A Quick and Dirty Guide to Self-Publishing Your First Book

WHILE THE KUDOS and respect from friends and colleagues is welcomed, it is relatively easy to turn over a book and make it available for release in the shop window of Amazon.

Truth is, anyone can hash up a book nowadays and sell it online. The litmus test is whether people actually buy it and how it is reviewed.

My debut novel Pathfinders was released on March 1st. The process of self-publishing it has been, at times, incredibly frustrating, but also really interesting and educational.

For anyone interested in knowing the steps I took from writing the final draft to actually having it for sale in dozens of countries online, look no further.

  1. Create a blog/website as your tool to promote your book. Ideally this should be done months in advance. I’ve been blogging for two years to grow my community, with the end goal in mind that it would be used to promote future books. Topics range from travel anecdotes, short stories, to sharing my experience in sales and marketing, offering tips.
  2. Align social media handles around your author profile. Creating a Facebook author page, twitter profile and becoming comfortable with using these platforms to ensure your ‘brand’ is consistent is important. You need to be available across a range of mediums where your readers can find you.
  3. Choose a launch date – three months in advance. At least.
  4. Comb over your first draft to catch glaring errors, before sharing it with critical eyes – the more people that see your work, the better. Structural errors, plot gaps and major knots can be untangled at this stage.
  5. With the second draft cleaned up and with the changes implemented, research professional editors.
  6. Send to editors – allow up to 6 weeks for them to return your manuscript.
  7. Review and implement suggested changes. Optional – therapy might be needed at this step after the editor has massacred what you thought was a perfectly acceptable, dare-I-say-it, ‘perfectly acceptable’ draft. Anything that can improve the final product is a BIG PLUS. They’re professionals for a reason. Thick skin applies here!
  8. With what is now the third draft, editor changes introduced, scope out potential reviewers. Try and search outside your ‘safe-zone’ of friends/family who will be biased. Personally, I scoured the web for sci-fi/horror book reviewer sites. I also trawled through the Top 1000 Amazon Reviewer profiles, reading every bio to see if my book would fit their taste, if they accepted unsolicited submissions and customising emails that would speak to their unique requirements. VERY time consuming, but even with a power reviewer leaving a review (good or bad), their authority and rank can help drive extra eyes on your book. The importance of making your book as good as it can be, therefore, is extremely important.
  9. Find and hire a cover designer. People do judge a book by its cover. Even if you write like the Bard himself, a shoddy cover will hurt your sales figures. You gotta look the part – this can take up to six weeks and you need to know the page count in advance so your draft should be formatted and barring a few typos here and there, be virtually ready.
  10. Download cover template from Createspace and share with illustrator.
  11. Research and identify prices for digital and paperback versions of your book.
  12. Create two copies of your final draft – one for digital, one for paperback.
  13. Upload files to Createspace, and order Proof Copy.
  14. Format Digital Copy – I did this myself. It took a few days and was a little tricky as a non-techie. For those who have the spare $$$ you can hire outside help.
  15. Decide whether you want to use Amazon KDP for exclusivity or would like to use other channels to sell your book, like Smashwords. The reasons for and against exclusivity are varied. Ultimately, after researching it for myself, I chose exclusivity with Amazon because it is the world’s biggest marketplace for books, and the promotional tie-ins are great for a debut novelist.
  16. Check both versions of your book. The proof copy you now (proudly) own, and the digital version which you can view on your Kindle or computer.
  17. Order further paperback proofs if necessary.
  18. Contact reviewers a month before launch date with option of either digital or paperback version.
  19. Publish paperback two weeks before launch date. Allow Amazon algorithms to settle on your chosen keywords/categories.
  20. Upload final digital version (complete with cover image) one week before launch.
  21. Sign up for Amazon Author Central. Sign up for Goodreads (facebook for readers). Create compelling bio. Announce free giveaway on Goodreads – More eyes on your book. Style up your Amazon book page – learn some basic formatting to make your description leap from the page.
  22. Launch day – announce to the world that your hotly anticipated book is available.

This is a fairly high level overview. There are many more steps depending on your motivation and preferred approach.

My bible for this entire process was Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard, which is over 100,000 words in length, so you get an idea of the scope of what’s involved, and the terrain is always moving which makes it exciting/frustrating.

For those interested in finding out more about Pathfinders, the blurb is on the Amazon links (below), but in summary it’s a sci-fi/thriller (light on sci-fi, heavy on thriller) and can be described as ‘Inception’ meets ‘28 Days Later’.

It is available to download for FREE today.

This, despite having blown my monthly pay check on the entire process, a decade of my life writing it, and emigrating to Colombia where the overheads are lower to continue fuelling my passion for writing.

And they say writers are crazy! 🙂

– Amazon UK (Digital, Paperback)
– Amazon US (Digital, Paperback)

Available through Amazon in other territories – search Aidan J ReidPathfinders

Further ReadingSeed/Birth/Life of a Self-Published Novel, Interview with Catherine Ryan Howard (Self-Publishing Superstar), Pathfinders (Chapter 1), Goodreads and Mopping Up

pathfinders chapter 1

image attribution 2Top via flickr

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