12 Things No One Tells You About Self-Publishing a Book

by | Oct 23, 2019 | Book Marketing Basics

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Self-publishing a book has become easier and easier in the last decade, but at the same time, becoming a successful author has become more challenging.

Because the reality is, self-publishing a book is just the first step. The long game involves keeping your expectations and goals in check, having a solid book marketing plan outlined, learning from your mistakes and adopting new strategies, and of course, writing and releasing that next book.

So, in the spirit of the endeavor, here are 12 things no one tells you about self-publishing a book:

Assume no one has ever heard of you.

Unless you’re J.K. Rowling, or you’re standing inside your own publishing house, assume that nobody you meet has ever heard of you or your books. If they have, you can be pleasantly surprised.

Booking events is the big win.

It’s hard to book author events because it’s a competitive market. So be grateful for anything you get. 5 attendees when you’re expecting just a couple is always going to feel better than 50 attendees when you’re hoping to get 100.

You need to focus on what’s really important.

Blurbs achieve almost nothing, everyone in publishing knows it, and everyone in publishing hates them. Don’t hold your book release for blurbs, and don’t assume that big time review will actually sell you books – the reality is it’s nice, but not necessary for success.

Take advantage of moments of success.

Bestseller rankings can come and go overnight, so when you’re lucky enough to hit that coveted spot, screenshot your win and share it everywhere. Now is also the time to pitch bloggers and remind people to post reviews.

Because the reality is, when your book is on a bestseller list, people find you more amusing and respond to your emails faster.

Take advantage of moments of calm.

When your book isn’t on a bestseller list, you can give yourself more time to write and construct your marketing plan, without being in the trenches of shopping your book at 100 miles per hour.

You have to be realistic about your media goals.

Self-publishing a book should not be done for the glory, let that concept go. And the goal is not to be a media sensation; the goal is to have a career.

Getting media coverage is fantastic, and it’s a great way to build your resume, but much like blurbs and big name reviews, media doesn’t equal sales – media is a long game and you should approach it as such.

Be prepared to roll with the punches.

It’s not your responsibility to convince people who don’t like your books that they should. Taste is subjective, and you’re not running for elected office.

If you get a bad review or even a handful of bad reviews, that’s a bummer, but when the book is already out there, there’s not much you can do.

Now, if the bad reviews speak to poor editing, a jumpy storyline that’s hard to follow, or other issues that can be fixed, by all means commit to doing so and doing a re-release as soon as possible. Otherwise, let it go.

Social media needs to be a part of your book marketing plan.

By not being active on social media, you’re probably shooting yourself in the foot.

In today’s market, social media is one of the best brand-building tools you have, and the easiest, most effective way to stay in touch with fans and in front of potential readers.

But don’t worry, it’s not about being everywhere, it’s about being everywhere that matters. And that’s a combination of figuring out where your strengths are, and where your reader market is hanging out online. Take my quiz in the Resources section to get started!

Finding time to write that next book will be hard.

Fiercely, fiercely, fiercely protect your writing time. Unless you’re independently wealthy and live alone, you’ll probably struggle with finding time to write.

Definitely don’t fall into the trap of, “I’ll write my next book once this one does well.” That is completely backwards.

Few authors are a success with their very first title, and I challenge you to name more than 5 without Googling it.

The sooner you release your second book the more momentum you’ll create within your genre, and you’ll also establish yourself as a sure thing. Readers are investing their time and money in you, and proving you’re going to keep delivering the goods is one of your best sales tools.

Self-publishing a book doesn’t have a perfect time.

It’s alright to move forward with self-publishing a book if you can see its flaws but don’t know how to fix them.

But do not let your book be published if it still contains flaws that are fixable, even if fixing them is a lot of work. This includes hiring a professional editor with a proven background in your genre, and a book designer with bestsellers.

No one can predict what will be a bestseller.

Sometimes good books sell well; sometimes good books sell poorly; sometimes bad books sell well; sometimes bad books sell poorly.

Back to J.K. Rowling, she was rejected 12 times but has currently sold more than 500 million copies and counting. You just never know what lies ahead…but I know it involves hard work.

Self-publishing a book doesn’t determine your worth.

You don’t need anyone’s approval or permission to write a book and enjoy getting your thoughts, ideas, stories and expertise on record.

Yes, I talk about the importance of writing for a specific, detailed market if you want to make a living as a writer and sell books, because writing for a market with purpose is the easiest first step in that road to success. But if your goal is simply say you published a book, or books, then more power to you – and enjoy the process.

Resources and Free Downloads

Hosting Local Author Events in Non-Traditional Venues

How to Launch a Book with More Pre-Orders

QUIZ: The Right Social Media for Authors

Monthly Book Marketing Planner

Check out our podcast for authors!


  1. Wilburson

    Excellent article Penny, for newbies or for those who have been around a bit longer.

    • Searan

      Very informative


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