10 Surefire Ways to Self-Publishing Success

In this post I am going to share with you 10 things you need to put in place to ensure your self-publishing success. These will help you to avoid the stigma that has been traditionally experienced by authors choosing this publishing route. I will be sharing links that you can follow to support you in your endeavours. I have not been offered an incentive to include any links, you will not be asked for money, nor does anyone pay me commissions. Self-published books have often deserved the stigma that is attached to them. So to ensure that your book stands out, is purchased and is read, follow these tips from the very start of your writing endeavours and you will achieve success:

1. Be aware of what you want to achieve as an author and for your book. If you know what you want to achieve, you are more likely to get there. Without a plan the delay in getting your book published may be just as long as if you had submitted it into the Publishing Lottery mentioned in my last post. Worse still, it may never be published.

2. Make sure you have a good book to offer. One of the most frequently asked questions of a reader is ‘is that book good’? That’s what we immediately want to know before anything else. If the answer is yes, we may go out and buy it ourselves. For a book to be good It will need to draw an emotional response from the reader; there will be an obvious level of suspense and the plot will leave the reader wanting to know more; believable characters are essential, your reader wants to identify with the good characters and loathe the bad ones; plenty of action is paramount, with conflict-resolution-conflict driving the reader to turn the page in hope of more. Simple matters are paramount such as spelling, grammar and layout. If it is not good, don’t publish until it is.

3. Gain the skills of self-publishing while you write. Self publishing is a process that can be learned alongside your writing. Be aware of the pros and cons and assess whether or not you have the time, skills and finances to self-publish; don’t be put off, thousands of authors are choosing this route for the cost-effective opportunity it provides. Don’t wait until the book is finished to find out what to do next. Be ahead of the game and prepared to publish when your book is done. If your book is already written then take time to research and implement the skills required for self- publishing.  There is no need to invest in an expensive course since information abounds on-line and at Amazon.com.

4. Set a budget. Some writers have been so enthusiastic to get their work into print that they have spent thousands of dollars and even bankrupted themselves. Beware of sharks; there are plenty of people out there who are happy to separate the author from her money. The good news is that in today’s word of Digital Publishing, you can self publish on a budget. Even though self publishing can be inexpensive, the last thing you want is that you run out of finances halfway through the process.  There are numerous books on the subject and If you link with other writers through social networking, you will be able to gain realistic forecasts of what you need to expend throughout the life of the publishing project.

5. Consider what form of self-publishing you will opt for. Traditional routes will prove time consuming and expensive. If you decide on Print-On-Demand (POD) then consider using the services of a POD printer that has inside connections with Amazon such as createspace.com. Digital publishing is now a respected enterprise and publishing an e-book is the most cost effective route of all to reach the widest market.  Kindle reaches a vast market offering Authors up to 70% royalties. It costs nothing to have your book published in Kindle format. The self- publishing route you choose will depend on the goals you have as an author.

6. Source the help you will need to self-publish without a great deal of expense. In the process of self-publishing you will become, or need, a copy editor, proof-reader, cover artist and marketing director. It is possible for you to be all of these, but do not overlook social networking and all the assistance that is out there. There is no need in today’s writing world to feel isolation and lack of support as you make those final steps toward your writing goals. You will be surprised how much help is available when you offer to give something back.

7. Become competent at Social Networking. It is easy, fun, supportive, energizing and cost-free.   I met a woman last week at a lecture with author Jack Mapanje. She informed me that she was going to write her life story and had bought a computer and booked on to courses for word processing and networking skills -she was 81 years old. There are four things that you need to succeed on-line, A Website, a Blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook account. There are many others to choose from, but a trawl of a few blogs and websites will soon reveal that the successful independent publishers are using these. Also consider joining Author Networks, these assist networking and give that wonderful sense of being part of something dynamic – great for curing feelings of isolation.

8. Ensure that you have a striking cover. This is essential even if you are publishing electronically. I refuse to buy an e-book that does not have a cover; to do so is like having photocopied sheets stuffed amongst books on a regular bookshelf. My e-reader bookshelf is as important to me as my bookshelf in my home. A great cover sells a book (all my life I have bought books on their covers). Networking on Twitter has allowed me to find and to communicate with good artists who can provide professional artwork for books, blogs and websites at affordable prices.

9. Make sure your book is for sale through several on-line providers. Your goal may be to solely sell through Amazon.com, but since Amazon will compete with other online booksellers, it pays to have your book listed with booksellers such as Barnes and Noble and others. Make sure you are on Smashwords who distribute e-books to retailers such as iBooks, Sony, Diesel and other retailers. Listing your book is free and they will convert your book to e-reader format for no charge, though they do take a percentage of sales.

10. Book reviews, book reviews, book reviews. Use every opportunity open to you to get book reviews that are well written, preferably by readers and writers of your genre. Sign up to goodreads.com and become familiar with fellow authors. You will find that there is a great deal of goodwill and reciprocity between writers online and a polished review that ends up shared through Social Networking, is priceless publicity. I buy the majority of my e-books as a result of reviews and I am seldom disappointed. Use as many review opportunities as you can find time to manage and be sure that you use Amazon for free reviews.

