1.) Banish those Assumptions
Maybe you already know how publication works and what being a published author is like. Or maybe you just think you do ....
Ten Things That Might Surprise an Unpublished Author
This little article by Denise Moncrief may burst your bubble. But it's always better to know the truth so we can figure out how best to deal with the reality, right?
2.) Outline and Structure Your Novel
If you really have finished writing the book, this step probably won't be necessary. But if you're wondering if all your scenes are truly in the best order or whether the progression of your plot makes sense, here are a few helpful links you'll want to check out. (Or bookmark them for when you're ready to start planning the sequel!)
A Quick-Start Guide to Story Structure Methods
Janeen Ippolito lists and explains a number of different ways to outline a story's structure. She includes diagrams and links to books that go into more detail about the different methods.
6 Ways to Outline Your Novel Faster
K.M. Weiland presents six quick suggestions for story outlining. Unlike the ones in Ippolito's list, they aren't really complete methods as such. They're more like possible angles of approach.
Personally, I can highly recommend two books about plot outlining that I now use with every novel I write. Clicking on the pictures below will take you to the Amazon pages where you can find out more about the books and order them if you'd like to. I promise, they're worth it!
3.) Choose a Title
Perhaps you already have a title for your book. But if you haven't decided on one yet, here are some suggestions to consider.
How to Choose a Book Title That's Perfect for Your Story AND Good Marketing!
K.M. Weiland explains why the right title matters so much and puts forth three ways to pick a good one.
How to Choose the Right Book Title
Anne R. Allen presents three different ways to choose the right title. (She also has an interesting list of famous books and their little-known original titles.)
20 Book-Title Hacks for Any Genre
David H. Safford suggests a whopping twenty different ways to come up with a good book title: everything from making it a story symbol to using a famous quotation.
3 Book Title Mistakes that will Murder Your Marketing Efforts
Using the right or wrong kind of title can have a big impact on how many people buy your book. Dave Durden explains how.
4.) Start Building a Platform
An author platform is important for anyone who wants to sell books to more than just their personal friends and family. Even if your book isn't ready for publication yet, it's never too early to start building your platform through your website/blog, on social media, etc.
Building an Online Presence: Websites, Blogs, and Social Media for Authors
This is a collection of information about starting a website or a blog, along with different types of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube, and LinkedIn) and how authors can use each one. There's even a link to an article about what to do if you don't have (or want) a social media presence at all.
5.) Join an Author Group
I cannot overemphasize how much this will help you. If you don't have a physical group of local authors to be a part of (or even if you do), find an online one (or two, or three, or four ...). Try searching Facebook for "authors" or "author group _____" (your genre). If you end up in a group without much interaction, or where people spend most of their time just advertising their books to each other, find a new group. Joining some excellent Facebook author groups has helped me more than anything else as an author. They are a great place to share ideas, ask questions, and support each other in our journeys as writers. You can also ask around in author groups for beta readers, editors, cover artists, etc.
The following groups may or may not be a fit for you and your books, but here are a few that I have personally found helpful. Below each one, I've included excerpts from the group's description on Facebook. If nothing else, they'll show you some examples of what's out there.
Clean Indie Reads
Finally! A book / author group that isn't just a post-and-run! We are here to offer real, useful support. Welcome to the workplace that feels like home.
CIR is a group for INDIE AUTHORS of FLINCH-FREE FICTION (no explicit sex or violence and limited swearing). We’re here to support each other in the whole process of writing/publishing/marketing quality indie books.
Use this Google spreadsheet of service options to see if we're a good venue for you. http://bit.ly/IsCIR4U
Iron Sharpening Iron
Before requesting to join, please be aware we have three requirements for joining, which you will be asked to affirm:1) That you are a Bible-believing Christian2) That you are (or are working to become) a Christian Author, or are an enthusiastic fan and reader, in the Speculative Fiction genre3) That you are willing to try and be an ACTIVE member.
This is a CHRISTIAN group run by biblical principles. The idea behind the group: Proverbs 27:17 "Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another." It is not by placation and empty praise that we learn and grow, but it is by godly brothers and sisters, practicing "truth in love" that we can learn and grow together to improve our collective witness for Christ in the literary world. May the Lord bless you all in your work.
