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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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 VENUES – one off rather expensive book ads (follow the links below for whole lists)
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!
Professional Beta Readers– you pay, but much less than the cost of an editor
Wide for the Win– listen to ‘wide’ authors’ experiences
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?
If you’re on Amazon, I’d appreciate it if you gave my Amazon author profile a Follow, here.