Self-Publishing/Independent Publishing – Avoiding the Perils

These days, many authors are venturing into the world of self-publishing, now often referred to as independent publishing.

It can be a great thing to do for so many reasons. But it can also make you vulnerable to being ripped off.

I’ve recently been approached by a number of people who have fallen into this trap and are seeking advice.

They have paid thousands of dollars to have their book published and haven’t yet seen a copy of it.

Unfortunately, it’s often too late by the time this has happened.

So, in this post I’m hoping to provide practical tips to help you avoid these perils and others.

BEWARE SHINY PUBLISHING COMPANIES WHO PROMISE YOU THE WORLD

Self-publishing should not cost you thousands. Companies are preying on the elderly, and people in rural areas who don’t have the knowledge to know that they are being charged way too much.

If a company doesn’t have cost indications on their website then be wary.

Check out the company you plan to publish with.

  1. Ask them for references – and always follow these references up.
  2. Also do Google searches for online reviews and feedback about the company.
  3. Contact your local writer’s centre or organisation to see if they have any experience dealing with these companies. You can even ask the question on social media.
  4. Join Facebook Groups  or pages like The e-book experiment  and Self publishing questions where you’ll have a forum to ask questions as you follow the path to publishing your own book.
  5. Beware of fake testimonials and awards on websites. If a company states, “We are the nation’s leading independent publisher”, investigate this statement. Make sure it’s not just something they are saying about themselves to make them look better.
  6. If you decide to self-publish through a company, it can be good to use someone who has been personally referred to you by an author who has had a great experience with them.

10 TOP WRITING TIPS COVER - For adults - Discover the writer in youI’m not going to delve into the stages of self-publishing here. But yes, your book should be properly edited before you publish it, it should have a well designed cover, and you should ‘tag’ it so that readers who search for your book will be able to find it.

And if you intend to publish online then you should spend time online familiarising yourself with the self-publishing world and learning about other people’s experiences.

THE PUBLISHING PART

E-Books
You can publish your book as an e-book through Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Pubit (Barnes and Noble) or Kobo’s Writing Life.

You don’t have to pay thousands to get someone to do this for you. It’s something you can do yourself. It takes patience, but it’s worth the time and effort to do it properly.

Publishers provide free guides on how to do it:

Amazon – Free book, Building Your Book for Kindle
S
mashwords – Free Style Guide
P
ubIt – Not quite as straightforward but they have FAQs that can help you – and generally the formatting will be the same or similar for all online publishers. You might also find this article helpful.
Kobo – You’ll find formatting information on the Kobo Content Conversion guide.

10 TOP WRITING TIPS COVER - For adults - Ideas and InspirationGetting the format right is one of the most time consuming and essential parts of producing an e-book. If it’s not right, your file will be rejected so it’s worth taking the time.

I’m not advocating for any particular publishing system, but I have published on both Amazon and Smashwords with some success. I haven’t tried Pubit or Kobo but I’m sure their formatting and marketing would be similar.

Print Books – POD (Print on Demand)

Print on Demand can be a way to publish small numbers of print books, making it more affordable. What this means is that you only publish the number you want.

Lightning Source, Lulu and Createspace all provide these services.

Lightning Source has a print and shipping calculator so you can work out exactly how much you’ll have to pay to get your print books published and shipped.

Lulu Books also has a cost calculator on their site.

If there is no cost calculator on site then I would be wary. Don’t let any high pressure sales person talk you into paying more than you can afford or more than you want to pay.

MARKETING

Those shiny companies I mentioned earlier often ask for thousands of dollars to market your book and they don’t do anything you can’t do yourself. They don’t increase your Amazon or your search engine ranking significantly. These are things you have to do yourself by having a regular presence in the online world and getting yourself out there.

Some companies charge around $2,000 to set up your website, get you on Facebook and Twitter etc – but these are all things you can do yourself for little or no cost.

