Self-publishing a book can be as simple as uploading your Word document to Amazon, pressing the publish button and sitting back to see what happens.
If you want your book to be a success, however, the chances are you are going to need to do a whole lot more than that.
Plan for Success
As I prepare for the publication of my first novel I am seriously engaging with the marketing side of launching a book. Within days of starting my head was spinning and after a couple of weeks, I knew I needed to write everything down. I’ll be sharing details of my plans in later posts but so far I’ve identified 14 roles that any author who is serious about successfully self-publishing a book needs to tackle. The list is unlikely to be comprehensive. If you spot anything I’ve missed, please let me know.
1. Marketing Director
Before you start you need a strategy i.e. you need to determine what you want to achieve (your overall goal) and how you intend to do it. Questions you need to think about include (but are not limited to):
- What is my ultimate goal?
- Is it all about selling a book or is the book a small part of a bigger project?
- Who are your target audience?
- Where do you find them?
- What are the most efficient and effective tools for reaching out to them?
- Do you need your own website?
- Is content marketing an option?
- What is your publishing strategy?
- The list could go on…
I pulled all my ideas into a MindMap (courtesy of Coogle.it) and although you can’t see all the details, you can tell it looks incredibly daunting. (NB. There is a free version of Coogle and it is incredibly easy to use)
While your plan may be different, the key point is that in order to be effective you need to know where you are going and what your priorities are.
Writing copy is not the same as writing a book. Copy is most easily defined as ‘All the writing you will have to do that isn’t the book itself’. This can range from the obvious like the blurb for the back of book and the description you put on Amazon, to things like the text you put on your website, your call to action for getting people to sign up for your email list, blogs, guest blogs, how to write effective Twitter or Facebook headlines, email autoresponders…the list goes on.
Although I will come back to the importance of copywriting in later blogs, I won’t be going into the specifics of how to write copy. A site I have used to get me started is www.copyblogger.com. The folks there can give you a lot more information than I ever can.
3. Creative Executive
With this, I’m not talking about creative writing, but cover designs. You may be skilled enough to do your own covers, but I’m guessing for most of us, it is one of the few things we really need to spend money on and get done properly. After all, contrary to popular belief, many books are sold (or not) because of their covers. Having said that, just because you get a creative designer to do the hard work, doesn’t mean you have no input. You need to contribute upfront by giving the designer a good synopsis of the book, you need to carefully review the covers that come back, and at the end of the day, the cover you ultimately use on your book will be your decision!
How many times have you been told you need an author website…and not just a free WordPress blog? It seems to be one of the central pillars of a good marketing strategy. Really useful information on how to effectively use a website, however, seems to be quite elusive (particularly for fiction writers).
This is a topic I will be coming back to on more than one occasion because there are so many different facets to cover such as:
- How to go about setting up a website
- What content to add when it is set up (I always think this is easier for non-fiction writers, but maybe it’s just a grass is greener view of the world!)
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO; I’ll definitely be back to this one!)
- Using a website to generate an email list (easier said than done in my opinion)
- How to drive traffic to your website
- And probably a lot of other things besides!
5. Social Media Manager
Social media is one of the best ways to reach out to your identified customer groups, but used excessively can be one of the biggest reasons the hours in the day just disappear. Before you start, it helps to know if you’re target audience hang out on Facebook or Twitter? Maybe Pinterest is more their place or, if you’re a non-fiction writer, perhaps LinkedIn? When you first start your marketing efforts you need to consider the merits of each, but over time (or maybe fairly quickly) you’ll realise that the returns you get from some are not worth the effort you put into them.
I have recently started teaching myself the finer points of Twitter (a whole other post) and I can’t believe how time consuming it is. If all the other platforms took up so much time, you literally wouldn’t be able to do anything else. At the moment, it’s too early to tell whether my recent efforts have been worth the effort, but I am testing various tools that are designed to help and so I’ll let you know.
6. Data Analyst
Once you have your website up and running and you’re using social media to promote posts and generally drive traffic to your site, how do you know which campaigns are being effective? There are a lot of analytics tools out there at the moment, and I am working with several to find out which are most useful. Again, there will be future posts on this, but for now the main message is, if you want to improve your visibility and raise your profile, you have to monitor how effective you are being. Once you have a baseline you need to continually tweak your campaigns to see what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t, a lot of what you’re doing could be a waste of time and you won’t know it.
