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A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing in 2021

By 23/11/2021November 25th, 2021Featured, guest post
Do you have questions related to Self-Publishing for Denise? As a writer, what has your publication journey been like? As a reader, what has been your experience of self-published and trad-published books?

Self-publishing has fascinated me for years, and I’m fortunate to call many self-published authors my friends. Today is it is my pleasure to welcome my long-time writing friend Denise Covey to Daily (w)rite, as part of my guest post series, to give us an introduction to self-publishing, and a few solid bits of writing advice for someone who has recently started on this journey.

Take it away Denise!

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SELF PUBLISHING – how fortunate authors are to be writing in the 21st century!

If you’re in the early stages of Self-publishing or diving in for the first time, read on. I’m travelling with you, and am happy to talk with you about my journey thus far.

Nowadays, books from self-publishing offer an excellent alternative to those traditionally published, because a self-published author is part of an ever-expanding tribe who offer services, some free, some paid to make your book sing. You have beta readers, critique partners, developmental editors, structural editors, line editors and so on; cover artists extraordinaire, blurbs/synopses help, book formatters. You are not alone!

From my perspective, there are 3 major steps to self-publishing:

1 – WRITE

2 – PUBLISH

3 – PROMOTE

All 3 stages of self-publishing are closely interlinked and carried out in order.

1 – FIRST STAGE OF THE SELF-PUBLISHING JOURNEY: WRITE

We write for different reasons – enjoyment, to tell a story, or hoping to change the world. With self-publishing, your writing is a business where you, the author, is in control.

Write the book that will have your fans hounding you for more. After a few stumbles, many successful self-published authors follow the edict: ‘Write to Market’. To quote Chris Fox, who has written a book on the topic – “Many authors write, then market. Successful authors write TO market.” Following this advice, I discovered that vampires didn’t die with ‘Twilight’. This gave me confidence to publish my historical (Renaissance) paranormal romance vampire series I began as a flash fiction serial in 2015! I now have 4 books in the series which I’ll ‘rapid release’ to use self-publishing jargon. The first in my vampire series, Betrayed, is now available to buy on Amazon.

What is ‘rapid release’?

Basically, it means storing your completed books, then releasing them in quick succession, every month or three.

A word about series. Readers love them. Use, reuse and expand that world you worked so hard to create and your readers will keep coming back for more. Get the whole series written, no matter how long it takes, then kapow, ‘rapid release’.

You may find the idea of writing to market anathema, an insult to your writer’s integrity, but no, Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald were two famous authors who wrote to market to finance their real love, their novels.

How do you go about checking the market? Search Amazon best-seller lists, determine what’s hot and what’s not. (Check out covers and blurbs at the same time – these are your first foot in the reader’s door). If you write historical fiction, consider changing your setting to Regency England which is a hot seller. The market changes quickly, so stay tuned.

If you need more help, you can subscribe to K-lytics, a market intelligence service which provides unique insight into the most profitable markets based on an ever-increasing wealth of data. Regular emails keep you up to date and excited for your genre!

To sum up – write quality books with great covers and blurbs in genres that sell. (A word: if sales are slow, keep looking at your cover and blurb. Read blurbs by successful authors in your genre – step yours up!)

For fledgling writers, there are many ways to hone your craft, the best of which is to write! I founded an online writing community over ten years ago called WriteEditPublish, where writers at various stages of their journey write to bi-monthly prompts. It’s been hugely successful with many going on to publish novels or short stories based on their original response to prompts. In June this year I began my self-publishing career by publishing a series of short fiction based on a selection of stories I’ve expanded over the years from my WEP stories. Check out the first in my FAST and FURIOUS SHORT FICTION series.

Do you have questions related to Self-Publishing for Denise? As a writer, what has your publication journey been like? As a reader, what has been your experience of self-published and trad-published books?

2 – SECOND STAGE OF THE SELF-PUBLISHING JOURNEY: PUBLISH

Before you hit Publish, you must:

  • Write a great book, rewrite as many times as it takes, then get it professionally edited!
  • Pay for a fabulous on-trend cover (or make your own with Canva or such like if you have artistic, graphical talent). Generally, you need 2 covers – one for eBook and one for print – for print you need the number of pages, front and back cover, plus spine.
  • write and refine your blurb which is your Book Description on your eBook or is on your back cover of your print book.
  • Set up your Author Central account on Amazon in all countries where your books are selling.
  • Choose 2 CATEGORIES on Amazon that fit your book. You can add more later.
  • Choose KEYWORDS – not just 7; fill up every line of the 7 spaces Amazon gives you with keywords/phrases. Publisher Rocket helps you add heaps more, and shows you how to do Amazon Ads. (Change your mindset to that of a customer. What would they search for?)
  • Consider the price of your book – $2.99 – $9.99 make the highest royalties. To make a profit from Amazon Ads, your book needs to be at least $2.99.
  • Think about releasing a BOXSET – 3 books or more in your series.
  • There are AUDIOBOOKS, HARDCOVERS, LARGE PRINT. Eventually, in this long game, you may publish all of these.

