Self-Publishing Tip #6 – Get Your Extended Marketing Plan Together

It's true that marketing should start long before you have a finished product to sell but it isn’t where marketing stops.

Pre-release is important but knowing how and where to position your book after the release date is what will bring the most readers.

Ask yourself some questions

Like I said in the last post, family and friends love you and are likely to not only purchase your book right away, but also share your book link with their circles. And how good does that feel?

It’s amazing!

Selling your book is why it went out there to begin with and you’re thrilled to have so much support. But remember, those people are only buying one copy each and the pool will dry up quickly.

There are lots of factors that push a person to buy a book or say no thanks. You have to look objectively at your book and answer these questions about who your book appeals to:

  • Do the people you know read fiction?
  • Are they attracted to your genre?
  • Are they in your target age demographic?
  • Have they read something similar recently that they enjoyed (or disliked)?
  • Do you want to do this for a living or are you comfortable selling only to family and friends?

Approach books as a business

To sell more and move into the life of a full-time author you need to reach past your personal circle. You need to go where more people will be able to get their hot little hands on your hot new novel.

Do what companies do and research where to find your audience.

When you find the places your book will thrive in the long term and you can connect with your readers for the foreseeable future, that’s the result of your extended marketing plan.

Let’s look at it from another angle.

You probably have a number of restaurants that are your go-to favorites. But why do you love them? Is it the food, service, style, all of the above, something else?

Say, for example, you love to eat somewhere and they play rock music. You might not enjoy an establishment that only plays classical.

You're the audience of that restaurant and for one to thrive their vibe needs to gel with enough people where they’re located. They have to do lots of research on where to open shop for the biggest potential return on their business investment.

Now imagine you’re the restaurant and your book is the rest of everything – the food type, interior design, music, wait staff uniforms...

You know your book inside and out and know that its rock ‘n roll not classical.

So where does a rock novel set up shop?

For self-publishers there are numerous choices for ways to market your novel. Some of those include:

- Virtual blog book tours
- Twitter
- LinkedIn
- Other social media
- Articles on popular websites
- Guest posts
- Speaking engagements
- Public forums (television, radio spots, etc.)
- Press releases
- Groups (virtual such as on Facebook or in-person local groups)
- Advertisements

Those channels are where the classical novels go as well, it’s all about finding the right blog, social media outlet or public forum for your unique book.

Lots of self-publishing authors will turn to twitter because it's a great place to connect with a very large audience. Twitter lets you search for specific hashtags, readers, or other writers that enjoy your genre so you can start networking from day 1.

The drawback to twitter is that it will take time to build an authentic audience so there could be a lag in your book’s sales.

One of the great things about this direction though is that it is free. Other methods will cost. Sometimes, big bucks.

How much can you afford to spend on marketing?

In reality this should be the first thing you assess when you’re getting an extended plan together. Marketing can be free, like twitter, or untouchable for some people’s budgets in other cases.

You need to determine how much you can really spend to position your book. Keep in mind that no one way is better than another, it's all how you work with what you got!

Some indie authors do 80% of their marketing for free and have small operating budgets. Others spend a lot and hire people or other services that help them grow with minimal time investment.

Advertising on television or radio, even in a local newspaper, can cost significant money. Especially when we’re first getting our work out there.

And keep in mind, you can always start for free and move into paid plans as your sales increase. Or dive right into paid advertising. The choice is yours but stick to the right locations for your novel and budget.

In the next post I'll share what self-publishing authors should be aware of as their careers grow. Hint: it never ends no matter how many books you release.

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Self-Publishing Tip #5 – Start Setting Things in Stone and Early Marketing

The reason why traditionally published authors end up releasing books so methodically is because they’re given a deadline by their house for the final manuscript.

So keep in mindthat as a self-publisher your writing, editing and releasing process can be as fast or as slow as you want it to be.

Because of that it might seem like your book will never see the light of day.

Remember when I said in Tip 4 your next big step in this process is marketing? Well, the truth is marketing should overlap your editing process. Because you need to start talking about the book once you know you'll release it, even if it isn't finished yet.

