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Indie Authors: The One And Only Way To Success.

Indie Authors: The One and Only Way To Success.

writing5Guest blogger Renee Pawlish warns Indie Authors against  getting carried away by every new fad. 

I recently read a post about free books on Amazon being the way to striking gold.  Yeah, another one.  What struck me most was one of the comments.  It said something like:  most books take about six months to gain traction and sell well.

Really?  Most books will sell well after a certain time?  Most books?

I have some thoughts on this… and all the daft things people say about how to sell books.

I get really irritated when I see books, downloads and training guides that tout the one thing that will make your book sales take off

First it was blog tours, then Twitter (ugh, the number of books I see that say Twitter’s the main thing you need to sell books), or giving away books for free on your blog, or… well, fill-in-the-blank.  For many, now, it’s KDP Select.

Just do this the way I show you, and you’ll be selling so many books, you won’t know what to do.  And then the success story is trotted out but never the hundreds, if not thousands, who tried the same method and got little or no results.

Sound familiar?


  • First adopters of almost any of the ways to sell are most successful, just by being first. Once word gets spread about them, they become less effective. So what worked for Amanda Hocking then won't necessarily work for you (or, indeed, for Amanda Hocking) now.
  • Reality check: Even doing everything right (great book, great cover, great editing) doesn’t mean you will automatically sell a bunch of books.
  • You'll need to market. Selling books is an ever-changing landscape, and that you’ll need to be educated on marketing as well as writing.
  • It takes luck to make it in this business (maybe any creative business). We can all list many authors who have written great books, but they never sold well. If you really love writing, really love it, and you’re not just trying to make a quick buck, then you know that it’s a bit of a crap shoot.
  • Writing, just like any other j-o-b is hard work. If you recognize that, then you’re already ahead of the game.

Sometimes we create our luck through what we do and where we put ourselves.  We create the circumstances in which luck occurs.

Turns out there is one and only way to success after all: your way.

Renee Pawlish is the author of the bestselling horror book Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the first in the Nephilim trilogy, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, the Noah Winter adventure series for young adults, short stories and more.


This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. I got to this article after leaving yet another Meetup reader’s group because it was getting spammed by self-published people. Can we at least agree that “marketing” does not mean “exploiting groups or personal relationships?” If you want people in a book club to read your book, you have to do the same things you’d do to get anyone else to read your book — GET IT REVIEWED BY PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW, YOU DON’T PAY, WHO ALSO REVIEW LOTS AND LOTS OF OTHER STUFF WRITTEN BY PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW. Getting your extended family to post 40 “positive reviews” on Amazon is worthless. Spamming your knitting club, or church group, or book club will only PISS PEOPLE OFF.


    Really, folks. We don’t. People going through traditional publishers have to battle the slush pile before being published. Self-published people have to battle the slush pile after being published. The way you battle the slush pile is by being reviewed by strangers, PERIOD. Can’t find any reviewers willing to feature self-published stuff? THEN BECOME A REVIEWER. A REAL reviewer. A real reviewer doesn’t exchange cash or favors or mailing lists in exchange for “positive” reviews. A real reviewer calls good “good” and crap “crap.” If you want to build a culture where self-published people can get seen above the slush pile of self-published crap, you’ll have to do the work. Build a reputation as a reliable, honest reviewer and maybe you’ll help some self-published people sell books. (Hint: this system is working beautifully for self-published game designers.) Anything else you come up with, i.e. offering free copies to all the other parents in your PTA sub-committee will only PISS PEOPLE OFF. WE DON’T HAVE TIME TO READ YOUR JUNK, EVEN IF YOU’RE GIVING IT AWAY. IF IT WAS SOMETHING WE SHOULD READ, WE WOULD HAVE HEARD ABOUT IT ALREADY. WE ALREADY HAVE A PILE OF BOOKS IN OUR LIVES THAT WE DON’T HAVE TIME TO GET TO, AND THOSE ARE WRITTEN BY PEOPLE WITH SOUND REPUTATIONS FOR EXCELLENCE. STOP. TRYING. TO. SUCK. UP. MY. READING. TIME. WITH. YOUR. UNPROVEN. STUFF.

