Self-Publishing Experiments


With millions of books to choose from, why would anyone choose to buy an experiment?

If the author treats a book like it’s an experiment, the quality of the content, packaging, and marketing will reflect this. Customers will see it.

  • It’s not worth putting a fantastic cover on a book that’s an experiment.
  • It’s not worth perfecting the editing or formatting for an experiment.
  • It’s not worth crafting a most wonderful story for an experiment.
  • It’s not worth marketing an experiment.
  • The author won’t be confident in or passionate about an experiment.

So why bother making an experiment?

If you just want to know if your writing appeals to others, simply share drafts of it or join writing groups.

It’s not Necessary to Experiment First!

Why not? Because there are already millions of books on the market. Researching those, especially successful indie books, will prove far more valuable than any experiment you might do yourself.

  • Sales ranks and reviews can help you gauge which kinds of books are or aren’t popular.
  • Repeated comments in a subgenre can help you learn specific things that many readers do or don’t like.
  • Writing samples in the Look Insides can help you see what kind of writing appeals to readers.
  • Covers of bestselling indie books can help you learn how to attract your target audience and signify your subgenre.
  • Look Insides of bestselling traditionally published books can show you what a nicely formatted book should look like.
  • Product pages of bestsellers can show you how to make the most of your book’s detail page.
  • Author pages and websites of top indie authors can show you a variety of marketing possibilities.
  • A ton of free and low-cost publishing and marketing resources can help you perfect your book.

Study books that have succeeded. That’s experimental data that you have right at your fingertips.

It’s a Mistake to Experiment First!

Why? Because your first impression is very important. A big part of marketing is the author’s brand. It takes time to build credibility as an author.

If your first effort is an experiment, many shoppers who come across your book and were interested in it may remember your book or name in the future. The next time they see one of your books, even though it may be much better, they may pass on it simply from their first experience.

Success in the publishing business is difficult to come by, so start out by putting your best foot forward.

About My Blog

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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7 comments on “Self-Publishing Experiments

  1. Chris,

    Well said. It is just plain wrong to throw something out there to see what happens. It has got to be your first, best effort. A writer in this market cannot afford to hold anything back. There is only one chance and to have success, it has to be worthy.

    In my other life we say that a lack of attention to detail will get someone killed. I am trying to apply that same thought process to my writing. I wonder if authors have the same perspective. Do you think the reason many authors don’t take the time to smooth over the rough edges is because they are too impatient or are they delusional and believe the public will over look the errors?

    • I think a part of it has to do with the finish line. Writing a novel is a monumental task that takes many months. A common thought is just to get it finished. Once that’s done, a sense of relief is spoiled by the realization that it needs to get published, which itself seems like another monumental task—and it is, for authors who attend to all the details and learn the ropes. Drained, frustrated, stressed, busy with a seemingly never-ending project, authors feel the need to just get it out there prematurely and be done with it. It’s a natural temptation which is very hard to resist, especially at the weak point’s one feels in the roller coaster of writing and publishing. (Then that third monumental task of marketing is the killer.)

      I think another part has to do with human life in general. A few students master the material and strive to do their very best; most are content with getting by to some degree. You see similar results with employee behavior in many large companies, and many other aspects of life. Why should writing be any different? It ‘should’ be, since most writers are probably truly passionate about writing, and one must be motivated and diligent just to complete and publish a novel. But perfecting a book cover to cover on top of perfecting the writing is a completely different animal than merely being passionate and driven.

    • Marketing is something we all have to explore. There are tons of ideas, and the best approach depends on the unique book and the unique author. The trick is to convince yourself that the book itself is in no way an experiment. If it’s a later book, there must inherently be some free marketing (i.e. at least use the fan base and following), and you might as well do things that are free, low-cost, and efficient.

      An important point is that it’s easier to maintain a strong sales rank than it is to overcome a slow sales rank. Creating buzz for a new book and promoting (at least for free, if not low cost) it early can bring better rewards than waiting too long to pick things up.

      For a highly marketable series, however, that first book is the key, and if the books can’t be read out of order, it might not be necessary to over-promote new releases; mainly, you just want to develop a fan base or attract current readers to an email newsletter so you can let them know the new book is out (it may not attract many new readers unless it’s part of an omnibus or special pricing, or if it completes the series so everyone knows it’s a full set).

      • I fully agree with the series. That first book is where you’re going to hook people. For a little while, I was looking at it as the experiment in the way that I had no idea what I was doing with marketing. I think this helped in a way because I had no fear of trying no things with it.

        I admit I did very little with my horror novella beyond the free marketing. I’d heard of a few successful authors that put out a novella with no marketing and had success, so I gave it a shot. I still edited and fine-tuned it to the best of my ability. Guess the flaw in my plan was that the other authors were Romance and Horror seems to be a difficult genre to promote.

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