By Debbie McGarry
Your eyes glaze over as book titles flash by, like a slideshow of vacation pictures you’ve seen a dozen times.
You pause, realize you’re past the stage of longing for that white sandy beach and conjure images of your next adventure. But you’re not standing in a room full of pages of printed bliss, people aloof in comfy chairs. There are no sounds of muffled turning pages or tables strewn with empty coffee cups; you’re online browsing your favorite book retailer. While e-books have yet to replace the joy of finding a paperback in a bookstore, 12 new books are added every hour on Amazon. With stiff competition, here is a guide to learn what NOT to do when publishing an e-book.
1. Skip the Editorial and Proofreading Process
Besides writing a great book, or even a decent one, hiring an editor to edit and proofread your book is one of the most important steps before you self-publish your e-book. While some books can do well online without top-notch grammar and sentence structure fixes (some classic fiction writers come to mind), most indie authors will have a much better chance of selling their books with a thorough check. It doesn’t hurt to have your books read by several people who will give you some constructive feedback before it reaches the public. Remember, even Stephen King needs an editor.
2. Pretend you’re a Design Pro and DIY your Book Cover
You may have dabbled in the design world: cropped images in Photoshop or built a newsletter in InDesign. But frankly, this is not enough experience to create a book cover. Your DIY design will first appear as a thumbnail image before people even see the larger version of it. In short, if you don’t pay for a professional to design a great cover, then you’re off on the wrong foot with your e-book. Imagine your competitors who have spent money on a professional designer or have the talent to design eye-popping cover designs for the thousands of online book customers. Don’t skimp on the cover design.
3. Expect People to Find your e-book…all on their own
Try searching for an e-book on Amazon, filtered by genre. How many book titles pop up? Oh, a mere 539,057 results for the ’thriller’ genre and close to 1 million books for ‘romance.’ How will your fans find you? There are many different ways to promote your books but research the best ways before you spend time and money on this part of the self-publishing process. Social media may come to mind for all the newbie indie publishers out there. But in reality, if you storm your followers with links to your new e-book and tell them to ‘buy now,’ or ‘click here,’ you’ll see your likes become an unlike or unfollow faster than a speeding bullet. An exception to this is using Facebook advertisements, which will attract people to your author page, especially if you’re just starting out in the digital publishing industry.
Should you register for free or paid book promotion websites? Some people do—but one of the best ways to reach your audience is through ‘talking’ to them directly by writing a blog. The relationship you develop with your audience about your particular genre will bring people to you. If you write an interesting passage from your latest thriller novel, your followers will share your posts, and people will follow by subscribing to your email campaigns. Yes, you need to develop an email list; this leads to actual sales.
Another promotional tool you can use if you’re publishing exclusively to Amazon Kindle is the ‘Look Inside’ preview feature, which allows users to preview the book before purchasing. For the self-publisher, just click on ‘embed’ and a link generated can be used on your website or in an email to your prospective buyers.
If you’ve ever written content for a website, you know that metadata (keywords, descriptions, ISBN, and titles) is necessary for users to find your information. The same applies to your e-book. For example, several e-book retailers require an ISBN code to display your book on their digital shelves. A fun way to select keywords is by using the Amazon search bar; type in the words that people may use to find your niche of books and see what comes up.
4. Dismiss a Pricing Strategy
Whatever platform you choose to publish your e-book on, make sure that it allows you to set your price. Pricing flexibility is essential for self-publishers, only because if the current price points are not making you any money, you can always change the price. Pricing strategy also depends on several factors, such as the type of book (short fiction, textbooks, children’s books, non-fiction). Also, consider whether you’re a new indie publisher or established author and; publishing directly on different platforms (Amazon KDP, Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press and iTunes) or using an aggregator (such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital). All factors have their pros and cons so choose what’s best for you.
5. Ignore Social Proof
Why should I buy your e-book over another book? Do you have testimonials that talk about how good your book is? Or is it just collecting digital dust? While this is part of your marketing effort, I thought it was important to single it out. It’s all about trust. If your readers are raving about your book, others will follow like bees to honey. But, how do you get these coveted reviews? Your bloggers. They read your posts, so send out your review copies to them and see what happens. Get your book reviews on other blog posts. Send copies to your friends and family but make sure you’re only sending to those people who will give you honest reviews and not high-fives for actually finishing your book. Word of mouth will do wonders for your book sales, but I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s not super easy. You have to work at it. If you don’t know anyone to give you a book review, go to storycartel.com to get an honest review from readers in exchange for a free copy of your e-book. Your review will appear on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads.com, and blogs.
Debbie has worked as a writer and editor in various
industries but has always been drawn to work in the nonprofit
world. Growing up in Montreal and living briefly in
San Francisco, she now calls Calgary home.
Debbie’s passion for helping others has grown into a
communications business, where she helps people with
storytelling, data analysis and book promotion and
publishing. Debbie enjoys hanging out with her 7-year
old son, going on hikes and discovering new activities
and nature spots in Calgary.
Read it in the Opal July issue