by Debbie McGarry
There are many avenues that authors can take to self-publish a book, including hybrid publishing and assisted services to DIY. Self-publishing a printed book has its list of challenges, so doing your research is a must.
Here are five mistakes that indie authors should avoid to navigate this somewhat confusing and ever-changing arena of self-publishing a paperback.
Failing to research marketing best practices
Email marketing (newsletters, book promotion services) is often overlooked or ignored as a marketing strategy. Start growing your email list now. MailChimp is an excellent and free option for up to 2,000 subscribers.
Contact your local brick and mortar stores and indie bookstores to get your book on the shelf. Shrinking shelf space is becoming more of a challenge for authors. It’s difficult to get your book on the shelf alongside national best sellers, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Get your local paper to review your book. Reviews can do wonders for your reputation as an author. If it’s not one of your favorite authors or a book series you’re dying to get your hands on, reviews are often the way readers decide if they want to spend the money on a book.
Use social media to promote your books. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—whatever it takes to get the word out and get people talking about your books. Be careful to have a balance —don’t spam people with your latest book launch. But don’t hide it either. Build a presence before you publish your riveting romance novel, and your fans will be counting the days until the steamy title is available for their consumption.
2. Not knowing what your printing and distribution options are.
From clay tablets to the first Chinese book that used woodblock printing, Diamond Sutra in AD 868, printing and publishing books has come a long way. Up until the late 1990’s with the advent of print-on-demand technology (POD), authors often had to pay thousands of dollars to vanity publishers to publish their books—often at a financial loss to the author—or chose to become an independent publisher.
Luckily, there are now a lot of options when it comes to printing and distributing printed books.
Offset vs. digital printing: Offset printing has been around since 1875 and has many advantages, including better quality than digital printing, more cost effective for larger volumes of work, and is faster than digital printing (can print 18,000 sheets an hour). The disadvantages to offset printing is that it’s expensive (upfront costs), the risk is higher—as books may not sell—and storage may be an issue.
POD distributors allow authors to have their books printed without spending thousands of dollars on books that end up sitting in someone’s basement. There are currently three leading distributors: Amazon’s CreateSpace, IngramSpark, and BookBaby launched in 2015. The process of POD is quite simple; upload your files, and the books are printed and shipped once people buy them. Pros: cheap, easy, quick. Cons: unit costs are high, few books on hand to give away or display for marketing purposes.
CreateSpace and IngramSpark take a cut of your book sales: 40 percent and up to 55 percent, respectively. A huge plus to IngramSpark is that the distribution is worldwide, whereas CreateSpace distributes on Amazon and offers an extended distribution with a discount of 60 percent. The benefit is that you can use more than one distribution channel to suit your needs, in the hope of increasing your profits.
3. Not bothering to write a pitch before writing a book.
Why write a book pitch if you’re self-publishing your book? Isn’t this a waste of time? No! As a writer, if you plan what you’re going to write, have a clear idea of your plan, then you will be more successful at finishing your book. Getting feedback from loved ones as well as peers is a good idea before you start your book, instead of after writing 2,000 pages. Save yourself a major headache and start writing your pitch.
“To run a successful business, you need a business plan. To write a successful nonfiction book, you need a successful book proposal.”
Barry Silverstein, book writer, author, and reviewer
A book pitch is like your 30-second elevator speech. Why should readers pick up your book? What is the story? If you can’t answer these questions, go back to the drawing board and start with a new idea.
4. Not hiring a professional to edit your book.
If you’re self-publishing, hire an editor. Most authors self-edit their books several times before it gets sent off to a professional editor and finally to a proofreader. Have one or two people you trust to read it over to get a critique before you hire an editor. Stephen King relies on his wife to read his books. If she doesn’t chuckle at his funny moments, it’s back to the closed door writing room for him.
5. Don’t skimp on the book cover design.
Similar to e-book cover designs, a professional printed cover design is equally important. People will judge the book by its cover. Hire a professional designer to make your cover represents your book subject properly. This is the first impression of your book.
While Canadian e-book sales have increased 2.7 percent, year-to-year in the first half of 2017, print sales have declined by 3 percent (according to Booknet Canada). But take heart, e-books will never entirely replace the love for the paperback or hardback. Many readers still have a visceral experience when they pick up a book, love writing notes along the pages or like to collect books and display them as art. Stay focused on your writing, and if you choose to self-publish your books, people will find them.
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