The author of this article, Laura Shabott, and I were panelists at last year’s Self-Publishing Book Expo in New York City where we discussed and answered questions about book formats and formatting. Her advice is thoughtful and her tell-it-like-it-is approach is both refreshing and informative.
We all know this is a golden age for writing and publishing. Counterpoint? The competition has never been more ferocious. With over 5,000 new book releases everyday on Amazon, today’s self-publishing author needs to be shrewd, savvy and prepared. Here are ten empowering things you need to know before entering the playing field.
1) You may write for yourself, but you publish for a defined audience.
Writing is all about you. Publishing is not. It’s about them, your future readers. Who are these people? If your quick answer is, “Well, it’s anyone who can read,” stop right there. Listen to me. You need to know who is going to read your book. Is it a professional network, your yoga students or your blog followers? Will you go to every bookstore within a hundred miles of your home and ask them to carry your book? Will you bite the bullet and plunk down 10,000 dollars for a publicist? Tough, tough question; who is my audience? Answer it and you have a book that sells.
2) Pick a book title that works with Internet algorithms.
Your title is organized by its exact words in search engines. Using the name “Confessions of an eBook Virgin” for my self-publishing guide groups it with “Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice.” If the focus of your book (yoga, diet, novel, anthology, divorce) isn’t somewhere in your title or subtitle, it will drift aimlessly in the vast oceans of digital content.
3) Editing is EVERYTHING!
People often balk at paying for a seasoned developmental book editor or writing coach, copy editor and proofreader. So WHAT if it costs a couple of grand? Anyone can get a part-time job, but no one can reverse a sloppy book launch. You, a David against the Goliath marketplace, have a shot at rising to the crème de la crème of books if it’s tight. Use pros to ready your manuscript for market. Skip this part and be relegated to the miles-high heap of self-published typo-filled slush.
4) Choose the formats that work for your readers.
My readers? Every last one wants a book in the hand; digital natives, baby boomers, artists, writers and actors all want that. Once I produced a paperback edition of “Confessions,” sales took off at speaking engagements and local stores. This is ironic, since the book is about publishing eBooks. But, hey, audience is King. Give them what they want.
5) Manage your time wisely.
I manage my 168 hours a week like a dragon guarding a priceless treasure. If I am going have to be my own writer/designer/producer/promoter and financier, the case for any self-publisher, I need to get the most out of every minute – and so do you.
6) Don’t rush the publication of your book.
“Oh, I don’t have to line up 25 to 100 post-launch online reviewers,” thinks the new author/publisher. Or, “I don’t have to have a blog tour or get a professional review service. People will find my book because I am amazing!” No, they won’t and you will cry bitter tears of anguish.
You have to have a marketing plan. The checklist in the back of my book is a good place to start.
7) Beware heat-seeking sharks in the water.
Do your research before hiring or trusting anyone. Get at least three referrals from people like you when going with a vanity press or any publisher who will have control of your edition. Protect your asset; that book you spent months or years on is your intellectual property. But don’t shy away from a collaborative publishing arrangement with a small or mid-size press, a growing option instead of going it alone.
8) People will say bad things about your book.
Amazon trolls, your neighbors, reviewers and friends will say idiotic things about your book. Unless they are in the writing business, in which case you will think that they are cruel. Lighten up or it will crush you. If you keep hearing the same thing over and over (I don’t like your protagonist), then it’s a real problem that you, the author, need to fix.
9) Self-publishing gives you total control. Use it.
If, after all this work, there is a fatal flaw in your first effort, yank it. Start over. Put the title back out fixed. That is power. You are the boss of your book and anyone on your team.
10) Go Local
Take a carton of your print-on-demand edition or short run and sell directly. Canvas your own region through library talks, independent bookstores, fairs, flea markets; anywhere you can grow an audience. Going local is organic, affirming and actively engages your community in your work.
Takeaway: Self-publishing a good, if not great, book is a rite of passage. The experience can lead to a career in writing more books, providing support services like editing, reviewing or designing – or something totally unexpected!
Laura Shabott is a Provincetown based writer, a dynamic speaker and an empowering self-publishing consultant. She is the author of Confessions of an eBook Virgin: What Everyone Should Know Before They Publish on the Internet, a five star rated primer for anyone curious about online publishing. Go to http://www.laurashabott.com, tweet @laurashabott or email firstname.lastname@example.org.