Lessons Learnt from Self Publishing

23 Jun 2022, Samuel Hinton

A collection of advice, tips, and tricks.

While writing up Soul Relic, I reached out to a lot of authors for their advice in getting the novel off the ground.

Thanks to John Bierce, Bryce O'Connor, Phil Tucker, J.R. Mathews, Tobias Begley, Travis M. Riddle, and everyone I've also pestered on reddit.

Some of this is obvious, others not as much. Starting from most obvious:

Presentation is key

Find a great cover artist. For progression fantasy, cover art should ideally be character driven. You can find great character artists on /r/CharacterDrawing, and /r/HungryArtists. Then reach out to someone for typography, and get that done properly too.

Many artists and illustrators have long wait times. Allow at least six months from reaching out to getting back something finalised.

Editors, Beta readers and ARC readers are essential

Don't use friends and family for thoughts.

  1. Write your draft
  2. Get a professional development + line edit done
  3. Send to alpha readers if you have any (can also be done prior to editing)
  4. Send to beta readers (can find some using reddit)
  5. Send to arc readers. Use a service like BookFunnel for this, and grab emails so you can request reviews.

Allow around two months for each step.

Setup an email list

Use MailChimp or something similar. At the same time as you sign up for MailChimp, buy an author domain. You can do this also with MailChimp, or you can go external. The reason this is important, is without a custom domain (like sam@hinton.com), MailChimp's email address looks spammy, and very often gets classified as spam.

Here is what happened to me, for a great "Don't be like this"

  • Have all my ARC readers on an audience in MailChimp
  • Create an email with my Kindle listing asking for reviews, and have to send it out ASAP.
  • Send a test email to myself… it gets marked as spam.
  • Send a test email to my wife. Also ends up in spam.
  • Google around for why. Discover I need to set up SPF records on a custom name to allow MailChimp to send as me and not look like spam.
  • Discover my current domain provider is scammy and doesn't offer proper email support.
  • Try to swap my domain provider to Google Domains, but get a Business ID error.
  • Google around and figure out .com.au domains need to be linked to an active Australian Business Number (ABN). Mine expired the prior month.
  • Go to the Aus government site to re-apply for an ABN. Get told this can take up to 20 days. Domain transfer is then another week.
  • Realise waiting a month is too long, download the email list, and just do it all manually.
  • Get a response from two ARC readers (thanks Setia and William), saying they can't leave reviews on the ebook pre-order.
  • Realise I've spent so much time to manually email everyone a useless link.
  • Cry.

Save yourself the pain, get a custom email domain.

Oh no, my ARC readers cant leave a review

FUN fact, but pre-order ebook listings are not eligible for reviews.

Wish I knew that going in. Phil Tucker offers the following solution, and I can confirm it works. Here's what you do:

Create a paperback version

In addition to your ebook, create a paperback release. Follow all the steps, make a cover (dont worry about the back page and spine being blank), and wait the hours until Amazon makes it live. Once it's live, it creates a listing page, that will (in another few hours), link with your ebook page. This page is permanent (as a third party might sell your paperback in the future, not just Amazon)

Unpublish your paperback

As soon as you have the listing page (which will have your cover, blurb, and the paperback with whatever price you put down), copy the link.

Confirm you've copied out the paperback link by checking the title has "Paperback" at the end, or that the product details on the page has things like Item Weight and Dimensions, which your ebook won't have, and it will have an ASIN. Keep the link to this page safe. Here's what my paperback link is, notice the ASIN at the end of the URL, compared to my ebook link.

If you lose this link, no issues, you can always see your ASIN in KDP (shown below) so you can determine the URL.

Anyway, go back into KDP, and Unpublish your paperback. Screenshot of before and after for you.

Now, people should be able to leave a review on the paperback listing, which is shared with the ebook listing.

Very stupid to have to jump through the hoops.