Self-publishing has been an interesting journey thus far. It’s had its freakout moments (being pirated within 48 hours of book release) and its stunned moments of joyful disbelief (hitting the top 500 for all free Kindle books on Amazon.com while hitting the top 40 bestseller lists in two genres (positions 23 and 35) within 24 hours of the book going free). But in the end there is one thing that matters.
Are you an underdog?
Are you on top?
Do you feel as though you are stuck in a bubble and are powerless to make your publishing career what you would like it to be?
For those of you who are on top, you need to fear the underdog. Specifically, the underdogs who are working hard and doing wild and crazy things. Don’t be complacent.
If you are an underdog don’t be satisfied with where you stand. Don’t believe that knowing what you currently know is enough. Everything is changing. Daily. Hourly. Amazon just bought Goodreads. Bookstores are closing. Traditional publishers are printing ebook versions only of new books. Literary agents are offering publishing and editing services.
Everyone is struggling to stay on top and not become the underdog.
If this idea and upheaval gives you heart palpitations, fear not. Take a deep breath, heck, a shot of whiskey and change your thinking. This is a brave new world where underdogs can succeed. And yes, (to quote Spoon again) it can’t all be wedding cake, but guess what? My husband and I had carrot cake from Costco at our wedding so maybe there is most definitely room for the nonwedding cakes to butt in where they ‘don’t belong’ and break boundaries.
Seven Things You Need to Break Out of Underdog Status
While these tips are aimed at writers, it can be applied to any area of your life where you may feel like the underdog.
1. Luck and Timing
Luck and timing are everything. I released Champagne and Lemon Drops on Smashwords for free on a Friday night. This timing ended up being brilliant because it was at the top of Smashwords’ new lists right when folks were looking for a juicy weekend read. That was (lucky) timing which I will utilize again in the future. As for luck, after a couple of weeks of reporting a lower price for my book on Amazon.com, it went free yesterday (Easter weekend) and has enjoyed a very significant ranking boost because of this.
You’ve got to want it. Bad. You have to want it bad enough to give up television. Bad enough to spring for an editor instead of a new wardrobe.
The most wonderful thing about the age we live in is that you can go from knowing nothing about a topic to becoming an expert within months. The knowledge is right there and, for the most part, is free. Do you think I knew anything about self-publishing a year ago? Heck no. I was still trying to build a platform so my literary agent (who retires tomorrow) could demonstrate to publishing house acquisition editors that I was ‘big enough’ they would want to buy my nonfiction book. And instead, here I am, in this snapshot in time, in the top 40 for both contemporary fiction and women’s fiction for all of Amazon.com. Part of this is knowledge. But a good chunk is luck and timing as well as hunger and a bit of the following…
Don’t try and take over the world alone. You need an army (fondly referred to as a “street team” by most authors). But you don’t just need readers (street teams) rooting for you, you need other authors in your genre, and other authors who have gone before you. And you need others who are behind you that you can turn and help. Helping others teaches us untold things about ourselves and what we are doing (or not doing).
Fear is healthy. You have to fear what you don’t know and go about making it your bitch. My mom asked my brother why he went skydiving as a teen. He said he thought of his worst fears and decided to hit them straight on. And me? Hardly anyone in my ‘real ‘life knows I’ve been writing for years. Why? Fear of failure. Self-publishing is me tackling my fear. Next week I hope to make business (book) cards to hand to the people I know.
Don’t go in blind. It might work for the odd outlier (Amanda Hocking), but publishing is business. Approach it that way. Come up with a game plan, a business strategy. Work on it every day. Be focused. And stick to your business plan, but also (and possibly most importantly)…
7. Willingness to Adapt
Have a willingness to adapt your strategy. Originally I planned to release two stand alone novels but I learned that, in romance, series seem to work well with building a readership. Therefore, I adapted. I obviously also adapted from my original plan of going the traditional publishing route.
So the question is, will you merely survive, or will you thrive? As the author (Chris Crowley & Henry D.S. Lodge) of Younger Next Year mentions, you are statistically likely to live until age 80 so the question is: will you do (now) what you need to do in order to thrive for those years or will you merely survive? This applies to publishing as well. If you are going to sell books, are you going to survive and barely hang in there or are you going to thrive? It’s up to you.
What do you need in order to thrive? Is there anything I can help with? Let me know in the comment section.
P.S. Champagne and Lemon Drops is now free on Amazon. You can download your free copy here.