The most pervasive myth about self-publishing is that it’s the “easy route.” This is usually because indie authors don’t face the query trenches before they publish, but in no way does that make the journey easier. Yet, if you’ve done the writing part and you’ve found your editor or editors it should be straightforward, right? Not so much.
Before you hit publish make sure you have some of the below either in process or finished when your book goes to your editor. Each category contains options and levels, so it’s up to each author to consider their budget, time, and level of expertise with each area of publishing before committing to a route or doing it yourself. But these are all steps to be considered after the book has been edited and is getting closer to being published.
1. Cover design
Cover design is the first step in marketing your book. Don’t believe the adage to “never judge a book by its cover.” It might be true for your relationship, but readers are having none of it. Every reader has a story of buying a book because the cover was awesome and that should be your book.
So, how do you get a stellar cover?
Do your research! Look at the best-selling books in your genre and see what they’re doing well. Are there colors, themes, or images that are perpetually used? Have you ever checked out what your favorite book covers look like? Some are really obvious like historical fiction (women walking away into a cityscape). Some are more subtle like imagery on fantasy novels.
What are your options?
- DIY-Canva, Adobe, and Procreate have made it easier than ever for those with design backgrounds to make their own covers. Budgets are a real thing, but make sure you’re able to bring your cover up to industry standard before committing to this route.
- Entry level-Freelance sites offer a wide range of designers looking to get into the book publishing world and they will likely have more experience with the above programs to help you meet your cover goals.
- Professional-Book designers offer their own sites and often come with lots of referrals. They can be found on freelance sites, social media, and through search engines. Most specialize in certain genres because it allows them to showcase their skills the best.
Do this now! I don’t care where you are in your book process, whether you’ve started writing or you’re near publishing. It’s never too early to start connecting with readers and making yourself known in the book community. Even if you’re unsure which direction you’d like to go, indie or traditional, you’ll need to market your book.
I know what you’re saying: But I don’t want to. It’s time. Start with finding readers who like what you like. Your biggest fans are going to care more about you and your journey than you think. However, you have options here too.
What are your options?
- DIY-Social media, ads, and SEO are easy ways to do your own marketing. You can choose a platform and learn to optimize your marketing to reach the largest audience you can. This is labor intensive, involves planning, and consistency. Getting yourself onto platforms regularly is essential to being seen by readers.
- Low cost– Hire a virtual assistant to handle your social media, optimize advertisements, and buy marketing plans. At this level you will invest in some self-learning and planning tools as well as maybe someone to handle the creation side of social media. This takes some load and guesswork off your plate.
- Professional-Hire a marketer or marketing team to build your brand and market your book. There are marketing coaches, marketing teams, and marketers that specialize in book sales and distribution. If you’re able and ready, they can help you get your book into the stores with little to no further effort on your part.
How you want to get your book into the world is a bigger decision than you may think. Or maybe you think it’s a big decision and that’s why you’ve been avoiding it. There’s a lot of fine print for this section, and it will definitely require a more in-depth dive by you as the author. But this is how you want your book to be consumed by readers and how it’s going to get into the world. This is a decision that may be worth looking into while your book is with the editor.
What are your options?
- Amazon via KDP-Unless you’re an author who’s living under a rock you know that Amazon and KDP are typically a go-to for many authors because of the general ease of use. They offer multiple royalty options, author services, and distribution options including paperback distributions. Amazon has its downfalls too. It’s not great at protecting its authors, especially smaller authors, and they’ve been known to penalize authors for reader behavior. They also have some restrictive clauses depending on the type of publishing you use. And I strongly advise against using their ISBN service as it restricts the usage/distribution of your book.
- Barnes & Noble-In recent years, they’ve developed their own press to try and compete with the monster that is Amazon. They will offer your book as an e-book and print and distribute it online, much like Amazon. Also, if you have pre-orders set up you may even be able to reach best-seller status more easily, which can be great for marketing. However, it’s important to note that their audience isn’t as large as Amazon’s. Some authors have a personal vendetta against the retailer and they’re not wrong, but it’s a strong possibility that your book may not reach as far and it’s important to consider that.
- Wattpad/The Radish-These websites work with authors who want to reach a consistent and specific romance readership. This could be your option if you’re going for the community building that is infamous in the romance genre. Romance is known for its loyalty and these sites are where many authors get their start. Downsides are that the readership is very specific and it can take a lot of backlog or content to drum up a following and that they often are a churn-and-burn style of publishing.
- Physical books-Some authors choose to avoid the e-book game and go the old-school route of physical book distribution and this is actually quite popular with nonfiction authors. This can be done through distributors like IngramSpark who’ll print your book and you can sell it where you would like. This could be at signing events, launch/book parties, in bookstores, or at book fairs. Many authors are only interested in having physical books and that can be an option.
- Mixture-If your goal is to get your books into as many hands as possible, your best bet is to mix some of the publishing options. Most readers have a preference for the type of book they read and it’s impossible to get everyone with one kind. So, the best option is to combine some sort of e-book publishing with a physical book. Again, all the above can be combined, depending on the contract you’ve signed.
How do you know which is right for you?
That is a budget, time, and values question you will need to look at. I have had authors pursue almost all the above options with varying results. In self-publishing there is always a time versus budget question to ask yourself. Sometimes there will need to be saving for a category of importance and possibly sacrificing on another category. Success as an author isn’t correlated to the amount of money you’re able to spend. But, remember that readers do expect a certain quality of a product, and less than that can be a deterrent. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate your skills and time honestly to focus your attention where you will have the most impact.