Guest author and blogger David Gaughran offers an all-you-need-to-know compilation about self-publishing. Obviously, there’s more to say about the subject than will fit into a single post, but there are links to everything else you will need.
I wrote the above a little while ago, but the only things particularly out of date are that Amazon no longer charges anything to do print editions, and there is a much easier way to sort out your tax status with the IRS, outlined in this post.
2. Network and discover podcasts on self-publishing
It’s important to get out there and connect with self-publishers. The community is wonderfully supportive and there are a huge number of free resources, blogs, etc., which you should check out. You’ll have your own favourites soon enough, but these should get you started:
KBoards.com Writers’ Cafe: this is the main self-publisher hangout (actually, it’s a sub-forum specifically for writers, but part of a much bigger reader site). Most members are based in the US, but there are lots of writers from all over, especially the UK. Great place to get referrals on editors, formatters, and cover designers and to hear the latest marketing strategies, which ad sites are worth the money etc. It seems very chaotic at first, but it’s very friendly and you’ll get the swing of it soon enough.
And here are some different blogs and podcasts I recommend checking out.
3. Turn your manuscript into a self-published ebook (and paperback)
As I said in the basics, there are three main tasks a writer must undertake: writing, publishing, and marketing. Publishing is by far the easiest out of those three, so don’t be afraid of this step! And absolutely don’t hire a middleman service to do this part for you. There’s a reason why no successful self-publisher uses these services. You will end up in the wrong categories on Amazon, you won’t be able to do quick price changes, you won’t get near live sales reports (crucial for knowing what bits of your marketing are working), and you will get paid slower, and less, too. And those are the good ones. The predatory services, like Author Solutions (who own Author House, Trafford, iUniverse, Xlibris and many more), will do far worse than that.
For now, the steps to turn your manuscript into a perfectly formatted ebook are covered in the free PDF of Let’s Get Digital (scroll to the bottom for the free version).
Steps 1 through 5 in Let’s Get Digital will talk you through what’s needed to turn your manuscript into a perfectly formatted e-book. If you need a referral for an editor, cover designer, or formatter, KBoards.com is great for that. You may want an editor with experience working with UK English, perhaps with US English, but check. Jericho Writers’ editors know their stuff inside out.
4. Learn marketing tricks as a self-published writer
The marketing sections in the free PDF edition of Let’s Get Digital are out of date. You need to do very different things to reach readers now than in 2011, and we have better tools today.
This post will give you the basic template of that marketing approach I spoke about. If you have a good book, produce new work as regularly as you can, start a mailing list asap, and follow this template, you have a real chance of building a career out of this.
All this stuff might sound tricky, but it’s like riding a bike. You can read all the theory in the world about bike-riding, but it won’t make a huge amount of sense until you are in the saddle yourself.
As for advertising sites, these are the only ones I recommend checking out. BookBub is the big dog (with prices to match). I recommend subscribing there as a reader just to see how they do things (and because they recommend great books for free or cheaply every day). These are listed more-or-less in size. BookBub’s ads are expensive (normally you make that back in a day or two), but the rest are either very cheap or free.
When you are starting out you are particularly vulnerable to scammers, as well as the incompetent or unscrupulous making grandiose claims they can’t deliver upon. There are all sorts of scams a writer can get caught up in, involving literary agents, editors, contests, and awards. The number one place to learn about all of these is Writer Beware.
Writer Beware is an excellent free service provided by the SFWA, which, among other things, warns against scam agents, unscrupulous publishers, and inexperienced or unprofessional editors.
The main scams targeting self-publishers tend to involve things like publicists who claim to be able to get you onto the New York Times bestseller list, advertising sites which claim to have giant audiences, but which in fact have none, and vanity presses. As for the latter, you need to particularly avoid a company called Author Solutions.
Remember this: there are no shortcuts, and that goes for publishing books as well as selling them. If someone is offering you an easy way to publish, or simple trick for selling more books, you should be automatically sceptical.
Lottery winners aside, success usually requires hard work. If someone claims to be an expert who can put together a social media campaign that will lead to hundreds or thousands of sales, be automatically sceptical. If a company offers you a hassle-free way of publishing your book, where they will take care of everything, be automatically sceptical. And if the company is owned by a traditional publisher, be very sceptical.
I wish I was joking about the last part, but Penguin Random House owns Author Solutions, and HarperCollins, Harlequin, Simon & Schuster (and many more) all have their own vanity presses now run by Author Solutions, too.