So, you’ve finally decided to self-publish. Whew… Big decision made, time to relax. Right? Not so fast. You are now an entrepreneur and have taken the first step in your brand new business venture. What? You say to yourself, entrepreneur? Business venture? No. I am a writer. My work was done when I finished writing the book.
Prepare for Your Transformation
Most first-time self-publishing authors mistakenly think the hard work is behind them once they turn in their completed manuscript, but this is far from the truth. Self-publishing is a process you will have to be engaged in and make smart business decisions about. There is formatting, editing (yes, you absolutely need editing, the more the better), layout, front and back cover design, physical proofs, and printing. Completing only these steps will create a book you can hold in your hand, but doesn’t even consider how to place it in anyone else’s. Which brings us to marketing; you definitely cannot forget marketing.
It goes without saying you want people to purchase and read your book. And, you want readers to write reviews of your book and post them online, right? Of course you do. That’s why you have to morph from creative writer to tireless entrepreneur during your publishing and marketing process. Your book is your new business, and you need to treat it that way.
View Your Book as a Product
No matter what genre it is, while you were working on your manuscript, you were engaged in a creative process. You toiled over your word choices and agonized over your chapter titles. Your manuscript has become an extension of you. It is a child born of your brain and you are personally and emotionally invested in it. But you are going to have to let that go. Your brainchild has changed from creative end to entrepreneurial beginning and you need to follow that lead.
Rest assured, your creative self will live on in the pages of your book, and if you can get this marketing thing down, it will also live on in the hearts and minds of your readers. From here on out, your book is a product, and you need to think about it in that way.
Engage in Social Media Marketing
It is possible to market your book without using social media, but since that’s where so many conversations about books take place, why would you want to? As an entrepreneur in the business of selling your book, you may have to learn new skills, and try new approaches. If you don’t know the first thing about social media, take a class, or have someone teach you, but be bold like the entrepreneur you are now. Get started on social media early, learn the dos and don’ts, and build momentum toward your publication date.
Set Up In-Person Promotional Events
You should also set up events. Do you think Neil Gaiman skips throwing a party when his new book is released? Call your local independent bookstore several months before your publication date. Ask them if you can have a launch party or book signing. Ask them to carry your book. Hopefully you have more than one indie bookstore in your area, and by all means get in touch with all of them. Most have a local author section and carry other self-published books. If you don’t tell them about your book who will?
Carefully Consider Cover Design
Many authors make the mistake of choosing a cover design they like for personal reasons. It may have significant meaning to them in a way that relates to the creative and emotional investment of writing the book. Sometimes they think the cover needs to somehow sum up everything the book is about, or incorporate an idea they have had about what the cover would look like since they started working on the book ten years ago.
This is understandable behavior for creative people, but you will need to suppress your creative beast as you build the business of your book. Choose a professionally designed, attractive cover that seems up to snuff with what you see on the bookstore new release shelf. Its truth in regard to the content of your book is less important than its ability to get people to open and read the book. The cover is a marketing tool. Period.
Be Ready for Serendipitous Sales
You will need to stay in your new entrepreneurial mindset so you can react at a moment’s notice. What if you are at your spouse’s office party and someone mentions they read and liked your book? The first thing that should pop in your head is to ask them to post a review online. (Please don’t forget to graciously thank them first.) Then, when someone else overhears you talking and asks about your book, go to your car and get one of the copies you keep there and either sell it to them with your personal credit card reader or offer it free in exchange for a review when they are done.
Strategically Choose Media Outlets
If your book has wide range appeal along with professional editing and cover design, you might consider hiring out some publicity. But be smart about which organizations you approach to review your book or interview you. If you or your publicist is going to pitch your book to 10 media outlets, choose the ones with the highest probability of covering your book, not the ones your emotionally invested self wants to review your books, but the ones your entrepreneurial self knows are better business decisions. Your local paper is much more likely than the New York Times to cover you writing your first book.
You have most admirably completed the creative hardship that is writing a book. Now, don’t literally sell yourself short by checking out of the publishing and marketing process. You can always morph back into a creative writer when it’s time to start the next book.
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