The magic formula to self-publishing success?
There is no one single route to overnight success for a self-published book (sorry!), but there are many things an author can do to ensure that your book has the best chance of ‘making it’.
After supporting hundreds of authors publish their book at Completely Novel, I’ve spotted 27 things that most successful authors do. Success leaves traces, and there are definitely patterns and strategies that you can follow.
Writers — it’s time to grab a pencil and take notes!
- Pinpoint what it means to you to be successful. Success means different things to different authors. For some, success will be recognition within a niche area, and for others, success might be measured in money earned. Be clear on what you’d like to achieve from publishing your book and use this to create realistic aims.
- Be clear on your target reader. The biggest mistake I see new authors make when writing and publishing a book is not considering who their primary target reader is. Knowing your readers’ expectations, likes, dislikes and habits will help you capture their attention (with specific marketing) and hold it (with great writing).
- Publish in print, eBook and online. Don’t miss out on reaching any reader. eBooks are perfect online marketing tools for giveaways; print books are essential for tours, signings and events; and publishing short stories or articles online via blogs is a great way to get readers hooked on your writing. Successful authors always use all three mediums.
- Ensure your print book is high-quality. Your writing is beautiful, your cover is perfected – make sure it’s printed with a high-quality printer. Completely Novel works with two print-on-demand printers who have very high quality books, and I’ve seen it make a massive difference to sales.
- Create a marketing strategy. I hear from a lot of new authors who find the prospect of book marketing a little daunting. As with most things though, it becomes a lot easier to manage when you break it up into smaller pieces. Start with a strategy and then attack it piece by piece.
- Hire a great editor. There are lots of ways to cut costs when creating a self-published book, but editing isn’t one of them. An editor will not only help you spot those silly typos that both you and your family-proofreaders missed, but they’ll also be able to advise you on structural issues and inconsistencies. Getting it right first time will save you money on re-submitting files to printers and distributors later down the line.
- Create a beautiful interior. Typeset your book to industry standard. You can use Microsoft Word to do this and there are guides available, like our Completely Novel guide, and Print on Demand service, CreateSpace, has its own guidance. Justifying your text, ensuring your chapter headings are the same and including page numbers are just some of the basic things you should be doing to make your text look professional.
- Spend time on your cover. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but your readers will. Take time to research the current cover trends in your genre. Draft concepts and show them to your target readers. Use an experienced designer or professional software such as Photoshop to design your cover.
- Create a cover that looks great as a thumbnail. This might well be how a lot of readers are going to discover your book. Using bold colours and a simple design will help you communicate the quality and message of your book is in a very small space.
- Collaborate. Self-publishing doesn’t mean going it alone. Collaborate with editors, designers and publishing platforms to create the book; then link up with fellow indie authors to market it. Join associations like the Alliance of Independent Authors, go to local meetups, and join Facebook groups or other collaborative communities.
- Read the news. This includes news in the publishing industry and news relating to your book. If your book is set around a topic or event, create a news search alert for it. Then, you can capitalise on any hot-topics relating to your book by pitching to journalists and including relevant hashtags in your tweets to help your social media marketing.
- Write an awesome tag-line. Whether your book is fiction or nonfiction — encapsulating your concept into one sentence is not only a great tool to hook readers on your book cover, but is also essential for social media marketing and networking events.
- Write a good blurb. Bad blurbs are my pet peeve. A great blurb will be short, concise and exciting. It will outline either the concept of the book (nonfiction) or what is at stake for the characters (fiction) in the same voice used in the book. Take your time over it, and seek support from a copywriter if you want a professional polish to your blurb.
- Get an author website. This should, at the very least, have more information about what your book is about and a link to where readers can buy it. It could also give readers the opportunity to find out more about you, and journalists more information on where to get in touch.
- Create a consistent author brand. Use the same professional headshot of you for all your social media platforms, and similar cover images to match your website. This will help readers remember and connect with you. Also, ensure that your author ‘personality’ is the same in any articles you do, and that it’s a fit with your book marketing. Are you friendly or aloof? Informative or informal? Pick your ‘style’ and stick to it.
- Get out there and meet people. Both self-published and traditional authors are now expected to go to events, meet readers and give talks. A big part of my job is meeting people face-to-face and chatting about writing, and I can tell you, it’s my favourite thing to do. It’s also an amazing book-marketing tool — especially for print books.
- Earn money from events and articles. If your aim is to earn money from your book, then use your status as a self-published author to earn money speaking at events and writing articles. Email festival organisers and magazines with examples of your work and an outline of your specialist topic, letting them know how you’d like to get involved.
- Pay attention to metadata. Your metadata are going to help your discoverability online. If a reader is looking for a ‘cycling book’ and you have a cycling memoir — you want them to stumble across your book via a Google search. Include keywords and genre tags in your metadata, and match these to your author website.
- Write everything, everywhere. Host a blog on your website and update it regularly with information that your target readers will find interesting. Write articles on other blogs and websites. Submit short stories to competitions and look at interesting places to post snippets from your book. Readers might like what you have to say and want to read more.
- Ask readers to sign up to your newsletter. Perfect for turning potential readers into superfans. A regular newsletter with updates and information on your book and the topic your readers are interested in is a great way of reminding them about your book, and asking them to support you in spreading the word.
- Become a Goodreads author. It’s really easy to set up and I’ve seen authors use it to great effect. Host a giveaway, connect with readers and share your book with reading groups.
- Price your book competitively. This doesn’t mean setting it at 99p or 99c. It’s great to do this every once in a while as a special eBook offer, but remember — you worked hard on your book and it’s worth the same as any traditionally published book. Price your book at the same cost of similar books – but £1/$1 less. If your reader is deciding between the new Ken Follet book or your historical novel, hopefully that £1/$1 will help them decide to take a chance on a new author.
- Start marketing now. Even if you haven’t started writing yet — start making friends with potential readers. It’s never too early to start branding.
- Make use of print on demand technology. Platforms like ours at Completely Novel, which utilise Print on Demand technology, can connect you to distributors who will print your book only when it is ordered by a reader. This cuts down on the need to invest in massive print runs and expensive warehouse costs. What’s more, it still enables you to price your book competitively.
- Don’t fixate on having your book available in physical bookshops. Getting a self-published book into a bookshop is difficult. Booksellers need to ensure that they’re going to sell your book, so it’s a big step for them to take a chance on an unknown author. Instead, spend time marketing your book in other avenues. You can always then go back to them with your impressive numbers to help them make the decision to stock.
- Ask for help when you need it. If you need help with a particular element of self-publishing, then speak to someone about it. There are plenty of author communities who can provide advice and most professional service providers are very happy to answer questions if you get in touch. (and if they’re not they you shouldn’t be using them!).
- Keep going. There will be times when sales dip and your marketing attempts are being rejected. Keep going. Keep writing books and keep telling people about them, and eventually, you’ll come out the other end.
It’s true. I’ve seen it happen many times. You just have to learn from those who have done it before.
This post was written by Sarah Juckes, the Communications Manager for Completely Novel, a professional self-publishing platform that specialises in high-quality print books and advice for authors.