Ten Things I’ve Learned from Evaluating Self-Published Books for a Year

Photo by Flickr's Fabio Hofnik
Photo by Flickr’s Fabio Hofnik

Today’s guest post is by Jessica Bennett. She and Leslie Ramey created Compulsion Reads, a website that seeks to shine the spotlight on quality indie books by endorsing those books that meet CR’s strict quality standards.

From Jessica:

At Compulsion Reads, we always seek to help educate and inform writers. I believe that my personal experience of reading and evaluating a large amount of self-published books over the last year could lend some important insights to authors. This is something I would have liked to read when I was first getting started out on my own road to self-publishing.

Find CompulsionReads on Twitter and Facebook, and check out the CompulsionReads blog.

Ten Things I’ve Learned from Evaluating Self-Published Books for a Year

Before I self-published my first novel in 2011, I didn’t read many self-published books. That all changed in a big way when my critique partner, Leslie Ramey, and I created a company called Compulsion Reads after growing frustrated with how challenging it was to market our self-published works. Compulsion Reads is a company that offers something we felt was desperately missing from the indie and self-published book market: a quality endorsement.

In July Compulsion Reads celebrated its first year in business, and boy has it been an incredible ride. We’ve hit many bumps along the way, but the majority of it has been an absolute pleasure. And the books, oh the books! We’ve endorsed just over 100 books in our first year, and since this shindig got started, I’ve read an average of two self-published novels a week, every week.

With experience comes what I hope is a bit of knowledge. Below are the top ten takeaways from my year of reading indie and self-published books (listed in no particular order). Please note that these are merely my personal observations and opinion.

1. There are many amazing self-published books on the market

Yeah, I know this one should be obvious to anyone who has read a lot of self-published books, but I had to start the list with this just to set the record straight. Self-published work is often perceived as low quality, and self-published authors are sometimes assumed to be too lazy or not talented enough to get a contract with a traditional publisher.

Not true. Sooooooo not true. I have read fabulous self-published and indie books this past year that could compete with anything that the big guys put out.

2. Many Self-Publishers Publish Too Early

One of the hardest decisions for an author to make is to decide when their book is “ready” to publish. I think a lot of newer authors lack the experience and patience to give their book that last needed scrub before putting it out on the market. Many of the self-published books I’ve read could benefit from a couple of months in a drawer to “breath” and then one last no-holds-bar edit.

3. Self-Published Authors Need To Care More About Grammar

Grammar is the most common quality standard that our submitted books miss at Compulsion Reads, which is a shame, because it’s also the easiest writing issue to fix. When you publish your book it’s no longer just art, it’s also a product. I’m amazed at how many self-published books I read that are filled with grammar mistakes.

4. Self-Published Authors Are Amazingly Kind And Generous

One of the best things about operating Compulsion Reads is that we get to meet lots of authors. These individuals are almost all extremely enthusiastic and passionate about writing and about their books. We love all the happy responses we get when we choose to endorse a book, and we’ve even gotten some positive responses from authors whose books we chose not to endorse. Sure, there have been a few hurt egos along the way, but on the whole Leslie and I have been bowled over by the positive response we’ve gotten from our customers and from the indie and self-publishing community as a whole.

5. Writing A Great Novel Does Not Mean It Will Be Successful

Wouldn’t it be absolutely wonderful if the best written books – those with stories so compelling that you’re laughing until water comes out of your nose and crying so hard you go through a whole box of tissues – naturally made it to the bestsellers list?

Well, life just doesn’t work that way. Quality is a necessary factor to great book sales, but it’s not the only factor. I’ve read some pretty fantastic books through Compulsion Reads; books that I would expect to rocket to the top of Amazon, and yet they linger in the anonymous muck with all the rest of the low sellers. Why? Why? Why? I don’t know. Good sales seem to be quality + lots and lots of marketing + luck + momentum + even more luck.

6.  Too Much Telling!

I don’t think you can get through a college Intro to Creative Writing class, a writer’s group or a writer’s conference without hearing the phrase “Show Not Tell!” so many times you’ll wonder if it’s some kind of magical good-luck mantra for writers. And yet, so many self-published books are oozing with Telling instead of Showing. I wrote earlier that the number one quality standard that Compulsion Reads submissions miss is grammar. Telling is the second most missed standard. Some indie authors just don’t seem to have the patience to focus on developing the skill of Showing.

