Successful Self-Publishing Checklist
Self-publishing is often wrongly considered the ‘easy’ alternative to publishing. Yes, granted, it’s much easier to upload a book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing than it is to go through the traditional process of sourcing an agent and selling to an editor—but you’re going to be sorely disappointed if you think the self-publishing workload stops after hitting ‘Upload’.
In the traditional publishing world, an author is part of a much wider team of professionals who perform all the background tasks that ultimately help to boost a book’s sales. There’ll be a dedicated marketing and publicity team to spread the word about your book pre- and post-publication, a design team who’ll create you an eye-catching cover, typesetters and proofreaders to make sure every page looks perfect, and, before you’ve even reached the point of handing your book over to these people, a professional editor (often more than one!) will have gone over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and returned at least one set of revisions for you to work on.
Successful Self-Publishing Checklist
If you’re self-publishing a book and you’ve not yet considered how you’ll achieve each of these tasks, and if you don’t have the means to employ a dedicated team of professionals to help you, you’re going to have to handle the responsibility yourself. Even for experienced self-publishing authors, that’s no easy feat.
It’s a time-consuming process to launch a book successfully, and the harsh truth is that the vast majority of self-published books do not perform well. For every bestseller, there are a thousand more that haven’t achieved even a handful of sales in their first year.
Nobody wants to see their book fail, so here are some steps you should take before self-publishing a book to amplify its chances of success.
Polish your manuscript
Content is everything, particularly if you want to secure a 5-star review after a reader has purchased your book. You should take great care to ensure that your manuscript is the best it possibly can be, both in terms of the plot and how well it’s written.
Spoiler alert: You will need other people to help you with this.
Whether you choose to hire a freelance book editor, employ the help of a beta reader, or look closer to home for relatives and friends to read your manuscript and give their opinion, you will need to ensure that at least three other people have read and approved your book before you jump into self-publishing. Once it’s out there in the world, you can’t go back and change a line here or there to improve it. This task absolutely needs to be checked off the list before you set a publication date.
Keep in mind that if you hire a freelance book editor they will need to make room in their schedule to edit your book, and there may be a waiting list. This is one reason why it’s so important to hire a freelance book editor before announcing your publication date, because having to rearrange the launch day might annoy readers who are queuing up to buy your book.
Establish your social media presence
Maybe you already have an account on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but do these accounts reflect your status as an author?
Social media can be a powerful marketing tool, so it’s important to reflect your work across each of your profiles. You’re an author, so make sure this is mentioned in your biography. Upload a good quality profile picture so that your readers will be able to see what you look like.
If you write under a pen name and don’t want readers to know your personal identity, consider setting up a separate profile or page on each social media platform using your pen name.
There are many ways to connect with readers and other authors on social media. Use hashtags to interact with likeminded people and be sure to follow a variety of individuals who work in the publishing industry so that you can always stay on top of the most recent trends and industry news.
If you’re good with graphic design, or if you know someone who is, social media is a great place to create a buzz around your upcoming book launch by including promotional graphics in your feed or as a profile header image. Get creative and utilise your talents!
It’s important to post regularly and to keep your profile information as up to date as possible. By the time you launch your book, you should aim to have at least 2 months’ worth of consistent (and relevant) social media presence—preferably more!
Hire a cover designer
It’s becoming increasingly easy to create your own book cover now, and indeed, most self-published authors do. However, the results are subjective at best, and unless you’ve got real design experience and know the ins and outs of Photoshop, it’s not always the most sensible decision to design your own cover.
In fact, a self-made book cover can actually harm your sales.
An experienced book cover designer will not only know their way around Photoshop like the back of their hand, but they’ll also have a good awareness of the book cover trends for the genre you’re writing in, so they’ll be better able to create a cover that will drive sales, not turn readers away.
Another thing to take into consideration when designing your own book cover is the various copyright laws that you might be infringing by using images taken from the internet in your book cover. A good designer will know where to source images to avoid legal complications further down the line.
Once you’ve found the perfect cover designer, why not ask if they’re able to create promotional graphics that complement your design too, like social media headers and bookmarks?
Set up an author website
It doesn’t cost much to purchase a domain name, and DIY author websites are cropping up all over the self-publishing landscape. Some appear less professional than others, but if you invest a good amount of time and effort into setting up your own author website and make use of the many tutorials you can find online, you’ll have a great website at very little cost.
You can, of course, take the route of hiring a professional to create your author website, but at this stage in the publishing process, your budget could be better spent elsewhere, such as hiring a freelance book editor or cover designer.
Make sure your website has an up to date ‘About’ page that lists all the information you’d want your readers (and anyone else from the publishing industry) to know about you. Be sure to add in links to buy your books when they launch and use this space to really showcase your work—it’s your own personal corner of the internet, after all!
It’s a good idea to include links to your social media profiles and, if you’re publishing via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or CreateSpace, a link to your author page too.
Find the right keywords
So, you’ve taken all the steps above and you’re about ready to publish your book—but now you’ve hit the Upload process, you’ve come across another hurdle: keywords.
Keywords are important to ensure that your book reaches its intended audience. It isn’t enough to simple regurgitate your genre (i.e. ‘Romance’, ‘Fantasy’) and hope for the best. How many hundreds of thousands of other books do you think are going to be using those keywords?
To make your book really stand out from the enormous crowd, you need to nail down a solid list of specific, well-researched keywords to categorise your book and place it in the hands of the reader who’s eager to read it.
For reference, take a look at the bestselling books in your genre or category and take note of the keywords they’re tagged with—this will give you good inspiration for your own book and will set you up with a better idea of the sort of search terms readers use to discover new stories.
When you’ve finished writing a book, it’s easy to get swept away by all the excitement and rush into self-publishing without first considering all of the above steps.
The truth is, if you want your book to generate sales and receive glowing reviews, you really do need to dedicate time to seriously planning its launch. Invest in a freelance book editor who can work with you to enhance your manuscript (if you’re stuck on where to find one, my affordable book editing services are always an option!), spend time making your website and social media profiles effective marketing tools, research your keywords, and generate buzz around the book launch by using a professionally designed cover and promotional graphics.
Get a head start on all of the above steps by planning ahead before you’ve even finished writing. Take ten minutes to half an hour out of your writing day, every day, to really push social media and you’ll see results instantly. Be prepared to share your work with others pre-launch and really take on board their opinions. Make sure that your manuscript is the best it possibly can be, because once it’s in the hands of a reader, there’s nothing to prevent them from posting a negative review if it isn’t.
There are hundreds of thousands of potential readers out there who could love your book, but rushing ahead to publish it without developing an effective strategy first is a sure-fire way to see your novel barely make it off the launch pad. Don’t make the same mistakes that so many self-publishing authors do. Follow the steps above to attract your readers well in advance of your book launch, and give it the best chance at being a bestseller in your genre.
You’ve been writing for so long—now it’s time to remain patient and focused for just a little more time to make your publication day a novel success!