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 Do not publish your first draft.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.

Ginger Nubs and Marketing Hang-ups

This is my ginger plant.

I have not historically been very good at growing plants. My mama has a green thumb known throughout her town (or at least among friends and neighbors, who turn the corner at the end of the block and see her garden exploding from the row of grassy lawns that surrounds it). Like me, my brother lives in a city apartment. Unlike me, his windowsills and fire escape burst with lovely green life. Many plants have graced my city sills – bright amaryllises lovingly potted by my mother every Christmas, fresh herbs to brighten my home cooking, flowers brought as hostess gifts – and many have withered in my care. When the topic of gardening comes up, I’ve been known to go a little wistful. My identity, when it comes to gardening, has long been that I greatly admire those who grow plants, but I’m no good at it myself.

Similarly, I have never thought of myself as someone who is good at marketing. I have long admired those who excel at it, especially in my own field, but it hasn’t been something I have historically enjoyed. I have, in fact, uttered the phrase “I hate marketing,” on more than one occasion. (I’m sorry, awesome marketing people with whom I share this internet space. I haven’t said it in a long time, but I have said it, and I’m sorry.) The thought of promoting myself, at least in the abstract, still fills me with mild dread. I am not sure of the exact origin of the belief that I’m bad at marketing, but I suspect it has much to do with working for a long time in a field that I didn’t love. In my early twenties, networking felt awkward and forced, and I explained my desk job with rote descriptions devoid of passion. I am a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of girl, and my heart was very rarely in my work, so trying to promote myself (or my organization for that matter) was uncomfortable, and I chalked it up to hating self-promotion or promotion of my business, to not being a “marketing person.”

But here’s the thing: the notion that one can simply not be a “marketing person” is a myth. I remember very clearly the first time I realized this. I was at a friend’s birthday party, fresh out of massage school and newly licensed, wary of launching my private practice (if I built it, would they come?), baby stepping into my new career by working for a chiropractor and at a spa. Someone I had never met asked me what I did for a living, and I told her. She told me about a pain in her neck, and the conversation flowed from there. We talked muscle attachments and trigger points, posture and exercise, different ways to approach bodywork and self-care, and, somewhere in there, I realized that I was being downright effusive, bordering on bubbly. For years, talking about my work with strangers was my absolute least favorite thing to do at a party, a formality to get out of the way before really getting to know someone. Yet here I was, talking about my work, connecting with this new person, and it was the best part of my night. As the conversation drew to a close and she headed out the door, I gave her my card. Wait a minute. Had I just promoted myself and thoroughly enjoyed myself at the same time? My mind, as well as my identity as a hater of self-promotion, was blown.

Alas, a remarkable overnight transformation did not ensue. I did not realize one night that promoting my work could be fun and wake up in a swirl of enthusiastic private practice marketing the next day. A couple of years later, I still have to push myself fairly hard sometimes to generate blog posts and emails and the like. Talking to people about my work is a blast, but making the initial connections that lead to these conversations and ultimately to client relationships is still a bit of a slog for me. But it’s worth it. Working in the treatment room of the yoga studio I love, keeping my own files, bringing people in and having the opportunity to listen and connect all on my own merit is the most gratifying work that I have ever done. When I get an email from someone who has read my blog and thinks I might be just what they’re looking for, it goes straight to my heart.  Really.

What does this have to do with my ginger plant? The internet, with its infinite knowledge, informed me a few months back that it was possible to grow a ginger plant from the very ginger you find at the supermarket (it being a rhizome and all). Brooklyn is not necessarily the ideal climate for ginger, but I had some on hand, and I thought it might be fun to grow a little something. What did I have to lose other than this little ginger nub that was already past its culinary prime, sporting the beginnings of baby green shoots?  I threw it in a pot of dirt and gave it lots of water. For a few days, I covered it with a glass bowl to keep it cozy hot and humid. And it grew! Weeks passed, then months, and my plant is still alive. It is getting tall and lanky now, still sprouting new stalks. It looks like bamboo, a little slice of tropical Zen in my front window. I see it first thing when I come home, and it serves as a reminder of the growth that can happen when you toss out negative old ideas of yourself and try something new.

I’m not saying that my thumbs are now glowing green. I will continue to bring home potted herbs because I like plants, and it’s more economical than buying them cut anyway, and I will try my darnedest to keep them alive, but some of them might not make it. I’m sorry, guys. I’m really, really trying, but sometimes there are aphids and weird molds and not quite enough light and probably other stuff that hasn’t come up for me yet. And I am far from a master of marketing. I might spend a whole afternoon thinking up and writing out a really great promotion or ad that doesn’t actually bring anybody through my door. That’s a thing that can happen, but it’s OK by me. I may not be a master of gardening or marketing just yet, but there’s evidence on both fronts that my efforts are worthwhile. After all, neither plants nor my practice will ever thrive if I don’t give it a whirl.

 

Megan Spence is a Licensed Massage Therapist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She is continually astonished by just how much she loves her work. You can read more about Megan’s adventures in massage and various other things body-related at Bodywork Brooklyn.

Who Am I To Blog?

There it is. That nagging question that keeps me in check, and if left unreconciled, threatens to render me a useless pile of massage therapist, drooling and twitching on a Big Lots area rug.

The answer is simple: I’ve got something to say. I’ve got something to say about the way we’re treated and the way we treat ourselves. I’ve got something to say about community, support, ethics, honesty, and ideas. I’ve got something to say about fitting in, and flipping off.

And when I say “I’ve”, I mean “we’ve”. You’re reading this; you’re part of the discussion. Whether your head is nodding in agreement, shaking in disagreement, or is clutched in the agony of the realization that you’ll never get the previous sixty seconds of your life back, we’ve got a conversation on our hands. When the question arises “Who am I to passionately shake my fist at the inanimate object on which I type when there’s nary a soul to see me?”, acknowledge that I’ve-you’ve-we’ve got something to say, and unleash the beast.

Our qualifications to be heard don’t have to depend on awards we’ve won, books we’ve published, or checks we’ve taken to the bank. Sometimes others will choose to engage us, and sometimes we may end up feeling like the carton of milk accidentally left out overnight, forgettable and sour, a wasted effort. But really, who cares?

Persist. Live with integrity, embody generosity, speak your truth. Projects as dynamic as what I believe The Young Thumbs to be can emerge from something as basic as a good conversation. We best embrace our right to communicate, simply because we’ll always have something to say.

 

Andrea Lipomi is a licensed massage therapist and esthetician who lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada. She also peddles massage therapy ebooks and NCBTMB-approved continuing education courses at ConfidentMassage.com, will travel hundreds of miles for a fantastic spa experience, and craves dark chocolate and Depeche Mode’s upcoming tour dates on an almost daily basis.