7. Indie Authors Are Incredibly Creative

Some indie authors (like myself) cower at the prospect of marketing our books and must be dragged onto Facebook kicking and screaming. Other authors take to marketing like ducks to the water, and I’ve been blown away with what they come up with.

During the last year, we attended two big events and offered to hand out goodies on behalf of our endorsed authors. Wowee! We got t-shirts, wristbands, beautiful business cards, brochures, postcards, even designer pens! Our self-published and indie authors are constantly thinking outside the box and figuring out amazingly creative ways to interest their readers.

8. Self-Published Authors Struggle With Making Big Edits To Their Books

Yeah, editing is hard. After you’ve already gone three, four, or five rounds with your book, doing another edit can seem like an impossible grind. But that last big edit may be what your book needs to make it to that final stage of perfection.  By big edit, I mean slicing the scenes that don’t carry the story forward, adding layers of depth to your characters and figuring out a way to pave over the big plot holes even if it means reworking the entire middle of your book.

Many self-published authors seem unable or unwilling to make the hard choices, which I think comes back to a certain lack of patience.

9. Things Are Going To Get Harder For Self-Published Authors Before They Get Easier

The Wild West town of self-publishing is over-populated and under-appreciated. There are plenty of books lounging at the saloon but not enough readers to go around. The number of indie books published is going to continue to rise as authors realize there are no barriers to self-publishing and others mistakenly assume that self-publishing is the quick road to riches.

Self-published authors face a very, very bleak world. There is a hodgepodge of efforts underway to help spotlight quality self-published books, including the Compulsion Reads Endorsement, but I don’t think the West will be won anytime soon.

10. Self-Published Authors Need More Love

Self-publishing can be a disheartening experience. Authors spend countless hours of effort crafting their novel, release it out into the world with exuberance, and then watch as the world mostly ignores its existence.

I’d like to ask all the readers of this blog to spread the love where they can, especially to self-published authors they enjoy. Write a review for the good self-published book you’ve just read or a post a message on the author’s Facebook page. Most self-published authors will never earn a living from their books, but one fan letter or positive message can make all the trouble and labor of writing worth it.

If you’ve self-published, or had the opportunity to review and/or read many self-published books, do you any lessons you’d like to share? The floor is yours.



  1. says

    Congrats on creating a valuable niche service and mining it with brio. Your points are well earned and well presented. Thanks for doing what you’re doing.

  2. says

    You’ve put together a great and accurate list. I think the editing is hard for any author, traditional or self-published. With traditionally published, I think authors are more open to editorial changes because the editing is paid for by the publisher and because it’s part of the process to get published. In that process, the author may not love every change, but they only reject the ones that are out-and-out bad/not in line with the story. In self publishing, the author being in charge and having final say makes it a little harder to let go and edit.

    Your number 5 is true for any author, no matter how they’re published. However, being a great book is a good thing, whether initially monetarily successful or not.

  3. says

    Jessica, these are really important points you’ve made. I self-published my novels for ebooks and now an indie publisher in Wisconsin is publishing the print editions. I’m thrilled!

    I think the most significant points you make are Nos. 3, 6, and 8 (tell/show, grammar, edits). These improvements alone can make a huge difference. I’ve spoken to so many self-pub authors and too often they have their friends and family play the reader/editor/proofreader roles. You are right that for a writer to produce a professional product, the writer must hire a professional editor. Get an editor! I’ve learned more from the editors I’ve hired than any workshop, writing book, or well-intentioned friend.

    Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro uses three editors so why shouldn’t self-pub writers hire an editor?

  4. Carmel says

    I will especially remember your tip to let the book sit and breathe a bit before one last edit and putting it out there. This will be hard to do, but I know it’s great advice. Thanks.

