Looking to do it yourself? Great! We are here to help you understand how to self publish a book.
Some years ago, the publishing industry was fairly predictable and easy to navigate. A number of commercial publishing houses, with secure reputations, dominated the landscape. Smaller presses, serving niche audiences, had established their own positions in the field.
New technologies have restructured the literary marketplace. While there are more publishing options available now, the risks are higher that an aspiring author may get overwhelmed with the options. We’ve developed this self-publishing guide to help writers understand the process as it is TODAY. It’s likely to change tomorrow. Consider this guide organic. Expect numerous updates.
Our goal is the same as yours. We want your publishing experience to be successful, whether you choose traditional publishing or self-publishing.
Table of Contents
- A Short History of Self-Publishing
- Why You Should Consider Self-Publishing
- Why You Should Not Consider Self-Publishing
- Self-Publishing Platforms
- Preparing the Manuscript for Publication
- Professional Book Editing and Proofreading
- Choosing Your Genre and Subgenre
- DIY Book Production
- Marketing Your Self-Published Book
- Promoting Your Self-Published Book
- Tracking Book Sales
A Short History of Self Publishing
Once upon a time there were seven big publishing giants with imprints that had a lock on the doorway to a book’s existence. They were the only entrée to fame and fortune on bookshelves and often onto movie screens.
First, though, authors had to have literary agents who held the keys to getting manuscripts in front of the buying editors in the big houses. But they could get contracts (and still do), advances on royalties, and foreign-language publishing rights, for example. The agent did everything for you, for 15% of your gross profit. The publisher took all the risks on the author’s work.
In 1995, Jeff Bezos launched his online bookstore Amazon.com, offering 1 million titles and changing the book business and the traditional publishing world forever.
His idea was to take self-publishing out of the shadows and give it credibility. To give writers a giant, never-ending megaphone heard in the ether-verse. The Big 7 scoffed and sneered, but writers saw Amazon for what it was: a way to get their words out without all the hurdles and to be in charge of their work. So they started uploading their manuscripts to Amazon CreateSpace, and readers started buying what they were writing. And though it took a couple of decades—lots of “firsts” in innovation and a few legal pratfalls—Bezos succeeded.
As Amazon’s success continued, infrastructure for self-publishing success grew up around it: freelance book editors, cover artists, layout artists, .mobi translators, marketing and advertising companies, reviewers, online magazines, books galore on “how to self-publish,” some self-publishing middleman companies, and many online publishers. No agents. No waiting.
Traditional publishing is still here; it’s never going to go away, and it’s not in its death throes. The major publishing players continue to merge; for example, Bertelsmann and Pearson combined the worldwide activities of Random House and Penguin Group—their respective trade book publishing companies—to create Penguin Random House. In the last decade, we have seen many bookstore chains as well as independents close down because readers have fallen in love with Amazon. It’s easy to find what they want (with enormous numbers of choices) and have it delivered to their doors.
The option to be a wildly successful self-published author exists now, though, thanks to Jeff Bezos.
The shame. Is it still vanity?
True, self-publishing is what used to be called vanity publishing. Now you’re considered a business entity—a publishing company—and you’re responsible for the complete transformation of your book from draft to finished product, along with distribution and promotion.
As your own publisher, you do all the production, marketing, and distribution, or you’ll hire contractors to perform one or more of the tasks. Hiring contractors can be stressful or glorious—a burden or a burden lifted.
Why You Should Self Publish Your Book
Certainty of publication — Your book will get published. Period. You don’t have to worry about the gatekeepers. You know your work will be available to readers rather than growing yellow in a slush pile. Self-published books now account for almost 40% of ebook sales.
Timing — Once you decide to publish, you can have your book out within a few weeks. With a traditional publisher, the publication date might not be for a year or longer after the book is accepted.
Higher royalties per book (if your book is selling) — Traditional publishers keep about 85% of paperback sales and 75% of ebook sales.
