Some Self-Publishing Basics in Case You’re Curious or Have Something to Say

The following is a guest post written by my sister Deena. Although she is not a massage therapist, she is a fabulous librarian and passionate author of YA (young adult) fiction. I asked her if she’d mind sharing her thoughts on publishing ebooks because some of us may want to put our written stuff out there. Being the awesome sister that she is, her answer was a resounding yes. Enjoy!

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Hello, Young Thumbs Readers and thanks for having me here today. My sister, the self-published author of her own ebooks on massage therapy, asked me to talk about the basics of getting your book Out There in ebook form. With the glacial pace of the traditional publishing world, I love that epubbing is a viable option for writers today and I’m happy to have jumped on board in 2013. Hopefully some of you with something to say will take the leap as well.

I will start by stating that my experience is limited to the world of publishing young adult novels, and that I only have three titles under my belt. I am by no means a bestselling author, and my skills with marketing my work are fairly sad as my day job, life, and sleep take up large chunks of my non-writing time. I will not be insulted if anyone wants more info than I can provide. In fact, I’ll even point you to a fantastic resource: this free ebook by best-selling indie author Susan Kaye Quinn.

OK, now with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump in.

  1. No matter what you are writing (fiction or non-fiction for any age group), make sure your book is well written. Since 2004, I have written over ten novels. Thankfully, self-publishing was not a popular avenue ten years ago, because if I’d actually put my earlier work up for sale, I’d be super embarrassed by its crappiness right now. Find writing partners and critique each other’s work, read books on the craft of writing, and read books in your genre. Write, write, write. Revise, revise, revise. Do not publish your first draft.
  2. Once your well-written book is complete, get it copyedited. Yes, some typos and bad word choices may still get through to the final product (admitting guilt here). They do in traditionally published books, too. That is OK and no reason to panic since you can fix and upload your files again as needed. But still, enlist a freelance copyeditor or friend or writing partner who is good with grammar to do a final edit for you before publishing.
  3. Hire someone or learn how to format your book in MOBI and EPUB files. MOBI is the format used by Kindle, and Amazon is where you’ll sell most of your books. EPUB is the format used by Nook and most other e-readers.
  4. Buy an ISBN…or don’t buy an ISBN. Honestly, it doesn’t matter too much these days for e-publishing since most e-tailers don’t require them anymore. However, if you want to publish your book in print and sell it, you will need one.
  5. Create or purchase a professional book cover. If you are not good with design, do not attempt this on your own. Hire someone. Cover art is important and is the best marketing you can give your book out of the gate.
  6. Write a short blurb for your book. Polish it. Make sure it is error-free. This will be what potential buyers see when they browse your book at e-tailers (you will upload it with your manuscript), so make it perfect.
  7. Upload your book to e-tailers. I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon, but you must upload your book to this megastore for ease of access for your audience. I would also recommend using Barnes & Noble for those Nook users. Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes are optional in my opinion, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have it available through as many vendors as possible (even if uploading to iTunes is the most convoluted, antiquated process compared to the cutting edge technology of their products).
  8. You will also set your book’s price when you upload it. There are tons of posts online (just Google “best ebook price point”) that try to pinpoint the winning strategy to this, but I go with $2.99. Then I’ll put them on sale for $.99 at times and promote the deal for the duration.
  9. Advertise! As I’ve said, I suck at this part of the process, but do as much of it as you can so you sell more books than me. If you have a platform (you are a massage therapist writing non-fiction about massage, for example), find readers in your field who will post reviews on relevant sites or ask them for online interviews. Encourage readers to post reviews on Amazon and B&N. If you can, create a short (one minute or less), professional book trailer or hire someone to make it for you. Have a professional website with a clearly marked “books” page. Carry a bookmark or business card around with you that has your website on it and calls you an “author.”
  10. The best way to bring attention to your book? Write the next book. A fresh front list will bring attention to your backlist. Only have one book in you? Periodically update the content of your book if it is non-fiction, or give it a fresh cover if it is fiction. Something so it stays relevant in the glutted market of books.

Hopefully some of these tips are helpful for anyone dipping their toes in the world of self-publishing. Just remember, it is not a get rich quick scheme and if you don’t love to write, it may feel like a chore. Spend your time on what you love, and if writing is it, make time for it.

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