With the money, time and inclination, anyone can self-publish these days… and who’s to stop you if you feel like producing something self-indulgent? Your family and Aunt Maisie may love it, after all…
But for those of us who want to publish a book which helps our business, or indeed becomes a business as commercial fiction, or serialized self-help perhaps, what are the top roles you’ll need to play?
Researcher and Marketer
As well as researching your subject, you’ll need to research your audience and how online book marketing works. You’ll need to look at what similar books are selling on Amazon, what type of readers you need to attract, and where they hangout online. Facebook interest groups, twitter bios and hashtags, Instagram hashtags, Reddit forums, Quora and You Tube will all be worth a gander, as well as GoodReads and Wattpad. If you can’t find places online where your target audience hangs out, then maybe your book idea needs a rethink…
You’ll need to decide what sort of book you’re writing: is it a short e-book selling at the magical $2.99 ( where you get to keep $2 on Amazon) and possibly part of a series? Or is it a longer, more definitive work? For many self-publishers Amazon is the only show in town, and learning what works here – on the world’s third largest search engine – will be vital.
Why do you want to write a book? Yes, a book can add credibility, authority and bring new customers to whatever you offer – but however fast you write, a half-decent read takes planning, thought and total immersion, that may be more effectively spent creating a series of videos, a state-of-your-industry white paper, a podcast or an online training programme. You may find it easier to reach folk and make an impact through a different means. Weigh up your options.
You can pilot your idea and oil your writing muscles, if so inclined, by producing longish blog posts at least weekly for a few months. And if you use WordPress for your blog, then you can easily convert this content into an e book, or pdf for Createspace to make an actual book, over at Pressbooks.
You’ll no doubt have noticed that there are millions of authors hawking their wares online and shouting a lot about them.
You will need stealth and inventiveness to stand out. How would your book work as an infographic? Does a social problem feature in your book that you could report on for online news publications? What would a video of highlights from your book include?
Here’s a useful exercise from literary agent Andrew Lonie:
This exercise along with blogging can help you stress-test your idea.
I’m writing this post just before Llandeilo Lit Fest, a community book festival founded and organized by Christoph Fischer. Christoph is a prolific self-publisher, who has build considerable community both online and offline in his home area of West Wales. He contributes a great deal to readers of all ages and in return he gets book downloads – over 150,000 at time of writing.
In a way, self-publishers need to have something of the impresario about them, whether it is like Joanna Penn, with her wide ranging self-publishing advice, or Mark Dawson, with his self publishing Facebook group and courses, or Mark Schaefer, with his conference talks and teaching.
We write above all else to connect – and we’ve lots of choice today about where we connect with readers, whether we choose live events or online forums as our thing.
I hope you don’t find these demands too disheartening. There is value in writing a book that very few people read – you dig down deep into you subject, develop self – discipline and persistence and perhaps see yourself and your subject differently at the end of the exercise. But when you write a book that people are stimulated by and wish to chat about, then this value rises tenfold. Having done both, this is my troth… and I wish you the best for your book.
Here are this month’s useful links: