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Tips for the Self-Publisher

Updated on November 12, 2013

Questions you should be asking:

  1. What is my overall intent? Whether it's a serious point you are hoping to make, or just a few laughs you're wanting to get, it's important to be clear in purpose.
  2. Who do I want to read this? We all have a target audience. Be sure of who yours is before you start writing, as this will influence your language, style, and content.
  3. How do I intend to sell this? Self-publishing leaves the door wide open to a variety of publishing formats. Whether you choose eBook, paperback, or a combination of mediums, having a general idea of how your work will be released will make the process much easier in the long run.

So You Wanna Self-Publish!

Self-publishing was once seen as the domain of failed writers - the sad collection of wannabes that couldn't ever convince a publisher to take them on. That was never actually true, of course, but thankfully, the world has begun to come around to that fact. The internet has completely changed the face of publishing, allowing people the freedom to retain control of their own work and still make a few bucks along the way. A handful of indie authors have, in fact, even become superstars. Before you decide to launch yourself headlong into this world, however, you want to know a few basic things.

Know Who You're Talking To

It's important for every writer to speak to their audience, but especially is it so for self-published authors. You do not have publishers, promoters, or big names backing you up - in order to sell your work, you are going to have to build a relationship with your audience directly. This means you not only need to know who your target audience is, but where to find them, how to communicate most effectively with them, and what formats work best for them. Before you begin that epic novel, funny essay, or dirty limerick, ask yourself exactly what you are trying to say, and to whom, and then make an effort to find out who those people really are.

Self-Published Potter

This? Yeah, this was self-published.
This? Yeah, this was self-published.

Keep Yourself Inspired

Self-publishing can be a...let's say...an "uphill battle". And by that, I mean soul-crushing labour. Writing something worth publishing is difficult in and of itself, but finding a good, affordable editor, deciding on one of the many self-publishing platforms available, coming up with a respectable cover, and then promoting yourself, is a pretty giant challenge. Add to all that the lingering belief that self-publishers are really just failed authors that couldn't find a publisher, and it can sometimes seem like too much work for too little benefit. When you begin to feel down, however, just remember:

  • Mark Twain, L. Ron Hubbard, Walt Whitman, and Charles Dickens all self-published one ore more of their books.
  • Dinosaur erotica is a thing. A self-published thing, and it actually makes a lot of money.
  • Already having at least one book published, in whatever way, increases your odds of selling your second book.

All Your Huck Are Belong To Me

This little known author self-published several titles.
This little known author self-published several titles.

Sites you need to make friends with:

Facebook : most everyone has a Facebook account, but do you know how to use it? Set yourself up an author's page, join every active writer's and reader's group you can find, keep people posted on your progress and upcoming events.

Smashwords : whether or not you choose to publish with them, just having a profile on Smashwords can increase your readership by making your name known to fans of indie literature.

Goodreads : be sure to create a profile on Goodreads to connect directly with your audience, and your fellow writers.

Think Advertising

Most artists hate promoting themselves, but it's a necessary evil for the self-produced. We have very little choice in the matter - if we don't promote our work, who will? There are many ways to promote oneself, and knowing which you will use will help you develop an effective plan of action. If you're going to heavily utilize Facebook, for example, one of your first steps should be joining a ton of related groups, and liking relevant pages, creating the foundation for a network. If you're planning to build a following on Goodreads, you'll want to connect a blog and write a strong biography.

Research Your Options

There are a lot of self-publishing sites and platforms. And I do mean a lot. Figuring out which one is right for you requires a bit of effort on your part. They range in price from almost free to several hundred dollars, and in quality from barely passable to entirely professional. It's well worth it to really look into each and every site, and read what users have to say.

Another major part of choosing a self-publishing company is knowing just what it is you want. Some, like Smashwords, will ensure your work is published on many platforms - Kindle, Kobo, Apple, etc., but have very strict formatting guidelines. Others, like Createspace, deal with a handful of exclusive affiliates, but allow you much more freedom in your layout. Be sure to take all of these things into consideration when making your decision.

© 2013 Robyn J Williams

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