Intro to Indie Publishing for the Enthusiastic Newbie
Champagne Book Design: Formatting and Cover Design
Outline of Presentation
I. Write the book.
- Choosing a genre: write to market or write to heart?
- Micro-trends: paying attention to the world
- First person, third person, present or past tense?
- Series or stand-alone?
- How to find a good editor (ask others authors, check social media, look at acknowledgements and KDP pages, check recommendations list in author groups)
- Working with your editor: establish clear expectations
- What kind of editors do you need?
A. Developmental: Developmental editors help writers with the overall structure of their content, including content creation, organization, tone of voice, and character development (when applicable). Developmental editors are concerned with the material as a whole rather than specific grammatical issues.
B. Copy editor: Copy editors identify grammar issues, punctuation errors, and other problems such as awkward phrasing and inconsistent language. Copy editors sometimes provide minor rephrasing or light rewriting.
C. Line editors go a step further than copy editors to address clarity and style. Substantive editors perform moderate rephrasing at the sentence level all the way up to major rewrites of entire paragraphs, sections, or chapters.
- Vitally important because this is how the world first meets your story.
- Time to leave all emotion and connection to an idea behind and trust the professionals.
- An amateur cover can be spotted easily and almost always costs sales.
- Find the cover artist who works with you and with whom you can communicate!
- Look at your genre on Apple Books, Amazon and BN Press. See which covers you like best, and also note the trends in the covers in your genre. Check title page and/or acknowledgement page for cover artist.
- Ask, ask, ask.
- Interview the artist, ask to see other work, find out policies on payment, ebook and cover wrap, extra graphics, etc.
- Does the cover artist promote the authors for whom s/he works?
- Once you’ve hired the artist, don’t jump at the first iteration. Give it time; ask for opinions of other authors, friends, readers . . .
- Don’t be afraid to make corrections and speak up about what you don’t like.
- Be willing to change covers when trends change.
- So many options! Choose what is best for you.
- Professional Book Designer
A. Pros: artistic design, no work for author, easy to upload, corrections made, less chance of errors in set up and appearance.
B. Cons: Cost, time/scheduling, must depend on formatter for changes in your book
A. Pros: Ease of use, quick and straightforward, lower cost than hiring a formatter each time, can easily make your own changes
B. Cons: Have to buy the program, must have a Mac or access to one, less artistic, less unique
A. Pros: Ease of use, particularly when uploading on D2D anyway, it’s free, can upload corrected doc easily to make changes
B. Cons: Can be buggy, less artistic, cookie cutter, fewer choices, might not always look great when uploaded
- Kindle Create: only for Kindle books, haven’t used it enough to know
V. Launch Prep
- Establish accounts on vendors or aggregators (Apple Books, Amazon, BN Press, Kobo and Google Play if going wide; Draft2Digital, Smashwords, PublishDrive)
- Prepare succinct and professional bio that relates to you AS AN AUTHOR
- Have an author photo taken, make sure it’s professional
- Establish social media accounts and author presence in social media
- Newsletter sign ups
- Preorder or not?
A. Pros: can use link during pre-pub promo, no worries about book going live early or late, ease of delivery
B. Cons: last minute changes hard to make (locked out), stress on file delivery, less flexibility, can affect ranking on release day (Amazon only)
- When to release
- Tuesday most popular
- Check popular preorders in your genre and try to avoid those dates
- Tell EVERYONE about your new book. Use social media accounts to spread the news, show your cover, ask friends to share the news!
- Use graphics and teaser bites on social media, always including link to book
- Join with other authors in things like BookQW in a very low-key cross promo way
- Do FB or IG lives to read excerpts, talk about your process and characters
- Consider holding your first release until you have at least three books: the best way to promo book 1 is to release books 2 and 3.
- Not required.
- Needs a separate interior file and cover (unless using D2D or Amazon)
- KDP, BN Press, Ingram, D2D
- Author copies delivered
- Can order copies at cost to sell at events
Breaking News: Five Ways to Tweak Your Publishing Path in 2020
- It was the one constant buzzword at NINC2019.