  1. Set up your own website/blog – you can do this for free through Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, LiveJournal, Weebly and others. Read more here.
  2. You will find articles and guides on the internet about how to set up your platform through these mediums. Try to stick with sites that are linked to the actual platform itself. It might sound like a lot of work, but you could be saving yourself thousands of dollars by doing setting up your own blog or website.
  3. To set up your own Facebook account is not hard. Facebook will tell you how.
  4. Same with Twitter.

Marketing an e-book is hard.

For readers, it’s not like walking into a bookshop and being able to choose from what’s available. There are millions of books online so people have to ‘search’ to find yours. That’s why it’s important to have a strong online presence so people will hear about your books.

The Kobo Publishing guide has some extra tips on marketing. There may be other free guides in the marketplace too. Online resources are also available. Some reputable sites are The Creative Penn and Writer’s Digest.

Want to make your own book trailer, The Creative Penn tells you how. You’ll also find marketing tutorials and posts at Writer’s Digest.

My rule of thumb is ‘don’t pay for anything you can do yourself’. You’ll find the end result more satisfying and you’ll learn more about what you’re doing so that you can avoid the pitfalls.

I hope you found this piece helpful.

If you have any other independent publishing tips to share, please feel free to do this in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

 

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TUESDAY WRITING TIP – MARKETING A SELF-PUBLISHED BOOK

Today at DeeScribe Writing, we welcome Tania McCartney who has successfully self-published a number of books. Tania is here to share her tips on how to market your new self-published book. She is joining us on her blog tour to promote her new book, Riley and the Curious Koala.

There are many challenges that face the self-publisher, but, without question, the toughest is marketing and publicity. I’m not the best saleswoman in the world but I do love marketing, and thank goodness I do, as my Riley books would never have succeeded if marketing was a bane for me.

When you’re only one person, marketing a self-published book is pretty much full time work. There’s no team of professionals behind you, no well-established network of media and book seller contacts. It’s all down to you – and you need to work hard and ceaselessly.

Many self-published authors set up a website and sell directly from there. They don’t even approach book sellers or distributors – and if they do, many are put off by the sky-high percentage cut.

But selling a book isn’t about what kind of percentage return you make. It’s about carving a niche into the market for yourself… and getting your name and work known and respected. Money, if it ever comes at all, is certainly secondary (and on that note, if you want to self-publish to get rich, you might as well bow out gracefully now).

There’s a wonderful saying: if people see your name once, they may notice. If they see it twice, they wonder where they’ve heard that name before. If they see if three times, they often think “this must be important, I’d better take notice”.

I live by that mantra when I market my books. Selling copies, frankly, is a bonus – and people often make the mistake of allowing marketing and sales to blur into one. Sure, sales are a result of clever marketing, but these two elements are actually totally independent of each other, and if you can detach them, you will be far more successful in marketing your work. Marketing often has no immediate or direct financial payback. It’s a slow build.

MARKETING

Marketing is, of course, multifaceted, but there are several things I do to approach the marketing machine when it comes to my self-published work.

The first thing I do is make sure I have web presence. I have an author website, a personal blog, Kids Book Review and also a blog dedicated to my small publishing company, that features only book information. I keep these sites meticulously updated and I also refresh their look quite frequently. Not only do the sites feature info on my work – they also offer the reader something, like lesson plans and fun activities for kids.

The second thing I do is network within the industry – online and in person (say – at events or conferences). This is absolutely vital because not only do people get to know you – you learn an incredible amount, and you’ll truly reel at the incredible support from a plethora of amazing people in the industry – from authors to publishers.

But networking is reciprocal and you also need to offer others your support. I do that with great pleasure via Kids Book Review (http://kids-bookreview.com) which is dedicated to supporting literary talent and offering a site stacked with fun and resources for our readers. Forming Kids Book Review has also allowed me to get to know publishers and marketing professionals in the industry – which has been priceless for my own self-published work.

