Congratulations! You wrote a book and you’re now a superhero. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, here are a few things to keep in mind:
You can’t please everyone. The more copies of your books sell, the greater the risk of negative reviews. Since sites like Amazon and Goodreads allow the everyday reader a voice, there will always be detractors. I know of cases where authors received bad reviews because of personal agendas or vendettas. In another case, an author friend of mine was affected when another writer asked her followers to give 1 star to my friend’s book because she was offended by a character representation. My friend’s initial 4.3 star average plummeted to 1.8. (Her novel has since earned awards and accolades.)
You likely won’t get rich on your advance. With the shrinking number of large publishers comes paring down how much money is paid up front. The only authors making the six and seven figure advances are celebrities and proven stars such as Lee Child and Colleen Hoover. Smaller houses don’t have the capital to provide six figures as it’s a $!0,000 minimum investment on the publisher‘s end to produce a book. Author advances also vary with genre; big selling categories such as sci-fi and fantasy and romance often offer more money than general fiction.
It’s unlikely you will become a household name. If you’re striving for name J.K. Rowling level recognition or NYT bestseller list status, good luck with that. Most authors don’t make a living exclusively with their writing. If you’re lucky you will gain local fame, and sell a few thousand copies of your book nationally and internationally. If you are really lucky, you’ll have your book optioned for film or TV, which draws a new audience to your work.
You won’t likely choose your cover. Even small houses use cover designers, and the larger the house, the less voice you have in how your book is packaged. While I don’t dislike the design of my 2016 novel, many reviewers criticized its bland cover. (It was even cited on a “bad book cover” blog.) After I retrieved my audio rights back from my publisher, I hired a cover designer for the audio version, which I believe better represents the book. I’ll let you decide.
Books don’t sell themselves. It’s a terrible reality that authors are responsible for marketing their own books. If you’re lucky your publisher will do some marketing for you and send out copies for review. Yet reviewers are deluged with books and out of the hundreds of books they receive each week, they can only read and comment on a handful of titles. Unless you’re a star, and the publisher has a PR staff, you need to arrange for your own interviews and public appearances. Nothing is worse than sitting alone at a table behind stacks of your books watching customers walk by and not purchase or even engage. If you want to promote at a bookstore, find an author buddy so you can interview each other to share a dialogue and include audience Q&A. Non-writers are interested in the writing process and ask great questions. Another great way to sell books is to present at a library or writing conference or teach a workshop.
You need to engage on social media. I wish I had a clone who will do my marketing for me. Since most of us writers are introverts, the key is to find something palatable and compatible with your personality. Here is a comprehensive list of social media for writers.
Whatever your publishing adventure, be it traditional or self, give yourself a pat on the back for completing your novel or memoir. Most people who begin to write a book never finish.
Laura Moe is the president of EPIC Group Writers and the author of three novels. She is currently adapting Breakfast With Neruda into a streaming series.