- More options
- Kobo direct upload
- Apple Books Audio Push
- Chirp on BookBub
- Recording your own
- How to manage expense and commitment
Selling From Your Website
- Streamlined with BookFunnel and PayHip or WooCommerce
- Allows you to set your prices, keep more money, run sales and promos
- Exclusive releases (box sets, where you can price it whatever you want)
- Violates KU TOS, so don’t do it if you’re not wide.
- How to increase output without losing your free time
- Dragon Everywhere
- Other apps
- Take your time, learn to get into the rhythm
- Join support groups
- Talk to others who have made it work
- Find out how to make it work for you
- After talk of NL exhaustion, turns out it wasn’t the frequency, it was the content
- Readers still like NL with good content
- Single mission NL
- Do what works for YOU.
KEYWORDS AND METADATA
- Metadata is everything.
- Helping retailers like Amazon know how to best index your books.
- Using the right keywords can make the difference between a success and a failed launch.
- Give the readers what they expect: your keywords must match your product page, cover, blurb.
- Use tools to help: Kindleprenuer, K-Lytics
- Play with the indexing
Leaping to Mid-List: Harnessing the Power of Rabid Readers to Increase Visibility
I. Elements of building readership: Foundation, Tools, TLC
A. Foundation: Who are you? What do you write? You can’t share yourself into you know what you’re sharing. What is your message, your mission or your muchness?
- Keep it simple and broad to start.
- Don’t define yourself by genre (because you might change genres/subgenres).
- Be prepared to narrow this foundation as your career progresses and you know more about who you are as an author.
- What do I anticipate all my books having in common (or what do my already published books have in common)?
For me, the first things I knew were that I had character-driven stories to tell. It wasn’t until four books in that I realized how important it was for me that these stories centered around strong women. I also used my purple hair as a defining part of my branding. As time went on, I added a few things: an appreciation of wine and beer, a love of cats, and my obsession with all things Joss Whedon and Marvel. Music and how it relates to my books.
Later you will expand on this, possibly adding more personal components. But in the beginning, this is the foundation upon which you build, the spine with which you stand.
Invite people to the party! If you are already published, you have readers—but you still want to invite more. And if you’re new to publishing, you need to find your audience.
Identifying your audience is an entirely different topic—and one that’s vital to understand—but for our purposes, we’re casting a fairly wide net which you’ll refine later.
II. How do you invite people? So many ways:
A. Social media: this is hit or miss, but you might ‘meet’ readers through social media friends, through FB events, through use of Twitter/IG hashtags.
B. BookBub: claim your author profile there. You can recommend other authors’ books and if you are selected for BB FD, you’ll have the opportunity to be in front of lots of potential readers.
C. Book Sprout: if you offer your ARCs there, it offers you a chance to be discovered by new readers who like your genre.
D. Events: make the most of them, meet and talk to potential readers, offer free books, make sure your swag is in line with your branding. (Example of sustainable items for swag for me)
E. Life! Talk to people everywhere about what you do: in line in the grocery store, on the phone, at church, at your kids’ school, at restaurants . . .
Now once you have a base audience or readership, how do you transform it into a Rabid Readership?
A. Website: this is a non-negotiable need. The tools that YOU control, that YOU manage, are the top of the priority list. Your website should be the first place for information, for branding, for sharing with your readers who you are and what you write.
- Create a site that reflects you, your books and your foundation. Keep it streamlined and easy to navigate.
- Start with info: Each book or series should have a page with covers, blurb and buy links. If you have the ability to sell the books directly, those should be the #1 links listed.
- Once you’ve provided the essentials, make it uniquely yours through blog posts and graphics.
- Blogging: write about topics that relate to you, to your foundation and to your books. Don’t be too safe~jump into areas that might make people talk, make them think and make them eager to read your books.
- Respond to critics and reviews in a subtle way on your website! (Use Anti-Cinderella too much plant stuff example or the too much/not enough sex)
- Share sneak peeks of upcoming books, teasers from current books, memes that relate to your books.
