Face it, writing and printing your self-published book are relatively easy tasks, compared to all the other requirements to market it successfully. The sales process is not for the faint of heart, but it is so vital to the entire process that you must first be sure if you are ready to be a self-publisher.
Most importantly, ask yourself: honestly, what is your real reason for publishing a book? Is it to earn a lot of money, or for public recognition, ego gratification, the need to communicate an important message?
Identifying your motivation early on can deter you from taking the plunge or make you even more determined to succeed. The emotional and creative satisfaction of producing your own book can be exceptionally satisfying, provided you realize in advance what the process entails.
Expect it to involve five serious factors:
Any self-publisher who simply goes to a neighborhood printer with a manuscript in hand to produce a book will have a long and arduous experience. Thus, the hapless author must be prepared to do practically everything himself; all design, editing, and proofreading before, as well as sales promotion afterward.
A slightly easier route is through the better known print-on-demand service companies such as Xlibris and FirstBooks, or the hundreds of other online POD publishing service companies. Even they are not technically editors yet; being in reality only printers, producers and distributors of writers’ works. It is their own author-clients who still have to carry out each of the necessary steps that a conventional publisher provides to its authors.
Marketing a self-published book is such a lengthy and complicated process that it can take up practically the entire life of an author for some time, requiring a very strong commitment. You will be solely responsible for each step: print quality control, purchase of copies, inventory, warehousing, advertising, selling, order processing, accounting, packaging, shipping, mailing, handling returns, billing and invoice collection. . Phew! Not surprisingly, many author-editors routinely put in 80-hour workweeks.
As for the hopes of making big bucks, the brutal fact is that very few, if any, first-time author-publishers don’t even break even. And all the advertised dreams of easily getting huge internet book sales with minimal effort are just that – dreams. Putting up a website and sending a ton of emails is not going to be enough.
Unless you are a “name” author, significant royalty gains are not more likely to be made from self-published print books on Web sites than from brick-and-mortar stores. Even a major POD player like Xlibris is reported to have never exceeded sales of 2000 copies of any title. Sending emails is rarely helpful. You have to go out and meet potential book buyers in person, then SELL, eye to eye.
So since it’s all up to you, modesty has no place in a self-publisher’s style. Bold advertising and aggressive promotion are vital to the success of your book. By necessity, you will soon learn to honk your own horn, mainly because no one else will be doing it for you. Study the type of people your potential readers are and the currency advertising that will appeal to them.
Prepare your way by writing short, half-page press releases about your masterpiece and distributing them to the appropriate media. Volunteer to speak on radio shows with incoming calls and try to arrange readings at local bookstores and libraries. You will probably be pleasantly surprised at your own resourcefulness and the receptivity of the people you approach for free publicity.
For some helpful tips on low-cost promotion, read John Kremer’s excellent “1001 Ways to Market Your Books” or Jay Conrad Levinson’s “Guerrilla Marketing” series.
However, direct selling in person is the only reliable method you have to get your books to store shelves. What it means to make personal sales calls at bookstores. First, you need to understand that bookstores do not buy books, they simply borrow them for a few months, without paying on consignment, and then return the copies that have not been moved from their shelves. And keep in mind beforehand that many bookstores have an inherent reluctance to accept any self-published title, unseen, regardless of the content or the quality of the writing.
But take heart by remembering how many now famous authors were repeatedly rejected before final recognition. For example, the now-successful author John Grisham began by selling copies of his first self-published novel from the trunk of his car. Be equally determined and imaginative.
Keep up your personal sales efforts, no matter what. Persistence is the one quality every author needs more than anything else. It’s what gets the manuscript completed in the first place, and perseverance remains the only thing that builds the ultimate success of your self-published book.