Most authors know to stay away from vanity presses–the ones that take your money and publish your book as is. But few authors think about self-publishing being the ultimate in vanity publishing. Instead, they write the book, insert the text into some publishing program, list the book online, and expect the book to sell itself.
There are some self-publishing success stories (The Celestine Prophecy, What Color is Your Parachute?, The Christmas Box), but success comes with a lot of hard work after the book is written. Here are ten things you need to do to have a shot at becoming a self-publishing success.
- Educate yourself and have a plan. Publishing is not dream fulfillment. It is business, and it is a competitive business, so read books on publishing, take classes, join associations of publishers and learn from others’ experiences.
- Study the competition. I recently heard there are 16,000 books written about President Lincoln. Browse the online bookstores and see how many books are written on your subject. Then decide how you can make your book stand out by offering something new, better, more, or different.
- Write what people want to read. Hard as it is to accept, few people care about your opinion or life experiences. They want to be entertained or educated, and your book needs to satisfy that want.
- Think marketing every minute. Before you publish your book, have a marketing plan that starts with identifying your reader and how you can reach that target market. Blog? Articles? Seminars? Classes? Corporate training? Bundle with other authors’ books? Book signings or events? Trade shows?
- Hire a professional book editor. You know what you want to say in your book, therefore you are not qualified to edit your manuscript because you’ll see what should be there rather than what actually is there. Avoid hiring English teachers, avid readers, friends, etc. because as willing as these folks are to help, they’re not book editors. Be sure the editor you hire follows the Chicago Manual of Style, the book publishing standard.
- Create a catchy title. The title needs to be short and clear. Alfred Hitchcock preferred one-word titles for his films and people remember them!
- Hire a book cover designer. The purpose of the front cover is attract the reader/buyer to your book. Your book is competing with thousands of others in the marketplace, so hire a book cover designer (as opposed to a general graphic designer) to create a dynamite cover for you.
- Make the book interior inviting. Your designer can help you with font choice, layout, folio, etc.
- Price your book competitively. When doing step #2, make note of the prices of the books you’ll be competing with. You’ll know how much you can sell the book for, then do the math to see how many books you’ll need to sell before you start making a profit after paying all your self-publishing and marketing expenses.
- Promote your book at every opportunity. Nobody cares about your book as much as you do, so you need to be enthusiastically looking for every opportunity to get your book in front of your target market. Marketing never stops as long as you have a book to sell.
Now you have ten things you need to do to successfully self-publish. Remember that only you can write what you write, and your readers are waiting.