For ebooks, the standard royalty payment to the author is 35 percent of net sale (retail at distributor minus wholesale cost, then the publisher takes its cut). Example: retail sale price on the ebook is $5.99; the author gets $1.47 for every ebook sold. When self-publishing, you have the option of taking 70 percent as your royalty—$4.19 for every ebook sold.
Control — Most decisions regarding the presentation of the book to the public (e.g., the title, cover, and description) are under the control of the marketing department at a traditional publishing house. If you self-publish you choose it all.
Why You Should Not Self Publish
The Cost — You pay for advertising, promotion, reviewers, advance copies to distribute, setting up an author website, plus many small expenses that add up to a significant sum. Not hundreds. Thousands. You do not get an “advance” against future royalties.
More Work — You’re in charge of it all. You need to decide how much you want to do yourself and which self-publishing companies may work best for you. You need to make sure your relationships are complementary; all the players in your self-publishing efforts need to get along. You need to register your copyright and ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and deal with Amazon’s contracts and other legal stuff such as permissions. (Remember to read all the small print!) You may also need to compare Amazon’s contracts to contracts offered by other self-publishing companies you’re considering. Or you can hire a literary attorney.
You forego the expertise of a book publishing company and take on many tasks that may be over your head, such as editing, formatting, marketing, and promotion. You will need to find and vet book editors and trust that you’re able to distinguish between the true professionals and the wannabes who are charging low rates to gain experience at your expense, literally. You need to know when the awards programs are calling for entries, keep an eye on your stats, know when and for how long you want to run special sales, and audit your efforts so you know which ads sell best for you and which are a waste of time and money.
Amazon Direct Publishing does a lot, but not everything. If you’re good at math you can calculate royalty percentages. You have to study everything Kindle Direct Publishing wants you to do and stay on top of it. Your great book won’t sell if you’re not good at marketing. You need to distribute copies, paper or digital, to reviewers.
And you’re working a full-time job.
You realize you need help.
Self Publishing Platforms
There are many avenues to take for self-publishing. Here are a few:
- Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing
- Barnes & Noble Press
Each has different services, conditions, distribution channels, formatting guidelines, fees, and royalty payouts, so the first task a self-publishing author should tackle is studying the options for the best fit.
Be aware that new companies are popping up; others are consolidating or failing in this fast-changing arena. Make sure the review sites you’re looking at have feedback from writers who actually worked with (or tried to work with) the companies listed.
Self-publishing “policing” sites may also be a good resource to narrow down your list:
Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services Reviewed & Rated by the Alliance of Independent Authors
Digital or Print?
The answer depends partly on your genre. If you’re writing academic or children’s books, print is likely the best option. For popular fiction (e.g., science fiction, erotica, romance, thrillers) the conventional wisdom is to start with electronic publishing to build an audience and get used to the process.
Many readers like reading on electronic devices, and are willing to give a new writer a chance if the book looks good, especially since ebooks tend to be priced very low. For indie authors of popular fiction, e-publishing is a great place to start. Once you’re comfortable with electronic publishing, you’ll want to have books printed as well, to reach readers who prefer a real book in their hands.
One advantage ebooks have over print is that they can be hyperlinked to external media. You can include links (as text and images) to your website, social media profiles, sales pages (e.g., Amazon), bonus materials, contests, giveaways, and videos.
Prepare Your Manuscript for Publication
Cover Design and LayoutAlong with editing and proofreading, cover design is one of the most important components of a successful self-published book. Professional cover artists understand the importance of good design for capturing reader attention for the genre you’re targeting. Readers do judge a book by its cover. As for layout and interior design, if you are blessed with talent in graphic arts, layout, and creating .mobi or .epub files, you can do your own design. Kindle’s guidelines are published on their site. If you’re not so blessed, Kindle support can walk you through it all, but you’ll have no control over the cover or the interior design. They also offer a free ebook with everything you need to know. When designing the cover for a paperback, don’t forget to leave the appropriate space for back-jacket copy that hooks the reader. Be sure to have your editor and your proofreader review it. Depending on what you want from each consultant, expect to pay $200-$1,000 each.
