book promotion, book sales, Research, Uncategorized, writing technique

7 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Self-Publishing Success

[Note: I am in the process of updating and completing this post series.]

Many writers have stories to tell, but they don’t want to deal with publishing or marketing their work. That was me roughly three years ago. What changed? Well, I decided that I had to get my world and its characters to as many willing readers as possible.

(See the excerpt at the end of this post if you’d prefer not to watch the video.)

Imagine if someone held a gun to your head and asked what you really wanted to do with your life. My answer would be writing; if you’ve read this far, your answer is likely the same. Were you in Raymond K. Hessel’s shoes, you’d find a way to write for a living (or die trying).


Image courtesy of

I’m not a self-publishing guru or an accomplished writer, but I have put myself in Raymond K. Hessel’s shoes and used my research skills to learn before I leap. Before Tyler Durden hunts you down, use these seven ways to increase your chances of self-publishing success:

  1. Master Your Craft and Write Wonderful Books
  2. Make Sure Your Book has a Beautiful Cover
  3. Make a Simple Author Website
  4. Get Readers to Connect with You
  5. Attract Readers with a Book Funnel
  6. Build Strong Relationships with Readers
  7. Network and Boost Your Sales

This post series aims to set you up for self-publishing success.

-Master craft and write wonderful books!-The first installment, “How to Master Your Craft and Write Wonderful Books,” covers Kurt Vonnegut’s The Shapes of Stories and extrapolates the meaning (and beauty) of story data analyzed in a recent EPJ Data Science article. With Vonnegut’s six basic story shapes in mind, we look at the three-act structure in terms of the stages of grief. With the three-act structure in place, we then explore methods – namely Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid and Adron Smitley’s Punching Babies (that is, how to make writing novels easier than punching babies) – to help us examine our stories to see if they have the self-similar structure characteristic of great books; this section contains sample outlines to help you do your own manuscript analysis. There’s also an addendum with some resources to help you revise your work and an annotated bibliography for further reading. [Read more…]

The second installment, “How to Make Sure Your Book has a Beautiful Cover,” explores book cover design. Even if you’ve hired a designer, this post will teach you design principles that every book cover needs so that you can determine whether or not your designer needs to edit their design. If you’re designing your own cover, this post will give you some pointers on how to make a beautiful book cover. [Read more…]

The third installment, “How to Make a Simple Author Website,” covers the essentials that every author website needs and provides a sample free WordPress author website example. From press kits to book pages, this post provides a succinct overview of what an author website needs. This post also discusses the importance of integrating a landing page to get readers to subscribe to your email list, the importance of which is covered in more detail in the fourth installment of this series.

The fourth installment, “How to Get Readers to Connect with You,” discusses the importance of building an email list and social media presence. An email list is a direct line of communication between you and your readers. It is extremely important to build your email list. Social media is important, but when it comes to sales, you’ll likely get 10 times more sales from your email list than you will from broadcasting an ad through social media.

The fifth installment, “How to Attract Readers with a Book Funnel,” discusses how to build an audience for your work by leveraging free work on distributors like Amazon, Kobo, etc. This post also discusses ad methods for leveraging space at the beginning and end of your free book to get readers to visit your website, subscribe to your email list, and purchase your other books.

The six installment, “How to Build Strong Relationships with Readers,” discusses ways to provide your audience and email subscribers with something of value to garner good will (and, hopefully, sales). Here, we discuss the importance of offering something of value for free to get readers to subscribe to your email list; this post also discusses giveaways and other promotional strategies to facilitate organic sales.

The seventh and final installment, “How to Network and Boost Your Sales,” covers advertising and networking with other authors in your genre to boost your visibility. This post covers advertising more generally – Facebook, Twitter, etc. It also discusses ways you can network with other authors to improve everyone’s sales with group bundles and the like.

Excerpt from Video

Tyler rummages through his wallet and says, “An expired community college student ID. What did you study, Raymond?”

…“Biology mostly.”


“I don’t know.”

What did you wanna be, Raymond K. Hessel? The question, RAYMOND! Was What did you want to be?”…

“Veterinarian, veterinarian.”…

“… That means you have to get more schooling.”

“Too much school.”

“Would you rather be dead? Would you rather die? Here, on your knees in the back of a convenience store?”

No, please no!”

Tyler lowers his gun down, takes out Raymond’s driver’s license, and throws the wallet in front of him.

I’m keeping your license. I’m gonna check in on you. I know where you live. If you’re not on your way to becoming a veterinarian in six weeks, you will be dead. Now run on home.”

Raymond takes his wallet and runs off into the night.


30 thoughts on “7 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Self-Publishing Success

  1. atthysgage says:

    Kris. Another fantastic piece of work. I’d say more, but I really need to take some time to absorb everything you’ve got here. I look forward to having a comprehensive assemblage of information by the time you are through. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad. Be prepared for the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, color symbolism, typography, and a step-by-step Canva tutorial. School is done for me on Monday, so this is on deck come Tuesday.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    I just reread Master Your Craft and Write . . .

