I recently self-published my novel ‘You Only Live Once?’ and scaled its sales to make it reach in the coveted top 100 Amazon Bestsellers list. I sold a record 234 copies on Amazon and 50 copies on Flipkart in one single day, yesterday. My rank on Amazon is #69 (Books) and #11 (Contemporary Fiction). It’s a huge feat for me because I am a one-man army with a big dream in my eyes. It prompted me to write a blog to help other writers. I will run out of stock as I publish this blog. A truly happy-sad situation. Laugh. Sob.
So you have a dream? You wish to become a successful author. But wait! Do you have a plan? Certainly not. Why would you land up on my blog otherwise?
Anyways. We’re friends now. I can understand you. Totally.
I have been there, spent many months making mistakes, but finally, I have learnt some of the biggest lessons. I won’t beat around the bush. Here are my learnings and hope it answers the most daunting questions that writers have. These are the most asked questions by writers on my social media channels.
- Should I go for Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?
Traditional publishers won’t publish you because you are not a known name, they simply don’t know how many copies your book can sell. When they’re unsure it obviously doesn’t make sense for them to invest their time and money. They can, of course, in case you’ve some means to reach them personally or your content stands out to win the next Manbooker Prize. But as a debut novelist chances are that you don’t fall under either category.
But wait! Aren’t you an unknown writer because a traditional publisher has not published you yet?
Let me make this easy for you. You want a publisher. They want someone they can place their bets on. Simple. You need to prove your mettle.
After failing miserably at trying to get a reply from traditional publishers and various other hybrid models present in the industry, I decided to self-publish (end to end) on my own. I have concluded that for most of the debut authors publishing on their own will make sense, logically and commercially.
- It helps you set goals and achieve them in a pre-defined budget.
- It gives you total control over the process which means transparency.
- It helps you build a database of your readers and fans.
The social stigma around self-publishing has gone down now. It’s like launching your own YouTube Channel if you couldn’t get a contract from the industry’s biggest music label. If you’re talented, YouTube is enough to make a move!
2. How will I crack offline distribution without a traditional publishing contract?
In the beginning, you don’t really need to. If your goal is set and defined you might as well focus on online channels and make the most of it. I targeted sales through Amazon and Flipkart only. My target was sharp and clear, 3000 in 2 months, 10K in 6 months and so on! Eventually, yes, you will need offline distribution. But it is certainly not a roadblock in the beginning.
The great lockdown of 2020 came as a blessing in disguise for me. I don’t really regret not getting a hold on retail as most readers are now buying online.
3. Does good content sell or a well marketed book?
Both. Marketing alone won’t take you a long way. Marketing can give you a headstart but eventually, Word of Mouth is the only way a book can become a bestseller. Ask yourself this simple question. How often do you buy a book because you saw an advertisement on Facebook? How often do you buy a book when a friend says that it can change your life? I recently bought IKIGAI on a friend’s recommendation. In the digital age, EWOM is enough to make it reach people. The equation is simple, you have to reach 3000 readers who will, in turn, become the brand ambassadors for you and recommend the book to their peers. You alone can’t reach millions, right?
But yes, have a plan on how will you reach the first 3000 readers. I had a head start here as I already had an email list (very targeted unlike Facebook Ads) of the readers of my first book On The Open Road who were willing to buy the next one.
Build an author brand, an email list, a community that cares for you. For instance, JK Rowling would sell in millions irrespective of anything. Why? People care about her narrative, they even care about her iconic character Harry Potter. She is an inspiration for millions.
4. What makes a writer successful?
A realization that writing is a journey and not a destination. As cliched as it may sound but the truth is that you must become a writer because you love writing. That’s all. If you’re a kind of person who seeks external validation and defines it as success you’re going to have a tough time. If you’re the kind of person who seeks internal validation and believes in becoming a better version of their own self – go for it! The journey is full of highs and lows but it’s worth the ride. You won’t always be in the top 100 but you can always come up with a better story. Get it?
5. Is there a shortcut to success?
The hustle is real. You’ll have to work very hard. I have been campaigning on my own for three years. I travelled to every corner of India, built a social media presence, packed and dispatched books to customers, spent sleepless nights in a row, all on my own. There is no shortcut. If you’re hands-on and willing to put effort every single day only then jump into the entrepreneurial waters. You will need repeated tonics of self-motivation too. It is a very lonely and demanding journey. But if your ultimate dream is to be a voice to reckon with, jump into the entrepreneurial waters, you’ll surely make your own path while swimming to the shore.
They say, find out the why and the how becomes clear. In my case, I want to tell life-changing stories. I want to inspire people to make a move. That’s exactly what I am doing in this blog too!
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My social media handles are @stutichangle!
Also, you can find my books here – www.amazon.in/stutichangle
All the best on your journey as a writer! I am with you.