SHAKESPEARE system for helping authors figure out self-publishing

//SHAKESPEARE system for helping authors figure out self-publishing

SHAKESPEARE system for helping authors figure out self-publishing

I get a lot of requests from new authors looking for tips and advice on how to navigate the self-publishing book market. I created this document to summarize the approach that worked for me in getting started.

Exactly one year after publishing my first novel, Atopia Chronicles, a science fiction epic (followed a half a year later by CyberStorm, a present day tech-thriller in the vein of Crichton) I’ve managed to achieve some impressive success: 20th Century Fox purchased the film rights to CyberStorm, over 120,000 books sold, and ten foreign language publishing deals…tooting my own horn a bit 🙂 but just trying to illustrate what’s possible.

My background as an entrepreneur shaped my thinking in approaching self-publishing. In the past I’ve managed my own successful start-ups, as well as helping start many other companies get started–handling everything from writing business plans to raising venture capital. I applied that same structured way of think about starting a new business to the business of marketing a book, and below I am sharing my SHAKESPEARE system for helping new authors reach their own self-publishing success.

I’d like to stress, however, that success comes by many routes, and luck is often a major contributing factor (whether people admit it or not!) But, in many ways, we tend to “make” our own luck, just by getting out and trying enough things, so I encourage everyone to try anything and everything they can!

A special thanks goes out to Hugh Howey (of Wool fame), who after reviewing my plan, added the final “E” for “Engaging with your readers”, something Hugh is absolutely the master at!

If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, feel free to email me!

So here it is: SHAKESPEARE

(This is written for writers producing fictional works, but most of the same principles should work for non-fiction as well)

NOTE: Feel free to reprint or copy this as you wish, but if possible, please reference me, Matthew Mather, as the author and include a link to my CyberStorm novel  Chronicles


As attention spans shorten in the online (and real) world, readers don’t trust a new author enough to read 400 pages to get the point. For a new author, a winning approach is to serialize, to create your work as a set of progressively longer stories that connect together through cliffhangers to get a reader hooked. And speaking of that…


The first short story needs to be punchy and tell a complete story in itself while leaving the reader wanting to know more. Even more than that, you need to hook the reader on the first page somehow, create a mystery, a reason and need to keep reading.


To start, focus only on Amazon. I’m not here to promote Amazon, but the first rule of entrepreneurism is to focus, focus, focus. The large majority of revenue in digital books comes from Amazon, with a small minority coming from all of the other players combined. So when you start, focus on Amazon by itself; getting reviews, getting up in the ranking. By only going on Amazon, you force people to buy from one place and thus drive up your rankings in this one spot. Once you have achieved some success there, expand to other platforms (FYI the easiest way to get on other platforms is just to use Smashwords).

Key networks

Make sure to use your personal social networks to maximum effect. Post on Facebook and ask people to re-post your postings for free book offers. Make sure to email everyone at work on the “internal” email (ask your boss first, of course!) Use your LinkedIn network to mention that you have a book out. What other networks are you a part of?

Try emailing top-selling authors in your category when you release the first installments of your work. Ask them to read the first one (by starting with serialized shorts, it makes it easier for other authors to try reading your work), or just ask them to post on their blog or Facebook. When I released Atopia, I had about five or six top-selling authors who posted to their readers for me!


It is critical to create a character that you introduce readers to right away that they can empathize with. People read still primarily because they want to feel an emotional involvement with a character they meet in your writing. Keep this front and center of your mind when writing.

Select Program on Amazon

Use the Amazon Select Program: You can offer your book for $0 (free) for 5 days each 3 months. Used effectively, this is an extremely potent tool for reaching an audience. There are at least 40 websites I use to promote a “free weekend” for my books (email me for a list) – these sites are mostly specific to books that go free on Amazon Select and are mostly free to use for promotion.

If you can plan it ahead of time, write out all of the parts of your serialized work ahead of time, and then each two weeks release one of them, promoting it on Amazon select for free and on the promotional websites. I can usually get 4000+ downloads of a free book when I do this.

Perceived Value

Create perceived value by offering a deal. For instance, try and divide your ‘whole’ work into 6 parts, and sell each for $0.99, and then offer the whole ‘collection’ at half price, e.g. $2.99 for all six. This creates perceived value on the part of the buyer when you start to sell the whole collection


If your work is not edited well, you will get killed in the reviews and in word of mouth. As a first pass, make sure to find some friends or family to have a look. If you can’t afford a professional editor, trying going on Craigslist and find some just-graduated English lit major to edit your book on the cheap. A “real” editor can be quite expensive, but there is no excuse to not get an external editor of some kind, and not getting one will kill your chances of success.