7. Market Researcher
This is all about understanding your customers. If you can’t get inside the head of your biggest supporters, your future success could be doomed before it starts. Market research includes:
- Determining your target audience, who they are and where they can be found
- Identifying the most appropriate keywords to use on your website
- Assessing whether ideas for new blog posts could be successful
If you don’t target the right customers and use the language (keywords) they use, then a lot of effort could be wasted. Similar, why write a blog post similar to many that have already been written. Check on the uniqueness of your ideas and if the space is crowded, identify whether you could take a different angle to increase it’s readability.
The main message here is to stop, think and test ideas before you put too much effort into things that might not work.
8. PR Manager
As you approach launch (depending on your objectives) you will need to have an author media pack. At a minimum this should consist of an author bio, a press release for your book launch (or other similar newsworthy content), a headshot (professionally taken) and contact details.
You may need it for your local or even national newspapers, for visitors to your website who may want to write a piece about you or invite you to do a guest blog. You could give it to groups you belong for them to include in their newsletters. There could be a host of other reasons.
The thing is that if you want your book included in any journalistic publications (print or electronic) you could be missing a trick if you don’t produce a Media Pack.
9. External Relations Manager
This will almost certainly involve interacting and making connections with people you meet online but should also involve going out and meeting real people. Are you planning a book launch or other events to promote your book, for example? Do you plan on doing author signings, book fairs or society meetings relevant to your niche?
Getting out and talking to people is a key part of networking and raising the profile of your book. Whether we like it or not, as self-published authors it is something we are going to have to do ourselves if we want to maximise our book sales.
While everything else is fighting for your time, the small issue of getting your book up to scratch ahead of launch is also a major commitment. Although all self-published authors should have their work reviewed at least once by a professional editor (maybe to nail down the structure of the story or to check grammar, spelling etc at a later stage), the fact is that self-editing is probably inevitable for most of us.
If funds are tight, the number of times you can go back to a professional editor will be limited, which means the onus is on us to make the relevant changes and publish the best version of the book as we can.
So you have your book, carefully edited with it’s professional covers, and now all you need to do is publish it. Does your publication plan form part of your marketing strategy? If not, is it something you have given any thought to? Questions you need to think about include:
- Will you just put it onto Amazon Kindle and be done with it?
- Will you go for KDP Select or Kindle Unlimited?
- What about all the other ebook platforms?
- Have you got the right format for each platform?
- Will you use Smashwords or IngramSpark to extend coverage?
Those questions are even before you get to think about having a print version of the book.
- Will you use CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lightening Source or a local publisher?
- Will you publish it through your own publishing company?
- Will you buy an ISBN number?
I wrote a Beginners Guide to Self Publishing last year which is a useful start, but I will be coming back to look at this topic in more detail in later posts.
12. Audio Book Narrator
I listened to a webcast a few weeks ago about the value an Audio Book can add to your portfolio. It was something I hadn’t considered before, mainly because of the costs involved. The speaker, however, suggested that there was no reason why, with the right equipment, you couldn’t do it yourself.
I’m still not convinced my voice is strong enough to read a trilogy, but I am now much more open minded about it and might just give it a go. Have you considered it – or even done it?
13. Sales Executive
Ah yes…sales! It had to be in there somewhere. Even if you put as much as you can into your marketing effort it will go to waste if you don’t ultimately ask for the business. This doesn’t have to be in a brash or aggressive way, but there will come a point when you need to mobilise the connections you have made and ask them to support you. It needn’t be in terms of asking them to buy the book (although that would do it!). It could be by asking them to spread the word for you through their networks or write a review of the book for you (a good review is worth it’s weight in gold). The thing is you can’t just sit back and think the sales will automatically come without some direct call to action.
I left this point until last, but maybe I should have put it first. I’m guessing that there are not many people reading this blog who are experts at all the above. I’m certainly not, but what I’ve been doing over the last few months is learning what I need to do. I’ve signed up for courses on how to maximise sales through Amazon Kindle and how to have Zero Cost Marketing tools. In addition, I’ve lost count of the number of free blogs I’ve read. The internet is such a wonderful place that if you need something you only need to type it into a search engine and there will be answers.
Even if you embrace everything on the list, there’s no guarantee of success. The days of writing a book, loading it on to Amazon and hoping for the best are long gone (if indeed they ever existed). You’ve put a lot of effort into your book; you owe it to yourself to give it the best chance you can.
The Ambition & Destiny Trilogy is a compelling saga of love, loss and betrayal set against the backdrop of Victorian England.
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