Self publishing is like what?!

April 2, 2017

Analogies. You hear them all time. It’s common to use them to compare things, to illustrate a point or to provide explanation. You’ve heard things like “Life is like a box of chocolates” or “That guy is a few bricks shy of a full load”, but “Self-publishing is a lot like fishing“???

Bear with me. I’m about to reveal some of my backwoods roots here.

I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania (or NEPa, as it’s known to locals), and fishing was a big part of my childhood. My dad and I would take float trips down the Susquehanna river, or pack a lunch and spend the day on Harvey’s Lake or Lake Carey. Occasionally we’d head out to Bowman’s Creek for a bit of fly fishing. It seems only natural that I would apply those life experiences to others as well. In doing so, I’ve seen quite a few similarities.

The Why of self publishing is important.

Why go fishing? Is it for pure enjoyment? Sport? Food? Knowing the why behind it sets the stage for everything else. It plays a role in everything from the quality and quantity of your equipment and the amount of effort you put into it to setting reasonable expectations.

The same goes for self publishing. Do you write because you love it and want to share your stories with others, or is it a primary means of income? It doesn’t have to be one or the other; it can be both. The point is, if you’re serious about making writing your career, then it will require a lot more effort (and money) than something you do for the sheer pleasure of it.

The more you know about self publishing, the better your chances of success.

To be a good fisherman, you have to know where the good spots are, what the best time is to go, and what kind of bait to use. This kind of knowledge comes from observing, paying attention, and personal experience.

Google any aspect of self publishing and you are going to be inundated with results. The sheer amount of information out there is staggering, and not all of it is accurate or useful. But it’s important to learn as much as you can about your target market and the tools that will make your book competitive in that market. Lots of people will want to share their “secrets” and advice – often for a hefty price, but the raw truth is, what worked for someone else isn’t necessarily going to work for you. The best (free) advice I can offer is, look at what’s working for other authors in your genre, then adapt to your needs and means and see what happens.

Timing is important.

Go fishing during the hottest part of the day and you’re probably not going to catch as much as you would in the early morning or late afternoon. Put a book out there after the market’s been saturated and on a downward trend, and you’re probably not going to see the same results as if you’d caught it on the upswing.

Focus, especially in romance, I think, tends to shift fairly often. Many of the vampire romances of yesterday might find themselves taking a backseat to the bad boy billionaire secret baby MC club romances of today. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write what your muses tell you because it’s not “hot” at the moment; just that you should be aware of what’s selling (and what’s not) when setting your expectations.

A little bit of luck can go a very long way.

Even with careful preparation, things might not go as well as you hoped, and success yesterday doesn’t guarantee success today. Being in the right place at the right time can make a huge difference, but who’s to say when and where that’s going to be. The most important thing is, don’t give up. If something’s not working, then try something else. And keep trying. Every time something doesn’t work out the way you wanted is an opportunity to learn.

I firmly believe that, in self publishing, like in fishing, you never stop learning, and the more you do it, the better you’ll be.

Happy fishing,