The best way to ignite a marketing campaign? Set a date for release.

You might wonder how that's possible - to set a release date before the thing is even done. But not only will doing that hold you accountable to meet the deadline, it also starts getting your followers (marketing!) talking about you and your book.

Buzz isn’t just a buzz word

Building an audience who will talk about your work takes time. You’ve already been alive for however many years and in that time you’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of people. That’s a network to start with in talking about your book.

However, friends and family only go so far. After they have supported your efforts to their greatest potential (yea friends & family!) your job is to continue selling your book.

So how do you do it?

Start building an audience. Twitter, LinkedIn, writing your own blog and even face-to-face opportunities are all a great way to start spreading the word about your upcoming release date.

You can guest post or go on blog tours specifically designed to showcase your book. Or go chat with other writers and readers in forums, take part in some groups either in-person or online, or both!

Talking to others about your impending book should do 2 things:

1. Get your readers excited for the release and
2. Get yourself so excited for the release that you finish all the stuff necessary to release the book on the date that you set.

And the cool thing about connecting with people is if you truly take the time to care about your audience they’ll reciprocate and suddenly open your world up to a whole new network of people.

Due diligence is critical in picking your publishing venue

When I started in the self-publishing industry I encountered all manner of scams, potential scams, real solutions that weren’t right for me as well as the place I finally came to trust with my finished manuscript.

While I was talking to others about my book and theirs I made sure to do tons of research about where my book would eventually live.

First I discovered Vanity Publishers. Vanity style means you’ll get a good deal of the things you’d get with a traditional publisher - document setting, printing, maybe even marketing efforts - but you pay for those services. The biggest drawback is they aren’t cheap and don't always have the best reputation.

Vanity wasn’t going to work for me. I was on less than a shoestring budget.

I turned to print on demand (POD) publishers.

A POD worked for me because I could format my document as I liked, upload it to the site, add a cover and print just one copy if I wanted. I didn’t have to order a minimum hundred or so copies like many Vanity Publishers required.

So I researched and narrowed down to three PODs – Blurb, CreateSpace or Lulu. Blurb, I soon found, was great for putting together a stunning visual book with photos or illustrations but their strength wasn’t paperback novels.

CreateSpace and Lulu both had advantages and disadvantages. But both are geared toward books so in the end it came down to a personal choice. I went with Lulu because:

  • They had multiple printing locations across the United States meaning the books would be shipped from as close as possible when orders were placed.
  • A member of my Writer’s Group here in AZ used them and her book page looked very professional and detailed.
  • I could set my price, schedule Global distribution and link up to Amazon if I ever decided to create an eBook.

Once I settled on Lulu it was time to set the date. I chose April 20, 2012 and here's why...

It was the date marked in my journal on the story where many of the characters in Ripple the Twine were originally spawned. That was back in 1999.

It only took 13 years to get my first book to market!

Creating Writesy Press, finding beta readers and marketing

In January of 2012 I made the firm decision to self-publish so it only seemed right to have a house of my own. Writesy Press was born!

Setting up the micropress, and subsequently setting up an LLC, made me feel like my business - the business of writing - was official. It felt great.

I made the final formatting edits and compiled the pages as Lulu needed them to be for the size paperback I chose. Then my first order was placed and I bought the pre-order copies for the amazing people who ordered early.

Finally, release day arrived!

Staying focused on the 3 months I had to pull it all together kept me working hard every day.

Be sure to pick a deadline that will work for your schedule outside of writing and start the process of releasing your book to the world!

Earlier posts in this series:
Tip 1 - Write the Book
Tip 2 - Forget Your Book Exists
Tip 3 - Prepare for the Hard Work of Editing
Tip 4 - Look at all Your Publishing Options

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Self-Publishing Tip #4 – Look at all Your Publishing Options

By now you have a firm understanding of the first, second and third tips associated with self-publishing a fiction novel. And you know that it's a lot of work.

Wait, let me rephrase that…

It is a LOT of work!!!

But as someone who has self-published two books I can safely say there are few accomplishments that feel as fulfilling in the world for a fiction writer.