FormattingBe aware that ebooks such as Kindle have different requirements from print books. A big difference: ebooks do not require page numbering since readers set the font size on their devices, which shifts how many words appear on a “page.” Chapter heads should be consistent, and in print books their page numbers must match the table of contents. Fonts should be uniform throughout, unless another font is used for dramatic effect within a story (for instance, gravestones, old newspaper articles, capturing a “picture” of a parade banner). It is never a good idea to clutter a book with too many fonts. Use one space after the end of sentences. Fix bad line, page, or paragraph breaks, and “widow” and “orphan” lines. Tutorials abound on the internet and on YouTube for how to format your interior. The learning curve may be steep. If you have the budget, you may prefer to hire a professional book designer.
TitleKeep your title in mind while you and your editor are working on the book; it can change a dozen times right up to final cover design. Use 3-4 words at the most. Readers spend about three seconds per title/cover view, so keep it short and flashy. Put your title ideas in Amazon’s search bar and see how many others have come up with the same one.
LLC | DBA | Pen NameDecide what name will be on your book(s), and whether you intend to divulge your real name as part of your author platform. Look into the pros/cons of registering your publishing entity as a DBA. You should set up a separate bank account for publishing-related income and expenses.
CopyrightInclude a copyright page after the title page. Use “Copyright,” the year, the © symbol, and your real name or pen name. The page also needs a statement that reserves your rights as the owner of the copyright, along with the book edition and its ISBN. Optional information depending on the book can include publisher name and address, along with any disclaimers or permissions notices that might be relevant.
ISBNYou do not need an ISBN if your book will not be sold through conventional channels (e.g., a family memoir or cookbook sold by hand or from your own website). All books intended for commercial sale need ISBNs, and each version—print, ebook, audiobook—and each edition of same needs its own ISBN. All ISBNs in the U.S. must be purchased through Bowker, and to do so you must register as a publisher. Information on how to do this and why you should buy ISBNs in lots (rather than individually for $125 each) can be found on their website Get Your ISBN Now. A less expensive alternative is finding a discount outlet online that has purchased ISBN numbers in bulk and will sell them individually to authors, but this is not recommended because THEY bought the number from Bowker and are therefore listed as the publisher of record for those ISBNs. Amazon can assign you an ISBN for free as part of your upload package. The downside to accepting the free one from them is that, while you are listed as the sole copyright holder, Amazon is listed as publisher in the Bowker registry (this is the same problem with ISBNs purchased individually from discount shops). Some bookstores will not carry books registered in this way, but many self-published authors find this not to be an issue.
ImprintKnow your imprint name (your name as publishing company) to be able to enter that information. The ISBN must match the publisher information you submitted to Bowker to purchase your ISBNs.
Professional Book Editing and Proofreading
Before you show your book around, and certainly before you upload it to Amazon or another publisher, you should have a professional book editor and proofreader look at it (sometimes the same person, but not always).
Hopefully, you have had editing help all along the way, starting with a critique of the first and second drafts. As you get ready for publication, you will be using a copy editor and/or a proofreader to make sure the book is error-free.
Below is a rundown of the different levels of editing that will ensure a book project that is of professional caliber. Keep in mind that there is a certain amount of overlap between a critique and a development edit, between a development edit and a line edit, and so on. There are no clear boundaries.
The most economical service offered by most book editors is a critique. A critique looks at the major structural issues of the book—story arc, characters, and engagement in a novel; coherence, organization, and reader-friendliness in a nonfiction book. Many critique editors will go back and forth with the writer to help sort out the big picture. It is essential to deal with structural problems right at the start. You don’t want to be in the copyediting stage when you realize that the book suffers from point-of-view inconsistencies throughout. It’s best to take care of such things before you get into the finer points of the writing.
A development edit focuses on all aspects of the story and the writing, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence. It is a very comprehensive critique of everything in the book and often includes many suggestions, queries, and possibly some rewriting and line editing. This comprehensive service can take a bite out of your budget, but if you find an excellent editor your work will improve by 200% with this sort of professional work.
