The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned So Far About Self-Publishing

womanlostIt’s been weeks since I’ve given on update on my novel, A Woman Lost. I published it over sixty days ago and I have learned a lot. So far the journey has been a roller coaster. Some days it sells well and then other days sales drop like a lead balloon. At first I used to panic. Now, I try to curb that uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and think positively. Luckily the novel has been in the top 100 in the lesbian romance category from the start. That has helped tremendously. But it has been all over the place, from number 3 to 91.

Today I want to talk about the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far. The thing that matters most is the most troublesome aspect about self-publishing, in my opinion.


Word of mouth is crucial to selling books. Customers like having reviews to read to help them decide if a novel is worth the time and money. I understand that. I do the same when I’m shopping on Amazon. The problem is, not everyone who likes the novel leaves a review. I know before I published I never did. I’m trying to correct that now. I won’t hop on Amazon and write a review for all the books I read. Maybe I should, but do I need to add another review for Pride and Prejudice? However, when I read another Indie author or writers who published with a small publisher I now try to remember to leave a few lines on Goodreads and Amazon. I understand how important they are to fellow authors.

And I’ve learned that even the short reviews help. I used to think that I would have to leave a well-thought out review that was paragraphs long. Nope. That’s not the case. Each time someone leaves a review on Amazon, long or short, I see a jump in sales. Just leaving a review helps authors because it influences Amazons algorithms. The ranking of a book is not based just on sales. Sales factor in of course, but so do reviews and other factors, like freebies and borrows. For more information on their process please visit this page. If you are an indie author or are thinking of self-publishing I recommend that you read it.

So if you are published and haven’t tried getting reviews, I advise you to start right now. If you are thinking of publishing soon, please start looking for reviewers. Even after you get reviews you have to keep getting reviews. It sucks. It’s time consuming. And it’s frustrating. Sometimes I feel like a door-to-door salesman. But when I see my sales increase it’s worth it.

That’s not the only positive. Hearing from your readers is fantastic. You learn what they like and what they don’t like. Not everyone is the same and not everyone has the same feedback. But each review has helped me with my writing. In order to improve you have to hear from your readers. I for one value each review I read. They do matter and I listen and hopefully learn.

By the way, I should mention that if you are looking for reviewers, check out my review policy on this blog. I have a stack of books right now. That doesn’t stop me from adding more. I do my best to get to them as quickly as possible. Now that my move is done I have more time. Slowly I’m getting caught up. Not only do I enjoy reading books, but I learn so much from reading. That’s why I’m constantly reading and reading all different types of books.

If you’re an Indie author, what lessons have you learned so far?



About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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64 Responses to The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned So Far About Self-Publishing

  1. It’s great to read you experiences. I take it from what you said you are still an avid supporter of the self-publishing method?
    You’re right about the review thing – I’m just as bad. In fact I rarely tend to review anything I’ve bought, not just books but I can see why it’s actually so important so I shall look to rectify this I think 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I’ve enjoyed my experience so far. Yes, self-publishing is a lot of work, but I find it rewarding. And I’ve met so many wonderful people through this process and that is rewarding in itself.

      I think a lot of us don’t bother to take the time to review things. I understand. It takes time and so many don’t have the time or rather spend their time doing other things. I get it. And then there’s the issue of not knowing what to say. But I’ve learned that even the shortest review can benefit an author. I want to do my part to help others.

  2. niasunset says:

    I think (for us, for writers) to write is easy than to be published… I know it is a problem at least not easy in any place in the world. But if you ask my own experience dear TBM, I stopped writing books for a long time ago because of the publishing sector! They made me mad… They don’t want to see what you write, they want you to write what they want!!!!! I stopped writing in my own language and then without writing anything I was a dead… so I started to write in English… maybe one day, I can write something in this language as good as in my own. Good Luck dear TBM, Thanks and Love, nia

    • TBM says:

      I’m so sorry to read this. I know publishers try to force authors to write things that will sell. And they are always trying to hop onto the next big thing. That’s a shame. I think all authors have something to offer. And the fact that they want you to write in English is just not fair. That’s what translators are for, but that costs money. Right now, publishers don’t want to spend money with the economy and the crisis of publishing. I’m sorry Nia. I wish I could think of something to say to make you feel better. The publishing world is difficult and can be so frustrating.

      • niasunset says:

        Thank you dear TMB, by the way you can add the political realities too in my story 🙂 I can’t talk more. But things should be better than here, these are general problems in writing world. I am happy to be in this language and writing in this world… Have a nice weekend, love, nia

      • TBM says:

        I know things aren’t easy there and my thoughts are with you. I wish you a good weekend, Nia.

  3. Colline says:

    Sounds like being an author these days is so much more than just writing – it is selling too.

