I recently self-published my first novel on Amazon/Kindle, New & Improved! A Political Thriller. It follows the exciting and dangerous exploits of Ben Coleman, a NYC advertising hotshot creative director.
I have been asked “How do you do it?” by many people. I thought MENG members would appreciate some insights into getting a book self-published by what I experienced and learned. And I hope you buy the book and let me know how you liked it!
Fourteen Steps to Becoming Self-Published
1. First, join a writing group to get your fiction or non-fiction book completed. A group’s support and peer energy will get you over the hump of beginning, or, in my case, completing your book. Listen to their ideas and guidance, but be your own judge of what you want to commit to paper. Conversely, avoid asking family and close friends to read your book; they cannot and will not be objective.
2. Join a local independent book publishers group to get important expertise, guidance and support. My group, the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association in San Rafael, California, was instrumental in helping me get self-published on Amazon this past September.
3. The only way to get your book written is to write regularly, like music practice in grade school. My first novel took over five years to complete, edit, proofread, re-edit and re-proof. My technique was to write out my chapter headings first to establish the flow of the story. I then “filled in the blanks.” This works for fiction and non-fiction. I wrote it all down before I edited and re-wrote. Creating character treatments of two to three pages helps you “get to know” your characters if you are writing fiction. You will also learn that your key characters will take over the book and almost write it for you.
4. Get a good editor. They work magic on your precious copy. Let them! It is the best money you will spend on your road to being self-published.
5. Get a good proofreader—or two. I am sure that some typos still lurk in my new novel in spite of having had three different proofreaders scour the novel.
6. Get Educated. There are numerous on-line bloggers with very helpful guidance about the road to being self-published. I recommend: Joel Friedlander, Judy Baker, Ruth Young, and Penny Sansevieri.
7. Work with an experienced Create Space layout consultant. Again, money well-spent. Create Space, a division of Amazon.com, is a great book planning site, but it has many quirks and you may risk losing momentum if you get frustrated at this stage. I understand that 80% of new books are listed on Amazon.com vs. other sites like Apple Books and Barnes & Noble. I plan to work exclusively with amazon.com for the first few months of my self-published effort to gain presence on their site.
8. Plan your marketing campaign months prior to being self-published. Get a self-publishing name/url (mine is www.GranthamPress.com—my middle name), build a WordPress website that is designed to feature your novel, provide an entertaining bio and picture, “capture” email addresses via an offer (I offer a free copy of one of my short stories), solicits their comments on your site and novel, and directs them to your Amazon novel page. You should also have a blog section, and a section describing your next book (with some chapters to wet their interest).
9. Develop business cards or postcards with your cover on one side and a call-to-action on the other with specific links to your Amazon book page.
10. Solicit reviews, even pre-publication reviews. They are useful for inclusion in the front section of your book or the back cover, on your Amazon book page, and in various marketing pieces for when you become self-published.
11. Add a page at the end of the book (after your bio) that is a “Dear Reader, please review my book on Amazon” appeal. It is a nice note expressing your appreciation for buying your book and solicits a review on your novel’s Amazon home page (scroll down the page to find this section). Reviews are very important in the self-published world as a means of encouraging people to buy your book.
12. Plan book signings, speaking engagements, blogs on appropriate sites, and other promotional events to build awareness and interest in your book. This is also helpful in deciding what you will write about next!
13. Have Fun! Self-publishing will feel very overwhelming to you, but if you make it a bit of a game and set yourself reasonable outcomes each week and month, you will end up like me, a published author. And no one can take that away from you…that one book with your name on your bookshelf, the final reward for all your self-published efforts.
14. Finally, be your own book. Get a t-shirt with your publishing logo on the front, and the book cover on the back. Get some coffee cup and ball caps from www.vistaprint.com. Wrap yourself in your book, embrace your book…be your book. Good luck to becoming self-published.