Self-Publishing as a UK Author
When I was researching self-publishing, I read a lot of good advice on dozens of author websites and writing blogs. There is a lot of information out there for US authors, but not so much for UK authors. This is my take on how I went about self-publishing my first novel as a UK based author. I don’t claim to be an expert and I’m sure others may disagree with what I will say in the slides that follow. My plan suited me. It may not suit others. If you’re reading this, make sure you do what I did, and check out websites and blogs about self-publishing. Take your time to assimilate all the information and come up with your own plan. Once made, this plan is not set in stone. I had to alter mine several times.
1. The Book – Writing, Editing, and Proofreading
2. Ebook, Print, or Both?
3a. Ebook Cover
3b. Ebook Formatting and Pricing
4a. Print book, ISBN, and your Publisher Address
4b. Print book Formatting, Printers, and Pricing
6. Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Distributors
7. Non US publishers and the IRS – ITIN, EIN, and W8-BEN
9. Website Domain, Design, and Hosting
10. Bank Account
11. Paypal and E-commerce Platforms
13. Social Media
16. Useful Links
1. The Book - Writing, Editing, and Proofreading
This is stating the obvious, but make sure the novel is in the best state it can be. There is no point going through the complicated and time consuming steps that follow if you haven’t got a good product to sell or you’re still on your first draft.
This is the way I write. I do the first draft and edit as I write. By the time I finish that draft and send it to my editor, it would have gone through several edits during the writing process itself. There are many advocates of the “write your first draft as fast as you can and don’t edit as you write”. I tried that. It didn’t work for me. The thought of producing a messy first draft riddled with punctuation and grammar errors and plot/character inconsistencies landed me in a creative block. Also, I am what author James Scott Bell characterizes as a tweener in his fabulous book “Write Your Novel From the Middle”. I outline to some extent but I also write on the fly. Doing research and editing during writing is where I get new plot ideas. Bottom line, messy first drafts require several thorough edits and I believe the way I write achieves an editor-ready manuscript in the same amount of time it takes the fast, first draft writer to get there. Rewriting and producing the final draft following my editors’ feedback only takes me about a week. By then, I would also have had 2-4 weeks break from the novel (during which time I would work on another project) and I then approach it with a fresh pair of eyes. The final proofread takes a few days. After that, the book goes to my advance review team or beta-reader team for final feedback prior to publication. It’s good practice to provide your beta-readers/advance reviewers with a list of instructions and questions to answer. One easy way to do this is to make a shareable Google document that they can access.
Since I am currently still a part-time writer, it usually takes me about 6-8 months to write a 100k words novel. If I wrote full time, I could probably do this in 3-4 months.
Check out Joanna Penn’s excellent The Creative Penn website and her Resources for Authors. If you join the Alliance of Independent Authors, you will also gain access to their excellent list of resources. If you subscribe to the Writing Magazine and Writing News in the UK, you will find companies offering author services such as editing and proofreading. Check them out carefully and look for reviews of the services they offer. And I don’t mean just read the testimonials on their website; they’re hardly going to put negative ones on there. Google the name of the company and add ‘reviews’ in your search box. Kindleboards and Goodreads are also good places to find editors and beta readers/proofreaders. There are also plenty of writing websites, forums, and blogs that offer links to beta readers/proofreaders.
Expect to pay from £500 to £1500, sometimes even more, for editing. Most authors want full developmental edit rather than a quick proofread. Note that professional beta readers/proofreaders will charge a fee. Contact at least two or three editors and proofreaders and ask for quotes before you make a decision on who to go with. My editor for my first novel was John Jarrold. I subsequently worked with Liam Carnahan of Invisible Ink Editing, and now exclusively work with Sara Litchfield from Right Ink on the Wall. Their editing packages also included the final proofread.
The above is MY writing and editing process. Every author will have a different one. If you feel your method is not working for you, create another one. It takes time to find out what will suit you best.
2. Ebook, Print, or Both?
Start thinking about this early on. It will help smooth the process that follows.
