I browse the forums here every few days and see more things I want to reply to than I usually have time for, so I wanted to kind of throw together a quick list of some common themes I see from people who are hoping to break in as a new author, or from authors who are struggling to push their work to the next level. I'll do my best to give a quick opinion on how to fix the problems I mention.
1) I have trouble accepting that my writing is good enough. I endlessly revise and can't seem to ever feel like my story is high enough quality to publish.
If you're not feeling this, you're probably in the extreme minority of writers. Honestly, I think even as an experienced author, these thoughts are likely going to be a regular demon for you. The best advice I have for this is to make a hard and fast rule for yourself about re-reading. Do not let yourself read more than two pages back from where you left off in your previous writing session. I'd say don't let yourself re-read at all, but most people need a kind of running head-start to get back into the groove of the scene or the story.
This will keep you from sabotaging yourself. You'll give yourself some essential distance from your writing. Most importantly, you'll force yourself to use your creative energy productively. Trust me, most people don't have enough creative energy to spend a year revising the first 25 pages until they're perfect and THEN go on to finish the book. Most people need to feel that they are gradually getting closer to their goal, which means adding to the page count of your book. Don't re-read, don't let yourself go back and nitpick yourself. Finish the book first. THEN you can go back. I'd take it a step farther and tell you to only let yourself have a set time limit for your self-edits as well. Give yourself two or three days, maybe more if it's like 70-200,000 words. Then ship it off to your editor. There's only so much you can productively do editing wise before you're going to end up tearing apart scenes to the extent that you end up creating rippling problems later in the book.
Your finished product will not be perfect. Accept that. You've loved books that weren't perfect. Be proud of your idea and trust that the energy and excitement you put into it will bleed through the pages and make people fly right over those imperfect sentences here and there or those scenes where you left an opportunity hanging. You'll get better from writing more books, not endlessly re-writing "the one" for your whole life.
2) I self-published a book and have no idea how to promote it.
There are four main forms of promotion available to self-published authors:
Email newsletters (and to a lesser extent, social media promotional posts)
Self-promotion to your platform (email, social media, etc)
Paid advertising through Facebook/Amazon/Bookbub/Goodreads, et
As a new self-published author, your self promotion is going to be very weak. You haven't written a book, so you don't have a fanbase. Blogs and publications are very, very unlikely to take notice of your book as a brand new author. They're still very unlikely to take much notice even after you've been at it for a while. Getting reviewed in the blogger circle is a pretty exclusive club, and the rewards are great, but not many authors can count on it.
Newsletters and social media promotion are the cheapest options available to you, and often the most efficient. However, these come with a cost. The newsletter world is driven by mutual favors. They send your book to their newsletter, and they want you to send their book to your newsletter. Great. Unfortunately, nobody with a 10,000 or 20,000 subscriber list is going to consider it worth their effort to send your book if your NL only has 100 subscribers, or even 2,000. Same goes with social media promotion, but it's also a litttttle easier to beg some charity out of authors for a Facebook share than it is for a newsletter, so it's worth a shot if you're desperate.
You can pay authors for a spot in their newsletter, but your mileage may vary. Some authors take great care of their newsletters and their subscribers are highly receptive. Some newsletters are bloated and full of emails gained through huge group giveaways. Point being, the number of subs isn't everything, and you'll either have to ask around or experiment with your money to find out which newsletters are worth buying.
The simplest route is to use websites that are dedicated to newsletter promotions. If you write romance, the best ones are my romance reads, red feather romance, and bargain booksy. Each one runs about $70 for a newsletter promo.
Last note on newsletters is that I'd avoid building your business around swapping. One of the most valuable things you have as an author is your fanbase. However, only a portion of your fanbase is going to voluntarily link up with you via social media or your newsletter. The ones that do are like gold. Those are people who said, "I like this author's books, and I want to know when there's a new one out because I want to buy it." There's nothing more valuable than that person to you in a marketing sense.
My word of caution comes here: The fastest way to betray the trust of those people is to treat them like a commodity. Every time you agree to a newsletter swap, you're selling the trust of your fanbase for a few sales of your book. You're agreeing to ask them to buy a book you've (99% of the time) never read. Every time they buy the book you recommend and it disappoints them, that reflects badly on you. Eventually, authors who swap will see the quality of their own self-promotion dwindle.
Paid advertising is tricky. Almost every website you can use to run paid, daily ads looks confusing at a glance. 99% of the time, it's just as confusing as it looks. Amazon ads don't let you choose an image for your ad, which probably makes them the simplest. You can use some barebones settings and get good results with their ads, but if you want to spend more than $1-4 a day, you need to get into the more complicated parts of designing your ad and move away from just clicking the recommended settings. You can set a budget of $200 a day for an ad with all their suggested settings and it simply won't spend more than $1-4 a day in most cases. But if you design your own add, you have to be very careful that it's spending the money efficiently.
Efficiency is kind of the name of the game with paid daily advertising. All these companies are happy to take your money every day and keep pumping your ad out to viewers. The problem is, it's your job to make sure the ad is getting shown to people who will both click and buy your book. Going into detail on how to do that in a random post like this is too deep for where I want to go, but there are courses and things you can find online to guide you.
