Thinking About Self-Publishing?
I am often asked about self-publishing; specifically, why I chose to do it, how to do it, and what challenges there are in doing it. There are many books and information on the web about these topics and more so I won’t go into it here. I’m not an authority on the subject either, but I will provide some good information on what works, what doesn’t and some of the decisions I made for myself.
I chose to self-publish quite simply because I wanted to. It took seven years to write my novel Paper Boats and when I finished, I was eager to share it with the world and not take the time to seek an agent and go the traditional publishing route. That process, even if I were to get an agent quickly, would take about 2 years before my book would hit the shelves. So I was a bit impatient!
For my next novel, which I am writing now, I will seek an agent because I think an author should do a little of both, self-publish and traditionally publish. Most agents I’ve talked with agree and support that idea. Also, a good way to get an agent is to get noticed through self-publishing because many agents look at Amazon and other ebook sites to find new authors. So in a way, self-publishing is a way to gain exposure, learn a bit about the publishing industry, make some money and, if you’re lucky, land an agent all at the same time.
Here are three lessons I've learned through self-publishing Paper Boats.
1. Think of yourself as a brand. This is the most important thing to do. Great brands are things people want, need or yearn for. Brands live, breath and grow, like you. Think about whom you are as an author, as a person and then communicate that to your audience. Be authentic and true to yourself. People are smart. They will know if you’re a phony. Great brands want to be your friend, so be friendly and likeable. This mindset will help sell lots of books. Trust me.
2. Build a marketing plan. If you think of yourself as a brand then you’ll need to market that brand or nobody will know you exist – good book or not. There’s just too much competition. This is a business, so get aggressive and put actions to paper. You need a great bio and story: Who you are, why you wrote your book, what’s unique about your book – anything to engage an audience to pay attention to you and your book. Then decide how you are going to promote your book: Social? Print? Video? Honestly, it’s a little of everything, but social is your best ally in gaining exposure and connecting with an audience. And it’s relatively inexpensive.
3. Once your marketing plan is complete, it’s time to apply it. Again, social is your best ally. Amazon is a good starting point, but don't rely on it. You don't want to be labeled as an "Amazon only author". However, their platform is simple and allows you to expand and connect easily to most of the popular social media outlets. Use every bit of what Amazon offers and then move on. Populate your bio and all your book information onto AuthorsDen, Goodreads and AmazonCentral. Then connect them with social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can do more, but these are the best known and most used. I’ve hired a professional PR and social team to do mine, but it’s not critical. I love my team and we work very well together promoting my book. If you hire someone, make sure you love them as well. If they don't understand you and your brand, find someone else. If you decide to do it yourself, you’ll need a few hours every day. Social requires lots of relevant content delivered at the rights times. It’s a bit of a game, but once you’ve mastered it the rewards are great. Go slow. Do a little at a time and build as you gain momentum and response. Be smart about what you share. Keep content simple and always tie it back to you and your book. Show your passion, opinions if applicable, and your heart. Do not be ashamed to ask people to buy your book. Just be humble about it. One more word about sharing opinions; be Switzerland, meaning, stay neutral about issues. Don’t share your political beliefs or your thoughts on religion; you’ll alienate your audience if they don't agree (unless of course you wrote a book on politics or religion). Lastly, have fun and keep writing!
Learn more about my novel, Paper Boats. Proceeds from sales go to Together We Rise, a charity that supports homeless and parentless children.