Self-Publishing Tips From an Old Interview With David Gaughran

self-publishing Jul 27, 2021
Self-Publishing Tips From an Old Interview With David Gaughran

Almost a decade ago I interviewed David Gaughran, a name that surely stands out from the crowd through the sheer plethora of self-publishing resources that he has made available for free on his blog.

While the full interview has been lost, I did manage to recover some interesting fragments, which can easily form the basis of a self-publishing framework even to this day.

So, without further ado, let's go through this fantastic list of self-publishing tips.

There are no barriers anymore to anyone, anywhere, publishing their book themselves and reaching readers all over the world.

Let's start with this simple yet powerful mindset advice. There are no barriers anymore. And self-publishing, having been around for more than a decade, has proven itself to be an effective way of sharing stories with readers all over the world.

There are no more gatekeepers, which is something I've written about in this article.

The most powerful promotional tool any writer has is new work – nothing beats it. Writing should always come first.

The rules of the game might have changed a bit, and we now have access to far more tools and platforms to help us promote our books, but the most powerful thing we can do for our writing, not just in order to grow our creative muscle, but also in order to promote our work, is to keep publishing new work.

That is it.

And David eloquently expresses this notion:

There is no doubt that this brave new world is better suited to prolific writers. Those that labor over every word, and only release something every few years, will struggle to gain traction and maintain momentum when other writers are publishing two, three, or four books a year. Each book is another opportunity for readers to discover you. Each release scatters little breadcrumbs all over the internet that lead back to you and your books.

This brave new world favors the most prolific of writers, enabling them to effectively distribute a plethora of works across a multitude of platforms.

Too many writers spend big on advertising, yet skimp on editors and covers. If you don’t have those basics in place, your return from any other promotional activity will be limited.

The tired cliché of "the devil is in the details" is quite true. The basics are all about details that, especially to the novice writer, don't appear to matter that much.

Yes, a good book cover matters. An enticing book blurb matters.

Taking care of these "basic" details will ensure that you much more easily convert.

Exposure is one part of the equation. Yes. The more exposure you get, the more you sell. But conversion rates also matter. And taking care of the details is a surefire way to increase those conversion rates.

An author platform built on blogging or social media is not a necessary condition of success (nor is it a sufficient condition for success). I know plenty of authors who are selling at the very highest level who don’t do most of that stuff [...] It’s far more important to cultivate an engaged audience than to have the biggest stats.

As more and more people decide to self-publish, especially on Amazon, more and more people will also feel the need to build a platform.

Suffice to say, blogging and social media aren't the only ways to reach people, and while they can be effective, there are a lot of factors that can influence the conversion rates of your blog: the topics you write about, the marketing you deploy, and the audience you attract through your blog.

A professional approach is a must. Everything must hook the reader: title, cover, blurb, price, sample. If your book looks out of place, readers will skip it. A professional cover is a cue to the reader that you have taken as much care with the inside of the book. It places the book in the correct genre for the reader. And if you decide to skip editing… well, enjoy the one-star reviews.

If it was true a decade ago, now, more than ever, the creative entrepreneur must understand just how much of an impact every single aspect has.

Potential readers don't have the patience, the time, or the energy to try books they're not quite sure of.

Back in the day, when self-publishing was new, there was an entire segment of readers who'd make impulse purchases, fueled by curiosity or by the low prices of those titles, but now, as millions of books are readily available for download, decision fatigue has to be taken into consideration.

Right now, I can’t see a good reason to take a publishing deal outside of life-changing money and/or serious marketing support – and most deals won’t involve either of those things [..] The smart approach, in my opinion, is to self-publish. Even if your goal is a traditional deal (and mine no longer is), if you approach publishers after you have sold well on your own, you will be meeting them as equals, rather than approaching as a supplicant from the slush-pile.

This is an advice I've often thought about during the past couple of years. And, to be honest, I'd even take it a step further.

If you already have a platform, if you already have an engaged email list, there's no reason not to try to sell your book on your own e-store first, maybe even in the form of pre-orders so you can test the waters, and then release it on Amazon.

A traditional deal is just a way for you to forfeit potential income only to be forced to use your platform, all the same. Perhaps it adds credibility, but only if the publisher in question is well-known, but in most cases, the self-publishing route is far more advantageous, especially in the long run.

Once you have made the decision to self-publish, I recommend connecting with the community and learning from them. Avoid self-publishing “services” – they are vastly overpriced and often put out shoddy e-books. Don’t be scared of doing everything yourself, you can outsource where necessary. Do the stuff you can (I format all my own books), and hire help where needed (cover designer, editor etc.). Everything you need to know is freely available on the internet, and there are lots of forums, sites, and Facebook groups where you can get advice. Self-publishers are very approachable, and will be happy to recommend you designers or point you towards the information you need. A strange kind of mystique attached itself to the publishing process over the years, and, as such, the thought can be daunting for some. It’s not as hard as you think and is certainly a hell of a lot easier than writing a good book.

Self-publishing was, is, and always will be a DIY process. It requires that we work on developing a multitude of skills, killer taste when it comes to graphic design, and a flair for marketing.

It is not for the faint of heart, but the good news is this: you can certainly outsource was feels like an overwhelmingly complicated or difficult task.

Don't try to do everything yourself, just the bits that you enjoy learning more about. This was, you won't feel like you're constantly running out of time.

But the capital T truth is this: self-publishing is a balancing-act, and for this reason we often feel like walking on tightrope.

And if you want to spend most of your time punching those keys, then capitalize on the community of indie writers.

Reviews are inherently subjective. A mediocre (but functional) story is unlikely to attract too much ire. A groundbreaking story is much more likely to divide. When a writer is pushing the boundaries, in terms of language or structure or even just story-telling conventions, the book is rarely to everyone’s taste. Pick any famous novel from the 20th Century. Look it up on Amazon. Count the one star reviews.

Great writing divides people. This is not an excuse to produce mediocre work and call yourself a misunderstood genius, but a mindset tips that will help you understand that there will always be haters.

It is what it is.

Rather than everyone going  "meh," you should always aim to write the kind of books that comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.


David Gaughran has helped thousands of authors self-publish their work via his workshops, blog, and books such as Let’s Get Digital, Let’s Get Visible, Amazon Decoded, Strangers to Superfans, BookBub Ads Expert, and Following.

Check out his brilliant books on self-publishing here.

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