Maybe you have an idea or a story that you’d like to share with the world. If you’ve ever dreamed of being an author, there’s no better time than right now to achieve that goal. Sure, there are a few things that you need to learn to make it happen, but you can do it.
There are many would-be authors who have never been able to find an agent and get picked up by a publishing house. But self-publishing allowed them to find a rabid and loyal fanbase helped then become a fulltime author.
Taking a non-Traditional Route
Years ago, everything had to be traditional. If you wanted to publish a non-fiction or fiction book, then you had to submit it to a publishing company. Many of these publishing companies wouldn’t even look at a manuscript if it didn’t come through a literary agent.
Literary agents were extremely selective in the clients that they took on. Some writers were refused – not because the quality of the writing was bad – but because the publisher or agent had already taken on a book that had a similar theme.
Many would-be writers gave up on the thought of publishing anything because it was just too difficult to break through. That’s sad, because there are no doubt many great stories that were lost due to the power of the traditional route of publishing.
There’s a lot to be said for traditions. But not all of them are good if they keep your dreams from coming true. When you have an idea or a story to be told, you deserve the chance to bring it to life – to get it into the hands of readers.
There are so many people that you can entertain or that you can help with your knowledge. Now, more than ever, it’s a lot easier to get published. You don’t have to bide your time and wait for a publisher to accept you.
You don’t have to send out queries and hope a literary agent will pay attention and want to sign you. If you want to become a published author, you just need to make the decision that it’s what you want.
Yes, it really is that easy. You may have seen the prestigious lists that showcase traditionally published books. The New York Time’s Bestseller list routinely mentions the books that sell well.
So does the USA Today bestseller list. If you’re like some people, then you probably think that hitting either one of these lists is something that’s reserved solely for those in traditional publishing.
But that’s not true any longer. You don’t have to go through a publisher to get your book on a list. There are certain criteria that does have to be met, which is basically that you need to sell a number of books in order to be considered a bestseller.
But that’s really not as hard to do as you might think it is. Plus there are numerous steps that you can take to make sure your book is one that sells well. So if you have a book in you that you want to get out, now’s the time to make that happen.
And the good news is that you can take a non-traditional route to publishing whether you write fiction books or non-fiction books.
Learning Your Craft Means More Than Just Writing
The first piece of advice you may hear about writing is to learn your craft. What that basically means is that you need to know what you should do in order to tell a good story.
But it’s not just about the writing. It’s also about selling. The more that you learn about the art of writing and selling that writing, the more money you’ll make and the better your book will be received by readers and reviewers.
As a self-published author, it’s going to be up to you to make sure your book sells. But that doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel. There are already so many ways that you can get your book in front of an audience.
You need to make sure you have a strong online presence. This means you have social media accounts that you update regularly. Each social media platform has ways that you can use them to promote your book.
Part of your online presence means having a website or blog where people can visit to find more information about your current books, upcoming books, etc. You want to be sure that your book blurbs are spot on.
The best way to write a blurb is to write one that’s geared toward your genre. For example, if you’re writing suspense, go look on Amazon’s top 100 bestselling books in that category.
Study how those blurbs are done. What you’ll usually find across all the genres is that the blurb introduces the main character, the trope or inciting event and the conflict. You should also learn how to use ads to market your book.
There are low-key or free places you can use to place ads, such as with sites that are open to self-published authors. These might be places like blogs with decent followings, influencer’s social media platforms, etc.
But you can buy ads on places such as Amazon. A word of caution: don’t just slap up an ad and hope it does well to advertise your book. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re wasting your money.
Learn how to do Amazon ads. That means you should know your target audience. You should understand and use relevant keywords. You need to know how to analyze your ad campaign to see what’s working.
You can also advertise on Facebook. You can set up your author page and then create your ad campaign. Though the site will walk you through it step by step, just like with Amazon, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you need to learn.
Otherwise, you’ll waste your hard-earned dollars. You can find free tutorials on ads for authors simply by doing an online search. Branding is something else that you need to learn about the craft.
This is a term that just means it’s what your readers can know or expect from one of your books. For example, if you’ve built a readership by writing sexy or steamy novels, it would be out of your branding to suddenly introduce a sweet novel.
When an audience of readers sees your name on the cover of a book, they know exactly what kind of story they’re in for. Across your books, you may have similar colors, fonts or book covers as part of your branding. It’s something that unites your books.
Writing to Market and Editing for Success
There’s a lot of confusion about writing to market and exactly what it is. Some writers think it means you have to write books that you don’t enjoy writing. That’s not true. You can write what you want.
When you write a book to market it only means that you’re writing a story that has a market or audience that wants to read that story and you’re meeting their expectations. This market is already there and it’s found in the type of genre you write in.
For example, you might write in the romance genre. If you look on Amazon under that genre, you’ll find it broken down into subcategories. These can be ones like romantic fantasy, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, etc.
Sometimes categories are listed by a trope such as “holiday romance.” When you’re writing to market, what you want to do is locate your main genre’s top 100, then drill down to the stats on the books that are the top sellers in that genre.
You’re paying attention to the book ranking because it will tell you if that category is oversaturated or not or if there’s a market or not. The less saturated a market, the less books you have to sell to hit Amazon’s top 100 list in your category.
