The most important things for selfpublishing

In this post, I’m going to discuss the most important things for selfpublishing where you should consider spending your time.

It is brought to you courtesy of the questions asked by writers who are beginning or who haven’t published yet, about activities they should be doing once their book is out.

These include a lot of things that big traditional publishers do, like book launches, tours, signings and industry reviews.

Selfpublishing is a very different model than the traditional industry.

Never forget that the publishing industry sells to books to distributors and bookshops, and not to the general public. In this case, it’s probably not a good idea to copy what the traditional publishers are doing.

As aside, I once had an industry professional confess to me that they really have no idea how to make readers buy books. Bookshops do that for them.

So, I’m going to outline a number of things that self published writers find an effective use of their time, and I’m going to put those things in tiers.

Tier 1

In the first most important tier, we find the quality of your product, the appeal of the cover, the level of editing, and how well the blurb, and the other signals such as imagery on the cover point, in the same direction, and are appealing to the reader.

Since I have already written a post about that, I won’t repeat those things here.

Once you have that under control, you need to think about marketing.

I have also said before that you really need to divorce yourself from the idea that you will be selling in bookshops and in print. More than 99% of your sales are likely to be in ebook on the ebook retail platforms.

It is therefore going to be very important to decide whether to be wedded to a single platform in Kindle Unlimited, or whether you prefer to go wide.

This is a hugely important decision at this point because when you decide to go into Kindle Unlimited, you develop an audience that only reads in Kindle Unlimited, and it’s very hard to branch out. This is basically how Amazon holds authors by the patooties, so if you object to patootie-holding by large corporate entities, start off wide.

You also need to think about your sales strategy. How are you going to attract readers to your book? It is best if you write in a series and promote the first one for a special price, because any promotion you do on the first book will be multiplied when readers go on to the rest of the series.

You can only make the first book free for a long time if you are not in Kindle Unlimited.

And last, but not least, you need to start your mailing list sooner rather than later. In the future, I will talk a bit more about mailing lists. In short, you would use a platform like Mailerlite or Mailchimp to gather email addresses and send these people regular updates about your writing. You cannot really leave this in the hands of the retailers. Amazon has a button where you can follow a writer and they will send you an email when they have a new book out, but you only have to subscribe to your own notifications to know that this doesn’t always happen. You want a reliable method of contacting your readers direct. Mailing list. Start one as soon as possible. The first 1000 addresses on Mailerlite are free. Go sign up now.

Tier 2

Okay, what is in the next tier of activities that are important?

You might want to do some promotions.

Before you go all out on the Facebook ads or the Amazon ads or other pay per click options, I suggest you run a few cheap promotions on places like Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy and The Fussy Librarian and places like that. These cost relatively little, and let you get a feel for how well your book is received by readers.

Also, learn the huge advantage of Bookfunnel and all it can do.

You can then get into things like cross promotion with other authors, or you might decide that you might want to try doing Facebook ads, or Amazon ads.

Do you make sure that when you decide to do pay per click ads, you read up on how best to do them, because all these platforms are geared for only one thing, and that is to make the owner of the platform (i.e. Amazon, Facebook) the most money.

At this point, it is also very important that you keep writing more books. There is a point where marketing the books you already have is probably more efficient than writing new books, but at the start of your career, before you have at least a couple of series going, is not that time.

You can also decide you would like to have a nice website to offer people background information about your books, or to run giveaways that will get you sign ups to your mailing list. I have discussed all the things that you can do with your own website in another post already.

Also make sure that by this time you have joined a community of self published authors, preferably in your genre, so you can get reports of how well any of these tactics work for other people, hear about new things, and organise cross promotions and commiserate about things that go wrong.

A community like that will be where you will find out really important information, even if the main focus of the community is just writers chatting to each other.

Tier 3

Third tier of activities would include fringe activities like social media.

Some people who are social media mavens might be really good at it and will start doing social media promotion much earlier than this, but if you are new to social media and you don’t have a big following, it won’t sell you many books, especially if all your posts are about selling books.

This tier would include making sure your books are all listed on Overdrive so libraries can acquire them.

The third tier is for mopping up the little things that probably don’t have much effect but make your presentation nicer.

The third tier is for visiting writer cons.

Other notes

You will probably notice that I have not mentioned any of the traditional things such as book launches, industry reviews, direct contact with libraries, presenting your books to bookshops, or getting reviews on the radio or TV, or any of the usual PR things that large publishers do.

Remember that traditional publishers market to bookshops, and not to readers. Those are all things that are very time intensive, can be expensive, and are unlikely to lead to terribly many sales, except maybe in few very specific circumstances. Publishers are not holding launches to sell books. They are holding them for PR purposes and to get all the bookshop mates together. If you have a mate who runs a bookshop, great! If you feel you need to throw an official launch because you’ve talked all your friends to death about this books an now it here, go for it. But those events are primarily social gatherings for book people, not vehicles for selling books.

So here you have it.

Concentrate on your product, find a writing community, start a mailing list, develop a strategy, and realise that the vast majority of your sales will be digital.

Mailing Lists Unboxed

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