Self-Publishing: Is This for Newbies?
In traditional days, the publishing game was very daunting and your chance of breaking in as an author were slim to none. You had to have an agent and the timeline for getting your idea on shelves was a long and grueling process. Self-publishing for new online entrepreneurs was not even a possibility.
Today, anyone can publish their own book – whether it’s a non-fiction book about weight loss or dog training – or a fiction book about a sci-fi world or romantic destiny. It doesn’t take anything more than your time to create it – everything else can be free if you need it to be, but there are ways you can also invest in the process minimally to ensure a higher chance of success.
If you’re publishing non-fiction, it lends an air of credibility for you when you’re trying to lead a niche target audience if you can say you’re a published author. Most consumers don’t care or consider whether it’s published by a publishing house or by yourself.
If you pursue the fiction route, you’ll have greater control over everything you do – from the content itself to what you charge and earn in profits, along with how it’s marketed. Many authors choose to remain self-published even when offered large contracts from publishing houses because of these very reasons.
Research Your Genre or Topic
If you’re pursuing the non-fiction route, then you’ll want to conduct plenty of research for your niche topic. While it’s perfectly fine to do the same slant as another person, you want to stand out among the crowd.
Begin by researching current news for your topic. Look in forums and on social media to see what the target audience is discussing, too. Getting to know what their problems are will help you craft the perfect solution.
You can also see what’s selling best in your topic right now by drilling down on the bestseller’s list. You might even find combination slants that will help you target two subsets of target audiences at once.
If you want to pursue fiction, it’s important that you conduct research for that, too. Of course, you’ll want to write whatever genre you enjoy – and there may be a difference between writing what you, yourself read and what you’re good at writing. Self-publishing for new online entrepreneurs can easily include both fiction and non-fiction, something I’m doing now as well.
There are often fiction trends that come along that you can capitalize on. The bestseller’s list will show you a lot of that. For example, when 50 Shades of Gray was a big hit, billionaire romance skyrocketed.
Read customer comments and see what the people are enjoying. Don’t be afraid to be the first to publish something you feel no one else is doing the same way you would. There are plenty of times a new author is the one who starts a trend with their self-published book or series. Always remember that self-publishing for new entrepreneurs is an excellent strategy.
Put Yourself on a Writing Schedule
Regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you’ll want to set goals and milestones to help you reach the final publishing stage. Many people get started and stall out along the way, either because they get distracted or they allow fear to consume them.
You’ll want to map out what all has to be done and figure out how fast you can work, along with a timeline for the publishing and marketing. Don’t overburden yourself – you want to take into consideration setbacks or unforeseen emergencies.
So for non-fiction, your schedule might include things like brainstorming the idea, outlining the book, writing each chapter, editing the final copy, ordering graphics, uploading to Amazon or elsewhere, and beginning the marketing phase.
Your fiction schedule might be to pick a genre, research the tropes, create a storyline and plot, map out your chapters, create character profiles and settings, write each chapter, initiate the editing process, order graphics, and publish before you start marketing it.
You have to ask yourself if this is the only thing you have going on in life, or if it’s something you’re hoping to work into an already full schedule. If you’re working it in, be reasonable with the amount of dedicated and focused time you have to contribute to it.
Someone who is approaching this as a full-time career will have the ability to move through their tasks faster than someone who is doing it on a part-time basis. Think about a publishing schedule for your current work in progress, but also create one for your entire line or series of books over the course of a year.
There are different approaches to publishing schedules. Some fiction authors like to do a rapid release of several completed books and then try to release every three weeks. But some genre readers are used to waiting months or even years for a new release by their favorite author.
There are times when you may find yourself at a standstill with your process and schedule. For example, you might suffer from writer’s block. It also might not be anything you’re doing, but someone else, instead. This is when I recommend that you get out and network with people in person to get energized again.
Your editor could have a mishap and be backed up. Or your graphic designer is overloaded with work and can’t get to your cover on your timetable. Make sure you factor these possible scheduling issues into your timeline so that you’re not panicking because it’s not within your control.
With the main writing portion of your process, which is what everyone usually assumes is the longest part, you have different ways of scheduling your progress. Some people do it by writing to achieve set word counts.
You might set yours for anywhere from 500 words a day to 5,000, depending on how fast you can write. Others schedule it by saying they’re going to write one chapter every day or every 48 hours.
You don’t have to do it according to length or word count, if you don’t want to. You might give yourself a timed schedule, like writing for 1 hour a day, or working on your writing for 4 hours a day.
Edit Your Content and Order Graphics
After you write your content, you’ll move to the editing phase and this will be a multi-pronged approach. Start by setting your book aside for anywhere from one day to a week.
This gives you time to get a mental break so that when you return to it for editing, you have a fresh eye. Go through each page looking for typos and spelling errors. Take breaks when your eyes get tired.
If you’re writing non-fiction, look for erroneous information that may need to be eliminated or expanded upon for clarity. This is where you want your expertise to shine for your audience.
