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 publishing.
For a new Indie author, it is all too easy to upload your book and within twenty-four hours, have your new digital book available for sale on ebook retailers.
When you take this route, 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. It is because very few people apart from the author and friends and family knew about the new release.
The process of uploading a Word file and a cover image to Kindle Direct Publishing for ebook and print on demand is extremely easy.
But without doing the necessary work before hitting the publish button, 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.
Here is a seven-point checklist to help first-time authors of nonfiction and fiction books avoid making the classic mistakes that are extremely difficult to correct after you’ve written and published your new book.
- How to self-publish a book in seven clear steps
- 1. Make sure your manuscript is perfect.
- 2. Do not (read here never, ever) create your own book cover
- 3. Get your website ready, BEFORE you publish
- 4. Align your social media accounts
- 5. Get your launch plan ready
- 6. Write your description.
- 7. Research your Amazon categories and keywords
- Your Self-Publishing Cheat Sheet
How to self-publish a book in seven clear 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, and it is the most common cause of a book failing to sell.
Getting a manuscript ready for publishing takes much more work, 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 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 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.
Even if your book is brilliant, a poor low-resolution homemade book cover will be an instant sales turn off and especially so for print books.
You need to think about clarity, fonts and colours for your book cover that will fit 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
Racing to update, or worse, building a new website when or after you publish is going to waste a lot of you promotional traction.
It is vital that you have your website up and running well before you publish so it can be used 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, and write new articles or a blog post about the new book release well in advance. Build some pre-sales hype.
If you plan to offer your new title on pre-order, which is always a very, very good idea, your blog and website will help in getting some pre-orders.
If you can get a good number of pre-order sales, they will really help in giving your launch day a huge boost, and 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, so make sure your accounts are fine-tuned and ready to inform the world about you and your new title, 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, 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 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) and a minimum of seven keywords for both your ebook and print versions.
Many new authors don’t know anything 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 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, and even more, research is needed to find seven keywords or keyword phrases that 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 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
More reading: How Much Does It Cost To Self-Publish A Book?
There are many elements involved in getting ready to release a self-published book or ebook. Self-publishing is no different from any other part of the publishing industry. Poor books rarely sell well.
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 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.
More reading: How To Find Great Book Titles For Your New Book