How to self-publish; what I wish I’d have known beforehand

creative commons

creative commonsYou’ve nearly finished your book and are thinking of self-publishing? Well, congratulations! Or maybe it’s your 2016 resolution, to finally get that book finished. Either way, if you’ve done a little research you may have heard lots of authors declaring that the hard work really begins here. Whilst they may be right, your path will be less difficult if you follow this handy guide; it’s basically everything I wish I’d have known a year ago:

1. Get a critique of your final draft. If you’re going to spend any money, it should probably be in the editing process (as well as in preparing the cover). Otherwise you run the risk of publishing what agent Mary Kole calls, “just a printout of (your) manuscript bound between two thicker pieces of cardboard, and about as fulfilling as a pile of scratch paper”. If your budget won’t allow it, sites such as youwriteon allow other writers to critique portions of your book and wattpad and widbook will help you connect to readers to see if they like your work. Having recently reviewed a lot of self-published books for other authors, I can really notice the difference and guess what? Your readers will too.

2. Get your “platform” ready. If you’re starting at zero you’ll need time to find twitter followers and facebook friends but more importantly, you’ll want to grow an email list of subscribers from your website, like this one (that you can email when you launch). It also takes time – and organisation – to link all your different mediums together so that people can find you more easily. Start this process months before the book is ready.

3. Get some beta readers to review your book. Once you’ve got your real final draft (after editing and critiques) put it in the hands of actual readers. Goodreads has lots of groups of people who are willing to beta read and will offer really constructive feedback on your story.

4. Decide how to publish your book. For example, are you going to use a professional service, like BookBaby or do it yourself, through Amazon’s CreateSpace? Your decision will depend on money, confidence and your strategy. You may want a lot of hand-holding, e.g. do you know the answer to questions such as whether or not you want Digital Rights Management – DRM – for your book? The solution also depends on distribution. Do you want your book available everywhere or just Amazon? This is worth researching thoroughly.

5. Create your cover. It pays to use a professional but regardless, make sure the name of your book is clear in the thumbnail. Spend time investigating the look and feel of other book covers; readers will use your cover to decide whether or not they’ll read your book.

6. Preparing your final document will take much longer than expected. You’ll need to proofread and check the formatting and you’ll have greater distribution possibilities if your book is available in all three main formats (mobi for the kindle, epub for nook and iBooks and of course, pdf) but they’ll all need to be proofed separately.

7. Get your marketing blurbs ready. You need to distil your book into one or two sentences for taglines and you’ll also need long blurbs, short blurbs, A4 summaries (with plot spoilers and without) and a variety of teaser paragraphs. Make sure you also have your cover photo stored somewhere online in a really high-resolution that you can link to different sites (Photobucket will let you do this). Keep all these marketing documents in a word document on your desktop so it’s easily accessible to cut and paste from at a moment’s notice.

8. Sort out your advertising. Are you going to run giveaways, youtube book trailers or pay for ads on sites like goodreads? Are you going to try to get some author interviews fixed up? Are you going to try to get some guest blog posts, such as this one on BookDaily*? Ideally, you need to think about this before your book is out.

9. Line up reviewers before the book is launched. If you don’t have reviewers lined up for your book, then no one will read it! There are lots of places to ask for reviews but goodreads is a good start. If you can afford it, netgalley is probably unrivalled in distributing your books free to tons of booksellers and bloggers.

10. Finally, remember to celebrate the small victories. You are your very own, editing, marketing, advertising and production department and you have a very long road ahead of you. It won’t happen overnight, if at all (you only need to trawl through the millions of goodreads authors to understand how few people actually manage to become successful self-publishers) so remember to enjoy the small things: the jump from ten to fifty twitter followers; reaching 100 likes on your book’s facebook page; gaining a real footing on goodreads, where you have met some great friends, supporters and fans. Don’t spam your followers with “all about me” posts but do publicise your good reviews.

If you have anything to add, I’d love to hear it.


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*At the time of writing, on the day that BookDaily published this post, they had helpfully added a lot of spelling mistakes that weren’t in the original document I gave them… suffice to say, you can only do so much. Some marketing outcomes will be out of your control!

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