    This is beyond me. I simply don’t think that way. I can’t deal with bullet points and percentages and graphed arcs.

    I write step by step, foothold by foothold, feeling my way in the dark. I write an incident, or a long conversation (which is what I’m dealing with now), and I ask myself, why did he say that? What would be the response, that feels real to me? (I am prepared to rework my argument in a heartbeat, if it seems the least bit forced to me.) What is my guy strategizing in his head as he’s speaking? What painful memories does this situation bring up? How does this move me forward? Forward figures, but often is not immediately perceived. Some of that move forward becomes apparent chapters later.

    All I can say is, you do it your way. I have to do it mine, whether I end up with a monstrosity or not. I will enjoy reading your marvelous posts, but for me, this will not alter the way I attack a story.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    The other thing I do, I pull material, spur-of-the-moment, from every article I read, insights that I can adapt to my cause.

    I’m just found a piece: Why Is Trump So Angry? The president’s uncontrollable rage powers his ruthlessness—and his ineptitude.

    I think this will apply to my Minister of the Treasury/co-conspirator in the Virgin Mary hoax. The word that jumps out at me: ineptitude. That word hadn’t figured until now in my conception. I have him calculating. I have him insecure, from a rocky-road childhood. He is another bumbler, masking his incompetence with energetic self-promotion.

    Back to that article. I hope to get some good stuff there.


    Well, another good line. From an address by Trump to Liberty University: “No one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith, not while I’m president.” My archbishop uses that argument to sell the Mother of God fake visitation to Prince Bittor.

    “No one is going to stop me from living my faith as I believe it should be lived, serving the poor and down-trodden. My ancestor (the Friar of Carcassonne, see chapter one of The Rogue Decamps) gave his life for his values. I honor his sacrifice by risking everything I’ve achieved with a bold move of my own. Should I die a coward in my bed, my reputation safe, while people starve? No, no and no!”

    Trump is a goldmine of ideas. I’ll give him a credit in my footnotes. Now I go back and note down the date of the address and the exact line, so I can be really scholarly about it.

    Another goodie, in The Week that Could Make—Or Break—America on Salon. The greater glory (of Trump). This scheme is for the greater glory of Virgin Mary. She is for it wholeheartedly, up there, out there, wherever the hell she is.

    My archbishop started it for the bucks. He may become a true believer. Got to think about that. Definitely got to think on it.

    Liked by 3 people

        • It’s interesting juxtaposing something relatively recent with prehistory and even more so marketing (a hallmark of capitalist enterprise) with agit-prop (originally a communist propaganda technique applicable to literature, art, etc.). So, yes, that is an interesting juxtaposition not just in terms of history but politics and linguistics too.

          Liked by 3 people

            • On this site, MIKEALIXONLINE, we treat everyone with courtesy and respect at all times. Period, the end. Heated disagreements are, at times, a natural result of strong opinions and personalities clashing but we never sink to insults or attacks on another person’s character or intelligence.

              You have crossed the line.

              You will apologize to Kris (LATER EDIT: or Mimi, if that’s the person you meant to call “brain-washed”) at once or be banned from the site. This is your one and only warning.

              Please behave in the manner you would wish to be treated by others.

              Liked by 3 people

              • I find it amusing. I was writing a reply when you posted. I find it just a tad ironic that my presumed brainwashing charge comes as a comment to a post that includes a discussion Chuck Palaniuk’s _Fight Club_, which delves into the social and identity casualties of capitalism. I’m trying so hard not to pee my pants because I can’t stop laughing… 🤣

                Liked by 2 people

            • Is there something in my observation that’s a defense? What I put forth is an observation of a juxtaposition of two unlike things. What you have replied with is an ad hominem attack of my person that is indicative of a weak rhetorical position. Incidentally, given that “propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist,” (Jowett and O’Donnell, “How to Analyze Propaganda,” 54), marketing can be a type of propaganda, but that is not always the case. Marketing turns into propaganda if it actively discourages discussion (since discussion is a hallmark of rhetoric). Hence, I would argue that marketing in and of itself does not make something propaganda by default. However, it is also important to recognize that propaganda exists on a spectrum. Black propaganda spreads lies, fabrications, and deceptions; the source of which is hidden. (Jowett and O’Donnell, “What is Propaganda and How Does it Differ from Persuasion?”, 23) Grey propaganda is somewhere between black and white propaganda – the source may or may not be correctly identified and the accuracy of the information uncertain. White propaganda comes from an easily identified source and the information it spreads is accurate. I mention that because even propaganda is not necessarily ‘bad’ by default. If an author offers their work to people with a genuine interest in hearing what readers have to say, it cannot be propaganda because propaganda does not facilitate any kind of discussion; propaganda only encourages action that is advantageous to the propagandist.

              Liked by 3 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    I am lost here. I thought Online’s response was to my Trump-bashing.