A line editor will work through your manuscript sentence by sentence to correct errors and polish up the writing. The editing might involve adding transitions or cutting back on repetitiveness. A line edit is not as comprehensive as a development edit, but it is more extensive than a copy edit.
A copy editor will correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation; make sure everything is styled consistently; check chapter titles against the table of contents; and take care of other technical matters.
Many authors hire a proofreader only after they’ve been flayed on Amazon by reviewers. If the book is error-free, readers will receive a clean reading experience that allows them to immerse themselves without getting distracted by annoying errors. Don’t mistake spell-check for professional proofreading, and don’t make the mistake of skipping this step because reviewers will be harsh if they find any errors.
Experienced copy editors and proofreaders tend to be generalists, and can work with most fiction genres or nonfiction topics. Copy editors and proofreaders question everything and flag issues for the writer to review. If you need developmental editing or nonfiction book editing for a specific topic, you should consider specialized book editors.
If you’re writing a crime novel, you can enlist the help of a criminal attorney who also writes and edits books. They’re out there. One of them is Karin Cather, who’s a member of the Book Editing Associates Network. She can also review your CSI procedures and your martial arts scenes for accuracy. Science fiction and fantasy, Christian, and children’s books are examples of other genres that need book editors experienced in those genres and markets.
This page lists other book editors by topic and genre.
Some editors and proofreaders also offer fact-checking. Ask about this when preparing a contract with the professional you choose. There are also services that specialize in fact-checking only. Even in made-up worlds, fact-checking is important. And if your setting is a real place, this becomes critical.
Don’t rely on internet searches. When possible, get assistance from the area’s chamber of commerce or visitor’s bureau if the book’s setting is in the United States. Can you get from Port Orchard, Washington, to Port Townsend in 1 hour and 10 minutes taking WA-3? That’s what you’ll see on Google Maps. Visitors’ bureaus may suggest you download the Hood Canal Bridge app because, if the bridge is up, your commute may be 1-2 hours longer and you should probably take one of several alternate routes.
Professional editors and proofreaders quote by the word (usually 1-10 cents per word, depending on the type of editing or proofreading needed) or by the hour. If you add fact-checking, a per-word quote you receive may also have an hourly component (e.g., $40-$150/hr).
If you can only afford 2 cents per word, but that only gives you a proofreading service, you won’t see any improvement in your big-picture elements. The big picture requires the bigger budget, but it’s always the first step. Save your money because skipping the developmental edit is often the death of a book, fueled by reviewers who expected more.
For a rough idea of rate ranges per service, check out the rate sheet posted at Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA).
There’s a temptation to price shop for editing and proofreading services. This is one of those areas in which you get what you pay for. You’ll find lists of editors on Reedsy and the EFA, for example, but any member can be listed, and Reedsy is pay-for-play. There is no testing or vetting. Also see Beware the Lowball: Why Different Editing Services Charge Different Rates.
If you need help selecting your editors, proofreaders, and other publishing professionals, contact Book Editing Associates for its matchmaking services. The BEA network was formed in 1998 to protect writers like you from self-proclaimed editors and proofreaders. BEA can help you find the writing, editing, and self-publishing guidance you need. The need for this type of vetting and testing service is more important than ever because of the number of writers choosing to self-publish.
Editing is the most expensive part of self-publishing, but it makes all the difference in the quality of your book and writing career.
Developmental editing is an art, not a science. Copyediting is partly subjective (i.e., a matter of taste) and partly objective (i.e., if it’s wrong, it’s wrong). Be sure you know what you’re getting for your money. You and your editor are both responsible for making sure there are no unrealistic expectations or surprises. Have a written agreement that lists the services you will receive from the editor, and the services you will not receive (e.g., proofreading from a developmental editor, fact-checking).
