Self-Publishing Best Practices
Self-Publishing Best Practices
28 September 2021
Let us begin with a brief description of what a self-publishing path looks like, and then, we'll deep-dive into six best practices for self-publishing. We promise to sprinkle in some top tips, too!
The stories of authors trying to get published in the traditionally manner are infamous. Writing a book to completion is not for the faint of heart, and publishing a book is an arduous hero’s journey all on its own.
In another article, we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of publishing traditionally versus self-publishing. But, for now, let’s look at what it takes to self-publish and what some best practices are.
"What's in a Name?"
Self-publishing means that an author has gone rogue. They dramatically strip off the fine tresses of the proper processes and protocol in the world of book-writing in favor of a modest yet romantic life.
Though the description might be a little over-dramatic, it’s a proper description of the emotions involved. Self-publishing requires a writer to be scrappy. There are no red carpets laid out or hand-holding through the process.
The tasks an agent and publisher would typically take on are left entirely to the author. These are tasks like:
- Finding and employing an editor (yes, this is often done by writers before they send a manuscript to an agent, but for this example, we’re speaking of the final copy edit before going to print) or print without one.
- Designing a book cover or hiring a graphic designer to do so.
- Formatting the book or paying for a service to do so.
- Decide whether to register the book.
- Decide to print it physically or just publish it digitally.
- Find a printer and decide on materials and size for the printing.
- Pay upfront for the printing – which often requires a bulk order rather than a single print.
- Market the book to hopeful readers and buyers.
As you may notice, there are quite a few words in that list indicating a cost to the author, and that is just one reason why choosing to publish traditionally is helpful and valid. A company can afford to pay for many of these items upfront, but in order to do so, they must be very confident that enough copies of your book can be sold to recover those costs and bring in a profit.
Six Best Practices
So, let’s get to the meat of it, shall we? You have the means and desire to tackle this list on your own. How can you conquer these items to bring the most excellent chance of success? To prepare, you best roll up your sleeves.
1. Don't skip a step.
Yes, it’s grueling. Yes, it’s time-consuming. But if you want to keep up with the big-wigs, you must act like a big-wig. Readers are used to books in a particular format. They are used to cleanly edited books. And readers of specific genres bring in certain expectations for look and feel. While rules can always be broken, they must first be understood and respected. So, don’t cut corners in an effort to cut costs. If you’re going to self-publish, it’s best to have your book look and feel just as if it were published professionally.
- Pro Tip: Need a less expensive copy editor? Gather three to five friends who have a fairly good understanding of grammar rules and ask them to read your manuscript. Tell them that the one who finds the most mistakes gets a gift card or a lovely outing on you. (Thank you, Word Summit Editing for this one!) You get a decent copy edit and some great beta reader feedback!
2. You are an author now. So, be an author.
Being a Salinger-esque writer definitely has a vibe, but we live in a world of constant engagement. Simply put, it’s okay to lean into your vanity just a bit when self-publishing. The world must know your book is out there to be read, and they will only know if you build ways to tell them. Consider it an exercise in world-building, if you will. Make an author/professional website and social media profiles. Make it easy for people who connect with you in those spaces to find and buy your book. Create ways to engage with those readers though a steady cadence of posts. Ask for ratings and feedback on the platforms where you are selling. I’d be lying if I said being an author was all fun. The work isn’t done once the book is available to be purchased and read.
- Pro Tip: Consistency is key. Don’t use a different headshot for each platform. Keep the same look and feel, so people who prefer certain platforms know it’s you when they get there.
3. Be in more than one place.
In a digital world, the name of the game is “clicks.” The more clicks your website receives, the more search engines like Google will deem it valuable. And if they deem your content valuable to searchers, they give you the coveted position of top-of-page listings to searchers who are looking for things related to what you’re providing. Honestly, when was the last time you scrolled to page two of a Google search? But not all search engines are made alike, and each platform has its own use and value. This is why having a website, selling on an eCommerce site, and growing a social media presence will all work together to add steam to the engine (yes, I am proud of that pun).
- Pro Tip: The more you blog and post, the more opportunities you create to be found by searchers. But don’t post too much. It’s that delicate balance between “Try, but don’t try too hard.”
4. Build an author brand.
To really nail points 2 and 3, it’s essential to build an expectation with your audience and then keep to that expectation. That consistency leads to relationship-building, which in turn helps them engage with you as an author and rally behind you for your career. If you want to better understand what it means to build a brand as an author, you can read more about it here.
- Pro Tip: Having a brand doesn’t necessarily limit you to writing only one genre. A brand is like a nice house with fantastic curb appeal. There’s a single color scheme. The hedges are trimmed, and the fenced is freshly painted. Everything goes together and fits perfectly. But that house can also have four bedrooms that each have a different style of décor.
5. Hit the streets.
If you print copies of your book, you can ask local bookshops and even major chains to allow some shelf space for a couple of copies. You can also ask if you can set up an author table to meet people, share about your book, and even offer author-signed copies to readers. An author table doesn’t have to be limited to a bookstore. If you wrote a fabulous steamy romance and have a local vineyard, that vineyard may be willing to let you set up an author table on a Saturday afternoon, which would be a great place to meet your possible target audience. A luscious wine pairs perfectly with a luscious romance novel!
- Pro Tip: If you are an introvert, the idea of an author table can spike anxiety. Engage support systems like a friend who can serve as a liaison (your personal Public Relations Officer, if you will) who can chat with people for you while you sit alongside them like the royal writer you are.
6. Leverage your network.
Call your grandma and tell her that you take it all back – she is absolutely welcome to tell every stranger on the street all about her grandkid and how proud she is of you… as long as she also gives them a business card with your buy link on it. Invite everyone you know, whether they live 1500 miles away or just around the corner, to meet you at a coffee shop or bar to celebrate your published book. And make sure the invite has the buy link to your book. Even if it’s just a personal email, create a signature that showcases your new treasure — and make sure it has the buy link to your book. Write a blog about your favorite kindergarten teacher that inspired you to love the subject you wrote about, and at the end, make sure to include the buy link to your book. 🙂 I think you get it.
- Pro Tip: This isn’t a one-and-done moment. Engagements and invitations must be done again and again. Even if someone really wants to click that link to read more or buy, people have short memories and lots of things on their plate that distract attention. Repetition is key.
The list of self-publishing best practices can go on and on, and there will likely be a part 2 to this article, so stay tuned. But for now, let’s acknowledge that writing a book is hard work. No matter your chosen path to publication, the publishing part is just as grueling and often even less comfortable than the writing, writer’s block, rewrites, edits, and heart-breaking killing off of beloved characters. If self-publishing is the path you prefer, take a guide with you. **clears throat gently while raising a hand to volunteer**
Through our publishing packages for independent authors, Wild Lark Books (affordably) helps you:
- Build an author brand.
- Register your book.
- Get cover design options.
- Find wonderful editors.
- Create landing pages and websites for you.
- Build launching events and social media engagement strategies.
- And walk you through every step of the way.
Yes, you will still own full rights to your book. No, you will not have to use us for everything subsequent publication. Yes, your book will immediately gain visibility by leveraging our whole network. Your royalties will be higher than the industry standard. Your book will be registered and available for any bookshop to put on their shelf. Still, it will absolutely be on our shelf, available on our website, and be accessible through one of the world’s largest book distributors. And the best part is always saved for last – you’ll become an author who is very much treasured by us.