    • says

      All ten points in this post are tops. My experience emphasizes #2:

      I’ve had life intervene continually in the midst of writing and editing, and each time it happens, the project benefits. I just published my most recent book, Adventures of a Chilehead. I intended to have it up for sale by September, but got sidetracked with more prep than I envisioned for a class I was teaching in September. When I finally got back to Chilehead in mid-October, I discovered it needed MAJOR revision. Thank goodness for that break. Those revisions underwent a couple more. Now I feel really good about the book. It’s as polished as it can be.

      Your suggestion convinces me that I should build this “aging period” into the process. I’ll start the next project before I finish the last and hopscotch along the double path.

      I’d also like to add that while hiring an editor is a great thing to do if you can afford it, one editor gives only one point of view. I’ve spent a few years developing a network of writing buddies who have amazing insight and would merit high fees if they opted to charge for editing services. That’s not a track they want to take, but they are eager to trade reads. It’s not always easy to find people with this skill level who are willing to work with you until you demonstrate that your own perceptions and eye are worth their attention, so don’t expect overnight success with this. Keep working on your skills and keep feelers out. Offer to be a beta reader for authors you admire. They may not take you up on it, but it’s worth a try. Circling back around, you can get half a dozen eagle-eyed analyses this way without spending a cent.

  5. says

    Jessica, as a self-published author I could not agree more with your lessons learned. I would add two more: manage your expectations (don’t expect significant sales and treat your first book like a marketing piece (be prepared to give it away). Make the second book your best effort. Thanks for sharing these insights.

  6. says

    I am an editor for aspiring authors and see the problems you list over and over again. I know that some clients scoff at the big edits I may suggest. Others are in it for the long-haul and make a lot of changes. Some put novels under their beds, some query, some self-publish. I can only hope that my editor input helps to land their work in the “worth being read” pile.

    As a traditionally published author, I find it disheartening that many, many self-published authors bash my choice, my journey, my publisher, on a regular basis and very publicly. I don’t care if someone self-publishes, but it wasn’t right FOR ME. I don’t see the negativity as being “on the cutting edge,” of the new author generation, or being creative, I see it as being nasty. And yes, sometimes, envious. Perhaps just envious of my patience in taking years to write and rewrite a novel.

    I also have seen obviously talented self-published authors bash traditional publishing and then JUMP at the opportunity to be picked up by a publisher. I imagine them eating their words. Literally.

  7. says

    I completely agree with your sage advice. The couple things I’ve learned along the way in self publishing is to lower expectations and understand that an ebook doesn’t go away.

    When I published my first book I took the attitude it had about as much chance of catching fire as winning a lottery. So I wasn’t disappointed when it didn’t take off. Of course I gave it hardly any promotional support, so perhaps that was a self fulfilling state of mind.

    But the second thing I learned is that after a year on the market I realized I can still control the marketing. The book is still out there and not pulled from store shelves and forgotten. With another novel in the wings I decided to make the first one free. Bingo. Readers are downloading every day in multiple countries. I’m building a reader base. And now I have a toehold in the market. So maybe there’s hope down the road.

  8. says

    This is an excellent, insightful list and I agree with every point. Thank you for doing all you do. You’re helping pave the road that leads to modern publishing.

  9. says

    Good points. I will say that with editing, it might not just be an unwillingness to edit, but rather an inability to tell which freelance editors out there are actually worth the time and money and which ones are unable (through lack of experience) to do anything more than copy and line editing.

    I’ve hired editors (as a self-published author who is now seeking to go hybrid) on both ends of the spectrum. Generally, the ones who’ve had previous Big Five experience are the ones self-publishers should be looking to target, even though they are usually three or four times the cost of the other freelancers. The difference between the experiences is mind-blowing. The right editors will absolutely help you improve your craft and look at your story in ways you didn’t even imagine. The wrong editors will leave you with a sense of false security–that switching that one word or eliminating that one sentence will actually make your story stronger.

    • says

      Ooo, so true! The wrong kind of editor can be worse than no editor because of the false sense of security.

      I’ve seen some self-publishing authors focus on copy-editing style of editors because they’ve heard about the typical grammar issues. Too many don’t want to pay for the developmental/content editing because it doesn’t seem worth it if they’re still going to have to pay for more editing after that stage.

