Your book is done! Congratulations! But now what? Here is a quick overview of the steps you should follow to get that manuscript ready to sell. Just because you are “self-publishing” doesn’t mean that you have to do everything involved in getting your manuscript turned into a book. Most authors used professionals to help with at least some of the process.
It is essential to have your manuscript edited. An editor will look for typos, word use errors, storyline inconsistencies, point-of-view issues, and much more. But how do you get your book edited?
a. Do-It-Yourself: Editing your own work is one of the toughest things to do, since we often overlook our own mistakes. One way is to depend heavily on your writing program’s Spell Check and Grammar Check, but that has its limitations. Another way is to read your manuscript is different formats: on-screen, printed, and on an e-book reader. The varied formats can often help you catch errors. Reading your manuscript aloud can also help you catch errors, especially if others follow along to note where you stumble or change words as you read.
b. Friends or Family: If you cannot afford to hire an editor, ask some friends or family to be “beta readers” and provide their feedback on what they like/dislike about your book. Writers’ groups can also be helpful, as they critique the sections of your book that you share.
c. Hiring an Editor: This will be one of your greatest expenses, but it is well worth it. A good editor will not rewrite your book or alter your voice, but they will provide copious comments on where you can improve your manuscript. Public Author does provide editorial services and we do so at a reasonable price.
2- COVER DESIGN
This is the first thing that potential readers will see and you want to get a cover that is visually appealing and hits on all the typical visual cues for your genre or book topic. Cover decisions involve lots of details to attain a visually appealing look, including font styles, font sizes, photo/ artwork/ word art, color palate, word placement, and focal point.
a. DIY: Designing your own book cover is a skill that takes time to develop. Study the best-seller lists on Amazon and see what other books in your sub-category look like. Take some time to review websites that discuss book covers: LousyBookCovers.com, CoverCritics.com, and TheBookDesigner.com. TheBookDesigner.com is especially helpful. Be sure to look over their monthly book cover contests. You will see hundreds of covers and get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.
To “purchase” stock photos or illustrations, go to sites like istockphoto.com, fotolia.com, or the other dozen+ sites that sell them. Please remember, just because it is on Google images, doesn’t mean the photo or artwork is free to use. Expect to spend $20- $60 on art or photos even when you’re designing your own cover. Even those who decide to just use a distinct font as their cover design, will be spending money to purchase the license to use that particular font.
b. Free Cover Design from friend or family: Some authors are blessed to have an artist in the family that is willing to design their cover for free. That is a huge money-saver, but be sure the cover that you are getting is appropriate for your particular genre or subject matter. Your friend might have great skills in water color or pencils or crayons, but those media rarely translate into a competent book design. Cover art is its own unique style, more akin to movie posters or billboards than it is to gallery paintings or refrigerator art. The artwork must be convertible to a jpeg or tiff file with a high-enough resolution to become a sharp-looking cover.
c. Have a Professionally-Made Cover: A pro cover can cost anywhere from $100 to $1,000 or even more, depending on the quality of the design and whether the image is exclusive.
Some sites to visit for possible artists include deviantart.com, 99design.com, bookflydesign.com, fiverr.com, and so many more. Another good source is reviewing the winning books at the contests from TheBookDesigner.com, where the various cover artists are usually mentioned. For artists that are in demand, expected to be paying over a thousand dollars to get a package that includes both e-book and print book covers.
At Public Author we also design book covers, most often as part of a larger package that includes formatting and publishing assistance. Our pricing is at the low-end of the spectrum because we use stock images that aren’t exclusive to just your book. The caution is that the stock image might get purchased by someone else and end up on their book cover too. See our cover portfolio for examples of covers we’ve designed.
3- BOOK FORMATTING
Your third step is converting that manuscript into files to upload to the various printers/ retailers. That means creating at least three distinct files: a mobi file for an Amazon e-book, an e-pub file for all other e-book retailers, and a print file (in Word or pdf) for uploading to a printer like CreateSpace.
a. DIY: To accomplish this, you will probably have to learn a new program like Scriveners or Calibre that assist with file conversion.
b. Bartering with other Authors: Some writers will barter services with another author to get this work done. Editing for Formatting, or Formatting traded for Cover Designing. Just be sure that you are trading with someone who is actually skilled at what you need.
c. Have a Professional Format your Files: You can also hire a professional to format your files. The pro will format your books and get them ready for uploading. Some of the more skilled book designers can add decorative fonts, drop caps, and chapter art to your books, but all of that does cost more.
At Public Author, we format both fiction and non-fiction books. We do not format children’s illustrated books or graphic novels. Our pricing is very reasonable.
4- Book Blurb/ Back Copy
Before you can make your book available for sale, you will need to write one more thing: the sales pitch that is on the back cover and featured on the “product page” at online retailers. This book blurb is NOT a synopsis of your novel. It is meant to entice people to buy the book and read it.
a. DIY: Study the back covers of the books you own or spend some time at Amazon reading the short blurbs for best-selling books in your genre or category. Most likely, all of them are written in a different writing style than what you used on your manuscript. Most are written in Present Tense and Active Voice, with short sentences or even incomplete sentences. Learn how to copy their style.
b. Hire a Professional Copy Writer: You can hire someone to write the back copy for your book, but make sure they read a good percentage of your manuscript before they do. At Public Author, we do help writers with their back copy, often as part of a Package Deal.
