9 Helpful Tips for Self-Published Authors

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When I first decided to publish my first novel, I did everything wrong. I paid a book cover artist upfront and then found out later that he was shady, got my book proofread and then realized I needed more beta readers, found some plot things I wanted to fix—after I’d already sent the book to the formatter, and sent one poor book reviewer the wrong copy 3 times. I realized that, for some reason, the file name was “I was a nanny before I was a dragon slayer,” so guess what the reviewer saw as the title when he loaded my book on his Kindle? I was mortified! Truth? I had no idea what I was doing. And I’m sure that if you looked in the dictionary, you’d see my picture right next to the definition of “a hot mess.” Sure, I looked at articles online but there was just so much info to sort through that I ended up feeling overwhelmed and just jumped right in. I’m by no means an expert, but I thought I’d share a few things that might make it easier for someone who may be at the beginning stages of their publishing journey.

Several months before your planned release:

  1. After your CPs or betas have given you feedback and you’ve revised the novel within an inch of its life, hire a proofreader. And don’t be tempted to skip this step! You’ll be amazed at the amount of errors you’ll still miss, no matter how many times you go over the manuscript.
  2. Start looking for book cover designers. This can take a while because self-publishing has exploded and anyone with a sign that says, “Book cover designer resides here” will likely be swamped (especially if they’re good). You’ll also want to consider time needed for finding the right stock images and revisions. Don’t rush this process! Another tip: if they ask for full payment up front, run for your life. If you pay anything beforehand, it should be half before and the other half only after you are satisfied with the final product. Don’t believe me? Read “A Book Cover Horror Story: Why you Should Google Before you Hire.” Don’t make the same mistakes that I did!
  3. Once you’re novel is done and error free, it’s time to convert your book. You’ll probably want several formats:
    • Mobi (for Kindle)
    • ePub (for B&N and Apple)
    • Createspace
    • Smashwords

You can do the formatting yourself, hire someone to do it (like I did), or use a converter program. If you’re not familiar with this process, don’t panic. A good formatter will lead you through it. Just make sure you specify all the files you need. And make sure your book is error free before you send it to the formatter. If you find formatting errors (like funny spacing or odd characters), a reputable formatter will fix it at no charge. But if you find grammatical errors while reviewing the formatted book, the formatter might charge you for making changes (especially if it’s a lot of changes). For Createspace/print on demand books, your formatter will also need the trim size.

  1. Now that your book has been formatted, you might want to start soliciting reviews. If you can, do this a few months ahead of your release. To find reviewers just Google “insert genre” book reviewers. Be sure to:
    • Check their review policy. No use querying someone about your romance novel when they only review horror. Also, many may be closed to submissions so look at their homepage or review policy page to check. Helpful hint: if a book reviewer hasn’t posted on their blog since 1997, chances are they’ve abandoned their blog. Don’t waste your time.
    • Look at the formats they accept. Some will prefer mobi, others may want a PDF, etc.
    • Personalize your query. Look for the blogger’s name and address it to them. No “Dear Blogger,” or, “Hey there, you.” Take the time and find out their name.

If you contact 30 reviewers, you may only hear back from 10 (or less). You may even experience people who say they’ll review your book and never do it. Don’t get discouraged. Just assume they didn’t like your book or didn’t have time and move on. And if you get a bad review? Do nothing. No matter how upset you are, do nothing. Word of a bad reputation spreads fast in this community and the last thing you want is to get a bad rep for lashing out at reviewers.

Ahead of your release:

  1. Organize a blog tour. If you don’t have the connections or time to do this yourself, hire someone. Companies to look at:
    Diverse Book Tours
    Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours
    Pump up Your Book
  1. Order some author swag for promo purposes: bookmarks, business cards, bags (or whatever suits your fancy), with your bookcover and contact info.
  2. Doing a print copy of your book? Order a few and keep them around, especially if you’re doing author events. They’ll look really cool sitting up there with you on your table:)
  3. Read this helpful article by author Melissa Maygrove about attending author events.
  4. Start working on your next book! If people love your book, and I’m sure they will, they’ll be eager to read your next one.

If you’re completely new to self-publishing, I suggest reading a book like Self-Publishing Boot Camp by Carla King or, if you want to publish a book but just don’t want to do all the legwork, go through a company like BookBaby.