When I started this venture, I read that producing and selling an ebook was relatively easy. That’s true to an extent. Producing a good quality ebook, however, is complex and time consuming. You need to decide what kind of author you want to be before you even set foot on this path. Are you vanity-publishing a single book for your friends and family, or do you want to establish a serious, long term writing career? If it’s the latter, you have to be professional in your approach. This is a new business you’re setting up.
I originally planned on only publishing ebooks. In the end, I had so many friends, relatives and colleagues request a paper version that I decided to do a short print run of 250 paperbacks that I could gift and sell as an autographed first edition. I soon realized that printing was twice as complex and expensive as publishing an ebook. I decided there was no point going through all that trouble just for 250 books. I publish my books as paperbacks under the ‘print on demand’ model on various online retailers.
3a. Ebook Cover
A well meaning friend told me I could design my own ebook cover: he had read of authors who had ‘done it all’ themselves. I came across many of these self-made covers while I was doing my research on this subject. Some were okay. Some were good. Some were great. Some were goddamn amazing. Some were crap. If you’re computer savvy and you have time to spare and want to try it, then go for it. If, like me, you have a busy day job, are desperately trying to find extra hours in the day in which to write, don’t want to add ‘ebook cover designer’ to your skill mix, and want to make sure you have a fantastic, professional looking ebook cover to wow your readers/future fans, then outsource this task to somebody who does this day in day out. The links I’ve provided below will lead you to names and recommendations. There are plenty of other websites and blogs out there with info as well. The other way I approached this was by looking at book covers of indie authors on Amazon and visiting their website if they had one to see who designed their ebook cover. Or email them and ask them. They won’t bite, honest. Even if they are writing vampire-werewolf novels. How do you know if they’re indie authors? Check out who their publisher is under the product detail of their book on Amazon or visit their website if they have one. Many authors operate as small publishing houses.
A lot of authors also mention their cover designer and editor on the copyright page of their books, which you can inspect by using the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. Some authors who do their own book covers offer their services as ebook cover designers and set this up as part of their business.
Again, contact at least two to three ebook cover designers, look at their portfolio, reviews of their work (not just the book cover but how they were to work with), and ask for quotes.
The covers for my first series were originally done by Glendon Haddix from Streetlight Graphics.
3b. Ebook Formatting and Pricing
My well meaning friend from above told me I could do this as well. You can probably guess what my answer was. What is formatting anyway? Well, let’s just say you can’t just upload a simple Microsoft Word document to an ebook reader and expect that to be it. All ereaders are different in that they ‘read’ different files. So, your common-or-garden doc file has to be ‘formatted’ into various other files that can be opened and read on these ereaders: mobi for Kindle, epub for Nook/Kobo/iBooks, specially formatted MS Word doc file for some distributors. Otherwise, it will look like gobbledygook. Literally. Not the best way to make a first impression on those all important readers/future fans. There are many indie authors out there who have done their own formatting and offer it as a service to other writers. Again, it comes down to time and how computer savvy you are. I went the professional route as I didn’t have that all important time and wanted this done quickly and well.
Extra things you will need to prepare for the book formatting in addition to your manuscript:
- front matter (copyright info, contact info, dedication)
- back matter (acknowledgements, author bio +/-author photograph, social media addresses, your other titles +/- sample chapter for another book).
My ebook formatting was done by Streetlight Graphics up until 2016. I now format all my ebooks using Vellum. It’s a breeze to use and means I can update my ebook files fast. And yes, be prepared to update your ebook files regularly.
With regards to pricing your ebook, do your research. See some of the links below. Study Amazon and see what a newly published ebook in your genre and about the same size (look at the formatted file size and print length under the product detail) is selling for. Also, be aware that whatever you set the digital list price at, Amazon may discount it. Look at the ‘Pricing’ part of how to self-publish with Amazon to see what your profit will be.
There are two different approaches to pricing. A lot of indie authors sell their books at very low prices (e.g under £2.99) to undercut the competition from traditionally published authors. Another group think they should be pricing close to what their competition is selling and believe they deserve to earn a decent profit because of the amount of time and money they have invested in producing the book; after all, this is their business. From what I’ve read, the latter indie authors are still selling.
