7 Things I wish I knew before self-publishing

It’s been over a year since I published my book, Before the Legend. This past year I’ve learned so much about self-publishing and marketing. Although I’m thankful for the little successes and milestones I was able to reach, there were several things I wish I could have done differently before and after self-publishing my book. The first three in the list are things are already knew before publishing but underestimated while doing this process. Here are my top 7 things you want to do before you self-publish.

  1. Thorough professional editing– Before I published my book I had several people edit my works for free. In addition I also edited my own stories several times over. Even though they proved to be helpful I realized I needed professional editing to cover my bases. When I first chose an editor on Thumbtack, I underestimated the importance of the types of edits needed to make your work polished. My first editor was focused more on the  content of my story, which is referred to as a structural edit. What I failed to do before I published was pay for a line edit which involves a focus on the mechanics of writing, including grammar, spelling and punctuation. Looking back now I would do at least both types of edits before publishing.
  2. Professional Formatting– For a new time author formatting can be tricky especially for eBooks. Considering that first impressions means everything, it is so important that the formatting of the book is clean and professional. Hiring a professional is one good way to ensure that everything from the spaces between the lines, to the page numbering is aligned and spaced correctly. For those feeling ambitious, guides such as the one on Smashwords were very helpful in getting started in eBook formatting. Even after you think you’re finished double-check how it appears on different devices. If something appears off, fix it before it goes live. It needs to be close to perfect before it goes live. If publishing the print version, order the proof and verify it before it goes live.
  3. Professional Book cover– First impressions are everything, and your cover is the first thing you’re viewer will see. It needs to grab their attention and convey what the book is about. Might I add it should look professional. Anything less than great may come off as amateurish. Unless you’re a graphic designer/graphic illustrator,  it’s very difficult to nail the design just right so that it’s not only beautiful and striking but also marketable. Your book needs to appeal to your target audience and oftentimes it’s easy for new writers to overlook that. That’s why it’s strongly recommended to seek help from a professional design artist. When you are designing your cover it’s important to test and see how it looks resized or in black and white before going ahead with the design. Ask others for their honest input. What did they like or didn’t like? Their feedback is very important and can give you insight as to what you can improve upon before it goes live.

Marketing Strategies

  1. Have a plan– It’s important to have a concrete plan. How do you plan to market your book? How do you plan to get reviews? When is the best time to publish? Those are just a few of the questions you need to consider. Having a plan helps you to stay focused and not to rush into publishing without knowing how you plan to sell your book.
  2. Advanced Copies for review– Several authors and publishers have utilized the strategy of giving out advance copies in exchange for reviews. Getting people to read your book before it’s published builds early buzz  that can spill over after the book goes live. With more copies circulated to readers who are more likely to enjoy your particular book, there is great potential in having early exposure while getting early feedback on your work. Finding reviewers early on ensure that when your book goes live on sites you’ll already have reviews from the jump which may sway potential readers and potentially boost book sales.
  3. Cover Reveal!– Marketing doesn’t have to start when the book is already out. As alluded to earlier you want to create buzz weeks if not months before your book is published. One marketing tips some authors have tried include cover reveals, whether on your Facebook page, or sites like Goodreads. It’s a great way to generate anticipation and visibility before your book goes live.
  4. Pre-orders. Even though this may apply more to print books, I thought I might throw this in for the 7th point for the marketing strategies. Having your print book available for pre-order is a great way to create buzz for your book and get a head start on potential sales. Early strong sales on Amazon can determine if your book makes it to important lists such as hot new releases which is where you want your book to be if you want to gain more visibility which can result in even more sales.

Be realistic- Above all it’s important to be realistic. Not all books will sell well. Setting realistic goals helps you to be grounded and not to get too disappointed when you’re expectations aren’t realized. Learning from others successes and failures beforehand will help you be prepared for the challenges of publishing.

So there you have it. Seven things that you don’t want to underestimate when going into self-publishing. It’s too late to reverse the past but I can learn from my mistakes for the next book that may come along. Considering I haven’t tried the marketing strategies (cover reveal, advanced copies, etc) prior to publishing Before the Legend, I have no way of knowing if they are actually effective in terms of sales. I would love to hear from others who have tried these or other strategies. 1) What did you try when publishing? 2) Would you consider it effective?

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11 thoughts on “7 Things I wish I knew before self-publishing

  1. This is a really helpful post for me right now. Perfect timing. That line editing is the hardest part, and I can’t do it to my own work to save my life. It’s impossible for me, and I think every writer should hire one.

    The formatting part scares me. I’ve got a few weeks before that point, but I’m already dreading it.

    I’m doing the marketing right now, and that’s the hardest part. So stressful! I have several ideas, but I wouldn’t say a concrete plan. But after reading this, I do think I’ll think more on it. Have any advice? So far I’m using my blog, just started using Goodreads today, and I plan on finding book reviewers. I’m going to offer the ebook for free in the beginning. What would you add?

    • Hello and thanks for stopping by the Nook.

      I’m glad you found my post helpful. I can relate to a lot of the challenges. I’ve done line-editing myself but I like to leave it to the professionals because they can pick up on things you might gloss over. Formatting can be daunting. Print is a lot easier than eBook. The Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker was very helpful in the process because it can be very tricky formatting eBooks.

      Regards marketing, most writers struggle with this including me. A blog is a great platform to spread the word. If you haven’t already, I would include snippets of the book to wet reader’s appetite. In forming your plan, consider what your target audience is and where to find them. Goodreads has different groups with some tailored to specific genres or audiences. Those are great places to find potential new readers. Once you know your target audience and where to find them you will have to consider what marketing strategies to use. Marketing can be expensive so early on it’s great to know how much your willing to spend. Of course the cheapest and most effective marketing is word-of-mouth. So talking it up amongst the groups your part of our your circle of friends on social media early on, can help create some buzz (the greater the following the more effective this is)

      For reviews, again Goodreads groups is a great place to look for potential reviewers. Make sure to read each group’s policy regarding self-promotion or people might think you’re being spammy. I believe getting reviewers early on will give you a good head start. I hope this bit of info was helpful to you.

      • You’re welcome. I’m glad I could be of assistance. I also recommend checking out David Gaughran’s blog which is full of insightful information on self-publishing, marketing and more. So far I’ve read his book Let’s Get Visible and I consider it the Bible for self-publishing lol. That might be a bit of stretch but it’s very helpful in terms of marketing your book in cost-effective ways.

  2. Pingback: 10 Things I Learned Since Self-Publishing | Writer's Nook

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  4. Excellent post and excellent advice. I self-published my debut novel a couple of weeks ago and part of me wishes I had done things very differently. But as I knew from the outset that my very first book wasn’t going to turn me into Hugh Howey over night, I deliberately went for a very low-key release to minimise my exposure while I learn the ropes. Somehow, it seemed to make more sense to treat going the indie route as a marathon rather than a sprint.

    Even after just three weeks I’ve learned a lot that will help me in the future, and being entered into this years SPFBO contest has been a real bonus. When the time comes I will definitely handle the release of my second novel so much better.

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