I self published my debut novel in late 2015 without much understanding of how self publishing works. Sure there is lots of information on formatting and uploading your book to the online retail channels but the other important stuff, on branding, marketing etc…is harder to find.
I’ve written a number of articles on self publishing and the one piece of advice I re-iterate is, learn how to self publish before you chose to self publish.
There is so much wrong information and poor advice readily available on social media and the Internet. As writers, we spend so much time learning our craft. We read “how-to” books, we write, we join a writers’ group, we go to conferences, we learn. We master the art of writing a good book. And then what?
Your book maybe picked up by a reputable publisher, hooray! They will edit and format your book, give it a cover and sell it through their channels! Brilliant!
But for other writers, this road of publication may not be the right one for them. This is what happened for me. I had spent 9 years learning my craft but for a number of reasons, I chose to go down the self published route.
Are you a hobby writer or a career writer?
There is no right or wrong answer on whether you are a hobbyist or not. But it’s good to know, for yourself, and so you know where to direct your focus on.
If you are a hobby writer and just want to see your books in print, then this information may not be relevant for you. Hobby writers love writing, love creating their stories and seeing them published. But don’t want to focus on the business side of writing.
This post is aimed at the writers who are business focused and want to make a career out of their writing.
But I’ve heard self publishing is easy?
Yes and no. It’s not hard to upload your book to the online stores but it’s very hard to sell your books to people who don’t know you, develop your brand and earn a living from your writing.
Self publishing 101
Before you can be published, you must be able to write well. You must have spent the time learning how to create a good story with believable characters and a compelling story line.
While you learn to write, you can think about your brand and who you are. What genre do you write? What are you hobbies? What do you like to do?
Using me as an example. I’m a contemporary romance writer and read (predominantly) contemporary romance. I love romance movies, reading, being with family, going out with friends, cooking and eating.
My brand revolves around these things. I post pics of myself out and about, some of the foods I make, my books and things I like. I don’t talk about the craft of writing because the people I’m sharing with are readers, not writers.
It’s important to focus on one genre to start with. That’s not to say that at a later stage you branch out and write different genres but when you’re a new writer, you should stick to the genre you most prefer.
You should get a website, a blog and be on social media every day. Even if you don’t post everyday, you should be liking and commenting on other authors’ posts. Be social.
I keep my personal life separate from my work life. I don’t talk about politics or issues that may cause division. Why? Because my readers are from different walks of life and all have their own opinions. I don’t want to upset some of my readers because of my views.
This issue is heavily debated by authors, and still a contentious issue.
My opinion, keep your views to yourself and focus on your writing and building your brand.
What do I talk about?
Just because you’re not yet published doesn’t mean you don’t have things to talk about. You can talk about the latest inspiration for your book, or a fab book you recently read, or movie you watch. Where possible, link it back to writing and what you write.
This will be one of the building blocks for defining who you are as a writer.
Do I need a mailing list?
Again, another hotly debated issue. I say yes, although when I first started I didn’t see the value in it.
Newsletters/emails to your readers is the best way you can connect to your readers. Forget Facebook and social media, you want to be able to communicate directly with readers.
It takes time to learn how to create and send a newsletter out. And I recommend you do this early on as it will give you practice on using the mailing system (eg MailChimp).
But I’ve only got friends and family on my list?
You’ll find most writers start out with under a hundred subscribers, who are mainly your family, friends and fellow writers.
But these are the people who love you and want you to succeed. So use them to practice with and get into the habit of sending out a monthly newsletter. It doesn’t have to be long but it should be friendly and a way for your readers to learn about you.
How do I get more subscribers?
There are many ways, some good and some not-so-good. There are plenty of people and companies that will promise you so much! Beware!!
Group promotions are good but getting a large list of subscribers who may/may not realise they’re joining your mailing list will be a headache. Mailing companies like MailChimp are very strict when it comes to spam.
I participated in a promotion and received a list of 1000 subscribers who had been genuinely acquired. However, after uploading the list to MailChimp and contacting these subscribers with a welcome email, I was forced to delete them all. Despite my proof of the promotion, upfront terms and conditions, MailChimp made me delete all the names and email addresses. It was awful.
The best way is to give away a free book in exchange for an email address. I was horrified when I first learnt of this. A book? A whole book that’s been professionally edited with a cover? The answer is yes, and here’s why.