For me, employing a distributor is the smartest thing I ever did. Sure, I earn less money on each book sold, but we’re not talking sales here, we’re talking marketing. Dennis Jones & Associates have helped me saturate my books all over the country. I could never have achieved this saturation without their well-established aid, and it’s been worth every dollar lost… a) because I’ve sold more books and b) because I’ve managed to connect with so many more potential buyers.

My first Riley book – Riley and the Sleeping Dragon – was featured in the Australian Booksellers Kids Reading Guide 2009/2010 thanks to Dennis Jones; something I could never have achieved without them.

HOW TO MARKET A NEW RELEASE BOOK

These things form the basis of my presence as an author, but when it comes to actually marketing a new release book, there are several things I do.

I create events for my new book. I don’t spend a fortune, but I spend a lot of time on a really sensational book launch. I approach local businesses to sponsor by offering prize giveaways or services (like a photographer or entertainer) or food. It’s amazing how supportive people are, especially if you showcase their logos on your marketing material. Sponsoring is great exposure for them, too.

I write a really good press release (google how to do it professionally) and send it to anyone and everyone I can think of. I contact local media with it and also offer book giveaways, which they love. You can contact newspapers, local free mags, radio, even television to say you have a new book out. As you get to know these contacts, they will be more willing to support subsequent books.

I send copies of the book to media, Australia-wide, mostly magazines. Think outside the square when it comes to who to send books to – it doesn’t have to be just kids or parenting magazines. If you do this, you cannot expect anything in return. You have to just cross your fingers and if you get lucky enough to have your book featured, that’s a bonus.

I approach like-minded websites and blogs and send them review copies or ask them if they would host a blog tour. I have never been knocked back – people are so supportive.

I support charities by doing free readings or donating books. I always give books to people who ask – for fund raising events. Not only is it important to support charities, but it’s also great exposure. I rarely say no to any event that asks me to attend – either with my books or without, like when I was asked to judge the Miles Franklin Writing Competition at a local school. I even do local market stalls and often sell loads of books – and if I don’t, it’s still great exposure.

I set up heaps of school and library visits and read my new book. I never charge for these, as I do feel they are a marketing technique and schools should not have to pay for them. Many schools are willing to send home a flyer offering books for sale, so kids can have books signed by a visiting author. Some won’t do it but many do – and it’s a really lovely bonus. Don’t expect it (but there’s no harm in asking).

If you have the time, you can extend your ‘brand’ by offering educational courses or workshops, either through schools or writing centres. I did a writer in residence programme with one school that was very successful and was great exposure, not to mention an enormously rewarding experience.

I contact local bookstores about hosting a reading and signing, plus I always give away a book or two and hand out goodie bags to the kids who attend. Most bookstores are really proactive and will help you advertise the event. Unless you’re Andy Griffith, you can’t expect masses of kids at these readings and sales may not be huge, but once again, it’s the exposure that counts.

I always create posters for any event I do, and make sure the host has some to put up at their school or in their bookstore. I send out emails to everyone I know announcing any readings or launches.

As you become more well known, it’s a good idea to start expressing an interest in speaking at writer’s festivals and events. This can be great exposure for your books. Also, join your state writer’s centre, the Children’s Book Council of Australia and other writing groups like the Australian Society of Authors. Ask the CBCA in your state about becoming a visiting author for Book Week.

Of course, I blog, facebook and twitter my heart out when I launch a book – I have book giveaways on my blog, too.

If you do or can write elsewhere or in other genres, use that exposure to help your books. I am a senior editor with Australian Women Online who really support me with exposure, and of course, Kids Book Review is a great platform for getting my news out there.

The last bit of advice I have about marketing your self-published work is to do things with quality, all the way. I know this sounds like a given but trust me, I review plenty of self-published books and it’s NOT a given… self-published authors need to produce excellent, major-publishing-house-quality books because anything less will bomb, no matter how great your marketing expertise.

Of course, the books also need to be well-written and beautiful! But quality is vital – from the book’s storyline to the printing and all your added extras like websites, business cards, auxiliary products – even the way you deal with people.

