I often get asked if I have any advice on how to self-publish a book.
Do I ever! I’ve written about it extensively, and to make my life easier in answering such questions, I thought I’d pull together all the relevant blog posts in one giant link-fest, separated by topic and with additional tidbits of information sprinkled in.
Get ready to pour yourself a humongous cup of coffee and dig in. Or bookmark this page to come back to as needed, if you prefer to bite off smaller chunks.
The Art of Writing
Before you can publish a book, you must write it. And as painful as it sounds, that’s actually the fun part. As most writers will tell you, writing is the thing we love most, if only we could focus on it. Except for the times when it is the thing we hate most, which also happens.
You’ll find many, many blog posts about the art of writing right on this website, but here are a choice few:
- Start with the nuts and bolts here: Writing a Book
- 12 Writing Tips is mostly for bloggers, but anyone might glean some writing advice from it (if, in fact, you trust me as a worthy dispenser of advice, which I can tell you is a huge risk you’re taking).
- You need to write the first draft of your book when the story is hot. Even though that’s often a time in your life when you are super busy. And yet there is no way around it. You have to drop everything and get by on three hours of sleep every night if you must, or else your story will trickle into the sand in front of your eyes, never to be resurrected again.
- Sorry to spring that one on you, but Writing a Book is like Raising Kids. You don’t have to know one to do the other, but they are related. And if you are in fact in the market for both, they compete for your time like two very jealous siblings!
- Good Storytelling might mean that you sometimes have to “bend” the truth a little bit. Trust me on this.
The Pain of Editing and Why You Need an Editor
- Again, for the exhaustive nuts and bolts, start here: Editing Your Book
- While we’re on the raising kids theme: I hate to break it to you, but editing a book is like having a case of head lice at your house. Editing, Editing, and More Editing, is like nitpicking, nitpicking, and more nitpicking. With the only difference that I do wish that you someday get to edit your written work, whereas I wouldn’t wish head lice on my worst enemy.
- A similar point, but using a more palate-pleasing bag of sugar instead of creepy bugs as an analogy: The Elusive Final Edit.
Self-Publishing Your Book
- First, there is the small matter of Converting Your File into eBook Format. You can’t just cut and paste your text, hit “publish,” and hope for the best. While I’m the first to tell you that this takes time, I also want you to know that it can be fun. At least for me, an anal sort of perfectionist who likes to put the finishing touches on stuff herself. I never considered paying someone $1,000 or more to do this step for me, because, frankly, I assumed that I could do it better or at least would pay better attention than anyone else. If you, on the other hand, do not want to do it yourself, I’d be very happy to do it for you. For, uhm, about $1,000. I promise I’ll do an awesome job.
- This is your big moment after you’ve done the conversion: Publishing Your Kindle eBook. But wait! Read the next subject first to learn what steps you can take to make the most of the launch of your book.
- Your even bigger moment: publishing your paperback on CreateSpace. And I’m very sorry that there is no handy link to take you to the place where you learn more about this, simply because I haven’t written that part yet. Publishing via CreateSpace is harder than publishing on Kindle, no doubt about it. But it is also hugely more gratifying to hold your first actual book in your hands, containing actual pages to turn.
Launching your Book into the World
Instead of simply hitting the “publish” button in Step 2 above, you can make the publishing of your book a little bit more of an event. I don’t want to discourage it by any means, as often the only way to get something done is to simply do it instead of thinking about all the things you should be doing to make it even better. And yet, releasing your book out into the world with a little bit of fanfare can do amazing things to increase its early visibility and thereby get it off to a good start.
The following is a series of blog posts I wrote all around launching your book. I’m not saying you have to do all of them, and I’m also not saying that my list is all-inclusive. They’re just some ideas for you to pick from, like the buffet at Golden Corral. And, like at the Golden Corral, don’t go overloading your plate!
- Pick a launch date. Sounds easy but is surprisingly complicated. The good news: You can always adjust it. Because you’re an indie author and indie author = a writer who can do whatever the hell they want.
- Announce Launch Date on Your Blog. Sounds even easier, provided you have a blog. If not, hold on to your bootstraps and let me tell you why you absolutely need one, and how to go about setting it up.
- Share Launch Date on Facebook Page. Ditto. Gotta first have a Facebook page (by that I don’t mean your personal profile but a professional page) to share book news on. I’ll tell you how to create one.
- Join a Book Lovers Facebook Page. This one can be a lot of fun, trust me.
- Announce Launch Date on Twitter. I’m no Twitter fan. But this is my take on it: If Twitter is where people are hanging out, you should have a presence there, if grudgingly. I’ll tell you how to create an account if you don’t have one, and how to make life easier by scheduling posts ahead of time.
- Amazon Author Central. You absolutely need to create an author page through Amazon Author Central. The good news: It’s not that hard.
- Share on Google+. I haven’t seen many benefits yet from Google+. But hey, it’s Google. Better take it seriously. It doesn’t cost you much, so just press the button and be done with it.
- Establish Yourself on Goodreads. Yet another place you should keep an author profile and connect with your readers. The good news: Goodreads pretty much hums along on its own. Though you can also run ads there and create giveaways.
- Create a Fact Sheet. Yet another tool to promote your book, though the main work is not creating your fact sheet but sending it out to the right people.
- The Big Launch Day. Ta-daaaa!
