Best Strategy for a Self-Published Author

The best strategy might be magic, but in case that isn’t your strong suit, start with understanding your motivation as an author. Family, Fame, or Fortune?

The basics for any author, traditional or self-published, are to self-market via personal appearances, social media, website, and newsletter and to create a quality product. The self-published author has the advantage of a community of other experienced self-published authors who are willing to share what they have learned.

The biggest mistake a self-publisher can make is to emulate the traditional publisher’s strategy. Traditional publishers may have the advantage of years of experience, but they can’t match the nimble responsiveness of the self-publisher.

The goals of Family, Fame, or Fortune have different strategies for the Author-Publisher.


If your author goal is to write and publish a single book or two for Family and Friends, then your overall marketing strategy is to focus on self-marketing through personal contacts. The self-published author has access to the publisher reports but reviewing and tracking sales and performance is optional.


If your author goal is Fame then your first step is to become famous as a politician or actor then become an author. As a celebrity, however, it’s unlikely you will be interested in self-publishing. But if you do become famous, would you please review one of my books? Thanks.

If you want to skip the first step and become a not-quite-that-famous author, define what you mean by famous. New York Times Best Selling Author? USA Today Best Selling Author?

The New York Times requires a book to be traditionally published, which releases the self-published author from the stress and angst of striving for the New York Times Best Seller list.

Hitting the USA Today Best Seller list is doable for a self-published author. It takes planning and money. Your book needs to be wide, and you need to understand promo stacking, PPC, CPC, and other marketing measurements. There are a number of well-written articles to guide you in your planning. As far as how much money, it depends on your planning. The advantage of being on the USA Today Best Seller list is that you can tout it always. You can splash USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR on all your books, social media, and website. Forever. There you go. Famous.


If your author goal is Fortune, you are in a marathon, not a sprint, and a long-term strategy is your key. Think of yourself as not only a self-published author but also as an independent business. Establish a formal business and learn acceptable accounting practices. In addition to your author self-marketing, create a website for your publishing business. Map out a five-year plan and develop a method to measure your ROI.

The strategy for your first and second year is to plan a series and publish quality books. Know who your target reader is. After you have an established series, write and publish at least three quality books a year. Consider a second series to expand your target readers.

The second and third years, try different marketing methods and track the ROI. Drop those that are not net-profitable and repeat those that are. Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

The goal for your third year is to have a positive net income. Write and publish. Your books don’t necessarily have to be wide at first but begin going wide before the end of the third year with at least one series and adjust your marketing methods to accommodate being wide. Study best practices for going wide and develop your strategy. Develop and implement a plan for paperbacks.

The fourth year, write, publish, and follow your strategy. Continue testing different marketing methods and Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Your goal is an increase in net income in comparison to year three.

The goal for your fifth year is a higher net income than year four. Write and Publish. Revise your strategy for the next five years. Test marketing methods and Wash, Rinse, Repeat.


Which goal is mine? I started off with Family then two years ago I shifted to Fortune, which means I am in Year Three with the goal of a positive net income. What about Fame? I’m a farmer. Outstanding in my field.

Which goal is yours?

Your First Draft ~ Getting Started or Unstuck


The hardest part of a first draft for me – you too? – is getting started. The second hardest part is hitting a wall or being stuck. Here are eight tips for writing the first or next paragraph, page, or chapter that helps me to keep it moving.

1. What is your story?
To get started, jot down what your story is about. You need only a few words, and the notes are just for you.

Examples: Power grid goes down; counterfeit drugs; smuggling; murder and a second murder.

2. Who is your main character?
Name, age, what does he or she look like? What are their good points? Bad points?
Example: Maggie, 20’s, short, slender, dyed gray hair. Smart. Literal. Lies.

3. When and where does your story take place?
Current or future? Real or fantasy world? Urban or rural location?

4. Who is your main character going to talk to?
Give your main character someone or something to talk and react to – a dog, person, dragon, or other.

5. What happens next?
Keep the plot moving, but not necessarily in a straight line! When something bad happens, how does the main character fix it? When the main character does fix a problem, what happens to make it go wrong?

6. Make up the story as you go along.
Many people work well with an outline, but others don’t. Outline or no outline, the purpose of the first draft is to get the story out of your head. Fix the holes later.

7. When you are stuck, take a break.
Do something active or go outside. Run, plant a garden, pull weeds, play tennis, or watch birds. Take a walk and think about chickens. Or goat yoga.

8. Superstuck? Cantaloupe.
If you’re superstuck and can’t think of a word or what happens next, type a code word that wouldn’t appear in your story. I use cantaloupe. And move on. Go back days later and search for cantaloupe. You’ll either forget where you were going and fill in something else, or you’ll fill in what you were trying to think of in the first place. Either way, you win.

Your turn – What helps you get started or unstuck with writing?

