How to Successfully Self-Publish Your Book: 7 Tips
By Elizabeth Suggs
So, you want to successfully self-publish your new book? Before you go any further, self-publishing isn’t for authors who “failed” to get published from a traditional publisher. Self-publishing shouldn’t be a fallback. It should be a conscious decision.
You should only self-publish your book if:
You like having the final say
You like controlling the publication process
You want a bigger cut of the royalties
You have a large audience ready to buy your book
If you said yes to those listed points, then self-publishing may be right for you. But HOW do you get self-published? Essentially, you could write something up and throw it on Amazon and say you’re self-published, but that won’t necessarily lead to success. So, let’s go over the steps to success.
1. Create an Audience BEFORE Your Book Launches!
It seems a little counter-intuitive, right? Why should you create Facebook groups of your book or chat with other authors about review exchanges when you don’t even have a book out? One word: anticipation. This is all of what marketing is and what really drives success for your work.
First, create separate social media profiles focused on your work as an author. It’s best to have a private personal account with your normal family account and then have an account that’s industry-focused and professional. That way you get the right followers engaging with your book.
Once you have a social media profile, you create images, posts, and videos of you or your upcoming book (if you have one). From there, you chat with people, ENGAGE with others on the social media platform. Make friends. Honestly, this is something ALL authors should do, traditional or nontraditional, and it takes time. But once you start gaining followers, it makes it that much easier to get more followers, which makes you seem more legitimate and potentially can lead to higher sales.
But remember, you can’t just post pictures online and call it good. Social media is “social” for a reason. So engagement is the key. Chatting with people through messages, groups, posts, and more is the key to success. It will raise you higher in the social media’s algorithm, which will make you more easily seen, and eventually can lead to more book revenue.
You should offer more than just pictures of your books. You can do cross-promotions of other authors, books you’re reading, your reviews, and so on. Make your social media profile a reason for people to keep coming back and begging for more.
2. Get Your Perfect Editor
You’ve got your audience, and now you’ve finished your book, but it’s not ready to go up online yet. You need a professional editor. This process can take many months, but it’s worth the wait. It’s better to have someone go slow so they can catch all the errors. Make sure your editor has experience in editing, especially in your genre. You wouldn’t necessarily want an editor who edits adventure books to edit your historical romance because they might not catch the inconsistencies that a reader of your genre would see.
Once you have an editor, they’ll give you an estimate on time and what sorts of edits you’ll need. Often, they’ll ask for a sample, and then they’ll give you their rates. You can find editors on social media, like Facebook groups, including one from the League (Utah Freelance Editors), from friends and family, or freelance websites, like Reedsy or Fiverr. I write Fiverr with some hesitance as, in my experience, it’s really hit or miss. Reedsy has been great for me every time I’ve used it, but they’re a little more pricey.
Here are the types of editing you could potentially need:
You can learn more about these editing types on my blog at Editing Mee.
3. Find Beta Readers
Beta readers (or early readers or critique groups) are the people you find to preview a finished work. I suggest after your editing so they can focus less on grammar than plot, but it’s up to you when it makes the most sense. If you’re afraid you’ll need to hire another editor after the beta reading, then you probably should do the beta readers before you get an editor.
Beta readers look at your plot, find any issues with it, tell you if it works or doesn’t work, and whether they’d
actually read this or not. Beta readers are best when they can be honest (so avoid family and friends), and they read in YOUR genre. To get the best feedback, make a list of what you want your readers to focus on. For instance, here are some great questions that work for me:
Are the characters believable?
Are there are points where your suspension of disbelief breaks?
Did you root for the love interest?
Do you like the main character?
Is the plot engaging?
And so on. It’s best to have around five to six beta readers. And give them time to read your book. Make it clear there IS a deadline. For instance, one month is generally okay for most readers, but some readers NEED more time. Be clear on what you need and what works for your beta readers. Most likely, these readers are helping you for free and for the enjoyment of it, so be conscious of their time as well.
4. Get a Cover Designer!
Are you an illustrator or a graphic designer? Even if you can draw, it may not be the wisest choice to do your own cover. Your cover isn’t just for your novel. This is a marketing tactic. The cover pulls in readers, so don’t treat it like an afterthought! The cover makes the reader choose YOUR book over the others. Certain colors, images, and titles will make your book stand out. But it’s also very important to maintain your genre in this cover. A reader should be able to see your book and know by a single glance what genre it is and its tone. This is why it’s better to hire someone to do your cover design. A professional will know what sells and what doesn’t. Again, great places to find the right cover designer will be similar sites to where you found your editor: Reedsy, Fiverr, friends and family, social media, groups, etc.
