Self-publishing is hard work, there’s no getting around that fact. Successful self-publishing is even harder. If it’s your dream then it’s your dream and you have to go for it. Preceding success are some common factors understood by most prosperous self-published authors. Generally, these elements of the publishing business relate to just that; treating your self-publishing venture like a business. This requires the independent author to wear many hats but there are tactics available to ease this burden. We will cover nine key concepts for successful self-publishing.
Don’t write for money. Even though it is assumed that your goal is to become a full time writer, you can’t make profit your top priority. It will show through in the work. This is evident in the vast wasteland called Amazon. You don’t have to spend much time on there before you realize how much time you’re wasting sifting through junk written or rehashed by authors just looking to make a quick buck. In the beginning, just concentrate on writing a great book. Let your passion show through in the work and worry about the money later.
Write longer books. This would be a minimum of 50,000 words and preferably more in the vicinity of 70,000 or more. This is not to say that shorter books don’t have value and can’t sell but if your goal is to be a professional full time writer and be taken seriously by your peers then you need to write a “real” book. In the past you’ve probably given a disingenuous look at a pamphlet being passed as a book. This clip illustrates this concept well.
Make sure you own the rights to the book. Many authors say to themselves that they will worry about this when the book gains some traction but the earlier you secure your copyright the better. This can seem like a difficult task but it’s really not. All creative work is intrinsically copyrighted in the U.S. but you should still register your work with the U.S Copyright Office as this can have some benefits should you ever face any infringement issues. In the meantime, make sure you include copyright notification on all printed material. This will dissuade most people from attempting to steal your creation.
Get plenty of feedback. This does not just mean from friends and family. Make sure you get feedback from strangers and try to find people in the book’s target demographic. Don’t give a science fiction book to a group of church ladies. This sounds obvious but when undertaking the monumental task of bringing your first self-published book to market, it can be easy to overlook some issues. Create a questionnaire and make it clear that you appreciate brutal honesty. You may be able to get your book in the hands of a few people in the publishing industry. This will be extremely beneficial as they will give advice as to what they would like to see in a traditionally published book. Once you get all this feedback, be sure to swallow your pride and make any appropriate changes.
Don’t be cheap. Your job is to write and if your budget is limited then that job will also include marketing but we will get to that later. There are a plethora of tasks necessary to get your book published. Editing, cover design, layout, photography, etc. If you are not an expert on any of these tasks then outsource them. Remember that just like anything else, you will get what you pay for from a contractor. If their prices are super low then likely so will be the quality of their work.
Give away free copies of your book but not too many. There is somewhat of a debate on this topic. One argument states that people don’t appreciate free books and will not take them seriously or even read them. The other side argues that free giveaways are a great way to get your name out there and generate free press through word of mouth. The best tactic is a compromise by giving away a very limited number. A maximum of 1000 copies spread out geographically and from various sources. Don’t give away all 1000 copies on Amazon for example. Definitely give copies to industry professionals and the press such as notable bloggers.
Price your book correctly. Too low and it may not be taken seriously; too high and the price will inhibit sales for an unknown author. Many new authors go the low route at around $2.99 or less and believe this will lead to more sales but this is not necessarily true. Most of the afore mentioned garbage on Amazon is in this price range and you don’t want your work associated with those unscrupulous authors. The optimal price for an unknown author has been found to be between $5.99 and $9.99 for an eBook. Print books will depend heavily on your cost but $9.99 to $14.99 is generally acceptable.
Build your brand. Nobody knows who you are and that is fine but act like you’re a well-known author. Create a website not just for your book but for yourself as well. Write articles on subject matter related to your book or writing in general and start to build a reputation. This includes guest articles on more prominent sites and blogs. Offer to do public events or lectures for cheap or even free. Volunteer your time to help with issues dear to you or related to your expertise. Real celebrities and big corporations do this all the time. Without developing a god complex, try to start thinking of yourself as somewhat important in your field. There is no shame in shameless self-promotion.
Become a marketing expert. With a limited budget this is something you will likely have to perform yourself. Create a website for the book with ecommerce capabilities, post the book to every online marketplace available, do a series of press releases, try some search engine advertising, etc. The process for promoting a self-published book on a shoestring budget has been well documented with information abound on the internet.
With a good book, a vision and some tenacity, becoming a successful self-published author is possible. Unlike what most of us were told as children, all of us won’t be successful and can’t be whatever we want to be. Sad but true. That does not mean, however, that we should not follow our dreams. This is because if you don’t try then you definitely won’t succeed. I’m not sure who said it first but I get inspiration from the quote, “It is better to know and be disappointed than not know and regret”. Hang in there.
James A. Rose is a staff writer for InstantPublisher.com, a full-service self-publishing company with 100% of all work performed in-house. We have been helping authors realize their dreams for the past 14 years. Whether you’re printing a novel, how-to book, manual, brochure or any type of book you can imagine, our step-by-step instructions make publishing your own book simple and easy.