Over the last three years that my self-published books have been available on Amazon, I’ve had a steady stream of emails or Facebook messages from unpublished writers asking for publishing advice. Some want to know what the shortcut is to success. Most want to pick my brains for useful tips and tricks to get their ball rolling. All have decided to go down the self-pub route and are excited by the thought of the journey ahead.
Depending on their experience so far, I tell them the same thing:
Firstly, there is no shortcut to success. Secondly, what works well for one may not have the same result for another. And thirdly, independent authors need to grow many heads, like a Hydra, each one with a different skills set. It’s not enough to be a decent writer. You can be the author of the best book ever written, but if nobody knows about it then you’ve wasted your time writing it.
Today’s self-published authors are business-minded pioneers, entrepreneurs, able to promote, to market and to be social media publicists. If you want the world to know about your brilliant book, you need to shout about it from the rooftops, and that means selling yourself publicly. There is no room for the shy-and-retiring writer in the information age. You need to grow a thick skin fast, get a big voice and scream about your book!Quite simply, those indies who seem do the best are those who are better able to adapt and evolve to today’s changing publishing climate. It’s not enough to upload your book to an online publishing platform and then sit back, expecting it to make the New York Times Bestsellers List. You need to be proactive. You need to be:
- research your genre
- know your audience
- identify niches
- recognize your weakness and build on your strengths
- budget for advertising
- form marketing plans
- run timely promotions
- spot changing trends and act on them
- understand what your successful competitors are doing and emulate them
- track sales statistics and tweak your promotions accordingly
- see what works and what doesn’t, then change
- adjust your sales strategies to mirror changing trends
- edit your work after constructive criticism
- change marketing plans to suit changes in the marketplace
- if something doesn’t work, fix it
But none of this will be of any use unless . . .
You Write that Killer Book!
It goes without saying that your very first step towards self-publication is to write the absolute best novel you can. Don’t take short cuts. Don’t settle for second best. Don’t rush. And don’t undersell yourself. If you have a great idea for a story, go with it and don’t hold back. Use reader feedback to help shape it.
If you cannot afford a professional proofreader, enlist friends and family who are preferably readers of your chosen genre to proofread your book. Be open to creative suggestions. Listen to constructive criticism. Don’t be aloof to the points they raise. Be prepared to edit, edit edit. The best indies never hold back from tweaking their novels, and they get better and better every time.
AUTHOR TIP : Read your first draft out loud to help remove redundant words.
Choose Your Platform!
Pick the self-publishing platform that best suits your plans for world domination. Look at all the pros and cons of each online publisher. Be prepared to switch to another outlet if they don’t live up to your expectations. Don’t fall for any of the websites (or other authors) offering their winning advice in return for a fee. The internet is full of free and no-catch writing advice from hardworking indies who genuinely want to help you make the transition from unpublished writer to independent author, and without fleecing you dry in the process!
AUTHOR TIP : Befriend a successful indie author in your genre and follow their guidance.
Upload your book, select the right genre categories and create the best product description you can. Make it snappy, interesting and relevant. Take a look at what your fellow successful authors are doing in your field and take a leaf out of their book. Don’t hold back from tweaking your product description to maximize its attractiveness to readers.
AUTHOR TIP : Bullet points get key information across quickly.
Blog, Tweet and Post!
So, you’ve written a potential bestseller. Now make sure everybody knows about it! Until word-of-mouth kicks in and those great reviews start stacking up, you’re its only voice. Announce its arrival through social media accounts. Get friends and family to do the same. Join reader and author forums. Let people know your book is out there and it’s something they shouldn’t overlook.
Ask successful authors to consider taking a look at your book and to give you a marketing quote to put on your product description.
AUTHOR TIP : Don’t spend all your time tweeting. Statistically, it makes no odds to your book’s success if you have 200 twitter followers or 20, 000!
Ask readers on reader forums such as Goodreads to read a free copy of your book in exchange for an honest critique or review.
If you choose to use a publishing platform such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing make sure you take advantage of the free promotional tools. Sign up with KDP Select so that you can offer your book for Free during a set time frame, or at a reduced price in a Countdown Deal. Promotions do work. They increase your visibility and get your book in front of readers.
AUTHOR TIP : Don’t be afraid to give your book away. The more people who read it, the more they will recommend it to their friends, and then the more reviews you’ll get.
Consider paying for email-based advertisements through any number of online marketing sites such as BookBub, Booksends and Bookgorilla, to name but a few. Although these can be costly, depending on your genre or choice of feature, they can bring good returns and boost visibility in the short term.
AUTHOR TIP : Don’t invest your money in any websites promising to market your book and give it maximum exposure, unless they have a proven track record with other indies who you trust. Many writers see no significant return for their investments in these kind of ‘get rich quick’ schemes, and some of these sites charge hundreds of pounds.
Keep Doing It!
Repeat all of the above as often as you can! The more great books you write, the more reader-fans you’ll get, the more books you’ll sell, the more you’ll get noticed by those who can take your burgeoning career one step further.
AUTHOR TIP : Never give up. Believe in yourself.
Finally, now that you feel confident and motivated, take the next step to evolve from unpublished writer to independent author! You won’t regret it! 🙂