    • TBM says:

      Unless you are a big wig writer, a lot of the job involves selling. Even writers that publish with a company have to get out there and get their book noticed.

  4. Great post once again with a lot of food for thought. A lot of time I don’t write reviews on Goodreads or Amazon because I usually do quite lengthy reviews, and I just don’t have time with all of the books I read :). Most times I just rate the book instead. From now on I will try to post a review, even if it is just a few lines.

    • TBM says:

      Ratings on Goodreads are helpful so don’t feel bad. And geez you read so much! I’m always impressed by how much you read and how excited you get about books. I love when you tell me about your latest read. I need to take some speed reading lessons so I can keep up.

      • You think I read fast? You should see my friend, Marcy, at work. I have never seen anyone read this fast. As a matter of fact I thought she just must skim when she reads, but when we talk about the book, she always knows every single detail of what happened. We both started The Bone Season, which is a very mind boggling but excellent read, and she finished in 2 or 3 days, just reading on her lunch hour! Now that’s crazy :).

      • TBM says:

        She can read that fast and remember it all. I’m a slow reader and I don’t think my memory is that good. Wow! That is impressive. Have you asked her her secret?

      • Apparently, she doesn’t have one, but I think she has super powers that she’s not telling me about!!

      • TBM says:

        I wouldn’t spill either!

  5. bulldog says:

    One question I have to ask… has the whole experience been financially rewarding, thinking of all the time you’ve put in for what you have got out… I have two books half written on my computer, but to be honest I have lost the urge to continue, not because I feel they wont be worth the read but because I fear that I do all the work and then never make a sale…

    • TBM says:

      I’m not rolling in the money, but I am making money. The best part about self-publishing ebooks is that the shelf life is forever. In the past authors had to make a big splash the first few weeks or write a new book and hope that one succeeded. Now, if you are patient, you can slowly build a following. I was shocked when I sold my first two books. I hit the publish button on Amazon but it doesn’t go live right away. They want to check that you have the rights to the book. The book ended up going live overnight and when I woke up in the morning I had already sold two copies. That was a nifty feeling. So far I’ve sold over 1,000 copies and I continue to sell more each day.

      What are your books about? I understand if you aren’t ready to talk about them. If you do publish, can I review them for you?

      • bulldog says:

        The one is a book I like to call “What is the Green Keeper up to?” it is a book about the goings on in a semi humours manner on a Golf Course… I have found in all my years as a keeper of the Greens when I was doing something on the course, players would always stop and say “What the hell are you up to?” and I would have to explain why we do what we do on the course, I obviously often pulled their legs as well, but there was always a great interest.
        The second is about my life experiences in the bush, from school days to today where I share experiences that I’ve had while out in the wild… being chased by elephants, waking in the middle of a herd etc.. I have been blessed with most of my life out there in the wild, and seen and done things few others have had the opportunity to do… But one always wonders if this would interest other people… anyway at a still stand at the moment…

      • TBM says:

        I’m pretty sure I would like to read about you getting chased by elephants. And I love your blog and all that you see so I think there’s a market. I’m not a golfer, but I know millions of people are. I think you might be surprised by all the niche markets in ebooks. I did a quick search and found one titled Keeper of the Greens and I didn’t have to look very hard.

      • bulldog says:

        Keep talking I might just get started again…lol

      • TBM says:

        I always encourage people to write. It feels amazing when you publish a book. Absolutely amazing.

      • hugmamma says:

        Congrats! You’ve earned that…”great to be alive in the morning” feeling…as a published writer. You’ve been busy…living…and writing. When do you find the time?

      • TBM says:

        It is a wonderful feeling and nothing can take that away. Not sure how I find the time and I perpetually feel like I’m falling behind. But then I put my head down and get things done. How are things with you?

      • hugmamma says:

        I keep thinking someday I’ll also e-publish my memoirs as a dancer’s mom. Kind of a behind-the-scenes look at the dance world…from my perspective. Unfortunately, life always gets in the way. Soon though, like you, I will “put my head down and get things done.”

        hugs for the inspiration… 🙂

      • TBM says:

        I hope you do. sounds like it could be an entertaining and informative read. I wish you the best of luck. Happy writing 🙂

      • hugmamma says:

        hugs for the encouragement…

  6. This is fascinating stuff, the nuts and bolts of self-publishing…. I doubt I’ll ever write a book myself, but you never know 😉 Thanks for sharing this information so openly.

  7. Sherri says:

    Great advice TBM, even though I’m not nearly at the publishing stage yet with my book (I am writing though you will be pleased to know!) I hadn’t realised just how important books reviews are in relation to ongoing book sales. Thanks for the great info.

    • TBM says:

      Happy to hear that you are writing! That’s the biggest obstacle. Book reviews are essential. Absolutely essential! I plan to share other tips and advice as I learn more. What’s your book about?