Christian Indie Authors
Christian writers with works not openly Christian are welcome! Please alert us to language, sex, or violence when sharing or asking for a review. Liberty in Christ can give different standards. Share what you can.
Please don’t post and run. Take a moment; offer assistance to a fellow Indie. Share a book; answer a question. We are a family.
To share blogs etc you must be an active member. What is active? It's talking. It’s taking a few seconds to share a post. It’s being a part of our family. Not everyone is going to post. We have members who just read.
This might be helpful, too:
60+ Facebook Groups for Authors - Promote Your Books, Blogs, and More
Shelley Hitz lists groups of readers, groups of writers, groups specifically for sharing discounted books, etc.
6.) Enlist Beta Readers
Beta readers are people who read through your book before it is published for the purpose of giving constructive feedback.
All About Beta Readers: 7 Ways They Can Improve Your Book
In this thorough article, Anne R. Allen talks all about why beta readers are necessary, where to find them, what kinds of people are likely to make good beta readers, etc.
Revise It! Recruiting and Using Reader Feedback
Janeen Ippolito lists different types of readers, along with suggestions for recruiting the most helpful ones and utilizing their feedback.
What to Ask Your Beta Reader
It's helpful to give beta readers questions to answer as they read your manuscript. Author Valerie Comer has a great list of questions. You'll want to add to them with specific questions about your own story and characters.
5 Steps to a Thorough Book Edit
Once you hear back from your beta readers, try implementing Liberty Spiedel's suggestions for how to utilize their feedback.
7.) Edit and Proofread
There's way too much to say about these essential steps to put it all here.
Editing and Proofreading: DIY Tips and Professional Resources
This blog post is a compilation of the best editing and proofreading advice I've found, along with links to some professional editors' and proofreaders' sites. DO NOT EVEN THINK OF SKIPPING THESE STEPS! No matter how good a writer you are, your manuscript still needs to be edited and proofread.
8.) Decide if You Want Illustrations
I don't mean a cover picture (we'll "cover" that separately, pun intended). Not all books need inside art, but if you're writing certain genres (like children's fiction or some types of nonfiction), you'll probably want some. Many authors also like to have pictures of their characters to use in blog posts and promotional materials, even if they don't end up in the book itself.
Awesome Illustrators: A Collection of Artistic Resources for Authors
Here's a list of some illustrators who have been personally recommended by authors I know. You can see some samples of their artwork under their names, along with links to their websites. Of course, a web search with your specific genre will turn up many more.
9.) Decide Whether Your Book Needs a Map
Most books don't. But if you're writing historical fiction, fantasy, or science fiction, it might be helpful (and fun) to include one at the beginning. Several of the illustrators at the link above also do maps. If you prefer to make your own, check out the links below.
Fantasy MapMaking Tutorial
In this video, Jessica Khoury shows how to make your own map. It's part 1 of 5, so don't forget to go on to her other 4 videos when you're done.
10 Rules for Making Better Fantasy Maps
Lauren Davis has some great points that you should keep in mind before you start.
10.) Create a Cover (or Hire a Cover Artist)
Obviously, every published book (ebook or paperback) needs a cover.
The Perfect Cover for Your Book
In this blog post, I include links to dozens of helpful resources about cover design. Whether you plan to make your own cover or hire a professional, you should be certain you know these basic principles. Do you have an artistic friend you hope will help you out? Don't assume they'll be awesome at making book covers just because they're an awesome artist. Pass on this info to them to make sure they know what's expected in book cover design. I've also included a list of professional cover artists and the websites where you can check out their services and contact them.
11.) Decide How to Publish Your Book
Do you plan to self-publish, or do you hope to have your book traditionally published by a major publishing company or small press? Warning: for a new author, landing a contract with a major publisher is almost impossible. Getting a small press interested is a little more likely but can still be quite difficult. Self-publishing is easy, as long as you're willing to put in the work.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: Which is Better?
This article by Gary Smailes is long but well worth the read. Basically, it tells everything you need to know about how both options work, including their pros and cons. It also talks about agents. I highly recommend reading it before you make your choice.
