6 Secrets to Self-Publish Your Novel – Fabulous Writing Tips
Self-publishing doesn’t carry the same stigma it once did when it was termed “vanity press.” (Oh, the horror.) Today, some writers are finding tremendous success with self-publishing. Some self-publishers are later picked up by traditional publishers. And some traditionally-published writers are leaving the fold to strike out on their own. To add to the mix, a lot of people are listening to books. It’s an exciting time to be a writer!
During my long career, I have worked with traditional New York publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin/Silhouette and TOR. Currently I publish as an indie. I have learned a lot about the publishing process, especially in the last few years.
Here are the steps I take when I self-publish a book and what I have learned so far. You could have a totally different experience or take a completely different approach. That’s the crazy thing about the writing industry. There are so many variables—with luck and timing playing a maddeningly large part.
1. Write the book.
- Get feedback from a critique group along the way.
- Get feedback from beta readers when the book is done.
- Let the book sit for a couple of months. Let it “fester.”
2. While your book is “festering…”
- Set a definite publication date. You can set the book up for presale at this time, but the date will be hard and fast at that point. Allow a couple of months. Preferably six. You’ll be busy.
- Decide what book categories and keywords you will use for marketing. I use a program called PublisherRocket for this. You can also use this program to see sales for books similar to yours.
- Write to Amazon to request more than the allotted categories. I haven’t done this yet, but many writers do. (Maybe that’s why they’re millionaires…) The strategy here is to rank really high in a category on Amazon. A book with a category of Amish Romance will have a much greater chance of ranking high than one with the category of Contemporary Romance. There are millions of books in that category.
- Write loglines and pitches for your book. You will use these statements on your cover, website and marketing materials. Writing a pitch will also help solidify your cover concept and book description.
- Write the back blurb/description if you haven’t already. I usually do this before I even start the book!
- Start the cover process.
- Research trends for covers in your genre. Collect samples for your designer.
- Pay close attention to the type of image and title choice of successful authors you are similar to. It’s usually the cover that gets a reader’s attention. Then the back blurb.
- Hire a cover designer or create your own front and back cover. Amazon provides a template for this, depending on the page length of your print version. I use an app called Canva that is fantastic for making covers and marketing videos.
- Pay close attention to typography choices and treatment. This is where many amateur designers slip up.
- Update your website and social media outlets to hype the publication date.
- Keep your friends and fans informed about your book’s progress via social media. Cover reveals, reviews, giveaways, etc.
- Set up dates for interviews, ads, announcements, press releases, book signings, etc.
3. Do a careful second edit.
- Make changes after considering the early feedback.
- Run your manuscript through editor applications.
- Microsoft Word Editor for spelling, grammar and readability.
- Autocrit (or similar program) for writing issues such as overuse of certain words, pacing, dialogue, etc.
- Send the manuscript to a professional editor.
4. Prepare your book for publication.
- Make changes suggested by the editor. Spellcheck again.
- Create an audiobook (optional) or at least read through your manuscript out loud. You will catch typos, superfluous tags, adverbs, and clumsy writing if you take the time to read your text out loud. This step is well worth it. Make changes so the audio matches the text version exactly.
- Obtain a separate ISBN for every version of your book (digital, print, hardback, audio) from Bowker Identifier Services. When your book is ready for publication, you can also copyright your novel at Bowker. You will need the ISBN when you upload your files to your sales partners. Most sales partners provide a barcode for the back cover, so I never pay for barcodes anymore.
- Prepare your digital files for publication. I use a program called Vellum that creates a beautiful product for digital and print, and churns out all the different formats you will need for uploading to distributors, including the PDF that will give you a page count for the Amazon cover template and review sites.
- Upload the cover and content files to the presale area of your sales partners.
- Decide how you will distribute. Only via Amazon Kindle Unlimited? Amazon takes a high percentage and wants exclusive distribution of your book.
- I distribute my book on Amazon (not Kindle Unlimited) and Draft2Digital, which distributes to multiple platforms such as Apple, Barnes&Noble, Google, etc. Their royalty share is less than Amazon, so you make more per book. Plus, they provide a universal link that updates automatically when a new partner comes on board. That means you don’t have to constantly update your website and social media links.
- For audiobooks, I use Findaway Voices. They distribute to ACX (Audible) as well as many other outlets, including libraries. I’ve had better sales using this strategy than using ACX alone.
5. Send out the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) for reviews.
- BookSirens, HiddenGems, NetGalley, etc. Readers read for free. Authors pay a fee per reader. Readers post reviews to the sites of your choosing.
- Kirkus Reviews and other professional review sites. (Pricey)
- BookBub Ads and Features (Pricey but effective.)
- Ask your street team to read and post reviews on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, etc.
- The more reviews you get, the more credibility your book will have.
- Gird your loins for the review process, LOL.
6. Hype your book’s launch.
- Ask your friends and fans to buy the book on launch date. You want to have as many sales that day as possible.
- Use direct mail, newsletters, blog posts, Facebook Groups, X, etc.
- There are tons of classes and books that can help you navigate the marketing process.
- Marketing is the bane of most writers, but it’s as inevitable as writing a synopsis. You just have to do it.
It’s easy to self-publish. Thousands of people are doing it every week. The difficult part for a new writer is how to stand out in the crowd. One way gain readership is by following the steps above to create an error-free product with quality content and cover and by getting good reviews. The above steps might sound daunting, but the process creates a much better outcome than if you just slap up a Word document to Amazon and walk away.
The real work comes after you self-publish. Marketing. But that’s a story for another time…