I'm here to share everything I've learned about self-publishing through the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo stores. Ready?
Well, that was it. I've gained a lot more sympathy for traditional publishers through my forays into self-publishing because it is completely impossible to figure out what works and what doesn't. Here's my take on some of the received wisdom:
You need a professional cover: Maybe. But Forever Changes continues to sell desipte the fact that it doesn't have a professionally-designed cover. Terror at the Shore and It Takes a Worried Man have sold very littleafter the initial surge with their Halpin-designed covers. So who knows.
Use social media: The jury is still out on this. Certainly social media helped me reach people who already like my work and are likely buyers, and it's definitely important to reach those people. But I don't think social media has grown my audience much, if at all. I paid ten bucks to promote an ebook giveaway. I got thousands of people to view it, and nearly a hundred more likes than I'd ever gotten on a Facebook page before. The only problem is that almost all the new traffic came not from friends or friends of friends as I'd hoped, but from random people in Indonesia, and almost none of them clicked the link. My conclusion in this is that promoting page posts on Facebook is not worth it at all, even if you're only spending 10 bucks.
Price one book really low in order to drive traffic for the second one. I think maybe this only works with sequels. The continuing ebook popularity of The Mall of Cthulhu does not seem to have driven any traffic to Terror at the Shore, though again this might be different if I'd written a sequel.
Reviews Sell Books: Well, Forever Changes has 5 Amazon reviews and It Takes a Worried Man has 36. And the former book continues to move. Go figure.
You have to give stuff away. I don't think so. Free access to It Takes a Worried Man and the first part of Terror at the Shore has not led to steady sales. I uploaded a Forever Changes excerpt to Goodreads, and it has been downloaded 0 times. My big Hurricane Sandy giveaway did not lead to an increase in traffic to my site or sales of my books. (Not that I regret it---I did it for fun and it was fun, so mission accomplished.)
So I suppose the only reliable advice I can give anybody on this stuff is to be hugely skeptical of anyone claiming to be an expert on these matters.