Before you self-publish a book, make sure you are ready
Too often, new authors get carried away with all the excitement of becoming a published author and rush way too fast into self-publishing.
When this is done, without working on building the necessary marketing and promotional tools beforehand, it is then a never-ending game of catch up.
What should have been an exciting book launch, ends up being a total flop, because few people apart from the author knew about the new release.
The process of uploading a Word file and a cover image to Kindle Direct Publishing for ebook and print is extremely easy.
But without the necessary work before hitting the publish button, it is like throwing a bottle into the ocean and hoping someone will find the note inside.
The far better way to successfully self-publish is to get the basics in place first, well before the publishing process.
Here is a seven-point checklist to help first-time authors avoid making the classic mistakes that are extremely difficult to correct after self-publishing a new book.
- How to self-publish a book in seven steps
- 1. Make sure your manuscript is perfect.
- 2. Do not (never, ever) create your own book cover
- 3. Get your website ready, BEFORE you publish
- 4. Align your social media accounts for your new book
- 5. Get your book launch plan ready
- 6. Write your book description.
- 7. Research your Amazon categories and keywords
- Your Self-Publishing Cheat Sheet
How to self-publish a book in seven steps
1. Make sure your manuscript is perfect.
All too often, inexperienced authors believe that close enough is good enough.
After a couple of quick reads and a run through the Microsoft Word spell checker, many think that is the end of the process. Far from it.
Getting a manuscript ready for publishing takes much more work, because errors, typos and especially inconsistencies are rarely spotted by the author.
It is a given that the cost of a book editor and professional proofreading is often beyond the budget of a new author. But that doesn’t mean that it is a reason to be careless.
Manuscript preparation is a step by step process.
The best way to start preparing a text is to use a premium online grammar checker such as Grammarly. It will help you find a lot of errors and suggest improvements to your document. It is one of my indispensable writing tools.
Another economical option for authors is Prowritingaid, which is an ideal writing tool for checking long documents and manuscripts.
Then your manuscript needs to be read, and indeed, carefully proofread by a bare minimum of three people apart from the author. Read here; more is very much better.
Ask friends, relatives, social media contacts or even reach out to proofreaders who offer their services online. Many of these are quite affordable.
From the feedback and noted corrections, you can gradually get your manuscript close to an acceptable standard for publishing and avoid the embarrassment of rushing to self-publish a book that is full of errors and typos.
A poor manuscript is a certain recipe for terrible reviews and very few sales as a result.
Time to allow: 3 months
2. Do not (never, ever) create your own book cover
Any article I read about self-publishing mentions getting a quality book cover designer on the job.
Don’t even think about designing your book cover yourself, unless you are an expert in Photoshop and graphic design. Get a book designer.
Even if your book is brilliant, a poor low-resolution book cover will be an instant sales turn off and especially for print books.
If you spend money on nothing else, spend wisely and pay for a professionally designed book cover, and especially doubly so for a print on demand (POD) paperback.
Time to allow: 1 month
3. Get your website ready, BEFORE you publish
Racing to update, or worse, building a new website when or after you publish a new book is going to waste a lot of promotional traction.
It is vital to have your website up and running well before publishing so it can be used to promote the forthcoming release of your book.
In particular, is your website responsive, and able to be viewed correctly on phones and tablets?
The same applies to a blog. Even though it may be years old, get your blog updated and refreshed, and post new articles about the new book release well in advance. Build some pre-sales hype!
If you plan to offer your new book title on pre-order, which is always a very, very good idea, your blog and website will help in gaining pre-orders.
If you can gain a good number of pre-order sales, they will really help in giving your book launch day a huge boost, and result in a much better first-day book sales ranking.
A good sales ranking sells books, so don’t miss this opportunity.
Time to allow: 3 months
You are going to be an author, so make sure your social media accounts reflect your new status. This might mean starting new accounts, or at the very least modifying your existing accounts.
Check your usernames and decide if they reflect what you do. If not, change them, or create new accounts.
Check all your profile descriptions and re-write them to note that you write books.
Social media now plays a huge part in promoting books, so make sure your accounts are fine-tuned and ready to inform the world about your new book, well before it is released.
Time to allow: 2 months
5. Get your book launch plan ready
How will you market your book? Do you have a book launch plan?
You need to consider every possible way you can promote your book, before launch, at launch and after launch.
Make a list of what you plan to do, when you plan to do it, and how you plan to do it.
Make plans for your website, new blog articles, social media posts, local newspapers and always ask friends and family if they will help you promote your book on their social media accounts.
At the very least, ask them to Like your Facebook Page, share your posts and retweet your tweets.
Use every single resource you have, and also investigate what you can do to spread the word even further. If your budget allows, look at book promotion services that can give your book a promotional boost.
Time to allow: 2 months
6. Write your book description.
Authors hate this task. So don’t think you can do it at the last minute.
A good book description will take hours, days or even weeks to get right. Ideally, it should be around 600 words, and be written with the aim of hooking a potential book buyer.
Don’t simply summarize your book.
A great book description excites, builds expectation and tells a reader why they should buy your book.
Your book description is second only to your fantastic book cover in attracting book buyers, so make sure it’s a winner.
Time to allow: 1 month
7. Research your Amazon categories and keywords
When you self-publish on any publishing service, you will need at least two categories (genres) and a minimum of seven keywords for both ebook and print versions.
Many new authors don’t know a thing about categories and keywords and don’t give this a thought until they are in the actual process of publishing.
At that stage, it is far, far too late. Most will click categories and add keywords without any thought whatsoever.
This is absolutely fatal.
It takes time to investigate which two main categories will help promote your book, and even more, research is needed to find seven keywords or keyword phrases that will help readers find your book by Search.
A vast majority of book sales result from book buyers searching Amazon, Apple, B&N and other book retailers, so making your book discoverable by categories and keywords is vital to your chances of success.
It is important to remember that your book will be listed alongside books by major publishing houses and publishing companies, on Amazon especially.
But readers don’t differentiate, so make sure your chances of book discovery are just as good by using well-researched categories and keywords.
Take the time to research your categories and keywords well in advance of publishing.
You can save time and get much better results if you use dedicated software for this task.
KDP Rocket is one that gives you access to real-time Amazon data, so it can help you find high performing Amazon keywords and book categories. You can also check sales of competitive titles.
Time to allow: 1 month
There are many elements involved in getting ready to release a self-published book or ebook.
Where many new authors so often go wrong is in not understanding that the act of pushing the publish button is at the very end of the process, and not at the beginning.
If you are publishing a paperback, make sure you get printed copies, or proof copies so you can check the quality.
Rushing to self-publish without having everything as perfect as you can beforehand so often results in disappointment.
It’s a fact that very few new books sell well, even for a traditional publisher, so to have a chance, you need to prepare, plan ahead and execute as best you possibly can.
If you have a manuscript ready and are planning on self-publishing a new book, stop for a moment, and go over the checklist above before you do.
If you can’t tick every box, take the time to get them right, which could take you up to three months.
But, these three months could well make the difference between the success or failure of your new book.
Slow down, don’t get carried away with the excitement, and get things right, first before you self-publish.
More reading: How To Find Great Book Titles For Your New Book