      But the smaller, focused edits don’t matter if the story itself is weak or nonsensical, if the characters aren’t well-developed or consistent, or if the pacing is slow and riddled with tangents. Those big edits are SO needed.

      • says

        You make a fair point, Jami, but as we’ve discussed on your blog, sometimes it’s just cold hard semantics that get in the way, no snob factor attached. Period.

        I just wish more people in general would get that there’s a difference between “I can’t” and “I won’t” because as much as the can-do folks have banned use of “Can’t” pessimistic babble, saying I have $100K to spend on editing in the ways this post above suggests (And those commenting before me) is lying to myself, and the point of this post in part is to be real about the process, right?

        While I’m truly grateful to have sold my first novel (Children’s book, pub. date unknown to me, you can learn more at the website linked in my name) I want to broaden my reach, and I know long-term, an agent is key.

        No one person (No matter how multi-faceted and business savy they are) can do it all alone, but apart from taking time, the kind of team many speak of (Regarding editing) isn’t easy to find, and I did hire an editor once who didn’t do the kind of editing my book needed.

        I also (In general) take issue with those who say paid editors are the only way to get feedback you need. Some of my best critiques came from writer friends who weren’t yet widely published when we first met (Now many of them are published, and these are quality, non-cheap books, I might add!) so as Jami can probably say more compact than me, there’s merit to both, but when paid edit help isn’t an option, sometimes you have to reach a point and say “I really all I could” and either shelve a project, or use it as a low-risk way to self-publish.

        Something I’m doing with some stories that are too long for magazines, but know from the hundreds I’ve shared it with (Over a 5 year period before my first novel sold last year) they’re solid stories, so I’ll use these as a way to test the waters with the ebook market and see how that goes.

        Other people’s experiences may differ, but from where I am, an agent’s becoming more necessary just to be considered, and I’m still working towards that goal.

        This is sometimes a LACK OF MONEY problem!

        NOT a “Ego” Problem.
        NOT a “Nitwit Novice” Problem.

        But a purely “Financial” Problem.

        That said, I have NEVER downplayed the benefits of getting the editing help you need.

        That said, sometimes beta-readers are the best we can do at one time or another. Not all of us know freelance editors well enough to work out some kind of “Deal” and not all of us have skills to trade yet.

        I think where this gets dicey is when we let the worst case scenarios blind us to other options that while not common or ideal are still viable and WAY better than giving up entirely!

        I can’t speak to those who don’t care.

        Only those like myself and Jami (To the limited extent I “know” her) who do and at times struggle with making peace on a lot of what’s discussed here.

        I can only speak for me when I say this: “I can’t pay” isn’t code for “I don’t want to!” like some demonic three year-old who wants a cookie.

        I wish we more people saw this side of the story. We get the “Other Half” of this equation exists, it’s not true of everyone, though.

        We also need to keep in mind that letting this valid fear (Not taking the time to be smart about what we writers put out there) make us too afraid to do anything proactive (Regardless of the Risks!) no one would ever get anywhere, however you define success, personally or professionally.

        Sorry if I sound angry, but if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have said anything, I’m only speaking to my experience which isn’t vast, but honest.

    • says

      S.K. is DEAD ON! Aside from the upfront expense, not knowing how to screen editors is half the battle, even when can afford one!

      Yes, I know many freelance editors offer sample edits of small bits of something, but many (pro or not) don’t, and apart from referrals from writer friends who are successfully (And PROFESSIONALLY) published, whether indie or traditional, I wish there was a Writer’s Digest Guide to Freelance Editors, that would help narrow it down some, and if anyone who works at or has connections to “Writer’s Digest” I think it’s time to add that to your anual roster of guides.