A lot of readers think an ebook priced at less than £2.99 is a bargain and will buy it for that reason. Some readers think that an ebook priced at less than £2.99 can’t be a ‘good’ read, otherwise why would the author be selling it so cheaply.
Do the maths and come up with a number you’re comfortable with. Also, you can change the book price even after you publish or offer greater discounts. Some authors started selling cheap, didn’t get many sales, upped the price, and got more sales. Some authors did the opposite.
4a. Print book, ISBN, and your Publisher Address
Do you need to have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number – the long series of numbers present on the barcode on the back cover of a book) for a print book? Most definitively.
Do you need one for an ebook? This is a grey area. The guys doing my ebook formatting told me no. Most ebook cover designers and formatters will tell you no. The reason? Amazon will automatically assign an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) to your ebook, free of charge: this does pretty much the same thing as an ISBN. Smashwords will assign a free ISBN to the epub format of your book but will identify itself as the publisher: your ebook needs that ISBN to be distributed to iBooks.
Nielsen, the company that supplies ISBNs in the UK, told me I should technically have an ISBN for the ebook. I decided not to have one. If you do decide to get your own ISBN for your ebook, you will have to assign a different ISBN for each ebook format, i.e. a different one for mobi, epub, pdf, doc. That’s technically 4 ISBNs for one ebook.
For the print book, you will need an ISBN for each binding style, i.e. the paperback needs an ISBN and the hardback version will need a different one. I decided to only print paperbacks: they’re cheaper to produce than hardbacks.
Look at Nielsen ‘New Publisher Intro Guide’ and ‘Important Information for Publishers’ on Nielsen Book Data. It tells you what you need to do. Visit Nielsen UK ISBN Agency for the application form. You can also ring them and talk to them, they are very friendly and approachable. It cost me £118.68 to get ten ISBNs: I thought buying 100 was a bit ambitious. Note it is subsequently cheaper to get more ISBNS once you’re an existing publisher.
Once your ISBNs are allocated, you will receive instructions on where else to register your book. Note: you don’t need to register with Nielsen Title Editor to input your print book data so that they’re available to bookstores and libraries. That data should feed through from your printers if you upload the information on their platform during the set-up process.
When you register with Nielsen, they require a contact address from you or your publishing company if you’ve created one. You can provide your personal address if you want to but be aware that this will be available to the public upon request. I had a PO Box with Royal Mail from 2012-2016. It was getting ridiculously expensive though and I have now defaulted to my home address.
If you do decide to sell print books from your own website (see Paypal and Ecommerce platforms below), you will need to post these. You can buy your own mailing boxes and keep popping to the post office everyday and pay the standard post fee, or you can invest in the SmartStamp option. You can also open a small business account with the Post Office but you would have to be doing a lot of trading from home to make this worthwhile.
I was originally planning on selling autographed copies of my book at the full RRP from my website but decided against it in the end for one main reason: time. Update 2018: Ecommerce platforms integration with author websites are now more advanced and I am considering launching my own digital and print store in the next two years.
4b. Print book Formatting, Printers, and Pricing
For a self-published author, POD (print on demand) is the way to go. You don’t want to print 2000 copies of your book to sit in a warehouse or your home and potentially not sell those. Print on demand means exactly what it says: your book is only printed if someone wants it.
There are many companies offering POD services out there, more so in the US than the UK. If you’ve done your research on writing websites and blogs, you would have come across the 3 biggest players that Indie authors seem to use: CreateSpace, Blurb, Lulu, and Lightning Source (now IngramSpark). I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of any of the four: there is plenty of information about that out there already. Here’s an excellent article summarizing these four contenders, although be aware he is comparing color portfolios rather than black and white commercial paperbacks.
After carefully studying the costs and publishing processes of the above four, I decided that I would go Lightning Source/IngramSpark. CreateSpace is easier to use but does not cater well for authors outside the US. Yet. Lightning Source/IngramSpark is complex to use but has a great international presence, a fantastic and ever growing list of distributors, and a base in the UK.
