I self-published my first book How To Find Your Vital Vocation: A Practical Guide To Discovering Your Career Purpose And Getting A Job You Love last month. In the first week after its launch, it made the Amazon UK Kindle careers bestseller chart. The process of getting my book written and out in the world has been a lot of fun, and a great part of my education as an indie author. Here’s some of what I learned along the way.
1. You don’t have to wait for someone else’s permission.
Today’s self-publishing options – like Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing (for ebooks) and Createspace (for paperback books) – mean that it’s easier than ever to get your writing out into the world. You don’t have to wait until an agent of publishing house decides you’re worthy of publication. If you’re willing to put some real effort into writing, self-publishing and marketing your book, you really can ‘do it yourself’.
2. Self-publishing isn’t the ‘soft’ option.
To some, self-publishing might still have a degree of stigma attached to it – but that’s fading. Today, indie authors have as much of a potential platform as authors using traditional publishing houses, since they are able to distribute their work through Amazon (arguably the single most important book distirbution channel in the world today). The quality of indie books is high – many are almost indistinguishable from their traditionally-published counterparts, especially if they’ve been professionally edited and designed.
“It’s easier than ever to get your writing out into the world.”
3. You need to get professional help if you want to be a professional author.
Assuming your writing is of a high standard, you will still need to work hard to ensure your book comes across as professional. To do that, I strongly recommend having it professionally edited (an editor will pick up glitches even the most talented writer will miss) and the cover professionally designed (self-published books with Photoshop covers generally look awful).
Professional help really will give your book the best start in the world, and it’s possible to enlist this help without too much expense.
4. You should set a target and make a plan.
Once you’ve made the decision to write and self-publish your book, it’s a great idea to set yourself a deadline. Ten months before my 40th birthday, I set myself the target of writing and publishing my first book by my birthday itself. I hit my goal with four days to spare. I worked back from the target date to establish and calendarize milestones like “get book back from editor” and “source cover designer”, and I also set myself weekly wordcount targets.
5. Print-on-demand means you won’t end up with a stockpile of books in your garage.
Remember the old days when one of the results of self-publishing was piles and piles of unsold books? With print-on-demand facilities like Createspace, that’s no longer necessary. You upload your book file, and when someone wants to buy the paperback copy, one copy is printed and shipped to them from Amazon. Easy, inexpensive – and no storage issues!
“It’s a great idea to set yourself a deadline.”
6. Ebooks give you real flexibility.
They’re cheap and easily distributed (to those with e-readers, anyway), thus ebooks are also very flexible. Decide you want to change something in the book? You just upload a new file online through Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords and your ‘new edition’ is ready for purchase almost immediately.
7. You must start marketing your book before you start writing it.
Don’t wait until your book is out there to start building an audience. Start as soon as you start working on your book (if not before). At the very least, you’ll need your own author website (easily and cheaply set up through WordPress or Blogger) and a mailing list (using a facility like Aweber or Mailchimp). If you start building a readership through blogging, and start capturing email addresses to your list, you’ll be very glad of this audience when your book is released, because they will be your first customers.
8. Social media is a self-published author’s best friend.
Another great way to build an audience is through social media. Pick one or two tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads and Google+ and start building your presence and interacting. You’ll make useful contacts and add an important dimension to your author platform, which will help with sales when your book is released.
“Don’t wait until your book is out there to start building an audience.”
9. Digital distribution means your launch can be long-term.
Because I built an audience through my website and social media platforms, I was able to generate a spike of initial sales when I released my book in June of this year. But I don’t see my launch as being finished yet. I’m going to focus on promoting my book for several months before starting work on my next project. Because the book is available worldwide through digital and print-on-demand channels like Amazon and Smashwords, I don’t have to worry about it disappearing from bookstores!
10. Once the book is published, now the hard work really begins!
Don’t let yourself think that once your book is published, you can relax. Get out there and promote it. Write blog articles for your site. Send a bulletin to your mailing list. Post quotes from your book to Facebook and Twitter. Consider going on a blog tour. Let the world know it’s there. You worked hard on it – now you need to shout about it.