  10. says

    I have four traditionally published paperback/ebooks, and I’ve also self-published. My first self-published book, Calm Before the Storm, won an indie award last week. I realize I had to spend time learning how to self-publish and while I wrote some of my first short works for my family and experimented, I feel I have come a long way and will continue to grow and improve with each book. I’m nearly finished with my first draft of my WIP, a Southern plantation novel, and I have edited some during the process, worked with a critique partner, and will let it set and go back over it twice more, layering and editing before I publish it. I also will give it a third go over after self-publishing it, before I advertise it. I like to see what my readers see, and I will be able to read it myself on my ipad. I sometimes spot small things that way easier. The wonderful thing about self-publishing is, it’s not too late for me to go back in and correct it myself when I spot something. I feel this will be my best work yet, and I’m taking my time to develop it so it will be. Thanks for the tips and words of encouragement. It’s a long road of hard work, one you don’t make a living at, many hours writing and editing, and as you say, it’s a disappointment when all the time you sink is basically ignored, but I love to write, and I will continue to do so, hoping and praying that one day one of my books will not be ignored. Blessings, Author BJ Robinson

  11. says

    What a useful service you’re providing, Jessica! It’s certainly true that many turn to self-publishing out of frustration or lack of patience – and some of those people really needed to spend more time on their work before taking it to market. On the other hand, there are plenty of writers in the indie community who really are ready to publish, and it’s got to be helpful having a “seal of approval” for one’s work. I think you’re right – readers will have more trust in self-published authors if they believe that they meet a certain standard of quality. This is not only beneficial to the many very talented writers who do elect to self-publish, but may also provide those who aren’t ready with an objective opinion on the real quality of their work.

  12. says

    As someone who is submitting my fifth PDF to CreateSpace and has bought two proof copies, let me add this:

    You can’t proofread often enough.

    This time, I had discovered that hyphens I had inserted in the deluxe version (with art) did not get pulled for the regular version (sans art). The drop caps were not formatted consistently. A subhead in the deluxe version was different from the regular version. The spacing wasn’t consistent in the headers. One of the chapter titles was on two lines when it should be on one.

    At some point, you have to let the book go. But many writers let them go too soon.

  13. says

    Self-publishing is certainly not for those who aren’t prepared to do all the work. But having an arsenal of helpers, editors, bloggers, and marketing connections can help ease the burden. Self, doesn’t mean alone. It shouldn’t. Working with other freelancing professionals is how good novels become stellar. Without them my first self-published book, Bonjour 40, would not have gone on to garner the 7 indie awards that it did. Speaking of which, if an author has a well-done book, those indie awards can be a terrific help in adding clout to a work, and in becoming recognized by agents if the traditional route is desired for subsequent works.

  14. says

    I enjoyed Jessica Bennett’s column on Writer Unboxed. The column is both realistic (in keeping with my experiences) while managing to be positive. The main things I’ve learned from my journey:
    *When a reader is moved by your book, that’s magic! And it can’t be bought.
    *I value readers for taking time with my book.
    *Taking the long view feels right
    *The process is slow, but my book is finding a home and so will other writers’ work
    *I learned more about writing, editing and publishing than I ever imagined. This is helping me with the book I’m currently writing.
    Elle Thornton
    author, The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis

  15. says

    What a terrific and well-balanced post, showing the pitfalls of self-published works without bashing the entire endeavor. I’m looking forward to the day when self-pubbed and traditional pubbed advocates end their petty war over which way is better and we all focus our attention on producing and marketing the best possible books.

    As a freelance editor, I find many of my self-pubbing authors have not really taken any time to learn their craft. They have no idea how amateurish their writing is (telling, POV errors, sloppy syntax, etc.) and are staggered to find that their work does NOT need a copy edit–it needs a developmental edit and another draft.

    I always offer a free sample edit. Sometimes authors are in a rush to publish or not willing to hear that their book needs more work (or they are so put out by what I tell them in the sample edit) that I never hear from them again…not even a thanks for my time.

    Some are more open to constructive feedback than others, of course–they are the ones who really do want to improve as authors and are willing to put in the time (and the cash) to learn.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Paula when she says authors learn “more from the editors I’ve hired than any workshop, writing book, or well-intentioned friend.”

    • says

      I agree with you, Leslie. I am working on my first novel which I go back and forth on whether to self-publish or try to go the traditional route. I have a financial problem due to being on a fixed income to pay for a professional editor, but when the time comes, I intend to do it. It is worth it. I have seen so many grammatical and exposition problems too with new writers. I write a blog for aspiring authors and review debut authors. I have been reading and studying the craft for about a year and a half, while researching for my novel. I think it’s so true that many do not put the time in to do this. I have learned so much by this, but I learn even more by writing and trial and error. This is a hands-on business and if we don’t write, we also can’t learn from our own mistakes.