Reading Lightning Source’s publishing process, especially the formatting bit, gave me a headache and almost had me reaching for some alcohol. It looks terrifyingly complicated to a newbie author. That’s because Lightning Source is a printer and assumes that you, the Publisher, knows what the hell you’re doing. A lot of authors have painfully learned how to do the whole Lightning Source content and cover formatting process on their own; from what I read, it was torture. Especially as if you upload a wrongly formatted file, you have to pay their fee again to upload a corrected version. Ouch.
Luckily, you can outsource this as well. I used Everything Indie to do my Lightning Source cover and interior formatting for the first book and have used Streetlight Graphics thereafter. Note: you will need to have your ISBN (see previous slide) for the book cover/jacket and a good blurb +/- any advanced reviews you may already have obtained ready before you address this step. Update 2018: Vellum have now added print books to their software and I now do my own print formatting.
Whoever you go with, make sure you read their publishing guide carefully.
With regards to pricing, see what I said above for the ebook. Remember that your print book price (RRP) will have to be much higher than your ebook if you want to make a profit. It will cost me about £4.50-£5 to print a copy of my book with Lightning Source. I will then have to offer the retailers at least a 20% discount on my RRP to sell my book. Do your maths. Make sure you know how much it will cost to print your book before you decide on the price. Study Amazon and see how much other newly published print books in your genre and about the same size as your book is selling for.
Look at various ebooks and print books to get an idea of how to phrase your copyright notice. You will need to have one, even if it just says ‘All rights reserved.’
The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) states a UK author does not need to register copyright and that copyright protection is automatic; they provide an example of what you can put in your copyright notice. The US Copyright Office states the same but advises registration, first to make it a matter for public record, and secondly to have a registration certificate in case an author wants to bring a lawsuit for infringement of their work.
I ended up registering with the UK Copyright Service. This was for peace of mind more than anything else. Also, my US based contractors kept urging me to do so because pretty much everybody does it over there.
6. Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Distributors
Everyone will sell their ebook on Amazon. It has the largest market for ereaders in the form of the Kindle. As of 2014, Nook, Apple, and Kobo have opened up to UK authors and we are now able to publish directly to on those platforms without needing a US bank account. I don’t currently distribute to Google Play as I have heard worrying things about them. See this article, this one, and also this one by one of my favorite writing gurus, Lindsay Buroker.
If you would prefer to go through a single site that will upload your ebook to all these platforms and more, then Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Bookbaby, ebookPartnership are some of the distributors that will publish to the above four main retailers, as well as other international retailers and libraries.
If you want to sell your ebook with all these retailers or through a distributor, you need to open an account with them. Make sure you read their ‘how to publish with’ information for authors/publishers carefully. Amazon’s is long but incredibly thorough. You can set up your author page on Amazon US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan (and more as they keep adding to the list) through their respective Author Central sites once you’ve published. You can also set up author pages on some distributors as well as your author bio on your book pages on Nook.
7. Non US publishers and the IRS - ITIN, EIN, and W8-BEN
If you’re a non US resident publishing and selling your book in the US, retailers and distributors have to report your royalty payments to the IRS and must withhold 30% tax on your earnings. The US has a tax treaty with the UK. This means that as long as you provide the right paperwork to any retailer or distributor, you can claim full exemption from tax withholding and pay no tax to the IRS.
What they need from you is a signed IRS form W8-BEN, which you can do on their website by taking their tax interview. Previously, you could only post them physical copies of your W8-BEN.
You must have either an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) or EIN (Employer Identification Number). ITINs and EINs are supplied by the IRS. You need only one. I posted a separate W8-BEN form to each retailer/distributor who requested one, but they all had the same EIN on them. The IRS will only supply you with one number.
Between the two, obtaining an EIN is faster and easier than obtaining an ITIN. EIN is for businesses and individuals. I phoned up the IRS in the US and had my EIN within fifteen minutes. I doubled checked with the patient lady at the other end of the line that I was definitely obtaining the right identification number as a sole trader/individual/author. I received the confirmation letter from the IRS in the post three weeks later. Apart from the cost of the phone call, I did not pay a thing. Also, no need to get letters from Amazon, Smashwords, or other distributors like you have to for the ITIN. Amazon’s ‘Tax Information for Non-US Publishers’ is a good source of information about this, as was Smashwords’ own guide.
