I’ve gotten a few mails asking me how I’ve approached publishing my work, so I thought I’d write up a post about it. I’ll preface by saying I’m certainly no expert, and anything that’s worked for me might not work for someone else, and vice versa. I’m not an outlier or one of the run away success stories, but I am now making my full-time living as a writer, so some of my experiences may be helpful. These are a few things that I do.
1. The Writers’ Cafe on the KBoards forum. Every day for me starts with a few minutes there. It has a vast amount of information relating to pretty much everything you could encounter as a writer. It’s up to date, with discussions on changes to the playing field usually starting up within minutes of the announcement being made. There’s also regularly updated information on what marketing methods are working, and those that aren’t.
2. Editing. It’s expensive, but in my opinion vital. Find a good editor and start building a relationship with them. It’s important to have an objective set of eyes look over your work. Find an editor who isn’t afraid to be mean to you. When you publish your work, readers will find any problems that exist. Better to know about them when you have the opportunity to fix them. For me, this point extends through the whole range: developmental edit, line edit, and proof reading. I also have some alpha and beta readers look over things before and after the developmental edit. I’ve told them to be as mean as possible too!
3. Covers. Probably best to outsource this one, unless you’ve artistic ability and training in the necessary software. With time and effort I could probably reach a point where I could put together reasonable covers—I love playing around with photoshop as my mapping efforts should show—but they’ll never be as good as those created by full time designers/artists. My time is better spent doing what I do, and leaving the artwork to experts.
4. Formatting. I’ve come to the opinion that ebook formatting (print is an entirely different matter) can be done by the writer. Learning the HTML coding and the process to format an ebook isn’t too difficult, and there is software now that will produce professional looking ebooks across the formats quite quickly. These make it far easier for me to react to any typos that have slipped through the net, and also update the front/back matter of the books when needed. I’ve learned how to manually code with HTML, and right now I’m experimenting with software called Vellum, which I’m hoping will speed and ease this process.
5. Distributing. Whether you choose to go exclusive with Amazon to take advantage of the benefits of Prime Borrowing (now also Kindle Unlimited, whatever it may mean for the future) and Countdown Deals, or make your book available everywhere you can is entirely up to you. I think there are good arguments on both sides, but I’ve chosen to make my books available in as many places as I can. The Writers’ Cafe is a good place to go to research people’s experiences of both options.
6. Advertising. As best I can tell, there’s no magic bullet on this one unfortunately. If you know of one, please tell me! I can keep a secret, honest! I’ve tried a few of the options here, and really can’t discount any even if I was disappointed with them at the time. They might not transfer into direct sales, but they may have a less visible effect on platform building and market exposure. It’s hard to say – a bit of a mystery to me really. Again, the Writers’ Cafe can educate on this, but trial and error will always be part of my approach, as what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. The genre you write in also comes into play heavily here.
7. Platform. I see my online presence as being a resource for people who read my books and want to know more, keep up to date, and get in touch. It’s a service for those who’ve already read them rather than a method of bringing more people in. Other people might approach this differently, which is perfectly valid, but this is the way I choose to position myself.
Finally, if you take your writing seriously, and want to make a career of it, the one piece of overarching advice I would give is professionalism. Create a professional product, and behave in a professional way. If you follow those two rules, I think you’re giving yourself the best possible start! (I hope!)
On reflection, I really should have mentioned building a personal mailing list under point 7, or in a point all of its own (I was going for a Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven kind of vibe though!). This is important, and, I think, increasingly so. There are a number of services out there that you can use, many of which are free up to a certain number of subscribers. Conventional wisdom (see Kboards for more on this) suggests to get started building a list as early as possible – even before your first book is out. I use mine purely to notify subscribers when a new book is released.
From personal experience – when sending out a mail, make sure to double check the subject line has the correct title for the relevant book!