Are you in the early stages of publishing your own book, or maybe you have always wanted to but the fear of the unknown has held you back all this time. Perhaps you have everything minus the confidence to go ahead and get that first book out there and just need a little guidance. Well this is the blog post for you!
Publishing my first book was the most overwhelming thing I had ever done. I didn’t know if it was finished even days after I had finished the final version. I wasn’t sure if my publishing options were the best value for my time and money. I didn’t know how I was going to market it or promote it. It was scary thinking something that meant so much to me, felt so uncertain. So here are 3 things I wish I had known before publishing my first book Works From A White Room Volume 1 – #TextsAre Poetry.
1. You Need To Research Self-Publishing Options For Your Budget
You have likely asked yourself, should I be paying to self-publish my own book? And if there are some fees to calculate, how much?
I wish I had spent a little more time really researching my options. I remember reading a number of articles online and watching youtube videos about different options, but not really having the confidence to know which would be best for me. I was on a tight budget back then, living from payslip to payslip and the idea of putting any money into it felt like a huge investment. At the time, I heard that you can publish a book with Amazon but the idea of publishing with a publishing house always felt like the more secure option. A friend of mine had just published their book and recommended a company called LuLu’s Publishing. Now I am not knocking LuLu’s Publishing – it was a stress free experience. I was a newbie at this and having the step by step simple user interface made it all pleasant. Within a month I had made 3 or 4 different versions where I had found mistakes each time and then eventually made my final version. I began thinking about promoting it, how I would market it and who would buy it. Lulu had a feature where you could sell the book at a reduced price for a period of time just at a click of a button and so an early bird price was introduced to get the sales in. The books came within a few weeks of ordering and getting my first ever copy in my hand was just amazing! There wasn’t much of a discount for the author copy unfortunately and so I eventually stopped purchasing my author copies through the LuLu website – the main reason why I did that will come in point number 3. Ultimately though, I noticed that LuLu was not a very well known company and the only great element was that they pushed the book out to a number of big publishing names like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I could Google my name and my book and the title “Author” would appear. This was a beautiful moment! But I was down by about £50 after buy author copies and still needing to promote the book. A little amount for someone who anticipated and budgeted for this, but a little bit of a shock considering I thought self-publishing meant fee free.
2. Promoting Your Book Will Take Time And Effort!
Self-Publishing literally means that, you publish all by yourself. If you haven’t built up a large following or buzz around your book or you as an author, this step can truly drain you. There were nights where I didn’t sleep as I was designing promotional material. Again this came at a cost as I noticed it was easier to use sites like picmonkey.com for graphic designing. Which comes at a monthly cost. I managed to curve a few weeks by doing free trials with every email address I had but in the end the system just could’t be beaten and I invested more money. I also don’t think I truly considered how much support I’d need to keep me motivated. I would have placed bets that particular family members and friends would have supported but surprisingly they didn’t even blink an eyelid whereas others who I truly thought would not care bought the book, left reviews and shared pictures & links on their own social networks. That is when you learn a very priceless lesson – you can not always predict your target audience, sometimes your work will just touch people and that is the true motivator. Thankfully, I love marketing and so I pulled out all of the tips and tricks I knew. I was not working full-time and so was able to take days to visit some interesting locations and take photos of the book. Those pictures generated the most engagement on social network platforms and I found more people were asking about where they could purchase the book. Which led me to my next eye opening moment – I chose the wrong self-publishing option!
3. It Is Not About Distributing Your Book Everywhere, Just Where Your Customers Want To Buy It!
In short, make your book readily available in the places your customers can easily access. LuLu was an unknown company to most people I knew, and so the thought of registering or using their bank details with them, was unsettling. They’d often ask “Can I buy it on Amazon?” or Do you have a website so that I can buy it from you directly?” or even worse “Can you just buy it and I’ll pay you instead?” Why are these questions an issue? Well the first meant my LuLu account was being neglected, no purchases, no reviews and no author profile follows. It made the book look unsuccessful and lonely. My revenue would also be affected as my earnings through LuLu were considerably more as LuLu took a higher percentage for any external purchases. The second question was upsetting because I didn’t have a e-commerce site to sell these books and quite frankly the thought that I could have made 100% of the earnings from book sales made me want to kick myself for maybe note pursuing that route from the beginning. And finally the third question highlighted a big issue. If I was the only one actually buying the books then they would either be all logged as author copies or (which I quickly learned) I could buy the copies from Amazon so that they are verified purchases but it means that getting people to then go and leave a review after they had read it left the reviews looking like unverified purchases. What a mess!
So what is the solution? Do you self-publish, hire out external promoters and have paid marketing campaigns? Do you sell your own books on your own website and keep 100% of earnings, and do you force everyone to order through one site and encourage them to do a little leg work from the outset?
Well the answer is: It depends on your plan, your budget and your skills. If you sit down and realise that self-publishing can be achieved within your budget, you can finance whatever it takes to make your cover art, promotional material and buy author copies. If you can create an online strategy to get your book in front of the right people. If you can build on the intricate details such as the journey of a customer, how to get them from an instagram post to leaving a review on your book after a verified purchase. Then self-publish may be just the thing for you! It takes timing, planning, energy and effort! It took me doing it completely wrong many times over before realising the easier options.
And quite frankly, I am thankful for it. It was a great journey! There are now many steps I have taken in order to do things differently for book number 2. And well, you are just in time. I will be posting the journey I took to publishing my second book and you will get insight into everything from cover designs, manuscripts and author copy prices down to taxes, promotional material and allocating a reasonable and crucially flexible budget.
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