You know you can do it. You’ve come this far, learned, created and built your business, or your reputation, or your client list. Now you’re ready to write a book, and there are things you want to understand about self-publishing.
How different can self-publishing be, when compared to everything else you’ve accomplished? Maybe you’re a financial expert, a medical specialist or an entrepreneur with your own growing business.
Now you want to add ‘published author’ to your list of achievements. Good for you! You know that writing a book is a great way to reach your target audience.
But there’s just one problem. You have no idea how to take the first step on the confusing and ever-changing self-publishing journey. You’re not alone. If you decide to self-publish, you will be solely responsible for all facets of publishing: editorial, distribution and marketing. That’s a tall order.
With that hefty responsibility comes one of the biggest benefits of self-publishing: control. You alone control all the decisions around your book and you alone reap all the rewards.
Before you can reap those rewards, there are a few key things to understand about self-publishing as a business.
You'll want to do extensive keyword research around the topic and genre of your book. How are people searching Google? How are people searching Amazon books for your topic? You'll have a handful of keywords to choose when you upload your book to Amazon (or other distributor) and you want your readers to be able to find you. Categories are similar. Check how competitor books are categorized, make notes, and be sure you're getting your book in two to three specific categories. I say specific on purpose: if you are too general you'll be lost in the sea of other books swarming those categories, so you want to go as deep into category combinations as you can. There are tools out there like Kindle Spy to help you find categories where the potential is high but the competition is not.
Freebies will soon rule your life. Many authors think it is counterintuitive to spend all that time and effort writing the book and then give it away for free! The fact of the matter is that playing around with free promotions will really help you boost the number of readers that otherwise wouldn't find you. There are many book promotion sites offering to help you promote or giveaway your free book, such as Bookbub and Goodreads. Do your research, ask other authors, and be sure you're signing up with a reputable group before you hand over your money.
Unlike the 1989 move Field of Dreams, if you build it they will not necessarily come. You need to work at it. Attract readers to your website, your blog, and share valuable content. Build your email list. You need to help your ideal reader find you, and today publishing a book simply isn’t enough.
Content marketing is key. And a foundation to content marketing is a blog. If you haven’t yet started a blog, now is the right time. If you don’t have time to write your own blog, there are professional companies and services that can write original content for you.
Be a consistent and active blogger, use the power of Facebook to market through fan pages and regular updates, develop a presence on Twitter and LinkedIn and get involved with subject-specific online communities centered around your area of expertise.
Writing your book and writing the back cover and sales copy are two completely different activities and require different skillsets. In your book you can weave style and tone and pacing and tell the story in your own unique way. There’s a format and formula for your sales copy and back cover text, designed to help you SELL. It’s all about highlighting what’s inside, what your reader will get from your book and how your book will change their lives for the better. While I suggest you use a ghostwriter to help you write a great book, I strongly recommend you hire help for your back cover and sales copy.
While you might not actually be able to judge a book by its cover, it’s your cover that will make or break a reader’s decision to buy and read in the first place. Your cover has to count. Invest in a professional designer for the book cover. It won’t matter how clever your back cover copy is, or how brilliant your words are inside, if you don’t grab the right kind of attention with the cover. You want to attract the right readers, and the right cover is the first and most important place to start.
Amazon now accounts for more than 80 percent of self-published book sales in North America. They remain the most popular venue to sell your book. But there are other options. Ingram Spark, Leanpub, and a host of other distributors can help you get your book into the hands of as many readers as possible.
"ISBN" stands for "International Standard Book Number.” It’s a 13-digit number that tracks everything to do with your book, how to find it and how it is referenced. Owning your ISBN gives you total control of your book. It's good to know that while you must have an ISBN for a paperback or hardcover book, it is entirely optional in an ebook. Just another one of those things to understand about self-publishing!
If you self-publish with Amazon’s CreateSpace, you have the option to use one of their ISBNs, for free. However, that means your book will show as published by Createspace. In many countries you will need to purchase your ISBNs, however in places like Canada an ISBN is free. This allows you to choose what publisher’s imprint will be shown on your book cover, inside front, and online sales pages. You can choose your own name, or a publishing imprint of your choice.
I still love the tactile feel of a print book. I love the crisp turn of a page and the weight of a book sitting on my lap. But technology is changing the way we read. Despite the initial hype of the Kindle and other e-readers, sales are now way down.
With increases in both average smartphone screen size and smartphone use, there’s been a shift in the last few years towards the phone as a popular reading tool. It’s worth factoring this in when deciding on the formats in which to produce your book. It seems the future of digital reading is the smartphone.
What else would you add to this list of things to understand about self-publishing? We'd love to hear from you!
Check out our publishing page to see how we might be able to help on your book adventure.
A presto (until next time)
Anna is a veteran Canadian television journalist and documentary scriptwriter with more than 100 hours of television credits to her name. She’s written for award-winning factual series, for magazines and corporate clients and was one of the first contracted writers to provide content for Microsoft's online properties.
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