Self-Publishing Tips That May Not Be Entirely Self-Evident
Self-publishing is still a relatively new phenomenon in the grand scheme of things, and as such, there are still thousands of writers out there trying to “crack the code” and figure out all the best practices. While this is undoubtedly frustrating for some, the current state of affairs does allow for innovative ideas and approaches to the self-publishing gig. In this article, we’ve collected some of our favourite self-publishing tips that can seem odd or even detrimental at first, but have the potential to bring you closer to your goals as an author.
1. Give Away Your Work
What? Give away something that you’ve worked so hard on for so long, without getting anything in return? We know, it’s frustrating, but bear with us!
As a newly self-published author, you’re going to be flying far below most people’s radars, unless you’ve been doing some incredible marketing beforehand (or if you’re famous). Generating the level of interest you need to reach all these people is going to be either hard, expensive, or both. As such, word-of-mouth marketing is extremely important. After all, free giveaways are what landed Andy Weir’s “The Martian” on the New York Times bestseller list. It comes down to the fact that readers are always looking for new books to dig into, and there are few things that place a book as firmly on someone’s reading list as a personal recommendation from a trusted friend or community. Simply put, you need to build a core fanbase that is willing to take on some of the marketing burden for you.
This is where your giveaway comes in. If there’s one thing people love more than a good story, it’s free stuff. So why not combine the two and get yourself some fans? A good fan will easily be worth the cost of a book many times over, so don’t shed too many tears for the lost sale. Besides, the most practical way to give your book away these days is to make it an ebook out of it, and since there are no printing costs involved, you’re not necessarily losing money.
It might also be worth developing a strategy surrounding your giveaway. While you could just put the book up for download on your website and be done with it, proactivity can definitely pay off in a situation like this. In addition to announcing the opportunity to download your book for free via your social media channels, you should find other online communities that might be interested. Ask yourself whether your book is similar in setting, theme, or genre to other popular media – be it another book, a movie, or a video game. Then, set about finding places where fans of these things congregate; there’s bound to be a Reddit thread, for example.
Once you’ve identified some promising communities, join them and introduce yourself, your book, and why you’re there. You can take the opportunity to ask them to make a donation if they like your book, or simply to spread the word. Stay down to earth and engage with people, and a decent amount should be willing to give your book a try. After that, you have to let your book do the work for you.
2. Start Marketing Before You Finish Writing
As mentioned above, building an audience is one of the hardest things about being a self-published author. Awareness is your most valuable resource. That’s why you should get a head start on cultivating your fanbase. It might seem a bit odd to promote something that you haven’t actually finished working on yet, but it can really help you hit the ground running once your book is published.
Whether you choose to publish select chapters beforehand, unveil your stunning book cover, make a book trailer, or engage in some other type of marketing, it’s important to have a clear timeline and stick to it. People might see an ad or a post promoting your book and get interested, but if they have no idea when it’s going to be available, it’s a bit of a wasted effort. There are far too many distractions around for them to remember to come back and check on your progress.
This approach can seem quite daunting, as it means setting a deadline for yourself and sticking to it, but it could also boost your motivation and productivity. Of course, if you know for a fact that your writing schedule is capricious, then perhaps this approach is not for you. Nevertheless, you ought to take a look at our book marketing guide, because at some point you’re going to have to start promoting your work!
If you feel that you can’t meet writing deadlines because of professional commitments or money-related issues, then you might want to consider crowdfunding your book. This will of course also require marketing, seeing as you have to convince strangers to support you in something they’re not necessarily sure will turn out well. It’s your job to convince them. It definitely helps if you have previous writing samples to provide potential crowdfunders with. As such, a very long-term strategy could be to publish your first book for free, and see if you can secure a large enough fanbase that you can crowdfund your second book. This would be a serious commitment however and is not something we would recommend to the faint-hearted.
3. Start Locally
Caught up as we are in the globalized hustle and bustle of the information era, it may seem odd to start your writing career by promoting and selling your book in your local community. Why bother with the small fish when you have the whole world at your fingertips thanks to the internet?
Well, the internet is loud. Very loud. Again, we come back to the uncomfortable truth that when it comes to people noticing and hearing you online, the odds are very much against you. If, on the other hand, you were to approach a local paper, bookstore, or online community to organize a review or a signing, for instance, your chances increase exponentially. Despite the internet, most people are still very interested in their local community. We see it all the time; people rush to support local businesses, buy locally produced goods, organize neighbourhood events, and more. Utilize this interest and try to point it towards your book. If you’re successful, then you’ll have a solid awareness base to work from.
Besides – locals aren’t static, they go to other places and talk to other people. Also, they’re on the internet all the time – just like you. If you make them into your fans, they will talk about you to others. The point we made in tip number one still applies: word-of-mouth marketing is incredibly powerful if it picks up steam. This brings us to the next counterintuitive tip.
4. Organize a Launch Event for Your Book
A lot of first-time self-published authors balk at this suggestion, being under the impression that book launches are the exclusive domain of literary superstars like Stephen King or George R. R. Martin. That doesn’t have to be the case, however. While you shouldn’t expect people to camp outside your chosen venue and ask to get your signature tattooed in creative places, you shouldn’t underestimate the potential of a well-organized book launch either.
By staying local, finding a good venue, and writing an enticing invitation, your book launch can net you some solid sales numbers and create ambassadors ready to spread the word about your book. Once you’ve found a place to host your event in (be it a bookshop or your backyard), invite friends, family, the local press, and any other people you’d be interested in having around. One of our users even got the mayor of their town to attend their launch event! If you’re looking for inspiration and tips on how to get started, you can read our article on how to organize a book launch event.
In addition to the potential sales and marketing benefits of an event like this, we also firmly believe that you shouldn’t disregard the motivational factor. The morale boost of having the most important people in your life coming together to celebrate the publishing of your book (no small achievement!) can be just what you need to jumpstart your writing career.
Now Get Your Book Out There!
In this article, we’ve tried to broaden your self-publishing horizons by suggesting some tips that might seem counterproductive to many self-published authors. Trying to think outside the box like this (excuse the cliché) is the key to being a successful self-published author in our opinion. We can’t compete with authors backed by major publishing houses, so getting creative is the only way to start bridging that gap. If you have any good counterintuitive tips, or questions about this article, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below!