What I’ve Learned about Self-Publishing
I’ve had several people wondering about my writing journey. Friends and family members are often surprised when I talk about how easy it was for me to publish Eilinland, and I occasionally get a question here and there from fellow authors about the particular route that I took and how it all worked.
Well, I finally took the time recently to write it all out in an email after one such inquiry. After completing the email, I realized that I have come a long way and learned a lot since I started this endeavor a year ago and wanted to share all of this information with other authors considering self-publishing. The following is an edited version of the email I sent, outlining my personal experience and listing resources that have been invaluable on this journey. I hope you find it helpful in achieving your own writing goals!
I self-published through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) which is a service provided by Amazon to authors who want to self-publish their books. It was a very easy process. The book goes through an approval process based only on whether or not it complies with their printing guidelines or if they detect a massive amount of errors. For that reason, it is very easy to be accepted and not anything like trying to find a publisher in the traditional publishing industry. (Note: I hardly know anything about trying to publish a book traditionally. I just went the self-publishing route because I like the idea of keeping total control of the project and marketing). KDP takes care of all of the orders, printing, shipping, and all you have to do is sit back and watch your sales numbers and receive a royalty check each month (and put massive amounts of time into marketing if you want to receive said royalty check. More on that below). Check out the KDP Website for more information.
Oh, also, it’s free to sign up and upload your files. They just take a cut of the royalty which is going to be the case with any publisher. You, as the author, get to set the price of the book (within some parameters based on printing costs), and you earn 70% of the royalties minus distribution costs. I have my paperback listed at around $10, so my royalty is $7 minus $4 printing cost leaving me with about a $3 profit from each copy sold. The ebook is listed at $3, no distribution costs, so that leaves me with a $2.10 profit. I could up the prices if I wanted to, increasing my royalty, but I want to stay competitive in my market.
An incredibly useful resource for learning how to get the most out of KDP is kindlepreneur.com. They have a ton of helpful blog articles for self-publishers and a youtube channel. Reading articles can get tiresome, so I’ve really enjoyed being able to learn from watching their videos. Despite how it sounded in the satirical blog post I wrote, my launch actually went pretty well, and I think it was thanks to a lot of information I learned from watching their videos.
Online presence is everything these days. Here are some ideas for how to get your book out there and discoverable:
- Build a Website. This actually turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. There are website host sites that provide easy-to-use templates, and all you need to do is fill in information and add in pictures if and where you want them. I used WordPress to create mine. I started with the free version which means I did’t have a custom domain. It was baileydavenportbooks.wordpress.com, but I recently upgraded for $48/year, and now it’s just baileydavenportbooks.com.
- Social Media. The most common platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. I’ve made author accounts on each (separate from my personal accounts), but I focus most of my time and effort on Instagram where I’ve had the most luck of connecting with people. You can read this Kindlepreneuer Article for some great information about using each platform as an author. It’s really important, no matter what platform you use, to put together a professional-looking page. Note somewhere prominent, like in the bio or “about you” section, that you are a writer or author (whichever term you prefer), what genre you write in, and, if you can, the name of the book you’re working on. I seem to do best if I stick to around 80% book/writing-related posts (with the majority of these posts being updates and discussion topics – keep sales pitches to a minimum) and 20% life posts (pet pics, travelling pics, selfies, holiday pics, etc). You can use sites like Unsplash, Pexels, or Pixabay for free stock photos like this one:They have thousands of pictures to choose from in a huge variety of topics and styles. These have been really helpful for me in the moments I haven’t had the chance to take a great photo or when have something specific in mind I know would be really difficult to get a picture of myself. Like dragons. As long as the picture is CC0 license (Creative Commons, Zero attribution), you can use them for any purpose: business, personal, etc.
- Hashtags. This technically falls under the social media category, but it’s so important it’s worth getting its own bullet point. Once you have an author profile and are ready to start posting, on most of the sites I mentioned above you get to use hashtags. This is how I’ve made the vast majority of my connections. I know that on Instagram specifically you’re allowed to use up to 30, and I try to use all 30 every time I post. I once heard or read (I don’t remember where) that it’s like being handed 30 lottery tickets. You’re not just going to use 10 – you’re going to use all 30. To find good hashtags for your content, try looking around at posts of other authors in your genre and see what hashtags they’re using. Also, when you’re creating a post, type in #book and see what suggestions come up. You want to use the hashtags that have enough traffic that the post will be seen by a significant number of people, but not so many that it will get quickly buried. I shoot for the ones that have over 10,000 but under 1 million posts. Once you’ve gone through the #book… options, do the same with #write … , #writing … , #author … , and #[your genre] …
- Forums. Another helpful marketing tactic is to get involved with online forums in your genre. Search around for Facebook groups or websites that discuss topics similar to your book and interests and then get involved. Here it’s important to be part of the discussions first before pushing your book. On a lot of the sites/groups, marketing is actually against the rules, but if you’re sharing thoughts and feedback that people like, they’ll look into your work. I’m part of a few, but because they’re so genre-specific, they wouldn’t be very helpful most of you. If you happen to write epic fantasy with a Christian worldview like The Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, let me know and I’ll tell you which ones I use.
- AMS Ads. AMS stands for Amazon Marketing Systems. If you go the KDP route, once your book is up and published, you can promote it through AMS (you’ll have the option directly from your KDP profile). This will allow you to run promotions that put your book in the sidebar or sponsored search results on Amazon. Again, Kindlepreneuer has some great resources on how to optimize on these. I would do a terrible job of trying to explain all of it, so I recommend you learn more from them directly if you’re interested. I ran a few ads right after my book launched which sold a few copies, but then things slowed down. Now I’m waiting for more book reviews to come in before I run another because I’ve heard that books have a better chance of selling if they have around 30 or more reviews.
- Goodreads. If you’re not familiar with goodreads.com, just go check out the website. It’s really easy to create a profile and add your book into their database, and then it’s just another way for readers to find your work.
For general writing tips to help your writing stand out from the masses, Ellen Brock is an editor that shares great tips and industry information on her YouTube Channel.
If you want to be able to add text to photos, crop, edit brightness/contrast and don’t have a photo editing software but don’t want to spend a fortune on Photoshop, Gimp is the free alternative with almost just as many features and capabilities. I’ve been using it for years and have used it to edit pictures and to create things like this from scratch:Although not directly related to writing, marketing=pictures and pictures=editing. There are great tutorials on YouTube about how to use it if you search for what it is you’re trying to do.
That’s pretty much it. Like I said, it’s only been a year since I started taking this writing idea seriously, so all of that is just what I’ve been able to cram into my head between editing like crazy and actually carrying out all of those steps. If you’re a writer and have some great resources that have been helpful to you, please share them in the comments below. Also, don’t forget sign up for my email list below.