9 Essential Steps to Take Before You Self-Publish Your Book

Self-publish your book

Since the early 2000s, a new model of publishing was born with the growth of digital technology. The ability for authors to self-publish and digitally market their books gives them limitless opportunities. However, it’s not just a matter of writing a book and uploading it to the Amazon platform — well, not if you want to sell.

Here are 9 things to think about before you launch into the world of publishing:

1. Work out what genre you are writing

This is a bit of reverse engineering to do before you start your book. It will massively help you in the launch phase and deciding where and how to market your book. There are hundreds of genres and sub-genres. They each have familiar, similar elements that readers expect. If your book is a mash-up of genres, it will be harder to know where to place it on real and digital bookshelves. For example, if your book has a couple in embrace on the cover but the story between the sheets is more horror, your book will receive poor reviews, even if it’s brilliantly written. The reader spent money on a romance and got nightmares. Not happy.

2. Work out who you are writing for

The well-known marketing advice is ‘know thy audience.’ Who will read your book? Many writers (me included) claim our stories are suitable for anyone. That’s nearly 1.5 billion English-speaking people. Nice if you can make a dollar or two off all of them, but chances are your book will appeal to a much smaller pool. Even splitting into genders and age groups is too large an audience to aim for. This may not seem relevant at the beginning of writing your book, but targeting your audience accurately will make or break your marketing campaign and, therefore, your chances of making any profit from this writing life.

3. Get your book edited by an expert before your self-publish

And I’m not just saying that because I’m an editor! Writers cannot see the error in their ways… I mean writing. We know what we meant to write and so our brain tells us that’s what it said. Nobody can escape this trick of the mind, but there are ways to polish your manuscript to get it the best shape it can. See my blog on editing and proofreading software. When that’s done, give me a call!!

Editors not only pick up the nitty gritty grammar bugs, but they also see the piece as a whole. They can see where it sags, makes no sense, or is inconsistent. I’ve never had a client who hasn’t been grateful to see how much their work improved after an edit.

4. Do a professional job on interior design

This isn’t where I tell you the best spot to place a pot plant or what colour to paint a feature wall! Typesetting and book design is just as fun but can be a technical and lengthy process. Note: Don’t even think about formatting on Word! There are a number of excellent programs that can make your book interior look as swanky as a 5* hotel. There are also some platforms that offer free formatting if you upload and distribute your book through them. My book How to Give Your Book Wings – A Self-Publishing Guide LINK has a chapter all about formatting and the different options available.

5. Spend money on a good cover by someone who knows the business

Cover. Book. Judged. Yep, that’s how it goes. The cover must be eye-catching, slick, up to date and let the reader know what’s under the covers. Colour psychology, the way the human eye moves across a page, and other factors like placement of elements, font choice and size all go into cover design. That’s why I use a company that designs book covers. You could also employ a graphic designer or buy pre-made covers. This will be money well-spent.

6. Write your back cover book blurb 10 times

Refine, refine, refine. There’s not a lot of real estate on the back of a book. The blurb is usually around 150 words. Every one needs to count. This is not a synopsis of your story, but your sales pitch to entice a reader to buy your book. It must give an idea of the protagonist, the setting and the conflict. Ending in a question is a clever and oft-used trick to lure a prospective reader to buy.

‘Can Karen finish her life-saving blog post before her battery runs out, leaving her readers hanging for its vital information?’

7. Do category, keyword and comp title research

Categories tell the algorithms where to display your book. If you have done step 1, you will have a clear idea where your book sits. You will need to select categories when you assign an ISBN and when uploading to platforms.

Keywords are words or phrases that describe your book. They are the golden ‘keys’ to your swanky 5* book, as they enable readers to find your book among the millions of others. Websites use keywords for search engine optimization, and this is exactly the same. You will need at least seven keywords when uploading to the platforms. These words can include your genre, categories, tropes, settings, era, and problems & benefits (if non-fiction).

Comp titles and authors are books that compare to you. Get online and see if you can find other (successful) books that are similar. The folk that read these are likely to love yours. You can base your marketing campaigns off this information.

8. Decide if you will sell exclusively on Amazon or wide

The hottest debate in the self-publishing world. Either you put all your eggs in the Amazon basket, or you publish far and wide. Kindle Unlimited is awash with eager readers, and many authors receive the majority of their income from placing their books there. Others feel like this is a dangerous strategy. There are benefits and cons to both, and there isn’t enough space to give it justice in this little blog! However, it’s a big decision that needs to be made before you upload.

9. Start to build an email list

Another self-pub maxim is ‘email is king’. The subscribers on your email list are all yours (*evil laugh and rubs hands together). But that doesn’t mean you can treat them badly! They are your bread and butter (sorry, I’m using a lot of metaphors in this blog!). They have freely (or maybe not entirely freely if you have tempted them with a cookie or reader magnet) signed up to receive emails from you. These special folk are considered ‘warm’ leads, though I don’t really like this terminology! Anyway, offer a little novella or short story or inside info on your protagonist or even a discount voucher and gather your precious subscribers into your fold. Send them engaging, regular (at least monthly) emails, and when you launch your book, you have a stable of loyal followers who will buy the book and give it a good stiff push into the world to fly on the thermals of the Amazon, etc. ecosystems.

I hope you got value out of my metaphorically loaded blog post. If you need a guide to take you through self-publishing, please get in touch.