As a moderately successful author, I've attracted a number of fellow authors, amateur and professional, indie and traditionally published, to follow me on Facebook over the past few years. While this has led to an overabundance of shitty writer memes on my feed, I occasionally also spot an interesting article to read about publishing.
Recently, I've noticed an uptick in the frequency of sponsored ads trying to sell me publishing tools, seminars, and books which all but guarantee to make me a bestseller.
I haven't personally spent the time and money to find out, so I can't say with one hundred percent certainty that all of those offers are complete horseshit, but I can say that I've done pretty well for myself so far without any of them.
Success as a self-published author, in my experience, has come by focusing on three main things.
1. Writing books that people want to read.
2. Putting those books in a package that lets the people who want to read them know, as immediately as possible, that they want to read them.
3. Getting as many of those people as possible to know that the books they don't yet know that they want to read even exist.
If that all sounds very obvious, please take into consideration that you're the one who clicked on a link titled "The Secrets To Success In Self-Publishing". That title should have been like a giant warning sign that you're approaching Mt. Bullshit, and it's about to blow.
There are no secrets.
All those "masterclasses" and gimmicks people are trying to sell you on Facebook? Without the requisite time having been spent learning how to tell a story by reading and writing and more reading and more writing, all of that shit might as well be a pipe and a vintage typewriter for all the good it's going to do you writing and selling books.
That's not to say you can't learn valuable stuff from other writers. You absolutely can. I learn new shit all the time, with regard to advertising and self-promotion, from the other guys at Authors & Dragons.
So by all means, find a group that's a good fit for you, hump some legs, avoid going out of your way to be a doucheturd to writers who are more successful than you. Just don't expect any sudden miracles. Learning is a gradual process of trial and error. What works well for someone else may not work so well for you. But nothing is going to work until you've found your voice and put out some worthwhile content.
I don't want to leave you with nothing, so here are some questions you can waste more time asking yourself when you really should be writing.
1. Do I suck at everything?
This was covered in a previous post. You can go read that here.
2. Am I letting fear get in the way of my success?
Fear of failure? Fear of rejection? Fear of making a fool of yourself?
This isn't a profession for the thin-skinned. It takes some metaphorical balls to go out there and tell strangers that they should pay you money to read words that you've written. And not everyone is going to like what you have to say or how you say it. You'll get some bad reviews. You'll get some downvotes. Hell, some people just actively enjoy taking a dump on you for no reason. (And then cry like little bitches when you respond.)
Most of the world doesn't give a pellet of space-rabbit shit that you exist, and those that do, more often than not, want to see you succeed. The Christopher Masons, Phil Elmores, and Game Ninja Steves of the world are part of a sad minority who lash out at others more successful than themselves because it gives them this tiny, fleeting delusion that they somehow matter.
While I enjoy the success of Space Puppies and the rest of my books, Game Ninja Steve will go on arguing his bullshit Gamergate politics and reposting the same goddamn Captain America meme that no one has responded to (Fifteen times already. Let us know when it sinks in, Steve.) to a Twitterverse who will continue to not give a fuck about anything he has to say.
3. Am I playing enough?
Perhaps the greatest gift this self-publishing revolution has given to us is the freedom to write whatever crazy nonsense pops into our heads and publish it without any gatekeepers stepping in to tell us that it's too far outside the mainstream to sell.
Sure, that gives us a lot of crap, but who cares? Nobody's reading that shit.
But it also gives us unprecedented success stories from authors who write exclusively about women having sex with men who can turn into bears. It gives us Chuck Tingle. It gives books about gamers who excessively swear and shit themselves in a fantasy world.
Is it just the gatekeepers who are keeping you down? Or are you so focused on trying to ride the latest trend of what's "hot" right now that you're ignoring the muse who's been constantly nagging at you with some crazy idea about how insects grow hyper-intelligent one day and collectively decide that they've had it with humanity's shit.
This is your sandbox. Let your hair down. Play with tropes. Play with your characters. See what they're into.
Step outside of the formulaic cookie-cutter mystery. Throw a wrench into an all-too-common space opera trope. See what happens. Don't strive to be the next Tolkien. Strive to be the first you.
And the playing doesn't stop at writing.
Do you know what the best computer game I've ever played is? Metroid? Mario Kart? Civilization V? All good guesses, but all wrong. The best computer game I've ever played is the collective promotions and advertisements I've run on my books.
Let me ask you, do you know that vacuous sense of euphoria you get when you get a lot of likes on something you posted on social media?
I've found that I get the same sense of euphoria watching the positive effects of a successful advertisement or promotion that I used to get from leveling up, or conquering territory, or whatever, that I used to get when I had time to play real games.
Setting budgets, changing keywords, tweaking target audiences... These are my spells. Likes on my Facebook page are my Experience Points. And my Gold Pieces? That's actual fucking money in my bank account, which I can use to buy beer, pay bills, invest in real estate, or to upgrade my armor and weapons (pay for bigger and farther-reaching ads).
And when you do find yourself enjoying a moderate level of success, maybe consider writing a book or blog post about the secrets to your success. Indie authors eat that shit up.