4 Self-Publishing Problems (And Their Solutions)

Written by Chantelle Atkins | March 4, 2015

I’ve been self-publishing for almost two years now, and it occurred to me recently that the same four problems are constantly rearing their ugly heads. It sometimes seems like there is no escaping them. I have listed them below and I think many aspiring authors would agree that these four issues are not going to go away any time soon. So how do authors on the self-publishing route deal with them? I do not think there are any easy solutions, but I have found a few things that are starting to work for me.

1) Expense

As an independent author, the issue of what to spend on my books is something I battle with constantly. Self-publishing, or publishing through an independent company is technically free. This is very enticing in the beginning if you are not particularly well off.

However, I soon realized I had to spend money to make money, and this is an on-going concern. There is the book cover. Of course you can do this yourself or ask a friend, and it certainly does not have to cost a fortune. But you must remember that people really do judge a book by its cover, and so it might very well be the one thing you ought to spend more money on.

Editing is another potential expense. There is no doubt that if you can afford a professional editor, then you should hire one. The main thing that sets self-published books apart from the traditionally published books is bad editing. And this is a shame, but not something we can all easily solve. If you are on a tight budget, how can you justify spending more and more money on a project that might result in a handful of monthly sales if you are lucky?

Marketing is another money pit. There are free promotional sites, and of course you would be a fool to not fully utilize the power of Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and so on. But there are also thousands upon thousands of specialized sites aimed at indie authors desperate to make their book visible. These sites are everywhere, and they want your money. How much of it should you part with? How will you know it is worth it? Paying for promotion does not guarantee sales, so what should you do when your cash supply is running out?

Solution

If you are not confident enough to tackle your cover yourself, then do get help. Professional is best, but this does not have to mean paying a fortune. Follow new artists and art students on Facebook and Twitter, ask your social media contacts if they know of any art students or artists starting new pages, who might be looking for reviews and work for their portfolio. If they are new too, then there is a possibility for a deal. After all, if they help you, you can help them. Your book will be a constant promotion for their art, and they can share your book on their page.

Try to do your research first though. Go into a book store and wait until a book calls to you, then think about what caught your eye about the front cover. Walk around the book store and allow yourself to reach out to books you notice. Do the covers have anything in common? What is it about the style, font, typography or image that pulled you in? Keep this information in mind when you approach someone about your cover.

If you can’t afford an editor then you need beta readers and willing proofreaders. Again, ask friends and social media contacts. You need a team of three or more and they need to be preferably educated to degree level. If they have a relevant degree or work experience then all the better, but a perfectionists grasp of grammar is needed. They must be avid, obsessed readers! This won’t replace the skills and expertise of a professional editor, but not doing this would be even worse. You cannot and should not rely on your own judgement as to when your book is ready for publication.

When you are considering marketing, pay for the ones that keep you on their site for life. Pay once and only once. And other than that utilize the free social media sites as much as you possibly can. Remember it can take a lot of time to build up likes and followers, but keep plugging at it and you will get there.

2) Audience

This is a major and a constant source of frustration for indie authors. Who are my audience and where are they? What do I need to do to find them? How do I lead them to my work? What if you are not sure what genre your book is? These are the questions you should be asking, but the answers are not always forthcoming.

Finding your readers, the people who ‘get’ your work is one of the biggest challenges to face indie authors. How do you convince readers to buy your book over someone else’s? How do you make yours stand out and call to them? There are no easy answers. It is quite simply something you have to spend a lot of time and energy working out.

Marketing and promoting can end up taking over, leaving you little time to actually write. But you need to do it. You have to find your audience if you want to sell your book.

Solution

There is no easy, quick fix solution, but there are endless things you could and should be doing to get your work out there. You need to become as visible as possible. Think about your social media pages. Are they eye catching? Interesting? Are they even active? You don’t need to be on all of them, but choose at least three that you intend to stick with, and keep them busy and engaging.

There are countless things you can do to drive traffic and followers to your pages. Share interesting, thought provoking articles and blogs. Share your own experiences, but remain positive! Share your work and make sure you read and comment on the work of others. Build connections and contacts and engage with people who visit your page or your profile. Write more! Not just books, but blogs, articles etc. This is a tried and tested way to spread your writing, and lure potential readers your way.

3) Reviews

Getting reviews is extremely important. Readers may be attracted by your front cover, intrigued by your title and drawn in by your synopsis but it is reviews that will seal the deal. They don’t all have to be 5 stars. They can be a mix, but obviously more higher ratings than low are preferable. If you have no reviews, people have very little to go on.

There will always be those that take a chance on a new author, and if your book is free or discounted, they may be more likely to do this. But you still need genuine reviews from readers who cared enough about your book to post them. Inevitably people will read your book, enjoy your book and then forget to review it.

As authors, we need to constantly and politely remind readers how important it is to leave a review! The more reviews you get the more chance there is of readers taking your book seriously. The more opinions they can read about your work, the more enticed they will be to see for themselves. But how do you get reviews if you haven’t found your audience yet?

Solution

Start with friends and family and social media connections. Offer the book for free if you have to. Offer it in return for honest reviews. Make it clear that you expect honesty, not favors. If you know people have bought your book, perhaps gently remind them that a review will really help you sell more books. In my experience people genuinely don’t realize how important reviews are to new authors. You may have to make the point several times, as politely as possible.

Another good idea is suggesting your book to book clubs. Perhaps you can offer it to them for free, or do them a deal in return for the whole book club reviewing it for you. Two of my books have been read and reviewed by book clubs in my local area, which definitely helped boost my numbers of reviews. I have had people tell me that they decided to finally buy one of my books because they read the reviews I post on my Facebook page. This is proof that reviews do boost sales!

You should also try to forge connections with other writers. Remember that writers are readers too. Talk about the possibility of mutual read and reviews. There is nothing wrong with doing what you can to get those early reviews in. Hopefully once you pass a certain number, the ball may keep rolling by itself. Finally there are sites where you can submit your book for review, and there are a lot of book review bloggers out there, but in my experience so far, they tend to have very, very long waiting lists!

 

4) Self-publishing itself

In a way, what has allowed you to get your book published, is also going to work against you. By this I mean two things. Firstly,the sheer volume of books being self-published daily. It is extremely exciting and empowering to have published your own book, and without a doubt, there is plenty of genuine talent in the indie scene. But the numbers do have an impact. So many people are doing it now; how is your book going to stand out? If people think just anyone can do it, then what will make them look twice at you? How are you going to convince people that you have true talent and are not just yet another wannabe taking the easy road?

Secondly, the on-going and perhaps deep seated opinion that self-published books are inferior to traditionally published books is going to be a problem for some time to come. It is sometimes a tough pill to swallow, but it is undoubtedly the way things are.

Solution

First you need to face all four of these problems, recognize and accept them all. There is no point denying them or hoping they will go away. Work on them constantly, in all the ways I have mentioned, and in any other way you can think of yourself. And then keep writing. Keep getting better, keep promoting yourself, keep listening to others, keep reading, keep trying, keep learning, keep your head up and keep believing.

I think it is important to accept that there are many problems the self-published author has to face. It may be that these issues are here to stay. If you are new to this journey, then recognizing these issues may help you make decisions about your book and your marketing strategies, and if you are a few years or a few books into your journey, then hopefully you will know you are not alone with your struggles!

Bio: Chantelle Atkins is the author of four novels including The Mess Of Me and recently released This Is Nowhere. She lives in Dorset, England with her husband and four children. Atkins work is often described as gritty and character driven, and she writes within both the adult and young adult genres. Connect with her on Facebook.