Face it, writing and printing your self-published book are relatively easy tasks, compared with all the other requirements for marketing it successfully. The selling process is not for the faint of heart, yet so vital to the entire process, you need to be sure first whether you are even cut out to be a self-publisher.
Most important, ask yourself: honestly, what is your real reason for publishing a book? Is it to make a lot of money, or for public recognition, ego gratification, a need to communicate an important message?
Identifying your motivation up front can either dissuade 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 uniquely satisfying, so long as 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 get a book produced is in for a long and arduous experience. That way, the hapless author must be prepared to do virtually everything for him/her self; all the design, editing, and proof-reading before, as well as the sales promotion afterward.
A slightly easier route is via the better known print-on-demand service companies like Xlibris and FirstBooks, or the 100s of other POD publishing service firms on line. Even they are still technically not publishers; being actually just printers, producers, and distributors of writers’ works. It is their author-customers themselves who must still perform every one of the necessary steps that a conventional publishing house provides for its authors.
The marketing of a self-published book is such a drawn-out and complicated process, it can virtually take over an author’s entire life for a while, so it demands a very strong commitment. You alone will be responsible for every step — print quality control, buying copies, inventory, storage, publicity, selling, processing orders, accounting, packing, shipping, mailing, handling returns, invoicing, and bill collecting. Whew! Small wonder that many author-publishers commonly put in 80-hour work weeks.
As for hopes of making pots of money, the brutal fact is very few, if any, first time author-publishers even break even. And all the hyped dreams of easily grabbing huge book sales from the Internet with minimum effort are just that – dreams. Putting up a Web site and firing off a bunch of e-mails just isn’t going to cut it.
Unless you are a “name” author, significant royalty profits from self-published printed books are no more likely to occur on Web sites than in bricks and mortar stores. Even a major POD player like Xlibris is reported to have never exceeded sales of 2000 copies for any one title. Sending e-mails seldom helps much. You have to get out there and meet prospective book buyers in person — then SELL, eyeball to eyeball.
So, as everything depends on you, modesty has no place in a self-publisher’s style. Unabashed publicity and aggressive promotion are vital to your book’s success. By necessity, you’ll soon learn how to blow your own horn, mainly because nobody else will do it for you. Study the sort of people who are your most likely prospective readers, and devise publicity that will appeal to them.
Pave your way by writing brief half-page news releases about your masterpiece and distribute them to appropriate media. Offer to speak on radio call-in shows, and try to arrange readings at local bookstores and libraries. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at your own ingenuity and the receptiveness of people you approach for free publicity.
For some other useful hints about low-cost promotion, read John Kremer’s excellent “1001 Ways To Market Your Books,” or Jay Conrad Levinson’s “Guerrilla Marketing” series.
Nevertheless, in-person direct selling is about the only reliable method you have to get your books onto store shelves. Which means making personal sales-calls on bookstores. First, you have to understand that bookstores do not buy books — they just borrow them for a few months, unpaid on consignment, then return the copies that have not moved off their shelves. And be aware in advance that many bookstores have an inherent reluctance to accept any self-published titles — sight-unseen, regardless of content or writing quality.
But encourage yourself by remembering how many now-famous authors were repeatedly rejected before gaining final recognition. For instance, now-bestselling author John Grisham started by selling copies of his self-published first novel out of the trunk of his car. Be equally determined and imaginative.
Keep up your personal selling efforts, come what may. Persistence is the one quality that every author needs more than anything else. It’s what gets the manuscript completed in the first place, and stick-to-it-iveness continues to be the only thing that builds your self-published book’s final success.