But let me reiterate, self-publishing is a lot of work because you'll be doing all the stuff that comes after the writing and editing are finished. And believe me when I say that in comparison, the writing is the easy part.

Please understand that I'm telling you how difficult self-publishing is going to be because if it's the direction you plan to go then you need to be fully committed. It isn't for everyone and that's okay.

Why did I choose to go the self-published route?

The easy answer is because no agents bit on my query.

The more complicated answer is because I read enough stuff written by both types of authors - traditional and indie - to know that marketing was going to be my responsibility either way.

Sure a house will do all the formatting, printing and maybe even provide a cover and blurb, but they don't sell you and your book like they used to do. They don't have to because the world of reading has changed so drastically in the past few years.

I was old school (AKA: green) when I finished my first book. I thought you had to have an agent, publisher and a cross-country book tour to be an official Author.

And then there's the other thing I considered the most important part – a physical book with my name on the cover.

You get some of that stuff traditional or self-published

My first book is a story I really love but the writing is admittedly a bit stiff and more focused on narrative than dialogue. It was a tough sell from the start and then I had to somehow get across the geographically specific details about a tomboy who only slightly falls into a category.

After about 20 rejections I started to research self-publishing.

You might question the strength of my MS considering I just said my book was a little stiff, but allow me to defend myself here. After my beta readers gave me massive feedback, I edited the heck out of the thing again.

Couldn’t I have shopped it again after edits?

Sure I could have sent out new queries, but I was close to 3 years invested into the book already. I wanted the characters out there. I wanted them to be living somewhere other than my computer.

Frankly, I knew it was time to set them free. I had a feeling that wouldn’t happen fast enough if I went traditional.

The query process would have taken another 3 or so months, then, if the book sold at all, another probable 2 years before it would ever make it to the shelf of a bookstore.

I made a choice.

To format the pages, proof it and find a print on demand (POD) publishing option seemed like it would be much faster.

Not to mention it would mean I’d have full control over the process.

Things you'll need when self-publishing:
  • Cover art (making it, hiring someone to create it)
  • Copyright (submitting to the Library of Congress and other legalities)
  • Barcode (for print books only - buying, attaching)
  • ISBN (buy the pack of ten if you plan to publish more than 2 books)
  • Page formatting (a time consuming and highly repetitive process)
  • Jacket copy (get your blurb together)
  • Gathering of additional pages (blanks for spacing/numbering, a copyright page, author bio, acknowledgements, etc.)
  • Headshots (for your website and other marketing materials/back cover)
  • A business plan, marketing plan and funds to execute both

Remember how I said it’s a LOT of work?

Well, it is. But all the bleeding, perspiring and tears are so worth it in the end when you have a fully completed piece of fiction in your hands.

With your name on it.

I’m not trying to scare you out of self-publishing but, in my opinion, it does take an even bigger level of dedication than writing the book in the first place. Going this route isn’t for the faint of heart, the lazy or the wishy-washy.

You’ll need to make specific choices in regard to layout and formatting that will impact the next big stage of your self-publishing process: marketing!

In the next post you’ll learn how to choose the right host for your book and why you need a deadline to stick to for its release date. HINT: It's not about them, it's about you this time.

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Self-Publishing Tip #3 - Prepare for the Hard Work of Editing

In the first post from this series I shared the secret of why many would-be Authors fail.

Then when we last chatted, I encouraged you to take a vacation in an attempt to get your head on straight.

And I hope you're ready because now you get to have some fun.

Now you get to run your manuscript (MS) through the first round of edits. And you're doing this one on your own.

Why do I have to edit my own work?

A fair and honest question. One that deserves a bit of attention before we get into the editing process of a first draft. 

At this point in the book writing process your book is still a shell. No one (hopefully) other than you has seen it yet so you have free reign to do whatever you want to whichever part of it you want to change.

Not sure why you even included that character in chapter fifteen? Kill them off. Delete them completely. Write them out. No one will ever know!

And the same works in reverse of course. To punch up the story maybe you need a new character somewhere.