  8. Sherri says:

    It’s a memoir of a time in my life over a period of three years, 1979 to 1981. I met an American GI (we were both 19 when we met) where I grew up in Suffolk and it is the story of our 3 years together, spanning the UK and California, his drug use, our volatile relationship (we both had dysfunctional upbringings) his cataclysmic diagnosis with leaukemia, our wedding in Las Vegas, and his death 11 months later when we were both 21. A lovestory essentially but not saccarine sweet by any means, which plays out against the backdrop of the late 70s and early 80s and the very different world we lived in back then. I didn’t visit his grave until 32 years later, this April, when I visited CA and I finally felt it was time to write it. This story (his and mine) has burned deep within me for all these long years, I’ve GOT to write it). What do you think?
    TB, I also should also say, sorry for not saying in my previous comment, but many congratulations on the success of your book, you deserve it and long may it continue 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Wow that sounds like a powerful story. I am so sorry to hear about his death. He was so young and just starting out in life. And I can’t imagine what you went through during the relationship and then dealing with your loss. My thoughts are with you. I can see why you want to write the story and I want to send you positive thoughts. It won’t be an easy writing journey, but I think it will be beneficial for you. And as a reader, I think it would make a touching memoir. I really suggest you read Christine Grote’s memoir Dancing in Heaven and visit her blog since she wrote a memoir that dealt with life and death. different stories but I think it would be beneficial. She may have tips for writing. Her blog is Christine is a wonderful woman and a motivational writer.

      Thanks so much for your congratulations. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real.

      • Sherri says:

        Thank you so much for your feedback. I saw your review of Dancing in Heaven and thought then that I must read Christine’s book. I will definitely check out her blog too. It was a very difficult time in so many ways and I think that by writing it all down it will help me, at long last, make sense of it all. Yes, he was so young and I feel that I can tell his story as a way to make sure that he isn’t forgotten. I really appreciate your advice.

        And you are most welcome 🙂

      • TBM says:

        I think it will be a great tribute. I wonder what you will learn during the writing process. Might just be the thing you need to help process everything. If you ever need someone to listen I’m here. I might not have any of the answers, but I have ears and will listen.

      • Sherri says:

        Ahh, that’s so very kind of you, bless you 🙂

  9. pattisj says:

    Self-publishing is a job all its own, a writer has to wear many hats these days. Thanks for reminding us how important reviews are.

    • TBM says:

      They really do matter and now I enjoy writing them. Self-publishing is a big job. It’s fun, but there is always something that needs doing. Hope all is well

  10. The Guat says:

    Thanks for the lesson and for the insight! Love that you are always in the top 100. Sorry I’ve been MIA, just catching up on all the reading. Once I finish writing it, I’ll definitely remember…reviews!

    Maybe whenever you’re finished with all your reviews we can chat it up about our book! Our sad book club which took me forever to be a member of … the last fifty pages…Crazy! I’ll send you a shout out to see what you thought. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Spoiler Alert for the novel: Life of Pi

      I couldn’t believe the ending. so was it a dream/reality? I prefer to think that it really happened because the other version is just too sad. I would convince myself otherwise.

      • The Guat says:

        Spoiler Alert for the novel: Life of Pi

        Duuuuuuuuuuuuude. I couldn’t believe it myself. I had a total Holy Crap moment that lasted the entire day! I had stopped reading right after the meerkat island (not by choice of course, but because of life in general) and then when I picked it up and finished it a while back I couldn’t believe it. I was like dude! I had no idea that the last fifty pages could be so amazing! I totally agree with what he said in the book … the story with the tiger in it is better. Way better. I was so jazzed up about the book that I saw the movie the next day. Dude. It totally blew me away with that surprise twist. I had automatically convinced myself that he had tamed Richard Parker. Oh! it was such a great book!

      • TBM says:

        Spoiler Alert for the novel: Life of Pi

        I know what you mean. When I read the end I was like, Noooooooooooooo! I wanted Richard Parker to be real and I have now convinced myself that he is and that he was able to tame him. The other option is just too hard to live with. But yes, what a great book. I still haven’t seen the movie. Watching movies with animals in harm’s way always gets to me. I can read about it, but watching it is much harder for me. What can I say, I’m a wimp. Will never see War Horse.

    • The Guat says:

      That’s funny that you didn’t want to see the movie because it was Ang Lee! Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon dude. 🙂 It was actually pretty good cinematically and I don’t think I saw any harm in the animals. They don’t show the hyena vs. zebra battle in detail, the book was more intense on that note. In truth the book was better but it was cool seeing it come to life on the screen. The one part that tripped me out was the meerkat island, but overall I thought the book was way awesome. When will you be writing your review on it?