For example, if an author sends me a generic review request without a direct salutation or is not polite, I would never consider reviewing their book. Be professional and gracious every time – and if someone reviews your book, why not send them a thank you note? This is how relationships are built and authors are remembered amongst the staggering mountain.

BUILD A BRAND FOR YOURSELF

Building a brand for yourself via clever marketing is the way of the future for authors – or those who want to stand out from the rest and/or don’t have a major publishing house and millions of dollars behind them. Get active, stay involved and build your name rather than spend your time hocking book copies. If you can build that respect and renown, selling book copies will be a breeze.

www.taniamccartney.com
www.kids-bookreview.com
www.australianwomenonline.com

Riley and the Curious Koala will be available Australia wide from 21st November.

About Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney

Riley and the Curious Koala is the third in the Riley travelogue series of picture books, taking young children on a journey to far flung destinations. Riley’s first adventure began in Beijing with Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, continued on through Hong Kong with Riley and the Dancing Lion, and now enters home turf, with a fun-filled adventure through the beautiful city of Sydney.

Will Riley find this terribly elusive and quite curious fluffy creature amongst the gorgeous watery vistas of one of the world’s most beautiful cities? Panda, Dragon and Lion from earlier books join this little aviator on his sensational Sydney search… and their discovery is a curious (and funny!) one, indeed.

Tania’s new book features stunning black and white photos, pictures of a real life tin aeroplane and hilarious illustrations by illustrator Kieron Pratt.

Part of the profits for Riley and the Curious Koala will go to the Australian Koala Foundation https://www.savethekoala.com/.

On tour, Tania and Riley are stopping at lots of other great blogs.

Riley and the Curious Koala Blog Tour Schedule

Monday 15 November

Writing Out Loud http://writingloud.blogspot.com/

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Monday 15 November

The Book Chook http://www.thebookchook.com/
Crafting a Book Using Photos

Monday 15 November

Handmade Canberra Blog http://canberrahandmademarket.blogspot.com/

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Tuesday 16 November

Dee Scribe https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/

Marketing a Self-Published Book

Tuesday 16 November

Reading Upside Down http://www.readingupsidedown.com/

A CURIOUS LIFE

Tuesday 16 November

Australian Women Online http://www.australianwomenonline.com

HOW TO SELF-PUBLISH A CHILDREN’S SERIES AND REMAIN SANE

Wednesday 17 November

Little People Books http://littlepeoplebooks.com/

Reading to Little Ones

Wednesday 17 November

Miss Helen Writes http://misshelenwrites.wordpress.com/

TRAVEL, BOOKS AND CHILDREN

Wednesday 17 November

Retro Mummy http://retromummy.blogspot.com/

FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Thursday 18 November

Soup Blog http://soupblog.wordpress.com/

Story Writing Ideas

Thursday 18 November

Bernadette Kelly’s Blog http://www.bernadettekelly.com.au/news/

ILLUSTRATING THE RILEY SERIES

Thursday 18 November

Posie Patchwork: The Blog http://posiepatchworkblog.blogspot.com/

EXTENDING YOUR BRAND and BOOK GIVE AWAY!

Friday 19 November

Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com/

Approaching Publishers

Friday 19 November

The Little Bookroom http://littlebookrm.blogspot.com/

A Conversation with Leesa Lambert on Great Picture Books

Saturday 20 November

Sue Whiting’s Blog http://suewhiting.blogspot.com/

The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Saturday 20 November

Sheryl Gwyther’s Blog http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com/

FROM BEIJING TO CANBERRA

Saturday 20 November

Kids Book Review http://kids-book-review.blogspot.com/

LIVE QUESTION TIME WITH TANIA!

Sunday 21 November

Sandy Fussell’s Blog http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/

An Interview with Riley!

Sunday 21 November

Kids Book Review http://kids-book-review.blogspot.com/

RilEY AND THE CURIOUS KOALA BOOK GIVEAWAYS!

Sunday 21 November, 6pm

Tania McCartney Blog http://taniamccartney.blogspot.com/

Book Launch Party