There are a number of important steps an author needs to go through in order to successfully self-publish. Here are some of them.
Write the book
This, of course, sounds obvious. But it may be one of the most challenging. Some people just have this burn or idea for a fiction or non-fiction book, so they write it. But getting it published may not be that simple. Have you considered your reading audience (yourself, family, friends, colleagues, an even wider group? Will what you’ve written appeal to them? Have you done an effective job self-editing? Have you hired a professional editor or editing service? If you can skip this last step, remember “It’s hard to see the forest for the trees.” Very few people can do a thorough and detailed job proofreading their own writing.
What does “writing a successful book” mean to you? Some authors just want to hold their book in their hands. Others want to sell thousands of copies. Some hope to win some kind of literary prize. Others want to see it in bookstores. And some authors hope to make a living writing so they can give up their regular job. You may have yet another reason. Unless you know your definition of success in advance, how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
Have a great title and cover design
According to R.R. Bowker’s annual survey, the total number of self-published print and e-books in 2018 was 1.68 million, based on the number ISBNs registered (ISBN = International Standard Book Number). In addition, Amazon’s CreateSpace division, which uses its own identifier, had 1.4 million self-published print titles last year.
With such a crowded market, how can you possibly make a dent? Of course, you need a great book. But there are two other major components: a great title and a great book cover. This is true for both fiction and non-fiction. In a bookstore, for example, think of walking down an aisle. What catches your eye (some books are displayed full on, but most are only spines). Which books catch your attention? How do you choose which ones to pull out? And online, most books are shown as thumb-nails. That, and the way they’re displayed, can make it challenging to choose the book you want to look at further.
Again, it’s the cover design and the title. And remember, if you choose to print your book, you’ll also need back-cover and spine designs. So, whether you’re publishing in print or electronically, your cover design needs to be optimized for maximum attention-getting, with a minimum of clutter. And just as with editing, it’s often best to hire a professional designer, even if you have some ideas for the design. And one of the advantages of self-publishing is that you can change your title or design anytime you want to, for improvements or for later versions.
You need a brief book description
This step is important. A well-written blurb can convince a potential buyer to purchase your book or pass on it. And it can be harder to write than the book itself was. How do you compress the whole book into just a few short paragraphs for a back cover or an online description? Again, this is a good time to picture yourself in a bookstore or browsing online looking at books in your genre. What catches your eye in the book’s description? What promise does it offer? Do the words “hook” you? Do most of them seem to have a similar “formula”? Use this formula as a model for your own blurb, then refine it to suit your style. Remember that self-publishing allows you to change or update your sales description any time.
Choose a category and keywords
Almost all publishing sites require that you select one or two categories that your book fits best into, and then a more relevant and specific sub-category. It’s what many readers use in searching. So, research in what categories and sub-categories peer books are located and then choose the ones that best fit your book.
Another important item is selecting key words or phrases. Here again, you need to do some research. Try some keywords to see if potential peer books come up. Or use an online “keyword creator”. Since you’re usually allowed to select up to seven keywords, experiment. Try different combinations to see which work best for you.
Self-publishing presents some unique challenges for first-time authors. If you follow some of the basics listed above, you’ll at least have some ideas of what to focus on.
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