If you want to go the long and painful ITIN way, you can contact the US consulate in London and talk to an IRS staff member. There are also acceptance agents in the UK working on behalf of the IRS that can process the application for you. Three of them quoted around £300-500 to do this. Yes, you read that right.
Note: from 2015, you can now also use your UK unique tax identifier/reference number on some retail platforms.
This is a wonderful article on this whole subject by UK author Karen Inglis.
You have to register your business with HMRC either the day before or on the day you start trading. Check out their website for sole trader information. There is a form on there that you have to fill and send to them.
Once you start earning enough from your writing to quit your day job, then think about incorporating into a limited company.
9. Website Domain, Design, and Hosting
If you haven’t bought your domain name(s), do this now or when you reach the website design stage of this process. I bought mine six months before I was due to publish from 123-reg.co.uk. I’ve bought my .com and .co.uk names for several years and will have to renew these when they expire. Update 2017: I now use Namecheap for my domain names and associated website emails.
Again, said friend who said I could do my own cover and formatting professed that I could design my own website. At this stage, I was ready to throw my own poo at him, like a monkey at the zoo. Update 2019: I’ve been designing my own websites since 2015!
This step of the process is probably easier than designing the book cover. A lot of authors use the WordPress platform to design their own websites and blogs. It’s simple to set up and use, and the WordPress-based sites look great. Here’s a handy article on whether to set up with WordPress.org or WordPress.com. Going with WordPress.com means your website hosting is free but it has limitations in that you do not own your website and you can’t upload your own software. WordPress.org means you own your website. Yes, you have to pay for someone else to host it but you have greater creative freedom and can do what you want with it. I use WordPress.org and my site is hosted by Hostgator. Update 2019: I now use WP Engine for hosting. Here’s a handy, up-to-date article by Robert Mening on the current best website builders.
You can also outsource your website design to a professional if you would rather spend the time writing and have money to afford it. Check out other author websites. You will usually find who’s designed them by looking at the bottom of the homepage, where it says ‘site design’ or ‘site design and maintenance’. Or email the author and ask them. Contact a few website designers, read reviews of their work, check out their portfolios, and get quotes. Some website designers offer hosting services as well.
Another reason to check out as many author websites as possible is to see what they have on theirs, preferably authors writing in your own genre. When you look at a website, ask yourself what you like/dislike about it, and why. It will give you an idea about what you want yours to look like and what you want to have on it.
This is my website’s primary menu:
- Homepage (first landing page: you can put home on the menu or have a clickable logo like my “A.D. Starrling” one)
- Blog (some authors use “News”)
- Extras (some authors use “Bonus”)
As your list of publications grow, you can have submenus within the primary menu.
My website was originally designed by Streeltight Graphics in 2012. I have since taken over the design myself and use Elegant Themes’ DIVI, which is a breeze to use. If I get stuck with software issues, the WordPress.org forum is very handy. I have also hired tech guys specializing in WordPress issues on Fiverr to sort out problems I couldn’t solve myself.
10. Bank Account
I set up a separate business account with my bank for my writing and currently operate as a sole trader. It was the obvious thing to do in terms of keeping my income and expenses for the writing business separate from my other accounts. It also gives me a clearer overview of just how much I’m earning or spending. I did not have to do a business plan for my bank to open the account as I had been a customer there for sixteen years, but I had to do one to obtain a £1000 overdraft facility on it. If you are thinking of approaching a bank or building society where you have no accounts, be prepared to supply a business plan for them. It’s not as daunting to write up as it sounds.
11. Paypal and E-commerce Platforms
If you plan to sell your ebook from your own website, you need to have a shopping basket/cart function on there so that your book buyer can click on it to pay and buy. Paypal provides a very good service for both the buyer and the seller. If you’ve come this far, you may already have set up an account with them to pay your book cover designer, book formatter, or website designer. Just upgrade to a business account and follow their instructions on how to add the basket/cart function to your website. Joe Konrath sells his ebooks from his website. He supplies each book as a zip file containing doc/pdf/prc/epub formats, so that it can be opened on any ereader.
