Self-Publishing Secrets: 6 Punk-Rock Tips to Sell More Books

Editor

What if you could carve out a niche self-publishing and selling books like a rock star?

Sounds a little crazy, right? Kind of like punk hair, heavy-metal riffs, insane vocals, and a whole lot of attitude.

Hi…I’m Steff Green. I’m a freelance writer and big fan of classic punk rock and heavy metal.

Self-Publishing: Steff Green

Steff Green

And my first jobs as a freelancer were writing for underground clothing brands and records labels.

Ever wonder what it would be like to dominate self-publishing, sell more books, and build an author brand with a massive following?

I know I did. A few years ago, I took a look at those rising punk-rock stars and brands. And I decided their rebel-approach to marketing, selling, and promoting their work could help me make some noise self-publishing books.

Well,…it worked. I’m a best-selling author and sell thousands of books every month. And I want to show you how to rock self-publishing, build a niche audience, and sell more books.

Thinking about embarking on a self-publishing adventure? You’re about to become part of the book world’s punk rock underground.

Here are my 6 tips to sell more books like rocker-legend Sid Vicious.

1. Understand why your readers need your books

First, a lesson in punk and metal fandom to help you understand your readers.

At the heart of punk and metal is a core dissatisfaction with what’s offered by the mainstream:

  • These aren’t casual listeners who’ll enjoy whatever’s on the radio.
  • They’re hard-core music lovers who need to listen to something with edge, grit and heart.
  • Punk and heavy-metal musicians understand this because they’re fans first, and they write the songs they want to hear, the songs they need.

via GIPHY

So what does punk rock have to do with self-publishing?

A lot more than you might realize.

Readers buy self-published books, because they’re searching for something they can’t get from the traditional book market.  For example:

My fans aren’t people who pick up a few bestsellers a year—they finish a book every day.

They’re looking for a specific experience (In my case, a mystery to solve, some hot supernatural dudes, and a happily-ever-after).

And they’re in constant need of more material to scratch their reading itch at a price they can afford.

Traditional publishers set the stage for your
self-publishing success

Why? They might give readers a few stories to love, but when they hike up ebook prices they push the voracious readers into my waiting arms.

Or in other words…

Your book genre/niche is reader crack

They’ll never get enough of reading the same type of stories:

  • Mysteries
  • Thrillers
  • Romance
  • Science fiction
  • Horror
  • Fantasy

This is true even for non-fiction books

People who love books about self-improvement, entrepreneurship, history, politics, cooking (or anything else) will read every book on the subject they can get their hands on.

(Just ask my husband, who must own every book about steam trains ever written, but still scours online bookshops just to see if they have something different.)

Because of this, the first way to sell more books is to know your genre intimately. Be a fan first.

Understand what people get from their reading crack—the elements that are essential to get them to pick up a book—and then build those elements into self-publishing your work.

2. Figure out how readers find you

Punk musicians don’t bother trying to get their music into traditional record stores or on the charts—they know they can’t compete with the major labels.

Instead, they figure out where fans are buying and swapping music and merch and made sure they’re there, too.

As a self-publisher, you can’t compete with the big publishers—they own print distribution.

But you can excel in self-publishing, leveraging digital platforms, and building an audience better than many big publishing houses. How?

Figure out how readers shop for digital books so you can get your books in front of them.

Think about:

  • Making sure your book cover is readable in thumbnail format because that’s how readers see it.
  • Understanding the process of searching for a book on Amazon or Apple or other platforms—the different categories and bestseller lists that a reader clicks on, and the search terms they type in.
  • How authors in your niche/genre use keywords and tropes and hooks in their book blurbs to blatantly slap a reader around the face with what they’re getting.
  • Which books in the genre your book is most similar to—and try and market it to the same readers.

3. Treat your fans like rock stars to create a loyal following

Fans of punk and metal are some of the most loyal in the world. And we don’t just play a band on repeat all day, we:

  • Buy the vinyl, the T-shirt, and the limited-edition art book
  • Go to all the shows
  • Swap music recommendations with friends
  • Follow our favorite bands online and talk to them at shows

via GIPHY

As a self-publisher, you have a lot in common with punk-rock musos.

For example:

  • There’s no barrier between you and your readers.
  • They can literally leap up on stage to crowd surf with you.
  • And they don’t just want the book—they’ll wear the T-shirt, sign up to your mailing list, and pay extra for the VIP events

Give your fans opportunities to get more of what they love. How?

  • Make sure your marketing and promotional efforts make them feel like part of the crew.
  • Create an author newsletters or reader group where they can find new books, share their opinions, get cool stuff for free, and feel as though they have a ‘backstage pass’ to your writer life.

Tip: The more you make people feel like part of a cool, exclusive group, the more they want to remain loyal and spread the word.

4. Bring other writers with you to the show

Punk and metal bands work together toward the goal of bringing in more fans.

