So you want to be a self-published author! 10 Tips to Get Started
As an indie author or independent author, you have now entered the realm of great power and great responsibility.
Experienced indie authors may just want to browse through this list to see where they can strengthen their skill set or where they need more help. If you’re just starting your journey as a self-published author, I recommend you read the entire list.
As an indie author of nine titles, a mix of fiction and nonfiction, and as one who has shepherded more than thirty other books to publication, I’ve been around the block a few times. And the block keeps changing. That’s one of the things that make this journey so exciting.
So here goes! And be prepared to be flexible, creative, and bold.
#1: Write a good book
Some would say even a great book. But quality is so subjective and depends on your readership. In some cases, good books are all that’s required to serve your audience. In other cases, you do need to write a great book. Know the difference and get help. That means, either hire an editor, have excellent, kind and discerning critique partners, or get beta readers. Or do all three. In our household of two working writers, we do all three.
#2: Educate yourself on how self-publishing works
There are great free step-by-step guides on the Internet. Read a few or a bunch. Get to know how this game works because it is always changing. You can publish a PDF on your site and be self-published. You can also upload your novel to every online retailer out there, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes, and yes, you will be published. Learn who can distribute your e-book for you: Smashwords and Draft2Digital, currently, and learn the pluses and minuses of each for your situation. And learn what your print on demand options are: CreateSpace and LightningSource.com, to name the two big players.
#3: Know your audience and their expectations
If you write nonfiction for your business, your needs are very different than someone who writes memoir. Novelists each have different kinds of audiences. It’s important to know your audience expectations so you can think through the next tips.
#4. Have a great title
Use keyword research on the search engines and on Amazon to find the best title for your book. You want the title to fit your genre and not be overused.
#5: Design a great cover
In my opinion, this does have to be great. A reader won’t care if you’re an indie author. All they want is a great read. Your cover signals that. So have a cover designed that reflects your audience’s expectations. Study other books in your genre so that you see what the trends are and what works for you and what doesn’t. Hire a cover designer if you can’t design your own. Set your budget and know that you can spend anything from $100 to $4000. Designers can be found on sites like elance.com, 99designs.com, or as close as your local art school or writing community.
#6: Join a writer community
If you have your eye on publishing, join a group that has authors already published. It’s great to always have people in the group who know more than you and have more experience, especially if you’re an experienced indie author. We’re always learning in this business, both our craft and the nuts and bolts of getting published. The most successful authors I know are always experimenting. When I hear what they’re doing, it challenges me to try knew things, too. Also, it’s a fallacy to think that just because you don’t have a publisher, you’re all on your own. All the successful authors I know have built a team around them to handle the things they can’t or don’t want to. In your writer community, you can find critique partners, cover designers, layout experts, e-book conversion experts, marketing geniuses, and cheer leaders. We indie authors need all of these. Your community is a great place to start as to where to find the resources your need and what may be your next step.
#7: Start your book marketing planning and execute on it as soon as you can
Book marketing is often the biggest hurdle for self-published authors. You’ve spent all this time writing. Now you need to switch gears and face the world and tell them about your book. Start as soon as you start writing, if you can. Share with your current supporters, friends, fans, and social media sphere that you’re writing a book, and share tidbits if you’re comfortable with that, or images of your writing desk if you’re not. Drop hints throughout the process, so that people can get excited for you. This is also a great time to start testing out your content. Some writers even use blogging as an avenue to write the content for their book. I’ve seen this both for nonfiction and fiction writers.
#8: Start a list of fans and supporters
A list is golden. At the beginning, use a spreadsheet or your email contact database. As soon as you can, use an email service like ConstantContact.com or Mailchimp.com or Getresponse.com. I use the later. I only share news when I have a new book published or a special sale. No need to write often. Readers just want to know where to get your book. Use your blog or social media for more frequent communication, if that’s what you want. Our main goal as authors is to build a loyal fan base who will buy our books and spread the news for us. That is the way to build a successful career. If you’re just planning on publishing only one book, you’ll still need to compile a list of everyone you can tell about your book.
#9: Get an online home
Whether it’s a blog or static site, or even a Facebook Fan page, have a place where readers and fans can find you and follow what you’re doing. You can be as open or as closed as you want to interaction, but at least have a way for people to follow you and your journey. When the time comes, you’ll want to tell them about your new book for sale, and they’ll want to buy it and spread the news.
#10: Write Your Next book and keep promoting your previous ones
If you’re looking to build a career as a writer, keep writing. Careers build over time with many books. In our research, we’ve found that most writers start to get successful around their third book in a series or their fifth book, if they’re writing books that aren’t connected. If you’re writing just one book, then rest on your laurels and celebrate that you have published a book.
Your list of tips may differ. I may not have included everything. Share your tips in the comments. Together we can be successful independent authors and achieve our dream of reaching our audience and delivering to them the wonderful thing they’re searching for.
Never before in history have artists been able to so easily deliver their art directly to their audience. Us authors are no exception. It’s so gratifying to see our royalties roll in every month from all our vendors. I’m spurred on by every sale and every smile of a happy reader. I enjoy the journey, really an adventure, as much as the destination. I wish you the same and much success in your self-publishing adventure.
c. 2014 Beth Barany
** A version of this article first appeared on BookPromotionForum.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Oakland, California, Beth Barany is an award-winning novelist, creativity coach for writers, and book production shepherd. With her coaching, consulting, and teaching programs, she helps novelists write, publish and market their books. Along with her husband, bestselling novelist, Ezra Barany, they help authors of all kinds produce their books and get them published on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble in e-book and print format. She offers a complimentary consultation to authors curious about getting support from her. Be sure to sign up for that because appointments fill up fast. More about Beth and her products and services at http://www.BethBarany.com. In her free time, Beth enjoys practicing capoeira, traveling, playing with her cats, and watching movies with her husband.