Choosing Your Genre or Subgenre
Self-publishing has produced hyper-specialized genres and subgenres. That means you have to compete with more authors, but if you target a particular literary niche, you are less likely to face stiff competition for readers. So, not just “fantasy,” but “steampunk fantasy-horror.” Not just “fiction,” but “Regency romance.” Find a label that accurately describes your book, and use it to reach audiences. It also helps to define your target audience by demographic descriptors (e.g., gender, age, location).
This will be particularly helpful if you self-publish on Kindle (shown as “categories”).
This is also known as the BISAC code (Book Industry Standards and Communications), which is where the book will be “shelved,” whether virtually on Amazon or in a brick-and-mortar store.
If you are publishing on Kindle, you’ll get three listing choices: two for Kindle, and one for print (because you should have a hard copy ready for people who like to hold books in their hands), which will look something like this when your book is selling:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #519,445 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#443 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Myths & Legends > Norse & Viking
#474 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Myths & Legends > Norse & Viking
#3435 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Horror > Dark Fantasy
This article lists some of the genres (categories) to pick from: List of the Top #100 Most Competitive Amazon Kindle Bestseller Categories.
DIY Book Production
File types recommended for book interiors are Microsoft Word (.doc/.docx) or HTML format. Files will be compressed and translated to .mobi by the Kindle Direct Publishing system. Other platforms that rely on file types such as .epub may do the same, or you can find software that lets you create the end file types yourself.
For print book interiors, Kindle Direct Publishing accepts PDF files created from Word; however, some like IngramSpark require PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 from either Acrobat Distiller or Export from InDesign. This may mean you’ll need to employ a book designer with one of these programs to assist you.
The book is not published until you have all the information and files uploaded and they have gone through the vendor’s review process (e.g., to check for format issues, file size) and you say “go.” On Kindle Direct Publishing, this can all be done in fifteen minutes when you are familiar with the process. File review takes up to 48 hours but is usually much less. When you hit “publish” the book is live often 12 hours later.
Print platforms such as IngramSpark have similar file review times, while others might take a couple of days.
A file previewer is available after you upload the files to make sure it looks right, at least on screen. For print books, it is best to order a print proof you can hold in your hand and look over before you say “publish” or “distribute.”
Printing may take up to a week (even print on demand [POD] has a queue), then the book must be shipped to you, which can take many more days. Allow time.
The best part: nothing is written in stone even after you hit the “publish” button. You are allowed to make corrections and upload new files as often as you need to (for example, if you or reviewers find typos). The files will need to go through the review process again, which adds a few days of delay, or longer if you must order another print copy to proofread. While Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing allows new files to be uploaded for free, other platforms such as IngramSpark charge a fee for new files ($25, at this time).
Even though the review process looks fast by these numbers, allow at least a couple of weeks before your hoped-for release date. Technical issues with interior and cover art files can cause delays. Best practice is to allow a few months, if you can be patient, and opt for “preorder” availability of your book so you can begin promotional efforts while the technical issues are worked out.
Marketing Your Self Published Book
As a general rule, marketing is the broad plan to expose and support your work, and promotion is a specific action to bring it to people’s attention. Promotional work is often considered publicity. Self-publishing authors are responsible for both unless they hire someone to do it for them.
The overall marketing goal is to get your book in front of as many eyeballs as possible to generate reviews and sales. Few people want to read a book that doesn’t have a healthy number of good reviews.
One of the first marketing considerations is price. Figure out which price point brings in sales based on other books listed on Kindle that are in your category. This can change over time. Start with a very low price, like $1.99 or $2.99, though Kindle has set some prices authors can’t go below. New authors and new titles start best at low prices so new readers (who become fans) will take a chance on them.
Print books have a higher sales price than an ebook. For example, novels between 85,000 and 95,000 words can cost ~ $14.99 versus $7.99 for a mass-market paperback from a traditional publisher, or $2.99 for an ebook. Larger books and those with illustrations cost more to produce, and that cost is passed on to buyers. Amazon will alert you to the minimum price you may set during the setup phase of your uploads. This may depend on the royalty percentage you set for yourself; at 70 percent royalty the price point is higher than if you elect 35 percent, which may allow you to drop the price to $0.99 (for ebook), a popular move for promotions.