If a band gets a slot on a bill, they try to get their friends’ bands on as well. Fans who aren’t musicians support the scene by:

  • Selling merch
  • Running labels
  • Managing bands, and
  • writing zines

If one person succeeds, it lifts up everyone

Want to be a savvy self-publishing pro?

  • Get together with other authors in your genre.
  • Work together on box sets, joint promotions, skill-sharing, and even co-authoring to make sure all your readers can get their hands on exciting new books.
  • Build an author crew of writers in your genre.
  • Support your writer-network by sharing your releases, building your audiences together, and collaborating on cool projects.

via GIPHY

5. Don’t get hung up on being a bestseller

Punk and metal musicians don’t care about external validation, such as chart placements. They know that’s part of a world that’s often hostile to their music.

Instead, they:

  • Focus on their smaller audiences of die-hard fans
  • Know it’s better to have a few fans who will follow them to the edges of the earth than hundreds of thousands of people who once liked one of their songs.

You can be a self-publishing success without a massive audience

Think about it like this…

  • A traditionally-published book that sells 3,000 copies is probably a failure for a major publishing house.
  • A self-published author who sells 3,000 copies, and keeps up to 70% of their royalties, could net $10-20k.

Even my most successful series hasn’t sold in numbers that would interest a publisher. However, that series alone has made me $200,000.

Self-publishing can be a great way to make a living writing, because:

  • You’re in control of your own deadlines, designers, content, and editing
  • You get to decide where, when and how often to put out content for your niche audience
  • It’s easier to grow your fan base, build an email list, and promote future projects

It’s time to stop wishing for chart-topping success and embrace the joy of having the freedom of doing work you love.

6. Become part of your book genre

Punk and metal are about more than just the music. They’re about:

  • Ideas
  • Beliefs
  • Ways of looking at the world
  • Energy, fashion and art, and
  • Finding people who are obsessed with the same things as you

The same is true for your readers

Readers attach themselves to a genre and devour it obsessively. They may not wear T-shirts with their favorite authors on them…except, actually, they do.

For example:

  • Fantasy fans attend conventions.
  • Thriller fans listen to true crime podcasts.
  • Horror fans use book covers as their phone backgrounds.
  • Readers seek out their favorite authors and fellow readers online and obsess over the books they love.

By self-publishing your books, you become part of this wonderful culture of reading-obsessed fans:

  • Embrace that by becoming an active contributor
  • Hang out in reader groups
  • Participate in events
  • Give fans free phone wallpapers
  • Offer signed books and make a print-on-demand merch store
  • Promote books you love by your fellow authors
  • Organize events and fun surprises for readers

And just be your wonderful self. Being indie is all about participating in your genre and having a close relationship with your fans—it’s what makes self-publishing so much fun.

You can be a self-publishing rock star

When you become a self-published author, you join a thriving, creative, and defiant scene. We’re all in this together. And we’re all here to share knowledge and resources.

What the establishment sees as a weird little world is actually your biggest strength. Your, creativity, tenacity, rebellious nature, and your ability to speak to your fans. Let’s rock this!

Need help with self-publishing and promoting your book? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Steff Green is the author of over 40 novels and creator of Rage Against the Manuscript. Download her free book: Unleash the Beast: Releasing Your Inner Writing Monster.

Grow Your Writing Income. FreelanceWritersDen.com

32 Comments

  1. Patrice Sutton

    Steff,
    You make self-publishing sound fun. Thanks

    Reply
    • Steff Green

      Hi Patrice,
      I think it is fun! Hard work, but it’s been amazing to feel in control of my career 🙂

      Reply
  2. John Thomas

    As a big punk fan and fan of certain small subgenres of fiction, I can confirm that this post is right on the money. I will happily shell out more cash for my favorite bands and authors.

    Reply
    • Steff Green

      Ditto, John! (Says the girl wearing the limited-edition Fleshgod Apocalypse t-shirt).

      Reply
      • John Thomas

        Nice! (says the guy listening to Suicidal Tendencies)

        Reply
  3. Janice

    Great post! Do you have an editor you work with? Or do you publish your books without an edit?

    Reply
    • Steff Green

      Hi Janice, thank you so much! I have a process I go through – I put the manuscript through Grammarly. Then it goes to my first reader (my husband) who picks up a lot of continuity errors, like people’s hair and eyes randomly changing color. Then I have an editor. Then a proofreader (I’ve only started using her in the last year or so as my readership has grown.

      I do think it’s important to have someone who is not you read over the manuscript. They will catch so much you can’t see because you’ve read it so much. Even if you can’t afford an editor if you can get a few eagle-eyed friends to spot typos, it’ll make a world of difference.

      Reply
      • Janice

        Thank you Steff! I’ve written my first novel and contacted an editor just recently. I’ve never done anything like this (I write scientific journal articles) so it feels very immature. But I like the premise. Anyway, thanks for your insight. It’s inspiring. Such a great way to run your work life.

        Reply
      • Carol Tice

        DEFINITELY agree there! I’ve always had an editor, or at least another set of eyes on the manuscript.

        Reply
  4. Julie N.