- Interview other authors, share what you’re reading, give extras (deleted chapters, added scenes, who you would cast in the movie of your book)
- Consider regular weekly posts: Meme Monday, What I’m Reading Wednesday, BookQuote Wednesday, Throwback Thursday (to promote your backlist) and stick to them.
- As you refine and expand your foundation, add regular features: do you love to cook? Share a favorite recipe 2-3 times a month. Knit? Share what you’re knitting. Music? Talk about your latest favorite song.
B. Newsletter: this is another non-negotiable need, because again, you control content, you control when and how often it goes out and you control the tone.
- Building your list: do it organically!
- Always have a link in the front and back of every book.
- Offer a sign-up list at events.
- Make the sign-up link prominent on your website.
- Share the sign-up link frequently on social media.
- Maintaining your list: be intentional!
- Consider a drip campaign to ease readers onto your list. Offer free first-in-series if you can or exclusive free content if not.
- Be upfront with your readers about how often they should expect emails from you and what they will contain. Will you share just basics in releases and sales? Or will you include bonus content? Will you share other authors’ books?
- Stick to your promise: if you commit to one newsletter a month, don’t bombard readers with more than that (an occasional deviation is all right).
Once I built up my newsletter list and took it seriously, I realized quickly the power that I’d harnessed. When I post about a preorder or a release or sale, I can expect to see a rise in sales that is not unlike using a service like Free Booksy, ENT or even BookBub (not quite as big as that). The beauty of it, though, is that it’s essentially free to me and I have the opportunity to follow up that I don’t have with paid email services.
BUT don’t abuse this power. Subscribers tire quickly of hearing only about releases and sales. Also, we’re seeing newsletter fatigue around the publishing world.
Remember that this is another way of communicating who you are with your readers—but also give them the easy ability to buy your books when they’re ready.
C. Social Media
Author Page: This is a tool of redundancy sometimes; it’s a way of making sure as many people see your news as possible, but it should never be used as the SOLE method of disseminating information to your readers. Visibility is a crap shoot, and you never know who will see what. Use your author page to:
- Post links to your website when you have a new release, sale or promotion
- Regularly post the sign-up link to your newsletter
- Reinforce your foundation branding by sharing memes, graphics, news stories, articles of interest. Often Facebook will randomly show these ‘general topic’ posts to more people, so make sure you link it to your branding/book (Example: sharing royal news and mentioning The Anti-Cinderella books)
- Use quirks/hobbies as a unifying theme for your posts: are you addicted to coffee (Diane Capri)? Do you live some place exotic? (Patricia Sands) Do you travel extensively? (Lisa Hughey) Chandeliers—Violet. Cats—Heather. Have purple hair? Me! Share posts/memes about those things.
- If you see any one post getting more views and social proof, make sure to follow up by posting something more narrowly related to you below it. (one of your own teasers, book cover, etc.)
- Once a week or so, post a simple question—no graphic—and watch the interaction soar!
- Facebook Live posts seem to do well on your author page. Use these to connect with readers and potential readers by talking about your writing process, your upcoming release, event or promo, or to share something related to your branding. Always mention your PRG on FB Live posts and remind people that members of your PRG get perks.
- Don’t expect to build much in the way of relational readership on your FB author page—BUT you can funnel people from this page into your PRG by posting links to your PRG and explaining the appeal of belonging.
Private Reader Group: the ultimate relational tool—how to connect with your most rabid readers
- Build the group by including a link in your books and explaining why readers should join—what do they get?, by posting links on your FB author page, on your website, in your authors bio every time you send out info for a new release, sharing frequently in your newsletter, and on other social media sites (Twitter/IG). ALSO talk about your group at events. Hand out cards with a link to the group at events. Invite readers you meet to join your PRG if they’re not already members.
- Make it feel exclusive by offering things you never give anywhere else. (Give examples of Temptresses see it first (covers, blurbs, preorder links), ARC offers, pop-up giveaways, personal news, etc.)