This list isn’t exhaustive, of course. I’m still learning about the process but thought I’d pass along some things I’ve learned so far. There’s a LOT of information out there, so make sure you do your research!

Any tips or horror stories you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 


29 thoughts on “9 Helpful Tips for Self-Published Authors

  1. I gotta say, I’m bookmarking this even though I’m still hoping for traditional publishing. Because everything in steps four through eight sounds like stuff any new author should do. When I finally get published, I plan to (politely) promote the hell out of it, so I know I’ll need some links and suggestions as a place to start. Thanks. ^_^
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..Will They, Won’t They, Whatever.My Profile

  2. Lol, I think you’ve heard my horror story, Quanie. Great list here. I’d say those with not much tech skills should really just give the formatting and designing jobs to the professionals. Hiring a good editor is very important, and the rule of payment is the same as with the book cover artist/designer — half upfront, then the rest after their work is submitted to and approved by you.

    I was quite silly with my book release for Little Orchid, in that I only asked for reviews just a week or two before the book was released. Should have done that two months earlier.
    Claudine @ CarryUsOff Books recently posted..Picture Book Feature: Extraordinary JaneMy Profile

  3. Great list Quanie, and a super helpful overview of the indie publishing process. If I could turn back time and start over again, I’d do soooooo many things differently. Live and learn and do it better next time is my motto. And I’ll never forget how helpful you were in assisting me with finding a formatter (who was awesome!) and sharing lists of book reviewers. Thank God for sweet people like you who pay it forward!
    Faith Simone recently posted..Me, Wally Lamb & the Moment It All Became Clear: Show vs. TellMy Profile

  4. it seems whether you’re trad publishing or self-publishing, you’d have to do most of this stuff yourself anyway…seems like less and less major houses are assisting with a lot of things! And I LOVE the idea of being in control of so many things…cover art especially! 🙂

  5. Excellent tips, Quanie! Ugh, if I only knew then… But I do know now and won’t ever let that happen again. I’m not at liberty to elaborate, but for something as exciting and joyous as your first (or any) book my first experience was neither. However, I did learn a new word that year when my questions (maybe I had too many?) when I was deemed ‘Snarky’ (what the heck?) and in danger of voiding my contract (!)
    My take-away was ‘Pay up, Shut up or Pack up’. It’s a big bad world out there sometimes but thankfully, we have helpful folks like you! Definitely bookmarking this – Thanks for posting these tips.
    diedre recently posted..Imposters!My Profile

  6. It’s funny how much of your promotional tips apply to traditionally-published authors there. Although I noticed a trad-pubbed author today who did ZERO to promote her book. I wonder if her book did better than mine? Wouldn’t THAT be interesting…all that work for nothing? LOL.
    Stephanie Faris recently posted..The Hydration GenerationMy Profile

  7. Wonderful tips! Most of these even work for traditionally published authors. I’m thinking of self-publishing something in the future and will have to do all of this. And I’ll definitely hire help for proofreading, formatting, and designing . 😉
    Chrys Fey recently posted..How to Handle RejectionMy Profile

  8. This is awesome, Quanie. Thanks for the tips. I have self published my first book (that was three years ago now) and it was quite the editing process even though I had hired a professional. Like you say edit to within an inch of its life (LOL). Then I couldn’t figure out the formatting for e-books, so after some trial and error I hired someone. I bought an image from Dreamstime for my cover. It was the perfect cover image and I’ve had many compliments on it. I did look at custom cover design but it was expensive. My next book will be a short story collection and I’m not going to do any print books for that one. Only e-books.

    When I first published I had no blog contacts. Now, it would be great to do a blog tour idea.
    lisa thomson-the great escape recently posted..Divorce Savvy QuizMy Profile

    • Hi Lisa,

      Nowadays many cover artists are offering premade book covers. I’m seen them start as low as 15 bucks. The market is so competitive now, especially with people trying to build their portfolio. And yes, a blog tour is a great way to get more exposure, even if not many book sales come from it.
      Quanie recently posted..9 Helpful Tips for Self-Published AuthorsMy Profile

  9. Oh, how I’d wished I could’ve read this all in one spot tips sooner. All this information is spread all over the place. And for additional info, you can go to divert.com to find book cover designers, formatters, etc. A commentor on my blog once mentioned about using a deviant artist. I use preformatted templates for my works but those are short works of poetry. For larger works like the novel a pro formatter, proofreader, copy or line editor is the way I’ll go

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