Self-publishing can be a tricky business. While it definitely holds its own merits and rewards, it also comes with a set of guaranteed challenges—challenges you can’t shrug off onto an established publishing house like writers who go the traditional route. Book preparation and marketing are aspects of the self-publishing game that can be very difficult to manage for someone who’s not prepared. Here are a few pointers for getting started:
Make Sure It’s Well-Written
Okay, of course you’re going to think people want to read your book, and you might even be right, but you can guarantee straight off the bat that you’ll lose at least part of that captive audience with poor editing. A poorly edited book will appear unprofessional and can be dismissed before it has a chance to prove itself on its own merits. Presses both small and large incorporate this service into book production, and you may or may not see much of that process, but when you’re on your own, it’s all up to you.
Do yourself, your book, and your ongoing career a favor and hire a good editor and proofreader to make sure everything is well-researched, meaningful, consistent, and precise. Use your friends and personal contacts, too, to get as much feedback as you can. This will give you a sense of how your book will be received and what its strengths are, which will help you to market the thing.
Make it Pretty
No matter what the old adage teaches us, it’s nearly impossible not to judge a book by its cover. The cover is the first thing your readers will see — often even before the title — and if it looks dull, obscure, or amateur, people will be less likely to stick around long enough to find out more. Make sure your cover is eye-catching and appropriate to your content. You want people to want to look closer, but you also don’t want to misrepresent your book. For this part of the process, you need a good photographer, artist, or cover designer.
Don’t get so wrapped up in the cover, however, that you forget about interior layout. You will need to lay out your book to fit into your genre (i.e. do you have charts, tables, maps, illustrations?) and to maximize readability. Layout designers know all about the little details you may forget about in all the excitement, such as typography, spacing, outside margins vs. gutter margins, page number placement, etc.
Get People Talking
Once you’ve figured out your target market and made sure the book is ready to live on its own, it’s time to secure as much coverage as possible. Draw up a press kit and send it to local media outlets, journals that review books in your genre, local book clubs, bloggers, and other online resources. Don’t be afraid to contact all your self-published and traditionally published friends in the field for help spreading the word, and maybe a blurb or two!
Blogs, email, and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr can be excellent resources for self-publishers. They all offer different potentials for marketing and can be used to address a wider audience. What’s really great about them is you can find and speak directly to your target market, which allows room for interaction, feedback, and ultimately, growth.
Remember that preparing a book so that it’s ready to market can be a big job, and you’ll need at least some help from experts, even as a self-publisher.
Robin Field holds a BA in English and Linguistics from the University of Cape Town where she is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Linguistics with a focus on gender and game studies.