I think a lot of new authors should plan on learning how to use this kind of stuff and at least plan on having a small part of their budget devoted to paid daily ads.
3) Should I self pub or trad pub?
It depends on a lot of things. Romance is my specialty, so I won't try to really get specific by genre here.
Self-pubbing has some great advantages. It's fast. You can literally hit publish the moment you finish your book. Of course, you'd be wise to get it edited, but as soon as you have it back from your editor, it's about a 2-3 hour process to turn it into an ebook and get it uploaded. That means you can quickly react to trends, which can be super helpful in some genres. You keep more of the money. Things like Kindle Unlimited can be incredible for self-published authors. Getting paid per page read as well as for sales is a huge advantage, and I know plenty of people who have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in two years I've been doing this. Nobody is going to dictate how you write your books. This part is good and bad, depending on your personality. There's a reason traditional publishers want to control the content of your book, and it's because they are trying to get you to write to market. If you're self-publishing and you willingly write against the market, you're setting yourself up for a much higher possibility of failure. Basically, you get enough rope to hang yourself with.
The cons of self-publishing are the workload. The job isn't finished when the book is done. You are the publishing company. You need to book promotions and plan out the launch of your book weeks or months in advance of finishing, which means you need to set a deadline for yourself and stick to it. You need to work with a cover designer to get a cover that will appeal to market, and you *can not* just trust a cover designer to do that for you. Cover designers work in bulk. The best covers are a collaboration between the idea of the author and the artistic ability of the designer. If you simply pay the normal fee to a cover designer and give no valuable input, they're going to churn out something that pretty much looks like a cookie-cutter cover in your genre. Maybe it looks professional, but it likely won't stand out. Even if it does, you got lucky – congratulations. Maybe that book benefits from the good cover, and then the next time you just have to hope you can get as lucky. Make your own luck and learn what makes a cover look good. Count on yourself instead of the designer to come up with a good idea.
You're also your own PR department. I've seen a few authors self-sabotage in pretty glorious ways since I've been doing this. Faleena Hopkins was probably the most amusing. More often though, it's not about avoiding some huge disaster, it's just about finding the willpower and time to make yourself available as a personality to your readers. If you start finding success, you will have people who want to reach out to you. You'll get a ton of emails around book releases, some long and some short. You'll get Facebook messages. You might even get solicited for things you never thought about preparing for. People will email you to ask you to write for mobile game companies in Korea. People might ask to interview you for Amazon, but you won't know if it's okay to tell them your real identity if you're writing under a pen name. You might get asked by three different companies to sell the rights to your book for an audiobook production or for foreign rights, etc. Most of those last examples are things you'd want to find an agent for, by the way.
Mainly, my point is that self-publishing is (surprise) a lot of work. Most of us have enough trouble as it is just writing a book. Self-publishing gives you the option to shoot yourself in the foot in several different areas, each of which can undermine the exceptional work you may do in another area. Maybe you're a marketing wizard and you got an amazing cover, but you put so much work into the launch that you got behind on the book and scrambled to finish it at the last minute. A crummy book can still rank high and earn you a lot of money, but it will absolutely hurt you going forward. You can also write an amazing book and totally fail at marketing it. This won't hurt you going forward, but it'll bury your book and it'll be depressing as hell (trust me).
Probably the biggest con in self-publishing is that you can fail spectacularly. You can do this in traditional publishing too, but most books that would fail spectacularly don't get picked up by a traditional publisher. They can generally do all the marketing and design side of things proficiently, so if you deliver them a book that isn't worth the effort of their team, they won't give you a deal. In self-publishing, you're trusting your own self-educated idea of what will work, and chances are, you don't know enough yet to know if it will work. That means you can fail pretty hard. It also means you can lose money. Not a single penny of the money you put into your book is guaranteed. You could lose it all. Chances are, you'd only lose a percentage of it, worst-case-scenario, but losing money on a book you write and publish isn't fun.
Traditional publishing is something I'm newer to, and some of the differences to self-publishing are kind of obvious so I won't go into as much detail here. Basically, traditional publishing means a team of professionals is going to handle the majority of the stuff I just talked about. The good things about trad pub are that it gives you access to resources you're generally not going to have as a self pubber. They can get you reviewed by blogs. They can use connections to get you promoted in areas of websites that you can't get on your own.
There's no real risk. You get paid an advance, usually part on signing the contract and part on delivery of the book. If you're super unproven, they may even break it up into 3 parts to protect themselves more. But if your book flops, you keep the advance and never earn royalties. The publisher eats that loss.
There's also a little bit of a lower initial ceiling. This is kind of true and not true, but what I mean is that you can obviously have a mega hit like Harry Potter and make billions, but the chances of that are super slim. A really successful trad pub book puts a lot of money in your publisher's pocket, and some in yours. A really successful self pub book puts a lot of money in your pocket and some in amazon's. Basically, if you can succeed on your own, a traditional publisher isn't as much of an advantage as you might think, because they collect a bigger chunk of the profits for what they bring to the table.
This ended up longer than I planned, haha. I hope some of this helps for a lot of the common questions I see floating around in this sub. I'll try to check back and answer questions if anyone has them, but I'll likely just edit questions into the post so it's easier for everyone to benefit.