Writing a novel, short story, or technical manual is on many of our “Bucket Lists.” With the advent of Self-publishing through Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, or many other avenues it has become easier to self-publish. Regardless of whether or not you plan to sell millions or just a few copies to achieve fulfillment and happiness, you need to follow these five important steps to be successful in book writing and publishing.
1) Use a content editing service
Find a friend, fan, or professional editor who will read your book for content. This person should be familiar with the genre of your book and be able to help you by suggesting areas that need improvement. Some areas that a content editor might be able to identify as needing work include character development, storyline flow, and historical (if appropriate) accuracy. It is also important that your content editor make sure your story is unique.
2) Develop an eye-catching cover
The first thing a potential reader sees for your book is the cover. As people scroll through eBooks or on bookshelves, the cover is what catches the eye. If your cover telegraphs the content and excitement of your story then people will pick up a copy and start looking in more detail to determine if this is a story worth their time or money.
3) Have a Table of Contents
With a Table of Contents, it is easy for people to see what your book offers. Interesting chapter titles or descriptions of the technical chapters helps the reader immediately assess the value of your book. In our fast-paced society, a book without a Table of Contents might be set aside because it would take to long to determine the value of the book.
4) Employ an excellent book editing service
If you have spent any time reading book reviews you will notice that many reviewers comment on spelling errors, typos, and poor grammar. It is critical to the success of your work that you have the book edited. A good book editor will find punctuation issues, spelling and grammatical errors, formatting problems, and he or she can help you keep readers happy and providing you with four and five star reviews. Poorly edited books often receive one star reviews and this can absolutely stop any sales of your book.
5) Write a catchy book description
After the cover grabs the potential readers attention, your book description needs to convince them that your book is going to be a wonderful read. You must tease the reader, activate his/her imagination, and capture his/her attention. Often a beta reader or a book editor can help you write the book description.
As a start-up entrepreneur, one of the many lessons I’ve learned in business is to start marketing your product as soon as possible, even before it is ready for customers. Marketing creates demand and you should start building awareness early.
When a few of my colleagues mentioned I should write a book, I had no idea what I would write about. I just knew it would be about start-up companies because that’s what I’ve done for years and the stories always seem to fascinate people over lunch. So instead of starting with the book, I started a blog and shortly afterwards, I started article marketing.
I wrote about a lot of different aspects of start-up companies, everything from product development to humor about employee antics to advertising. I watched what attracted readers, and there seemed to be three topics that were the most appealing to them – funding, marketing, and customer engagement.
Fourteen months later, I held my first book in my hands. I also made sure I found a good book editing service to go over it very carefully.
I knew marketing and promoting my book would not be easy and quick. I reached out to all sorts of people, investigated many different types of marketing approaches, and I have tried a few different ones. You’ll find authors who swear by one or two methods, but no two authors do the same.
Virtual Book Tours
These are online book promoters. They use their network of contacts to get you placement in blogs, in online magazines, and on blog talk radio shows. They may even do Facebook advertising and press releases too. Some are specific to different geographic locations across the globe. I engaged several of these services and I found each one to be quite good. Each one has their own set of contacts. You can exhaust their contacts within a couple of months and so I needed to use more than one. These services suit my personal schedule as they do all the leg work, and I just need to be available or provide the content.
Traditional Public Relations and Publicists
This is one of the more expensive options and many of these firms have gone to a la carte service model, so some part of their services is affordable. The trick is going to the right firm, one that deals in your subject matter. These firms have contacts into the mainstream media from news organizations to television to radio to magazine. In six months, my firm secured more than 25 placements and they focus on media engagements with large audiences.
I hired a guest blogging consultant, who recommended doing four guest posts per week. In his experience, this really builds an audience like nothing else. He recommended researching the blogoshere to find the appropriate blogs, spending 2 to 4 hours getting to know each blog and its audience, and then proposing a guest post. Finally, he suggested spending 8 to 10 hours writing each guest post. It didn’t take more than a minute to figure out that this would consume more than 40 hours per week of my time, and it just didn’t fit into my personal schedule.
Next I met a highly successful Internet guru, who swore article marketing works to build an audience. This is how she built an audience of millions. I was already doing some articles, but not with structured intent. Steve Shaw, the founder of SubmitYourArticle, said it takes 6 months before you can see noticeable results from article marketing and recommends at least 8 articles per month for each article website that you use.
Email and Internet Marketing Campaigns
One of the techniques many authors swear by is joint venture marketing campaigns. The trick bestselling authors use is to concentrate all the promotion is a short time period such a one day and to build a group of authors that all cross-promote to each other’s fans. In brief, you contact bloggers, social influencers, website owners, newsletters providers, bestselling authors, and anyone with a substantial online presence and ask them to promote your book to their audience. These are your joint partners. They suggest gobbling together an email list of at least 500,000 people and a million person list is preferable. I tried this for about six weeks before I gave up, it was consuming all my time. I know authors who have done this method and it took them months to organize all the necessary joint partners. You can hire services to do this on your behalf, but as I found out, these services are specific to a particular genre and reader demographics.
