Posted On October 17, 2016 by Print This Post

The Secret to Self-Publishing Success – It’s Odd by Laura Stapleton

Welcome a dear friend of mine Laura Stapleton with her first post to RU. Hooray!

Laura Stapleton

Ever stand in line at the supermarket, see those “Lose Thirty Pounds in Two Seconds” and throw the magazine in the cart? You buy the issue all the while knowing there’s no great secret or everyone would be in shape. Sad to say, success in the indie publishing world is the same. It takes work. Behind every overnight success is a person who spent at least a decade either honing their craft or building their business savvy.

But I said secret, didn’t I?

Search “Self-Publishing Success” and you’ll find a lot of information. Some is from reliable sources, others from people wanting to make money. Most advice worked just fine a few years ago. Great, but in a new industry like self-publishing, even six months ago is already old news.

Despite rapid changes, the first step is to write the best book possible, get a professional cover, and write a grabby blurb/description. There are solid reasons for each of these.

Your book is a gift to the readers. Don’t you want it to be your best work every time? So craft is the understood must-do line item in a self-publishing checklist. Everything else is mutable, but the writing needs to be solid. Invest in a professional editor and get recommendations before hitting the publish button. No one can edit their work nor should they.

tvbm_smI realize some writers have a shoestring budget, maybe only a string budget, but an editor is worth the cost. You want someone professional and experienced in your genre. Ask around and get recommendations. I have had interesting stories, thankfully not horror stories, based on my not doing the research.

A professional cover is a must. There are authors whose shtick is a campy cover, but they’re very uncommon. You won’t find them on a bestselling list. Of course, now there will be several since I have put it in writing. Get the very best cover artist you can afford and be sure to check out their other covers.

Hiring someone with experience in your genre helps so much in getting the right cover. I happened to do my historical romance covers myself but had great genetics and four years of art class. Even then, you’ll probably be too close to the work to be a good judge of your abilities. Put your image next to those of the top ten sellers in your genre. Does it stand out in a good way? Or in a never again way? I tend to not like changing covers very often, since the modification has a cascading effect on getting new banners, business cards, bookmarks, website images, Facebook ad images, etc.

imp_smNow to the part everyone dreads, the blurb. How can a person write an epic novel of a hundred thousand words but those couple of hundred keep us up at night? Or worse, lose us sales? I’ve read a lot of blurbs in my time, everything from eh, to I must read, to you had me at the first sentence. I prefer writing the first sentence grabs, but who wouldn’t? There are professionals out there who write blurbs as a business. I’ve been tempted many times to hand a blurb over to a professional and say fix it! Just help me out of this misery.

Blurb checklists exist out there and be aware that each genre has their own methods of luring in the reader. Make their heart pound from the romantic suspense, the sensual, or sentimental, or all three. Thinking about why you had to write this book, in particular, will help convey that passion to the reader.

Those are the three things to consider for success. They are your foundation, and without one, the rest won’t stand as well. Even if you’ve heard this all before, it bears repeating. Writing, cover, and blurb.

But what about The Secret? The holy grail of getting book sales?

tvrm_smAssuming you know how even the best book needs some sort of advertising, it’s this. Publish odd, as in an odd number of books. Authors make more sales after the third, fifth, and seventh book is released. This sounds either suspect or obvious, sure. For some odd reason, the results aren’t the same for the second, fourth, and sixth or eighth.

A rule that may not be so obvious for the multi-genre authors is the books need to be in one genre. It wasn’t for me, anyway. I ignored the stick to one genre advice and wrote books in historical romance and contemporary romance with zero crossovers in readers, excluding family and my street team. I learned how publishing three different novels in separate genres build you three distinct audiences. For anyone, even the bigger names, getting readers who cross from one to another is highly unlikely.

Keep those three books in one or maybe two related genres, and you’ll see results. Attracting readers is even better if you can stay with a single series. The fourth book helps by leading to a fifth book. Same way for the sixth resulting in the seventh, and after that? As long as you and your readers are happy, why not turn it up to eleven?


