Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 5

In Article 4 for Self-publishing from Scratch, I wrote about building a website, why you should and what it might contain. If you missed it, it’s here. All posts are organised under the drop-down menu above: Self-publishing / Self-publishing from Scratch.

What do I focus on now?

Diana, now that you’ve shared the news that you’re writing a book with family and friends, and those you’re connected with on Facebook, including Aunt Pearl, who shared it to her 3,539 friends, and you’ve created your first website to have a home for your book, it’s time to increase your knowledge.

To be honest, every day should provide a window of opportunity to increase knowledge. It might be only five minutes, but personally, I dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes a day to expand my horizons. It’s not always about writing but more often than not, it is something I can use in my writing to enrich my stories.

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Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 4

In Article 3 for Self-publishing from Scratch, I wrote about platforms. If you missed it, it’s here. All posts are organised under the drop-down menu above: Self-publishing / Self-publishing from Scratch.

Article 4 will focus on one particular platform: a professional website. Professional as, this is a business website, not a rant and rave page where I alienate readers on petty topics and post pictures of my weekend out with the boys, getting drunk and stuck in the mud.

Why Build a Website?

I’ve been asked this many times in the past ten years. It’s often followed by, “I already have an author Facebook page (or another social media presence); I don’t need a website.”

Yes, you do.

Remember, I’m giving this advice to my younger self, the one who wanted to self-publish her book back around 2006. Due to writing friends discouraging her from taking that step, saying it would “ruin” her career, she put off self-publishing until 2010 and by the time she had enough experience to do it well, she had missed the easy boat. By 2015, it was more difficult to get books noticed, and she swam in a sea with millions of other hopeful writers.

Let me throw this out there: she didn’t have a fiction writing career to ruin, and her friends’ advice was based on nothing more than their opinion, which they had gotten from traditionally-published writers, who looked down on those who took the reins and drove their own wagon. Perhaps they were fearful of doing it themselves.

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Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 3

In last week’s Self-publishing from Scratch post, the advice I’d give to myself was to tell others I’m writing a book even if I was finished writing it yet. Once family, friends and neighbours are told, how do I get the word out to the world?

By building a platform.

What is a Platform?

A platform is your stage. You can jump onto it and improvise; this works well for some actors. However, most of us need preparation before the curtain rises. Every act is planned, dress-rehearsals are done and make-up is applied. Ideally, you want to know what impression you want to deliver to your audience and plan your performance with that in mind. The last thing you want to do is confuse your audience or send mixed messages.

Authors use this stage to influence the audience to buy their books, to support their writing career and to share the news about their books to those they are connected with, either personally or in social media.

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Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 2

The Next Step

After deciding how many books I want to write and publish, the next step in the publishing journey is promoting my first book. This step is one for writers in groups #3 and #4 as discussed in Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 1: writers who want to publish three or more books.

Wait. What do you mean? Promote my first book? I haven’t even written it yet. Or at least it’s not finished. I don’t know how to publish it. Why would I promote a book that isn’t ready for readers?

Why indeed.

Promoting My First Book

This is the advice I’d give to myself if I was just getting started in the publishing business. I need to start building interest in that book now. I need to start presenting myself as a writer now. I need readers to learn about me now.

So when my book is ready to publish and I hit that PUBLISH NOW button, I have at least a small following and my book has been seen by several thousand sets of eyes.

How Do I Promote a Book I Haven’t Finished Writing?

Easy. Talk about it.

Did you know, I’m writing a dystopian novel? It’s called Seeds of Life.

Phew! That was easier than I had thought. Who did I tell? Well, I first told my sister. She was impressed I was writing a book since I had flunked Grade 11 English. Then I told my neighbour – two people know I’m writing the book. They want to read it. Cool.

By the end of the week, I’ve told 30 people, and I’m eager to spread the news further. Oh, Facebook. I just posted the news to share with my “friends”. Here’s what I wrote: Hey, everyone. I’m writing a book, and I’m going to publish it. The title is Seeds of Life.

The girl I went to high school with commented: What’s it about?

Oh. Good question. How do I answer it?

Developing Your Elevator Pitch

This is when you start to develop what is called the Elevator Pitch. It’s describing your book in one sentence or two or three short sentences.

Answer: It’s about this girl who is born after the world is devastated. She’s kinda special because seeds, which are vital to life, are messed up, and she can fix them.

