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Common Lies Self-Published Authors Believe

by Jeff Bennington

As an indie author I have to confess that I am guilty of believing a lie -- not just one, but many. They are the same lies I see self-published authors fall for all the time. I see the lies in tweets, in emails, in DM's and blog posts. The lies run rampant. The lies are deadly. The lies set writers up for failure and they are like a disease that has the potential to thin out the indie author population within a couple of years.

Let me explain.

Lie #1

When I first "self-published" in 2009 I had a serious case of cognitive dissonance regarding the quality of my writing. Some call it narcissism, but in most cases I think it is a curable case of false expectations. Psycho babble? It really isn't. In my case, I read and re-read my manuscript to the point of exhaustion back in 2009 -- a very common experience for most writers. I had others read and edit and as a group we thought, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the book would become a bestseller. Seriously.

In all honesty, I didn't want to tell myself that I'd become a bestseller for fear of sprouting arrogant wings, but in the deepest part of my mind I truly believed that it could happen with that one book -- a common phenomenon for first time authors.

I have since pulled that book off the shelves. I'm embarrassed by it.

I now know that I believed a lie. Many believe the lie that their book will become a bestseller. If they just spread the word about their book, readers will flock to their prose by the thousands.

My remedy to lie #1:

  • The cure to this disease is, of course, time. Time heals all wounds and it also teaches us the truth about our writing. Just because you can publish doesn't mean you should…yet. Not slamming anyone here; I believed the lie myself. Fortunately, I found the cure: plenty of 1-star reviews and no sales. The medicine went down with a bitter taste, but it did the job. 
  • Another cure is humility. Instead of trying to bolster review ratings by soliciting better reviews at the expense of your integrity, try listening to your critics and make improvements. 
  • Spend less time marketing your first book and study, read more, and write as often as you can.

Lie #2

I meet writers all the time that get frustrated with marketing. They write blog posts. They tweet. They post on Kindle Boards and yet there is no increase in sales, hitting one or two sales a week at best. They are frustrated because they thought indie publishing would be easy. They thought that they could give a shout out to their Facebook and Twitter friends about their book and the ball would start rolling. This is a lie.

The first lie writers fall for is that writing a book is easy. When they finish, they discover that editing is harder. Then when they publish they discover that selling is the hardest part and nearly impossible, especially if you only have one book. This lie is perpetuated every time a new author hits Amazon's Top 100 with their debut novel. What many indies do not realize is that authors like Darcie Chan are rare… very rare.

Writing one book takes determination and many qualities that the average person lacks. But writing, publishing, and marketing one book, let alone several, will absolutely consume your life. You will not have a free minute. The life of a published indie author, who is selling, will not be the same as it was before he or she chose to enter the world of publishing. If you think you can write a book, publish and sell without changing your lifestyle, you are believing a big fat lie.

My remedy to lie #2:

  • Adjust your expectations. After consulting with authors who feel overwhelmed, which is not uncommon, most handle the job much better when they change their expectations. When indies realize how much work is involved, and that a writing career requires a slow-boil mindset, they can relax, write more, and look forward to future success. This attitude can generate a healthy home life, and relieve first-book-sale-slump stress. 
  • The bestselling indie authors say, "Books sell books" but many first time authors have a hard time accepting that reality. They want to believe the lie because it satisfies their expectations. But the longer you believe the lie, the more painful your reality will become when you learn the truth. Self-pubbing is like your diet; eat junk and you will crash; eat well and you will experience balance and longevity. I recommend spending about 8 hours a month planning your next months marketing (30 days in advance) and spend about 1 hour a day with your social media. Spend the rest of your free time writing.
  • Sometimes we spend all our profits on marketing trying to make our dream a reality, when in fact, all we need is time and an adjustment in our expectations. Look to the future, my friend. Relax your expectations and let your sales grow with time and with more titles rather than expecting that rare bestseller.

So what do you think? Have you believed the lies? How have you adjusted? What caused you to break free from the darkness and into the light?

Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe, blogger at The Writing Bomb and author consultant.

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