Self-Publishing Experts | Author Denise Grover Swank Self-Publishing Experts | Author Denise Grover Swank
Denise Grover Swank

Self-Publishing Experts

This post is not about self-published authors sharing their experience with others through their blogs or on Twitter.  This post is not about self-published authors who have blogs and discuss marketing strategies and what worked and didn’t work for them. This post is about people who claim they are self-publishing experts and begs a genuine question: What defines an expert in the self-publishing world?


I’ve noticed the internet is full of experts on self-publishing. They claim they know what you need to do to get the most sales for your book. From my own observations, some of them actually know what they are talking about. Others, I’m more skeptical.
But first things first. What makes someone an expert? Is it the amount of time they’ve had a self-published book for sale? Is it the number of books they’ve published? Is it the overall sales they’ve generated? Or is it how high they’ve climbed in Amazon rankings, or even how long they stayed there? Seriously, all of these need to be taken into account.
The fact is that almost 80% of all self-published books will sell 100 books or less.
Wow. Shocking, right? I think that bears repeating.
80% of all self-published books will sell 100 books or less.
The good news is that a little over 20% of all self-published books sell more than 100 books! But wait. Is selling 100 books over the lifetime of your book really a good thing? The question you have to ask yourself is this: What is your idea of success?  But that wasn’t my original question, was it? My original question was what makes a person an expert in self-publishing?
Let’s look at a definition of expert. — my go to dictionary source says:


[n., v. ek-spurt; adj. ek-spurt, ik-spurt] noun
1.a person who has special skill or knowledge in someparticular field; specialist; authority: a language expert.
2. Military
a.the highest rating in rifle marksmanship, above that ofmarksman and sharpshooter.
b.a person who has achieved such a rating.
But honestly, this doesn’t answer our question.  ANYONE can claim to have a special skill or knowledge set in self-publishing. There is no clear cut definition of what makes an expert along with there’s no clear definition of what makes a book a success.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you how many books I think a book needs to sell before I call it successful and I can BEGIN to consider the author an expert.
There is no time limit  on how quickly this number needs to be achieved. The beauty of self-publishing is the long tail market. Nevertheless, my current definition of a successful self-published book is 10,000 sales.  Honestly, this is probably the top 1-2% of self-published authors.  (An interesting note: only about 20 authors have sold 100,000 more ebooks on Amazon)
By my own definition, two of my four books are not successful. Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes has only sold 7200 books and Here has only sold 3200. Am I worried about them? No. Long tail market strategy, but I still don’t consider them successful. Yet.
When you are on the site of someone claiming to be an expert, look at their books and check out their Amazon sales ranks. If they are 20,000 or higher, run away.
Self-publishing is a relatively new beast and publishing has come in waves. So it stands to reason that an author could publish a book, be fairly successful with it and then the book’s sales plummet.  That is possible. But a SUCCESSFUL self-published author– an EXPERT– is doing their damnedest to make sure their book doesn’t fall that far. Once your book tumbles that low, it’s hard to recover. An expert will know this.
So now I’ve given two attributes that I think an author needs to possess to call themselves an expert: number of sales and current rankings.  What about length of time the writer has been a self-published author, otherwise known as experience? What about number of books published? I think it gets tricky here. I’ve been self-published for eight months. Honestly, that’s nothing. BUT I’ve published four books in that time period. And while I might not call two of those books successful– by my own definition– all four have been in the top 100 list for their genres.
A side note about Top 100 lists of genres: There are some really, REALLY obscure genres out there, making it very easy to be on that list. Look at the book’s ranking as well. IMHO, the book needs to rank 10,000 or less to count, and that’s being generous.  The BIG ones that count? Mystery, Romance subcategories– contemporary and romantic suspense, Fantasy and Science Fiction– these are the genres that dominate the Top 100 of all Kindle sales. I’m sure I’ve missed a few and please feel free to tell me which ones below!
Or perhaps expert is a relative term, more of a hierarchy, with stair steps of success. The author who sells 4000 books can surely help the 80% of ebooks languishing in rankings of 100,000’s. Perhaps my own filter is skewed because of my own sales numbers. I suppose if you take that 80% into account, expectations of an expert are significantly lowered.
As with anything else on the internet, be smart, investigate sources and make good choices.  Just because someone claims to be an expert, doesn’t mean they are. They need to back up that claim with facts. If they don’t, run away. Now don’t I sound just like your mother???
What do YOU think makes an author a self-publishing expert?

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Rhonda Cowsert
Rhonda Cowsert
12 years ago

Hmmm…good question. I suspect that this may be one of those areas where expertise cannot be definitively defined. Even astounding success (however you define that), in my opinion, doesn’t necessarily require expertise – it can be pure happenstance.
Personally, if I decide to go the self pub route I’m going to be picking the brains of *ahem* all of my writery friends who have self published because I think anyone who has been through the process will have something useful to lend to the discussion. Then it will be up to me to filter it, toss out the rubbish and use what I can from it.
So, yeah. Basically I’m a zombie writer and I’m coming for your BRAINZ!

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