Self-publishing provides a wonderful opportunity for any author who wants to take control over the publishing process and get their words into print. But because self-publishing is so easy to accomplish with a few bucks and some typed pages, many authors make mistakes along the way.
As a former bookstore owner, I have seen it all. A steady stream of authors used to parade through the store with their books and I could instantly tell when a book was self-published on a budget. From low-quality cover design and lack of editing to unreasonable pricing and an absent marketing plan, at least 90% of the authors I encountered made some major mistakes.
You can avoid new author pitfalls by preparing to be successful. Following are some guidelines to get your started on your journey.
Successful self-publishing starts by producing a book that looks like it is hot off the press from Random House or another major publisher. The cover should be professionally designed and the text should be thoroughly edited by a pro—not your spouse, friend or business partner. Your book is a reflection of you. It should be impressive from start to finish. Cutting corners with design and editing will surely be reflected in book sales.
Some of the print on demand (POD) companies force authors to set unreasonable prices for their books. A standard bookstore will expect to purchase your book at 40% off of the retail price and Amazon.com takes a whopping 55% discount. The price for your book should be reasonable for your target audience, yet still leave room for you to make a profit.
For example, if your book has a retail price of $20, a bookstore will purchase it at 40% off which comes to $12. In order for you to make a profit, you should be able to purchase wholesale copies of your book for less than $12. Unfortunately, some publishers lure authors in with low set-up fees, but make up for it in higher per-book costs.
Conversely, I have seen 100-page trade paperbacks with a retail price of $25 or higher. Unless the subject matter is highly technical or specialized in an industry that can bear this kind of pricing, it will be difficult to convince consumers to pay such a high price for a short book. When researching publishing assistance, inquire about the purchase cost of your books and how the retail price will be set.
Placing Your First Order for Books
When researching the minimum order requirements of book publishers and printers, consider how many books you need. Your purchase price for books will always be lower when you order in large quantities. However, if you order thousands of copies, you will need a climate-controlled place to store them and plan for selling them.
I advise authors to order enough books for one year. This means that you must tabulate how many you believe you can sell. If you are a professional speaker and can pre-sell books to companies and associations, you may be able to commit to several thousand copies. If your book is more of a hobby for you and you will be selling them out of the trunk of your car one at a time, it probably doesn’t make sense to order thousands at a time.
Make a list of potential sales opportunities and how many you think you can sell over the course of a year. Also, if you’re serious about marketing your book, plan to send out at least 100 review copies to media professionals. Book reviews sell books and authors should be willing to give books away in order to gain valuable publicity. One mention in a local newspaper can translate into a flurry of book sales. Expand your reach to online media, bloggers, radio show hosts, television and trade journals and you will uncover plenty of opportunities.
Marketing Begins BEFORE You Publish
The biggest mistake an author can make is to wait until a book is in print to begin the promotion process. When it comes to the media, a book is most relevant in its first few months in print so timing is critical. There are literally hundreds of book marketing strategies that you can begin to tackle right away. Here are a few to get you started:
- Get known online through your website and/or blog. Add content related to your book and of interest to your target audience.
- Leverage the power of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Participate in one or more of these sites to gain exposure.
- Write interesting articles and make them available for reprint through sites like www.ezinearticles.com and www.IdeaMarketers.com. Make sure to include a brief author bio that mentions your book and include a link to your website. Offer articles for reprint to as many websites and print publications that you can find that reach your target audience.
- Ask your family, friends and peers to help spread the word. Ask who they know who might be able to help. Perhaps your aunt Jane has a friend who is a book reviewer for a major newspaper. Or your sister may know the host of a talk radio show. You won’t know until you ask.
- Get on the speaking circuit. Put together a couple of speeches related to your subject matter and pitch them to your local trade and community associations (chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs, specialty associations). When your audience likes what you have to say, they will naturally want to buy your book. If you enjoy speaking, you can expand beyond your local community and even get paid to travel and speak to audiences around the world. (By the way, the fact that you are a published author is going to open doors of opportunity for speaking engagements. If you want to refine your skills, consider joining a local chapter of Toastmasters.)
Your book can become the best business card you have as it will allow you to uncover opportunities beyond your imagination. However, if your book isn’t professionally produced and you fail to develop a book marketing plan, those opportunities could pass you by. Do your homework before you take this major step so that you can prepare yourself for a fantastic journey.