Hitting publish is nerve wrecking.
It doesn’t matter what it is.
A blog post. A Tweet. A new book.
There’s always a moment of hesitation, quickly replaced with total exuberance.
Since releasing The Blended Ones the #1 question I’ve gotten is: What does it take to become a self-published author?
You can put as much or as little work as you like into the process. Ultimately, you need to upload a file and hit publish. However, if you’re seeking to become a full-time author and run your book like you’d run a business, here’s a roadmap to guide you.
Define Your Goals
Have you ever gotten in your car to go on a drive without a destination? I have more than a few times and ended up aimlessly driving around the city. At some point, I always ended up lost, confused and frustrated. This is what happens when you don’t define your goals. Do yourself a favor and decide what you want to gain from publishing, whether you simply want to hold your book in your hands, or take over the world. Remember, this is your journey. Your goals can be as big or as small as you’d like them.
Build Your Platform
While Google is a powerful tool for people to find out about you and your books, what’s even better is building your own author platform. After all, you want the ability to control the conversation.
This starts with building your book sales page, the landing page for your book. On it, you should have a gorgeous book cover and marketing copy that encourages readers to buy your book.
If you are an unknown author, it helps to have testimonials, free chapters, and a way to keep track of readers. Even if your book isn’t available yet, you can start by building your email list. That way you have a group of loyal fans ready to purchase, read, and rave about your book when it is released.
Reach Your Readers
Once you build your platform, how do you get readers to find you and opt into your email list? You have to hang out where they hang out.
Reaching your readers is two-fold, first of all, you have to build a relationship with them. Social media is a fantastic tool for building relationships around the world. My ways to connect with readers are Instagram and Twitter. Facebook is effective for targeting cold readers by running Ads. If you think you’ll run Facebook Ads in the future, go ahead and create a Facebook Page.
Secondly, you have to make them an offer they can’t refuse. My irresistible offers include free chapters from each book as well as a book quiz. The quiz gets them excited about reading, while the free chapters encourage them to finish what they started and buy the book.
Email List Growth
You have readers on your email list. Now what?
Don’t ignore them! This is one of the biggest mistakes authors make. Case in point, I spent time and energy building my email list from 0-800 over a 30-day period. Once my book launch for The Five Warriors ended, I wasn’t sure what to send them.
Over the next 6 months, I lost 300 subscribers because they forgot about me, forgot why they signed up and were no longer interested. 300 is a lot of people and translates to over $1,000 in book sales.
Create a welcome email sequence. Introduce yourself. Tell them about your interests. Ask them questions. Basically, talk to your readers like you would talk to a new friend.
Social Media Growth
Once an author told me: Social media doesn’t sell books.
I laughed. Because it does. And I can prove it. But social media shouldn’t be the tool that inspires direct book sales. You should use social media to indirectly inspire book sales. Take these two approaches for example and let me know what you think will sell you more books.
Case One: You create social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google Plus. You post on them in the beginning but soon grow tired of the all the management and start posting occasionally. When your book comes out you blast all of your social media outlets with the news. You don’t get any engagement. No one responds.
Case Two: You create social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google Plus. You post on them in the beginning but realize you only like using Facebook and Twitter. You stick to those two platforms and make friends, build relationships, and post consistently. When your book comes out, your blast all of your social media outlets with the news. You get tons of engagement and congratulations. You notice your book sales continue to rise.
Humm…it seems being consistent and building relationships on 1-2 platforms is more effective than trying to be everywhere.
Read more about social media: Why You Should Focus on Your Social Media Engagement (+ How to Grow Your Engagement)
Book Launch/Review Team
The biggest complaint I hear from authors is the lack of reviews. If you want more reviews, you have to be proactive about it, yet patient.
Put together a review team and send them an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of your book. Where can you find these people? If you’ve been building your author platform and building relationships on social media, this part is easy. Send an email to your email list and post about it in communities you are part of.
Note: Be careful about asking for reviews from friends and family. I’ve had reviews removed from my books because Amazon thought they were biased.
In order to get the word out on release date, create a book launch team. This is a group of people who will share news about your book release on social media, their own email lists and on their blogs. To make it easy for your book launch team to share about your book, create a shareables page with swipe copy.
Here’s an example: The Four Worlds Series Shareables page.
Publish Your Book
Do you see how each strategy builds on each other? For actually publishing your book, here are a few things you’ll need.
Because of the internet, people just books by their covers, which is why you need a beautiful book cover designer. I use Wicked Book Covers for my designs because she also creates promotions images which are useful for my book sales page and Facebook Ads.
Your book needs to be formatted. In fact, if you’re publishing a print book, you need to know the final page count of your formatted book before you begin. If you don’t want to pay for book formatting, you can learn how to do it yourself.
Do you need an ISBN number?
The short answer is yes. Do you need to purchase one? That answer depends on your goals. If you want to ensure your book is available for bookstores to purchase and can be added to the library system, you’ll want to purchase an ISBN number. If you simply want your book to be available online, using the free ISBN number generated from sites like Createspace will work just fine.
Who is going to distribute your book for you? While Amazon may be the biggest book retailer online, it’s worthwhile to look into other platforms, especially if your book is going to be available internationally.
If you are publishing a paperback the top two print on demand distributors are Createspace and IngramSpark. I personally used Createspace because it is free and the customer service support team is amazing. They put up with me calling them with questions like: “What is a good font size for a fantasy book?”
As for ebooks, popular distributors include Kindle Direct Publishing and Draft2Digital. Currently, I”m taking a hard look into Pronoun. In the past, I’ve used them to track my book ranking and reviews on Amazon. They go above and beyond by sending publishing advice and customized recommendations for book category listings.
There is a lot of work that goes into self-publishing, but holding your own book in your hands is worth it. If you’re ready to take the leap but don’t want to go it alone, take the next step.
Want more? Download the free guide: How to Plan an Epic Book Launch in 6 Steps
What have you learned about self-publishing or what questions do you have about the process?