*See below, how you can enter to win a Smashword’s or Kindle coupon for Heather’s novel, God’s Daughter. *
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When I thought about self-publishing tips I wanted to share, they all hinge around this:
Don’t release your book too soon. You only get one chance to make your debut author impression.
When you enter the vast sea of self-published novels, you want to burst upon the scene with a bang, not a fizzle. This means nailing some things down first and giving yourself time to get them right:
Your writing. First and foremost, have beta readers and/or crit partners who make your writing stronger read your entire book and make suggestions. If you can afford it (very worthwhile!), hire an editor you trust. And make sure you know someone who can format your book, if you can’t. It’s a turn-off when people download those first page samples, only to see improperly formatted work with spelling/grammatical errors. I guarantee they won’t buy it.
Your cover art/blurb. Make sure you have someone with an artistic eye checking over your cover before you get it out. Hiring a cover designer is even better. Always use a cover design/blurb that would make you stop in your tracks and drop everything to buy it. I had my Facebook author page followers chime in on possible Amazon/back cover blurbs for my book–your followers tend to have an innate sense of what will sell. Keep your blurb short, dramatic, and to the point.
Your platform. This should already be in place. If not, give yourself at least five months (preferably more!) to work on it. Otherwise, who’s going to buy your book, besides your family and personal friends? If you don’t have time/energy for a blog, at least have a Facebook author page where people can connect with you. Twitter is easy to get going with and you can add friends quickly. Pinterest is another viable option to connect with readers of your genre. Of all these, I would say Facebook is a must, so you have some sort of “home base” where you can regularly update readers. Once you have cover art locked in, you can set up an Author page on Goodreads, which is crucial for buzz. I recommend doing this at least two months ahead of release.
Your marketing. I recommend spending an hour a day looking into this, if not more. Hunt down every available outlet for advertising your book. I strongly recommend a larger pool of early readers (people in your target demographic who might influence for or endorse your book), but make sure you a) send them an advanced reader copy, which means it’s thoroughly edited and almost ready for print, otherwise they will form a bad impression of your writing, and b) make sure they have three months to read your novel–if they’re authors, they may want to endorse it (give them a cutoff read-by date!).
Figure out how much you want to spend on advertising. I went cheap with mine, but you can spend more and get into major review sites, like Kirkus or Publisher’s Weekly. Line up possible blog-hop sites for interviews/guest posts.
I’ll also give you a little list of things I do not recommend wasting time/money on:
Striving for an agent. Yes, you can have an agent and be self-published. I do! But one of the draws of self-publishing is that you don’t have to have an agent to get in the door. Unless you can find an agent who brings editorial or marketing skills specifically geared toward self-publishing to the table, I believe you can be the best salesman of your own work. Make no mistake–writing, editing, formatting, and marketing your work is a massive task. But it can be done, and with favorable results.
Contests. I’ve read this before, but once you have readers, they don’t care if you have awards in your bio. All they want is your next book.
Re-contacting early readers who never get back to you. Most of the time, betas and early readers will contact you if they can’t get around to reading your book by your cut-off date. The ones who don’t probably don’t like it. I know this is hard to stomach, but remember, if you chose a larger early reader audience (say, twenty or more readers), you’re bound to hit some people who aren’t going to love your genre/style. It’s healthiest to just let it go.
Spamming Goodreads groups, FB groups, or twitter. This is a fine line, and one I have surely crossed a time or two. Live and learn–but be aware you might get kicked out the first time you infringe on the rules. Some groups welcome announcements for book deals, book releases, etc. Some do not. Be sure to double-check guidelines before posting anything.
Comparing yourself to traditionally published authors. Hard NOT to do this, especially if you have lots of traditionally published friends. But as a self-published author, you make your own rules and strive for your own excellence. I strongly urge you to follow blogs like The Creative Penn, which keeps indie authors up-to-date on ways to keep moving forward. If you liked this post, you can find me blogging on Novel Rocket every third Thursday of the month on self-publishing topics.
Whew. This was a lot of info, and I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface. But if there’s one thing I could tell authors who are pondering self-publishing, I’d reiterate what I said at the start: don’t rush into it. This is a long-term race, not a sprint. You are building your writing career, and you want to get the largest reader base possible.
For more self-publishing tips, please come find me at Novel Rocket! Thank you for letting me visit again, Connie!
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Thank you, Heather, for coming back.
Please comment below if you’d like to enter to win a free Smashword’s or Kindle coupon of God’s Daughter. I will choose a winner after midnight Thursday January 9, 2014.
Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather regularly posts on Novel Rocket about self-publishing.
You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Smashwords.