Why should a reader buy your book? There are plenty of great books on Amazon (millions), why pick yours? You’re an unknown author, why read yours?
Giving away a copy of your writing gives readers an opportunity to discover you, read your writing and see if they like you.
Some readers will take the free book and leave. Don’t worry about them. You’re looking for genuine readers who will love your books and become super fans.
You don’t have to write a massive book, a novella is fine. But it must be professionally edited with a quality cover. This is your “business card”, it tells readers who you are.
Editing is expensive.
Yes, it is. But if you expect a reader to pay for your book then you need to give them quality.
Do not publish an unedited book. This will haunt you. Some readers can be mean. You publish a poorly edited book and you will have those bad reviews attached to your book, forever! Don’t do it.
If you can’t afford editing, then you can’t afford to self publish. That’s the brutal honesty. Self publishing is expensive.
You need quality editing, a professional cover and your book formatted. Don’t sell yourself out because it looks like the easier option.
Should I self publish?
Only you can answer this. Apart from the cost, I spent between $400 and $800 USD per book, to publish, you need to dedicate time and effort in building your brand, marketing and advertising your books.
As a side note, many traditionally published authors also do this. But as a self published author, you have to do everything yourself.
If you’re a go-getter, detailed focussed and able to multi-task, then this may be the path for you.
KU or wide?
There are pros and cons for both options. Do you put all your “eggs in one basket” and go with the Amazon option of Kindle Unlimited (KU)? Or go wide with all the online stores?
I started wide as I was advised this was the best option. In hindsight, I wish I’d been exclusive to Amazon. Why? Because I write romance, most of my readers are in the US and most read via KU.
What’s so good about KU? Romance readers can read a ton of books for $10 per month. It’s also a good way for readers to try you out. They can read your book for “free” and see if they like you.
Many authors don’t agree with Amazon’s pricing structure of page reads but for me, I’ve made money from thousands of page reads.
My advice to new writers is to take or at least consider the KU option. There are lots of options available to you (like free days), to promote your book and get new readers.
Remembering, there are heaps of good books and authors out there. It’s not easy getting your name and book out to readers.
There are many authors who love iBooks and they are popular in Australia. Look at authors in your genre and see what and how they sell their books.
Final words of advice
There are plenty of companies that offer to promote you and your books, for a price. Be very mindful of them. Some deliver, many do not.
I’ve seen some of my author friends spend thousands of dollars for little return.
Before joining group promotions and PR companies, do your research. Ask around. There are plenty of fantastic Facebook groups where authors share their knowledge and help each other out. Ask.
You will make mistakes. I’ve made many. But I go back, fix them and move on. This career is not for the faint-hearted. You have to be disciplined and focused to be a career self published author.
Courses I would recommend are by Marie Force, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson and Nick Stephenson. There are other reputable ones, but these I know are good.
Wishing you all the very best. I love being a self published author, it seriously is my dream job.
Happy writing, Joanne x
Multi published, award-winning Australian author, Joanne Dannon, writes to give her readers the experience she loves to savor–indulging in a sigh-worthy-happily-ever-after, being swept away from the everyday by diving into a delicious romance novel.
Joanne is a happily married mother of two heroes-in-training who loves spending time with friends and family. She can be found on Facebook and her website chatting about reading, writing, cooking, vintage-inspired dresses and all things romantic.
Find her here:
Her latest romance launches in time for Valentine’s Day, details below:
Falling for the Best Man
When the love of his life is his brother’s bride-to-be…
It was love at first sight when app developer Jonah Randall met Kaylah, but he’s crushed when he discovers she’s already dating his brother. When he’s asked to be the best man at their wedding, should he speak up, or forever hold his peace?
Lifestyle hacker Kaylah Westwood’s engagement brings her a step closer to the kind of life she’s dreamed of, full of love and family. Her fiancé is a good guy. It’s a shame it’s his brother who’s the one who makes her pulse rate skittle.
Jonah would never betray the brother who’s always been there for him. With just two days to go before the wedding, can he let the woman he loves marry his brother? But when Jonah confesses his feelings to Kaylah, a mind-blowing kiss has her rethinking her commitment. She thought she’d fallen for the right man. But is he the best man for her?
Exclusive to Amazon, Kindle Unlimited readers can read for free.