5- Uploading to Printers and Retailers
Once you have your book formatted correctly, you will need to upload it to your selected printer and to the various online retailers.
a. DIY: Once you have your accounts set up, it is fairly simple to upload your book to the major retailers, at least it is for the e-book versions. Print versions require a bit more skill and the reviewing of proofs.
b. Have a Professional Assist You in Uploading: At Public Author, we do help our clients in setting up their online accounts and getting their books uploaded properly. For print, we specialize in CreateSpace books. For e-books, we help by uploading to major retailers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo) and to distributers (Draft2Digital).
6- Initial Marketing of your Book
This must be considered even as you are uploading the book for sale. As part of the marketing, you must decide things like pricing, book category, keywords, and distribution options.
DIY: You make all the decisions and pick the keywords. The only caution we give is that many authors aren’t good at recognizing the proper genre/ sub-categories for their work. Maybe have friends or family tell you where they would expect to find your book.
Hire a Professional: Have a pro help you find the best niche(s) for your book to get the maximum sales. At Public Author, we usually include this as part of our Package Deals.
7- Ongoing Marketing of your Book
Now that your book is out there and available for sale, how do you get folks to notice it? There are an abundance of “experts” who will gladly take your money to create a marketing campaign. But the vast majority of them aren’t worth the money. In this area, we recommend an author go DIY. Buy only specific services, like website designing or sales advertisement.
One of the biggest marketing things you can do is WRITE THE NEXT BOOK, especially if it is in the same genre, book series, or non-fiction category. It is easier to win a returning reader than to find new ones.
When considering any marketing, you must consider your Return-On-Investment (ROI). Will the marketing pay for itself? If you also count in your time investment, you will find most of these methods will not work for you. However, there are probably a few that will and that might be different depending on which of your books you are featuring.
Types of Marketing:
Author Website: This can be very important for a writer, especially those who have more than one book out. You should make sure that you have control of your website (not some publisher or marketing company). Done right, it should be one of the first locations that come up when someone searches for your name online. An author website should list all your books and provide links to places where the books can be purchased.
This is probably your most solid investment. Once it is done, the cost for maintaining your site should be minimal ($30 to $60 per year). If anyone is charging you much more than that, they had better be offering you some premium extra services. Your time investment can be anything from minimal (only updating when a new book is published) to daily time spent blogging.
Free websites aren’t usually the best route to take, since they aren’t optimized to your name. It is better to have a domain name that is specific to you (like EricLorenzen.com or ABLoren.com).
At Public Author, we design websites hosted at WordPress.com. When done, we hand the website over to you. You control the site and you can update it or add blog posts. You can hire us to do updates, but you are the one in control of your website. Take a look at our website portfolio to see some examples of our work.
Social Media: For some genres and non-fiction categories, author interaction is vital to getting readers’ attention. FaceBook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Blogging, e-newsletters, and much more. Consider using Mail Chimp or a similar service if you are intending to have an e-newsletter.
Most of these sites are very time-consuming to use them the right way. Daily spam, begging folks to buy your book just gets people mad at you. You need to make fun or educational posts; you need to interact and share details of your life. Not everyone enjoys using social media as a way to build sales. If you hate it, don’t do it.
Ads: There are many places that want to sell you ads (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Beacon, and more). Most provide a poor ROI, with actual sales that are less than 0.10% of the amount who see your ad/ click on the ad. The more an ad and an audience match, the better you click-through rate will be. Ads probably work best for niche novels that appeal to a very specific and underserved audience, and for non-fiction books that meet a very specific need.
Book Sales: Some have had great success by discounting the first e-book in a series or by running the occasional sale at 99 cents or even free. Often, you will want to run an ad at a site that is just for discounted e-books as a way to get more traction. The biggest site for that is Book Bub, which costs hundreds per ad but usually provide a positive ROI nonetheless. Other sites to consider are Book Gorilla, Ereader News Today, eBook Soda, Freebooksy, Gospel eBooks, Spirit-filled Kindle, and many more. Be careful of your ROI, for it is easy to overspend on ads. When using multiple sites, try to feature them on different days so that you can better compare their performance.
Amazon Exclusive: This is another marketing approach for e-books. When going exclusive, Amazon will allow you to run one discount (or up to 5 days of FREE) per every 90 days. You can also enroll into their KDP book rental program that can also provide a decent income. The trade-off is lost sales at other online bookstores.
Book Giveaways: Another way to get your book noticed is to offer books for contests or to create your own giveaway at reader sites like Goodreads.com. This can be expensive, since giving print books away is much more expensive than e-book giveaways. It will probably result in another book review or two, but not necessarily good ones. Some writers have had good success through giveaways.
Book Signings: Setting up a table at a bookstore or at some festival or street fair can be very successful if you have a large friend base or have a book covering a popular topic, but for most fiction writers a book signing is more frustration and boredom than it is successful sales. Be cautious about investing in dozens of books that you hope to hand-sell.
Book Bundles: Some authors get together to create their own collection of e-book stories, selling it at a low price as a way to attract new readers. This takes some management skills for the person in charge of formatting the special e-book and then distributing the royalties received to all the participants.
Online Sample Chapters: You can provide sample chapters of your book as a way to entice people to buy the whole novel. Some do this on their own website if they have a large following already. Others use sites like Wattpad. Be sure the giveaway market’s audience fits to your book.
Conventions and Conferences: This can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get placement at a show. The chance to get a decent ROI is very low. Some “services” will feature your book at their table for an exorbitant fee.
If you are a public speaker or provide some kind of services in connection with your book, then a convention or conference might be a good fit. For more people, it will just suck up time and money.
Blog Tours/ Guest Posts: If you have lots of time free, you can offer to do a blog tour or guest posts on someone else’s website. Be careful with companies who claim they can set up a blog tour or arrange guest posts for a fee. Many will not be worth their price.
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