If you’re an author who wants to publish soon, don’t let all the free, helpful advice from writers, publishers, and vendors persuade you to launch a book without taking the proper steps. Many published authors wish theycould take back ugly book covers, unedited stories, and cheesy book titles. Even worse, many other published authors don’t even KNOW how horrible their books are.
If you’re getting close to publication, consider these eleven points:
EDITING: Has your manuscript been edited by a professional? This is a vital step for all writers, and even more important if you plan to self-publish. Your cousin who’s an English teacher and works cheap does not count as a professional editor. A professional editor will go beyond finding typos and provide critical feedback you won’t get from friends and relatives.
INDUSTRY RESEARCH: Stay abreast of trends and changes inside the publishing industry by following news reports, blogs, and your favorite publishers’ web sites.
KNOW YOUR GENRE: What authors are hot in your genre? Why are they doing so well? Who’s reading their books? Study these writers and learn why they’re successful. If your book doesn’t fit a specific genre, that’s a problem. A book without a genre is handicapped from the start.
ARE YOU MARKETING NOW? You should already be marketing by networking, building a fan base, and making contacts. I know this is a challenge for introverted writers—but that’s another good reason to start early. Even as you write the book, begin reaching out to other writers and fans in your genre. With over 300,000 books published every year, you can’t depend on good luck to sell a new title. If you hire a publicist, you’ll still need to carry on by yourself once the initial marketing push is over.
WRITE A PROPOSAL WITH A MARKETING PLAN: Even if you plan to self-publish, you should create a traditional book proposal for your own use. The proposal should include a one-page summary of your book, a comparison to other books, a marketing plan, an author biography, and broad chapter outlines. Are you writing a novel or memoir? Do a proposal anyway. You’ll be glad you did. (You can find half a dozen excellent books on writing the perfect proposal).
SET MODEST GOALS: Many authors fall into despair and stop marketing when don’t sell a thousand books the first month or make the Amazon bestseller list. Be happy with local book signings, reviews, and accolades. Keep reaching for the stars, but remember you first have to launch something. Book sales are never guaranteed and no one (not even the big publishers) can predict what will happen with a book. Fame is almost always created by hard work and perseverance. Follow the blogs of successful authors like Hugh Howey and J.A. Konrath, who clawed their way to top and now help other writers.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT: Is book publishing just a check mark on your bucket list? If so, then finish your book, give it away to family and friends, sell a few copies, and move on. But if you’re passionately committed to writing and publishing—if you were born with a writing gene—then settle in for a long trip. Learn the craft, study the markets, join groups, and cultivate patience.
BE PATIENT: Did I mention this before? Impatience can damage the relationship with your publisher and (if you’re self-publishing) cause you to turn out a shoddy product because you don’t wait to get things right. Everything in book publishing and marketing takes a while. Getting a book into print can be tedious and exacting. And then, when the initial excitement wears off, you wonder why the book isn’t selling the way you expected. You’re embarrassed and discouraged—tempted to give up. Publishers know it can take years to make back the money we invest in a book. If you stop marketing, you may never show a profit. Some books are slow starters, build momentum, and eventually begin selling. Other books catch on when a news story makes them timely. Still other books begin selling when the author’s next book attracts new fans.
COVER DESIGN: Don’t go cheap, and don’t do it yourself. Enough said.
BE SAVVY: Self-published authors support an industry of printers, designers, editors, publicists, and firms that want to do everything for you. Amazon, Ingram, Author House, Writers Digest—the list is almost endless. Remember, the products they produce are only as good as the material you give them. Make sure you know what you’re paying for and check the competition before you invest.
YOUR NEXT BOOK: Plan on releasing another book within six months to a year. This will help you stop obsessing about book sales and give you something to talk about online.
DON”T CONTRIBUTE TO THE MASSIVE LOAD OF BAD BOOKS:
As a publisher who loves books, I beg you to perform due diligence with your work, especially if you’re an author-publisher. As Chuck Wendig says in a blog rant:
“Publishing isn’t an art — publishing is a business. A creative business, a weird business, but a business just the same, and so it behooves you to treat this like a business and to put out the best work you can. The overall property values of a neighborhood go up when you tend to your own yard — the more author-publishers who commit to doing their best and not just regurgitating warm story-barf into every conceivable nook and cranny of the Internet are going to contribute to an overall improvement. If you want the stink out of the air, spray a little perfume, you know? In short: we can all do better, so do better.”