    This discussion should better wait for the module on marketing. Madonna has said, “I viewed losing my virginity as a career move.” I view inserting my politics into my retelling of Puss in Boots as a marketing move, along with it enriching my story in innumerable delightful ways.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe I misjudged – it wasn’t nested as a reply on my device. I wonder if there’s a way to make that more apparent… ? So what if you bashed Trump? Isn’t criticism of politicians and politics part of what defines America? I love that you’ve got a politically-charged Puss-in-Boots story. Still, I find the charge that marketing is agit-prop is rather misguided. Sure, it can be. But it can also be a lot of other things. Personally, I’m not into the pushy, used-car salesmen high-pressure marketing. I’m more interested in putting my stuff in front of people interested in the kind of stuff I write and seeing what they think. I’d like to think this falls shy of propaganda and into the realm of persuasion.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Whether that reply was aimed at you or Kris, we don’t engage in personal attacks ON EACH OTHER here.

      Public figures are fair game.

      Again, for the record: Heated debate and argument amongst ourselves–fine. Attacking a Co-op writer’s character or intelligence, however, crosses the line. For one, such insults generate more heat than light; for another, it distracts from the issues being debated.

      PS. Though some might see it as mere semantics, acceptable vs. non-acceptable forms of argumentation can be as simple as the difference between simile and metaphor: “Writer X, you argue AS IF you’re one of Mango Mussolini’s fascist knuckle-draggers and neo-Confederate apologists” vs. “Writer X, you’re a fucking fascist: a harridan of hate.” If you don’t understand the distinction between these two examples, you can’t handle nuance and don’t belong on this board.

      For how NOT to do Point/Counter-point, see:

      Liked by 3 people

      • Classic Curtain and Ackroyd. Nice! I won’t disagree with that – ad hominem is a logical fallacy and indicative of faulty, weak argument. I guess that’s why it’s so popular during political campaigns…

        Liked by 3 people

  5. mimispeike says:

    Kris, A good line and I will remember it: I’m more interested in putting my stuff in front of people interested in the kind of stuff I write.

    An editor told me: the way you structure your story says to readers, I don’t care if you like it or not. She was arguing for my intrusions to be segregated in chapters of their own. I disagree with that violently.

    I suppose she advised thusly so that readers could easily skip over my comments on religion, family dysfunction, yes, politics, and other non-Puss-in-Boots-type snark.

    This was the same person who asked me, Your cat talks to people, fine. (I make an elaborate case for that ability.) But he also talks to dogs? How? I have answered that question in my final chapter, entitled Sheeesh!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Not everyone will be your people (nor mine). Once we try to please too many people, the art becomes a former shell of itself. At that point, why did we bother doing it in the first place? That’s not imply that I don’t change things for my reader; more that I have a specific reader in mind. For example, I find myself simplifying sentence structure to make my prose mimic the pace I want. That activity is about my reader, not me. I’d rather be a bit lazy and not bother. Characters are another matter. They are who they are.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. @Mimi: You know that I’ve read and critiqued your Sly! stuff many times over the years. Question: Are you absolutely certain that you need all of that intrusive, authorial-voice snark in order to make the book(s) work?

    Because here’s the thing: I, personally, find that the combination of your eccentric, off-beat tale-telling working in conjunction with divers odd footnotes does the trick for me, narratively speaking. The repeated anachronistic in-breaking of your modern voice into your faux 19th-century prose, on the other hand, only serves to hurl me right out of Sly!’s story, not further into it.

    Is it possible that you are under-valuing your own gifts in this regard, like a stand-up comedian who feels compelled to explain her jokes immediately after telling them? Perhaps you should simply accept the appreciative, energizing chuckle of an amused reader and move confidently on to the next bit of business. Do you trust your reading audience enough to let them settle in to the quirky, rhythmic tick-tock of archaic narrative alternating with arch footnotes sans excessive authorial hand-holding?

    I feel you’re this close to making a liberating break-though, craft-wise. . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    • mimispeike says:

      I will reread with this comment in mind. I’m trying to think back to the first version. I think it was the first reviews on Book Country that got me to jump in to such an extent. After all the criticism about the background, I looked for a way to break it up. My answer was to insert a change of pace with my comments.

      I am now on a long evening of conversation, in which my guys strategize, and I doctor that on-and-on up with an incident giving me a reason to slip in a breather chapter. Well, suffice it to say that this habit of mine was an attempt to solve an earlier problem. This bad behavior was not there from the start. But I view it as a storytelling tool that allows me to do things I otherwise couldn’t do.

      After I get through this current revision, I will seriously consider your comment. Thank you, I do see your point. Whether I can get myself to give a nifty way to zoom around my story, on an apple and an egg, as my husband says, that’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. GD Deckard says:

    Hmmm, maybe I’ll add Addison Hominem as a bit character to Bob Vs The Aliens, a comedy about the fall of Western civilization. He could work as a gun for hire for the D.C. PR firm, Dead Messenger.
    🙂 It could be insanely fun to show his personality.

    And *Thank You* Carl, for the strong defense of common courtesy. We will not allow our writers’ forum to sink to the level of current politics.

    Liked by 2 people

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