I am a writer. If you are looking to have words wrestled into submission in one form or another, I am your guy.
Along the way, I have also become an editor. I’ve spent time doing so professionally, and while not my first love, I enjoy working as an editor, too.
For a long time, I did my best to go the traditional route in publishing. There was a time I had an agent. But because he didn’t work with my primary genre — and to be honest the book needed a good edit — this went nowhere.
Times have changed, technology has changed, and self-publishing is easier than ever. For little or no money, you can get your work out to the public via Amazon, Smashwords, and other resources both electronically and on paper.
These are all really powerful tools — but they come with new and interesting challenges, too. You no longer just have to worry about writing and making changes after editing — self-publishing is an ultimate DIY challenge on multiple levels.
The finished product is your call — and begins with editing
As a self-publisher, you don’t have the same easy-to-tap resources as the big publishing houses do.
Traditional publishers have a marketing department, cover artists to go to, and even editors in some cases. And that’s if you haven’t gotten yourself an agent to be the go-between with the traditional publisher.
Writing is not your only end of the business as a self-publisher. It is wholly up to you to take care of finding a good editor, working with the edits you receive (and the depth of the edit you get will impact this a lot), and determining what you cover art should look like.
The editor I hired for (the first novel in my fantasy series) is the most expensive editor I have ever worked with. But I so, so got my money’s worth from her — and more.
Not only did she help make my book better, stronger, and more marketable — she taught ME a lot of things about my craft I didn’t comprehend before. She helped me understand point of view, certain word choices, and comprehension of why even the best writers need editors.
In the end, she taught me how to be an editor. While I know I am not as good as she is — I am good enough to work professionally with this skill.
Before you publish you NEED an editor. Note: You CANNOT be your own editor. A second set of eyes makes a huge difference in finding errors, typos, and consistency issues.
While an editor is going to cost you some money — it is still very worth the expense. An edited book is going to be a lot more polished than one which is not. It also distinguishes you, your professionalism, and sets a tone for your writing business.
What will your cover look like?
Then comes covers. I cannot knock the tools in KDP (and formerly with Createspace) for cover creation. They give you a lot of options and can allow you to make a decent cover.
I’ve made use of this for my first several books. When they were just graphic covers, the DIY of KDP is more than sufficient. When you begin to work with your own art of any sort, while there are choices available, the result is more subjective.
But a great cover requires an artist. And if, like me, you aren’t much of an artist — that means you need to hire one.
Hiring any-old artist is a choice — but an experienced cover artist will help you avoid issues and pitfalls in cover creation. They know how to combine imagery and text to make a final product that will help sell your book.
The first time I used an artist to make me a cover, he gave me great art. But I had to do the rest of the work to turn it into a cover. This was why — as covers go — it’s pretty so-so at best.
For my last novel — and the next two — I have found a cover artist I really like — and her work is excellent. Yes, it’s another expense — but worth the money.
A great cover can make a difference in book sales. Though, indeed, you can’t judge a book by its cover — people still do so all the time. So, consider that as part of your DIY process.
Self-Publishing DIY — You are the sales and marketing department
Major publishers do most of the marketing for you. They take care of advertising and getting your name out there. At least, that’s my overall understanding of the process.
As a self-publisher, the marketing department is YOU. That means all the marketing for your books falls on your shoulders. If what you do for marketing fails — it’s entirely on you.
This has been the biggest challenge for ME regarding self-publishing. I am still working out the best way to do this without spending a ton of money — nor spending money and getting a next-to-no return on investment (ROI).
So far, this has included doing advertising via Facebook, Amazon, and Amazon Kindle. While this has gotten me some sales — it is not much of an ROI in the face of what I spent on editing and cover art.
This brings me up to the second issue that I have a hard time with as a self-publisher. Sales.
If you don’t sell your books you don’t make any money off them. Super-simple math right there.
On the one hand, I have had a knack for sales in my past. But on the other hand, I find it very difficult to put myself out there in the necessary ways to make more sales happen.
This is book sales. Cold-calls are not a thing. I can post to social media in various ways — but unless I can persuade all my friends to buy my books, and then get them to persuade their friends to buy books — this will only take me so far.
Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand. Good marketing leads to more sales. That’s how you get out there and make your business as a self-publisher successful.
If your DIY sales and marketing skills need a boost you need to work on that.
What do I do for sales and marketing?
This is where I am stuck presently. Not so much stuck as considerably uncertain and trying to find a new and better way to make more. What tools am I not using for marketing? How can I do better? What can I be doing to expand marketing and get more sales?
The irony of this isn’t lost on me. More than once I had a job where marketing was a part of my work. As good as I have been at marketing, I know I have never been great. Adequate, not lacking — but not great.
I need to get better at this if I am going to increase my sales. The next step is more research into book sales and marketing options — and considering if there is an option to hire someone to help. But without any guarantees, that could be a major hit on the ROI — or a massive improvement.
The point is that I do not need to go at this all by myself. There are options available to me — but I must take the initiative and make use of them.
While self-publishing is an ultimate DIY challenge, it has the potential and possibility to be utterly amazing. I always said I wanted to be my own boss. Writer/editor/publisher/marketer sure looks that way to me.
Now that I have put this here — it’s time to act on it, of course.
Thank you for being a part of my ongoing journey. Thank you for joining me, and for inspiring me and my craft.
Know that you are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done our thoughts, feelings, and actions matter, as does how you work as a self-publisher.
Originally published at https://www.mjblehart.com on August 29, 2020.