Malika Gandhi gives us her take on the self-publishing industry
What is self-publishing? Isn’t it like traditional publishing? This is a question I was asked by a friend when I was helping out at a book fair. We got talking. She wanted to know how I self-published my books and why. This is what I explained to her.
Self-publishing is when you publish your book independently, without the help of publishing houses. This has become increasingly popular since 1990, when it was possible to convert book files into digital formats such as mobi and epub.
Like traditional publishing, self-publishing requires hard work, perseverance, effort, and commitment. It is not just about pressing the publish button and then relaxing. So, you think self-publishing is for you? Let’s run by a few facts first to consider.
You have written that book, it is done and dusted. Now you have to play the part of a self-publisher. What do you do? How do you go about it? Where do you start? There are so many things to think about. The first you do is to have your book edited, then comes the creation of a smashing cover, writing a tantalising blurb and then, the biggest challenge of all? The marketing.
Getting your product ready for market
Let’s talk about editing first. Editing a book is crucial to the success of your book as it eliminates errors, typos, sentences that are senseless, and you catch plot holes and fix them before it goes to publication. Readers are like keen-eyed eagles. They will spot all of that and will go to the length of pulling apart the whole book if the story does not hold its own.
Pay special attention to your own edits before you send it to your editor and to your beta readers. This will take away a lot of heartache when you come to implement your editor’s suggestions. In my humble opinion, reading books on editing and self-publishing will be beneficial to your growth as a writer and you will learn so much about this industry. But it’s equally important to hire an outside editor. Check out this blog post to find out why.
The second point of action is to create an eye-popping WOW cover. Now listen, this is important because let’s face it, a good eye-catching cover will draw your readers to your book first. A cover is the first ‘attention grabber’ call.
Let’s look at it another way. You are walking down your local high street and there are two shops selling the same cakes next to each other. One shop is brightly lit and the cakes are on display under pretty lighting. The atmosphere is inviting and warm. The shop next to it is dark and dull in contrast. The low light has killed any joy of the cakes and the shop display window is plain. The cakes look sad and boring. The atmosphere in this shop is flat and seems dejected. Which shop would you enter? The brightly lit one, right?
It’s the same with book covers, so don’t dull your first attention grabber. Don’t give your readers an excuse to buy someone else’s book! Again, if you can afford it, get a professional to design you a cover. This is your product, and it’s so important to get it right.
The next thing to work on is the blurb, which can be the most agonising exercise of all. Writing that book feels easy now, doesn’t it? So, write a blurb that will engage an emotion so strong that your reader will want to buy your book, take it home, curl up on the sofa, and read it all the way through to the end. Often enough, after the book cover, the blurb is your next marketing tool. Get this right and you are on your way! But of course, your story must be original and interesting in the first place.
Now you have the editing completed, the blurb written, the excellent eye-catching cover created, and the book details finalised. You have hit the publish button. You are super excited and can’t wait to see your book on all digital platforms where you have put your book up on sale. But here comes the scary bit… marketing.
Selling your product
If you are like me and have begun the marketing process, that’s brilliant! However, if you haven’t, don’t worry. Marketing isn’t a one-off thing. It is something you have to do on a regular basis to keep your author profile alive. The first point of call would be to be active on most of the popular social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Then there are the book reader platforms such as BookBub, Goodreads, and LibraryThing. There are many more, so it would be a good thing to explore the web, but don’t overwhelm yourself with too many options. Two or three platforms is sufficient.
Bookbub is an amazing site full of resources for writers. Here you are able to engage with readers, authors, book reviewers, publishers, and agents. It’s the place where you want you and your books to be. LibraryThings and Goodreads do the same jobs, but one is clearer than the other. Goodreads can be confusing and you will have to be patient whilst you navigate through the site. LibraryThings is another useful resource like BookBub so it is worth your time exploring this platform.
Social media sites such as Facebook are places you engage with your readers, have discussions, and even gain a few more readers. Start a Facebook page, and then create a Facebook group. Your Facebook page is like a giant business card. It is a place where readers, editors, and publishers will look especially if they want to know more about you. Here, they will get to know about your published works and your works-in-progress.
Consider the costs
Self-publishing is costly. If you are in a position to pay for services such as marketing, editing, and a book cover creation then that’s fantastic! However, most indie authors don’t have that kind of money to invest in their much-loved project and tend to do everything themselves using POD (print on demand) publishing platforms such as KDP (Kindle Desktop Publishing), Draft2Digital, and Smashwords.
Instead of using a printing company to print 500-1000 copies, then having to keep the stock at home until they are sold, POD platforms save you space and money. They are a great way to self-publish, they eliminate the cost and headache of trying to sell your book stock.
I have highlighted the good bits, but there is a downfall to self-publishing. It can be a lonely process and can beat you down if you have no support. The best way to eradicate that feeling of isolation is to join writer groups and forums, or you can build a street team for your books. Street teams are great, they review your book, enter your giveaways, and share them too. They also share your new releases and celebrate your successes with you.
We have just touched on the basics of self-publishing but there is a lot more to it. Self-publishing in a nutshell means you are the publisher, the productions manager, and the marketing department. It also means you have control of how, when, and where you want to go with your books and all the choice is yours.
So, I ask again, is self-publishing for you?