Whatever you do, DON'T fall prey to a "vanity press" promising to publish your book for you! These are organizations that charge unsuspecting newbie authors huge amounts of money - often thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars - and in return may provide them with an ebook and hundreds or thousands of paperback copies that the author is usually responsible for selling. Most authors only make a fraction of their money back and end up with a basement full of unsold books gradually yellowing with age. If in doubt about whether a publishing company is reputable or not, it's a good rule of thumb not ever to go with anyone who makes you pay upfront for their "services". Reputable publishers make their money by taking a percentage of what you make in sales after the book is published, not by charging you for their work.
Beware of Sharks in Publisher's Clothing
Judith Briles explains how to spot and avoid such publishing predators.
12.) Write a Blurb
You will need a blurb to go on the back cover of your book. Even if you only plan to publish an ebook, the blurb is the description that will go on Amazon or other retailers. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a blurb is simply a summary of the story - there's much more (and in some ways, much less) to it than that!
How to Write a Book Blurb (and a Synopsis, Logline, and Tagline)
In this blog post, I've compiled a list of resources for blurb writing. You'll need to have your blurb ready before you go on to the next two steps, so these should be helpful.
13.) Format and Publish Your Book as an eBook
There are a number of platforms out there for publishing ebooks. To start with, you'll definitely want to make your book available on Amazon, since it's the biggest by far. (However, I suggest not actually completing the publishing process until you've considered the "wide vs. narrow" issue discussed a couple of links down in this list.)
How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Sale on Kindle without Hyperventilating
Hey, it can be a stressful process! When I was new to indie publishing, I couldn't find a single list of all the steps to take for formatting an ebook. I had to scour the web for each step, and it wasn't easy! So I combined everything I eventually figured out into one list, which I still refer to every time I publish a new book. I hope it's as helpful to you as it is to me.
Wide vs... Narrow?
Amazon offers various incentives to authors who agree to make their books exclusively available on its site. Choosing to also sell one's books elsewhere (such as such as through Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Google Play, or Apple iBooks) is known as "going wide". In this article, J Philip Horne discusses the pros and cons of each choice, along with more information about what's involved.
Distributing Your Books
You can go wide by distributing your book individually to each retailer, or you can upload them to a distributor that will send them everywhere for you and consolidate your earnings. Here, J Philip Horne talks about the pros and cons of both methods.
Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital
Smashwords and Draft2Digital are the two biggest ebook distributors. Dave Chesson compares them with a handy chart and links
Aggregation without Aggravation: Pronoun and PublishDrive
Pronoun and PublishDrive are two more major ebook distributors. David Kudler compares them here and also includes links to both sites.
Smashwords has a short ebook that you can download for free with information about how to format your manuscript before uploading it to their site for distribution. Clicking on the picture below will take you to the book's Amazon page.
Depending on where you want to upload and sell your ebook, you may first have to save the file as a mobi or an epub.
To save your file as a mobi (needed for publishing as a Kindle book) or an epub (needed for publishing on most other platforms), I recommend using Calibre. Simply click on the link above and download the program (for free). You'll need to save your Word doc as a PDF first, then use Calibre to change it to a mobi or epub. There are places online to convert documents similarly, but some of them mess up the formatting, title, etc. Calibre is reliable and highly recommended by many professionals.
14.) Format and Publish Your Book as a Paperback
There are several POD (print on demand) companies out there that are easy for authors to use, but you'll want to pick just one. KDP Print and Ingram Spark are the main ones. (Again, I suggest not actually completing the publishing process until you've considered item #13 on this list.)
DIY: Print on Demand 101
Daniel Lefferts and Alex Daniel talk about 6 POD companies and the differences between them.
How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Paperback Publication through KDP Print
My personal experience is with KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace). In this blog post, I offer step-by-step instructions for how to format your manuscript to make a professional-looking paperback, and then how to upload and publish it through the KDP website.
15.) Plan Your Book Launch
Sending a new book out there into the world is a big deal! But don't plan on just clicking the final "publish" button and sit back waiting for the sales to roll in. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. You have to put the word out about your book, and ideally, that process should start before the book is published.
You should try to get people to review your book as soon as possible after it's available for purchase (the day of, if possible). To do this, you will need to contact possible reviewers beforehand and offer them a free (yes, free!) copy of your book in exchange for an honest review. (I recommend offering digital copies only if you're on a tight budget, but be aware that some reviewers will only accept paperbacks.) Asking around in your author groups often works, but for long lists of book bloggers, check out these two links (of course, make sure you only contact reviewers who have expressed an interest in your genre):
The Book Blogger List
The Indie Reviewers List
5 Steps for Crafting the Perfect Book Review Pitch
In this article "BookGal" has some great tips for actually contacting reviewers.