    Steff,
    This is a great post, and you’re most definitely giving us (re)thinking material. Love your humor and style, thanks !

    Reply
    • Stacy B.

      This article has such a fresh approach and is filled with some great tips. Thank you!

      Reply
      • Steff Green

        Thank YOU, Stacy. I’m so happy you found it useful 🙂

        Reply
    • Steff Green

      Hi Julie, yay – I’m so glad you loved it and it’s reinvigorating the writing and publishing spirit.

      Reply
  5. Neil Smith

    Excellent article. I’m a self published author and I also spent a couple of decades in the world of punk. Great insights.

    Reply
  6. Panafrick

    Hi,

    Wonderful!

    Superb!

    This is super-helpful.

    My perfect fit.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Steff Green

      Hi Panafrick – awesome! I’m so happy you found it helpful.

      Reply
  7. David J Grotewohl

    Very enlightening!
    Highlight how you’re different!
    Work with other authors.

    Reply
    • Steff Green

      Exactly, David. We’re not competitors. If one of us gets big it benefits all of us 🙂

      Reply
    • Allison Strong

      where are the online writers groups in the punk rock genre?

      Reply
      • Carol Tice

        Guess I’m doubting there’s something that specific in a writer’s group – but maybe we’ll find out different?

        Reply
  8. Tweed Jefferson

    Great article! As a former professional musician turned author, I can relate to all of this. Getting ready to self-publish a fictional account of my time on the road…if I were a serial killer. Rock on! \m/

    Reply
    • Steff Green

      Your book sounds amazing! Congrats on your upcoming release <3

      Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Haha, that sounds awesome, Tweed!

      Reply
    • Allison Strong

      Hey Tweed, as a former alt rock music director, music critic and radio personality, I’m writing a book on a recovery topic, weaving music into my themes. Do you know of any online writer’s groups or workshops that are music or rock oriented, or even writing about gory recovery topics?

      Your novel sounds great.

      Reply
  9. Robert

    Thankyou!!
    It wasn’t my initial intention to become a writer, & if you would mention the fact that I have written and published a book to my English teachers from my school days. You would get a reply, “Robert, publish a book, No Way!”
    But the desire & need to share my story became something unique and special.
    Then in 2015 I was introduced to unique circumstance and event. A Slovene man (my wifes uncle) was involved in an amazing event during the II World War. A team came to Slovenia to record a movie. I knew this man had notes & an autobiography in Slovene. I right away recommended that an English book be made. An amazing project.

    Just thought I’d share my stories, THANKYOU!

    Reply
  10. April C Washington

    Is a short story a good way to start publishing?
    Does personal experiences in life profitable?

    Reply
    • Angie Mansfield

      Hi, April –

      By “short story,” do you mean fiction? If so, it won’t help you land freelance clients. It’s all about YOUR goals for your writing, though – if you just want to see your work in print and maybe make a few bucks, you can try your hand at fiction. Essay writing (“personal experiences”) is also not a great way to earn from your writing. If you’re looking to make a real living, your best bet is writing for companies and/or magazines.

      Reply
  11. Allison Strong

    this is a really cool article. I’m a former alt rock music director and dj from stations that played hip hop, some rap, old and new Punk Rock including straight edge (KUKQ, and KFMA Phoenix, Az and KUPR Carlsbad CA.)
    We were usually the underdog alt rock station in our markets and resorted to Guerilla Radio marketing and ambush tactics. So I get what you’re talking about, vis a vis being dissatisfied with the mainstream.
    Right Now I’m writing books with a punk rock ethic woven through several recovery topics, but my writer’s workshop members stopped listening to music in the 1970’s. When I put a chapter up, if it includes music, they clearly tell me they’re lose interest in my chapters the ver moment music comes up.

    So I’m writing you, looking for an affordable writer’s workshop more in my age range and genre. Any ideas?

    Reply
  12. GF

    I am am a new author who just self-published a fiction piece called Loose Gravel about a punk band on tour. I’m also a female drummer who’s played in the Canadian punk scene for many years. I released my book in the middle of COVID so a number of promo ideas I had (some of which you mentioned) aren’t really possible. Looking for unique ideas on how to get the word out there when the plague is in full swing.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Hi Ginny — looks like this post was right up your alley!

      I think a lot of great promo opportunities survive virtually — I launched The Recession-Proof Freelancer in April and have distributed thousands of copies (it’s free, one strategy that can get your book a lot of initial readers). I obviously built this blog and audience for it long ahead of release, something too few writers take into account in planning a book release.

      I also guest posted on blogs, appeared on podcasts, did Facebook ‘lives’ and other virtual events around the book. Plenty you can do without physically going anywhere!

      I’ll also say that my local Seattle Arts & Lectures program is now all-virtual as well… look for virtual arts events, readings, and more that you might be able to hop on. Hope that helps!

      P.S. In general, we don’t allow comments by people who only post initials or obviously fake names – please use a full, real name for additional comments. We’re trying to encourage real conversations where people get to know each other, here on the blog. Appreciate your help.

      Reply

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