Bang2writers are venturing into self-publishing more and more, so I asked uber-self-pubber and fellow writer and name-sharer Lucy V Morgan her top tips on self publishing and ebooks. Enjoy!
Help! I want to self publish. I think. Maybe. Or I dunno, actually. All the cool kidz iz doing it. I want to stick it to the man. But how do I stick it, and where? Do I really want to do this? I can write 90,000 words of pure awesome, but am SUDDENLY INCAPABLE OF MAKING THIS DECISION! [Facepalm]
Calm down, now. Deep breaths. Soothing owl noises. Twit twoooo.
Here’s some stuff you’re going to need if you want to self publish. After that, we’ll talk about whether it still seems like a good idea. Okay? Twooooo.
You Need An Editor
A proper one. Someone with experience in your genre, and if you’re paying them, previous editing experience full stop. Your editor is going to lend you credibility, see (and you’ll need this for getting a decent number of reviews). A good way to get a reasonably priced editor is to find a small press/e-publisher with decent sales, scope out books of theirs that you rate, and then email said publisher to find out if their editors freelance. Many do. This way, you can rest assured that your editor knows your market, and preferably, has worked with books that you love and respect. No point hiring somebody who isn’t on your wavelength. Remember that an editor addresses content as well as typos/grammar mistakes. Even the best of us need a content editor to point out the bits of our story that might best be described as “a steaming heap” before the public get their grubby mitts on it. If you’re on an editor’s website and all the titles on their CV have a) tanked or b) reviewed very badly, you don’t want to hire them, no. Not even if they’re cheap or showing a nice amount of cleavage. If you have a friend who is an actual editor, you could work something out with them. (I was able to do this through my publishing internship, which I think is a useful thing for authors to do anyway). Remember that a beta reader is not an editor (but is still nice and you should buy them things occasionally).
You Need A Smart Book Cover Image
You might go to a professional cover artist for this. You might have designer friends who you can use and abuse. You might even go to a “book covers for £20” site. Signs you have a good cover:
1) It makes people say “ooh!” in that lovely tone. You know, the one which isn’t underscored with pity. 2) It looks like a cover you’d pick up in a shop.
3) There are no boobs/bare arses on it. Even if you write erotica, an overly graphic cover will get you kicked off various vendors.
You Need Vendors
As a self-published author, chances are, the bulk of your sales will be ebooks. There are plenty of places where you can load your book up for sale, and they’ll then take a percentage of said sales:
1) Amazon Kindle. You could could consider going into Kindle Select, which allows you to loan your book out for free in exchange for a certain percentage of an “author pot.” It will require you to be with Amazon exclusively, though.
2) Smashwords. Make sure you get into the Premium Catalogue, which distributes you to Barnes and Noble, and iBooks, among other places. For this, perfect formatting is required, and Smashwords has Mark’s List of very affordable formatters if that’s not your thing. I’m lazy and busy, so I totally paid.
3) Others. All Romance Ebooks/OmniLit and Bookstrand are two other high sales venues you can investigate.
4) Paper copies. You can look into offering paper copies of your book through print on demand services like Amazon Createspace and Lulu. Before you spend all that time typesetting, though, perhaps wait and see what your ebook sales are like.
5) Free titles. I’ve found that having a free title is excellent for boosting your sales, but don’t feel the need to keep all your ebook prices low just because you’re a début author. Zoe Winters discusses this in depth here.
6) Tax codes. If you’re in the UK, to sell on Amazon US (i.e. where most of your sales will be, to be honest), you’re going to need an American tax code or ITIN. Google is your friend.
You Need A Marketing Strategy
Unless you are incredibly lucky, your book will not market itself. Here are some successful ways self publishers market their ebooks (that do not involve offering sexual favours or liquor with each purchase):
1) Back catalogue. Your best advertisement for your new book is your last book, and vice versa. Consider releasing a few titles together. Write that entire trilogy before you even release the first. Readers want to know you’re reliable, and if you’ve got more than one item available, you’ll capitalise on your new readership.
2) Reviews. Reviews are another great advertisement. DO spend lots of time, as you write that back catalogue, finding and following review blogs for your genre. Leave a nice comment occasionally. Then two months or so before your release, send a polite review query. Expect around a 25% return rate of reviews to actual review copies sent, so query lots of places. DO NOT get all your mates to wax lyrical about your book on Amazon. It’s always obvious, and you’ll look like a twat. Like any author, you’ve got to earn those reviews.
3) Website. Create a professional, clean website and update it regularly. Buy your domain name–it only costs $10 a year. Check for unpleasant Google associations before picking your pen name/domain name (turns out I’m associated with some hussy called Lucy V. Hay. It’s awful, and now I can’t get rid of it). Refrain from posting rants and/or strong opinions on your website; you’re a public figure now. Act professionally. Being self-published is not a license to be a dick.
4) Free story sites. Consider using free story sites to build an audience (i.e. Literotica for romance/erotic stuff). I’ve written about using free story sites to boost your sales here).
5) Good Reads. Make sure your book is on Goodreads. But do not take any of the evil Goodreads reviews to heart, and NEVER respond to a bad review, anywhere. It’s a bit like having a peaceful picnic one minute, and then being chased off the edge of a cliff by a gaggle of pissed-off, ankle-biting meerkats the next.
You Need a Support Network
… Of other writers. But not just self published writers. Mix and match, people. Just because somebody has an agent and you don’t, there’s no need to act like you’re on different sides of the Berlin wall. Here are some networking tips:
1) Twitter. Follow other writers. Be approachable. Publishing is, sadly, all about who you know, and I’ve had everything from conversations with amazing authors to agent requests on there. Go forth and tweet, and try not to reek of desperation.
2) Blog. Your website, until you release books, is probably only going to attract other writers. So follow their blogs and talk to them—especially people working in your genre. Then you can host cover reveals and promo spots for each other, without paying for a blog tour. You’ll help to make each other visible.
3) Post your stuff online. By posting my earlier stories on free story sites, I was contacted by people who eventually became friends, beta readers, and handily, cover designers. (I was also contacted by a BBC director about doing some TV stuff. It happens).
You’re probably thinking, blimey, that sounds like hard work. That’s because it IS. While it’s true that you’ll have to do some of the above no matter how you publish, as a self publisher, there’s nobody to pass the buck to. No editor, designer, formatter or publicist. It’s a bit like being up shit creek (or Amazon) and not being able to spell pddle. Padl. P–a–paddle. Christ…
Catch Part 2 of Lucy’s great Round Up on Self Publishing tomorrow!
Lucy V. Morgan writes contemporary fiction. She has two novels with a publisher, and has self published two others. She’s also lucky enough to be developing her first television script with producers. Lucy spent 2011 in a haze of caffeine as a publishing intern and has since surfaced as an editor of young adult fiction for Etopia Press. You can find her at her website and on Twitter, where she is mostly very professional. Mostly.