Send your characters on a trip. Add and subtract at will in order to craft a story that flows. Your draft was the framework, now you're putting up the walls, windows and doors.

Now let's look at how I did that while editing my books.

Just keep in mind that not every method that worked for me will work for you. Because every author is different just like every book is different. But if you apply the basic principals here it should keep your editing time organized and efficient.

I refer to handwritten notes

Recently I wrote on how to use a journal to keep track of details in your novel. You can read about that here. Using that journal, a printed copy of my MS and a red pen (or 4) is how I roll into my first round of edits.

Lots of people enjoy doing all their editing on the computer. Typing certainly is faster than handwriting so it could help bring your MS to completion sooner. The best method is always to follow your instincts and do what you’re most comfortable with. For me that's by hand.

Writing by hand is known to help the brain retain the material in a more meaningful way. And I can say it really does work for me. In fact, on days when I feel less than inspired I usually end up handwriting a scene or two.

Like I said in the post, the notebook helps me keep track of timelines, names, and other detail specific information. I refer back and forth while editing to make sure the overall story has no holes.

Addition and subtraction

Imagine you get to page 220 and suddenly realize your character would never do what you put her in the situation to do. You know the scene has to go.

But to transition to the next scene you do need something to happen to your character at this part of the story.

It’s time to slash & add!

On the printed copy I went through the entire thing, line-by-line and page by page. I made notes on the pages directly, sometimes even edited entire chapters by hand as re-writes. I printed in black and edited in red until the thing hemorrhaged so hard it was practically a new book.

And that's the fun part of editing - letting the characters help guide you to the correct struggles and solutions for their story, not the story you want to tell.

Hats you’ll wear

Re-working your MS shouldn’t stop after the first edit though. In truth, you’ll likely want to re-read, edit and proof your MS in the neighborhood of 4 times before sending it to a pro.

By doing a lot of it yourself, you'll save a lot of money on a pro when you send your finished copy out for final edits.

Authors should have a familiarity with the various types of editing because we have to use them all.

The 4 types of editing most important to complete are: Substantive, developmental, copy editing, and proofreading.

Substantive will show you plot holes to be filled, developmental should help to reshape the story into a tighter and more tailored piece of work, copy editing will adjust the text to read coherently, and proofreading is your final spelling and grammar read-through.

When you gradually ease back in slash & burn with each round of edits the story becomes more polished and complete.

Then when you send it out to a professional you've helped them do a better job by providing them with a more complete story. Which helps them make real-time suggestions that help you release the best book ever!

All helpfullness all the time!

My editing story

All of that work took me close to two years to complete on my first book. My time was limited because I had a full-time job. I’d paint by day and write or edit when I had a few days off.

It was time consuming but I just kept thinking about that 'how to eat an elephant - one bite at a time' saying and persevered through to the end.

And you can too. One word at a time.

In the next tip in this series I’ll share what made me choose self-publishing over traditional publishing.

Beware: It may not be the reason you think.

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Self-Publishing Tip #2 – Forget Your Book Exists

Okay. Easy now. No sudden movements. Step away from the manuscript…

There. That’s better. Now, hand me the pen…steady…there.

And, breathe.

Good job, writer! You just got a little bit of the distance you need from your characters. And it looks like I showed up to grab that red pen from your hands at the exact right moment; one more second and you may have red-lined your entire book.

Now, take another deep breath and realize that even though you followed tip #1 – write your book – there is no reason to continue working on it at the same feverish pace you just came from.

In fact…

It’s time to reconnect by disconnecting

Look outside (Yes, remember outside? I know it was a while ago now but there are things outside your house/Panera/the library/wherever you’ve been holed away getting your book down on the page).

See that bright shiny object in the sky? The cars moving past? The farm fields gently swaying in the breeze? The ocean waves rolling in?

Insert the thing that exists in your corner of the world *here* then go out to enjoy it.

Forget you just finished writing a book.

Celebrate making it to 'The End' because that shit is HUGE! But walk away for a while and let those characters (and yourself) breathe before you continue shaping them.