One thing to consider though if you are planning to sell from your platform is the EU VAT legislation that came into effect in 1st January 2015. Here’s an article about it. And another one. And here’s the ultimate reference website for EU VAT rates.
You can do your own tax returns for the business if you want, or you can get an accountant if you can afford it. I already have an accountant who does my medical limited company tax returns and he charges me about £250 a year to do the tax returns for the writing sole trader business. He also does my personal tax return.
My advice? Get an accountant. He/she will know how the system operates and where you can save money. The biggest surprise to me when I set up my limited company in 2007 was what I could claim as an expense. Pretty much anything from part of my mortgage and house bills to my new laptop and stationary. You know that ink cartridge you just bought for your printer? That’s a business expense. And that writing conference you went to? Business expense, including the petrol for your drive or your train ticket. Why are expenses important? Because they are non taxable.
Simple equation: A – B = C. A is gross income, B is expenses, C is profit. You pay tax on your profit, not your gross income when you operate as a business. Whatever A might be, the bigger you make B, the smaller C will be and the less tax you pay on it. Yes, it’s all your own money at the end of the day, but you DON’T pay tax on it. That’s a saving worth several hundred, or a few thousand pounds a year if you start earning big. Some authors also use a bookkeeper to organize their receipts and income/outcome sheets in preparation for their accountants.
13. Social Media
There is no hiding from the fact that in this day and age, you have to have a web and social media presence if you want to make your writing visible. Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, blogging, newsletters, and writing forums are a fact of life. You don’t have to do ALL of it. You wouldn’t have time to write otherwise, not if you still have a full time job as well. But you need to try and do at least ONE. There are fantastic social media dashboards like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Buffer, and Edgar that can incorporate your feeds in one place, bypassing the need to log on to multiple pages.
Look at author and writing sites and see what people think about the various marketing tools using social media. See what your favorite authors are doing and whether they do it well or not.
In my view, a Newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter are the top three ways to reach and interact with readers. Some authors swear by Goodreads and Instagram.
In terms of other social media, I use Facebook and Twitter the most. I’m also on Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad, Instagram, and Google+. I also subscribe to various publishing industry, author, and blogger sites through Feedly. Feedly is amazing for organizing all your blog feeds and article subscriptions in one beautiful platform that you can access on a computer or your phone.
If you opt for Facebook, develop a fan page for yourself as the author. Some authors even have fan pages for their individual books and their characters: sounds like fun, but you need to have the time to maintain all those pages. You can have someone design a Facebook, Twitter, Google+ banners for you or you can design your own social banners (and more!) using Canva. I use Canva to design graphics for my ebooks, website, blog posts, giveaways, and even business cards. I thoroughly recommend the platform.
Make sure you write a good author profile for any social media or writing forums you subscribe to. Remember, you’re promoting your book and yourself an an author.
Although I was initially going to have a regular writing blog, I decided against it in the end. Why? Because a blog needs to have a function. You need to know why you’re blogging, who you’re blogging for, and what your content is going to be. Will you be a ‘My cat just did something hilarious, here’s a picture of it’ or a ‘The US Department of Justice sues major publishers over ebook pricing under the agency model’ blogger? I decided the only reason for me to blog at this point in time would be to sell my book and I haven’t done enough yet in this industry to have good content to put across. It took six years of hard graft learning and practicing medicine before I was ‘let loose’ on patients. I don’t think having a few published books under my belt makes me an expert. There’s also the time factor to consider with blogging. For now, I only post music from my writing playlist, interviews, book reviews, book launch news, and other important events like being shortlisted for or winning an award on my website blog.
Social media can be hard work until you understand what it can do for you and how to do it more efficiently. It can be a huge time sink, which is why it’s good to follow by example and see how successful authors are doing it. There are also good articles, online courses, and ebooks to train you into how to do this aspect of your writing business better. Experiment and figure out which platforms you like and where you get the most engagement with readers and networking opportunities with other authors. I personally love Facebook and Instagram.
It used to be that traditional publishing houses assigned a budget for their authors (usually someone new they were launching, but more commonly their bestselling talents) for the marketing side of a book launch and social media management. Those days are long gone and most traditional published authors now have to do their own social media management and marketing.