- Give PRG members events perks like special gifts if they come see you at a signing or a special ribbon or sticker for their name tag at events. This is both reward and promo, because others will ask what the ribbon/sticker means!
- The PRG is your ultimate relational tool because THIS is where you are building the basis of your community. This is where readers get to know the real you—where you let your hair down, where you share secrets and where you support and encourage each other.
- How personal you want to get is up to you. Some authors make family off-limits (I don’t—explain). Some make their PRG very much about one or two favorite hobbies or keep the convo very book-centered. That’s fine. It’s a personal preference, but remember that there has to be a reason to join the group that transcends just free stuff and perks.
Your PRG is where the TLC really comes in.
IV. TLC: Using all those tools to make your readership shine!
Look at your pool of readers and potential readers as an audience in a round theatre, with you on the stage.
A. The first rows (3, 5, 10, 20?) are your most devoted readers. They will read anything you release, and they might be part of your beta reader crowd—but they’ll buy the book, too. They’ve probably been with you for a long time, and they love that they ‘knew you when’.
These readers are the ones whom you must treasure the most. Yes, you have them hooked, so you might think you can ignore them, but don’t. These readers will tell their friends about you. They’ll invite your friends to join your PRG. They’ll re-post, share and talk up anything you post. They’ll follow you to events. They always, always review.
How do you love them? You treat them like the friends they are. You share parts of yourself with them—as much or as little as you like, but more than the general public gets. You give them insider info (like the fact that a character in your new book is based on the boy you crushed on in tenth grade).
You send them goodies for no reason—a signed paperback of their favorite of your books. Something small and special from your swag or something related to your books. You make them feel treasured and special.
B. The next rows are the members of your PRG who are readers but who aren’t quite as active. They might pop in to read an ARC, to post a review, or to comment, but they’re not your go-to dependables. You can woo them by making sure to acknowledge their comments, by messaging them when you haven’t seen them in a while, by tagging them when you post something that might interest them (The next book in the Keeping Score series is nearly finished! Ann Jones, I knew you’d want to know!).
C. The rows behind your PRG are your newsletter subscribers. These are people who have committed to hearing from you, and with just a little extra love, they could move to your PRG and maybe into the first few rows! How? Find those who are already readers by asking a question in your newsletter. Those who respond are those who are taking the time to read your emails, and that means they’re interested and engaged. By answering them, you can begin a dialogue that could lead them into become one of your super-readers.
I’ve done this by offering a free book that is uniquely suited to that reader (based on interests she has shared in her correspondence with me), by sharing a story based on something we might have in common (musical taste?) . . . my experience with that person’s home state or geographical region (oh, I visited there when I was in college! Or I used to live there. Or my husband was deployed there.)
Realize that some people don’t like social media or aren’t on Facebook—I try to offer other ways to keep in touch (non-threatening social media like Pinterest and reading my blog posts).
D. Beyond the newsletter subscribers are others who follow you but aren’t really engaged on a deeper level. Many might be steady readers, but they haven’t made the Rabid Reader commitment. Some might not be comfortable with a closer relationship, and that’s okay. You can still keep them engaged, keep them informed . . . and one day, something might happen to bring them into the front rows.
If you are a typical introverted author, all of what I’ve said might sound like a lot of work, right? You might be exhausted by the thought of it.
I look at it this way: when I write a book, I’m putting a piece of my soul out into the world. It takes a fair amount of courage to do that, and it doesn’t come easily. I do it anyway because something in me yearns to connect with others, and telling stories is my way of doing that.
So when someone reads my book or all of my books, it makes sense to engage with them.
I’ve realized that without really meaning to do it, I’ve created a community. My readers have become friends with each other. They meet up in real life, and they support each other. It’s really the coolest thing to see.
All this sounds warm and fuzzy and wonderful, but how is it helping me to sell books?
It’s not. It’s building a readership, a group of people who won’t just read your next book—they’ll buy all your books.
The truth is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. By building a readership, I’m not guaranteeing that every book will be a best-seller—but the more time, effort and attention I devote to shoring up my tribe, the better each release will be—and I’ve created more than just a successful book business.