Amanda Hocking didn’t arrive on the scene as a fully formed sales machine. She didn’t have a platform which she had been diligently building up for years, nor did she come from trade publishing. She was unable to convince an agent to take her on and decided to self-publish instead, and then sold a million e-books in nine months!
Detractors tried to paint Hocking as an anomaly — and she was, in the sense that anyone who is phenomenally successful at anything is an anomaly.
But that missed the point: she was able to sell as much as the biggest names in publishing without the help of a publisher.
Soon, others followed suit. Authors like Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, HM Ward, Liliana Hart, and Barbara Freethy have sold millions of e-books on their own. Michael Wallace, Deanna Chase, Ed Robertson, Monique Martin, Chris Culver, BV Larson, Russell Blake, David Dalglish, Marie Hall, and Ryk Brown are just some of the many, many authors who have sold hundreds of thousands of e-books on their own. Without the help of a publisher.
Further down the food chain, hundreds of authors (possibly thousands), myself included, are making a living from book sales. Many of them, like me, were authors who couldn’t get out of the slushpile.
In other words, most of us started from zero. No readers, no platform, nothing.
A lot has changed in the three years since self-publishing went mainstream. In some ways it’s harder, but in some ways it’s easier too. Competition has increased. More importantly, the general savviness of self-publishers has improved. But the tools we have for reaching readers are much more sophisticated, and the prizes have swelled along with the market.
But it’s definitely different than it was three years ago, and, as such, the route to success has changed somewhat too. Beginners might get frustrated trying to follow in the footsteps of the authors named above because of that.
I see some of that frustration any time I share marketing tips. When those starting out read a post like this one on how to boost your mailing list, there’s always a comment which says something like “All that is great, but what do you do if you don’t have any readers?”
I get it. I really do. It can seem like a chicken-egg situation. You need ads to get sales, sales to get mailing list sign-ups, reviews to get ads, fans to get reviews, ads to get fans… pretty soon you’re all tied up in knots and see no way out.
The underlying question is “how do I get the ball rolling?” The short answer is step-by-step. And here’s the long answer. Continue reading