Promoting Your Book
So you’ve written and published a book, and you’ve launched it into the world, or at least cyberspace. The hard part’s done, you will think. Boy do I have news for you! The thing is, not everyone out there (and not even everyone you know) will want to read your book. You have to earn your readers, one by one. And don’t be fooled. Even if you were so lucky as to find an agent and/or traditional publisher for your book and signed a contract, your work does not end there either. Nowadays, even the big publishing firms will expect you to market your own book, or else it might soon wither on that big pile of first and forgotten print runs.
How do you best promote your own book? Here are some ideas:
- If you’re just starting out as an author, enroll your Kindle eBook in KDP Select if you haven’t done it yet. Read Amazon KDP Select – Yes or No? for the reasoning behind it. Using Amazon at the outset to help you market your book is a resource you shouldn’t waste.
- We’ve already covered this but it bears mentioning again, in case you were sloppy earlier: You must make sure you pick the right Amazon categories and write a good blurb. Categories are hugely important as they allow you to become an Amazon “bestseller,” a coveted badge you can use in your promotions and on your website, even your book cover itself. Writing a good blurb – what you use to entice readers to want to read the book – speaks for itself. Re-read eBook Publication from above if you’re not sure you’ve done all you can in terms of categories and blurb.
- Run a Goodreads Giveaway. Other than paying for the postage of at least one book to be mailed to a winner, this is completely free, so there is no excuse for not doing it.
- Book Reviews. The more reviews you garner on Amazon, the better your book will sell, no doubt about it. That is why, much as you might hate it, you really do have to cajole people into writing those first reviews for you. The trick is to find the people – they do exist – who actually enjoy writing reviews. My Facebook memoir lovers group has helped in this regard, book promotions help, as do giveaways. When you think there is a good chance a certain individual will write a review, perhaps has even promised as much, by the grace of God please give him or her a free copy already. The thing is, the more reviews you already have, the easier it is to get even more. It’s kind of like money in that way.
- Organize a book signing event at your local bookstore. I know I know, easier said than done, but it’s just a matter of finding the right kind of quirky and charming bookstore. Most towns have one of them.
- BookBub. I almost don’t need to say any more. BookBub is THE definitive book promotion site that has helped many a struggling author gain visibility and grow sales. The way it works: You pay them a fee – depends on genre and ranges from $40 to $1,000+ – and they include your temporarily free or discounted book in one of their daily mass mailings to their vast list of “book deal” subscribers. Quite often these promotions can pay for themselves. Read my blog post about BookBub for details, and a forthcoming one on its brethren Ereader News Today (ENT), Robin Reads, and more. Also, read this great and detailed analysis by two authors who made out very well with BookBub promotions.
- Build a Subscriber List. I’ve been terribly remiss in this department. I promise people a monthly newsletter with author news and giveaways if they sign up for my mailing list, which I encourage them to do in the back of my book and on my blog. But I have yet to actually send one out. It seems too much hassle for the handful of subscribers I’ve accumulated. But all successful authors will tell a good mailing list is key. I’ll let you know if that’s true whenever I finally manage to build one. In the meantime, I can highly recommend MailChimp to manage subscribers and email campaigns.
- Book Clubs. I haven’t nearly tapped this resource enough. There are book clubs in practically every neighborhood, and most likely you have a lot of friends who belong to one book club or another. Talk to them, give them free copies of your book (or, rather, your eBook, which doesn’t cost you a thing), and offer to appear on the day they discuss the book. It’s a great way to build word of mouth. You just have to be a little bold and find that sweet spot between “interesting writer your friends’ friends want to meet” and “totally annoying self-promoter.”
- Offer your book to the local library. This isn’t as easy as it sounds as an indie author, as most libraries shun self-published books. But this isn’t always a cast in stone rule, so it’s worth pursuing. Your library may also host events for local authors that give you additional exposure in the local community.
- Engage in discussions about the topic of your book, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or other websites and blogs. Share relevant content with your followers (and not just your own writings), ask their opinion, comment on other pages and blogs. Don’t do this in a self-promoting way at all, as that will get people to tune you out faster than you can finish saying “please buy my…”. All you’re doing here is building your credentials as an expert of sorts, someone people will want to hear more from about a topic that interests them. The good news is, you can also make money from your “expert status.” It takes grit and work, but you can launch a side career as a freelance writer. I’m far from having made a career, but I have landed some great freelance gigs with major newspapers.
Whew! I could probably offer $1,000 to anybody who’s made it this far and not have to pay a dime. In any case, I hope you’ve found some of this useful and perhaps bookmarked the page to help you along your evolving book publishing journey. I’m sorry my list isn’t exhaustive as there are plenty of holes to plug. But think about it this way: If it was exhaustive, I’d have published a book about it and you’d have had to pay for it.
Which I totally plan to do as soon as I win the 100,000 free hours lottery.
In the meantime, thank you for trusting my advice. I welcome your feedback below!
Well done! This looks like a great and really comprehensive list. I could definitely have done with this list before I first put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). Trouble is, just like expatriating, having a baby and so many other things that look easier than they actually are…. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it….
Absolutely! If you knew it ahead of time, you’d never even start. But once you know it, it makes sense to keep going to capitalize on your knowledge and take advantage of the economies of scale. Hence, four children:-)