Book Review Banzai
Jason B. Ladd offers an entire course on how to get far more book reviews than you would get just by contacting reviewers the normal way. I've taken the course myself, and I can recommend it. Or, if you don't have a lot of time on your hands, you could just read his book by the same title and apply the principles he explains. (Clicking on the picture below will take you to the Amazon page where you can read more about the book or purchase it.)
Creative Book Launches that Command Attention
In this article, author Angela Ackerman suggests a number of fun approaches and strategies to launching a book in a way that will attract attention and generate sales.
Ten Tips to Have a Successful Book Release Party on Facebook
Many authors use Facebook to hold fun events on their book's release day. Victoria Holt gives a clear and succinct list for how to make that work, and work well.
Marketing Your Book with Press Releases
Another book launch strategy some authors use is to send press releases to newspapers and other publications. Connie Dunn explains how it works, where to find periodicals' contact information, and how to compose a good press release.
How I Put Together My Great Big Blog Tour and Giveaway
Personally, I like setting up blog tours for my new books. This method works best if you already have connections with bloggers who write about book-related topics. If you have joined any author groups, as suggested in step 5 above, some of your fellow authors will probably be willing to host your book. In this post, I explain the method I used to put together one particular blog tour, which I combined with a giveaway to attract more interest.
How to Create a Global URL for Your Book
When you start sending your book's Amazon link to newspapers, reviewers, potential buyers, etc., there's an important point to consider. Amazon has different stores for different countries. When you make your book available on Amazon, it will automatically show up in Amazon's online store in Italy, Japan, Australia, and Brazil (to name a few), along with the one in America. But your book's page in each of those stores requires a different link. So if you're in the US and you give your link to someone in, say, Canada; and if that person clicks on it to take a look at your book, they will see an error message that tells them to log into the Amazon Canada site instead of the Amazon US site. But once they log in, they will no longer be on the page where they can see your book. Of course they can still find it by searching, but not everyone will bother to do that, and you may lose sales to international readers. To solve the problem, you can create a "global URL" that will take anyone who clicks on it to your book's page in the Amazon store that matches their geographical location. I have included screenshots with these step-by-step instructions to show you how to do that.
16.) Celebrate! But Keep Marketing
If you've made it through this list (or even most of it), congratulations! That's an amazing accomplishment! You have brought a book into the world and worked hard to achieve a goal that to many people is only a distant dream. Now go out and treat yourself to something special. You deserve it!
But ... don't rest on your laurels. In order to get consistent sales, you will need to continue marketing your book indefinitely. Make a plan and keep following it!
71 Ways to Promote and Market Your Book
Kimberley Grabas has a great list here. Many of her suggestions don't cost anything.
Author Marketing Checklist
The Author Marketing Club has a great list of things you can try. Some of them are ones I've already mentioned in this post, but there are plenty of new ones. Best of all, each item on their list comes with a little video that shows you how to do it.
The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing
Diana Urban has a very thorough list here. Like this blog post, it's made up mainly of links to helpful articles and resources. Hers are divided into categories like "before you publish", "after the book launch", etc. Again, some of them have been covered here, but not all.
Wooing Book Buyers to Get Your Book Into Stores
Want to see your paperback for sale in actual brick-and-mortar bookstores? Amy Collins explains how to make it happen.
Working with Bookstores
Once your book is in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, how do you get customers to notice it and buy it? Amy Collins offers some great suggestions.
Free Promo Sites for 99 Cent Books
One of the best ways to get potential buyers to notice your ebook is to temporarily discount it (or even to make it free for a few days at a time). You can do this on your KDP Bookshelf. But you'll want to make sure to advertise your discounted or free book to some of the sites that alert readers of good deals. In this post, I list (to the best of my knowledge) every single book promo site out there that will promote your discounted ebook at no cost to you. I have created three more posts with similar lists for free books and for sites that charge for their services; you'll find them at the top when you click on the link. (I update the lists often, so keep checking back!)
I wish you all the best in your journey as an author!