5 Tips for Self-Publishing Your Novel
"Traditional publishing isn’t for everyone." Have you heard this advice before? Whether you’re a cross-genre author writing outside the mainstream, a hybrid author who prefers the control self-publishing offers, or a prolific author with the output and fanbase to succeed on your own, this advice is absolutely true: many authors thrive in self-publishing.
But their success stories don’t come without effort. A successful self-publishing career requires knowing the industry, so your book doesn’t wallow in obscurity like so many others. Each step you take toward self-publishing your novel is an opportunity to make it stand out—but it’s also a chance to feel overwhelmed by the details.
In this post, we’ll tell you the five best places to focus your efforts to come out with a book that gets the attention it deserves.
Edit, edit, edit
One of the main complaints about self-published books is how badly they needed an editor. No matter how good the story is, your reader won’t enjoy it if it’s riddled with typos, inconsistencies, and poor grammar.
The first step of good editing is to seek out beta readers. A beta reader is a critique partner who can tell you what’s working in your book and what isn’t. It’s important to have several beta readers; one person’s opinion is only one opinion, but if you hear the same critique multiple times, you’ll know to address the issue.
After you’ve implemented beta feedback, it’s a good idea to hire freelancers for professional editing services. A developmental editor works with your book’s content, but their feedback is much more detailed than a beta reader’s. They’ll also edit with the knowledge of what will help your story excel in the marketplace. Additionally, consider hiring a copyeditor. A copyeditor not only proofreads the manuscript, but also ensures there are no inconsistencies, incorrect facts, or legal liabilities.
Use the right words to sell your book
Now that the words inside your book are ready, it’s time to look at the ones outside your book—the ones on the cover and websites. In order for someone to give your book a chance, they have to be convinced by the words on the outside first.
The most important of these is your title. A unique and memorable title will do wonders for your sales, while a confusing or generic one will make readers scroll right past it. Shorter titles are usually snappier, although it’s important to find something that won’t share a title with six other books already out there. Once you come up with a great title that reflects your genre, run it through Amazon, Goodreads, and even Google. The right title won’t have to compete with several similar titles, and won’t pull up search results with negative connotations.
The first thing a reader does after a title catches their eye is to read the back cover blurb. This is a crucial moment: your book has successfully grabbed a reader’s attention and they’re giving you the chance to convince them to buy it. Start your back cover blurb with a hook. Usually, a short opening that raises a question or introduces an intriguing concept will keep your potential buyer reading. Then lead into a brief setup, including the main character and central conflict of the book. Last, end on a cliffhanger, such as what the character will lose if they fail.
Get a high-quality cover
The perfect title and back cover blurb won’t get you far without an amazing cover to capture a reader’s attention.
First, research other covers in your genre. You want readers who like those genres to know instantly when they see your cover that this is their type of book. Start a folder that includes these covers, as well as pictures of significant items or themes from your book.
Then, if possible, hire a professional cover designer. A professional can use these ideas to create something sharper than a novice or photoshop program. Even more importantly, a professional knows what sells, and will design your cover with that in mind. There are several places to look for cover designers, but some of the ones Writing Mastery recommends are Damonza, 99 Designs, and Fiverr.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the details
Things like editing, back cover blurbs, and covers are all expected when diving into self-publishing. But as you near publication, you’ll find details cropping up that you hadn’t even considered—and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Just remember these final steps are some of the last ones you’ll complete before your book is out in the wild.
Here are a few components that will turn your book into a final product:
Formatting is the act of arranging your manuscript into the interior design your reader sees. Ebooks and physical books need differently formatted files. Every page needs to be examined to ensure page and scene breaks are in the right places. Ebook links need to be tested, and chapter headings and justified text need to be consistent. Places like Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offer templates that make it easier. There’s also software available, as well as professional book formatters for hire.
Another step is getting an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN. Each format of your book—ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook—has a separate ISBN. You can choose to either buy an ISBN from a website like bowker.com or use a free one from a publishing platform like KDP. Using a free one will save you money, but requires you to list Amazon Publishing (or another platform) as the publisher on your copyright. There are pros and cons to both, so research both options before deciding.
Your publishing platforms also allow you a specific number of keywords to tie to your book. Pick phrases that aren’t so specific no one would look for them, but not so general that your book has no chance of competing with bestsellers. One strategy is using Amazon’s virtual “shelves” along the left-hand side of the “Books” category to find popular but specific categories that match your book. Jot all your potential keywords down, then pick the ones that fit best.
Start marketing early
All these preparations will give you a top-quality and professional-looking book, but your novel still won’t sell if you don’t get the word out. Things like a website, newsletters, a social media presence, cover reveals and launch parties will all help drive sales. A website and social media, in particular, are important to do before your book even comes out; the more you get your name out ahead of time, the more people will be excited and waiting when you have a book ready.
Marketing is an entire craft of its own, so if you want to read more about the most effective ways to market, check out our 5 Tips for Marketing Your Book!
Self-publishing can be a daunting prospect, but with the right attention and care, you can rise above the competition and find your loyal readers. By following the tips in this post, you’ll come out at the end with a professional book to be proud of, and newfound confidence in your career!