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Twelve Tips for Building a Self-Publishing Career

By: Nate on December 4, 2020

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

By: Nate on December 4, 2020


There are many paths to success and if you poll a dozen different successful self-published authors you might get a dozen unique answers on how they got their career going. But you’ll probably also find that regardless of differences in things such as genre or marketing strategies, most (if not all) of those authors also have a lot in common. This is because, at a lower level, there are some core things that are much more essential to success. So if you’re ready to move from occasional author to serious novelist, Nate has put together a list of twelve self-publishing tips that will help you kickstart your own writing career.

Tip 1: Do your research.

Not just about your favorite niches and not just the bestsellers, though. Watch and read the news. Watch for trends in other media, like television or movies. And definitely don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone to check things out you might never have considered before. You never know where the inspiration for your next great idea is going to come from.

Tip 2: But don’t be paralyzed by your research.

Take chances. Knowing the way is one thing. Getting there is the adventure. There are a million how-to guides out there written by a million people with a million different methods. All of that theory isn’t going to write words on your pages, prepare you for all of the possible curveballs you’ll get thrown, or give you the invaluable experience of making a thousand mistakes.

Tip 3: Mind your wrists.

And your knees. And your back. Take breaks and move around. Get an amazing chair and wrist support when you type. Keep some devices around or maintain a hobby to exercise your hands and improve your dexterity. Exercising other parts of yourself if you’re able is a wise move, too. And on the subject of health, the importance of looking after yourself mentally can’t be overstated. Self-publishing is mentally and emotionally taxing no matter your circumstances, so try to be gentle with yourself.

Tip 4: Learn to cook.

Speaking of being healthy and great exercises in manual dexterity, learning to cook forces you to take breaks from writing and makes you focus on mindless repetitive tasks. You will be shocked about how many great ideas you’ll have while peeling potatoes or washing dishes. Trying and adapting new recipes will foster your creativity, and cooking at home will help prevent you from keeling over from junk food before you’ve had a chance to enjoy retiring and enjoying that sweet, sweet book money while you can still enjoy it.

Tip 5: Use your imagination.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing exactly the same thing everyone else is. People want to read your books because they are unique, and not because they are a pale imitation of someone else, even if you’re otherwise trying to meet their expectations for the genre you’re writing.

Tip 6: Create the best product you can that will embarrass you a year from now.

Give yourself permission to suck and latitude to fail. You’re absolutely going to make mistakes. You’re going to write a romantic relationship with no spark. You’re going to publish a book using the wrong title. You’re going to format a book with the wrong cover. You’re going to screw up your first half dozen ad campaigns. Okay, fine. Maybe you won’t do those things. But I certainly did. Maybe you’ll do equally maddening and cringe-worthy things. And then you’ll pick yourself up, dust yourself off, maybe have a glass of wine, and then do it all over again. The point is that even if you’re destined to be the world’s greatest author, you will absolutely come from humble beginnings. We all do.

Tip 7: Improve your skills.

Never stop learning. Whether you’re new to covers or to blurbs, or you’ve never written anything longer than a few pages, learning and mastering new skills pays dividends in the long run. And that’s even if you choose to outsource now or in the future. Having a working knowledge of the nuts and bolts never hurts.

Tip 8: Bust your ass.

This is a job like any other job. Unlike most other jobs though, it’s very rewarding, both financially and in freedom because the books you create and the skills you learn are investments in your future. Eventually you might even get lucky to be your own boss, and you’ll need the discipline to be able to sit and get your work done each day, even when you don’t feel like it, or you’d much rather be binging The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

Tip 9: Don’t sacrifice yourself for your craft.

Burnout is not something to be taken lightly, and it has derailed more than one publishing career. Some never recover. The best way to avoid burnout is to take a break if you need one, even if it’s on the lengthy side. Your stress level, your work, and your audience will thank you.

Tip 10: Grow a thick skin, but don’t let it kill your kindness.

You will deal with bad reviews and bad people in your journey. For the bad reviews, the best you can do is take whatever constructive criticism you think is useful and then leave the rest behind (and of course, never respond, ever). For the bad people, all you can do is smile at them, since that’ll piss them off more than anything. 

Tip 11: Network to get work.

Being an island in this business is counterproductive and a rising tide raises all boats. We all have different skills, ideals, and goals. Finding a like-minded group of people who are on the same trajectory you are can be helpful, since it helps to realize that we aren’t alone in our successes or our struggles. And you’ll meet authors along the way who will challenge you and expand your productivity (and your earnings) in amazing ways. Treasure these people. You have one of the most unique and interesting jobs on the planet and they are your coworkers.

Tip 12: Kill your heroes.

This doesn’t really have anything to do with the oft-repeated advice to kill your favorite characters. It means that you should differentiate yourself from your mentors. Even if someone put you on your path and helped you along the way, don’t be afraid to let your paths diverge.

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About the Author

Our Hidden Gems guest author for today.

Nate wears a lot of hats, and not just because he's bald—web developer, author, photographer—just to name a few. But his first love is graphic design. For over a decade, he ran a successful creative studio, producing everything from business cards and product packaging on the physical side to logos and websites on the digital side. For the last five years, he's been all-in with self-publishing and also works behind the scenes with Hidden Gems. You can find him on reddit, where he's SalaciousStories, the moderator of both /r/eroticauthors and /r/romanceauthors.

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  • Great advice. Even the cooking part. I would just add intention. Goes with networking and putting it out there. Affirm you are a writer. Thank you for these fantastic ideas Nate.

  • Number 6 really got me. I know that it’s my baby now, but hopefully in a year I’ll be thinking about how much better I can don