      • TBM says:

        Good to know the hyena vs zebra is not included. I actually saw a zebra in the wild after a lion attack. I was scarred for days. At least I don’t think the zebra suffered for long, but nature is cruel.

        I can write the review at any time. You tell me when you can get it up and I’ll post mine as well.

        Have you been to the beach lately? it’s raining here and I thought how nice it would be to sit on the beach until the sun sets. I miss those days.

      • The Guat says:

        I can do it on Monday night my time 🙂 and I’ll put a link up to yours. Can’t wait to read your review, they’re pretty cool. As for the beach…went to the beach maybe like two weeks ago. It was super cool, may go again on Sunday. Hanging at the beach is very relaxing.

      • TBM says:

        I’ll post mine on Monday during the day (London time) and then will update it to include a link to your review.

        Ah, enjoy the beach for me. I had a wonderful childhood going there all of the time. I hope your little ones appreciate it 🙂 Of course, I’m not sure I did until I left.

  11. The Hook says:

    I’ve learned I have a great deal to learn.
    But that’s a step forward, so I’m on the right track. Although, truth be told, I feel like a complete and utter failure. However, I’ll never give up and part of my failure lies in the product; fortunately, I’ve evolved as a writer since I self-published my first book so I know Book #2 will be a vast improvement over my first offering.

    • TBM says:

      I find learn something new each day and I have those moments when I smack my head when I realize how many mistakes I’ve made. We can only move forward and like you said, evolve. How is Book 2 coming along?

      • The Hook says:

        So far I have 10,000 words cover hotel stories as well as the influence my grandparents – and their incredible stories – have had on my life.
        The trick will be to fuse the two subjects seamlessly.
        Wish me luck!

      • TBM says:

        I have faith in you, and yes, I wish you luck!

  12. restlessjo says:

    Feeling quite daunted! I haven’t even seriously thought about writing a book and with all the PR and self publishing stuff… let’s just say it’s not likely to happen. Hugely impressed with your top 100 presence and as our friend in Toledo says it all makes fascinating reading. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Some days I really like all the PR and other days it feels overwhelming. But I keep reminding myself that each day I get a little further in the game. Every day adds up. And I keep learning. That helps. Makes me laugh at some of the mistakes I’ve made.

      Have you considered traditional publishing? I have a feeling you have a good book in you.

      • restlessjo says:

        Seems to me you’re doing a pretty good job so far 🙂
        I love to write but I could never do fiction. I have zilch imagination for plots, etc. It would have to be travel related. I’ve often been told I should write Dad’s story, and I started but I don’t want to offend anybody or misrepresent. My heart’s not really in it. Thanks for your encouraging words and being so willing to share the learning process. 🙂

      • TBM says:

        I for one, love travel accounts. It would be difficult to write about a family member. And I totally understand, it might ruffle some feathers. However, the historian in me loves biographies. If your heart isn’t in it, then that would be tough. Have you thought about what type of travel book you would write?

      • restlessjo says:

        Not really 🙂 Too easy to play on the blog and I write a little bit for other sources. Life gets in the way TBM, but that’s what it’s for. Thank you 🙂

      • TBM says:

        Ah, life does have a way of interfering. I wanted to publish years ago, but life had other ideas in mind. I totally understand. And blogging is fun. I always love popping in and saying hello

  13. benzeknees says:

    Thanks for the follow & the like! I have read about your new book twice already this morning & I am excited, looking forward to its release.

  14. benzeknees says:

    I agree with you about reviews – I follow another indie author who wanted reviews & kept asking people to review the book over & over again on their blog. I asked if I could get a copy for free in exchange for my review & was refused. In their mind, the book was very economical & so everyone could afford to buy it. But I consider myself a professional writer who does a lot of reading as well as some reviews for sites like Net Galley (although I have had to back off a bit in the last while since I was having trouble with my e-reader) & always tries to offer helpful comments, so to give me a free copy compensates me for the book I am reviewing.

    • TBM says:

      I’m a little baffled by the author’s point of view. The review pays off in my opinion and I’m always willing to give away free copies for an honest review. I hope your e-reader issue isn’t too serious. I never thought I would like one until I got one. Now I’m addicted! When it’s resolved let me know if you want to review Marionette. I would love your feedback and of course the copy would be free.

      • benzeknees says:

        Did a complete reset on the e-reader yesterday, so I’m going to give it a few days to see if the issues repeat. I would love to review Marionette!

      • TBM says:

        I have my fingers crossed for you! Does a Kindle version work? I’ve added you to my list and will be in touch when it’s ready.

      • benzeknees says:

        Actually I have a Sony e-reader so there is some conversion to take place. I think I have the software loaded onto my laptop, but you might want to check out the versions you have available because there are a number of people who use readers other than Kindle.

      • TBM says:

        Will do and thanks for the advice. Will let you know soon the formats I have available. And thanks so much for the interest.

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