Create Your Author Identity ~ Part 2

Refine Your Author Identity in Four Steps

First, we created, and now we’re refining. There are four steps because some of them are a little harder. But take heart. Gold and silver are refined by fire. You’re up for a challenge, right?

Heart of Fire

1. Define your goal as an author.

Is your goal to make money, entertain your friends and family, gain personal satisfaction, or achieve recognition as a best-selling or award-winning author? Or another goal? When you understand your goal, you can focus on it and measure your success in your own terms.

Knowing your goal helps with other decisions: traditional or independent publishing or the amount and where to budget for expenses, for example.

2. What is your primary genre? Your secondary genre?

If you write romance stories or historical fiction, your genre is probably clear to you. If you write mystery, suspense, action and adventure, thriller, paranormal, science fiction, urban fantasy stories, you have the opportunity to hone in on a primary genre.

Pick two or three genres where you think your book fits. Start with books you like to read. Do you see a pattern? How would your book fit in? Perfectly? fairly well? not even close? Read books in another genre. When you’ve come up with two fairly well genres, look at the covers of the books. Which genre does your book cover best fit in?

Every genre has loose “rules.” Find the rules for your primary and secondary genres. Do you break most of them or a few of the cardinal rules? Not a good fit. Only some of them and none of the cardinal rules? Might be a good fit.

What if you decide on a genre and three months later realize you made a terrible mistake? Change it.

3. Author Photo

Did you add a photo to your Amazon Author Page and your Goodreads author profile? Are they the same pictures or different? Now that you’ve settled on your genre, does your author photo support your genre? A romance writer photo may look different from an urban fantasy or steampunk writer photo.

You won’t go wrong with a headshot photo with your face and eyes visible, and you don’t have to have a professional photo. Cell phones do a great job these days. Don’t include your partner, dog, cat, or snake. And not a selfie.

Use the same photo everywhere – the back covers of your book, your website, your online profiles. Only change your photo if there is a drastic change in your appearance – like you lose thirty pounds. Otherwise, let it be.

4. Author Tagline

This might take a little more time. We writers love to highlight our stories and our characters, but ourselves? An author tagline gives readers an insight into your perspective and your purpose. A tagline is short, precise, and simple. The tagline is about the author, but with the reader in mind. What is unique about you that you want the reader to remember?

You might put your tagline on your business card, your website, and your promotional material. My business card says My imaginary friends love my stories. My website says My imaginary friends love my stories and laugh at my jokes. My banner and promotional material say Let your imagination fly. None of these taglines match any rules. I’m still testing to see what fits.


Judith A. Barrett

Got imaginary?

JudithABarrett Website

Create Your Author Identity in Six Steps ~ Part 1


Whether your first book is published by you, an independent publisher, or a hybrid or traditional publisher, your Author-Self pops into existence. Ready or not, you have an Author Identity. An internet search on how to develop your author identity or author brand yields hundreds of articles with advice on what to do. Confusing?

Here are six practical steps that you can do yourself at low or no cost to get you started.

  1. Author Email

Create an email address for your Author-self and use it for all your author communication. Consider using your first and last name and the word author. For example,

  1. Amazon Author Page – a Built-in Website

Rather than creating or paying for a website, create your (free) Amazon Author Page. The Amazon Author Page gives you a built-in web page where readers can find you.

Amazon has an in-depth help article.,have%20a%20pen%20name%20listed.

  1. Goodreads

Sign on to Goodreads and create your Author-Self profile. You may have to add your book to Goodreads, which is a good thing because then the information will be correct. Claim your book as the author. If you aren’t familiar with Goodreads, you may want to explore it in more depth later; but for now, when you set up your profile and claim your book, you’ve accomplished Step 3.

  1. Social Media

When you read the words, Target Your Readers, is your first thought: “How am I supposed to know who my readers are?” One purpose of social media for an author is to attract and engage with readers.

You probably already have a personal account on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Etsy, or others. Pick the one that you enjoy and create your author-self. Step away from the temptation to “market” with frequent Buy-My-Book posts or to pick a side in the latest controversy; instead, take advantage of this remarkably easy way to discover who your readers are.

  1. Business cards

Create your own business card with a minimum of your Author Name, the word “Author,” and your author email. You can print them with your printer on cardstock for business cards, or purchase them at a reasonable cost online. Either way is great.

  1. Leave home

Is there a writers’ association with monthly meetings nearby? Go. Does your local bookshop host authors who speak and sign books? Go. Does your library host authors who read from their works? Go. Is there a book conference with 50, 70, or 100 attending authors or a local art festival with three authors selling books? Go. Be ready to listen more than you talk and always have your business cards ready to hand out.

That’s it! Except for one more thing.

  1. Bonus!

Buy an author or writer hat, coffee mug, or T-shirt. You’ve earned it!



Did you already complete steps 1 through 6? How did it go? What did you do next? Would you be interested in Author Identity Part 2?