It’s a new year and it’s time to get that hit book published. I’m not one for predictions (I’ve personally seen how wrong they can be), but I think it is an important time to try and set a goal for the year. I know a lot of people have “publish a book” as a New Year’s goal. So I thought I would do a quick summary of the advice I would give someone who has this resolution, from my own humble experience.
Planning is not essential, but helps a lot
It is perfectly possible to write something in a couple of days and then have that book available for purchase as an eBook on Amazon within a few more days. This can be done with relatively little thought, planning or effort. But this approach is unlikely to be that successful. It will join the “book as a status symbol” Kindle books that clutter up large chunks of the Amazon store.
It is not that it won’t work, and if your aim is purely to have done the activity of self-publishing, then by all means take this approach. But even if you think of your book as a business card, you wouldn’t order business cards that were just your name written in smudged Biro on a piece of paper would you? So why would you create an eBook like that?
On the other hand, it’s not that hard
Some of you may know all of this and suffer from the other problem. I know I do a bit. You want it to be perfect. You want to do everything right. But you won’t – that’s life. By taking the time to think about marketing, editing and cover design it will still even today put you ahead of a lot of other people self-publishing a book. Sure you won’t master it straight away, but you can change things in the future and improve on later books. You could take a leaf out of Tony Brown’s book and create a check-list for all your activities in self-publishing and improve them every time you self-publish (see his interview here).
Start small if you can
My advice to anyone self-publishing for the first time is to start with an eBook, as the process is simpler than creating a paperback and more importantly it allows you to publish shorter works. While cover design prices are the same however long a book is, editing and planning a shorter eBook is considerably easier and cheaper than a longer book. You can learn the ropes and work out what works without having to spend too long or too much on it.
Think about the market
Much as I am loathe to say it, from a purely practical point of view, if you hope to make a reasonable profit from a book, then you need to give a lot of thought to who your book will appeal to. You can use reports from K-Lytics or keyword planning tools like KDP Rocket to help with this, or you can spend the time manually trawling similar book pages to those your book idea is about on the Amazon site.
Things do take time
Some element of planning will help avoid delays. Getting a cover designed takes time. Booking and working with an editor takes time. There are often interdependencies between tasks as well, for example a cover designer will need to know the number of formatted pages to help create the size of the spine of the book, but you won’t know this until the book has been formatted.
Even purchasing ISBNs can take time.
Not to mention coordinating reviews and marketing efforts.
Capture e-mails from day 1
You will get an awful lot of sales for your first book from curious friends and relatives. Also if you have any kind of following (e.g a blog, a church group, a radio show) then a lot of those people will also buy the book. If you are lucky, this boost will help you get into some Amazon charts. Once this happens your book will start selling to people outside that group.
This second new group of people are the people you want to try and capture any way you can. Create some kind of sign-up page for e-mails (even promising to give away more material) so that you then have a section of this group that you can e-mail about later books you are going to write. Treat these people well, however few sign-up as they are going to be the bed-rock of your reviewers and buyers for later books.
You are going to have to learn marketing. Get over it.
However creative or independent you might feel, you are going to have to look at ways to market your book. Whether this is writing a blog about the topic of your books, appearing as a podcast guest, hand-selling your book at speaking gigs or buying social media ads, you are most likely going to need to do this. Even if you are lucky enough to have a large group of people selling your book by “word-of-mouth”, learning ways to market your book will help put more fuel on the fire of your book sales. Marketing done correctly doesn’t feel as bad as many people feel. Someone saying just “buy my book” isn’t doing it correctly. But someone huddling in the corner muttering to themselves isn’t going to sell any books either. There are many ways to market things and if you keep trying them for your books chances are you will eventually find something that works and that you are comfortable with doing.
There are no guarantees of success
If you think you have done everything right and your book still doesn’t sell, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily a disaster. Sometimes it is just the wrong time. Hundreds of similar books could be released at the same time. The Lesbian Zombie trend could suddenly become unfashionable just as you release your book. We are all vulnerable to luck. But if you keep releasing books, learning the lessons from the last release then eventually you are much more likely to have success. Even your old books may suddenly start selling (Lesbian Zombies are hot again after a new film release). From a purely philosophical point of view, early success is often a bad thing as it tends to restrict your desire to improve (don’t rock the boat, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it), so often a few “almost” hits will ensure that when you do get a hit book you’ll start getting hit book after hit book.
If you liked this you might like Amazon SEO with Dave Chesson, How to Self-Publish an eBook and How to Sell Your Books Through Bookshops with Debbie Young