Publishing a book yourself is great, because you have control of when and how it’s released, set the price and sell it internationally without having to wait for distribution rights.
However, without a traditional publishing deal it can be harder to find a readership beyond your immediate acquaintances. Here are some pointers to get you planning ahead and maximising sales opportunities.
You need to be planning your marketing strategy at least six months prior to your chosen publication date. As part of the final process of editing, give consideration to your blurb and your front cover.
Marketing and Self-Publishing
The blurb is the first thing customers will read, and is particularly important if you are only publishing online, as covers are often displayed in a small size on sites such as Amazon. Think about your target readership and find a way to persuade them to make a purchase. If you’ve written non-fiction, perhaps you can get a quote from a local business or community leader to help you promote the book. If you’re publishing fiction, don’t give away any twists or ending!
With eBooks, the cover will get noticed, and even more so if the book is printed. You want it to stand out on a bookshelf and draw in attention. It’s vital that this looks professional, so if you’re not overly confident with your design skills, you can pay someone to produce you a good-quality cover without it costing the earth.
Make a list of your keywords to boost where you appear in search rankings. With eBooks you can add your own keywords to make sure you’re as visible as possible.
Self Publishing: What Else?
It’s also important to get an ISBN (via Nielsen, Independent Publishing Network or other) for your book, so that it appears on retail systems and can be found and sold. Do this at least 22 weeks before the publication date, and you can benefit from inclusion in catalogues sent out to libraries and shops. Send as much information as possible – ISBN, blurb/book description, category or subject, price and so on – to the data collectors such as Bowker or Nielsen so it can be shared.
Once this is done, you need to encourage people to buy your book. Be aware that buying decisions are made three to six months in advance, so if you’re hoping to reach the Christmas market, these are chosen by the end of May.
Try to be targeted with the retailers you approach. Focus first on your local area, your hometown if it’s elsewhere and any locations used in your book. Look for specialist booksellers in your subject area.
Produce an advance information sheet (AI) and send it to your chosen retailers. This is a single page document containing the same information you’ve sent to Nielsen, along with your cover. You can adopt it slightly to make it more specific to types of retailer.