Why I chose to self publish.
The decision to self publish was not an easy one. While writing my first novel for my MA in Crime and Thriller writing at City University London, I was exposed to many traditionally published authors, highly respected literary agents, editors from the big publishers and critics . I sent my manuscript to quite a few agents and arranged a lot of One to One sessions with agents to meet them first hand and get feedback. All were very positive about my writing but said that I was several years too late with my conspiracy thriller. Of course people are still buying Dan Brown books but they didn’t believe there was any more room for new debut novelists in this genre. They were probably right but all writers say that you should not write for the market. Write something you feel passionate about. My problem was feeling passionate about something that was not currently popular in the industry.
On one occasion I pitched to three agents at the Bristol Crime Fest and all requested sight of the finished manuscript but none thought they could sell it. It was not the next Girl on the Train. Phil Patterson of Marjacq told me that I write with “a confident, uncluttered style, written in a pacy, well-ordered way, but conspiracy thrillers are a tough sell these days. I could not sell this. Maybe something new.”
So I had two choices. Ditch the novel and “write something new ” or self publish. I chose the latter because I wanted to write and I wanted to see what the self publication journey was like. There is so much on the internet and lots of organisations offering self publications services for a fee, it is quite possible to spend a lot of money before you even publish.
You can do it yourself for nothing but if you want to find some readers you will have to spend some money
The key is to spend it on the important things which are:
• A professional eye-catching cover.
• Build an author website.
• An editor
• And after you publish – spend some money on marketing.
Be prepared to lose money on your first self published novel.
Prepare the ground
For the purposes of this article I am assuming you want to self publish a novel. My steps in these blogs will concentrate on how you find readers. If you want to self publish something to send to friends and family then none of this is necessary but if you are serious about finding readers then you should stick to a clear plan and be determined.
If you are an unknown author then the hardest bit is building your audience. When you are languishing at number 70,000 on the Amazon charts, the average curious reader will have an almost zero chance of finding your novel. You must get into the top 100 in one of the many charts on Amazon so that the casual reader will find your book and buy it. Having said that, the importance of this has absolutely nothing to do with royalty payments. The first novel is about finding readers. My book has been on Amazon for just about one month. To date, the highest, I’ve been is number 82 in one chart. However as I write my sales have diminished but it is not over yet. Despite what people on the internet tell you, self publication is not a walk in the park. It requires a lot of dedication and time, not to mention self belief. My dip in sales was entirely to be expected but I am not dead yet. It is just another step in the author’s journey. Anyway lets reel back and think about the steps before publication. What should you do before anything else.
• Create a Twitter Account
Before you can begin to think about self publication, I am sure you will have read about creating a presence on social media. You should start a twitter account immediately even if you have not finished writing the novel. All writers use Twitter. It is questionable whether Twitter is diminishing in importance but it is a great vehicle to get yourself known as a “writer”. Don’t tweet pictures of your cat because thousands do and they are boring. Don’t get too political but make sure your content is interesting. A good tweet will include a photo or a link to an interesting article on the internet. The tweet I got the most views (nearly 4000) for was a photo of a Cornish beach which looked like the Caribbean . I just wrote “Not the Carribbean. @Cornwall Today Porthcurno Beach”
• Get your book cover professionally designed
You might be surprised that this is the next thing you should do. The reason for this is that if you have your book cover, you can use the cover artwork to build your website and also create a Facebook and Goodreads Author Page. I used Spiffing Covers to design my cover. http://spiffingcovers.com
Alternatively, have a look at this site. https://reedsy.com
This website sells professional expertise and takes a commission on sales. You provide a brief and the professionals bid for your contract. There are some excellent people on this site selling their services. You will be able to see examples of the work they’ve done and many have designed successful covers for top authors. You can of course do your own cover and if you are tech savvy then there are the tools on the Amazon websites to do this. The problem here is how professional can you make the cover using your own materials. You know the saying: “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” But people do! Your cover must stand out.
Rachel Abbott who self published and has sold over 2 million copies on Amazon told me that your cover needs to stand out when it is a “thumb nail” image on Amazon. She also said that when you are unknown concentrate on making your book’s title stand out. Don’t make your own name too prominent as nobody knows who you are and they don’t care. Good advice.
Whoever you hire, you need to provide them with a brief on how you think the cover should look. It needs to convey a simple message about what the book is about. It needs not to be too cluttered but it also needs to look good against the competition. Have a look in a book shop and decide which covers really draw you in and grab your attention. Try and recreate that mood in your book cover. To get a good job done, you might need to pay between £200 and £500. That is a lot of money which you might never recover, but compared to the endless hours you’ve spent writing the book it is a small price to pay. As I said in Part one , there are loads of companies out there offering to publish your book. You could spend a small fortune but there are areas where you can do it yourself and pay nothing but in my opinion book covers is not where you can save money.
The truth is that there are far too many books out on Amazon and it is very difficult making your book known. I don’t pretend that I have got it right. I am still finding out. The self published novelists who have made a success of this game are those that work hard and build content. I’ve only published one book. It could take me several books to make it work.