Wednesday, February 5, 2014

You Won NaNoWriMo (ie, wrote a book)!? Now What? Part 2

Oi! How the time flies. It's a lame excuse, but work and personal life was just too much over the holidays. I was burnt out. Now, here it is February and it still feels like I'm going 100 mph. Anyway, here's my follow up article to Part 1. So, what follows is the second part of my list of "must haves" for successfully self publishing your first novel.

5. Know Where You Want to Publish

This might seem like a no brainer, but determining where you want to publish ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) - This is an absolute must. They are the largest provider of ebooks in the US, with coverage across the globe as well, and growing
Nook Press (B&N) - Strictly US and UK distribution. Their website is pretty awful and some of the publishing quirks are strange, but it's still got strong name recognition
Kobo Writing Life - Remember Borders Bookstores? Well, this was their Kindle/Nook. Still very popular in Canada
Apple iBookstore - Still haven't jumped head first into the book game, but too big to ignore. Need to have a Mac in order to upload through their service, but there are other options (read on)
eBook Aggregators
Smashwords and draft2digital - Third-party distributors that will, essentially, do the work for you (for a small fee). You submit a single file (formatted to their standards) and they send it out to the various ebook sellers (see above) and then some (eg, Sony, Diesel, Oyster). If you aren't tech savvy, this may be the most logical option, though be warned that Smashwords' formatting requirement may just have you pulling your hair out by the end of the day

There are many print-on-demand (POD) options out there with CreateSpace and Lightning Source being two of the most popular. Formatting a paperback is very different from formatting an ebook, plus you'll need a different image file. Though both of these services offer create-your-own-cover options, I would recommend asking the artist who created your cover (because bad covers don't sell books, remember?) to create the binding and the back cover as well. It'll cost a little more but, again, well worth the expense. So, you might be asking yourself, "Do I really need a paperback?" Well, do ya punk? ;-) Paperbacks are fun to have and require very little additional expense. It's a tangible token of your accomplishment, they make great gifts, you can use them for marketing at book events (yes, people still buy paperbacks), and believe it or not, folks may even want you to sign it!

6. Build a Platform

Whether you put yourself onto every social media site known to man, or focus your efforts on one, you need to have a place where you can talk to potential customers and colleagues. Create a Facebook page, join Twitter, create a blog, or build a web site. It's important to have a web presence. Personally, I've ventured out to them all and found that I just don't have the time to keep up with all of them. I'm an irregular blogger, an occasional Twitterer, and a fairly faithful Facebooker. Don't even get me started on what an awful Plusser I am (Google+). Even if your book isn't ready to launch, you can build up a fan base. Talk about your writing. Talk about the subject matter. Read other blogs on those subjects and make thoughtful comments.

You too can have a giant too-close-for-comfort face shot on Facebook!

Establishing a platform can build an audience who is willing to listen to what you have to say. Be engaging, start conversations, find a like-minded forum and talk about what interests you. If you become a trusted voice, you may find that folks are willing to help you out when your book launches.

Just don't get overwhelmed. Remember that you're a writer first. Social media can be the biggest "time suck" known to man. Limit yourself to a small time frame every day. Ten minutes here, five minute there, another five minutes to craft a smart response to an article. I recommend picking two social media channels and dedicating yourself to becoming a part of the writing community there. Spamming tweets and Facebook posts about your book will only leave people with a bad taste in their mouth. Make comments, have conversations. They're just people like you.

7. Develop Your Thick Skin
It's going to happen. You're going to put your work out there and someone... some fool... some horse's arse who doesn't know good writing from chicken scratch... will give your pride and joy... your brilliant masterpiece... a nonsensical 1-star review. Be prepared. It happens to the best of us. Deep breath... it'll happen to you too. Go to Amazon and look up the best book you know and you'll find that some snarky troll has slapped it with a 1-star review. Know why? Because they can. Now, are all 1-star reviews the work of trolls? No. But, we're going to pretend that your masterpiece is at least good enough to avoid deserved 1-star reviews.
One of my favorite reviews for my debut novel, Multiples of Six, is a 2-star review. Why? Because it's absolutely honest and well thought out. Plain and simple. You can't argue with the truth. But, that being said, you can't argue with lies in this business either. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard of authors responding to bad reviews. It never ends well for the author. Do yourself a favor... look forward to your first bad review. Cherish it... give it a hug... welcome it into your home... then lock it in the closet and leave it alone. Sure, you may hear it whimper on occasion, but don't be tempted to respond. It'll never go away, but you can only hurt yourself by trying to "fix" it.

8. Get a Head Start on Book #2
Nothing sells a book like another book. I wish I had followed this advice. Apparently, I just didn't have enough of a head start (what can I say, I write my thrillers slowly)! If you're writing a series, it's essential to have that second book ready to come out on the heels of first. If your're not sure you can write the next one quickly enough, you may want to consider holding off until #2 is ready to go. Yes, you heard me... hold off. You'll thank me. In this day and age of quick publication, readers no longer have to wait years to get their favorite (self-pubbed) author's next book. Sometimes, it's as little as a couple months. Russel Blake is cranking them out every six weeks! Sure, we can't all be that prolific... or anywhere near that prolific in some cases, but we can glean from that an important point; if a reader likes book #1, they like to know that they can pick up book #2 right away. Of course, this isn't just for series. This carries over to stand-alone books as well. So, what are you doing reading this? Get back to work!


I hope you enjoyed my list of what you need to self-publish. Again, I'll reiterate that this is not a comprehensive list and that monetary success with self-publishing is never guaranteed. However, if you've got these things set, you'll be well on your way to self-publishing the best book you possibly can.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Am I missing something? Please feel free to post questions or comments on any of these topics below. Thanks! :)

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