Kindle Unlimited makes your book “discoverable” on Amazon. You can opt in as part of your KDP account, but Kindle Unlimited requires exclusivity. You must agree to make the digital format of your book available only through KDP—not even on your website. You get paid when X number of pages is read. If you’re okay with the Amazon commitment, this is a free way to market your book to potential buyers.
Bulk Marketing Companies
Popular bulk marketing companies, such as BookBub and BookSends, will push your title to hundreds or thousands of people on their lists for your specific category, depending on what you want to pay, how many readers you want to reach, and how many days you want the marketing effort to run. If you’ve written a nonfiction book on how to kick alcohol addiction, a much smaller category than female amateur sleuth, you’re going to pay less because you’ll need fewer views to saturate your target audience.
It might be a good idea to pay for some inexpensive ads. A good way to start is with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) ads and/or BookBub pay-per-click ads. Running ads on certain days of the week can be better for your title than other days. This is not something you want to rush into, but try a limited ad run after you’ve gotten some good reviews, won an award—or something else has happened that would stand out in an ad—to determine if it increases your sales. If not, don’t continue to waste your money. Ads won’t work for every book.
Set up a Website
A website can be as simple or as elaborate as you like but should visually express your personal “brand” or the ambiance or tone of your book. Create an engaging author bio and write about how you conceived of the book, but remember that it’s not really about you but about what will intrigue visitors and make them want to read the book. Include a contact button so visitors can leave their email address; perhaps encourage this by offering something like a short story related to the book or the prologue from the book. Set up a blog and offer your visitors interesting and useful content. Consider producing a video trailer about the book. The more quality content on your website, the better.
Learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Once your website is up, it needs to be “found.” Your next task is to learn how to drive traffic to your website. Lynda.com and YouTube have instructional videos for novice webmasters. You’ll need to become savvy about things like keywords and backlinks (e.g., SEMRush, Wordtracker). Alternatively, these services can be outsourced to “search engine optimization” specialists. Make sure that everyone you hire is a native English speaker or at least 100% fluent. You don’t want your advertising and web content to contain embarrassing mistakes.
Maintain an Email List
Creating an email list is important for ongoing marketing, as you’ll need to contact your “fans” to offer promotions. Start by placing everyone you already know on your email list. If you have included a “Contact” button on your website, you should be getting new emails regularly. Keep your list updated. Give subscribers an “Unsubscribe” option. Look into Mailchimp or MailerLite to manage your email list. Send semi-regular emails to keep people updated about your activities—articles, awards, speaking engagements, etc.—and especially to offer special deals, such as around the holidays or when you have published a new book.
Freebies and Discounts
Do promotions that involve giving out free or heavily discounted books through Amazon, Goodreads, and the very popular BookBub (a bulk marketer), which drive over 10 million ebook sales each year. These promotions will generate sales, which will hopefully generate reviews and maybe even result in a temporarily higher sales ranking for your book, which will generate even more sales.
Numerous other sites offer authors promotion opportunities, such as Freebooksy, BargainBooksy, and Ereader News Today, to name a few.
Submit to Awards Programs
Finishing anywhere near the top of any of these programs is like winning an Oscar.
Romance Writers of America
Romance Writers of America (RWA) take submissions for awards from self-published authors. There are at least five award categories in RWA, all of which mean big publicity if you just get nominated, let alone win: the RITA, HOLT, PRISM, Daphne (which is more mystery/paranormal), and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.
Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America chapters offer various competitions that are not off-limits to self-published authors. From their site:
The annual Best First Crime Novel Contest is sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America and Minotaur Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press). The contest is open to any professional or non-professional writer who has never been the author of a published crime novel (as defined by the contest sponsors).
Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America
SFWA has the Nebula Awards, which is open to self-published books.
This link is to an excellent article from Publishers Weekly re: indie writers and publishers’ awards programs.