Where you publish is again a personal choice. There is:

KU = Amazon (sales) + Kindle Unlimited (free for borrowers – authors paid per page read) = KDP Select

WIDE = Amazon (sales) + (Nook, Kobo, Google Play, Apple et al)

I don’t want this section to sound like an advertisement for Amazon. I’m aware many have a problem with Bezos, but he’s offered the easiest way to get a start in a very complicated business. And it doesn’t hurt that Amazon possibly sells more books than any other platform.

New authors have so many choices, but I launched exclusively with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I will go ‘wide’ later when I get my head around this self-publishing game. We are in a LONG game – i.e., we CREATE once and sell forever. Many authors make 50/50 with sales and KU reads. If you publish with Amazon and use their free tools, they not unreasonably expect you to give them 90 days before you go ‘wide’.

After you decide if you’re exclusive to Amazon or ‘Wide’, you need to decide how to publish. DIY? Following the step-by-step guides on Amazon?

If you’re going ‘wide’, you can use a company like Draft2Digital (free formatting for eBooks which you can upload to Amazon or publish wide, but they collect royalties if you choose to publish/distribute through them) or Ingram Spark (not free, but free vouchers are available if you belong to some Facebook groups). Both will distribute your books worldwide and place your print books in bookshops and libraries.

I formatted my own eBooks, but when I published my recent women’s fiction, ‘Paris Dreams’, I hired a formatter for eBook and print on both Amazon and Ingram Spark. ‘Paris Dreams’ is available here on Amazon.

A word here. Print books can be published ‘wide’ even if they’re available on Amazon’s POD (Print On Demand) platform. Hot News! Dave Chesson, aka, the Kindlepreneur, is working on a program called Atticus which is going head-to-head with Vellum (only available on Mac). Those Mac-less amongst us will format our own books much more painlessly.

3 – THIRD STAGE OF THE SELF-PUBLISHING JOURNEY: PROMOTE

With millions of books available on Amazon alone, you cannot afford to write a great book, navigate the publishing world, then fail to promote. It takes time to find your tribe. Unless you have a stroke of luck, don’t expect instant success when you first launch. It takes time to find traction. The good news is if you invest money in advertising and earn more than that money back, you’re ahead in this game. To simplify, write books that readers love, advertise them, and be patient.

AUTHOR PLATFORM

Even before you begin writing, start sharing your brand on social media. I’ve had a blog for years, talking writing and books and publishing flash fiction since 2007. I have Twitter,Pinterest,Instagram, Goodreads and an author page on Facebook for myself and my pen name (Silver Tree) strictly for my writing business.

But you need more than blogs or social media to promote your books.

AMAZON PROMOTIONS

Amazon is a helpful place to start with its ‘free’ days, or ‘reduced price’ days which they help market for you. And publish often; keep your name in front of readers.

NEWSLETTER

Another important advertising vehicle is a newsletter, most people agree.

I use MailerLite to gather email addresses from my blog. What’s worked best for me, though, is signing up to Bookfunnel (it’s not free, but worth the bucks!) To grow your newsletter list, you need a ‘reader magnet’ where you lure subscribers with a gold-standard example of your writing – a novella, maybe with backstory from one of your books, a short story related to your books, written expressly for your readers – ‘Hey, subscribe to my newsletter and look what I have for you’ kind of thing. Bookfunnel also has sales promos or KU promos where you sell books or offer a title free for a few days. All good to gather new readers.

Some sites of similar ilk to Bookfunnel – Story Origin, Reedsy Discovery, Fussy Librarian, Booksprout etc.

But if you’re not afraid of hard work, the 2 biggies are – Amazon and Facebook.

AMAZON and FACEBOOK ADS

Both are complicated. There are excellent books available to help you, but Amazon Ads, especially, demand a mind like a computer to track your data. That’s a good description of my husband’s brain, so I’ve handed over data analysis to him. One of the best books I use here is Mastering Amazon Ads, by Brian Meeks. (Buy the digital version as it’s often updated!)

Facebook ads? I haven’t started them yet, but this is the book I’m studying, Help! My Facebook Ads Suck by Mal and Jill Cooper.

We’re all in this together!

I know you can do it! Before I leave you, here are some useful links. Go explore!

OTHER ADVERTISING VENUESone off rather expensive book ads (follow the links below for whole lists)

Bookbub (BB) – Arguably the BEST, but pricey and exclusive! Costs from $300 – $600+ depending on genre – Romance is always the most expensive

Freebooksy – Around $100

Robin Reads – Varies by genre. For example, Free Clean Romance $75; Fantasy/SF $65

Book Barbarian – Around $50 for popular genres. Free Book of the Day $40 – $55

ENT – Around $45 – $50.

Fussy Librarian – Approx. $30 – $40

My Book Cave – Most genres $34.

Many Books – Newsletter Promo $29

FACEBOOK GROUPS FOR SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS

20Booksto50K– the biggest and best!

