First, a special announcement: Last week’s Dear Indie post got 13 likes on Twitter! I have never had a tweet get that much exposure before, so this is very exciting for me and I really hope it helped at least one Indie out of the 13! 😀
After linking that post on the launch page, I noticed that my posts aren’t really coming through in any sense of order – and sometimes having a simple step-by-step guide is so much nicer than trying to pinpoint resources spread throughout various posts. So, this week I’m going to go back to the basics and approach this from the place of a beginner, an aspiring Indie with no experience. That way you all can just jump in wherever it’s relevant to your personal journey.
A Step-by-Step Timeline for Self-Publishing
You’re an aspiring author with amazing stories to tell, filled with characters the world needs to meet. Right now, you think your only job is to write the first draft of that manuscript and then you’ll worry about everything else. – As one who has already made this mistake, I’m here to tell you that 90% of the work that needs to be done in order for your book to have the best chance at success, has to start right this instant.
Pre-Publication 101 (while you are still writing your masterpiece):
Step 1: Decide on your Author name and stick with it. How many famous authors do you know have multiple pseudonyms? Eventually, it gets out and their original author name ends up becoming the “Selling” name posted on their books. ex: Anne Rice writing as Anne Rampling. Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb. Always, their original name is in larger print on the cover than their second pen-name, because they’ve already established a fan base for the original, so it has become their “Brand” name. Most marketing experts today advise to stick with just one name and let it carry your books all the way through. Unless you’re writing both Childrens books and BDSM Erotica, there’s really no legitimate reason to use more than one name or have more than one website/blog – plus balancing multiple names and sites is simply more time you’re taking away from your writing!
- Write your Author Bio and decide how you want to represent yourself. My best advice is to just be yourself, as lame as that sounds, people can generally spot a fake from a mile away. You don’t have to divulge your true identity to give people your genuine personality, if you’d rather stay anonymous. Just remember that your Author Name is the same as a company name, so how you conduct yourself online is how you are representing your company and your product (aka your books).
- Authors of Fiction: Stick with what you’re selling and leave the rest for your ‘real identity’ pages. You do not have to share your views about sensitive topics on your author page in order to remain true to yourself. The people visiting your page are looking for the author of the books they love – not an update on the presidential campaign. If you need to rant or address something relating to your genre, the writing craft, etc. then by all means that would be better received by your followers. Just remember, your site is the professional place to promote your product – it’s not a soapbox.
- Authors of Non-Fiction: If you’re writing about sensitive topics, politics, religion and/or current events, then soapbox away! That is what your author name and product is all about and the people coming to your page already know that, so have it!
- ALL Authors: Never slander another author/book/genre on your page. It’s just bad form and possible career suicide.
Step 2: Once you have your name and bio in hand, your immediate next step is to start building your author platform. Your author name, whether legal or a pseudonym, is now your Brand. A Brand is a professionally marketed product. It is both who you are, and what you’re selling. The best part about this step is that it’s 100% FREE.
- Start a Blog or Website: WordPress is the #1 blog site for writers with BlogSpot coming in 2nd, but there are new platforms on the rise like Wix.com. I don’t recommend Weebly, because it is practically unsearchable. If you don’t have your own domain name, the URL to your blog is a long string of numbers and letters that have nothing to do with your Author Name so won’t come up in the search results on Google or Bing. Spend time exploring to discover the best fit for you. If you want to own your domain right away, Godaddy is still the most popular place to purchase from.
- The best way to get traffic to your blog is to cut out time each week or day for visiting other people’s blogs. Like, follow and comment on blogs and you might get followers and likes in return, but please don’t go on a Like-Spree just to get followers, be genuine! Most bloggers feel the same way about their time as you do and they’re not going to keep up with someone who doesn’t put any effort into the relationship. Just like in real life – you may never meet these people, but online, they are your friends and should be treated as such.
- WordPress posts can be written in advance and scheduled to publish whenever you like, so you don’t have to be active on your blog 24/7 to be productive and keep your readers’ appetites fed. It doesn’t have to take a huge chunk out of your writing time.
- Create an Author “Fan Page” on Facebook – this is different than a normal Facebook account/page, but very easy to set up.
