10 Things You Didn’t Know About Becoming a Self-Published Author
by Brian Cormack Carr
I self-published my first book How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love four days before my 40th birthday. In the first week after its launch, it made the Amazon UK Kindle careers bestseller chart. The process of getting my book written and out in the world has been a lot of fun, and a real education. Here’s some of what I learned along the way:
1. You don’t have to wait for someone else’s permission.
Today’s self-publishing options – such as Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords (for eBooks) and Createspace (for paperback books) – mean that it’s easier than ever to get your work out into the world. You don’t have to wait until an agent or publishing house decides you’re worthy of publication. If you’re willing to put some real effort into writing, self-publishing and marketing your book, you really can ‘do it yourself’.
2. Self-publishing isn’t the ‘soft’ option.
To some people, self-publishing still has a degree of stigma attached to it – but that’s fading. Nowadays, indie authors have as much of a potential platform as authors published through traditional publishing houses, since they are able to distribute their work through Amazon (arguably the single most important book distribution channel in the world today). The quality of indie books is high – many are almost indistinguishable from their traditionally-published counterparts, especially if they’ve been professionally edited and designed.
3. You need to get professional help if you want to be a professional author.
Assuming your writing is of a high standard, you still need to ensure your book comes across as professional. To do that, I strongly recommend having your work professionally edited (a skilled editor will pick up stylistic glitches even the most talented writer will miss) and the cover professionally designed (self-published books with Photoshop covers generally look awful). Professional help really will give your book the best start in the world, and it’s possible to enlist this help without too much expense.
4. You should set a target and make a plan.
Once you’ve made the decision to write and self-publish your book, it’s a good idea to set yourself a deadline. Ten months before my 40th birthday, I set myself of the target of having written and published my first book by my birthday itself (I hit my goal with four days to spare). I worked back from the target date to establish and calendarize milestones like “get book back from editor” and “source cover designer”, and I also set myself weekly word count targets.
5. Print-on-demand means you won’t end up with a stockpile of books in your garage.
Remember the old days when one of the results of self-publishing was piles and piles of unsold books? With print-on-demand facilities like Createspace, that’s no longer necessary. You upload your book file, and when someone wants to buy the paperback copy, one copy is printed and shipped to them from Amazon. Easy, inexpensive – and no storage issues for you!
6. EBooks give you real flexibility.
As well as being cheap and easily distributed (to those with e-readers, anyway) eBooks are also very flexible. Decide you want to change something in the book, or add an appendix later? You just upload a new file online through Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords and your ‘new edition’ is ready for purchase immediately.
7. You need to start promoting your book before you start writing it.
Don’t wait until your book is out there to start building an audience and author platform. Start as soon as you start working on your book (if not before). At the very least, you should have your own author website (easily and cheaply set up through WordPress or Blogger) and a mailing list (using a facility like Aweber or Mailchimp). Start building a readership through blogging, and start capturing email addresses to your list. You’ll be glad of this audience when your book is released.
8. Social media is a self-published author’s best friend.
Another great way to build an audience is through social media. Pick one or two tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads and Google+ and start building your presence and interacting. You’ll make useful contacts and add an important dimension to your author platform, which will help with sales when your book is out.
9. Digital distribution means your launch can be long-term.
Because I had built an audience through my website and social media platforms, I was able to generate a spike of initial sales when I released my book in June of this year. But I don’t see my launch as being over. I’m going to focus on promoting my book for several months before starting work on my next project. Because the book is available worldwide through digital and print-on-demand channels like Amazon and Smashwords, I don’t have to worry about it disappearing from bookstores!
10. Once the book is published, the hard work really starts!
Don’t let yourself think that once your book is published, you can relax. Now the real work begins! Get out there and promote it. Write blog articles for your site. Send a bulletin to your mailing list. Post quotes from your book to Facebook and Twitter. Consider going on a ‘blog tour’ (this article is part of my blog tour to promote How To Find Your Vital Vocation). Let the world know it’s there. You worked hard on it – now you need to shout about it.
Brian Cormack Carr is a writer, certified career coach and chief executive of BVSC The Centre for Voluntary Action, one of the UK’s leading local charities. He trained in personnel management with Marks & Spencer plc and gained an MA (Hons) in English Literature and Language from the University of Aberdeen. Brian has nearly 20 years of experience in the fields of personal development and leadership, and has helped hundreds of clients, readers and workshop participants to find fulfilling work and a renewed sense of purpose.
HOW TO FIND YOUR VITAL VOCATION:
Genre – NonFiction / Careers
Rating – G