Ask a Book Editor

KDP Authors Help

Book Cover Gallery, a Place for Authors and Artists

Mastering Amazon Descriptions

Professional Beta Readers– you pay, but much less than the cost of an editor

Beta Readers and Critiques

Free Author Book Promotion

Ingram Spark Author Community

Wide for the Win– listen to ‘wide’ authors’ experiences

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Do you have questions related to Self-Publishing for Denise? As a writer, what has your publication journey been like? As a reader, what has been your experience of self-published and trad-published books?

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My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

If you’re on Amazon, I’d appreciate it if you gave my Amazon author profile a Follow, here.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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40 Comments

  • Nilanjana Bose says:

    That is some seriously nifty and comprehensive advice, Denise – thank you.
    And congrats Damyanti on the TV series – how exciting!

  • A solid post with loads of great advice.
    Thank you, Denise!

  • Great advice, Denise. I hadn’t heard about author central, so I’ll go check that out. Making a copy of this so I can review as needed. also, 20Books to 50 has closed their Fb page to new people. I’ve only been a member for a few months, but I’ve learned so much.
    Nancy

    • Denise Covey says:

      I think 20books is just so bit now that I’m not surprised. But they do have sub groups – like 20booksfantasy etc which are open to newbies as far as I know. And yes, you must have an Author Central account and get people to follow you. Then Amazon will let your followers know when you put a new book out.

  • J.Q. Rose says:

    Thank you for hosting Damyanti. And Denise, thank you for sharing so much info. It’s great to have it all in one place to be able to study and absorb. Best wishes on your self-publishing career!!

    • Denise Covey says:

      I’m glad you found it informative, J.Q. It is handy having the info collated, although there’s so much more I could have said.

  • spunkonastick says:

    For keywords/phrases, I highly recommend Publisher Rocket. Elizabeth S. Craig told me about it and it will show you what are the best words to use. And sites outside of Amazon give you up to three categories.

  • rod says:

    Am I right in thinking that Ingram Sparks is now owned by Amazon? If so, book stores in our neck of woods would not be keen to take paperback editions.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – Denise has a wealth of knowledge … and I’m so pleased she’s self-published her book … there’s so much information out there – these thorough notes will help aspiring self-publishers get going. Congratulations to you both for your publishing paths … Hilary

    • hilarymb says:

      I should have mentioned WEP – which once I’d tried a few entries – I enjoyed being part of Denise and her wonderful admin team’s bi-monthly prompts. I’ve particularly liked the artistic ones this year … thanks Denise – another WEP ‘Narcissus’ prompt starts on 1st – 15th December … everyone could give it a go. I don’t write books – but who knows what the future holds.

      Good luck to everyone and all the best to authors all. Cheers Hilary

    • Denise Covey says:

      Thanks so much Hilary. Glad you found it helpful.

  • soniadogra says:

    Thank you Damyanti and Denise for putting this together. I already have Denise’s ‘Paris Dreams’ up for my Dec reading. I was trying to click on some of the fb groups in the list Id like to join but couldn’t. Maybe Ill try again. This was so well covered Denise.

    • Denise Covey says:

      I’m sorry to hear that for whatever reason you can’t get the FB links to work. I hope it rectifies. Go into FB and do a search and you should get them. And many thanks for buying my Paris Dreams. Please let me know what you think.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I re-posted the FB links, Sonia–check if they work for you now.

  • Useful information for those who want to celebrate their works through publishing on the web.

  • Jemi Fraser says:

    Great layout! I’ve chosen to self-pub from the beginning and I’m having a blast. I prefer wide to KU. I like having multiple streams of income & I like having my books available in libraries for those who prefer to read that way.

    • Denise Covey says:

      Hey Jemi, I hope you’ll help with ‘wide’ questions. I need to pick your brains on this sometime. I’m glad you’re happy launching that way.

  • Thank you both for this fascinating and informative post. And hooray for WEP.

  • Some of that applies to traditionally published authors as well. Shame I’m too slow of a writer to do rapid releases with my series..

    • Denise Covey says:

      You’re right, Alex, some of it definitely applies to however you choose to publish. I’m still working on being a faster writer.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Alex, my sentiments, exactly. I wish I could write and edit faster.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    This is all solid information. Thanks, Damyanti.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      All of it is the wonderful and generous, Denise, Lee. Thanks for stopping by.

  • So much great information. Thanks for sharing all of it. I’m a self-pub author, happy to be, and learned a lot I didn’t know!

  • vishalbheeroo says:

    This is a very well explained at length to authors on self publishing and something I wish to do in this digital age. It’s very well explained on the various softwares, price and how to make it work. What are the risks to digital publishing in today’s times and how smooth it is for a newbie?

    • Denise Covey says:

      It is definitely not an easy process and can be expensive but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Patience wins over panicking to achieve everything at once.

      • rod says:

        Excellent advice here, though I am incapable of writing a series. Am I write in thinking that Ingram Sparks is now owned by Amazon? If so, some bookshops will not be keen to stock paperbacks from this source.

        • Denise Covey says:

          Rod I picked up your comment, but looks like you reposted it above. I don’t think any store would refuse to order through IS. Amazon doesn’t distribute to stores.

      • rod says:

        So I enetered my comment (positive), which promptly disappeared.

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