Episode # 65 – Starting a Self-Publishing Career with David Gaughran

In Podcast by Simon Whistler20 Comments

dave_coverDavid Gaughran is the author of two very popular books on self-publishing, Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible. He is also runs a very popular blog in the space. This week I sit down with himto talk about what has changed in self-publishing in the last few years. David has recently updated his popular book, Let’s Get Digital so that it is up to date with the market. It’s a great read, packed with essential information.

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Let’s Get Digital

Amazon Profile



Let’s Get Visible – Aimed at those who are more experienced and are looking to move their sales to the next level.

Ed Robertson

Phoenix Sullivan

Mercenary – David’s latest historical fiction piece.

Write. Publish. Repeat. – Another great book for those starting out.

The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing – Another great book for those starting out.

The Martian – The first self-published book that I read.

Show notes:


David started his blog in April 2011, and it was there to document his journey into self-publishing. He started self-publishing when he heard about authors turning down huge advances in order to self-publish.

He started the blog as a challenge to some traditionally minded authors who didn’t think an author could be successful from a standing start. At the time most of the authors had a background in traditional publishing which gave them an advantage.

The blog took off very quickly, as a lot of people were in the same position as David, and wanted to follow along. Eventually one of his blog readers got in touch to ask David to write a book outlining the steps to self-publishing. That is the book that became Let’s Get Digital.

Moving to Self-Publishing

David spent 18 months look for an agent and amassed 300 rejection letters. This was for his first historical novel A Storm Hits Valparaiso. During Christmas of 2010 he got the “dream email” from an agent saying that they loved his book, but a few weeks later David phoned and was told he would be got back to. David never heard from them again. This was a knock to his confidence, but he still says that it was “the best thing that ever happened to me.” WIthout that rejection he would never have self-published, and be where he is today.

David decided not to self-publish the novel, but instead go for a few short stories as an experiment. These were “quasi-literary fiction” – short weird fiction basically. These went out and then he did some sci-fi, it was very fast, mostly because he was unemployed! On a serious note though, he had a technical background, and was ready for the disruption the internet was going to bring.

Genre Selection

David is known for his marketing knowledge, but he doesn’t necessarily select the most popular genres. Literary and historical ficiton are not known for their commercial viability. David comments that a lot of ideas exist in the book world that stuff just doesn’t work, but self-publishers have proved this wrong time and time again.

Genres are gradually becoming more and more digital. It is taking a longer time for some other genres to move across to ebooks.

Let’s Get Digital – The Second Edition

The original version came out in 2011 and a great deal has changed in the last three years. However David thought that this would be a quick update, but that was not right, so much had changed that the book took twice as long to update as the original book to to write.

The second edition of the book is written for an author starting today. He aims to dispell the idea that the gold rush is over and it’s too late to be successful as an indie author. Yes, there is more competition, but there are also plenty more tools for authors to use.

When putting together the first edition, he emailed 35 authors, asking them to contribute. He fully expected just a few to get back to him, but 33 did, and these came into the book. My experience with the indie community has been equally positive, people are so willing to give you some of their time, which is fantastic.

The book starts with an overview of the industry and looks at when you should publish. It lets new self-publishers know about what they should worry about, and what they shouldn’t. The cover, the blurb and the price are highlighted in the book as being super important. This sort of information

The Launch

David decided to upload the second edition directly over the first edition. This means that everyone who owned the first edition cannot buy the first edition. Many authors told him that this was not a good idea, and that he would make plenty of money from people buying an update of the book.

However, he looked at his platform, and realised that most of the people who owned the first edition are not going to need the book. David’s mission was to give the book to the people who already have it, so that they will recommend the book to people asking them “what’s the best book for starting out in self-publishing.”

Death Spiral

Even if a book store sells 75% of your books, they are going to order less next time. There are then less books on the shelves and the percentage drops and less books are order. Repeat until no more books are ordered. This can be a career ender, hence the name.


“The first time Amazon auto filled my name it was amazing!”

“If you want to make money in this its much easier if you write in the popular genres, and its much easier if you write a series.”

“If someone gave me the option to give away a million copies to my target audience tomorrow, I would jump at it.”

“You don’t want to have some arty-photograph if you are doing steamy NA. You want to have the man-titty.”


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Simon WhistlerEpisode # 65 – Starting a Self-Publishing Career with David Gaughran
  • Hey Simon, maybe I’m just too early, but I can’t seem to find the show notes.

    • SimonRSP

      Hey M. I had some trouble with the podcast hosting this afternoon and things got out of sync, but the show notes should be up now. Apologies for the delay.

  • WFMeyer

    Thanks for this interview Simon. I’ve been a big fan of David’s pretty much from when he first got started. I have all of his books, and he’s always a big help answering any questions I have about his books or publishing with Amazon.

    • SimonRSP

      You’re welcome WF, thanks for listening.

  • Michael Coorlim

    I have to say, Let’s Get Digital was instrumental when I decided to pull the self-publishing trigger back in December 2012. I don’t think I would have found the measure of success that I have without the advice and insights he presented in his book.

    So: Thanks, David.

    • SimonRSP

      Something that I imagine many people share, thanks for listening Michael.

  • Edgedeep

    Your podcast is a MUST —not only authors, but all creatives. Excellent work. This is a great forum to discover new work and even new genres. David Gaughran’s insights are absolutely brilliant. Thank you again for your hard work and excellent interviews.

    • SimonRSP

      You’re welcome. Thanks for the kind words, and for listening 🙂

  • R.M. Prioleau

    It was really great that you were able to get David on! He’s a great guy and a huge inspiration to the indie/self-pub community.

    • SimonRSP

      He is indeed, thanks for listening (as always) RM 🙂

  • Neil

    Thanks for the podcast, Simon. Nice and chatty, and very informative. BTW I bought David’s original “Let’s Get Digital” and successfully updated it to the new version for free. I thought that was very generous of him, and I appreciate it heaps. Thanks David Gaughran!

    • SimonRSP

      Ah, that’s good to hear! I know Dave had some problems getting that to work quite right. Thanks for listening 🙂

  • Bobby

    Simon, David owes you a beer. I bought a copy of Let’s Get Digital as well.

    Another good interview, btw.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks, as always, Bobby 🙂

  • This is one of my favorite interviews. David is always so interesting. I love what he says about genres and I agree that if we give it time, the readership will grow to include genres that don;t sell that well now. I realized a while back that the early e-readers were people who…um….wanted to hide what they were reading.Or they were romance readers who eat up books like chocolates! I’ll bet historical and literary fiction readers will come along slowly because they like to show off what they are reading–and I have actually made friends with people who saw the book I was reading and liked the same book! They also tend to be the ones who love books as objects–the paper, the smell, the huggability, and all that—so literary writers—well we can create print on demand books for them!

    • I like the new website too. Nice and clean.

      • SimonRSP

        “I’ll bet historical and literary fiction readers will come along slowly because they like to show off what they are reading”

        I’m waiting for the flip phone style Kindle (as in it would have a screen on the outside, like how those old phones used to have the time/notifications), text for you, outside screen to show off how smart you are ;D.

        And thanks for the kind words about the website. A work in progress, but I’m happy with it so far!

  • Loved this episode. I could have have listened to you both all day. Felt like I could have poured a glass of wine and joined in!! Great info as usual. My list of things to do and remember from your podcast is growing ever larger. I’ve been meaning to get David’s book for a while. Glad I waited so I get start with the new one. Thanks guys, an enjoyable hour.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for listening Helen, I’m glad you enjoyed the chat :). Always glad to be able to add something to your book to-do list!