The new age of Internet and global connectivity creates a whole new playing field for authors and potential authors all around the world. Especially with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, anybody anywhere can publish anything at any time. For those of us who are poor, don’t want to be tied down by the restrictions of traditional publishing, or want to be in full control of our work, this is fantastic!
However, there are some cons. Simply hitting the “Publish” button on KDP or Smashwords isn’t going to get you very many readers, especially because, as I said earlier, anybody can publish. The e-market of self-publishing has created an Internet supersaturated with books, most of which are crap. If you want to stand out in the crowd, it’s going to be pretty damn difficult. Writing a good book is only half the battle.
I’ve done my research, and I’m implementing it best as I can. Here are my top ten tips for self-publishing.
The most difficult part of self-publishing is you must shed your writerly self and take on your new role as the marketer. When you’re the marketer, all personal feelings for your novel have to be ignored. You have to do what’s write, not take criticism personally, take criticism seriously, and spend time socializing and putting yourself out there in the electronic marketplace.
Here’s what I’ve found:
Get a social media presence. You don’t have a book published yet? Good. You need to have an online presence before any publishing happens. That means making an author’s blog (like this one), a Goodreads, a Twitter, a Facebook, a Google+, a tumblr… While you don’t have to have all of these, it’s good to have a couple that you can update regularly. For me, it’s my blog (which you are already looking at), a tumblr, a Facebook, and a Goodreads. These allow you to network and get to know your fellow authors. Because you know what? This isn’t a competition. We all want the same things, and the only way you’re going to succeed is if you get to know other authors, build a relationship, and offer and ask for help.
- On that note, get your own website. I got this one through WordPress, because I’m lazy and my HTML/CSS skills aren’t good enough to make a decent looking website. This means that you need to have your own domain, hopefully just yourname.com. Those of you with more common names might have to get creative here, since the domain you want might already be taken. Your website is the most important of all your social media accounts because it is what makes you look like a professional writer rather than some random person in the blogosphere.
- Update regularly. This doesn’t mean update all the time with “BUY MY BOOK,” but posting helpful, meaningful things on your blog, Facebook, etc. Once a week is a minimum, but ideally you should be updating every day. Although this can be difficult, it’s extremely important. The internet has a short attention span, so if you’re not updating regularly, you’re going to be forgotten and people are going to move on. Establish a routine, and keep to it.
Don’t spam. Spammers are the bane of the Internet, almost as bad as malware creators. If you spam your readers only with information about your book, then they’re going to leave, because you’re not offering anything of value. You’re just being annoying. As I said, your posts need to be helpful, insightful, funny, or whatever fits your brand, not just a way for you to scream into cyberspace about how cool you think your book is.
- Define your brand. This has been something I’ve struggled with. I’d like if I could just say my brand is “damn good stories,” but that’s not very specific. Your brand is essentially your tagline, a description of you and your work that defines your place in the community and simultaneously defines what sets you apart. For me, I brand myself as a “trope and genre breaker.” I’ve said before that I think the idea of “literary” and “genre” fiction is crap, and my goal as a writer is to continually redefine the readers’ expectations in genre and stories.
- Get beta readers. I’ve already talked at length about this, but the bottom-line is beta-readers, especially in your target audience, are going to help you immensely. If you’re not ready to show your work to a beta-reader, you’re not ready to publish it.
Invest in a professional cover. I cannot stress how important this is. Do not give me your crap about “it’s what’s inside the book that counts!” Stop kidding yourself. Yes, the inside of the book is important, but your cover needs to reflect what’s inside. We all judge books by their covers. A cover can tell us a lot about what we’re about to read, not only hinting at genre and plot, but also how much stock the author has put into their work. If you come out with a crummy cover, people are going to expect a crummy book. Period. There are lots of websites where you can buy quality covers, both pre-made and custom. The cover I used for Spawn was a pre-made I found on Go On Write. It’s freaking awesome, and I only paid $45 for it. There are other websites out there, of course, but I’ve found Go On Write to be my favorite. The best part is that my cover looks great in a large format, as well as a thumbnail, so it still has the ability to attract a random browser’s eye.
- Hire an editor. This is going to require some money. Unless you have spent years doing professional editing, you’re not qualified to edit your own work. Spend some money on an editor (and it will be quite a bit of money). They’ll ensure that you have a polished manuscript that is ready to be seen by the world. T.L. Gray edited my first work, Spawn, and she did an excellent job of finding my errors. If you’re interested in seeing her rates, then go ahead and email her: authortlgray at gmail dot com.
- The price needs to be right. This is some tricky business. Price too high, and no one will buy it because it’s too expensive. Price too low, and no one will buy it because they’ll think it’s cheaply made. Recommendations that I usually see are pricing $2.99-$4.99 for a new novel. Not too cheap, not too expensive, and bringing in about the same revenue.
- Get your book reviewed. How many times have you gone shopping for anything on Amazon, seen a product with no reviews, and thought, “I should buy this”? Probably close to never. Reviews, on everything, are major super wow important. Reviews are quality-assurance for readers who are on the fence about purchasing. Of course, this leads to the dreaded cycle of “I need book reviews to get readers and readers to get book reviews.” Fret not! There are ways to get reviews. Goodreads is a good place to start. There are a lot of groups with Read for Review (R4R) threads, where you can post your book and ask for honest reviews. You can do similar things on the Kindleboards, some subreddits, MobileRead boards, etc. But do not, DO NOT, DO NOT buy reviews, solicit reviews, or in any other way do something that will encourage fake, winkwinknudgenudge kind of reviews that are only meant to benefit you. Remember: karma’s a bitch, and the internet never forgets.
Those are what I consider to be the most important tips. What about you guys? Do you have anything you want to add? Do you disagree? Leave a comment and let me know.
Alicia recommended Autocrit in the comments for finding repeated words and comparing how much you used a word compared to a database of general fiction.
Here are some of the resources I’ve used along the way: