Before You Even Start Self-Publishing

Self-publishing? Buy an ereader!

Yesterday I had the pleasure to be invited by the New South Wales Writers’ Centre as a panelist for the DIY Digital weekend. In the audience were people who were interested in self-publishing and who were taking part in this event to learn the ropes.

It was a good time, with locals like Zena Shapter, Dionne Lister, Walter Mason and Elizabeth Storrs who either self-publish or know about online publicity.

I was reminded of a few things I’ve come to take for granted when people ask me about self-publishing. Last week, I posted about beginning in self-publishing, which was a really basic common-sense sort of post, but these things I realised on the weekend step back even further from the moment where you publish your book:

Before you even start self-publishing:

1. Buy an ereader and buy ebooks. How can you expect to understand how an ebook works and what the buying experience is like if you have never done it? There is much more to it than putting your text in a file. The design is different.

2. You know the bit where you get books printed and you schlepp them around all the local bookshops hoping them might carry them, and you try to wrangle your photo in the local free newspaper? Forget about that bit. Stop being hung up about print. The people who buy print books in shops and those who buy them digitally online are not entirely the same audience. You will never–like, ever–get a significant number of bookshops to carry a self-published book, unless you wrangle the manager personally, and there is a strong limit on how many you can do that for. If you self-publish, your main effort should go into digital publishing*.

* Unless you publish non-fiction that is image-heavy and/or strongly related to your locality, for example, a book on the history of your town.

3. Social media, blogs, or other ways of interacting with readers. Social media, really.
Get over any hangups you have about this. Sure, we can all point to the odd writer who has little online presence and still sells like hotcakes. Chances are that this writer was already established pre-social media. Chances are that even this writer would sell better if he/she engaged with readers online. Thousands and thousands of books are published online each year. New writers ask how readers are going to find your book. That’s how. Self-publishing is BYO audience. You provide the audience.

For example, look at the links to the writers at the top of this post. Those pages don’t scream “buy my books”, but they give additional information about their books, their worlds, their research, or whatever.

You don’t have to give out ANY personal information. When you decide to become an author, that part of you becomes a public figure. You mention things like your research, your writing, your covers, additional short stories. You don’t mention anything from your personal life, with the exception of your cat.

Disregard social media, and you give yourself a huge handicap even before you’ve started.

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