Tips for Self-Publishing Your Book

Author completes a novel and begins self-publishingSelf-publishing a book is the logical next step after having completed your manuscript. Unless you’re satisfied with being the sole reader, you probably want to find readers who appreciate your writing. I understand. You wish to have your communication heard, and rightly so.

At least once a month I receive an email from a prospective author with a similar message to this: “Please help me write my book. Call me. I have this amazing idea for a book that will make us both a lot of money!”

The problem is that writing a great book is only part of the equation. After talking to other successful writers, I’ve learned that the only way to succeed is by investing energy in marketing a book. Writing a great book just isn’t enough anymore.

Publishing: A changing industry

In the mid to late twentieth century, an author could just be an amazing writer and sell copies with little to no effort or attention put on sales. He or she could just write up a storm and make money because the publisher would handle everything for their authors.

In those days, self-publishing was not well respected. It seemed synonymous with failure. People assumed self-publishing authors printed their own copies because they couldn’t get a traditional publisher. Self-publishing authors were pretty much resigned to selling a few hundred copies to their friends and family, if they were lucky. No profit was made. More likely, they would wind up with boxes of books in their garage collecting dust and mildew.

Then Amazon dramatically changed the self-publishing industry.

Self-publishing authors can download their manuscripts easily

As Amazon grew, it became easier and easier for anyone to download a manuscript onto the Amazon platform and publish his or her work. Then Amazon advanced their print on demand capacity so that authors no longer had to purchase thousands of books and store them in their basements. Suddenly, customers could order copies directly through Amazon.

Today self-publishing is an acceptable, and even preferable, way for authors to release their books. Not only can they get their books into the hands of their readers quickly, but they retain all the creative control of the material and can keep most of the profits. Many authors who previously had no outlet to sell their books are now able to make a good income.

Setting yourself up for success 

When self-publishing your book, there are a few things you need to create in order to have a successful release.

Create an attractive cover

It’s easy to find someone to design a cover for your book. I recently used Fiverr with success. Although this freelance marketplace got its name by offering services for five dollars, that is not the typical price any longer. Still, the price is often reasonable, and sometimes you can find a great deal. My ghostwriting logo was purchased for a little over a fiver.

Write a compelling blurb

The back cover blurb or online tease is an important tool for enticing new readers. Writing a compelling one is an art form. You can study up on different techniques to find a good way to communicate your book summary in a few lines.

Of course, if you have received any endorsements or editorial reviews, include them front and center within your Amazon description.

The importance of reviews

A five star review for a book written by a ghostwriter

Before I hit the purchase button on any book or item on Amazon, I always check the reviews. I’m not alone. Most people want some reassurance that they’re spending their hard-earned dollars wisely.

Reviews should be honest. Never purchase a review. However, it is the norm to offer free copies of your book in exchange for a review.

Verified Purchasers

Amazon will tag a reader who has purchased the book through them as a “Verified Purchaser.” This is important. If you collect too many reviews without that title, your collection of reviews will be flagged. Amazon might assume that you have asked your friends to post reviews without having purchased or read the book. This would be unethical.

As a side note, if you list your book on Kindle Unlimited, readers can pick it up for free. You get paid based on the number of pages they read. However, don’t think you can shortcut the system by having people pretend to read it. Yes, Amazon has an algorithm that will detect if someone just flipped through the pages quickly and will flag the review accordingly.

Also, if the self-publishing author has the same last name as the reviewer, Amazon will object. They will assume that the reviewer is a family member. Amazon doesn’t allow your close family and friends to review your books since, understandably, your mother would probably not be an objective reviewer.

Every ninety days, Amazon allows you to post your book for free for five days. That’s the time to get people to download your book for reviews. They will be considered a “Verified Purchaser.” It’s within the framework of the rules.

How to get a good number of reviews

If you want people to show up to your party you need to follow up

If you were throwing a big party, how would you go about making sure the bash was a success? You’d probably start by setting a date and sending out invitations. You’d ask for RSVPs. People understand that you need to predict the number of guests to make sure you have the right amount of hors d’oeuvres and eggnog.

So, let’s say you invited fifty people and forty agreed to come. Would you expect all forty to show up without any prompting or reminding? Well, maybe if this was your first party, but you’d learn a lesson after that. If you invited them on Dec 1st for a party on the 20th and never sent any sort of follow up, you’d probably wind up with five guests on the day. If you were lucky.

In order to get a good turnout, you need to follow up a few times before the day of the event. Then it’s probably a good idea to remind everyone again two or three days before.

In sales, follow up is the key to success. I know, throwing a party doesn’t seem like a sales activity, but it is more relevant than you realize.

The importance of follow-up for self-publishing authors

Follow up to get reviews for self-publishing authors

Now, how does throwing a party relate to a self-publishing author getting reviews? Well, the principles discussed in the previous section definitely apply. When you set your free days for your book on Amazon, it’s a good idea to personally invite everyone you know to pick it up. Ask them for an honest review in exchange for the copy.

Then follow up. Yes, it’s a free book, but you still want to make sure they download your book during that period. Otherwise you’ll have to get them to buy it, which is much harder.

Once they have the book, there is no time limit for the review. The next step is to get them to read your book. That might take time. Two weeks is a typical expected turnaround, but keep in mind that most people are busy, and reading isn’t always high on their priority list.

Again, follow up. Ask them when they think they can read it, then mark that date on the calendar.

There is a fine line between being a follow-up expert and a nuisance, so you’ll need to judge that carefully. If your friend keeps setting dates but never begins to read your book, chances are she won’t read and review your book. That’s OK. Let it go. Maybe she will surprise you later.

