How to Self-Publish With Success: Advice from our WEbook Author Kimberley Reeves


It's likely that you've decided to consider self-publishing after receiving a few rejection letters from agents and publishers. Luckily,  being rejected has become more of a 'right of passage' these days, rather than something to actually worry about. Seemingly everyone's been there. Even Harper Lee. Even J.K. Rowling. 

If the reality of rejection hasn't doused your literary fire (and it shouldn't have!), then you're probably considering self-publishing as your next option - in part to show those crumbling vultures who's really got their finger on the pulse... but also to prove to yourself what you already know is true - your book is brilliant. 

Success stories, such as E.L. James' Fifty Shades Trilogy, Lisa Genova's Still Alice, and of course, the legendary Amanda Hocking, instil hope that maybe you too could reach the dizzying heights of success - and do you know what? 

Successful self-publishing is undoubtedly a difficult mountain to climb, but it's important to think about it in these terms: everyone, whether they be a failure or success, starts out on the same level, with the same online publishing accounts and the same audience. 

But there must be more to it than just uploading your book, sitting back and waiting to see if the reading world deems you to be a success, or not... right? 

First of all, how will they know that this book, your book, is the best thing since [insert literary hero of your choice]. Then, secondly, how do you force them to leave a 5-star review and recommend it to all of their friends so that come this time next year, you've made enough money to retire to an island stocked with enough gin martinis to intoxicate a small country (which coincidently, you own)?

Well, the thing is, you can't force people to leave good reviews. And, with self-publishing surging to take 31% of the ebook market (that's a whopping 79% growth in just one year), you've got to make your wunderkind stand out on the very, very crowded e-shelf. 

We have enlisted the help of our most wonderful and esteemed WEbook author, Kimberley Reeves, who has kindly offered to let us in on a few of her self-publishing success secrets. 

Kimberley Reeves is a succesful, self-published author in her own right, as well as being one of our lovely WEbook authors. Currently working on novel number forty-five (!!), Kim has self-published many of her books on sites such as Amazon to great acclaim, each time learning as she goes. The most recent promotion WEbook ran for Kim's WEbook title Broken, achieved over 30,000 downloads over a two day period on Amazon - which are some pretty impressive stats. 

Kim's ability to get her novel to the top of Amazon's free charts within her selected genre, is nothing to be sniffed at. She has been kind enough to give us some invaluable pointers that will help answer some of the questions you may have about how to self-publish with success. 

Disclaimer: Kim does not live on her own island (yet). 

We'd just like to take this opportunity to thank Kim for giving up her time to talk to us about her self-publishing success, and of course for allowing us to share it with you. 

Thanks, Kim!

After that last line is written and you sit back with a satisfied smile, the frantic need to get your novel out there sets in... 

If you cannot afford, or simply choose not to use a professional copy-editor, it is imperative that you edit your book line by line, checking for misspelling, grammatical errors, plot holes, and making sure you’ve tied up all the loose ends. 

Nothing kills a story like plowing through typos or missing words and the last thing you want is for someone to leave a review stating it would have been a great novel if it weren’t for all the mistakes.

Whether we like it or not, people do tend to judge a book by its cover so it is important to have a fabulous, eye-catching cover. Selecting the right font, font color, and placement of title and author name is also important. You don’t want anyone skimming past your novel because the title was whitewashed by a colorful cover.

Some examples of things to avoid...

Once you’ve captured a potential reader’s attention with a great cover, the next step is to reel them in with an exciting blurb. No matter how good your novel is, a boring blurb could dissuade them from choosing your book.

It’s difficult to hone it down to a few paragraphs after spending months or years creating a story that took you thousands of words to convey, so don’t be afraid to ask a friend or fellow writer to help you out.

Your novel is polished to perfection, you have a phenomenal cover and spectacular blurb; now what? Select the appropriate genre. 

Sounds simple enough, but there are some things you need to consider before choosing the obvious genre.

Gender and age are factors but you also need to understand that choosing the best sub-genre is as important as selecting the main genre.

You want to encompass the widest possible audience. One way to discover the most popular sub-genres is to check out the categories on a site like Amazon. From the Kindle Store, you can select a genre, which will then list sub-genres.

