Are you writing fiction? Chances are that you’re thinking about it, and why not? Fiction out-sells nonfiction six to one on the ebook retailers. The most popular posts on this blog are about self-publishing fiction. It’s a hot opportunity for authors.
An aside. I wrote a version of this article in December 2016. Revised and edited, February 22, 2018.
Self-publishing fiction: should YOU try writing fiction in 2018?
During and after NaNoWriMo this year, I got lots of queries from freelancers who wanted to get started writing fiction. They worried that they could be “wasting time” if they devoted valuable writing time to fiction.
Here’s my response: nothing you write is ever wasted. I wish I’d learned that as a young writer — I could have saved myself a lot of tears and heartache. Every time I had a “failure”, that so-called failure turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, because without it, I wouldn’t have had a later success.
In brief: if you’re inspired to write fiction — go ahead. Even if you never sell a novel or short story (unlikely), writing fiction will improve ALL your writing.
So here are my top seven tips for self-publishing fiction in 2018.
1. Focus on short stories: you’ll sell more, build more visibility, AND improve your fiction writing skills
Here’s the thing about self-publishing: your ebooks can be as long, or as short as you please. Strictly from a money angle, if you can get $2.99 for a 10,000 word short story, OR a 60,000 word novel, it makes sense to write more short stories.
When you write short stories, not only do you build your visibility, you also improve your fiction writing skills.
Of course, you need to be writing novels, too. Look on your short stories as introductions to you and your books.
2. Tweak your meta data (title, description, keywords) until you sell, then tweak it some more
As I said in 5 Tips To Rescue Your Failed Nonfiction Ebook:
Discoverability is the biggest challenge for all authors on Amazon, as well as on the other ebook retailers. If your readers can’t find your nonfiction ebook, they can’t buy it.
Check your ebook’s product page, and redo your keywords and description. Start by putting yourself in your readers’ shoes. If you were a reader, looking for the information in your book, what words would you use?
If a novel or short story isn’t selling, tweak your title, description and keywords until it does sell.
I like to create a novel’s meta data while I’m writing. With my writing students, I’ve found that once they see the sales results they can get from just a tweak or two, they’re hooked. One author started selling 50 copies a week after tweaking — she hadn’t sold 50 copies in the previous year.
3. Covers count, but not as much as you think
Get the best covers you can.
Remember that readers in any genre have expectations of how a book (ebooks too, of course) in that genre will be presented. If the bestselling titles in your genre have illustrated covers, your title needs an illustrated cover too.
That said, an amazing cover won’t sell a sub-par book. Today, with more and more traditional publishers putting their authors’ backlists online, you need to tell a great story. And have a good cover. 🙂
4. Read more: think about what’s selling, and why
I put all my fiction-writing students onto a reading program. You need to know what’s selling in your genre, and why. Yes, it’s hard to find time to read, but find the time — it’s important. Forget Facebook. Start reading. 🙂
5. Follow your inspiration — excite yourself, and you’ll excite readers too
Write what you love to read. I adore mysteries and historical fiction, so that’s what I write. “Writing to market” — that is, writing what’s selling — is good advice, IF you can do it. Most beginning fiction writers can’t do it.
A couple of years back, when vampire romances were selling hugely, one of my students was in despair. Her books weren’t selling. The reason? She was trying to write a novel in the vein of the Twilight books, but she didn’t believe in her characters, and readers picked up on it.
I asked her what she loved to read. She loved urban fantasy, and as soon as she wrote her first one, she started selling.
6. Invest in marketing: schedule ten minutes a day
Choose a form of marketing, and devote a few minutes to it every day.
It doesn’t matter much what kind of marketing you do; it’s all cumulative.
7. Keep writing: one book doesn’t make a career
Publishers know this — you need to understand it too, because it’s important.
Way back in the mists of time, when I received my first publishing contract for a novel, the contract was for a series. Publishers knew then, and they know now, that authors need to build name recognition, and a readership. (A platform, in other words.)
Yes, your novel took time to write. Accept that it’s unlikely to make much of an impression. It’s just a novel — there are millions of novels available to readers, and many of them free. Sadly, your first novel is unlikely to catch fire.
Professional authors write novels. That’s what they do. Just like bakers bake… 🙂
Keep writing. If you want to write novels, accept that that’s what you do, too. You write. Whether your novels set the world on fire or not, is pretty much in the lap of the gods.
Please make your peace with that. Once you can accept that, not only will your writing improve, you’ll have more fun too.
Self-publishing fiction: fun, and profitable
Writing fiction is fun. You’re telling yourself, and eventually your readers, stories.
Fiction is profitable too. In Marie Force’s indie-publishing survey, one author reported making $500,000 a month.
If you’re thinking about self-publishing fiction, give it a try in 2018.
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Updated: January 13, 2018
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