Episode 127: Preparing to Self-Publish
Tim Lewis: Sometimes I end up in a situation where I’m just genuinely blocked and recently I’ve ended up on a kind of a tangent of a tangent. As many of you may be aware, I have been in the process for some time of creating a book about social media that’s largely consisted of interviews I’ve made with various people. I made the majority of those interviews in our September and October time and I’ve ever so slowly been working through editing the audio. The idea is to create an audiobook first and then get everything transcribed and get it all created as a paperback book and as an eBook as well. Now I got a little bit waylaid in the audio side of things even though I’ve made some progress editing some of the audio files. I never really actually created an audiobook before so I felt well, I’ll create a quick proof of concept.
Tim Lewis: This is what I always recommend for people, do some small project to begin with to prove that you can do self-publishing or eBook or paperback or whatever and then create your larger project later but this is quite a larger project. I felt, well, I really need a proof of concept for an audiobook. Now I was approached by somebody who wanted me to help them create an audiobook for them and I’ve already created quite a few podcast episodes so, for many, audio is a medium. So that got me thinking, well, couldn’t I just create a very short audiobook and try that out? I’ve just got really blocked in terms of trying to create it and it’s delayed some podcast episode like this one, where I should have really recorded this quite some time ago but I was so concerned with trying to record an audiobook of a very quick self-publishing guide. I kind of got distracted from the podcast.
Tim Lewis: But then yesterday, I had the very sensible idea of, well, why don’t I combine the podcast and this proposed audiobook? An audiobook isn’t necessarily supposed to be a huge money creating project and it makes sense to have an audiobook about self-publishing given that I’ve been podcasting about self-publishing for about two years now and there’s the very old episodes, say episodes one to about fifteen I think, where I do go through the nuts and bolts of self-publishing but they’re very out of date. And I have kind of promised people that I would do a new self-publishing guide as part of this show so I suddenly thought, why don’t I kill two birds with one stone? Why don’t I release what will be the audiobook as part of the podcast feed so that you will get the benefit of having a new set of beginner self-publisher episodes as part of the podcast feed? You don’t have to go and buy the audiobook from Audible when it’s complete because most of it will have been on this show.
Tim Lewis: I think that would always be the case, there’s always podcasts and other resources where you can find everything for free if you want to. The audiobook version would just be a slightly expanded and more packaged version that you could purchase. So what I’m going to do for the next few weeks in terms of the show every fortnight is I am going to be releasing a chapter of what will be the new audiobook, A Very Quick Guide To Self- Publishing, as our show episodes. That’s basically a background. So this is going to be Part One of the audiobook talking about the preparation for self-publishing, so all the things that you can do beforehand. So that’s the background.
Preparing to Self-Publish a Book
Tim Lewis: The idea behind this chapter is to give you some idea of the sort of activities that you should be doing before you start the more nitty-gritty elements of self-publishing a book.. There is a degree of optionality about everything I mention here. As in, I’ve self-published books without doing most of this stuff. But in an ideal world, you would be looking to do quite a few things before you self-publish a book. The first thing that I think is most helpful for assisting with the sales of a self-published book and also for things like reviews is to identify a target audience or basically a group of people who are likely to want to buy your book, your ideal customers, your tribe so to speak. Because the single biggest issue that I found with self-publishing is that you do need to know a bit about marketing. Now in the most ideal of situations, which I’ve never applied so I can’t really blame anybody else for doing is that you find your community or tribe of people and that can be online or it can be offline and then you provide something that they want. That’s the best situation.
Tim Lewis: So, let’s say you are a motor mechanic and you go to a motor mechanics conference and while you’re talking to all the people there are this motor mechanics conference, they all say that they want to know about how this particular engine component works. And you suddenly realise that this would be a great book, maybe even a great audiobook. So you’ve then got an audience for that particular book about this particular car part. That is the ideal situation. Now what often happens is you get people like me who write fantasy books involving talking magpies and then we’ve got to find an audience of people who would like that book. I didn’t go around and ask fantasy fans at conventions, “What do you really want?” And they say, “We really want a book about talking magpies.” No, I write a book I wanted to write. And there is actually nothing wrong with writing a book that you want to write. But just be mindful that it’s a lot harder than just providing a solution to people or providing a book that people already want.
Tim Lewis: And this can be as true for fiction as nonfiction and it’s easy to find audiences for products that already exist. You’ve got an audience that you can tap into of people who like a particular genre in fiction and for nonfiction, it’s the same, it’s that motor mechanic’s car part, an example. It’s basically finding an audience or giving an audience what it wants, which is the most useful preparation that you can make if you want to be commercially successful as a self-published author. Beyond that, you have a lot more flexibility in terms of suppliers and people to help you with your book if you spend a far amount of time planning things beforehand. So for example, the cover designs, you can often get considerably cheaper cover designs if you buy pre-made covers. A lot of design companies like damonza.com who actually charge quite a large amount for custom built cover where you tell them what your book is about and they create a cover for you.
Tim Lewis: Often they’ll just create covers for particular genres and then you can buy them as pre-made covers and they just change the title name, they’re considerably cheaper. Now if you have a fair amount of time beforehand you can go through and look at all these pre-made covers and purchase one but you are very vulnerable to what’s available in terms of a pre-made cover. The other thing is that for some cover designers and this is even more true of editors, the very best ones may not be available immediately to start editing or creating the cover that you want right away. There may be a delay of weeks, months, possibly not, I don’t think we want to wait that long. Waiting months for a good editor is something that may even be worth doing. That’s why it’s worth having a little bit of a buffer time wise before you start actually releasing your self-published book on the world.
Tim Lewis: The other potential advantage in taking your time to prepare is you can look at things like blogging about your book creation process or maybe even just creating videos or even doing live video broadcasts on say FaceBook saying like, “This is the book I’m creating and this is the process I’m going through to create it.” This will help create its own little audience of people who are following you and your process and anything you can do to get people interested in your project. And there’s still a huge swath of people who just consume content, they don’t produce anything. Those people are naturally interested in people who are writing books or creating audiobooks because they want to do it themselves but they, for whatever reason, time or more likely fear, just haven’t created their own book.
Tim Lewis: Another preparation tactic that can work very well is putting your book on pre-order. This allows people to purchase your book before it’s actually available for release and on some sites like iBooks on Apple, sales of the pre-order actually go onto the sales rank of the book when it becomes available, allowing you potentially to build up a large amount of sales before your book is even formally available. So it’s something worth considering though obviously depending on the retailer it may be disadvantageous to not meet your pre-order date. So you need to be realistic. In fact, in terms of preparation I would always suggest giving a big buffer in terms of time for when you’re going to release your book. Don’t say, “I’m going to release my book next week,” when you haven’t even got a cover design or you haven’t got an editor or you haven’t even finished the book. You have to be realistic with your time tables.
Tim Lewis: So that’s my advice for preparing to self-publish.