Ch 3.12 Seven Questions to Ask Before Self-Publishing
If you’re considering going indie, ask yourself these questions to see if you’re ready to take the leap (and if this path is right for this particular book):
Don’t rush it. Be patient.
Plan ahead. Lead with your best work.
Publishers would invest time and money in editing/copyediting/cover art for your book—you should plan on doing the same. Are you willing to spend time and money on marketing?
Going indie is like running a small business. Have a plan for how to succeed.
As an indie publisher, 90% of your sales will be ebooks. If a large fraction of your sales are paper, it is probably because your total sales are low and those few paperbacks that sell to friends and family are a significant fraction of your total. As an indie author, ebooks are your business and that’s where you’ll make your money. Getting into bookstores may sound great, but it brings the possibility of returns, which can easily eat up whatever profits you have made. You can still have paperbacks (they’re useful for signings, libraries, giveaways), but paper isn’t the mainstay of your business. If you’re very successful, you may get offered a contract with a traditional publisher who will get you into bookstores. Unfortunately, by the time you’re that successful, giving away your ebook rights for a chance at paper distribution can be very costly. Worry about that if/when you get there, but initially, understand that this book may never get into the bookstore.
Indie is not a route to seeing your book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.
Let me repeat that: you don’t need a social media presence. (This is blasphemy, which is why it’s in BOLD.)
Now, social media can help you, but it’s far from necessary. And the truth is that measure of help is a small lever (see Book Discovery in the Digital Age). You don’t have to have a huge following to launch a book. Don’t spend tons of time trying to build an audience *before* you publish. Social media presence FOLLOWS sales; it doesn’t GENERATE sales. Spend that time writing more books and you’ll have more sales. Period.
All that being said, we’re living in the 21st Century, and having some level of online savvy will help you take advantage of building a following once you do start to publish. Trying to learn all that stuff on the fly is tough, so it’s to your advantage to figure out some of it before you start. But I list this as a question to ask yourself not because you have to have a social media presence… but because a lot of authors seem to think that you do, and I want to make sure you know that you don’t.
(Hint: my penname sells lots of books and she’s rarely on social media. What social media presence she has tracks directly with how many books she’s sold. SKQ on the other hand spends way too much time dorking around on Facebook instead of writing!)
Friends can help, but you don’t have to have a following to launch a book. If you use social networking, do it authentically. Don’t be a spammer – there’s really no point to that, and it will only hurt you.
Make a Five Year Plan. Decide your goals not just for this book, but future ones as well, and make a marketing plan to achieve those goals. Set reasonable expectations. Even if your eventual goal is to make the NY Times bestseller list, start with a goal of making back your investment on your book. Include action items like “buy an ad and hold giveaways” not “magically reach 1000 sales in the first week.” Your plan will definitely evolve along the way, but having realistic goals will keep you grounded while going through the process.
Set Goals. Make a plan. Keep your expectations realistic.
This is an excerpt from the forth-coming Third Edition of the
Indie Author Survival Guide (Crafting a Self-Publishing Career 1)
Second Edition is available now
For Love or Money (Crafting a Self-Publishing Career 2)