All free posting websites

Craigslist and other free online classified ads are the secret weapon for a new authors. It is incredibly difficult to get outside feedback when you are a new writer. My solution? Post an ad saying you’ll pay someone $10 or $20 to read your book and give you honest feedback. Note that this is not for line editing, but for high level feedback to make your story more engaging in an iterative process.

Bonus: Get 20 people to read your book like this; these people will probably become your biggest promoters and will be happy to write reviews and Facebook and tweet your book when released.

Free PR – When you release your book, create several press releases about different aspects of the book, what it is about, why people would like it. When you release each of the story segments, put these press releases up on the free press release websites. There are about a dozen high quality free release sites out there. Highlight that the short story that is free that week.


It is critical to get reviews as this has a direct impact on the Amazon ranking and recommendation system. YOU CANNOT do fake reviews. Apart from the ethical issues, Amazon has an impressive array of technical tools to make this very difficult. Instead, be honest and creative; use friends, family, co-workers; and see my point regarding Craigslist and getting people ready to punt for your project.


Find any and all ways to engage with your audience once you start to get readers. Do a video blog on YouTube about the process, do a regular blog showing progress on next books and stories, get people to your Facebook page. Just get engaged with them somehow!

First published on – August 2013


About the Author:

Books translated into 16 languages and CyberStorm now in development for film by 20th Century Fox


  1. robert price rifkin October 27, 2012 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    I would love to receive your list of websites that promote free e books.
    Thanks for the great blog!

  2. british November 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    I saw a writer talking about this on Tumblr and it linked to

  3. They Often November 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    I would give you an award for this article if that was possible. This content is engaging, informative and it really makes really great reading.

  4. brazilian blowout damage my hair December 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    I love the way you wrote this article. This is wonderful. I do hope you intend to write more of these types of articles. Thank you for this interesting content!

  5. Cody December 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Wow, that’s a lot of valuable information! Focusing on Amazon is directly contrary to advice many, many others share. They say “Why limit your audience, publish everywhere”. This advice is heavily advocated by Mark Coker (founder of Smashwords, so the advice makes sense from where he’s standing, lol).

    But focusing your efforts makes sense. Sun Tzu would probably agree with you.

    By the way, I’m having a hard time finding your email. Could you email me that list of free ebooks? I’d really appreciate that.


  6. Orlando December 21, 2012 at 12:18 am - Reply

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice,
    keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back down the road. Cheers

  7. Jason Matthews August 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the tips and congrats, Mr. Mather. I have an Indie Authors show on Google Plus and would love to interview you. We had Hugh Howey on the show a year ago and feature known indies, unknowns and subjects within the industry. Please let me know if you’d like to be on the show. This is Hugh’s show (we do much shorter ones these days usually around 20-25 mins–Hugh was happy to role with it as the fans kept asking questions) –

  8. aj snook August 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve recently decided to give writing for profit a go. I’ll definitely keep this method in my toolkit. Taking criticism and seeking out editors has got to be the biggest one for me.

  9. missmoneypenny August 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    What a great post!! Thanks very much for consolidating all this information. Love Cyberstorm, by the way — an excellent read. If the movie’s half as good, it’ll be a hit!

  10. Bill Gibbons September 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    This is a great posting, of concise words in a compact package, that helps us self-publishing, self-marketing types. To be saved, bookmarked, and passed on to other writers and authors.

  11. Leeanna Morgan April 18, 2014 at 6:08 am - Reply

    Hi Matthew. Ihank you for the great ideas. Would you be able to send me your top 40 sites for promoting free ebooks? I have a free ebook available on Amazon this long weekend (Forever Dreams ), so I’ll see if I can utilize your list. Kind regards, Leeanna.

  12. […] both worth a read. The first is what he calls the third way of publishing. The second post is his Shakespeare System which we will talk to him about on the […]

  13. Michael Wisehart August 26, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Great Article,

    Your information is greatly helpful to us start-up indie writer’s who are spending every waking moment they are not writing – researching how to publish. I love seeing how successful self-published authors were able to make the magic happen and their workflows. Thanks so much for Sharing.

    I am currently in the Beta stages of my first novel for a new fatasy-epic series. How can I get a copy of the 40 sites you used to promote a “free weekend”? You said to email you, but I didn’t see a contact page.

    Again thank you for the time you have put into publishing these articles. – Michael

  14. Hubert December 8, 2015 at 4:49 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing such a nice thought, post is good, thats why i have read it

  15. Gail December 25, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    This is some great information. Comprehensive and helpful

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