Things I wish I knew: self publishing

Here's a list of the things I wish I knew when I decided to publish my long form non-fiction article as a Kindle Single (I will update this regularly!):  

1. What constitutes being accepted into the Kindle Singles 'imprint'

  • I pitched my article to the editors at Kindle Singles, and a few days later I got a generic email from Amazon telling me how I could publish my work on Amazon.  I took the generic response to mean that Singles was not as exclusive as I'd thought, and that publishing a Single must be a matter of implementing a particular setting when I uploaded my work. It didn't.Once I had published to Amazon I searched again and again for the setting. And then followed up with another email to the Singles editors. I was told then that my story was rejected. A little cheeky of the team at Amazon I think, but a little foolish of me too.

2. Uploading to Amazon is not the difficult part. Not by a long shot.

  • So many writers ask me about uploading my article to Amazon, convinced that it is really technical and complicated. It's not. It will take you 20 minutes (if you do it wisely - which basically means keep your format simple. Mine was Times New Roman font, double spaced, indented first line of pars - no pictures). This video shows just how easy it is: difficult part - as *all* writers who've published will tell you - is the promotion. I thought I knew and understood this before I started... but there was (and is) still a lot to learn...

2. Marketing is not predictable

  • Don't count on any personal networks to help you promote your work. I'm not just talking about your friends and family, but rather associations that you might have (that are relevant to the story or your career - I include writers' organisations here). Plan to go out wider to markets that better fit your niche. For example, my article was recently included on a website that listed stories about disaster. This created a little bump in sales.
  • When you first promote the story to your personal networks, ask them not to buy but instead to promote your work to their networks. You'll probably get a better result this way.
  • If you manage to get yourself onto the radio or TV be shameless. Make every statement refer back to your book and where viewers / listeners can buy it. This is wayeee easier said than done. I haven't managed to do it yet, but in my daydreams it goes something like [Interviewer] 'So, where were you when the earthquake happened?' [Me] 'Well, Joe, I write about this exact thing in my essay - which by the way, your listeners can download via my site - that's p-e-p-i,' etc. ] Also, if you do insist that your project is mentioned, insist that it's mentioned at the bottom of your interview, not the top.
  • I haven't tried this yet, but you might want to offer a free copy to the first x number of listeners / viewers who contact you directly.
  • Put a link to your article in your email signature. I took my time doing that. I have no proof that it results in sales but it does result in people talking about my article. Which is a start!

3. Pricing is a quagmire. Royalties aren't always what they seem to be.

  • Beware: if you publish to Kindle, and you want to sell on other platforms, your agreement with Kindle may mean that you have to mark up your price 20% on other platforms.
  • You'll only get 70% royalties if you sell in  markets with an Amazon presence. So if you, like me, sell to a mostly Australian audience (with no Amazon) via the .com site you will mostly get 35% royalties.
  • Better to be telling everyone you've dropped the price rather than increased it. Also, better to make hay while the initial launch goodwill-sun shines. So start your pricing high and then go lower if you need to.

4. Don't rush the title

  • I was really struggling with the title of my piece, and when I did finally settle on one I was really happy. That is, until I realised I liked it because it was a popular a one for stories about earthquakes. The wonder of modern technology is that I can change it. But I want to keep it consistent. Don't rush into a title. See what else is out there with the title that you like.


Heh - just a short list of regrets - what things do you wish you knew?