- Join Twitter and Instagram (the rest of the social media options are left up to you and how many you want to try to juggle.)
- The rule of thumb for Twitter is to follow everyone back who follows you – but you will get hit with a lot of ‘fake’ accounts just looking to sell something, so take the time to look at their profile and make sure they’re a real person before following them back, or your Tweet feed will be filled with spam.
- Sign into Crowdfire with your Twitter and/or Instagram account and use it to manage your social media without spending every second of every day trying to keep up – this program allows you to create as many Tweets and Instagram posts as you want in advance and assign them to a posting schedule, so you don’t feel pressured into pausing in your writing or guilty for your absence on social media. *Your personal preferences are your own, but I personally still respond to each and every follow or comment I get, I don’t have an ‘auto response’ set up, but that may be an option with this program, too. You’ll have to check.
Step 3: Create an account on Goodreads. As I stated in a previous post, Goodreads is the #1 spot for Indie support and resources. Take time to search through their groups and join those that fit your genre, as well as the Author and Indie Support groups. The combination will give you an endless supply of honest feedback, exposure and connections with professionals you may not find anywhere else. I found my best Beta Readers and my Editor on Goodreads – really, the sky is the limit on that site. Get critiques on your blurbs, bios, book covers, book trailers, anything and everything you may need a hand with! It is designed to help writers through the entire writing and publishing process, not just a place to promote your books after they’re already for sale.
- Here is the direct link for the Goodreads Author Program. You can create a page for your upcoming books, it doesn’t have to already be published. Goodreads will generate a “Coming Soon” book icon for you.
Step 4: Let go of your Fears. Every new writer has the same exact fear as you about sharing their work with others. Let me explain to you why it is vitally important to let these following fears go:
- It’s Still Rough / No One Will Like It: We are our #1 worst critic and #1 fan simultaneously, but getting feedback and constructive criticism on your novel is IMPERATIVE to your book’s success. You cannot see the forest through the trees, my friend – only an outsider can. Critique groups, Beta Readers and platforms like Wattpad can take your story from mediocre to spectacular in ways you can’t do on your own. You just have to let go of your fear of criticism and realize that it’s a necessary tool for your book. You want your story to be the absolute best it can be, right? The only way you’ll find out if it’s up to your reader’s expectations is to have them read it and give you that important feedback.
- My Work/Idea Will Get Stolen: No, it won’t. First off, your idea is not original, I don’t care what you think – it’s already been done before. A famous trilogy about vampires that sparkle in the daylight is just a ‘new’ take on a non-original idea. It is not an ‘Original’ idea (vampire and werewolf stories are a dime a dozen). No one knows how well your story is going to sell, so why would they want to put the money and time out to edit, cover art, interior layout, publish and market your book as their own? Most Copyright cases that end up in court are only after an author has become a huge success, not before. And your work is 100% copyrighted from the moment you create it – registering it only protects you if you do wind up in court. But you probably have a better chance at winning the lottery than ever being taken to court over a copyright issue.
- My Novel Will Get Pirated: Yep. It probably will and there’s nothing you can do about it, but guess what – that’s exposure you didn’t have to spend any of your marketing budget on so just take it as par for the course. Maybe it robbed you of a couple dollars worth of royalties, it just as likely saved you $50 on advertising. Say that person liked your book so much they came looking for more and were willing to spend this time around – what if they liked it so much, they told all of their friends about it and those people came looking to buy your books as a result? Whether you like it or not, piracy happens – so rather than fearing it – look at it as free marketing and exposure to audiences your book wouldn’t otherwise reach without dishing out money on ads.
Well, my friends, that is all I have for the very basic, preliminary steps. Next week, we’ll move onto the Post-Rough Draft/Pre-Publication phase. But first, here’s an additional resource I’d like to share:
The Best Article Ever Written About Twitter – Twitter for Authors, by T.K. Elliott: What it is, how it works and how best to use it to help build up your author platform!
♥ Weekly Accomplishment: Collar Me Foxy has had 8 sample downloads from Smashwords! Thank you to all who have taken advantage of that feature! What are you celebrating this week? Let us know in the comment section below. 😀