What you want to find is the spot where there’s a market for your book, but not necessarily one where you wouldn’t be able to stand out. Writing to market means that in any given genre, your audience wants something specific.
For example, in paranormal romance, you’ll find that shapeshifters are a hot seller.
Now if you were to write something totally obscure like penguin shapeshifters, more than likely, you’ll find there’s no market for that.
So first, find the genre you enjoy writing in and then look at what’s selling in that genre. Look through the subcategories to find one that you feel best suits you. Once your book is written, it must be edited.
If you’re starting your career as a self-published author and there’s just no budget to hire an editor, you can either read the manuscript aloud to yourself – which helps to catch mistakes – or you can find beta readers.
You can find beta readers to help catch typos and grammar mistakes in your book in groups that you can find on Facebook. Just keep in mind they’re spending their time for free to help you with your book, so they’re doing you a favor.
Be polite and professional even if they don’t like your book. You should never turn in a first draft to an editor or beta reader. Edit the manuscript yourself by giving it at least one pass to check for consistency, plot holes, typos and grammar issues.
If you can afford to outsource to an editor, you’ll want to choose the type of editing that’s most needed for your manuscript. If you have a good grasp on sentence structure and you’re great at spelling, then odds are you probably don’t need a copyeditor or a proofreader.
What you may need is a developmental edit. This is when an editor looks at the entire book. He or she will check the pacing of the book, the emotional growth of the characters, conflict, the dialogue, and more to make sure everything is well done and balanced out. If you’re new to writing, you may benefit most from getting a developmental edit.
Picking the Right Platforms to Publish On
There are plenty of platforms to put your book on. Some authors stick to one, while others put them on several. This is a practice known as going wide. One of the easiest platforms to use is Amazon’s Kindle publishing.
Amazon is one of the first places that comes to mind when it comes to self-publishing. That’s because Amazon has a huge audience reach and actively promotes the books on their site.
Plus, if you choose to, you can upload both eBook and print versions of your manuscript on the site. The amount of royalties you can earn will depend on the price you set for the book as well as whether or not you set it up for the book to be exclusive to Amazon.
While you earn more royalties if you do that and may get better advertising from the site, if your book is pulled for any reason, then all of a sudden that income is gone. This is why many authors don’t put all their financial eggs in one basket and choose to go wide.
Another platform you can use to publish your book is Apple Books. It’s a simple step by step process to upload your book to the site. You can upload your book in something like Draft2Digital, which is a publishing aggregator.
This is a service where you upload your book in the site and in turn, it handles the distribution of your book to various platforms so that you don’t have to do all the work.
You can also sell your book through Ingram.
This is a site that can also distribute your book. Many self-published authors also use Kobo. All you have to do is upload your manuscript. You can choose the price, line up pre-orders and the site adds your book to their list of books for sale.
You do not have to be exclusive with Kobo, so you can choose to use multiple platforms to sell your books. Barnes & Noble is another platform for self-published authors to use. Their site is called Barnes & Noble Press.
To put your book on the site is similar to how you would do it on Kobo. You upload it and choose the pricing. Barnes & Noble will showcase your book using their marketing materials, such as their promotional emails.
Whichever platform you choose to use, you’ll have to make sure that you understand the terms of service, because violating it will get you kicked off the platform. Since percentages that each platform takes can vary, you’ll also want to make sure you set your price point to earn the amount of royalties you want to get after the platform’s cut.
Following Up Your Success with a Series
If you choose to, you can write a standalone book. Sometimes a standalone book takes off and does well financially and helps make the author a recognizable name among readers.
However, a book series can bring in more success, especially financially when they’re done right. Some self-published authors earn six figures by writing a series. A series can become part of your brand.
For example, if you write multiple books in a series about a detective, that detective series becomes what you’re widely known for. When readers get hooked with book one and love the character, they’re going to want the rest of the books in the series.
They become a fan and they want more to keep feeding their hunger for the world or the character. By creating a series, you’re building what’s known as a backlist. For example, let’s say you’re now writing book seven in a series.
Books one through six are known as your backlist. You can use book seven to promote your backlist simply by talking about it in the back of the book when you’re linking readers to your website or social media sites.
In books one through six, at the back of the book, you can offer a taste of the next book in the series as a way of hooking the reader in. When they read the first chapter of the next book that you show in the previous book, they want to continue the series.
You don’t have to stick to just one series, either. You can have multiple series. If you find that at the end of the series, readers are asking what happened before the characters came to life in book one, you can go back and write a prequel book and readers will buy that too.
The great thing about writing a series is that one book can hook your readers all the way through. Each series that you write stands to earn you more in royalties because readers will go through and buy them all at once.
Plus, you can take each series if you choose to and put them in what’s known as a box set. This is when you bundle the books and instead of selling them individually, you sell them lumped together for one price.
You stand to make more money in royalties that way. Readers love feeling like they get more for their money. What you have to keep in mind is that readers don’t like waiting forever in order to get the next book in a series.
So write ahead. That means you should wait until you have more than one book in a series before you upload it to any platform. Many self-published writers wait until they have three books already written and ready to go.
They create a publishing calendar and stick to it. It can be something like a book every two months or whatever you can handle. If you choose to write a series, use a planner of some kind to keep track of all of your characters, timelines, world building, publishing schedule (including pre-order dates) and marketing.