Thinks to myself: I’ve gotta work on that. I also gotta finish writing the book. I’ve only got 61,158 words written, and I’m aiming for 90,000 words.

Spreading the Word Further

In two weeks, I’ve told about 300 people I’m writing a book and publishing it but to sell lots of copies, I need to spread this news to the world. I could do it on Facebook, but I have only 226 friends, and only Aunt Pearl shared it. Wait. Aunt Pearl has 3,539 friends. I guess more people than I thought saw that I’m writing a book. Eek! I better get to finishing it.

To spread the word further, I need a platform. This is where promotion starts. It’s the stage where I promote my book to everyone in the world.

Next Week: Platforms: What are they and how do I create one?

Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 1

What is the First Step?

Using the information and experience I’ve gathered over the past 10 years of self-publishing and 23 years of writing professionally (Before I turned to fiction full time, I had a successful freelance business where I pitched non-fiction stories to magazines and newspapers), I’ve given careful thought about what my first step would be in the non-traditional, self-publishing world if I was starting the journey today. From this perspective, I’ll create this series of posts called Self-publishing from Scratch. It’s geared towards the writer who wants to publish their first book.

Step 1: How Many Books Will I Write?

This might be an odd question for some, but after thinking of many other questions, I kept backspacing and finished at this one. This question helps answer the ones that follow.

Each Writer is Unique

I’ve met a lot of writers over the past two decades. While we all love to write, we had different goals for our writing.

Writer Group #1

Some just wanted to write for personal reasons. They didn’t have the desire to see their stories in print. Others wanted to hold their book in their hand and share it with family and close friends.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these goals. Writing for them is self-satisfying. They don’t want to share with strangers, sell books or become a name in the business.

Writer Group #2

Some writers want to write one book. That’s it. They fall into the category of everyone has a book inside them, and that’s all they want to write. They want a few dozen copies to give to family and friends, and they think it’s cool to see it on Amazon’s website. They’re tickled pink to earn a few dollars to pay for their coffee once in awhile.

Writer Group #3

Some writers want to give it a shot, so they commit a few years, a few dollars and write a few books. Only half their heart is in it because, well, they like reading, but they don’t know if they like writing lots of books. They’ll be happy to sell a few, happier if they sell a million with little effort.

Writer Group #4

Then there are the hard-core, addicted, won’t ever stop writing writers. They don’t care about discouraging comments made by family, friends or inner voices, how long it takes, or if sales aren’t as high as they expected them to be.

They’re going to write book after book until they fill their shelves with titles. They’re going to burn the midnight candle, spend birthday money on paperback proofs and ads, attend workshops and markets, read countless articles on how to successfully write a book and sell it, learn how to do all the things they can to build a book and save money, and spend every day writing to reach their word goal.

These hard-core writers have their own individual goals: writing x-amount of books a year, selling x-amount of books, becoming a famous author, winning awards, etc.

The Number of Books and Self-publishing

Writer Group #1

The writer who wants to write for personal reasons or the one who wants to hold their book in their hands and share with family and friends, need never know how to self-publish.

Writer Group #2

The writer who wants to write one book and sell it on a small scale doesn’t need to put forth much effort. They could create a webpage so the book has real estate on the Internet, and anyone looking for information on it and links to buy will find it. Obviously, sales will be low unless the subject is self-propelling.

Writers with one book who want to sell that book like crazy need to learn marketing. The basics of self-publishing will carry them through to get that book published. They won’t need to repeat the process, just sell what they have.

Writer Group #3

Writers dabbling in self-publishing with the goal to write a few books, let’s say three, to see if they can make money at it need to know the basics. However, since they are not planning to spend the next 20 years writing or make a career from it, they don’t have to learn as much as those in Writer Group #4.

Writer Group #4

These writers will write as many books as they can until life forces them out of the game. They aim to make this their career and are looking forward to the day they can quit their current job to become a full time writer. The more they learn, the better they’ll be.

This is the group I’m in.

Who is Self-publishing from Scratch directed at?

This blog series is directed at Writer Groups #3 and #4. I will assume you want to write more than one book, and I’ll direct the conversation in that direction. That includes discussing the basics of formatting, setting up a website, getting an ISBN, starting a company, networking and many other things I’ve done to not only publish books but promote them.

The best time to write that novel and self-publish it was 15 years ago. The second best time is today.