6 months into self-publishing with Amazon KDP and I’ve learnt some things along the way that I think everyone going down the indie author route needs to do to start their journey.
Perfect your Novel (novella/short story/ anthology etc. etc.)
This may be a no-brainer to some but I know the feeling of wanting to jump the gun and get that e-book out as fast as humanly possible! But you want to sell quality right? Or you’re not going to make lifelong fans who buy your subsequent works. So make sure you get an editor, proof-reader and bribe as many of your friends and family to read it too! If you’ve read your novel a hundred times I can guarentee you’ll still have missing words etc. because our minds have a very annoying habit of autocorrecting mistakes…
2. Get appropriate Cover Art
If you’re handy with photoshop you may be good enough to create your own cover art like I do. But if not it’s definitely worth hiring a cover artist who can make something professional for you.
Before you go off making the prettiest cover ever, have a look at covers in your genre. It may seem like a good idea to make a cover that’s different to what’s on the market but the best way is to have a cover that is similar enough to those in the same genre that anyone who comes across your book will know what to expect from it.
3. Formatting your ebook
If you’re going the Amazon route to start your book off then here’s a simple guide on the Amazon KDP website to get your ebook in shape:
If you’re going wide with your ebook then different platforms may require different formatting. To make this step easier I suggest publishing with Smashwords who will distribute your book to Kobo, Barnes and Noble, ibooks and Overdrive without all the hassle of doing it individually (yeah -I’m lazy like that but hey! If it saves time that you can spend writing then it can’t be a bad thing, right?)
Smashwords have a FREE downloadable formatting guide which you can grab here
Tip: Don’t put any links to Amazon in the ebook version that you upload to Smashwords (e.g links to other works) – ibooks will reject you and you’ll have to start the distribution process all over again – I learnt this one by experience 😉
4. Give out Advanced Reader Copies
I can’t impress upon you enough to do this! Find as many people as you can to give your book to in exchange for HONEST reviews (seriously, don’t go buying people off fore reviews this is not cool AND will get your book kicked so far off of Amazon that you’ll never see the light of ebook again if they find you out!!!). You can set up a Goodreads page pre-publication so they have somewhere to post their reviews before your work goes on sale.
How do you find ARC readers I hear you ask?
Well, one way is to ask friends to read your novel and give their honest opinions (don’t ask family members because Amazon won’t allow any reviews on your book who have the same surname etc.I’m sorry it doesn’t matter if Aunt Bessy thought your novel was a modern day masterpiece! She simply can’t have her say online. Sorry Aunt B).
The most effective way is to get blogging and reach out to fans who do this sort of thing in their sleep (literally…some of these awesome bloggers are like machines devouring 10 books before their breakfast!)
Tip: don’t forget to contact your reviewers with your store links once your book is live so they can put their reviews on Amazon etc. for you!
Which leads me onto my next point…
5. Get blogging!
This is the number one way to get eyes on your work. If you haven’t already started blogging get off of this post and go sign up to wordpress or tumblr or something of the like and write a post about reading this post! Or just something to say hello to the world or readers and authors out there!
Okay – back? All signed up? Good!
You can pay to have a domain without the added /wordpress or /tumblr etc. So my website is simply: http://www.carolingpeckham.com
I think the wordpress one was in the region of 15.99 per year when I signed up. I thought it was worth it personally but it’s not necessary. It could be something you want to do further down the line when people start googling your name 😉
6. Click Publish!
If you’re publishing with Amazon KDP you’ll need to have an Amazon account. You can create one with them here otherwise just sign in with your existing one. You’ll need to go through a series of steps where you enter your bank details so you can get paid and you’ll also have to give tax information. When that’s all done you can ‘create a new title’.
Tip: Pick your keywords carefully. Think about what categories your work fits into and try to choose keywords that will help you rank well in those categories. Amazon have a whole page of information on this here including links to keywords and what categories they will assign you to.
If you’re not publishing with Amazon then the same rules apply for Smashwords. You can choose up to ten keywords but they won’t give you any advice on which ones rank you where. The best thing to do here is to use Amazon’s keywords as a guide seeing as they probably know what they’re talking about when it comes to what buyers search for.
7. Write your next book
Not what you were expecting? Well, I promise you that promoting the hell out of your first book is a fairly futile exercise. You may get lucky and strike big with your first work but this is not the way it works for 99% of us!
If you’re book isn’t part of a series then, as an indie author, I suggest you reconsider…
The best way to get noticed is to get more work out there. Consistency is key! If you can release a new piece of work every 2 – 3 months you will increase the amount of eyes on your name simply by having several books dotted around the ebook stores. Also, your budding fanbase will get used to you bringing out new books regularly and so you will stay in the back of their mind for longer.
8. Promote, promote, promote!
This bit is hard and long and neverending and I can’t say I’ve figured out the best ways for sure myself (I’m fairly certain it’s a combination of many tactics + a little trial and error + a dash of luck).
Once you’ve got 2 or 3 pieces of work floating around in the ebook world it’s time to get promoting. There are a thousand different ways that other authors swear by but this is my tactic…
Permafree with book 1 – BOOM my downloads skyrocketed when I went free with the first book in my series and now I’m reaping the rewards of followup sales on my subsequent books.
This isn’t as simple as going free then sitting back and looking smug with a cigar, you need to work at keeping your free book ranking in the top 100 of your best category. This is done by placing ads with promotion sites for free books (to name a few I like: ebookhounds, booksbutterfly, sweetfreebooks, readcheaply and the mother of all ebook promos which I haven’t yet managed to score…Bookbub)
Some people swear by Facebook advertising or Goodreads ads but I’ve had little to no success with these personally (perhaps it’s a genre thing? I write fantasy btw)
Good luck guys!