Reader Q on Writing Books And Self-Publishing

By Jamie McSloy / January 28, 2018
writing books self publishing 2018 featured image

Yesterday I answered a question by reader Al on creating niche sites.  I’m back again to answer more questions from Al. This time on publishing as an author. (The focus is on fiction, but it’ll work for anything where you sell books.)

Al commented on this post from way back in 2015.

Times change, and my thoughts have evolved in the two years since I posted about Kindle Unlimited. Let’s look at Al’s comment and see what we can do:

I’ve been reading all of your author/novel writing posts and all of it just makes sense. I enjoy reading fiction and have thought about writing in the past, but your words have showed me that it can easily be done if you just put in the work.

Regarding self-publishing though, Is Amazon Kindle Publishing the best route to take for self-publishers or are there other avenues to take? This post was written in 2015 so I didn’t know if things have changed with Unlimited since then.

In other words, what are the proper steps to take once you’ve actually written a book? Thanks

Let’s answer some of these questions and give some thoughts.

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Can Writing Success Be Done If You Put In The Work?


One thing I love about writing books is that there are very few parties that can mess up your day.

I’ve spent time and money on affiliate websites only to have my affiliate account pulled for no reason. I’ve wasted time working with businesses who then never paid me.

When it comes to writing books, you haven’t got to worry about that. If you sit in your computer chair, write and put out publishable work every so often, then you will make money.

The one caveat is that you have to write stuff people will buy. It’s no good writing obscure fiction about the coming-of-age of a seventeenth-century choir boy who realises that he is actually an Otherkin and should have been born a moose.

Even if you write the best historical novel about that subject ever and you have the prose abilities of Charles Dickens, the audience for that is going to be tiny and you’ll have an uphill struggle selling a copy to a market that basically doesn’t exist.

Compare that to a hack author who throws together some gun-nut survivalist fiction about the end of the world and one totally-regular guy murdering everyone who gets in his way while living off the land. Oh, and more gun stuff.

You can be the worst author in the world and that stuff will sell, because there’s a massive market who want to read exactly that – even if it’s terrible.

If you don’t believe me, go and look on Amazon. Read a few of those books.

But essentially, if you’re willing to write what sells, you will succeed.

Amazon Publishing and Kindle Unlimited

Let’s separate these two things into the two things they rightfully are.

Amazon is the biggest publishing platform in the world. You need a presence there and if you have a significant presence there, then you will make money as a writer.

In short, if you sell books, you need to sell them on Amazon. Unless you’re writing exclusively short fiction, then you should sell digital and print copies of your books. This doesn’t cost anything aside from a custom ISBN on the print copy (you want this) so there’s no reason you shouldn’t publish there. (Except for the very rare caveat.)

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s library system. You can have your books available to be read by people who pay the subscription, and they’ll “borrow” the book as opposed to buying it. You will get about half a penny per page read.

Now… my problem isn’t with the price, because for a full length book, you’re getting around $1.50 per read (300 pages.)

That’s low but money is money and the audiences don’t really cross over.

My big problem is that there’s an exclusivity clause with Kindle Unlimited. This is bad. You never want to keep your eggs in one basket.

That said, I know people who do very well out of Kindle Unlimited nowadays. I don’t recommend it though. Maybe I’ll expand elsewhere on how to succeed and why you would put some works in Kindle Unlimited.

Other Platforms

In general, you want to sell on as many platforms as you are able.

This is easy as a fiction author.

You have the booksellers: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Apple Books, etc.

You also have the ability to hire freelancers to create audiobooks. You can just do the Audible thing, but I’d recommend treating your audio books as premium content, and charging a lot for them. Think of them and use the tech that’s available for podcasts to make money and market.

By this I mean have chapters and extracts on YouTube, iTunes and the podcast sites, then direct those to your full versions.

You can extend this to merchandise, videos and more… but this is for another time.

The Proper Steps To Take Once You’ve Written A Book

The proper steps to take once you’ve written a book are:

  • Publish it everywhere
  • Write another book

You can read all sorts of authors who give their complicated launch systems and FB ads programs for authors can cost thousands, but until you have a large back catalogue of books, these will probably be a negative return on your time and investment.


Because it’s expensive, takes forever and there’s a big difference between spending one hundred hours and one hundred pounds advertising a first novel and doing the same when you have ten novels out.

When you have one novel, the most you’re going to earn with a successful sale is $10 or so. To break even, any advertising has to cost less than $10. This is steep – especially if you’re like most authors who know nothing about tech or sales (which you’re not because you read my site, but still.)

Compare that to an author with a ten-novel back list. IF they all sell for £10, the potential upside is that you advertise and each successful conversion becomes a lifetime customer. This means you can easily lose £10 on each customer with advertising, so long as they come back.

Publish, write more, publish. Worry about the complicated stuff after you have a back catalogue.

Final Thoughts

Let’s wrap this article up.

Hopefully I’ve updated my thoughts on publishing fiction and other books as of the start of 2018.

The key takeaway with all of the posts in this category is that you should write. Write a lot, put it out into the world and keep going.

See you next time.

  • Al says:

    Thank you for going in-depth in answering my question. I bought Stephen King’s “On Writing” and am in the process of figuring out which genre I want to dominate in. Then I will use you research method of reading a bunch of that genre and then picking apart one single book to better understand its formula.

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