  16. says

    Everyone thinks they can write but few are willing to invest the time that it takes to become proficient and to have the patience and perseverance necessary to discover what you’re good at and to refine your work until it sings. Getting the details right and telling instead of showing are two of the biggest hurdles as you point out in the article.

  17. says

    Excellent post. Proper editing is essential and I think a major barrier for most indies is the cost. They simply can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars that a professional editor charges. At very least, indies should trade beta reading with other indies. It’s amazing what other writers can catch, as well as what you learn from reading other’s works-in-progress.

  18. says

    Jessica, thank you for a great article and I agree with everything 100%. I am working on my first novel now, so I have yet to go through the publishing and marketing part, but I also write a review blog dedicated to debut authors, and re-blog and write articles for the aspiring author. I have been blogging for almost a year and a half now. I too have noted that grammar is the biggest problem, and second is telling. I once read a book that had a prologue that was over 60 pages of nothing but exposition, not even one line of dialogue! That was a chore to read. I kept hoping it would get better. It didn’t. I have also read some wonderful books that would equal any traditional published book.

    My first publication is going to be available today. It is a short story in a holiday anthology. I am so excited but so nervous. I rewrote that piece between 5-10 times–and it’s only 2,571 words! I still found a couple of errors in the final proof, which thankfully I was able to correct before it goes live this afternoon.

    So, from my experience, I will add another problem with editing to look out for with novice writers. That is changing tenses. I wrote this story in present tense, first person. I found an entire line with past tense words. I think this must be a common mistake to make and editing would correct that. I edited, another person edited, I edited again, and again..still, we both missed that line. If that happens with such a short piece, imagine a full-length novel! This has been a great experience, and now I am even more aware of what to look for in my reviews. Thanks again!

  19. says


    Excellent points made, and ones that seem to be common sense. As an unpublished author, I’m sitting on a book that has yet to go through my own scrutinious edits, much less the edits and revision suggestions from others. And yes, I’m biting at the bit to become a published author, but I know the book has much work left on it.

    Hence, #2, #8, and #9 resonated with me. I’m like the Paul Masson commercials of old, and will publish no book before its time.

    Most of this seems to be common sense, but with many, sometimes the desire for fame and fortune (ha!) supersedes standards of quality. Or blinds them to the fact that, hey…this needs a little fine-tuning.

    I’ve read many self-pubbed books and have drawn the same conclusions (the good and the bad)—thank you for an insider’s perspective.

  20. Tina says

    That you for this information.
    Before reading this post I had no idea that it is grammatically acceptable to capitalize every word in a title. I was schooled on the ‘title case’ and ‘sentence case’ methods.
    (However, we should be consistent with whichever method we choose.)

  21. says

    Thank you for an excellent list. Wonderful points. I’ve been on both sides of self-publishing. I’ve been a book reviewer for a long time. I don’t care if the book is self-published or traditionally published. A good book is just that, a good book. I’ve learned so much through self-publishing. It is not cheap. I still have so much to learn. One of the major things I learned is keep going. As a writer we each have to define what success is to us.
    I did not expect to get rich from my first book. I wanted to reach a specific audience with y book. Since it is a 9/11 book I knew many would not or could not read it. My target audience were middle and high school. To have other teachers in my county read it and then decide to use it in their classroom is exactly what I wanted.
    I always include a couple of my students as Beta readers. They look at things differently. They find those inconsistencies that many adults will just over look.
    Self-publishing doesn’t mean everything is easy. It takes just as much time to write well, whether you are traditionally published or self-published. I’m just to see that the attitude toward self-publishing is changing.

  22. says

    A resounding yes! to all those points. :)

    My sci-fi critique group, headed by a traditionally published author, self-published an anthology to benefit Doctors Without Borders this past February. It’s done extremely well (we are close to selling 3000 copies so far). What I feel we did right was what Jessica had mentioned – edit, edit, and edit some more to make sure we weren’t telling and to correct any grammar gaffes. We didn’t self-pub for glory (or even money…even though MSF is getting some good donations from our effort), but it was an excellent experience which honed our skills.