Finally, (yes, this makes 11 tips) and I use it to reinforce my insistence that you – keep writing. Your fan base want to see more work…they really do! So capitalize on your next books success by following all these tips from today. I’ll be watching for your work and if you have followed these ideas, I’ll most likely be buying some of it too!

Meet the Author:

David McLoughlin has been writing since childhood. His work comprises lifestyle articles, short stories, counseling courses, speeches, lectures and poetry. Later in 2011 his first book of poetry will appear ‘No Perfect Reason – No Perfect Rhyme. He is working on ‘Aftershock’ a novel describing the descent into chaos of one life after a bomb blast. David has has been a mentor to authors and writers since 1992 and runs events for the performance of poetry and readings. You can follow David on @veryshortpoetry or drop into the Muse Shack – There is always a cup of something to drink and he will introduce you to the Muse who may offer you some ideas.

The Life & Trials of a Writer – Guest Blog

Today, I welcome Tracey Alley as Guest Blogger at the Muse Shack.  We all face obstacles as we strive to make that book or article as good as it can be. When we find ourselves hitting a brick wall of criticism or indifference from others, it can seem as though all our creative energy has been shattered. We are left  wondering if we really have what it takes to be a writer.

In this post by Tracey we realise that if any one had good reason to give up on writing, Tracey had. Yet in this blog, we see that tenacity and self belief will always win out in the end. One of the most important qualities I believe that helped Tracey succeed was her honest self appraisal of herself and her work, and her ability to reflect on feedback while forging ahead armed with her new information.

I am delighted to have Tracey share with you today. I hope that you are energised by her determination and that you will find her books as exciting as I have begun to do.

Tracey Alley – Guest Blogger at the Muse Shack

Let me say from the very beginning, it’s tough being a writer whether you’re published, traditionally or Indie, still unpublished and struggling.  Either way it’s a tough game.  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and 95% of what I’ve written has been pure and utter junk.  For twenty years I wrote poetry, short stories, novels and even a few magazine articles.  To this day I have folders full to the brim of storyline ideas, plot outlines and even novel beginnings – much of which is pure rubbish and some, maybe, with some hard work could be something good.  Had I bothered to keep them all I’m sure I could’ve wallpapered my whole house with rejection slips.

Then I wrote a halfway decent novel.  It wasn’t a masterpiece but it had a good storyline and seemed to flow well.  I thought that was going to be ‘the one’.  I shopped around for agents and publishers and, to be honest, got some positive feedback but mostly outright rejections.  I even had one editor tell me that I would be a good writer once ‘I found my voice’.  I didn’t know what the hell she meant by that, I didn’t even know my voice was lost.  However, I’m not a complete dummy and eventually the penny dropped as to what she meant.  I wasn’t writing in the right genre for me.  Well that wasn’t a huge surprise in some ways as I’d tried practically every genre you can think of except for Westerns.

Then one day it happened.  It was almost like magic in a way – I found a storyline that I really liked.  I worked really hard and was, for the first time in my writing career, actually pleased with the end result.  It was exciting and scary all at the same time.  Again I shopped around for an agent or a publisher and this time, while I still got rejections, I also got an incredible amount of really positive feedback.  Eventually I decided that if I couldn’t get a decent contract via a traditional publisher – and I’d been offered a few real stinkers – then I would go Independent.  I felt that confident in the novel.  So, of course, was born Erich’s Plea.  I truly felt it was the best thing I’d ever written.  I published and it started to sell, not huge amounts but slowly building over time and it’s still selling.

Then I wrote and published the follow-up, Ursula’s Quest.  I thought this book was even better than the last.  It too slowly gained sales and even a few reviews.  For the most part I’ve had hugely positive feedback on both novels and pretty impressive reviews.  Mostly 5 or 4 stars out of 5, which I thought was excellent.  Then I wrote the final in the trilogy, Slade’s Destiny – still coming for release while I do all the final edits – and it was even better than the first two put together.  And that’s when I finally realised something that had eluded me for so long.  Every time you put pen to paper you get better.  Like a musician or an artist if you have the talent to begin with then your writing will continue to improve the more that you write.

Many of you are probably thinking ‘well duh’ at this point but I can be a slow learner at times.  I thought talent and drive were more than enough to be a successful writer.  I thought that if you had the gift then it would all just fall magically into place.  It took me a very long time to realise that talent is only a small part of the life of a writer.  Hard work, discipline, having a thick skin, getting real critical feedback and working at improving are all far, far more important than sheer talent or inspiration.  Lots of people are talented but not everyone has the humility to work hard and keep learning.  I hope that I have that humility, I hope that I will always continue to improve and yes, I hope that one day I make mega sales and become a household name.  But mostly I’m realistic about the last one – I’m one of many, not the greatest but slowly gathering a following and I love each and every single reader I have.  Without you, the reader, everything I’ve put into my work is worthless – both talent and hard work.  So it’s not an easy ride but it is exciting and a constant huge learning curve and I love every single minute of it.