Wikipedia’s list of American Literary Awards
Clemson University Libraries for Children’s & Young Adult Literature: Book Lists & Book Awards
Book Awards & Books Lists: Genre Awards
You have to be a Kindle Direct author to know all the awards offered through Amazon. It is worth your time to check it out once your book is posted there.
In the last decade, there has been a proliferation of awards programs specifically geared to self-published books (often called “indie books”). While these awards don’t carry the same prestige as those for traditionally published books, having an award sticker on your book can help it stand out in the crowd and sway skeptical readers to give it a chance. Check out this article for information on the usefulness of these awards and recommendations for which programs to consider.
Boost your online presence by engaging frequently in online discussion groups. For instance, LinkedIn has numerous writing and reading discussion groups where you can interact with others on various subtopics and offer advice based on your experience as a self-published writer. Bring up your book whenever it is relevant to the discussion and include the link to your website. However, make sure you are genuinely engaging and not going overboard with self-promotion. Be active on Goodreads, Scribd, and other book-review sites where you can offer insights that people will find articulate, thorough, and useful. If you impress people with the way you use words in that context, they will be interested in reading your book.
Be a good literary citizen. Visit the blogs and social media of other authors and praise their work, enter discussions about topics you are familiar with from your own work, and offer interesting tidbits of research you uncovered while writing your book.
Twitter and Facebook are considered essential. Instagram and YouTube are also popular platforms, especially for the younger generation. Consider them if you’re writing Young Adult (YA) fiction or nonfiction.
Attend writers’ conferences, where many literary agents and publishers are actively seeking new clients and authors.
Become a guest blogger among other authors who write similar work to yours. Review their books. Always try to be nice.
Give away postcards or bookmarks with your cover art.
Help promote other authors, and they’ll help promote your books in return.
Readings and Panels
Arrange for readings at local bookstores and at local organizations whose work is in any way related to the topic of your book. This face-to-face kind of promotion is worthwhile but probably not as effective as what you do online. However, if you write for a boomer or senior demographic who are less likely to be internet-savvy, you may be able to participate in community center events that allow local talent to present their art.
Your local library may offer “literary events” that include a panel of self-published authors. Contact your library and sign up for events where book promotion is allowed or even encouraged.
Some consider podcasts social media and some consider it new media. Either way, participating in podcasts can broaden your reach as you seek new readers for your work. Podcasts are also easy to participate in because you do so from the privacy of your own computer—which makes it easier for the shy author. There are dozens of podcasts out there depending on genre; a handful of popular ones to become familiar with are: Lit Up, Between the Covers, Lit Hub, Self Publishing Formula, and Electric Lit.
Lean on Your Social Circle
Most people lack a large following on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Now is the time to start building one under your own name or your author pseudonym.
You’re a writer, so you probably have a bigger social circle than you realize. It’s a built-in audience, and given the way viral media sharing works, if you’re lucky, a link shared with 20 friends and family can quickly mushroom into 2,000 prospective customers.
Try many different strategies to see what works for your book. Something that didn’t work the first time might be worth trying again later. Successful marketing is all about persistence and a multi-pronged approach. And you get better at it over time.
Tracking Book Sales
Once you have published your book you will want to track its sales. Tracking will help you figure out which marketing efforts are showing results.
Track titles on Kindle (site includes additional resources) and BookCore.
One final note as you embark on this new endeavor: aim high, but temper your expectations. Don’t be seduced by the prospect of easy riches and overnight fame. Self-publishing and marketing are long roads, and it takes time to reach your goals. Few self-published titles end up being hits, and many writers don’t recoup their out-of-pocket expenses. That doesn’t mean you have to hit a home run to be successful. Keep plugging away at it. Eventually, your audience will come.
Jeff Karon – Kelly Lynne Schaub – Theodora Bryant – Caroline Hiley – Ann Howard Creel -Floyd Largent – Marie Valentine – Carrie Cantor – Beth Bruno – E. M. Levy – Stacey Donovan – David Ferris
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