Don’t Self-Sabotage Your Self-Publishing Career


How much is yours worth?

Every writer wants to get published.  For most of us, it’s about the only extrovert desire we have, and even that’s pretty introverted, since we do it from the sanctuary of our laptop, our only contact with the outside world being a trip to the post office to send off our submissions.  In fact, that’s becoming rarer these days, too, since more publishers are willing to accept online submissions.

For most of us, success is a long way off, even after we’ve completed the final draft of our labour of love.  For most of us, there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of trips to the post office.  Until then, we have the choice of either being patient and keeping faith in our work, or going, “hell with it”, and self-publishing.

As I said in my post ‘Getting it out There’ getting your book self-published is relatively easy, and surprisingly cheap these days.  It’s getting it seen, attracting readers, persuading people to buy it that’s the problem.

There are lots of marketing tricks and tips you can use, all of which you just have to google to access, or you can find free eBooks on sites like Amazon and Smashwords which give loads of good advice. One piece of advice you should really think hard about, though, is offering your book at a ridiculously low price, or even for free.  I’m not saying don’t do it – that’s your choice – but setting your retail price at zero does nothing for your career as a self-published writer, or for the industry in general.  Take a look at Harlan Ellison’s comment on giving your work away for free.

I love his passion about the subject, and his absolute outrage that people – professional people – give a writer’s time and skills so little respect.  And little wonder, if we, ourselves, show no respect for our own work.

People expect to pay money for something of value.  If we advertise our book for free, we’re saying it has no value.  Your reader gets a book for free, but his or her expectations will be so low, he won’t think of it as a novel.  It will be a time-waster, something he picks up when he’s nothing better to read.  He (or she) won’t be any more forgiving for the odd typo or grammatical error, won’t bother reviewing it after reading it, won’t recommend it to his friends, or look you up as an author to see what else you’ve got available.  To your reader, your free book (and by extension, you) is just a throwaway.

Years ago I used to read the tarot.  I did it because I enjoyed reading the cards, enjoyed helping people who were in a crisis, or needed an outside perspective, etc, yada, yada.  So I’d often do someone (friends) a reading for free.  It was thus a real shock when I learned that a person I regarded as a friend, who I’d done a long, involved hour-long reading for (for free) had then gone to a ‘professional’ reader who charged £30 per half-hour to ask about the same issue.  When I asked why, he quite innocently said, ‘Oh, I wanted a real reading’.

So was the reading I’d done for him a pretend one then?  If I’d charged him £60 for that hour-long reading, he would have taken it more seriously, for sure.  Then it would have been a real tarot reading.  Was the professional reader better than me?  Nope.  They just charged money.

So is yours a pretend book?  Or a real one?  If you think it’s real, if you believe in it, if you think the months, nay, years you’ve put into it are worth anything at all, then don’t give your book away for free.  It doesn’t lead to further sales, it just devalues your book, and undermines you as a professional writer.


8 thoughts on “Don’t Self-Sabotage Your Self-Publishing Career

  1. Great post. It’s so true. Price is part of your marketing strategy. Sony always used to price PlayStation above the competition, as that was part of its brand positioning as an aspirational purchase. Today it’s priced below Xbox One because the brand message has changed to – PlayStation is for gamers and therefore affordable, quality gaming.

    It’s an interesting lesson to learn. Even as a freelancer for over 10 years, I’m still learning where to price myself. Some people naturally undervalue themselves. I’ve recently learnt to set a price and add another 20% to it – chances are, people will pay it. Price it too low and people will think it’s because you’re not very good.


    • Thank you, Chella.

      Intellectual property, whichever form it takes (writing, art, music, design) is already undervalued. When someone produces something with apparent ease, a user (i.e., reader) forgets, or doesn’t appreciate, that learning to produce such good writing, or music or art has taken years. It’s not obvious what sacrifices are made to get that good at something, yet in most (if not all) cases, it has meant years of trying, of doing without, of disappointment and shattered dreams.

      For the ‘artisan’ to then underprice or give away their hard work for free just encourages people to expect more for nothing. And, as you say, they’ll just think you’re no good.


    • Absolutely. There is a faction of the writing community which thinks this is a must-do for promoting books and ‘shame on you’ if you don’t do it. It’s a juggling act, for sure, but I think a better way of promoting a book is to offer it as a gift to a lucky few, or as a limited time offer. That way you’re encouraging downloads/sales but still saying your book is worth something.

      As writers, we create books we want people to read, but I honestly doubt many free books get read. It’s a false trail.


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