So you want to self-publish your book. That’s awesome! These days, with the advent of platforms like Amazon KDP, Payhip, Smashwords and a ton of other services that make publishing more accessible for independent authors, it has never been easier to get your work in a reader’s hands (or their devices).
However, as with most things that have become easier for people to do, that doesn’t mean self-publishing is easy, straightforward, and doesn’t require a lot of effort and hard work.
In this post, I will be sharing aspects of self-publishing that every aspiring independent author should know about before they embark on their self-publishing journey. whilst that doesn’t cover everything, these are the 10 most important elements of self-publishing I wish I had known about before biting the bullet myself.
1. Editing your own book is a bad idea
Do not do this. Editing is not a simple process. It requires a meticulousness of the eye that most of us don’t possess and I’m telling you this AS AN EDITOR. Even the most professionally made books in the world can sometimes have a typo in them (or their first edition, at least) so please don’t underestimate the weight of this task. You need a professional to not only correct your superficial mistakes but also elevate your work. Your friend who did an English degree and will look at your manuscript in her free time is not a substitute. Nothing will turn off a reader faster than typos and misused grammar. You might think, “Oh, well we’ve already bought the book so who cares?” Your next reader cares. If an unhappy reader broadcasts your errors in a review, everyone who sees that will be put off. Hire an editor, for the love of God.
2. People do judge a book by its cover
Sorry to break it to you but whether it’s self-publishing or traditional publishing, book covers matter. They are a way to telegraph the contents of a book, the books target audience and the books’ genre. A book cover can be the difference between a sale and rejection. It is very easy to create your own book cover using tools like Canva. However, I recommend going with a professional book cover artist. And let me be very particular here — just because someone is a good graphic designer doesn’t mean they know anything about book covers.
3. A book doesn’t have to be well written to sell well
Sadly, the low quality of books continues to be a stain on self-publishing. (And I’m not even counting the poorly edited ones). These books are still able to make a tonne of money and that’s because self-publishing is less about merit than it is about marketing. If you’re a fantastic writer, do not think that the superior quality of your book is a guarantee for success. Mark my words, the next Harry Potter has probably been lost to low sales on Amazon.
4. An unpromoted book will not sell
It doesn’t matter how fantastic a yarn you have spun, if people don’t know that it exists no one is going to buy it. This might sound like straightforward information but many new self-publishers fall into the fantasy that if even one person reads their brilliant book then word-of-mouth will take over and people will flock to it. This is not going to happen. As I said, self-publishing is all about marketing.
5. Self publishing is a process not an event
Self-publishing is more about creating an avenue for you to earn with your books but it’s not something that centres on one book alone or one “season” of selling it. The truth is, most published authors really start “making it” after the third book and beyond. Having one book in your catalogue is probably not going to rake in a lot. But a series of books? That’s your likelihood to consistently earn. If you’re thinking about self-publishing for the first time, you should also think about what comes beyond your first book and how to build from it.
6. Reviews matter A LOT
I can’t trust the person selling their book when they say it’s fantastic but I can trust a reader because, in an ideal situation, they have nothing to gain from saying so. This is why book reviews are so important. They help convince potential readers they’ll enjoy the book so they should buy it.
7. Writing the book is less than half the job done.
Writer and self-publisher are not synonymous. Self-publishing is entrepreneurship that requires you to put on many hats. Don’t get me wrong, writing a book is a difficult task but all the toiling over story and character and which synonym to use is nothing compared to self publishing a book. It is a deep and thorough process that involves creating, publishing, distributing, marketing and selling. Self-publishing well means dedicating the same, if not more, time and effort into getting the book into readers hands. If that sounds like too much, it’s not for you.
8. It’s never too early to start marketing
Most self publishers don’t have the luxury of a big name so they aren’t going to break the internet because they brought pen to paper or screen. Therefore, marketing is paramount to attracting an audience for their work — even if their work isn’t done. It’s important to build an author platform because it establishes or boosts your visibility as a writer and helps you build and develop connections with people who can help you by purchasing or promoting your work. Not to mention, it can help you find platforms to guest post on or share samples of your work.
9. You need a mailing list
All content creators — whether rappers, artists or writers — can benefit from having a mailing list. Since email is private and requires permission, it feels so much more personal than social media where messages are cast wide with the hope of netting just a few. An email retains more attention and gives you a bigger chance of converting someone into a customer. Think about it, if someone signs up to your email then they’re already interested in what you’re about. Not only that, it allows you to personalize and target messages in a way that just isn’t possible on social media. Get one!
10. Going in blind is a waste of time
Long gone are the days when self-publishing was an avenue for pioneers. It is well worn territory. Thinking that you can just try it out and hope for the best is a waste of your time, effort and, most probably, money. Consume as many books, articles and other media to learn what to do and what not to do. Save yourself the trouble of learning everything on your own.
There we are — 10 important things to know before self publishing.
I hope this is been helpful to anyone who would like to get into self-publishing if only as a primer of the Everest that is indie authorship.