Updated: Jul 4, 2019
If you're passionate about your craft and want to go far in this self-publishing game, you must do it right. That often means suffering through the trial and error process, which can cause costly mistakes that may hinder your progress. Over one million books were self-published last year, and the numbers are growing. Although it's more widely accepted than ever before, self-published books are still considered the stepchild to traditionally published books. You must set yourself apart from the average indie author by publishing high-quality books that readers can trust. Your brand and your reputation as an author depend on it.
With so much information out there, it may seem impossible to determine which moves to make and the pitfalls to avoid. I had researched the self-publishing process during the two-year period it took me to write my debut novel. I thought I knew it all, and I did know quite a bit. However, even after all the research, I still made mistakes. But I learned through my experiences, and by the third book, I had a well-oiled process that ran smoothly and efficiently to produce high-quality books I could be proud of and readers wanted to buy!
Here, we'll examine seven simple steps I took to publish five high-quality books of my own and dozens for my clients. Download a free copy of The Savvy Self-Publisher: Seven Simple Steps to Self-Publishing Success for the full details.
1. Pre-Published Marketing
Effective book marketing begins well before the publishing process. You may be wondering what you should be marketing if you don't have a book yet. Well, it's easy to confuse marketing with selling. Your pre-published marketing will help to sell your book when it is released. Simply put, you're marketing yourself to create an audience and build awareness and anticipation. You must first build your brand and identify your target reader. Check out the Bestseller Branding Workbook for a step-by-step guide. Social media is a great way to start the marketing process. You will need to identify your brand and your target reader so you can post valuable, engaging content that will draw them in. You'll also keep them well aware that you have a book coming out and when to expect it. For actionable steps to build a marketable Instagram page, attract followers, and turning followers into book buyers, check out The Insta Author eBook.
You'll also want to market yourself outside of social media. Print promo cards to pass out, attend book events and conferences to network and spread the word, attend local events and do readings, join writers' groups, and collect email addresses. Memorize your one-to-two-sentence elevator pitch, and tell everyone you encounter that you're an author with a book on the way!
2. Professional Editing
Editing is perhaps the most vital step in the book publishing process. It can make or break your book. If you're serious about your success as an indie author, and you want readers to take you and your work seriously, you must hire a professional editor for your manuscript. This is not optional. After completing a thorough self-edit, go on the hunt for a professional, experienced editor, who will polish your manuscript for publication. Understand the different types of editing. Will you need developmental or copy editing, substantive or line editing? And ask questions, get references, and learn the editor's skill set before agreeing to work with her. Be prepared to invest in editing. A good editor will likely not come cheap! No real editor will edit your entire manuscript for pennies, so have realistic expectations and save if necessary. Your editor also shouldn't send you into bankruptcy. You'll need to find a balance between quality service and reasonable pricing. And always request a sample edit! Click here for more info on Make Your Mark's editorial services and request a free sample edit.
3. Provide Your Own ISBN
It is a common new indie author mistake to sign with a vanity publisher to "self-publish" your book, only to later find that you didn't self-publish at all. Vanity publishers disguise themselves as self-publishing companies, but they aren't self-publishing companies. They are pay-to-publish companies, meaning you pay them to publish your book. They're the publisher, not you, because they own the publishing rights to the book! They offer an ISBN assignment with their publishing packages, but they don't tell you the ISBN is in their name, making them the publisher. ISBN's can't be transferred from one entity to another. So unless you bought the ISBN yourself from Bowker (the only legitimate entity that sells ISBN's in the U.S.) or you had someone purchase it in your name on your behalf (like we do), you didn't self-publish. Make sure you own the rights to your published book by providing your own ISBN.
4. Professional Design
When self-publishing a high-quality book, your goal should be to produce a product that is comparable to traditionally published books. When laying them side by side, readers shouldn't be able to easily tell the difference. That means hiring a professional graphic designer for your book cover design and interior layout. Stay away from do-it-yourself options unless you are a skilled designer, experienced in book design. Most self-published books don't sell more than a few hundred copies, mostly to family and friends, and that's largely due to the fact that they look self-published. If your book looks poorly crafted, readers will assume the same about its content. Don't blow your shot before getting your foot in the door.
5. Appropriate Pricing
Unless you're a celebrity or a national bestselling author with a huge platform, readers are not likely to pay premium pricing for your book. Be sure to choose pricing within market range for both your eBook and hard copy. Check the prices of other books with similar page counts in your genre. Scroll online retailers for comparison or walk the aisles of the bookstore. If your book is priced too high, it will be an immediate turnoff for readers. Besides, your goal is to get your book into readers' hands, not to make a quick buck.
6. Print-on-Demand Distribution
New authors often think Amazon is the only place to sell their books or they've used one of Amazon's free ISBN's, so it's the only place they can sell their books. Only selling through Amazon limits your exposure and neglects the needs of potential readers who choose to shop elsewhere. Yes, Amazon is the giant in the book sales industry, but it's not the only retailer in town. Make your book for sale wherever readers are buying. Yes, sell on Amazon; you'd be a fool not to, but also utilize a reputable print-on-demand distributor to make your book available for sale through all other online retailers and for order through brick and mortar bookstores and libraries.
7. Market and Sell Relentlessly!
As a new author, let's face it, readers aren't checking for you. They don't know you and don't care too much about your book. It's not enough to just publish your book and let it sit as you wait, wish, and hope for readers to stumble upon it and give it a try. It's your job to get readers to notice you, and you must be relentless in your pursuit, constantly looking for new and creative ways to market yourself to the world. Continue to use social media to grow your online platform. Keep up with book events and vendor opportunities, keep an inventory of books on you at all times, and be ready to pitch your elevator speech and sell at any moment. Create a website, ask for reviews at every opportunity, reach out to local media outlets, and so much more. Be creative. Be aggressive. Be relentless. Don't stop. Get it, get it!