It’s easier than it’s ever been to write a book and get it published. First, you write a book. And then second, you publish it on Amazon or another platform of your choice, with a minimal amount of formatting work and couple of clicks. It’s that easy. Even I did it, with Takoradi to the stars (via Huddersfield).
Yes, it’s self-publishing. Maybe even what they used to call vanity publishing, though if you’re proud of your work – and you should be – then there’s no vanity there, just pride, satisfaction and hope. Take a pat on the back. Well done you.
That, sadly, was the easy part – although I’m sure it didn’t feel like it at the time. Now you want to get your book noticed and reviewed, because that’s how you’re going to get it out into the wider world.
I’ve worked at both ends of the publishing business. I’ve written books for major publishing corporations, and had the full weight of their promotional might behind me. That’s really easy. You do what they tell you, and your books sell – in lesser or greater numbers, depending on how good they are and what the competition is like, but they do actually sell.
Self-publishing is a different ballgame
But if you write and publish your own book, the rules of the game all change. The noise and clamour is unbelievable. Your book is one of thousands – hundreds of thousands – to be published in the same year, and you are not only the author, but designer, publisher, publicist, distributor and accountant. And you’re probably not doing this full-time, but working at evenings and weekends to promote the thing that you love the most in the world apart from your partner, children or pet. Hell, probably more than your children if they are making the same racket upstairs that mine are doing now will you please turn down that music I can’t concentrate on the blog
So here’s what you need to know, and what you’re going to have to do.
1. Write a good book, the best you can manage
That’s really the most important thing you can do. If you don’t believe in the quality of your book, then you won’t be able to convince anyone else to buy it.
2. Ask yourself why you wrote it
Because maybe you just wrote it for yourself, to see if you could. You never know until you try, after all. And if finishing your book has made you content, and if you don’t really care if you sell any copies, the good news is that you don’t have to do anything else.
However, if you actually do want to shift a few copies, say under 100, you are going to have to hit up every friend, colleague, connection and random stranger you come into contact with. All your conversations from now on are going to go like this:
Someone: Can you pass me the salt/what time are we due at that party/that will be £10 please/excuse me, do you know where the bus station is?
You: I’ve written a book you know, it’s very good, I’ve got a copy right here as it happens, look, no look closely.
Someone: *stares into distance hoping you’ll go away*
If you want to sell a lot more copies than a hundred then A) don’t be disappointed if you don’t, because selling your own book is really hard work and B) you are going to have to engage fully with social media and promotion.
3. Be better at social media than me
This is not hard. I have nothing else to offer you. Just be better at it than me.
4. Have a story to sell, that isn’t just the story you are selling
You’re going to have to make people care about you and your book, because it turns out that if you just shout ‘hey, I’ve got a new book out’ into the void, no one really notices.
So what’s your hook? What’s different about you and your book? How can you make yourself stand out from the crowd? What can you tell people that will add value to your story?
What’s so great about you and your book?
Coming up with a narrative about you and your book also helps when you send out press releases and information to newspapers and websites, because they don’t really care about your book per se – they care about people reading their newspaper or website, which they are more likely to do if there’s an interesting story about an author who once wrestled crocodiles for a living but now lives in [insert name of your local town] who just happens to have written a new book. You might not have wrestled crocodiles, I get that, but you are an amazing person, you’ve written a book for a start, so there is bound to be something else that makes you different and fascinating.
5. Start reading, following and interacting with book-bloggers
Book-bloggers are amazingly prolific people for the most part, and they read and review books for free. Social media is full of them, just follow the hashtags. You can’t just ask them to review your book though – well, you can, but they mostly ignore that. You have to metaphorically wine and dine them first by reading, following and interacting. You have to find book-bloggers who like the same things as you, and read the same sort of things that you write. You have to dangle your book in front of them, hoping that it’s more shiny and sparkly than all the other books that are being dangled in front of them. And you have to do it a in a non-needy, accepting, gracious kind of way, because these are nice people who love books and they are ultimately doing you a favour.
6. Be prepared to give your book away for free (if you can)
You know that saying, ‘I literally couldn’t give it away’? That will be you saying it about your self-published book.
You will doubtless want to run promotions and giveaways, and offer free books in competitions, prize draws, tie-ins and collaborations. Those are all great ideas. You will be able to distribute some books like this, but – here’s the thing – never as many as you might imagine, which is hard to understand for you because they’re free goddamit! Who doesn’t want a free book? Quite a lot of people in my experience.
No really, it’s free, just take one. TAKE ONE!
But from the free books that you do manage to give away, you will garner thanks and goodwill, which is lovely, and perhaps even some coveted Amazon and Goodreads reviews, which is lovelier still. And while free books don’t count as sales they are very much out there in the book world, being read and enjoyed, and that is surely why you wrote a book in the first place.
7. Have a book launch
Book launches are a chance to shout about your book on your own terms. You’ll invite people to come and hear about your book, and anyone that turns up is – by definition – already interested, so promoting it to them should be more rewarding than just announcing its publication on Instagram and hoping for the best.
Don’t know how to run a book launch? That’s OK, I’ve already done one – you do it like this.
8. Don’t give up
It’s easy to get downhearted. It’s also easy easy to equate sales with success, which means it’s easy to think you’re a failure because your book isn’t being noticed, reviewed or racing up the best-sellers’ chart.
Don’t do any of that. Here’s why I think it doesn’t really matter how your book performs, if you’re proud of it and proud of yourself for having written it. Sales, reviews, chart positions – all just icing on the cake, but let’s not forget that you made that cake!
Don’t give up. You’re great. Your book is great.
Hold it in your hand. Marvel at its existence. That’s your book. How fabulous is that?