  206. I love this post! And you are so right about focusing on promoting ONE book, instead of continuing to write. I have now bookmarked you page!

  207. Self-publishing brings many benefits not least of which is the ability to get one’s work published quickly (indeed for many aspiring authors self-publishing is the only option given that most established publishing houses will not “risk” publishing unknown authors). The purpose of this post is however to deal with some of the downsides associated with self-publishing.

    I self-published my collection of short stories, The First Time, using the services of a company which specialises in the field of self-publishing. The company offers a variety of packages ranging from an ebook only option through to the publication of both an ebook and a printed version (Print on Demand or POD). They also offer editorial services, book cover design and a press release service. I plumped for the ebook only option and paid for book cover design as an optional add-on.

  208. I got lost on the Internet this morning and ended up at this 2013 post!!! But I stayed for the words, your words KL. Words like, “and what is leftover is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama”. So here’s my tribute of thanks to you and all your ilk who bless us with words. May your tribe increase 🙂

  209. Great posting it’s going in my book marks. I will write more then one book. 😀 Besides, what’s the fun of writing only one lone book? Okay, going to go read more of your articles as this one was spot on.

  210. I appreciate some of your insight, but your info is incorrect in regards to formulaic writing. Many classic books simply ignore these rules as well as grammatical rules. Many famous writers would laugh in your face regarding your claims of the need to follow formulas. Episodic TV tends to defy the rules, even though there was a push in Hollywood for archetypes and formula-based writing for about twenty years. Movies are now, more than ever, being made from books because books tend to break the rules and too many Hollywood writers flopped with their formulaic approach.

    But a writer does need to understand structure and “rules” before breaking them. That much is true.

    1. I break rules all the time, but I know the rule so that makes it a stylistic choice not sheer ignorance. And sure a lot of classic writers would laugh in my face but they are dead and their writing became a classic often because teachers forced people to write papers about their stuff not because anyone really cared to actually read it.

      I’ve edited literally THOUSANDS of writers and most of them won’t get an opportunity to laugh in my face because it was unpublishable crap. Or, if they did publish it, they sold copies to friends and family because it was unreadable crap. Yes, we always have outliers who broke rules, but if you study writing, often they really didn’t. It just appears they did.

      Rules exist for reasons. For instance, one POV at a time. Feel free to ignore it. There is a big-name author who does this, but while I love movies based off his books, I hate reading his books with the power of a thousand suns. Why? Because he is a notorious head-hopper and there simply is not enough Dramamine to make reading his stuff worthwhile. Clearly this does not bother some people, but often if a book is put down, people will say things like, “Well, I got confused. Too many people. Never knew who’s head I was in.” Then, Houston, we have a problem. Rules are for the reader.

  211. Interesting post. I do agree that self publishing author’s should approach writing from a more business accept. I will be publishing my first book in a couple of weeks from now and i am just researching all i can. Thanks for your advise. If anyone would like to share any information which my be helpful to me, you can do so by leaving a message to my facebook http://www.facebook.com/15CenturyPub

    • Kenise on March 10, 2016 at 8:16 am
    • Reply

    Great article! I had already started on book number 2 soon as the first one was complete and I felt like I was moving too fast by doing so… Good to know I was right on track!

  212. Agree with your article on self publishing — what I have discovered after lots of PR is that 9 sites were offering my EBOOK download for FREE — may be a scam to get people to go to their click, click advertising sites for income — and now I have to do all this work, through places like DMCA protection and Track copyright — any suggestions as to how to protect your work after copyright, own your own isbn# – thanks.

    1. Don’t waste time on it. People who want a never-ending fountain of free are like shoplifters. They never had any intention of paying in the first place. Funnel that angst into writing more books and focus on people who WILL pay for your stories. Use that energy on creating a brand and connect with an audience who would never dream of stealing from you 🙂 .

  213. Reblogged this on Z for short..

    • Rhian on October 2, 2016 at 2:31 pm
    • Reply

    Reading this was extremely helpfull. I am researching how to set up my own website and self-publish and one thing I struggle with: the buisness side, notably, taxes and payment. Thanks for your insight!

  214. Hi, Kristen! I am getting ready to self-publish my first book which is a middle grade children’s book (‘Breaking Away: Book One of the Rabylon Series’) as well as to launch my own website/blog/forum, and the information you provided here is excellent advice for anyone considering self-publishing! I have read a LOT of terrible, unedited, self-published trash I bought on Amazon.com and I hope that more would-be authors stumble upon your blog! I especially like the advice about not giving everything away for free (although selling his book ‘The Martian’ for $0.99 did work for Andy Weir).

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  28. […] to a blog that reiterated much of what I rant about here. It’s by author Kristen Lamb called Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors. Highlights […]

  29. […] Author Kristen Lamb blogged about the five mistakes killing self-published authors Livia Blackburne did a comparison between her debut indie title and her debut traditional title. She covered everything from editing to marketing. […]

  30. […] Lamb’s post on “Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors“. Besides the usual, Lamb points out that authors “need to look into becoming an LLC. […]

  31. […] Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors […]

  32. […] Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors […]

  33. […] Five mistakes that are killing self-published authors [Warrior Writers] […]

  34. […] I wrote my post Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors, I did get some push-back regarding archetypes and three-act structure. To be clear, I never said, […]

  35. […] Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors […]

  36. […] that ebooks make publishers more profit—at the expense of the author; Kristen Lamb highlights 5 mistakes killing self-published authors; and Janet Reid explains how digital-first publishing can boost your […]

  37. […] The link to Kristen Lamb’s blog post mentioned above. […]

  38. […] lead time – (n) a process usually ignored or misunderstood by the indie community. […]

  39. […] Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors. […]

  40. […] When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I ho…  […]

  41. […] Continuing this weekend’s special , I’m concluding yesterday’s post on 4 Simple Self-Publishing Tips with 4 More Self-publishing tips! The inspiration for this second installment came to me while reading Kristen Lamb’s blog and her blog post 5 Mistakes that Kill Self-Published Authors. […]

  42. […] Reblogged with permission from Kristen Lamb’s Blog – We Are Not Alone […]

  43. […] Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors | Kristen Lambs Blog. […]

  44. […] I was intrigued and excited about the self-publishing process. Time and time again I’ve read blogs about the importance of good cover art. I would like to share my process and experience of this […]

  45. […] concept also appears in Kristen Lamb‘s piece about this […]

  46. […] no one is perfect in this world, but you have to improve yourself, never lose an hope, but before publishing your article you have to check your article is it having any mistake or not, once it is printed and distributed […]

  47. […] Lamb, author of Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, has great advice for indie authors who want to self-publish. For more advice on writing and marketing your eBooks, […]

  48. […] Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors […]

  49. […] is a post about how NOT to self-publish – experts like Kristen Lamb and Catherine Howard should look away […]

  50. […] Writers. We have a responsibility to put out the very BEST product possible. Refer to my post Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Writers. […]

  51. […] Sourced through Scoop.it from: warriorwriters.wordpress.com […]

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