12 Steps to Take Before Self Publishing


You’re ready to self publish your book, but you’re not sure your book is ready.

The problem is you’re not exactly sure HOW to determine if it’s ready or not for publishing.

Don’t worry. It’s not an easy question to answer. Partly, because it’s not the same for everyone and also because it’s hard calling your baby ugly.

You work so hard on something the last ting you want to do is think it STILL needs more work.

But you’ll thank yourself in the end for taking the time to go that extra mile and make sure your book is absolutely awesome!

The following are the tips I seem to most often tell new authors:

1. Read everything you can get your hands on and do your research on trends in writing, books, and anything authorpreneur related.

Writers MUST read. Books, magazines, pamphlets at the doctor’s office (ok maybe not that). All joking aside, don’t limit yourself to only reading the genre you write in.

Broaden your horizons.

There is so much to learn from authors in other genres and even if a particular style is not normally your thing you can appreciate it as an artist.

Research and understand the style you plan to publish in. If you want to make a living writing romance, then you need to know as much as you can about it. What readers are looking for, what the trends are, and what other authors are doing.

Ideally, this should be done BEFORE you’re ready to publish to make sure you are laser focused on the right market but if not. It’s never too late.

2. Write a great book. This kind of goes without saying, since no one sets out to write crap, but I feel compelled to say it anyway. You don’t want to rush the process.

It can be hard making yourself go back and edit over and over and over until your book is ready but long term it will hurt you if you rush. You don’t want people to pass up your next book because the first one wasn’t ready and wasn’t what the readers were expecting.

On the flip side, I do want to mention don’t wait until you feel your book is perfect to put it out there because chances are you will never feel your book is 100% perfect. Perfect, true perfection, is hard to come by. Just take the time to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

3. Have your book professionally edited. If I were going to stand on my soap box and preach something, this would be it.

I won’t lie editing is expensive. It will be the aspect of publishing you spend the most money on but the one where you don’t want to cut corners.

Nothing can ruin a great book faster than misspelled words or inconsistencies in the plot.

Have your book edited for both content and grammar. This will add a lot of time to the process, but you must build it into your production schedule.

Trust me. It will be well worth it.

4. Build your author platform. Many authors make the mistake of waiting until their book is finished to start building their author platform.

You want to start this process as soon as you start your book. Or even sooner. The author platform is about getting you, the author noticed. It’s visibility of what you have to offer to your readers.

Find people who read your genre and start engaging them so when your book comes out they are on board to purchase it. You can blog, build your email list, send out newsletters.

Anything that will keep you in front of your readers.

5. Promote, promote, promote. If people don’t know about your book, then they can’t buy it. In my experience, this seems to be the #1 struggle of new, and long time, authors.

It’s not easy for everyone to do the shameless self-promotion that goes along with any artist trying to sell their products.

And by promote, promote, promote, I don’t mean blatant BUY MY BOOK marking. But create awareness.

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Engage readers. Get people talking about your book. Contests or launch parties are a also great way to do that.

6. Have realistic expectations. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up the first morning after publishing your book and thinking you sold a million copies to find out you sold 1.

And that was to your mom.

Selling books is a slow process that will gain momentum every week you work at it. Stick with it and you will see the fruits of your labor.

7. Have other people read your book besides your editors. You want to get a readers perspective. What may make complete sense to you may not resonate with a reader.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get a team of Beta Readers. People who like my books enough that in return for a free copy are willing to read the book before publishing to give me feedback.

Now, this can also be a double-edged sword. You can’t please everyone, and sometimes too much feedback is stressful.

Be prepared to take the feedback with a grain of salt and don’t try to jump through hoops to make every change someone recommends. Especially since some will conflict.

8. Make sure your book is properly formatted for the platforms you are putting it on. Most platforms now have the ability to format your book from a Word doc to an ePub, Mobi, or whatever the platform requires.

However, I do NOT recommend this.

As awesome as Microsoft Word is, your book will lose some formatting in the conversion process. Turning it into a PDF  before uploading it is marginally better, but you can still have some major issues.

Out of all the costs associated with publishing your book, formatting is one of the less expensive ones. So my recommendation is don’t skimp on this step.

9. Have an outstanding title. First impression not only counts with your cover art but your title. Those are the 2 things that are going to reach out and GRAB someone.

Compel them to read the back blurb which will then entice them to buy.

Come up with a few different ones. This could be a great way to get readers engaged. Let them vote on it. See what kind of feedback you get.

10. Be professional. Most of the things I’ve talked about in this post all relate to this one. Be professional. I recently read a blog post that said it wasn’t about traditional publishing versus self-publishing anymore but professional publishing versus nonprofessional.

I loved how he worded it because I truly agree. Self-publishing has gotten a bad rap BECAUSE of all the sloppy, unprofessional work that’s been put out there.

I know I’ve put books out there that weren’t all that professional as I was starting my journey. I didn’t know better but I learned.

Often the hard way.

Being a successful author is a learning process. But the goal should be to get better every time you publish.

11. What are the goals for your book? Your end game, the time you have and want to invest in this, the plans you have for your writing career all play a part of figuring out what you want from each book you publish.

Of course, you want the obvious. To sell books.

But how many you sell will be a result of how much time and effort you can put into the marketing. And we are all at different stages in our career.

No matter what your goal is. Big or small embrace it and be proud of it.

12. Your back matter. After the title and your awesome cover catch the readers eye, they will read the blurb. At least that’s the hope.

The few paragraphs summing up what your book is all about needs to be enticing so it will ensure the reader MUST buy your book because they just have to find out whats going to happen next.

This could be a list of 112 things to do before you self-publish, but I need to stop at some point.

Mistakes happen.

Your self publishing journey will be frustrating at times, and you may want to quit. In fact, I’m sure you’ll want to quit. I know I have a million times. But then I rally and get back in the game because it’s worth it.

So GO! Get writing!

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— laina

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3 thoughts on “12 Steps to Take Before Self Publishing

  1. I’m a YA writer, and I want to traditionally publish, but I’m keeping these tips in mind in case I ever decide to self publish instead.