When I first started writing and made the decision to bypass a publisher, I entered into the new world of modern writing. No longer do we need an agent or publisher to see our words in print. This is very liberating but that doesn’t mean its easy!
In this world, you become your own agent, publisher, and advertiser. The first place I went to was Kindle on Amazon. Luckily, the steps for setting up your book, such as royalties and taxes are clear and you can get answers to questions quite easily. My next step was trying to figure out how much to sale my book for. The shocking thing I learned is that an unknown author can’t go out and sale their book for what they think it might be worth or what established authors can ask for. Well, you could, but the likelihood of getting any sales is very low. Most people aren’t going pay much for a book, taking a chance on an unknown self-published author, however, they might take a chance if your book is, well, to put it bluntly, cheap. This was shocking to me because the thought of selling my hard work for $5.00 or less (less is better) left a bitter taste in my mouth. I took a deep breath though and did it. With my later books I asked for more because by then I’d built up a fan-base, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
After getting my book downloaded to Amazon I realized of course I needed a book cover. Amazon will offer you free book covers to choose from but they aren’t very eye-catching. There are many cover designers who are very helpful in designing a cover page that looks professional. If you want your ebook to sale, you need a cover page, it’s that simple. Most readers will bypass a book that doesn’t have a picture worth looking at. Making sure that your book looks clean and professional with an interesting cover will make your readers more curious of your work.
After publishing with Kindle I went to other ebook distributers, such as Smashwords (who will distribute for iTunes and many other sources) and Goodreads. It was here that I learned that the hardest part of writing (well, besides writing your book) is formatting your novel to fit the criteria of these distributers. I’m quite computer savy but even I had difficulty trying to format my novels that met their expectations, or perhaps, it’s because I found the task to be daunting, irritating, and not worth my time.
It was after writing my second novel that I found using a professional to format my books was a great investment. There are many professional ebook formatters who are inexpensive and do incredible, quick work. They can easily be found online. They will format your book to fit into all distributers criteia (nook, kindle, apple, smashwords, etc.) and then they will send you exactly what you will send to those distributers. After getting my second book formatted I had my third professionally formatted as well. It’s worth the money and saves you time.
Next, was advertising. I decided my best bet was to advertise on Facebook. Facebook gives you many options on how often you want to advertise, how much money you want to spend, and who is going to see those ads. I will admit I got a lot of sales doing it. Its true you have to spend money to make money. I also learned that the more reviews you have, the more interested people are. I found companies that offered reviewing for a decent price. Be careful who you choose and make sure they are legit so you aren’t giving money for reviews that never come. Doing this I got reviews which showed up on Amazon and Good Reads (you can get people to review and post in other places as well). Know that these reviews are honest and you get no say in them, so maybe not all of them will be exactly what you hope for and some will be just what you want, but reviews help in sales and gets you noticed.
After I had done all of this, my next step was building my own website. There are many sites out there that you can use and they will take you step by step building your site quite easily and for free. I also made sure that anywhere I sold my books (amazon etc.) I had a link to my website and my Facebook fan-page with a short description about me. If you’re on Twitter or any other social media make sure you have links for those as well. Through my fan-page I began to build up a fan-base. You need to be sure people know who you are.
One last thing and I can’t say this enough! EDIT EDIT EDIT! Even after I had my books edited several times, I still found errors and I can’t tell you how disappointing it was to see in reviews that my books needed better editing. They liked the story but the mistakes were distracting. Of course, anytime I found mistakes I got them fixed, but there are ways to avoid this. All I can say on this topic is get a good editor. I warn you, however, editing isn’t cheap. In fact, a professional editor is quite expensive but you must decide if it’s worth it in the end. There are other routes to take such as hiring a college student or an English teacher. No matter what you do, getting your books as clean and professional looking as you can, goes a long way. You can Google professional editors and while some are extremely expensive you’ll find those that are more within your budget. However, as I said, getting this done will save you from embarrassing reviews. I was also lucky enough to correspond with a few people who had written up reviews for my books and said that they would like to edit future work for me. There are many options out there. You just have to decide which are best for you.
Over-all, this was an exciting learning experience and being able to share my stories has been a great accomplishment. It’s wonderful that we now have these sort of options.
Good luck and best wishes!