Self-publishing fiction is a great way to get your novel in front of your audience. Never before have there been as many options for fiction writers, or as wide an audience ready to read self-published work. The golden age of indie-publishing has begun, with fiction publishing at its heart, and it seems likely that things will never be the same again. However, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to fiction publishing, and different authors have different needs.
Self-publishing fiction might be right for some, while others may want to stick to traditional publishing and some may want to look into “hybrid publishers” for assistance. The right choice depends on the author or the type of fiction you are publishing. You should first gain a sense of the realities of self-publishing fiction, to understand what decisions you’ll have to make along the way.
While there certainly is a growing market for self-published non-fiction, fiction represents the core of the gains made by self-publishers in recent years. In particular, “genre-fiction,” including romance, horror, mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy, has been turned on its head by a revolution in self-publishing, in just the last ten years. According to the 2017 Author Earnings report, 70% of purchases within this category are purchased in eBook format. Within this, self-publishers enjoy a larger market share than traditional publishers. A direct relationship, usually online, between authors and their communities of readers, has led to an entire publishing world-within-a-world that bypasses traditional publishers entirely. Nearly instantaneous feedback thanks to eBooks and self-publishing means that authors can be highly responsive to what their audience wants.
Notably, thrillers are one fiction genre that is an exception to the rule. Major publishers accounted for 60% of thriller eBook sales in 2016, with self-publishers selling just 17%. That genre is still focused on big-name authors like John Grisham, who have been publishing books since long before self-publishing became viable. That doesn’t mean that the genre doesn’t hold the same potential for self-publishers, and some authors are beginning to gain a following and realize this potential. If you want to self-publish thrillers, there is certainly room for you to be one of them.
The other area of fiction that has yet to break into the self-publishing world is non-genre, or “literary” fiction. Literary fiction generally won’t fit easily into a genre. While genre fiction is normally read chiefly for entertainment and escape, literary fiction is prized for its real-world emotional content and innovative writing. Widely considered more prestigious and “serious,” literary fiction is, generally speaking, what you learn about in school. Think Hemingway, Woolf, Dickens, or Johnathan Franzen and Haruki Murakami for modern-day examples. Literary fiction has yet to transition away from traditional publishing the way other genres have.
It is still rare for writers of literary fiction to self-publish; genre fiction readers are more prone to read eBooks, while literary fiction readers seem to be more attached to print books. Online communities most often focus on genre fiction, which means readers of literary fiction are simply less likely to learn about new books digitally. Instead, literary fiction remains review-based, with traditional critics still central to the process. These writers may also be less receptive to the idea of marketing and promoting their own work. It’s not hard to imagine this changing in the future, but for the moment, writers of literary fiction face a tougher path in self-publishing fiction.
Marketing Fiction Novels
Regardless of what kind of fiction you are writing, the marketing process will differ in some key ways from non-fiction projects. Fiction readers are more likely to discover books online, this means certain tools are especially important when self-publishing fiction.
- Top-notch cover design will help you make a great first impression on readers. It should represent what your book has to offer, to attract readers that will stick with your book.
- An engaging sales description is your next step in drawing in readers.
- Well-targeted categories and keywords are especially important in making sure the right readers find your book. Check out similar books to see what they are using.
- Choose a book title that is optimized for these keywords.
- As always, good reviews from a trusted source are key.
- Offer a sample that is well-edited and engaging.
Remember, a lower price point is generally expected for fiction, especially genre fiction. Look around to see how similar books are priced, and remember – readers are generally interested in buying fiction more often than non-fiction, which means a dedicated following of readers can earn you more money over time even with a lower price. For this reason, fiction writers often benefit from simply writing more books. It makes it easier to discover you as an author, and readers who like one book are quite likely to check out another. This where things can really take off.
Self-publishing fiction is a new way to find success as a writer. While it may be up to you to edit, design, and market your book effectively, the choice to self-publish will pay off in control of much more of the revenue, and creative control over every part of the process. Instead of waiting years to see your book on the shelves, you can publish as quickly as you can write and your readers can read. Authors will also benefit from the direct relationship with readers that the internet allows. In so many ways, there’s never been a better time to be a fiction writer!
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