Tweet Tracey



Publishing Lottery

It took years to write

So, you’ve checked your manuscript, the numbers are right, all the boxes are ticked, your contact details are included, you’ve met the deadline (if there is one) and you have sent your work to the right publisher. The problem is, there is no cut off point, no TV announcement of winners and if you are unlucky enough, not even an announcement of non-winning via the dreaded Rejection Slip! Welcome to the publishing lottery.

The debate about whether to self-publish or go the traditional route rages on. And there remains that persistent mind-set that being published by one of the ‘Big Name Houses’ is the only reputable way to go. One of the stigmas that surround self-publishing is that of independents not making a living from their work. How many times have you been asked “Do you make a living from it.” It may be helpful to know that even an average Author with one of the Big Houses may struggle to make $10,000. Here in the UK, the majority sell less than 300 copies. Overcoming stigma then is about challenging the perceived wisdom and proceeding with confidence.

A look at the figures may help you to break free from the ‘if only’ thinking of all lottery players.There are 86,300 Publishers world-wide; of that number 300-400 are mid size publishers and only 6 are large well-known publishers – the rest, all 86,000 of them are self publishers. Those who submit their manuscripts to the ‘Big Houses’ in the hope of fame and fortune might be helped by knowing that out of the tens of thousands of manuscripts submitted every year, about a dozen are selected by each. Welcome to the Lottery!

I am fully aware of the old arguments about self publishing and I acknowledge the validity of some of them – such as the risk of the market being flooded with poor writing. However, for those who know that their work is good and who have taken the time to have it reviewed, self publishing is the way to go.

With enhanced technology offering a Global readership, economical marketing and promotion opportunities  and Social Networking, the world is open to what you have to offer. I am an avid reader of self published books and, of the 100 authors I have in my Kindle, how could any of them ever have attracted me to read them if they hadn’t used the internet to market their books. We all know the old stories of the vanity publishers, but let’s not confuse that with Self Publishing enterprise that remains firmly under the control of the author and his or her collaborators.

My argument is not that people should shy away from the ‘Big Publishers’, but rather, that self publishing is seen as a viable and reputable alternative where the lottery has failed to pay off. I have numerous friends, who,  suffering numerous rejections have concluded that their work is trash and canned it. The publishing world is a business and structured on a firm set of business protocols, so their rejection of your manuscript isn’t about it being trash, it is about straight forward business decisions that may not favor you at the time.

My plea therefore is, if you have given up on the lottery, don’t can the manuscript – self publish. Click this text to see who have succeeded at self publishing and why?

Look out for my next post:

’10 Surefire Ways to Self Publishing Success’.


Birthday Letters

Starting from this week I am going to be transferring my poetry pages to this blog. Poems will appear under their own tabs and these pages will present an opportunity for readers of my blog to have their poetry featured in the ‘Poem of the Month section.

Have you written a piece of work that you wish to see published online? Okay, don’t waste anytime – paste it into the comments section and have it included in a competition to be entered in the Poem of the Month. As an incentive, I am giving away a copy of ‘Birthday Letters’ by Ted Hughes in hardback. Eight poems will be selected for the rest of the year and the one considered outstanding will be the receiver of the prize. The competition is open to entrants from anywhere in the world. All submissions must be in English and may take any form. You will retain full rights over your work and it will not be shared with third parties.

I have the delight to be able to visit Ted Hughes’ village each two weeks and to be captivated by the landscapes that were such an influence in his poetry. It seems that the Yorkshire Pennines were his Muse and his poems reflect his life lived in those harsh and dramatic landscapes. What inspires you? What becomes your Muse? Or are you like me…I can write with and without a Muse!

Submit a short story on what inspires you and I’ll throw in another literature prize for the best story.

I am looking forward to all those entries and I hope you are looking forward to seeing your work on the new poetry pages when I transfer them to this blog.

Good luck.

Awakening Stories

I went to an interview with Kate Atkinson last Saturday in my local library. I was amazed at the turnout…it was the biggest Author event I have ever attended. Kate read from one of her books…her delivery was spell-binding and the characters came to life on every word…I just wanted to get hold of all her stuff (for Kindle) of course.

I was impressed by something that Kate said in reply to her interviewer’s question about reading to be a writer; “to write well you must read absolutely everything there is.” It seemed like a sweeping statement and some might say ‘over the top’ to me. However, when I review how my best ideas come to the fore, it is after a reading session of a broad range of genres and media. That is not to say that in reading we find ideas in other writing that we can lift out and rework, rather, it is that reading opens up the buried material in our own memory banks…material waiting to be exploited.

I downloaded Travellers Rest by James Enge last week. Not only was I thrilled by the story which takes place in a sort of futuristic/mythological lodging house, but my interest in Fantasy was reawakened after half a lifetime. Having written fantasy as a youth I now have a couple of stories outlined.

My encouragement then is for you to exploit yourself through the creativity of others…you’ll be surprised how many stories, novles, articles and more are waiting for the awakening.

You can read about Travellers Rest by clicking here.

Read more about Kate Atkinson here.