Updated: Nov 15
Going to preface this post by saying that this advice is mostly for creative writers. It applies to those writing in the genres of Poetry, Fiction, Prose, Creative non-fiction. If your book is non-fiction, on subjects such as self-help, motivation, history, etc. some of these steps may help but it is not our area of expertise. Our platform focuses on CREATIVE WRITERS, Storytellers.
If you are on this page it's because you are either about to become ready to publish or currently are ready to do so. We’ve done this before so you are off to a great start just by being here. But a warning, self-publishing is ALOT of work, when you make this choice, you do so without the support of a team. In this case, you are the TEAM. You will be a writer, publisher, promoter, customer service rep, mailer, etc, so start wrapping your mind around that and pace yourself.
Do you say you are a writer? Is your writing on social media, do you keep a blog that you share? If not, how are you building the audience that will purchase your book when you publish? If you do not have a community who is exposed to your writing how will your book be successful? We recommend you sell yourself as a writer, create a separate page on Instagram or Facebook for just your writing. There are various ways to brand yourself as a writer and many of the writers you currently follow are likely doing so. Follow their lead!
One year prior to printing (recommended):
Purchase an ISBN
The ISBN is a mandatory sales tool if you intend to make your book available in bookstores, as it provides the basis for identifying books in all industry-wide systems. Bookstores, wholesalers, and distributors keep track of books solely by their ISBNs. So how do you go about getting this little goody? Visit myidentifiers.com and purchase an ISBN for $125. Here's a helpful article explaining why indie authors should purchase their own, read:
Editing your finished Manuscript:
Once you complete your manuscript, that's it you are done, you are not adding more. Don't skimp on an editor trust us this is vital. Every writer regardless of expertise must have their work edited by a professional. When our fave authors sign a book deal, trust that their contract requires they meet with an editor, so why wouldn't you? Here are a few ways to go about finding an editor:
Check out this list we compiled HERE
Referral: if you know someone who has self-published a book ask them if they can refer you to an editor. It's best to work with someone who you have been referred to.
Editors are NOT cheap, dependent on what you need editing it will cost you anywhere from $200 to upward of $1000. Many editors work on a sliding scale and allow you to negotiate a fee.
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, PREPARE!
What book size would you prefer?
Decide how you want to publish your book i.e. E-book, softcover, or hardcover format. Most platforms allow publishing in all three formats. Do your research, find which option is most cost-effective and beneficial to your publishing needs. Evaluate books you like, for the size, matte or glossy finish, how do they feel in your hands? Internal formatting: Does the book include a foreword, a bio, acknowledgments, headers, footnotes, translations? Everything you wish to include in your book, research to see if it's been done, likely it has just find the best way for you.
Where do you want to publish? Here are our top THREE self-publishing platforms. Visit each website and read everything, most have a FAQ section, or you can chat with them online.
Amazon is NOT a writer's friend. Why? Because Amazon is the biggest competitor against bookstores, and we all want bookstores to buy our books don't we? Well, here's a secret. Bookstores despise buying from Amazon so when a self-published author intends to have a bookstore sell their books the store will bypass Amazon and buy directly via the author. How does this affect you? When they buy from you they buy smaller amounts, when they buy via a wholesaler like Ingramspark they do so in bulk. You want a bookstore to buy and sell as many copies as possible of your book. Most bookstore report sales for the New York Times bestsellers lists and others. The more your book sells the higher chances you have of getting on a bookseller list. So let's explore other options for self-publishing:
1. IngramSpark.com: Ingram is the largest book distributor in the U.S. it is where bookstores, libraries, and other book vendors purchase books in bulk for a wholesale price.
$49 for print & eBook
$49 Print only
$25 Ebook only
2. Lulu.com: Print Book, Ebook, Photo Books
3. Blurb.com: Photo Books, Trade Books, Magazines, Ebooks. Blurb will distribute your book via its website, Ingram, Amazon, Appleistore and Kickstarter. Some book formats tend to be really pricey, to cover these expenses you can create a fundraising campaign to fund the printing of your book.
We won't go too much into the technicalities of each site, i.e. uploading your book, templates for your book, etc, because it's a lot, but definitely do your research.
