“Dude, you should totally write a book!”

Maybe you’ve heard that before or it’s just something you’ve always wanted to do. But writing is only part of what it takes to get a book in the hands of eager readers.

Self-publishing is all the rage these days but there’s still a lot to learn for a first time author.

As I write this article, my book has officially been released for five months. Sales are steady but I’m ready to get back to writing.

Get back to writing? Didn’t I just “write” a book?

Yes, but the majority of my last six months has been spent getting the book ready for sale.

So before you start down the self-publishing road, here are a few things to take into consideration.

1. Once You Finish Writing, Expect More Work

I finished writing my book in December of 2011; the book was officially available on Amazon the first week in June 2012. I used CreateSpace for editing, internal design, and publishing. I used my sister for cover design.

I could have cut down on time if I’d simplified my internal design and cover—or just used CreateSpace for the cover design as well. But it was my first baby and I wanted the cover to be awesome and knew my sister would do a great job (which she did!). So I was happy to wait while she designed my cover between a full-time job and single motherhood.

The copy editing process with CreateSpace was fairly easy. Once submitted, it only took a few weeks to get my first manuscript back with tracked changes. After that, I made changes and used family and friends to proof read. Depending on your manuscript length, (mine was around 32K words,) this takes time.

One thing I would have done differently is be more diligent about format checking the Word document before submitting the final manuscript for proof printing. Things like two En dashes (- -) instead of one Em dash (—) which looked fine in the manuscript due to the font I used showed up all over the place in the printed proof. Of course this is what proofing is for, but with CreateSpace you only get so many corrections for free so you might end up having to prioritize what changes are made or pay extra.

2. The Headaches of Paperback

Every aspiring author wants to see his or her name in print. I can attest to the fact that it’s a pretty cool feeling. There’s nothing like holding your book in your hands for the first time. However, when it came time to market and set pricing, the print version added some extra headache to pricing options.

Let me explain…

My main sales strategy was to consist of online sales through my website. The goal is to set pricing in a way that encourages people to purchase an eBook bundle—PDF, .mobi, and .epub—via my website since Amazon.com takes 40% of the print books list price. Yeah, you read that correctly, 40%. But they also have the ability to reach millions of potential readers.

I can way overanalyze things and probably spent unnecessary time worrying about how to price these different formats (Kindle, Print, PDF, etc.) to maximize profits and reach. Two goals which seem to conflict with each other; future testing will reveal some insights no doubt.

At this point, I still have a lot of testing to do as far as pricing, but it would have been a lot simpler to offer only a Kindle and/or eBook bundle. Nonetheless, I’m not sure I would have done it any differently for my first book. It’s just something to think about.

3. Blurb Requests

When it came time to request blurbs, I wanted to send out a copy of my manuscript that had been through at least one round of copy editing to avoid most grammar or spelling errors. This was pretty late in the game and thus added time waiting (and praying) for responses.

Everyone wants’ the best blurbs for their book, but requesting them takes a special knack that I’m not quite sure I navigated correctly. I did get some awesome blurbs, but it’s hard to know if I did it the right way. I just tried to think of how I would prefer to be approached, and what would make it easier for me?

Some suggest sending an “example” blurb in your request so all they have to do is tweak it a little and add their name to it. This seemed awful presumptions to me, but I did have better luck once I started using this approach.

Next time I’ll spend more time revising my rough draft and start sending it out a lot sooner.

4. Trailer video

Being in the non-fiction (self-help) niche, I’ve seen other authors use interview styled trailers with success so I decided to have one created for my first book.

Although there’s no way to tell how much impact my trailer has had on sales at this point, I’m not sure I would do it again. It added additional time and money to the project, so the jury is still out on its effectiveness. At some point, I’ll A/B test the sales page to see how it affects conversions.

Another use for the trailer will be to promote on YouTube and other video sites. I purchased a handful of easy-to-remember domain names around topic keywords that redirect to my sales page with logic to track where the sales originated. This will allow me to track traffic from assets like free eBooks, newsletters, podcast, etc. to know what’s working.

Distribution is another area for consideration. For example, do you use Amazon only or do you use a service such as Smashwords.com to distribute the eBook version to multiple sites?

Yeah… there’s a lot to think about and it can get overwhelming at times.

So even though I’ll approach my next self-published project a little differently, I learned valuable lessons. If there’s one piece of advice I could give to anyone considering self-publishing, it would be determine what your budget is and bootstrap the things you can’t afford. But most importantly, kick procrastination to the curb and just do it!

Featured photo credit:  book of fantasy stories via Shutterstock

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