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. They rush way too fast into publishing.
For a new Indie author, it is all too easy to upload your book. Then within twenty-four hours, have your new digital book available for sale on ebook retailers.
But without creating the necessary marketing and promotional tools beforehand, it then becomes a never-ending game of catch up.
Rushing to publish
What should have been an exciting book launch, ends up being a total flop.
It is because very few people apart from the author and friends and family knew about the new release.
Uploading a Word file and a cover image to Kindle Direct Publishing for ebook and print on demand is extremely easy.
But you need to do the necessary work before hitting the publish button.
If not, it is like throwing a bottle into the ocean. And hoping that someone will find the note inside and then obey and buy a copy of your book.
The far better way to successfully self-publish your book is to get the basics in place first. Well before you start on the publishing process.
How to self-publish a book in seven clear steps
Here is a seven-point checklist to help first-time authors of nonfiction and fiction books avoid making classic mistakes.
These are extremely difficult to correct after you’ve written and published your new book.
1. Make sure your manuscript is perfect.
All too often, inexperienced authors believe that close enough is good enough.
Some think that a quick read and a run through the Microsoft Word spell checker is the end of the process. Far from it, and it is the most common cause of a book failing to sell.
Getting a manuscript ready for publishing takes much more work. It is because errors, typos and especially inconsistencies are rarely spotted by the author.
However, 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 with your manuscript.
Manuscript preparation is a slow step by step process.
The most economical option for authors is Prowritingaid. It is an ideal writing tool for checking long documents and manuscripts. With Prowritingaid you can use more than 20 different reports to analyse your writing. It is one of my indispensable writing tools.
Another option is Grammarly. It is more suited to online writing. But it will do a very good job of finding a lot of your writing errors.
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. This will avoid the mistake of rushing to publish a book that is full of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and typos.
The next step is to format your book ready for publishing in ebook or paperback.
A poor manuscript is a certain recipe for terrible reviews and very few sales as a result. Take the time to get it right before you take another step.
Time to allow: 3 months
2. Do not (read here 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 cover yourself, unless you are an expert in Photoshop and graphic design. Get a book designer.
A poor low-resolution homemade book cover will be an instant sales turn off. This is especially so for print books.
You have to think about the fonts and colours for your book cover. Do they match with the genre of your story?
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.
Your cover will be the first thing that potential buyers will see. So you need to make it instantly attractive to readers of your book genre.
Time to allow: 1 month
3. Get your website ready, BEFORE you publish
Never race to update, or worse, build a new website after you publish. It is going to waste a lot of your promotional traction.
It is vital that you have your website up and running well before you publish. Then you can use it to promote your forthcoming release.
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. Write new articles or a blog post about the new book release well in advance. Build some pre-sales hype.
Planning to offer your new title on pre-order is always a very, very good idea. Use your blog and website as promotion tools to help in getting some pre-orders.
If you can get some pre-order sales, they will really help in giving your launch day a huge boost. It will result in a much better first-day sales ranking.
A good sales ranking sells books, so don’t miss this opportunity to have it ranking well from day one.
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 your username, or create new accounts.
Check all your profile descriptions and re-write them to note that you are an author who writes books.
Social media now plays a huge part in any promotion. Make sure your accounts are fine-tuned and ready to inform the world about you and your new title. Do this well before you publish.
Time to allow: 2 months
5. Get your launch plan ready
How will you market your title? Do you have a launch plan? How will you promote it in the longer term? Is your new book priced competitively?
You need to consider every possible way you can promote, before launch, at launch and after launch.
Make a list of what you plan to do. Then when you plan to do it, and how you plan to do it.
Make plans for your website, new blog articles, social media posts and local newspapers. Always ask friends and family if they will help your promotion 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.
There are always some costs to self-publish. If your budget allows, look at book promotion services such as Whizbuzz Books that can give your book a promotional boost.
Time to allow: 2 months
6. Write your description.
All 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 it 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 story.
A great description excites, builds expectation and tells a reader why they should buy your book.
If you are struggling for ideas, think about using questions in your book description to attract reader interest.
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 publish on any publishing service, you will need to select at least two categories (genres). You will also need to choose a minimum of seven search keywords. You need to select these for both your ebook and print versions.
Many new authors don’t know anything about categories and keywords. They 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 two categories and add seven keywords without any thought whatsoever.
This is an absolutely fatal mistake.
More book sales by far are generated from categories and keywords than from any other form of book promotion. You need to get these selections absolutely right for your book.
It takes time to investigate which two main categories will help promote your book. It will take you even more time to research and find your seven keywords or keyword phrases. These will help readers find your book by using Amazon Search.
A vast majority of book sales result from book buyers searching Amazon, Apple, B&N and other online retailers. So making your book discoverable by categories and keywords is vital to your chances of success.
It is important to understand that your book will be listed alongside books by major 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.
Publisher Rocket gives you access to real-time Amazon data. 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 and some costs involved in publishing a self-published book or ebook. Self-publishing is no different from any other part of the publishing industry. Poor books rarely sell well.
Many new authors get things wrong by rushing too fast. 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 at least proof copies so you can check the quality.
Rushing to publish without having everything as perfect as you can beforehand usually 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 every stage as best you possibly can.
If you have a manuscript ready and you are planning on self-publishing a new book, stop for a moment. Go over the checklist above before you do.
If you can’t tick every box, take the time to get everything right, which could take you up to three months.
But, these three months could really 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.
Bestselling books are never created and published in a few minutes.
Your Self-Publishing Cheat Sheet
I started my working life as a lithographer and then spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of the Alps.
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