Do's and Don'ts Of Self-Publishing: A Roadmap
The most exciting part about self-publishing is probably the scariest. You've woken up in the world of the Canteen scene in Star Wars, and you don't know who is on your side and who has a gun pointed at you underneath the table.
Now that I've navigated that world, I come back to give you some ideas. While everybody is different, I hope these thoughts will give you some help in getting there as well.
WRITE YOUR BEST BOOK.
Duh. That sounds super-simple, but I can't tell you how many manuscripts I have seen or books I have downloaded that you can tell have not had an editor review them or had simple things done that could make them better. I made the mistake of having a couple of typos in my manuscript and one name out of place. To someone who likes to get things right, this was a huge issue for me, and it certainly opened my eyes to the near impossibility of copyediting your own manuscript. I had several people review, and errors still were there. A professional editor is a must to have your book have the biggest impact.
The most important thing you can do to sell more books from a practical standpoint is to have a good cover. And yet in 2015, when we have such advances in quality of life, where dogs have snuggies and cats sometimes have their needs provided for in wills, we still have a glut of really crappy covers.
Take a look at the books you see in big bookstores. Most have "full bleed" covers. What that means is that the graphic they are using extends for the entire cover. Many bad covers have a huge border around their image, which may include the title and author name as well. Many of them use frilly fonts that look wildly out of place on a book cover.
Here's the thing: Those bad covers don't cost much less than good covers. I used to own an indie record label, so I'm perhaps a little sillier than most about how covers should look, but you can get a really great-looking cover from ebooklaunch.com for significantly less than $200. If that amount of money is an issue, keep working on your book until you can afford it.
It's that important.
Perhaps the biggest area where I struggled to find where and how to spend my money on getting my book noticed was with marketing. The advent of Twitter means that everyone who can wield a hashtag now thinks they are a marketing guru.
There are plenty of low-cost products that are worth less than what they claim to be. Some people boldly take your money and then don't give you any kind of idea on how well their work has done for you.
Of course, the motherlode is BookBub, which you're likely to have to try several times before getting. My second favorite site was EReaderNewsToday, which I thought provided a very good bang for its reasonably-priced buck. FreeBooksy and BargainBooksy are also good values.
MAILING LISTS AND WEBSITES
Consider getting someone who can work a website and mailing list at the same time. I treated these as separate issues, and then I finally realized they’re one and the same. With some help from Mark Dawson, I got hooked up with selfpublishingsite.com, which was a great and low-cost solution which, with a free mailchimp.com account, made life a whole lot simpler, and saw a whole lot more email addresses captured.
Vee who runs the site is helpful and patient. I know because I’m sure I tried his patience more than once. There are some technical details with the setup that you will need to listen and do with precision. Otherwise, the whole thing won’t work. Vee was very nice to me as I herped and derped my way through, and I’m sure he will for you too.
I didn’t get paid by any of these people to write about them. Together they formed a great team. I hope that this list will help you get your book seen and read by more people. Have fun and enjoy this very exciting process!
Dale Wiley is a Missouri attorney who has had a character named after him on CSI, owned a record label, been interviewed by Bob Edwards on NPR's Morning Edition and made motorcycles for Merle Haggard and John Paul DeJoria. He has three awesome kids and spends his days working as a lawyer fighting the big banks.