RU Writers, got any self publishing hints our readers would like to know about?


Bio: With an overactive imagination and a love for writing, Laura Stapleton decided to type out her daydreams and what-ifs in order to share her lovable characters and their worlds with readers. She currently lives in Kansas City with her husband, daughter, dog, and a few cats. When not at the computer, you’ll find her in the park for a jog or at the yarn store’s clearance section.

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6 Responses to “The Secret to Self-Publishing Success – It’s Odd by Laura Stapleton”

  1. Hi Laura,

    I agree that the writing has to be solid, and hiring an editor is money well-spent. I sense that readers are tougher on self-published works. Also, given the massive numbers of self-published books available, discoverability is a tough nut to crack, too.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 17, 2016, 7:27 pm
    • Hi Jennifer!

      Yeah, I thought I could publish my first book with only my edits. Those all A’s in English and Literature had to be good for something, right?

      Turns out, your brain fills in the blanks for you on your own work. I’m bad to leave out words or worse, put sentences in the wrong order. I’ve heard that is a sign of a plotter versus pantser. Plotters know the whole story, so the sentences belong, just not in that spot.

      Discoverability is everything and gets harder every year. The best book ever written won’t sell if no one knows it exists. The best thing you can do is build your readership, one reader at a time.

      Posted by Laura Stapleton | October 18, 2016, 5:25 pm
  2. Evening Laura!

    I completely agree about the editor and the covers. =) Hugely important. Never knew about the odd number of books, but I have always read that you need 3 books in a series before it starts to “roll”.

    At what point did you start advertising your books? Right away? Or after the third one?

    Thanks for a great post Laura!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | October 17, 2016, 8:58 pm
    • You’re welcome on the post! Yeah, those covers are lovely. 😉

      Yes, three before the series can sell well. The third means you can set the first to $.99 or free and still have readers buy the next two. If there’s only one book, it’s like having a BOGO sale all the time. Great for readers, not so great for paying an author’s bills. The Very Poor Man will test the odd number theory. I’m wondering since the third in that series is a slow sell, if it’s Opposite Day with the Men and number four will bring in readers. We’ll see.

      I started shamefully late in advertising, not really doing anything until 2015. I published in August of 2013, back when Amazon did a lot more to boost regular indie authors. Now it’s all about KU. Which is fine, but not if you’re an author who’s wide like I am. I couldn’t say no to Nook, Kobo, or iBooks readers. In 2015 I had a BookBub with my first book and only had the second out. Still, it was a success and as soon as the third released on Leap Year Day 2016, I put in for as many BookBubs as rules allowed on those three. I had my husband research Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter ads, since he’s the tech guru of the house. We spend tiny amounts on them, like $5 a day, and cut ads that don’t produce. I think this year I’ve spent the most on advertising and have made the most profit.

      Sorry this is so long. When I’m not writing, I’m researching how to be a better writer and how to market like a fiend. 😀

      Posted by Laura Stapleton | October 18, 2016, 5:38 pm
  3. Thanks for a great post! I’m intrigued by your odd number theory. It’s weird, but it does make sense. I also agree about the multi-genre problems. I read all different genres, but when I’m in the mood for romance, I usually look for more books by authors I like – in that genre. It shouldn’t make a difference, but there you are. 🙁

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 17, 2016, 10:28 pm
    • Hi Becke!

      I know! I like odd numbers just because of the art aspect. Even is too matchy. Of course, there are exceptions. Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe is a four book trilogy. Supremely successful. Plus the Harry Potter books. I have no idea of the count on them in her series and who would care? She’s a good example of you can’t take them with you in genre hopping.

      I also like all the genres, and when my historical set took off, I wanted my contemporary to as well. Nope! In fact, my historical readers are a little, “Hmmmmm” about my contemporary covers. It’s fun, seeing how different groups have different expectations. 😀

      Posted by Laura Stapleton | October 18, 2016, 5:43 pm

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