Self-Publishing a Book: 6 Critical Things Every Author Must Prepare For

by | Jan 16, 2024 | Being in Business as an Author

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Self-publishing a book is an exciting thing – I just put my latest book up on Amazon in early January and there’s nothing like it!

It was a delayed release, I was honestly hoping to get it out in Q4 of 2023 but I didn’t. Why? Because I needed to get it right, even if that meant delaying it. We live in an age of instant gratification, you can finish a book on Monday and have it uploaded to Amazon by Tuesday. But even though you could, it doesn’t mean you should.

While the freedom and control that come with self-publishing a book are unparalleled, success in the competitive world of books requires careful planning and execution, and sometimes, as was the case with me, a delay till you get it right. In my situation it was the cover, I needed to get it perfect and, frankly, it took a lot longer than I wanted it to. In the end, I’m glad I waited.

If this is your first experience with publishing, or if you already published a book that maybe didn’t do as well as you hoped it would, we’ll dig into six critical must-dos for launching any book!

Investing in Professional Editing:

I listed this first because it’s one of the most important elements of releasing a book. Sometimes I hear from authors who say they let Microsoft Word or some other program do the editing for them to “save some money” – and honestly that’s one of the worst things you can do. Readers will pick apart bad editing and it will be reflected in both the reviews and your book sales. Also, a poorly edited book is disrespectful to the reader. They invest their time with your book and expect you to have done the same.

A well-edited book not only enhances your credibility as an author but also significantly improves the overall reading experience.

Eye-Catching Book Cover Design:

I mentioned earlier on that my book cover really delayed my book – and it wasn’t ideal but I wanted to get it right.

Your cover is your book’s first impression, it’s the thing that either drives readers to buy, or drives them away. Much like book editing, there are a lot of shortcuts when it comes to book covers, a lot of ways to self-design your cover. There are two things you should never do: cut your own hair and design your own book cover.

Strategic Book Marketing Plan:

Yes, writing the book is just the beginning of your journey – the real challenge is getting it in front of readers. A book marketing plan doesn’t mean that you have to create extensive lists or endless to-dos, but smart and strategic actions make all the difference. To start with, you’ll want to pitch your book for review or feature and you can do this by pitching thought leaders or influencers.

Using your time ahead of your book launch to investigate this area and find people to pitch to is a solid way to kick off your book launch. And keep in mind that you don’t have to pitch everyone on your list, in fact, don’t. Why? Because you’ll often only get one shot – and if you blow through all your potential leads at the start and the response is lukewarm you’re done. Instead, keep growing your list and keep pitching folks who might be willing to share your book with their followers. You’ll likely see better responses as your book gains traction, garners more reviews, etc.

Yes, you can use social media, your own website, eBook promos and the like to get the word out about your book, but remember people like what other people like – so getting folks talking about your book is a cornerstone strategy every author should add to their marketing plan. You can hate social media all day long, but reviews, features, or book spotlights are something that can really benefit your book long-term due to the extensive exposure they can garner.

Understanding Metadata and Keywords:

You can’t ignore Amazon, and you can’t ignore their algorithm, so learning how to find and use keywords and categories strategically should be part of every author’s toolkit when self-publishing a book.

Whether you do it yourself or hire it out, it’s not something you should ignore.

In the digital marketplace, metadata plays a pivotal role in helping readers discover your book. And it doesn’t end with categories and keywords. Book descriptions should be optimized as well. Optimizing your book’s metadata, including keywords, categories, and book descriptions will improve your book’s visibility on Amazon and increase its chances of appearing in relevant search results – and finding more readers.

Set a Realistic Budget:

I often tell authors that self-publishing a book is a pretty front-loaded investment. So it’s crucial to set realistic budgets for editing, cover design, and book marketing. Understand that investing in your book is an investment in your author brand, just like starting a small business. And it’s also important to understand that books rarely earn back their investment right away, also like starting a small business.

A lot of times authors want to see a complete return on their investment in the first week or two of the book being out, even the first 30-60 or 90 days is a bit unrealistic. That’s not to say that some books don’t do extremely well out of the gate, they do – but as a general rule, book success takes time to build.

You need to be committed to this for the long haul, because authors who stick with it see more success than those who give up when reality doesn’t match their expectations.

Building an Author Platform:

Let me say up front that an author platform doesn’t get built overnight, it’s an ongoing process that starts before self-publishing a book. At a minimum when you launch your book you should have a website in place. And a good way to use some of your “downtime” while your book is in editing, or before the book launch, is to get your feet wet in social media. Follow other authors, thought leaders, and genre influencers. Figure out what your reader demographic wants to hear, what drives engagement, and what falls flat.

If you want to start blogging, that’s a great way to build reader engagement as well, but it should be something that you’d want to keep doing for the long term. As with anything: social media, blogging, or starting a podcast, make sure that you’re committed to the work and don’t underestimate how much is involved before you see a return.

I’m a huge fan of blogging but it took well over a year for our website to start gaining traction from the blog. Why? Because there are a lot of people doing book marketing and talking about book publicity, how to launch a book, etc. Discovery takes time.

Self-publishing a book offers authors unprecedented opportunities, but success requires careful planning, execution, and … patience.

Authors often get impatient, and I get it, as an author I can tell you firsthand that putting that book up on Amazon turns me into a stock market junkie.

I find myself checking the sales rank frequently throughout the day – even though technically I know better – it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of seeing your book up on Amazon.

But excitement is just one of the many ingredients you need when self-publishing a book – a good dose of reality, and strategic planning have to be involved as well.

I hope this post has been helpful, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

Resources and Free Downloads

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Proven strategies to increase sales potential on Amazon.

How to Sell Self-Published Books to Bookstores

Why your Amazon reviews are getting pulled and what to do about it.

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