I’m not suggesting you walk away forever

But here’s where most writers fail – you can’t be objective when you’re too close to something and can’t see the flaws.

And trust me, your manuscript has flaws.

How can I say that?

Because we all write a first draft that’s a virtual abomination. I sure did! If I could bring myself to go back and read that draft it would probably make me question how I thought I could write books for a living. That first draft sucks.

But it only sucks in comparison to my finished book.

Which is why I had to take some time away from it before I started self-editing.

Self-editing comes before you send it off to a pro. That virtual abomination as I called it really shouldn't be seen by anyone other than you at this point in the process.

And if you write anything like I do you'll have all kinds of weird notes about scenes, character discrepancies, plot bunnies and big gaping missteps you'll want to spackle and sand before anyone else sees your attempt at a book.

Because even though the draft sucks, the story doesn’t. However, only you really know your characters at this point. Stepping away from them just gives you a better look at them when you get back from vacation.

So go, get outside, call your family back, cook something other than a microwave meal and inhale life again for at least a few days. You've earned it. You deserve to relax for a few minutes after all that hard work.

Your clearer and more objective mind will thank you when you get back because the next phase, self-editing, is a lot of hard work too. But that's where the fun really begins!

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Self-Publishing Tip #1 - Write the Book

Welcome to the first in a series of tips that every self-publishing Author should heed and / or do in order to have a successful book launch.

Today’s tip might read a little obvious but as we explore the topic in more detail you’ll see why writing the book is the first thing you should always focus on.

…there’s a story in here somewhere

After writing and self-publishing two of my own fiction titles (which you can learn about here) it occurred to me that I ran through most of the process blinder than a T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

I knew I was chasing something but I couldn’t catch the moving target that came along with writing a book and bringing it to market. I couldn’t see the most important part. Because I focused on the wrong parts of the process. That is until I learned to go to the end to find the beginning. At that moment it all became clear.

There was this idea in my head for great characters and a fun, sweet story of their lives. So my first instinct was to focus on who would want to read that book. I wondered and researched if there was a market for my idea.

I’m here today to tell you that was the complete and utter wrong way to go about writing fiction. Especially your first book.

Market, shmarket

When you spend hours on QueryTracker trying to find an Agent who works with what you hope to write…someday…in the future…you miss the bigger picture.

The bigger picture being that someday is now.

It doesn't matter how big the market is or how many agents you can score. If you don't have a finished book to sell you aren't marketable. In fact, in a lot of instances these days agents and publishers want you to be an established author before they give you a chance.

Write first. Always write first.

Self-publishing is a viable alternative for 2014

Because when it all comes right down to it there’s a market for every kind of book you could ever imagine writing. Readers come in all shapes and sizes and they’ll read what they want to read.

Let me repeat that really quick because it’s a crucial part of the self-publishing puzzle – readers read what they want to read.

What a reader enjoys has little to do with a changing market. Plot lines that are hot today could be fizzling away tomorrow but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still people who enjoy that particular genre.

It means there’s going to be some sort of market for your book no matter what you write.

Get back to the thing you wanted to do - write books that you believe in - and you'll find the market.

I put my attention on scene, plot, character depth, structure and story. I made my book the best it could be.

I wrote like a mad woman, the story I wanted to tell, and I didn’t give a flying fig if any agent would pick me up. I knew I would enjoy the story so I finished writing it.

For me.

That first draft which allowed me to type 'The End' on my first novel was all for me.

…don’t hold back now!

You finished writing it, congratulations! So, now what?

Well, now it's time to edit. However, editing now could be a mistake.

We’re all afraid our writing might not resonate, and since those characters we created are our new best friends, we don’t want to hear anyone talking shit about them.

Meanwhile, we secretly hate our characters and want them all to pound sand. Or die in fiery page burning crashes.

In reality your finished manuscript is probably just as awesome as you. The trouble isn’t with the characters, the real issue is that you’re too close to the story right after writing it to edit properly.

In tip #2 I’m going to show you how to step away from your first draft for a while so you can come back to edit with a fresh perspective.

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