Self-publishing has opened up the book publishing world. Suddenly, it seems possible for any of us to get our novels out there. Whether or not this is a good thing is yet to be seen, and a topic I’ll undoubtedly get into another day. For those of you who are wanting to self-publish – the Internet is your teacher, publisher, and reader. There’s a wealth of helpful information on the Internet, so here’s a few tips to point you in the right direction.
Always work on improving your craft. Practice, practice, practice! On top of that, take courses, get feedback, and try some writing exercises. If you think your novel is ready to be published, great! But I do recommend you get some real feedback – whether you give it to a friend to read, pay for professional feedback, or participate in a course (for instance: Write Connections’ courses on pitching your book to a professional; or for something more intense, look at the catalogue of Arvon Foundation courses).
It is important to get your book out to the biggest possible readership. Before you go into self-promotion and various marketing techniques, you want to make your book available to as many people as possible. This means that you shouldn’t limit yourself to particular platforms if you can help it. Make your book available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, etc.
There are guides to help you with formatting eBooks yourself (and I always recommend doing it yourself to save money – unless of course you are completely technologically inept). The key is to format correctly from the beginning, so if you haven’t started writing yet, read up on formatting for digital export. That way you’ll be set from the beginning! Check out Galleycat for links to guides on this. Being a former typesetter, I can’t stress the importance of the look of your book. It is often what makes people think the book looks professionally done.
Build up an online following separate to your books. What a lot of people love about the new digital age, is that they can have a closer relationship with their favourite writers. Writers are bloggers, they participate in social media; they let their readers in. A prime example of this is Neil Gaiman (no favourite of mine, but with success like that, who can argue). New writers will be told by their agents and publishers to get their own website. Promote yourself before you even think about promoting your book. You are your own brand, so sell it!
When you do finally publish your book, you need to be pro-active in marketing it. You won’t have the benefit of a global marketing department, so this means a lot of hard work. There’s lots of advice out there, and again, Galleycat is a good place to start. Find local book groups, offer to come along to one of their meetings if they read your book. Contact local radio stations, bloggers, vloggers, bookstores… Any group or organization whose market might be interested in what you have to offer – but make sure you do your research. If you offer a sci-fi bookstore an event for your historical romance novel, don’t expect any results.
Take advice from those who have already done it. There are a lot of people who have already been down this road. If you have read a self-published novel that you liked, look up that author. It is likely they have a strong online presence, and they have probably discussed their experiences with self-publishing. Learn from their mistakes; take their advice! If anything, it might be comforting to know that others have gone through the same thing you have.
Most of all: have fun!