Six months prior to printing:
Obtaining Book Blurbs:
We highly recommend you get book blurbs (reviews) from writers you admire. Reach out to them and ask them if they would be so kind as to review your book and send you a 2-3 sentence blurb that you may include in your book. Make sure you watermark and PDF your book, (you can do this via google docs if you don't have adobe) before you send out to them. Send them a synopsis (book description) of your book and let them know by when you need the blurbs. We recommend you do this about 6 months prior to printing. Do not put pressure on anyone who is offering you a blurb because suddenly you find yourself in a rush. Ask for about 5 blurbs that can be included in your book and used for promotional purposes.
Choosing a Book Cover
Don't be lazy. Don’t play yourself by choosing a generic book cover. Book Covers are the face of your book, they are what will call attention to it besides the title. Do your research, look up artists you like, reach out to them and ask them if you can use their artwork on a book cover or if they'd be willing to help you design one. They must know how to be able create a wrap around cover. You can download the book cover templates from the website where you will publish from. A Book cover is yet another vital investment you should not skimp on.
Two-Three months prior to printing:
No More edits? Then copyright your book!!
If you have your final manuscript and are located in the U.S.A-Copyright your Book via the Library of Congress. Visit www.copyright.gov. The name says it all—copyright is the right to copy a work. Copyright prevents bookstores from buying one book from the author, making copies and then selling them to its customers. The customers are not just buying the book; they are buying the author's intellectual property: the story, the characters and the setting. Your book is legally copyrighted as soon as it is written, but to scale up your legal rights protect your material to the fullest extent with the federal copyright office. This cost about $35-$55
Selling your book
If you have self-published we strongly advise that you do not share that your book is available via any online platform other than your website, and if you do not have a website encourage people to buy the book directly from you. Why? When people buy your book from any online retailer you receive a nominal royalty fee, but when you sell the book directly to your customers you are able to charge the retail price of your book. So instead of receiving a small royal fee, you receive the full price of your book. Of course, if folks are out of the country and unable to order the book directly from you then you inform them that it is also available via other online reatilers. But, you should always be the #1 seller of your book.
Setting up Pre-Orders
What is Pre-order you ask? Pre-order is when the consumer reserves the product offered by paying for it in advance. In the case of books, Publishers usually place a book on pre-sale anywhere from one year to six months prior to publishing, this gives them an idea of how the book is being received and how many copies they should print. Once you have your Book cover, announce your book to the world via social media, newsletters, your blog, email, etc. If you have created a website for your book, or you are sharing it via your blog, create a page on your site just for your book, include the book cover, any reviews, ISBN #, and a form for folks to order your book. Make sure you let them know the date the book will be printed and that the book will be shipped then. Arranging for a timely pre-order process will drive up interest in your book.
Don't have a website? You can create a website via google sites. And, it's free. With just a standard Google account, you can make as many Google Sites as you want for free. ... The only catch is that by default, your site will be on Google's domain, with an address like sites.google.com/view/your site. Note that if you want to receive money via your website you will likely have to buy a domain name, design your website, and set it up for payments, this will require a monthly maintenance fee.
Check out Lorraine Avila's, author of Malcriada & Other Stories author website.
Totally FREE option is:
Create a google form where people can submit their contact information, such as name and mailing address to pre-order your book, set up a cash app, venmo or paypalme options to receive full payment for your book.
Selling/Shipping your Book to buyers:
Encourage people to buy the book from you directly, DON'T advertise buying from the online platform you used to publish. If they buy it there you will only receive the royalty amount, which can range from $2-6. Always encourage folks to pay full price by ordering a signed copy from you, this also allows you to build a mail-list, make them feel special by sending them a goody with your book.
Shop for unique envelopes to ship your books, be creative, use colors, something different. Try etsy.com to order bubble mailing envelopes in any color.
Shop unique items to include with your book, such as journals or pencils, items related to the theme of your book. readers love free things.
Create stickers of your book cover or any illustrations within your book. Bookmarks are always an awesome idea, you can use the canva.com templates to create them, print them straight via canva or order via vista print. There are also many other sites offering great prices when ordering in bulk. Again do your research!
Giveaway ARCS (advanced readers copy)
An ARC is an acronym that stands for advanced reader's copy, sometimes called an advanced reading copy, a reviewer's copy, a pre-press copy, galleys or advanced reviewer's copy. It's a copy of a book given to certain people who are permitted to read it before its actual publication date, these books are often not the final edited version.
