Five Things Not To Do When You Self Publish
by Laura Howard
How many times have you heard the term self-publishing and twisted your face in disgust? “Oh, that’s not for me,” you think. Because everyone knows that in order to be legitimate in the literary world, you have to go through a Big Six publishing house, right?
I admit to having this attitude just one short year ago. When I read about the possibilities opening up for self-published authors I remember thinking, “Well, that’s great for THEM…”
But in 2012, I started actively researching self-publishing and discovered that there is so much more to it than just writing a rough draft and sticking it up on Amazon. (Yes, that really is the attitude I had.)
For the last year, I’ve investigated what works and what doesn’t when it comes to self-publishing and have connected with many authors who’ve decided to self-publish for varying reasons. My blog, Finding Bliss, has become a gathering place for writers who’ve traveled the self-publishing road. Through the stories and tips shared by the trail-blazing independent authors I’ve interviewed for my blog and have connected with via social media, I’ve learned so much about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to publishing your own work. My novel The Forgotten Ones is slated to publish May 15 ’13.
Here are the five biggest things NOT to do when self-publishing:
Don’t Sell People Your Book- In social media, those who constantly talk about themselves and their work become like the car salesmen or the telemarketers of the internet. They get tuned out or unfriended completely. Please don’t be that guy– be social, pay it forward and enjoy others who share your interests. There is a phenomenon on the internet that when people like or care about YOU, they want to share your work for you. Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn has been a great source of inspiration to me in the realm of Relationship Marketing– letting people like, know, and trust you.
Don’t Wait to Build Your Platform- Platform can come across as a dirty word, but you must have an audience of people who actually want to hear about you and your latest news. I’m not sure what the ideal time frame for this is; I’ve heard everything from six months to two years. But, honestly the best thing you can do is start where you are: you know you want to publish your work, so get socializing, build one relationship at a time and get your work out there. An excellent resource for tips on building your platform is Robert L Brewer’s blog, My Name is Not Bob.
Don’t Skimp on Editing- I don’t simply mean comma placement and sentence structure here, although grammar and mechanics are extremely important. I’m talking about working with someone who can actually help you see the things you’re not able to see because your work is your darling. Developmental editing can push a story from amateur to professional. This is why self-publishing can be a misnomer– it takes a village to build an outstanding book. Erin has been instrumental for me in getting my work to the level it’s at now, and she shares numerous resources here on The Lit Coach’s Guide and on her Twitter feed.
Don’t Ignore Metadata- As a writer, you don’t want to think about things like which categories to best place your book. You want to be editing and polishing. Even those who are being published traditionally can’t afford to ignore the need to perfect the placement of their books not only on retail sites (Amazon, Barnes&Noble), but also book-cataloging sites (GoodReads, LibraryThing). Know your market and look into how other authors are listing their books. It will improve the searchability of your book on these sites and help readers find your book for as long as you have it available. An excellent resource for figuring out categories to list your book at is Aggie Villanueva’s blog Promotion a la Carte.
Don’t Stop Writing- In the dozens of interviews and author features I’ve done on Finding Bliss, the number one biggest regret I’ve heard from authors is stepping aside from their actual writing to focus on the promotion and platform building I just mentioned above. But consider this, you write one great book and what will your fans want? That’s right, another great book. Who will be more successful over time – the author with one fabulous book and a Twitter following of 20,000 or the author of ten fabulous books with a following of 5,000 devoted fans who are eagerly sharing your work with their friends? The point is, you must have something to sell first.
You can find out more about Laura Howard at her Blog.