Where To Turn For Advice When You’re Self-Publishing a Book

Where To Turn For Advice When You’re Self-Publishing a Book

When I decided to self-publish my first book, I set out to learn all that I could about publishing and book promotion.

My first resource was the internet. And I saw all kinds of wondrous claims there:

Publish a book without all the hard work

Blog your book in 60 days

Earn $1,000,000 from an ebook

Get an army of reviewers working for you…

Skeptical, I put the internet aside and started reading books.

Once again, I found a wide variety of advice and gurus promoting courses, books, schemes and methods. Some made sense and were grounded in good marketing practices. Others made me shudder.

There was an ancient Chinese torture called “death by a thousand cuts.” The modern equivalent for self-published authors is insanity by a thousand pundits.

There’s so much advice out there on self-publishing. Hordes of people are rushing in to advise the growing armies of writers who want to publish.

Who should you listen to, and which approach makes sense?

Gurus and advisors have a role to play, but filter their advice through your own objectives.

Decide which voices to listen to, and whom to trust for advice.

As an author, you are the captain of your own ship. Choose your crew with care.

Set your own course

Only when you know where you’re going can you decide on the crew to bring along. Start by determining your unique goals and objectives.

  • Why do you want to write and publish a book?
  • How will you define success?
  • What’s more important to you: money, fame, personal growth, career growth?
  • Who is your ideal audience?

You can find a goal-setting worksheet here.

For every tactic, offer or suggestion, compare it to your objectives. For example, if your most important objective is getting your message out in the world through a book, then don’t listen to get-rich-from-your-book schemes.

Your core purpose and audience will serve as essential guides.

Find the compass points

Early mariners navigated by the constellations. Try the same thing yourself. Create constellations of authors and advisors to guide you on your journey.

Identify one or more living writers working in your genre whom you admire. Watch what they do.

Even if they publish their works traditionally, look at how their books are laid out, what kinds of marketing and promotion they use, etc. Subscribe to their email lists and comment on their blogs to develop a relationship.

When you hear a piece of advice, use their practices and personalities as a filter. For example, ask yourself: “In my position, before being famous, would Malcolm Gladwell have used this marketing tactic?”

Do the same thing for other experts:

  • Publishing consultants or advisers
  • Book marketing advisors

Read the posts on The Write Life and other places, evaluate what people are saying, and find those advisors who resonate for your particular needs and audience.

Add them to a list of people you follow – your virtual crew. I’m gradually compiling my own list of people I listen to about publishing and book marketing, and it may look different than yours.

Schedule and budget learning time

The path you set out on today will change over time, as the world of publishing and book promotion is constantly shifting. A change to the Amazon book ranking policy can throw dozens of promotion plans off course.

So budget a specific amount of time each week or month to learning. You might allocate the budget across different types of learning:

  • Daily: Commit to 15 minutes a day reading the blog posts of your “compass point” authors
  • Weekly: Set aside an hour a week to watch a webinar, attend a Twitter chat, etc.
  • Monthly: Commit to a monthly deep dive into your writing and publishing goals: reading a book, taking a course, or learning a new piece of software.

When something interesting lands in your email inbox, you won’t be tempted to drop everything and run with it. Simply add it to your learning pile, and look at in in your budgeted time.

Set sail with your crew

Armed with a strong understanding of your goals, audience, and guiding authors, you’re ready to read and filter the great advice on publishing, book promotion and the million little tasks of being a self-published author.

When you encounter a piece of advice or a new advisor:

  • Filter the advice through your objectives. If your most important objective is getting your message out, then you don’t need to listen to the get-rich-from-your-book schemes. Keep your core audience and purpose in mind, and use that as a guide.
  • Check in with your compass points. Do the authors that you admire use these tactics? Do you think they would? What would your list of virtual advisors recommend?
  • Sense the wind. By now you should have a good sense of what makes sense for you, in your own career. If you’re not comfortable with tactics someone recommends, tune them out.

Eventually you find your sea legs as an author.

The many small decisions of self-publishing become easier as you have a stronger sense of your course – your unique audience, purpose and voice. You will become more confident as a publisher and promoter of your own books. If you continue writing and publishing books, the investment in learning pays back many times over.

Enjoy the journey.  


  • Colin Coles says:

    Thanks Anne. Stacks of good advice to follow.

  • Great self publishing tip Anne, like you said Hordes of people offer advise everywhere. We just need to filter in line with our objectives. Thanks a lot

  • I really appreciate your suggestions on how much time to spend learning, reading and attending webinars. As a new author, I found the advice overwhelming and the amount of time I lost reading and subscribing to internet guru’s destructive. I have been unsubscribing with a vengeance since I have started to determine whose advice is appropriate to my needs. Suggesting time limitations is a great next step.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Anne Janzer says:

      Madison – I know the feeling – and I’m glad you like the idea of budgeting your learning time. But the time you have already spent isn’t really “lost” – you have come out with a better sense of what you need and how to proceed. That’s what I tell myself, anyway – we learn even from those examples we do not want to follow. /Anne

  • Penny Haavig says:

    I know I have a unique story in my first novel. I have had it edited by a professional twice. I am about to go through it one mire time, to delete and make it tighter. When do I finish this process and go with my instinct and get it out there?

    • Anne Janzer says:

      Finding that moment to publish is tricky – at some point, you have to say “this is good enough!” It sounds like you’ve been diligent in editing and revising, so challenge yourself to make this next pass your final one and get it out into the world. And congrats.

      • Penny Haavig says:

        Thank you, Anne. I appreciate the encouragement. The book is based on my mother’s life and written in first person, present tense. Most editors frown on this approach.

  • Hi Anne,

    I so much like where you said one should set his own course. I did it years back but I didn’t even know what I was doing. But one thing that helped me to do was to know what to search for on the internet. 90% of everything I know about writing and self-publishing today, I learnt them from the internet. Though there cases where I failed but I never stopped trying.

    Beside the internet, it’s important to have a mentor one can look up to for advice. Most of them are willing to help if newbie will be humble to learn.

    Turn to people who have done what you are trying to do. That’s the best. The internet can help you find and connect with them.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Anne Janzer says:

      Emenike – I agree, the Internet is a wonderful source of both information and community – as long as you can filter out the noise! But sites like this (The Write Life) area great place to start – and to “pay it forward” by helping other writers – as you seem to be doing. / Anne

  • Colin Coles says:

    Awareness of your potential readership is vital. This can arrive after publication, and may not be your original target audience. It makes sense to contact magazines or publications that are likely to be read by- and have appeal to your expected readership. Science fiction, crime, romantic thriller, historical or perhaps a young adult readership. My first novel was a sea adventure (2014) and I joined the Merchant Navy Association primarily, then to get a mention for my sea novel. The novel is set in the nineteen sixties and a sea magazine is now preparing a review for July,2017. A slow burn. Reader interest in the Kindle edition arrived recently. Mainstream publisher advertising propels a novel into the market place. The self publisher does not have this resource. It is worth getting your ISBN listed with whole sellers who supply national booksellers and to seek backing from the library service to stock your novel. I’ve recently received positive replies from an American Kindle readership for my romantic thriller. A very pleasant surprise. A new readership and outside of the UK. Your niche market awaits and it may not be Britain! Listings need to be advertised to reach potential readership.


    • Anne Janzer says:

      Great points, Grant. Finding out who the book really resonates with is part of the fun of publishing – and that insight should guide your marketing and promotion activities. Joining the Merchant Navy Association is a great example of getting involved with your target audience. It sounds like you’ve set a smart course!

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