    When one sets out on the self-publishing road with the same level of professionalism as a traditional-publishing route, it is a win situation even if one never gains the fame of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. :)

  23. says

    I agree with your points. I self published a picture book, and will be doing so again with a second one. It’s all been a learning curve from technology to product. I think on the third edition, I’ve achieved the best book I’m able to now. From formatting for ereaders to the print form (there were calls for it, and I’ve sold as many hard copies as ebooks, so if you have a book, you should always think about putting it in hard copy, Createspace is a relatively easy venue) http://www.amazon.com/Nanas-Gift-Agy-Wilson/dp/1475034547/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1385964284&sr=8-10 If you’d like to check it out. I find the hardest thing is the marketing. And a part of that is I didn’t have one going in because I looked at this as more of a learning experience. The more I thought about it, though, I love the book, it is a product, and other people like it as well, so I think those things should now always be a consideration. I liked your page on FB, I will also be following on Twitter. Too bad you didn’t review picture books as well. Great article (and shared that too, I’m a bit of a sharing fool…)

  24. says

    Brilliant list! Unfortunately, I’m always guilty of #8… I might change a sentence here and there, but I rarely change, delete or add entire scenes!
    Editing? Sure. Rewriting? Please don’t make me!

    On the other hand, I’m doing well at #2 at the moment. My latest short story has been ready for last edit for a few months now, but I’ll let it ‘breathe’. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I don’t want to edit it. Of course not.

  25. says

    Traditional publishing is a business and publishers need to make money. If they don’t think a book will sell, they will pass on it – even if it’s a good story. Writers have to take off their gossamer ‘artiste’ robes and put on a black business suit when it comes time to publish. That means understanding the practical end of things — agents, marketers, and editors have kids to feed and lives to live.

    I am on the self-publish route, but you can best believe I’d be all over a traditional publishing opportunity. In the meantime, it’s been a tremendous learning experience, and quite empowering to have complete control of the success of failure of my writing.

  26. says

    I’m a self-published author with one book out there on the market (and on Compulsion Reads, as it happens). I never understood the importance of reviews until I put a book out. Since learning this lesson I’ve read and reviewed 200+ indie/SP books. If I had one point to add to this list it would be how much of a better writer and storyteller this has made me. I’ve seen so many good books, but also seen the failings in others. It’s all made me far more aware of what works and what doesn’t when I sit down at my own keyboard. Kinda wish I could take that knowledge back in time. :-)

  27. says

    Oh thank you for this!!
    I agree with all points as I learned the hard way about being too anxious and in a hurry to get the story out there and now in the process of fixing that manic phase. But this is a good article for the families of SP writers because for the most part those who don’t write can’t seem to understand the process, why it takes so long to “just jot down a story” and that it could be months, years or even never that you as the writer becomes known. My own family thinks I’m crazy and living in a dream world because my books(2)are not on that 100 best list.
    “Self-published work is often perceived as low quality, and self-published authors are sometimes assumed to be too lazy or not talented enough to get a contract with a traditional publisher.” Statements similar to this one have come, many times, from members of my family. They say I’m just wasting my time, time that could be spent working at a ‘real job’,(as if raising a (two generation) family is not a real job) they don’t get it.
    I’m insisting that they read this.

  28. says

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned. I’ve also discovered that two rounds of beta readers helps a ton. The first round is with my trusted writers group (several published) and the second round is with readers. They are so helpful in pointing out things I missed! I also leave the book in a drawer for six months as a rule. What a huge difference when I come back to it since I’m no longer so attached and much more objective. :)



  1. […] 2. Ten Things I’ve Learned from Evaluating Self-Published Books for a Year, from Writer Unboxed: A lot of self-published authors can be very successful, but it does take a lot of work. And, while not all authors are willing to put in that work, many self-published authors are. Excerpt: “Self-published work is often perceived as low quality, and self-published authors are sometimes assumed to be too lazy or not talented enough to get a contract with a traditional publisher. Not true. Sooooooo not true.” […]