In terms of marketing, the digital age has major advantages. You can do most of it from the comfort of your own home. Heck, you can even do virtual book tours where you sign ebook copies for fans online.
There are entire books and detailed online courses on marketing and I can’t address all of it on on this one slide. Suffice to say, as a writer, here are the top things you can do to market your books:
- Write a lot of books. The more books you have, the more you can market, and the more each individual book can do for you. Series are best. Seriously. Just. Write. More. Books.
- Cultivate your mailing list/reader group early on, ideally from your first book, and have a regular, targeted newsletter. Treasure your readers, be they on your mailing list or on your social media platforms. They are your biggest fans. See point 5 below on how to get people on your mailing list.
- Once you have more than 3 books published, consider experimenting by making one permanently free or permanently discounted as an ebook. Not print though. No one discounts print. Why? Printing and distribution costs.
- Consider advertising your permafree/permadiscounted book regularly. Set up a promo scehdule for 6-12 months. There are plenty of free and paid advertising sites that you can access. Of all of them, Bookbub is currently King of the Mountain and notoriously difficult to get into.
- Consider offering one of your ebooks free to your mailing list subscribers once you’ve published many books. If you’ve only written one book, consider writing a short story or novella or prequel to offer as an incentive mailing list subscribers. Or you can also give away other exclusive content like research material and character profiles, packaged in an attractive format.
- When you are launching a new book, consider doing a time-limited discounted promotion on one of your other books (yes, this is in addition to having one permanently free or discounted).
- Convert your books into other formats like audiobooks and consider translating into other languages.
- Do giveaways of ebooks and book swag (bookmarks, flyers, postcards, keyrings) for your mailing list and to gain new subscribers. The Kingsumo plugin is great for giveaways and email capture and integrates seamlessly with WordPress.org and mailing list hosts. Giveaway Promote is a great site to advertise your giveaways on.
Don’t forget you can do an online ebook launch. Have a book launch party on your website or Facebook or get to be a guest on someone else’s blog. I have seen a few authors successfully do this. I don’t know how much money they made out of it but they got their writing and their name out there. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate your achievement.
I did book tours for my first three books to get reviews and increase my visibility. Book tours are time consuming. They are great for getting to know bloggers but you need to have a definite aim in mind if you want to do them. Most book tours are also heavily dominated by the YA, fantasy, romance, and erotica genres. Although you can approach book bloggers directly, it’s best to go with a blogger who does book tour packages or a company who specializes in book tours. You will need to send them an electronic file for an ebook or an advanced reading copy for a paperback prior to your book launch if you’re timing your book tour with a new release. These reviews can then be included on your book jacket, website, and other virtual places where you will do your marketing. You can also do book tours after your book launch. The Book Blogger Directory and The Indie Reviewers List are good places to start if you are looking for bloggers and companies that do book tours. Check out Kindleboards and Goodreads as well. Note that you may end up waiting several months before you actually get these advanced reviews as the busy reviewers have long waiting lists. And they do it for free, so be patient and graceful in your approach to them! Again, do your homework, look at testimonials and reviews, and get quotes.
I have also done a Netgalley co-op with Patchwork Press which produced a decent number of reviews (average of 10 per book).
If it’s reviews you want, then your newsletter and paid advertising to increase the visibility of your books, as well as a carefully crafted author note inside your books kindly requesting a review, are your best bets.
I have received a few queries through my website from new authors about the use of pen names. The questions mostly relate to the implications of using a pen name when setting up a business. This is the reply I usually give in my email.
16. Useful Links
I hope you’ve found the previous slides useful. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. Useful Links Below are a list of links I found useful when I was starting out on this path (and still do!).
Useful books to read on writing and marketing
David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible (David has lots of other great books too!)
The Creative Penn’s Author Blueprint (downloadable from Joanna Penn’s website; Joanna has written multiple non-fiction books about the writing and publishing business and she has an excellent podcast!)
Jeff Bennington’s 5 steps to winning with KDP Select
Tim Grahl’s How to Sell Your First 1000 copies
Nick Stephenson’s Supercharge Your Kindle Sales
James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel from the Middle
Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love
Libbie Hawker’s Gotta Read It!