As a rule, I will pull up the top 100 freebie listings in my genre and see how they are categorizing their novels. Not only does this enable me to determine which sub-genres will suit my novel, but it also gives me ideas for new or different categories to consider. Example for selling on Amazon: If you write Sci-Fi, your main genre will be Sci-Fi, but you are also allowed to have a secondary genre. Choose carefully and aim for the broadest audience ~ Action & Adventure, Horror, etc. If you write Romance, your main genre is Romance with a sub-genre of Contemporary, Historical, or Mystery & Suspense, etc.

During the set-up process, you are also allowed up to seven search keywords. This is extremely important because customers doing a search by keywords vs a specific genre will be able to find your novel.

Tip: Avoid repeating words that are in the title or main category as these are already used to help customers find your novel.

Choose the categories most frequently used in a search vs words specific to your novel. For example, a romance with elements of suspense set in Santa Cruz, California. Prime keywords would be (remember; you’ve already selected Romance and Contemporary as your main categories): Mystery & Suspense, Women’s Fiction, Genre Fiction, Action & Adventure, Literary Fiction. 

For the last few search words, use a broad category like detective, crime, thriller. Avoid using words very specific to the novel like Santa Cruz, beach, California, etc because most customers will not hone down their search that tight.

Tip: Keywords are counted based on commas: ie Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense, Horror ~ this would count as three keywords. 

Now you get to price your novel.  Easy, right?  You spent a gazillion hours writing and editing and finding the perfect cover, so you should charge accordingly. About $150 an ebook should cover it, minus the pain and suffering which goes with the territory, of course. 

One small problem; no one will buy it at that price.  And there is the conundrum all Indie writers run in to:
Does genre make a difference? Absolutely. The market is flooded with romance novels so, even though it is one of the largest genres, the supply is high so the cost is lower. You must also consider the size of the novel. A novel of 120,000 words should be higher priced than a novel of only 60,000 words. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you price your novel at $3.99 and it’s not selling, lower the price to $2.99 and see how well it does. Volume of sales often makes up for price difference. Be patient before deciding to adjust the pricing; it may take a while for your sales to pick up momentum.

You’ve done it! You have researched your genre, target audience, pricing, and the magical keywords that will lead the hordes of hungry readers to your fabulous ebook. Congratulations ~ it took a lot of work and determination to get where you are, not to mention a bucket load of tears, gnashing of teeth, and hair pulling. 

Now comes the hard part...

There are lots of ways you can get the word out about your new novel: Social medias such as Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and writer’s Blogs. It is important to be active through these medias and not simply use them as tools to promote your novel. Don’t underestimate the value of word-of-mouth: Networking will allow you to develop a comradery with fellow writers and fans that can be very beneficial.

Absolutely. The bigger question is how soon after the release should you run a promotion? That is a personal preference. Some authors like to wait to see how well their novel will sell first and then give it a nudge with a promotion if sales are slow; others like to give their novel that extra boost right from the beginning. For me, running a promotion within a week of release date usually gives my novel the kick it needs to get off the ground.

The more you do to attract attention to your novel, the more sales you’ll see. Everyone likes a bargain and seeing a sale price will draw them in. The goal, of course, is to make enough in volume of sales to offset the lower pricing. One thing to always keep in mind is that every sale will elevate your sales ranking and make your novel more visible to buyers.

This is a tough one for a lot of authors. It’s insane, outrageous, to even suggest that you offer your baby for free when you’ve put so much into it, right? How does giving it away benefit you or your dreams of earning an actual royalty? Based on my experience with Amazon and their KDP program, I have discovered several advantages.

Enrolling in the KDP program means you agree to make your novel exclusive to Amazon for 90 days (You can opt to re-enroll or not at the end of the 90 day period). It also means you agree to put your novel up free for a total 5 days during those 90 days.
You can choose what days the promo will run and for how long: For example, you may want to run a three-day promo first and then later do another two-day promo, or you may choose to run all five days at one time. I have found the best time to run promos are holidays and weekends.

Two or Three Day Promos: By running a promo Thursday through Saturday, your novel goes back on the paid chart on Sunday when people are relaxing and browsing for a new novel to read.