Search and create a list of #bookstagrammer (Instragram book reviewers), search hashtags on Instagram, among the genre of your book, black authors, Latino books, etc where you may find folks who are reviewing books. Ask them if they would like to partner with you to offer a book giveaway to their audience. You can send them a free copy and another copy to the giveaway winner. This is a great way to drive attention to your book. Stay organized by keeping a list of these folks who are doing the book giveaways, have them send you the contact and mailing address of the winner so you can ship your signed copy when it's published.
As expressed by Jane Friedman:
Fortunately, where publishers mostly fail, indie authors can excel. (And startups and online-based entrepreneurs have figured this all out, by the way.)
The giveaway is one of the more powerful tools in the new author’s arsenal because it’s a way to get attention when you may not have anything else going for you. There is no demand curve for you yet. And especially if you have no publisher backing you, then it’s important to provide social proof to potential readers, or have some way of indicating merit before they’ll invest time or money. (Thus the race for reviews, social media presences, etc—anything that indicates your work deserves attention.)
But should established authors do giveaways? The “permafree” strategy is well-documented as an effective marketing tool—which means you make the first book in a series permanently available for free, as a gateway drug to the rest of your work.
Where I think indie authors run into trouble is when they only have 1 or 2 books to sell, and they have nothing else to offer readers—and even worse, they don’t establish any means to contact the reader in the future (via e-mail newsletter or social media). So there is no funnel or path for readers to follow. It is a dead-end road. The potential fan finishes the book, and then … you lose them. Maybe they’ll find your next book, if and when it comes, maybe not.
The other catch here is that your work has to have quality that matches the expectations of your audience. If it doesn’t, no amount of giveaways help. When the cheese tastes bad, you stop taking the samples.
In this article, Jane stressed the importance of creating a mail-list which again you can start by using a free google form. Who should receive free copies of your book?
Bookstores, send them an ARC! send this with your press release. if they love the book they will buy it.
Bookstagrammers will take pictures of your book, share it, talk about it, review it.
Influencers (they have a huge following and can give your book that extra push)
Book Reviewers (they are all over Twitter and Instagram)
Authors you love and admire
These are the people who are going to help you promote your book for free.
Setting up book events:
Reach out to bookstores or any venue where you would like to host your book events months in advance, some places are busier than others and if you want to guarantee to have the event on the day you want preparing months in advance would be ideal.
Schedule your book readings 2 weeks or more apart if in the same city so that you don't over saturate yourself. Create a flier of all the places you will be reading and share.
Note that bookstores will order books from the platform you published because they receive a wholesale price, universities may order directly from you and it is up to you to decide whether you wish to negotiate a wholesale price with them. Wholesale can be anywhere from 40-60% retail price of your book. You won't get a full retail price for your book from everyone, but it's worth it when you know your book is sitting in a bookstore and or a university has chosen to buy 100-200 copies so they can teach it that semester.
Preparing for Publishing date:
1. Write a press release :
Create a list of local bookstores and reach out to them months prior to publication to set up your event.
Send your press release to anyone and everyone you want to share your book with, research college student associations, book clubs, bookstores, journalists who cover book news, social media influencers, libraries, etc.
Here's the press release we created for Malcriada & Other Stores (created on Canva.com), this was sent out to Library contacts, bookstores, book clubs, social media influences, media & press.
Note that we included:
Book Blurbs by authors who reviewed the book
Description of the book, ISBN, pre-order information and website, date of actual publication.
The book cover
Image of the author (make sure you have a very god head shot before you share it, you may want to book a photographer to take professional pictures of you)
How to get your book into Libraries:
Some indie authors cause so much commotion with their books that Libraries will purchase copies.
Before anything check with the libraries to see if they carry your book. If not, send your friends to the library and have them ask for the book! When libraries get enough requests it will pique their curiosity and they will be compelled to purchase your book! So grab some friends one weekend, visit your local libraries and ask them to order the book.
Lastly, promote, promote, promote, you are THE TEAM, the success of your book will be determined by you following these steps and promoting it. Publishing can cost you anywhere from $500 or more depending on how professional you want your process to look and feel for readers. Take your time, do not rush this process, it takes women 9 months to create a child, so think of your book as your baby. You want do your best to bring it to this world, so you are going to prepare for its arrival, its birth will be one of the most important dates in your life, it will be a memorable one and you want it to be memorable for others as well.
One more thing!! Everyone who receives your book should review it, you should review books your read. It's super important we review books by Latinos authors so that publishers can see there is a market out there for us and it is growing tremendously! Create an author profile on Amazon and on Goodreads and encourage folks to review your book when they read it.
More helpful resources:
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