Once you have your cover? Remember to create an equally pleasing back cover. Your cover designer should have this included in their price. And if your front cover pulls the reader in, your backover closes the deal. It gives you a chance to tell your readers what your book is about in a short blurb, and maybe you even have a review from another prominent author in the community! Don’t be afraid to reach out to people about doing reviews or praises for your book. The worst they can say is “no.”
5. Don’t Forget About Formatting!
Like covers, it can make your book stand apart. If your margins are wrong, your font is too squished or small, readers won’t like it. You could have the best-edited story with the best cover, but people won’t want to read your book if your formatting is all wonky. I once read a book with 10pt font, squished lettering and margins, and it was 500 pages long. It was a cool story, but I couldn’t get into it because I kept getting a headache whenever I read for any extended period of time.
If it’s in your budget, your best option is to hire a professional to do your copyfitting. However, if that’s not in your budget or you would like to learn how to do it on your own, there are tons of free formatting options. For instance, there’s one from Reedsy, Microsoft Word (here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use Word’s formatting), Amazon (which is nice for Kindle, and it’s user-friendly), and that’s just naming a few. Being free, they have their own little annoyances and quirks, but they’ve also got their own benefits. But if you’d like to do something on a more professional scale, then I suggest Adobe’s InDesign. It’s the industry standard, but it requires training to get it right, but it requires a monthly subscription.
6. And… More Marketing!
You’ve got your book ready, and now you need to market it. Well, hopefully, by this point, you’ve been engaging with your followers and creating fun images for your readers about your book; maybe you did a cover reveal or a sneak peek inside your book? But there’s more you can do with marketing that works best at this stage, like doing interviews and book tours.
Interviews, like Instagram Live, YouTube, Zoom, podcast, radio, or other media types, are great because they help you get discovered by more people. In theory, you go on someone’s show, they chat with you, all of their listeners or viewers see you, they follow you, and then they buy your book. Schedule a bunch right before the launch. You can do as many or as little as you want, but obviously, more is better (it’s all about how much time you can spend on this). What’s worked the best for me? Booking interviews twice a week for two months before your book and two months after and then once or twice a month forever after. And by this point, you should have made some friends along the way who will want to have a repeat interview with you.
Once you’ve got your interviews down, you’ll need reviewers to read your book, you’ll give them a book, which they’ll review for free as an honest review. They can post this on their blog, and readers can go on a virtual book tour where they jump between blogs on different days as if they’re following you on tour. And once everything clears up with Covid, you can do an in-person book tour, packed with book signings and book readings (which you can also do online with your huge social media audience).
7. Reviewers Are Your Book’s Lifeblood
Reviews help legitimize your book. They give readers who’ve never met you an idea of what they can expect with your book. Plus, more reviewers equals higher-visibility based on popularity algorithms.
So, how do you get reviews? Yes, you can start with your friends and family, but you need to expand beyond your circle of acquaintances. So, how do you do that? There are tons of platforms to send out your book (for free!) to reviewers. There are people who charge for reviews, but I recommend avoiding them because those reviews are not seen as legitimate to the publishing industry. It poses a conflict of interest, and there are plenty of reviewers who are willing to review your book in exchange for a free copy.
I’m a book reviewer on Bookstagram (the book community on Instagram), Goodreads, and BookSirens, and as an author and a book reviewer, I’ve had good experiences on both. But these are just three of HUNDREDS, if not thousands of book review websites.
This was a quick and dirty version of how to self-publish your book. You can do tons more, but this should be your bare minimum. You need other people to work on your story with you. You need beta readers, editors, reviewers, designers, and possibly people to help with marketing. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. You are creating a business around “you,” and your book is the “product.” The more “products” you get out, the bigger your business gets, and the bigger your following becomes.
So, yes, you can throw your book up on Amazon and hope you get traction, but if you want to be successful as a self-published author, I highly recommend following each and every step.
Elizabeth Suggs is the owner and founder of Editing Mee and co-owner of Collective Tales Publishing. She's also the LUW Romance President. When she’s not writing or editing, she loves to dive deep into books (the weirder, the better!), and she loves to take random long walks to unplanned destinations. Check out her recently released book Collective Darkness with eleven other authors. Buy your copy here: www.CTPFiction.com and follow her book reviews at www.EditingMee.com!