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What got my book sold? Self publishing my cult memoir

Kelly Alder's memoir TheFourteenth Wife is a tale of self-discovery and an insider view of a polygamous tribal 'family'. She wrote it on one of my longer mentorships, and then she did what so many authors don't do.... she took it to the next level. She did.


She edited it, rewrote it, got feedback, rewrote again. And again When it was polished and professional she decided to self-publish it. She did the hard work it takes to become an author, and she learned some stuff about getting your book out there. It has been a two year journey getting her book to market and she is going to share her tips below.


'I was the Fourteenth Wife of a Neo Native American cult leader in New Mexico. A little voice kept nagging me to write these crazy life experiences down.'

Kelly Alder, The Fourteenth Wife


LESSONS FROM SELF PUBLISHING by Kelly Alder

1. Selling books is incredibly difficult.I was told this, of course, but in the back of my mind, I always thought it would be easier. Wow, was I wrong. It’s painfully hard. I had a huge feature on my story and book - I landed the front cover of The Daily Mail’s Femail magazine in the UK, plus I was on their online platform, which reaches millions of people. Still, I only sold 11 books on the day it went to print and 22 the day after! Being in magazines/newspapers does not necessarily translate into book sales. I have found radio interviews, podcasts, and target advertising on Instagram to be just as effective.


2. You don’t need to spend a fortune designing your front cover.While you should not skimp on quality, you don’t need to bankrupt yourself either. I used an amazing platform called upwork.com where I posted my book cover as a job and got graphic designers to pitch to me.


3. Instagram hashtags sold my book

I never got to grips with Facebook or Twitter, but I like Instagram. I invested in an hour's lesson with a Social Media Marketer and she taught me some easy tricks, like how best to use hashtags. Two weeks later, I was picked up by a UK journalist via Instagram, and that's how I got the Daily Mail interview - which then led to a TV interview in the US. I've also been contacted via other groups on Instagram and invited to talk on a podcast in the US, and asked to do guest posts on other sites - all through using the right hashtags.


4. Ask for favours and work your contacts.

I called up all my friends that I know work in media and asked if they knew anyone in the magazine/TV/ radio business that would be interested in featuring my story. It worked! Whenever someone contacted me telling me they enjoyed the book, I'd ask them if they would write me an Amazon or GoodReads review and sent them a link.


5. Do a first print run of 50 copies.

My first print run was just 20 copies, and they flew out the door. The next was 100, and now I’m sitting on at least 70 in a big box on my desk, wishing I had ordered less. However, I did publish in COVID times, and a big launch party, unfortunately, wasn’t on the cards. If you can plan a tour and have a big book launch, then, by all means, order more books.


6. Self publishing on Amazon is easy.

The whole process is quite simple, and I love the fact that you are in control. I did get help with a production company - they put together a package, helping me with the layout, proofreading, and uploading the files onto Amazon (a huge relief as I’m not technically minded.) Now I can log on every day, see my paperback and Kindle sales and in which countries they have sold.


7. The process deeply emotional.

I was euphoric but felt incredibly vulnerable at the same time. I was sensitive and overreactive. People from your past may contact you; this can be pleasant or sometimes cause emotional upheaval. Some people may be upset with you for writing it. You may lose friends. Someone in my book blocked all contact with me when it came out. I was prepared for it, but it still hurt. You won't be able to keep everyone happy. However, don't forget this is is also a special time to enjoy and celebrate. You have done it. Congratulations!


8. Prepare for interviews by writing a script

Do not go in unprepared! Ask in advance for the sorts of questions they may ask you so you can prepare, or suggest good questions. Write a script at home and practice and read from it. This way you will feel calm and collected, and deliver good information to the listener. I didn’t do this for my first few interviews and got tongue-tied and did not come across well. I learned fast.


9. Beware of Book Reviewers on Instagram.

I got inundated by requests, some with 100k + followers on Instagram, asking me if I wanted them to review my book on amazon/their Instagram page..... for a fee. I did this once. I paid 30 UK pounds. He did a great post and review of my book on his Instagram page, but I got no sales and no KU reads from it. Perhaps some of these people are genuine, but I got contacted by about 50 of these bloggers/reviewers; it’s impossible to know which are fraudulent. Steer clear and spend your money dong targeted Instagram/Facebook Ads. I have not yet gotten to grips with ads on Amazon, but it’s my next project.


10. Just because you are not with a publisher does not mean you can’t get into a bookshop. One bookstore manager heard me on radio and sent me an email inquiring about my book. She told me she did not usually take self-published authors, but I told her that I would soon have a feature in a big national magazine and that if she put my books in her store, I would ask the magazine to give her a store credit in the feature. Now my book is for sale at Exclusive Books (if only at the Cavendish branch.)


You don’t ask; you don’t get... Right?



The Fourteenth Wife is available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. In South Africa it is also available in paperback at Exclusive Books - Cavendish Branch


​Kelly Alder lives between Cape Town and Zurich. She is the muse to perfumer Marioara de la Tara of Wild Olive Artisans in Cape Town, and in 2018 Kelly launched her own 100% synthetic-free perfume, Terra Flora. On her blog kelly-alder.com, Kelly is passionate about writing and sharing her life experiences on femininity, vulnerability, and belonging.


​Kelly Alder grew up in Surrey, England in what seemed a 'blessed life'. She is now in her 40s, a mother, married for 18 years and in a solid relationship. But there was a story hiding inside her, and eventually she knew she had to tell it. “A little voice kept nagging me to write these crazy life experiences down.” The result is in her jaw-dropping book The Fourteenth Wife. In it she reveals a vulnerable and lost young woman, struggling to find belonging after both her parents died of Aids in her early 20s. A chance meeting with a Native American guru ended up with her standing in the desert outside Tularosa, New Mexico a few years later, about to marry into a polygamous cult. She kept writing and her resulting memoir is a gripping tale of self-discovery and an insider view of a polygamous tribal family. As Kelly self-financed and self-published her book, I asked her to share some of the tips she learned over this process of getting her book to market.



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