With fiction, you’re looking for those same typos and spelling errors, but you then begin looking for issues with plot, pacing, and other problem areas for fiction writers. You want to do all of this before handing over the material to the next type of editor.
You can use a tool to do the next round, or go straight to a human editor. With a tool, you can use something like Grammarly and/or AutoCrit to give you viable information that can help your content flow better and be a better experience for your reader.
This will help you catch things you didn’t, which is nothing to be ashamed of, since we often know what’s meant in our mind, even if it comes out differently in the product. Tools can only do so much, though.
It’s great if you can afford to hire an editor to do a quick run through or line edit (either one) of your work. It can range from catching small issues to deep development of your work.
You certainly have the ability to bypass the human editor, if funds are tight, and one of the best things about this situation is that if someone points out an error, you can simply repair the file and re-upload it to the platform you’re selling it on.
Ordering your graphics will be next on your list. Some people choose to do this early on, before they even write a word of their book. Look for a graphics person who specializes in your topic or genre.
With graphics, you’ll find people who do certain things, like info products, dystopian topics, romance, and more. You should be able to look through their portfolio to see what their previous work is like.
You’ll be able to find designers on both ends of the spectrum, from novice to expert. The cost can range from $5 to $500 or more, depending on their expertise and price charts.
Sometimes, you can cut costs by doing some of the work for them. For example, there are some graphic cover designers who will cut some of the costs if you find the image you want to use yourself.
You can find these on fiction stock graphic sites or on sites like Deposit Photos or iStockPhotos. If you find the image, you can usually just tell the designer which one it is and they’ll use one of their credits to grab it for your cover.
You can also take the do-it-yourself route with your eCover creation. There are cover creating tools out there for you. You can also use templates to get a jumpstart on your creation using tools like Canva.
You don’t have to invest in pricey cover creation tools or spend hours trying to master Photoshop if you don’t want to. If you feel like you’ll waste more time than it’s worth trying to make something you like, consider outsourcing it to someone else.
Publish on Platforms to Earn Profits
When you’re publishing a non-fiction book, you want to consider a couple of things. Your goal with your book is most likely part profits, part list building. Many authors generate a buzz and earn their subscribers with their online books.
So you might have a strategy where your goal is to really catapult yourself to the top of the charts and gain recognition as an expert in your field. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other places would help you achieve this.
But if your goal is monetary, you may not earn as much per book sale on sites like these as you would using a platform like ClickBank, where people pay $47 and up for a book, compared to $14 or so for a print copy (or $3.99 for a digital copy).
However, the volume sold on sites like Amazon Kindle may exceed what you can generate on ClickBank, so it all depends on how you choose to approach it. You can also choose a hybrid model where you publish on both places.
With fiction publishing, there are also a couple of different approaches to where you choose to publish. Amazon tries to entice authors to publish on their KDP Select. This means you’re exclusive to their platform and can’t publish elsewhere.
You get perks for doing this, of course, such as getting a portion of the KDP Select Global Fund and access to their promotional tools with Kindle Countdown Deals and free book promos.
Many authors do this initially as they learn the ropes, and then switch to going wide, where they publish their books on multiple platforms, including Nook and other places. There are even tools you can sign up that will do the publishing for you once you have your accounts set up.
Market It for Maximum Traffic
There are some things that give you a boost for marketing, such as being enrolled in platforms that help you get noticed. You can be placed on Amazon’s Hot New Release list and get noticed that way.
If you’re marketing a non-fiction book, get affiliates onboard. You can leverage their hard work and effort to networking with the target audience by giving them a commission on the sale.
Signing up on platforms like ClickBank, Warrior Plus, and JVZoo will help you recruit the affiliates to send you traffic and sales. You can also announce your book or info product launch on sites like Muncheye.
If you’re marketing a fiction book, consider getting a street team working for you. These enthusiastic fans devour anything and everything in your chosen genre and they’ll get out there and spread the word for you, sometimes in exchange for an ARC – Advanced Reader Copy.
You can also do a book tour to market and promote your fiction. These can be in person events or digital events. In person, you’ll get to meet and greet your readers, helping them to develop a loyal bond with you.
Virtual book tours can be conducted, too. These may include online interviews, podcasts or video webinars. You might do a Q&A or guest blog post for the host of the book tour.
When doing these, you can make them fun by giving away books to winners or sending the winners grab bags that have other items in them that are branding with your author name and book series.
Another option would be to apply for promotions like a BookBub or other services that email their subscriber base about your new book. These are paid promotions, but they can help you gain a lot of exposure to new readers.
Whether you’re publishing fiction or non-fiction, much of the process is the same. You have to do your research, be committed to following through on the tasks at hand, and be fearless when it comes to branding yourself as someone whose work your readers will enjoy.
I’m Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, independent publisher, and serial entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of online entrepreneurship please check out my training on how to make your first income online at 3 Day eBiz (Save with CODE: MAKEITHAPPEN) and learn how to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to building a lucrative online business.
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