Self-publishing to success with Aaron Lamb

Aaron Lamb wrote his first novel aged 11, and hasn’t stopped telling stories since. A man of many interests, he is, amongst other things, an ultramarathon runner, a prize-winning digital fundraiser, a cabaret performer, and a best-selling sci-fi author.

Aaron’s independent-publishing success has seen his novels Pollen and Stem sell 50,000 copies globally, and Pollen adapted into a short film debuted at film festivals in Europe and America.

In the lead up to Industry Insiders: Self-Publishing, Aaron speaks with us about the ins and outs of his experience with self-publishing.

Why self-publish?

Your story, your way, to your timeline.

For me writing is a passion, and I’m time poor, I’ve got a busy job and a toddler at home. The time I get to write is minimal. That’s why self-publishing is perfect. I get to enjoy the process of writing a story I want to read. Friends of mine who are published often seem so rushed and stressed writing. I don’t have any of that. I write. I love it. I publish it.

What resources are available for writers who choose to self-publish?

When I first started there wasn’t much, but now I’m falling over resources to help. The issue is those communities can be a little toxic from time to time, but there are some great people on the Kindle Direct Publishing and Kboards communities. Also resources like the forums at NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month) are absolutely brilliant.

What program did you choose to publish your books and why?

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s the biggest distribution program in the world and you can make royalties of up to 70% on book sales. Plus, they are set up to sell as you can reach a potential audience of millions of readers around the world. If you can get a good amount of people downloading your book, viewing it, clicking look inside, then you’ll start to pop up in their emails, in their ‘viewers also looked at’ section. I made my first book available in both digital and in print and 95% of my sales were through Amazon. With this in mind with my second book Stem I focused only on Amazon and had a hugely successful launch.

Can you self-publish without breaking the bank?

The million-dollar question… well more like the reasonable amount of money I’ve got to pursue my dreams question!

You are going to not make any money for a while. Maybe a long while. I knew that heading into this adventure and I’m glad I did. It’s meant that any success has felt wonderful and all the long dull periods of no success have not been bone crushing, dream killing nightmares. I started out with a little war chest I’d saved up by putting in $50 a month. It took me three years to write Pollen so I had nearly $2,000 to play with when I was ready to launch.

Of the earnings I’ve made I’ve put 75% back into marketing. If you switch off the marketing tap for a second you disappear. It took me another 3 years from publishing to break even. Now it’s all going nicely! But for me this was a long term investment.

With self-publishing so easy and popular now, how do you stand out from the crowd and get your work noticed?

There is a debate raging in the self-publishing world about free books and discounts. The debate is about how it devalues the community to offer so many free books. But then what do the big publishers do?  Buy two get a third free. How do brands launch new products? With heavy discounts, with free promotions. Because you are self-published doesn’t mean that you can’t do what the big players are doing.

Being free and cheap certainly helps you stand out, but the thing that most self-published people don’t do is have a properly edited book. The free and cheap promos will drive a lot of people to you, but if there is a mistake on the first page, you’ve lost them forever. Do not publish your book because you are excited, or you are exhausted and just want to see it released. Get your book edited. If you have a well edited book, and you are talking to the right audience online with your promotions you already are standing out from the noise.

What other advice would you give writers who are looking to self-publish their work?

Have a good cover, an even better blurb and most importantly get an editor to look at your work before you publish. Don’t do it for money. Do it for the love. For the fun of writing. Enjoy yourself.
It’s a long road, it’s not going to make me rich (even though it has made a number of authors their fortunes), but it’s made me extremely happy.  And you never know one day Ridley Scott might buy the rights for a screen adaption!

Book now to see Aaron and other self-published writers at our upcoming event Industry Insiders: Self-Publishing, running on Wednesday June 21 at the Wheeler Centre.

For more hot tips, events, masterclasses and conversations, check out the full 2017 Program here.

Learn more about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – a fast, easy and free way for authors to publish their books and reach a potential audience of millions of readers around the world whilst making royalties of up to 70%.