5 Lies Self Published Authors Tell


1. I’m selling X books

This is probably the biggest lie that self-published authors tell. Everyone wants to be successful, and the more successful an author is, the more they sell. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophesy. Average readers want to read something that everyone else likes — think Harry Potter or Twilight.

I’ve seen quite a few authors crowing over how many books they are selling. The unfortunate thing is anyone can see the actual numbers over at Amazon. If you say you’re selling 10-20 per day, but your book is sitting at #1,230,877, something isn’t adding up.

While Amazon’s sales ranking algorithms are equal parts of magic, having a shaman read the bones, and alien technology (hackable if you’re Jeff Goldblum and you have an Apple Air with a port that hooks up to alien computers — see Independence Day for a demonstration), you can make general assumptions concerning the ranking of any book on the website. A book sitting at 1,000 in the overall ranking means you have a very successful book. A book at 10,000 means you are making consistent sales, 100,000 means you’re selling several copies per week, and 1,000,000 and above means your parents and siblings have picked up their copies. Again, this is the overall rankings, not a ranking in a specific category like horror, erotica, or cooking. The number one title in Ancient Stories/Sumerian may only be selling one copy a month to someone who can read that language.

2. I’m writing X words

This is another common lie. I know of several folks who claim to be writing copious amounts, but they don’t actually try to get anything published or let anyone read anything they’ve written. I also know folks who can crank out amazing volumes of words. Kevin J. Anderson, for example, hikes and dictates his stories. He puts out several 150K books a year. Peter J. Wacks, who works with Kevin, can also skip sleeping for a few days and write a book. My personal writing record was 165K words during one NaNoWriMo, plus I had to write a rebuttal article that ended up being 47 pages long in a 12-hour time slot.

The bottom line is it doesn’t matter how many words you are writing. That’s a number between you and your muse. The real gauge is what happens to those words. If they’re sitting in a drawer or a trunk somewhere, you’re wasting time. A gent who cranks out 50,000 words a month but never publishes is far behind the young lady who only produces 5,000 words a month and publishes two books per year. Personally, I’m more interested in what you’ve published than how many words you’ve produced this week. If you want to crow about how many words you’ve produced, you may want to mention how many of those words we can buy.

3. I’m a successful marketer

Unless your books are at the top of the charts, you’re probably not. Constantly Tweeting and Facebooking your one novella doesn’t mean you know how to market. If you’re using a wide range of marketing tools, plus you are one of the first to try new strategies, perhaps you’re way ahead of the curve. Spamming everyone you know will end up reducing that pool of potential purchasers. You can try paid solutions, such as BookBub or Kirkus Reviews, or you can go with getting your name all over the place. Armand Rosamilia and Quincy J. Allen are two authors who regularly appear on several blogs, producing intelligent and humorous articles that link back to their home blog (where you can buy their books!) Their time is just as valuable as the money some folks spend on the paid services. The good thing is you can get a sample of how they write, and that may convince a reader to buy a book. I’ve seen Quincy and David Boop on panels at many conventions. That’s another way to get your face and name out in front of a buying audience. The old adage of thinking outside the box works here, but try to even think outside the written word if you can.

4. My books are flawless

I was talking to a friend about a particular publisher one day. I noted I had never seen a book they printed that didn’t have glaring errors. He handed me a book he had written and published through this particular company. I opened it up randomly and found several errors where a paragraph ended halfway through and continued as a new paragraph (without even a capitalized letter at the beginning). Books without errors are exceedingly rare, particularly ebooks. Big Six publishers have plenty of mistakes, so it isn’t just the self-published crowd who suffer from poor editing and proofreading.

You need to make sure your books have as few errors as possible. A self-published writer who is also the only editor has a fool for a client. Fresh eyeballs are needed during the editing phase. Your brain will fill in the missing pieces when reading something you’ve written. Something that makes sense to you may appear to be written by a committee of chimps with a typewriter to everyone else. It’s your job to make sure your work is presented properly because it’s your name on the cover, not that Chimp Committee.

Your book will have a flaw. Your job is to minimize the number of flaws.

5. I am a self-publishing expert

No, you’re probably not. There are a few recognized experts, such as Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler, Dean Wesley Smith, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Until you’re mentioned in the same sentence as those four fine folks (in a positive light, mind you), you are not an expert. I know several folks who can convert an ebook in their sleep and pump out lots of published words when they’re awake. Even they won’t say they’re an expert. If you have an idea, tell us. If you’ve found something that will help your fellow author, post it. It is better to be known as someone who is helpful and knowledgeable than to be seen as an expert. The experts attract the slings and arrows. The four experts I’ve listed are also experts at ignoring the trolls.

If you find yourself guilty of one of these lies, take heart. Now that you know about it, stop focusing on the irrelevant details of being an author and start prepping  your work for publication.

That’s it, now get back to writing…AND publishing.

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