Book Reviews and Book Contests
I have reached out to podcasters and other authors with complimentary books to review my book. I search Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu for possible authors to contact. iTunes is a great place to find podcast candidates. I have also paid for sponsored book reviews and entered independent book contests. I got the most traction from those that I contacted and secured their help for free. One day I may win one of those book contests, but the winners (at least in my non-fiction business category) tend to be serial authors from the smaller publishing houses.
The Internet is full of advice about authors building social platforms. This includes a website, a blog, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, Twitter and LinkedIn. There are services that will offer to build this platform for an author, but that’s the mechanics. The real work is in generating the content, interacting with the audience, and building your fan base – and I have not seen a service yet that will do this part. You may ask yourself why building a fan base is important. What I’ve learned is the media will check you out online before committing to having you appear in their publication or on their show. Even joint partners will search for you online.
For Facebook, I set aside a small monthly budget to advertise my fan page. On LinkedIn, I share links to my blog posts in groups that are related to me topic. This brings readers back to my website. For Twitter, I use the free version of socialoomph to queue up tips that I tweet to my followers. I also send out links to my blog posts to send readers back to my website.
My advice to authors is not to take on more than two marketing services or efforts at a time. I find I can’t handle too many requests. I may have to spend 20 to 60 hours setting up of a new marketing service. One week I had to write 15 guest posts and articles, and everyone wanted unique and different topics.
The lead time to just get into the line-up for many of these marketing services can be four months. The shortest lead time I’ve experienced was 8 weeks.
There are consultants and services for just about everything for authors. You need to pick and choose what you want to do and how much you want to spend. I’ve been quoted fees from $500 to $50,000. There are service firms who arrange for speaking engagements, virtual conference events, Facebook parties, and just about everything imaginable.
For me, it is a matter of how much time I can spend promoting my book. Yes, you can do-it-yourself, and on my own I’ve managed to land articles in such publications as Entrepreneur magazine. But my time is limited and I need others to help me promote my book.
About the Author
Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three tech start-ups companies. Cynthia writes the popular Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog and has written the book, ““Startup From The Ground Up - Practical Insights for Entrepreneurs, How to Go from an Idea to New Business”.
In grad school, I studied the publication and history of texts. The prevailing assumption was that the author’s original version, warts and all, was inherently more interesting than what had been conformed by editors to printers’ “house style,” corrected by proofreaders, and silently changed in subsequent reprints (e.g., to modernize spelling). Only late in my doctoral program did the premium on original authorial versions begin to be challenged, as critics pointed out that publishing itself was what gave us access to most authors’ work. Nevertheless, the preference for the naked authorial document, stripped of all the wardrobe provided by the publishing process, still held the upper hand at the time of my exit from academia.
I exited academia to become a publishing professional. I became part of the manufacturing process that massages and tweaks a text to the point that it is considered publishable. I made this career move originally to pay my bills, but as I progressed from proofreader to production editor to editor to writer, increasingly I appreciated the need for this assembly line to ensure a good final product. Someone’s cherished final draft clearly had to pass under many eyes–be queried, conformed, and corrected–so that no one who had a stake in the final product, including the author, would have occasion for embarrassment or regret. I accepted readily this quality control process even when I myself was the author, and my own draft under someone else’s scrutiny.
The notion that the traditional publishing process gets between authors and their readers is not a dead idea. It still lives and is experiencing renewed vigor with the current gold rush to self-publish, inspired and enabled by the World Wide Web and its parvenu publishers such as Amazon and Apple. Casual reading about the exploding e-book phenomenon easily gives the impression that many authors now think that they can leave behind editors and other publishing production (and distribution) personnel as expendable ”hidden costs.” They are so wrong.
Precisely because editors and other publishing personnel are not expendable, the production of e-books costs about as much as that of paper books. For a clear and simple explanation, see this blog post by the chairman of one major publishing company, “Why Do eBooks Cost So Much? (A Publisher’s Perspective).” If publishers must continue to invest so much into the making of e-books, then can self-publishers afford to neglect these functions? Self-publishers often fail to hire professionals with the needed skills, and the results speak for themselves to the reading public. Note the first reason given in this article for readers’ low expectations about self-published texts: “The Big Reasons Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously.” The cost of not hiring editors and other publishing professionals extends way beyond dollars.
Becoming your own publisher means that you need to take on the responsibilities of a publisher. You need to be sure a text is ready for its public. Securing the services of editors and professionals with other necessary skills is as essential to publishing your own work as securing copyright. To be professional, you must use professionals. No one can do it alone. So come on: be a player.
Check our comprehensive list of methods for promoting your book. We’ve included a wide array of initiatives so that, if you encounter one of these methods in your own research, you will have insight into how effective we believe it to be.
Self-Marketing Guide for Self-Published Authors (Download pdf)