  2. Thank you Lord for a post (and comments everybody) that make(s) sense! I’ve just published my first novel, The Blacksmith, as an ebook on Amazon and felt a little depressed ’cause I only found advice on how to SELL a book when all I want is to make its mere existence known to people. I didn’t do it for the money, I have a job I love. It’s been a lot of work, involving not only creativity but also serious research. The reason behind all of it was that I wanted to share with the world things that I’m convinced of. I guess people define success differently. Some want to become successful as WRITERS, while others want the WORK itself to fulfil its purpose and bring benefit to people, be it in the form of pleasure or knowledge.

  3. I’ve grown very fond of the quote from Louis B. Mayer–“The harder I worked, the luckier I got.”

    I’ve published my first e-book and I’m finding out just how much work is involved in marketing. But I’m still selling more $2.99 ebooks than I ever did of the $15 books available from my small publisher.

    I went the self-published route because I don’t have the patience or the stamina to beat my head against the wall trying to get my work published through one of the big New York publishers—the dream of every aspiring author I’ve ever met. I just don’t see the point in putting all my energy into writing dazzling query letters that result in form letter rejections.

    Of course I have no idea what it takes to convince the average person to part with three dollars of his or her hard earned money to buy my book out of the millions of other ones out there. But I am quite sure it’s not having the most “likes” on Facebook or the most followers on Twitter. And bombarding Twitter followers with quotes from your positive reviews is not going to get you anywhere, either.

    You are right–no one wants to hear about the thousands (if not millions) of self-published authors whose yearly royalties aren’t enough to cover dinner for two at the Olive Garden. Just like Oprah never showed the woman who started her own jewelry making business and never made a dime. Everyone loves a success story. Failure is not an option, so don’t tell us about it.

    But I still believe for those of us who are good at what we do, with enough creativity to stand out from the crowd, there is a chance for monetary success. Success, of course, being relative.

  4. That’s really not so, David. The Alliance of Independent Authors has many professional members who are making a good living from their self-published books, and many more who are earning nicely on the side and working towards leaving the day job. We have big breakout writers, like CJ Lyons, who has sold more than a million books but more interesting, perhaps, for the average writer is the situation described so well by Hugh Howey in this article: http://www.salon.com/2013/04/04/hugh_howey_self_publishing_is_the_future_and_great_for_writers/

  5. Good posts, both. One would think that the name of the game is not writing, but selling. I suspect that the best sellers in the self-publishing marketplace are in fact about How to Sell Your Book!

    1. I guess it comes down to why you published in the first place – if you don’t care about selling any books, then why put your book(s) out there for people to buy? Most authors, if they are truly honest, want to sell books, not just write them. And in order to sell, one has to learn how to market. It’s part of selling. But it starts with a great, professional book…

  6. I had my first novel published by Macmillan of London in 1980. My publisher, Lord Hardinge told me that to become an established writer, you need a readership; and for that to happen you would need at least five books in print. This was in the days when the hardback came first (if you were lucky!) followed a year later by the paperback (once again, if you were lucky). But now that premise has been knocked on the head because so many people are publishing their own books on-line. The number involved now means that the only people making money are those who sell advice on how to become a best selling writer. Ignore the lot of them and just keep on trying. It might happen.

    1. There are some who are making money in fiction, but that’s a tough nut to crack. Perseverance is definitely needed – most of us don’t have a bestseller right away (if ever).

  7. Huge amount of sense in this article. The latest fads are followed like kids chasing a football in the school yard. Everything seems ‘lost in the noise’ on Twitter; I simply can’t understand the ‘like my author page and I’ll like yours back’ attitude on Facebook (again some really good pages lost in noise). Sadly I think this will always be the case – we’re all chasing a dream and completely original promotion and marketing is a very scarce commodity.

    1. I’m glad you liked the article. With things changing every day in publishing, it’s hard to stay of things, especially when it comes to marketing. Who knows where things will go from here…

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