Five-day Promos: These can be more advantageous than running for shorter periods because the number of ‘sales’ will be higher. Although a freebie does not count as much as a ‘paid’ sale, Amazon does calculate it into the ranking, so the more freebies you give out, the better your placement will be when your novel returns to the paid charts.

Lending Library: If you have more than one novel available, offering a freebie will generally boost sales of your other novels, especially if you have a series.

You have the option to increase or decrease the promo days any time prior to the end of the promotion. For example: If you set the promo up for three days but decided the promotion was going so well you want to go the whole five days, you can edit the settings through your Amazon Bookshelf.

Enrolling in KDP automatically enrolls your novel in the Lending Library. The really great thing about the Lending Library is that it gives your novel another avenue to be noticed, and customers can still borrow your novel even while a freebie promo is running. The royalties vary from month to month, depending on the funds injected monthly by Amazon, but usually earn from $1.30-$1.50 per borrow. For me, the borrows often pay out 3-to-1 over regular sales, but this will vary for every author.

Five years ago, if someone told me I would be giving my novels away on a regular basis and profiting from it, I would have done the snicker-eye roll combo and left them to their delusions. Does anyone really want to give their novel away? I doubt it, but sometimes we have to go with the flow and use the methods that work regardless of our personal feelings. I didn’t get into writing because I thought I would make a lot of money (although that would be fabulous!). I write because I want to share the stories I’ve created, and if giving away novels improves my placement in the charts and makes them more visible, or if those who grabbed a freebie are encouraged to spread the word that they loved my novel, then I’ll roll with the punches and do what it takes to get my novel into as many hands as possible.

You can pay to advertise your bargain or free promotion, but make sure you check into this thoroughly before handing out your hard earned cash. Research the sites you are considering to see how successful they are in promoting, whether they target your specific audience or simply e-blast notifications, and any negative feedback from customers (although this must be taken with a grain of salt because not every writer is as awesome as they believe they are!). Reputable sites like BookBub offer several options for genre selection and even post the success rate they anticipate based on the package you choose.

My personal experience with BookBub exceeded my expectations: I had 25,000 downloads over a two day period which elevated my novel high enough to hit the top 100 Bestseller paid chart once the promo ended.

To pay or not to pay is a personal preference and often dependent on your financial situation. For me, it’s definitely about the meager funds in my bank account. For those of you who have the time and dedication, there is an alternative to paying for advertising. There are numerous, reputable sites that will post your freebie on their site and/or send notifications to their subscribers.

Researching the guidelines for each site is important. You don’t want to waste your time posting to a site that only advertises romance novels if your genre is Sci-Fi. In addition, some sites require advance notice of the promotion: some only require 24 hours, some require as much as 30 days. These sites receive hundreds of requests a day so the more time you give them, the more likely you are to be chosen as a featured author. For convenience sake, I created an Excel spreadsheet with the names of the most popular sites, including a link, and included information regarding whether they charged for their services, required number of reviews, required star rating, genres they specifically target, submission lead time, and any restrictions (i.e. some sites require you to submit a new form for each day your promo is running).

One of my favorite sites is the Author Marketing Club : They only require a 24 hour notice, and they provide links to dozens of other sites which makes it easy and convenient. Other sites I have had success with: Best eBooks Free; eBooks Habit; FreeBooksy; Ereader News Today; and Ignite Your Book.

I have enjoyed sharing some of my learning experiences and hope you find my tips useful. 

Book sales are unpredictable; what’s all the rage today may be totally different tomorrow. Don’t be discouraged by slow sales or negative feedback. Not everyone will love your story and not all reviews will be fair. 

If the feedback is useful, then run with it, otherwise shrug it off.  I’ve had one star reviews following right on the heels of several 5 star reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; good, bad, or indifferent. Last week I received a 1 star ~ the comment: I didn’t read this. Serious. They didn’t read it! 

You just have to recognize that people reading reviews like this one will have the same reaction you did: What??

As a final note, my thanks to WEBook for inviting me to share with my 
fellow writers.

Happy writing! 
- K.R.

A WEbook Blog by Kimberley Reeves

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  1. Brilliant article, Kim. I enjoyed your pointers in the February Newsletter, but this Blog post is even better! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience on how to get the best out of self-publishing.


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