Friday, September 30, 2011

So You Want To Publish Your Book! What Do You Do?

People often ask me about publishing their book independently. They ask me for advice. They want to know if it's difficult. It's time consuming to answer each person individually so I have decided to blog about it.

First and most importantly: It's easy to self publish. It's difficult to "make it" as an author.

In the last two years, the self publishing wave has continued to grow and evolve. eBooks are changing the face and rules of publishing in many ways. Before I go into that I will begin with how to get started.

Do a Google search of self-publishing and you'll find a plethora of information. You have numerous choices. Createspace, Lulu and Smashwords are a few of the more popular options. I use Createspace. I do not utilize their editing, formatting or cover art. My mother and I created our own publishing company, ARK Stories, and she handles our editing and formatting. Ralph Faust is an artist who does all of our cover art and logo artwork. Each author must decide which route to take. Because we do all the heavy lifting ourselves, the cost is minimal. We pay for expanded distribution, which means our books are available internationally on Amazon as well as other online booksellers. Recently, we have also started to utilize Smashwords. They allow for customers to purchase your eBook for any application such as NOOK or iPad. You will have to investigate each one and decide which you will go with.

Once you have a book that is ready for purchase, the next phase of marketing begins and frankly, it's the most difficult. Social media opens a lot of doors but it needs to be worked day in and day out. You must be focused and have a plan. The plan may change but you always need to be researching and looking for your audience. When Twitter is used correctly, you can target followers by following them first. For example, if your book is available on Kindle, follow people who follow Kindle. Most follow back. Get personal with them. Engage people, ask questions, reply, retweet and  blog, blog, blog. If Twitter mystifies you, Google "Twitter Tutorial" and you will have a much better understanding of what you are doing.

Facebook is also a great way to market but is less targeted. It is important to be yourself. If all you do is post what you're selling, you'll quickly be ignored. It's a delicate balance of engaging and making people aware of your work. No one wants a hard sell.

Finding reviewers of your genre is extremely important. It is time intensive. Look online to see bloggers who review books, read their review policy and if your book falls into their purview, have a professional and friendly pitch. It's best to include a photo of your book and preview chapters. Be prepared for an honest review. Reviews are opinions and not everyone will love your book. Some may not like it at all and as much as that can sting, it's part of the process. Even Stephen King gets bad reviews.

Also look for bloggers who blog on your topic and see if they are interested in featuring you as a guest blogger or doing an interview. The more you can get your name, your book and your brand out in the world, the better chance you have of attracting people.

Create a website. Wordpress is a great free way to display your books and blog. It's free but it takes time and patience to navigate. It's not intuitive. You have to play around with it. If you don't have the time, you can find someone to help set you up for a fee. These people are all over social media. Find one you feel comfortable with.

Everyone wants to make it big. You are not the only one. There are a few independent authors who have hit the big time quickly. They are anomalies. Most authors must be patient and accept the fact that it's usually a long road.

Media is interested in what's hot. They are bombarded with proposals. Your book could be the best book ever written but if you are not a name, most of the time you will be ignored. You need to build your own buzz.

Research other authors who write your genre and see what they do. Follow them on Twitter, read their blogs. They have found a way to success and have information that you can apply. John Locke and Amanda Hocking are two who found huge success within one year. Locke signed an unprecedented deal with a big publisher allowing him to keep all the rights to his eBooks. He is helping independent authors immensely with this deal.

Realize that there are literally tens of thousands of people who are jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon. You are an ant in the mix. It's up to you to figure out creative ways to reach YOUR audience. There is no surefire way to success. This picture has been circulating on Facebook and it fits in perfectly here.

If you are looking to hit it big quickly and expecting that right after you publish, the pot of gold will immediately fall into your lap, you are setting yourself up for major disappointment. It really depends on how much you want to be an author, no matter the financial outcome. If it's your passion, you stick with it. It took Dustin Hoffman ten years to finally find his break as an actor. He never gave up. I am sure he was met with people in the industry, as well as friends and family, who discouraged his efforts but he believed in himself and stayed the course.

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