Connect with us


The Harsh Truth of Self-Publishing



Last Updated on August 29, 2022 by Ben Oakley

You’ve put in the hours, sidelined your family, and bled for the planet to get your book done, but now you’re stuck in the realm of harsh truth.

The Harsh Truth of Self-Publishing

Writing the book is the easy part, consistently selling and expanding your publishing business is the hard part.

Too many writers rest their fingers and minds once the final draft is complete. Without a second thought, the book goes from draft to publication, with no plan in place from then.

Do traditional publishers simply drop a book in an ocean of words in the hope they might be discovered?

Discovery is the consequence of marketing. Without marketing, without a plan in place before AND after publication, a book is as dead as the paper it’s printed on.

Do not expect sales

Head on over to any writing or self-publishing forum and you’ll no doubt come across multiple threads about a lack of sales.

The posters are angry their writing careers didn’t take off as they expected, and so they bring other authors down to the dungeons of their own misery.

Content, they are, to let you know how awful the publishing industry is, and how they’re bowing out with two sales to their name.

The biggest harsh truth in publishing is that an author or publisher should never expect sales.

Simply releasing a book into the world is not good enough, in an age when everyone and their mothers are fighting for a slice of your attention.

The blame games

If your books are not selling, who are you going to blame? Who are you NOT going to blame?

The worst thing an author can do is belittle the very industry they’re trying to get into and anger the potential consumer of their products. Because a book IS a product.

Who or what normally makes the list when it comes to the blame game?

  • Software.
  • Authors.
  • Readers.
  • Other people.
  • KDP.

Blaming software and other people for your book not selling is a worrying mindset to fall into. In the same way that blaming a reader for leaving a negative review is tantamount to career suicide.

Self-publishing is not passive income

You either write more books and promote them or you sink deeper into the ocean and earn nothing.

Passive income is dropping £1,000 into a stocks and shares ISA and reaping the £50 dividend yield at the end of the year.

Self-publishing is NOT passive income, nor will it ever be.

Too many authors listen to fake gurus who promise great riches in return for paying them for their own ‘knowledge’. Gurus who, if you were to look at their sales, are not selling quite the amount they would lead you to believe.

There are ways to have your book or series consistently and regularly make money, but you will still have to work to get a return in royalties.

The harsh truth of self-publishing, or any publishing for that matter, is that you can’t simply sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in.

You must put in the work to reap the rewards. It might not happen right now, but two-three years down the line, that hard work will pay off.

Your book is no masterpiece

The harsh truth is it doesn’t need to be. There are few masterpieces in the world, far fewer than you might think.

Writing a perfect sentence does not make you a master or the last great human thinker.

Many authors can create extraordinary sentences of philosophical insight but making every sentence perfect in a book of 6,000 sentences would cause any mind to implode.

Don’t get mad at others for your writing career not taking off. Get mad at yourself for not developing a plan to market and sell your book before and after publication.

Expect bad reviews – and deal with it!

I followed an author on Twitter a couple of years ago, who decided she would call out one of her readers.

She tweeted something like; ‘to the reader who gave me a three-star review for my book, please come here and explain yourself.

Unsurprisingly, following some outpouring of misaligned grief for the author’s woes, the tweet went viral, and opened the floodgates.

Authors, readers, and cat memes bombarded the author’s thread for calling out a reader over a three-star review. Which, by the way, was incredibly constructive, and still three stars!

Adoration and especially self-adoration can lead someone to become complacent, expectant, and entitled. Reviews are for readers, they’re not there to placate the godlike invincibility of the author.

The author deleted her social media accounts, unpublished all her books, and never wrote again.

The biggest harsh truth of self-publishing is that if you can’t handle a negative review, then get out of the game right now. Seriously, walk away, this business is not for you.

An author is never just ‘found’, they consistently work hard to remain in the game, be discoverable, and achieve longevity.

Help share the article

Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!