I’ve done loads of research on self publishing, and thought I had a pretty good handle on what I needed to do. And for the most part, I did. But there were several things I completely overlooked and was left scrambling to complete in time. Some are minor, some…not major, but big enough that they left me a bit frazzled until they were resolved. So for anyone reading this who is looking to self publish a book, here’s what I learned publishing my first novel. Be sure to read to the end…I saved the biggie for last.
Contact local independent bookstores at least a month in advance.
A week before launch the idea finally popped into my head to do this and ask if they would either be interested in carrying a few copied of Divided, or hosting a book signing. So when Subterranean Books said, “Yes, we’d love to have a book signing for you, how about April 4?” I realized that wasn’t the best plan as far as selling paperbacks goes. I accepted the date happily, but next time will ask much further in advance. By not having the signing until 3 weeks after release, and wanting people to buy the paperback at the signing rather than online, I had to ask locals to please wait to buy the paperback. I know they understood since it was friends and family I asked this of, but still…I could have planned that better.
Leave PLENTY of time for reviewing the paperback proof, then leave some more time.
I thought 2 weeks would be enough time. But then I got the proof (which I’d paid out the wazoo for expedited shipping.) And I needed to make changes. So then I ordered another proof (which I decided to wait for the regular shipping speed.) Then I got the second proof, and there were still some things I need to fix. Then I paid for more expedited shipping for a third proof. But I finally got it right.
Have at least 2 sets of eyes proofread your manuscript.
Especially if you can’t afford professional editing. My editor was amazing, but she’s not professional. My dad scanned through the manuscript and found some more errors (he’s amazing with grammar.) Even then, my mom found some more typos when she was read the book. And someone else found a typo that everyone else had missed, and it was a biggie! The good news is, you can update the Kindle file easily at any time. I hope I can afford professional editing with my next novel, but even if I do, I’ll still get a second set of eyes, because no one is perfect, not even if they’re paid for it (though they had better be close.)
When working with a cover designer, you need more than just the cover.
Some things I wasn’t prepared for – author bio, author photo, back cover blurb, and – most importantly – how many pages is the book? That is vital for the designer to know if you’re asking for a paperback design as well, because that will determine the size of the spine they create. Also, don’t depend on the PDF to tell you the correct page numbers. I guarantee it will be wrong. Be sure you upload it to CreateSpace (or whichever printing service you’re using) and let it tell you the page number. Once I thought we were completely finished with the cover, I had to ask Denise for one more update to the spine size. I was completely unprepared for all that.
Not only do you have to buy ISBNs, you have to buy a barcode too!
OK, you don’t have to. If you want to stick strictly with Amazon, you can use their free ISBN service. But I wanted to own my ISBNs, so purchased a block of 10. I didn’t realize that didn’t include barcodes, and each barcode is an additional $25. You only need that for the paperback though. Speaking of barcodes…
Have the barcode BEFORE giving the final approval on your cover design.
Or have some knowledge of how to edit PDFs on your own. Denise had left a white block on the back cover of the paperback version of the cover for me to insert the barcode. Problem is, I don’t have Photoshop, and even if I did, I don’t know how to use it. I really didn’t want to bother her yet again with yet another update, and was lucky a good friend of mine is extremely proficient with Photoshop, so she was able to update it for me. But if I’d had the barcode before, I could have just sent it to Denise and she could have inserted it for me. (I’m sure she would have anyway if I’d asked, but I felt like I’d been a big enough pain in the butt already.)
Have business cards with your name and website, and the name of the book, made.
I only figured this one out after talking with complete strangers in my physical therapy office who showed interest, that it would be nice to have a pretty card to give them rather than a scrap of paper with my name scribbled on it. I have them in hand now, but would have been nice to have much sooner. Maybe even include the release date if you plan to hand these out before it’s available.
And last, but certainly not least…
I would have done the free promotion through Amazon’s KDP Select (Kindle Direct Publishing Select) later.
There were people who were going to buy Divided regardless of whether or not it was free. At first I thought that making it free for a few days right from the start was a nice move since the paperback wasn’t available yet. And it was. But I think most of these people would have bought the ebook anyway. And if they weren’t going to buy the ebook AND the paperback, they weren’t going to buy the ebook at all. So I kind of feel like I lost out on a chunk of sales from people who would have otherwise paid for the book.
I have nothing to compare the effectiveness of the free promotion to since this was my first book. So I can’t say if it did any good or not. I’ve been listening to several podcasts and reading a lot of blog posts about the debate over whether the free promos do any good anymore. For myself, though, I simply don’t know. I don’t think I’m ready to write the program off entirely. But I do think that when I released Ravaged, I won’t make it free immediately. I might make Divided free at the same time Ravaged is released, or maybe for a few days the week before, to help drive sales. But I’ll wait until sales slow down to make it free so I can give it a boost.