When a friend says they have read your book, that’s a good time to ask them for an honest review. Make sure they know how to post a review on Amazon. If they don’t, walk them through the process. It’s easy, but it can help to have someone by your side guiding you.

Summary

So, if you’re a self-publishing author and you wish to get a good number of reviews, there is really a three-step process. You need to get people to:

  1. Download your book
  2. Read your book
  3. Write an honest review

Take one step at a time and follow up. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of reviews.

Marketing

Don't be an island. Promote your book!Putting a book up on Amazon without any thought to marketing is a bit like putting up a hotel on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific. No one will know you are there. No one will buy your book. It doesn’t matter how beautifully written or captivating your story might be, no one will read it.

In order to sell beyond your friends and family, you will need to find a way to promote. Here are a few ideas:

Create your own blog

It’s always a good idea to purchase the domain name of your name (or your pen name) as well as the title of your book. Even if you aren’t ready to create a website, buy the name so that it doesn’t get snapped up. There are probably a number of people with the same name, so you might have to use your middle initial.

When you are a few months away from releasing your book, start blogging about the subject matter to build interest among your readers. You might also offer a free eBook in exchange for a reader opting into your mailing list. You can create a monthly newsletter to keep in touch with these people.

Create a social media presence

There are many social media platforms. It can be overwhelming. I’d suggest starting with one site, one that you like, and expand from there. A lot of authors choose to create an author page on Facebook. Start by inviting your existing friends to follow you, then expand your followers as best you can. Post content daily. Promote your blog now and then, but not too much. People won’t follow a slew of advertisements.

Instead, share relevant content. For instance, I recently ghostwrote a book called Discovering Kindness and received a cover credit (a nice bonus for a ghostwriter). I have been working with the author to create interesting content. One thing I do is to often share videos and articles about random acts of kindness. These relate to the message of the book and uplift our followers. It’s a win-win. I also feel that humor goes a long way, so I include funny memes and cartoons on his author’s page, keeping the style of the author in mind.

 

There’s a lot more to marketing and selling your book on Amazon. These are just a few tips from my personal experience as a ghostwriter. You can learn more from the many resources available in the library and online, including classes you can take. You also might consider investing in Amazon ads to boost sales, but that’s a subject for another article.

Congratulations on writing your book. Now go out and market the heck out of it!

Tips For Writing A Memoir

I suspect that a number of you, my gentle readers, are thinking about writing a book. Am I right? Perhaps you want to share your life story. If so, here are some tips for writing a memoir:

Writing a memoir takes time

Write without fear. Edit without mercy.Writing a book isn’t an overnight undertaking.

Although it might be possible to complete a book in a month or two, I urge you not to rush the process. Even if you have plenty of time, give yourself some breathing room.

Six to eight months is a good timeframe for completing a book. Set daily targets and hold yourself accountable to making them. Your memoir will be the better for it.

Character flaws are key

Even if you are a living hero, you’ll need to take a step back and look for a few non-optimum personality traits to share.

The reason for this is that the rest of us, your readers who have flaws, will never be able to relate to the story of a perfect superhero. Include the mistakes you’ve made in your life. Find a few lapses in judgment and delve into them. Anecdotes showing how you overcame barriers and errors will enhance your book.

Humor goes a long way

When an author can poke fun at his or her situation and enliven a story by bringing out its comical aspect, it makes for a more enjoyable and memorable read. While it is best not to make fun of others in your book, there are still plenty of other ways to include humor.

For instance, funny dialogue snippets lighten the mood nicely. There might also be times when you can uncover an absurd moment then expand on it. Don’t be afraid to shine a spotlight on certain aspects of your life that might make others laugh out loud.

Write and write and write

If you’re writing a memoir yourself, you’ll need to write on a regular basis.

Don’t expect to make much progress if you only type a few pages on the weekends. Great writers write every day. It keeps ideas flowing and the creative pump primed.

Feel free to embellish the details

No one expects you to remember every single little detail of your life perfectly.

For example, can you recall what you had for breakfast on October 20th, 1974? If you’re writing a breakfast scene and want to put Eggs Benedict on the table, go ahead. Your readers will accept it.

The situation is similar with dialogue. If you are writing about an important conversation, your readers don’t care about the exact words spoken. They just want to know the gist of the conversation.

The truth is, even if you have a photographic memory, you will want to change up the words a bit to improve the flow of the story. However, never invent fictitious and unflattering words for a real person you’re mentioning by name. He or she might not appreciate your creativity.

Be honest

Although you’re delving into the viewpoint of one character, you, you need to have the ability to pull back from your perspective.

Be objective.

This might mean that you don’t come out the winner in every argument. And, please don’t resent me for saying so, but you might turn out to be wrong on occasion. It happens! Remember, flawless characters aren’t very believable.

One of my biggest tips for writing a memoir is to be truthful with your readers. It’s possible that they might learn a lesson and avoid making the same mistakes you did. Wouldn’t it be good to know that your book changed the life of just one person?

Read other memoirs

Girl reading a memoirI read a quote today that I loved. It said:

“Reading and writing cannot be separated. Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.” (I wish I knew who wrote it.)

Writing a memoir is difficult if you’ve never read one by another writer. Reading a lot will help you learn about what works and what doesn’t.

You can also learn to spot the memoir themes, which might give you ideas for your book’s theme.

With these tips for writing a memoir, you are ready. Now start writing. Continue to write. Then write some more until your first draft is completed.

Don’t edit, just write.

Enjoy the experience.

Personally, I love ghostwriting memoirs because I get to meet new people and help them share their life stories with others. While doing so, they usually remember new details about their lives that they’d forgotten for decades. And, in the end, they always learn a lot, as do their readers. The process is so rewarding!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

How to Write a Business Book

What to Expect In an Interview with a Ghostwriter

Understanding Characters

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid