Write to Self-Publish, Part 4

by Erin Brenner on May 19, 2011

Today we wrap up our series on DIY publishing, which came out of Steve Almond’s workshop, Viva the DIY Revolution! at Writers’ Day, put on by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project.

Quick recap:

  • Part one: Is self-publishing your book right for you? An overview.
  • Part two: Build an audience for your book and hire a print-on-demand (POD) publishing service.
  • Part three: Don’t want to hire a POD service to do it all? Become your own publisher: how to hire an editor, designer, and printer.

In this final post, we’ll talk about what to do after you’ve published your book, something we only lightly touched on in the workshop.

You’ve Got a Book. Tell the World!

Remember back at the beginning, when you started building your network? Time to put it to good use. During your writing process, you should have talked about your topic so that others would start to view you as an expert in your area. You were building respect and increasing your network. As you near the finish line of the self-publishing process, increase the interest in your book. When and where appropriate, talk about your it. Offer snippets from it.

If you’re writing fiction or character-driven nonfiction, introduce your audience to one or more of your characters. Create an emotional bond between your character and your audience. Make it so that when your book comes out, your network will want to find out what happens to your character.

Related Articles:
Write to Self-Publish, Part 1
Write to Self-Publish, Part 2
Write to Self-Publish, Part 3

If you’re writing other types of nonfiction, offer tips from the book or tell a bit of the story. Publish a blog post or article with the 10 best tips for doing something related to your topic. This can really drive interest; readers love tips that are easy to put into practice now.

How about a free download in exchange for an email address? Create a newsletter that keeps people up to date on your topic and the progress of your book. When you release the book, email all those people.

Start With the People You Know

Now that the book is out, email your list. Offer a reduced price or another free download with the book to get sales started. Perhaps an autograph would interest your network. Where ever you’ve been talking about your topic, let them know your book is out and how they can purchase it. Make the book easy to purchase.

Look through your network. Who are some of the big influencers in your group? Who gets conversations started? Who do people listen to? Once you identify them, offer to give them a free copy of your book and then stand back. Sure, you may get some negative comments, but if you’ve done your work as a writer, you’ll get positive too. And the positive will have more validity if there are genuine negative comments mixed in. (Always be gracious about comments, positive and negative.)

Give copies of your book to family and friends as well. Encourage them to read it and talk about it, but, again, don’t try to control the conversation. If you’re selling your book online (and why wouldn’t you?), ask people to post reviews on these sites, then link to them. Make it easy for people to click and buy.

Now Tell People You Don’t Know

Identify book reviewers who would be interested in your book and send them a copy, asking for a review. If they do review your book, good or bad, thank them. Keep track of the reviews, posting links to the good ones and quoting them on your hub.

Contact your local media: newspapers, TV, and radio and let them know about your book. Offer to do interviews and offer copies for review.

Make a list of local bookstores, libraries, coffee shops, colleges, anywhere readings take place, and offer to do a reading. Remember those organizations focused on your topic? Offer to speak to them, as well.

This should go without saying, but every time you speak, have copies of your book with you—and change. Many of these sales will be cash, so be able to give correct change.

While you’re at it, donate a couple copies of your book to local libraries. If it’s appropriate, don’t forget school libraries.

Sell It!

Of course you will sell your book at your readings and out of the back of your car. But where else will you sell it?

If you’ve got an ISBN, you’ve got lots of choices.

Offline, ask your local bookstores to carry it. Don’t forget the used bookstores; some of them sell new books as well. Even the big guys carry local books. Go in and talk to the manager and get your book in there. You’re limited only by how far you’re willing to drive (or ship) your books to a store.

Online, check out Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble for a start.

Even without an ISBN, you can sell your book through sites like Lulu.com and even through your website or blog. PayPal is a wonder for taking online payments.

While you’re doing all this selling, don’t forget to stay authentic online. Keep creating original content or participating in discussions. Keep the momentum and goodwill going. Mention the book when it’s relevant, but don’t inundate people. It’s like talking about your newborn or your pet: a little bit goes a long way, even for people who are interested.

Conclusion

DIY publishing is not for the faint of heart. Just writing a book is a lot of work. Building an audience, publishing, marketing, and selling are even more work. But they can be worth it. You’re taking all the risk, but you’re also reaping all the reward. You have total control over the book, and you have a better chance of reaching an audience, especially if it’s a niche audience, than the big publishing houses do.

Precious few authors sell a lot of books, even those published by traditional publishers. If you’re dreaming of fame and fortune, find another gig. Without a traditional publisher behind you, you’ll sell books a lot more slowly. The houses have systems in place to move volume. Those who published themselves first and were later picked up by a publishing house will tell you that once they got a big house behind them, they sold more in two days on Borders.com than in two months on their own.

Going the DIY route means small sales, but you could get that with the traditional publishers as well. If you keep selling, you could build a small, steady income, one that can help fund your next book. That’s really no different than what a publisher does, except that you’re doing all the work and getting a bigger portion of profits.

Throughout the process, keep in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing. Keep your focus. Know the steps, and take them one at a time.

And if you have any questions, just ask!

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