What They Don’t Tell You About Self-Publishing A Book

A Self-Published Author Gives Us the Ins and Outs on Writing Our Own Lane.

Workin' Girl

On April 4, 2018, I announced to the world that I wrote a book, sunny., and it was available for pre-order.

sunny. is a collection of poetry and prose about the ins and outs, ups and downs, and twists and turns of life and love. Rooted in the notion that "everything is a peace of a poem, if you're paying attention," sunny. explores how to learn to love yourself, what happens to the love when a relationship ends, and how love finds us in even the seemingly minute details of life alone or with someone else. The book was born out of a need to process a relationship I couldn't make sense of and a challenge from a sorority sister.

I, like most writers, dream of having a literary agent and getting a book deal, but that isn't my current reality. Still, I knew sunny. was a book that warranted being in the world, so I decided I would self-publish it and learned a lot along the way.

If you're considering self-publishing your book, here are 6 things to keep in mind:

Do Your Best to Nip Impostor Syndrome in the Bud

You might be wondering if anyone is going to care about your book beyond your Mom, Dad, and maybe a few friends. You can't afford to think that way. People will care about your book if you care about it. People will care about your book if you make them care about it. When you self-publish, you're one person show so confidence about your work is a necessity or else you won't be able to promote it well or pursue opportunities you know you and your book deserve.

Think About Marketing

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As I already said, when you self-publish a book you are a one person show unless you've got it like that to hire others to do your marketing for you or help you with it. But if that's not your situation, then as you're working on your manuscript, you should also be working on your marketing plan. How will you publicize your book? How are you creating and sustaining buzz? How will your book live and sell beyond its initial launch high? What marketing assets do you need?

And your plan needs to be deeper than, "Hey, I wrote a book and I think it's great so you should buy it." What reason does someone have to buy your book if they come across it in a store or see it mentioned on social media? What value is it adding? What story are you telling and how are you constantly reaching and engaging with your demographic through your marketing channels? Will you run social media ads or create a sales funnel?

Consider these things while you're writing and the process after publication will be much easier. Tools like Canva are great for designing branded assets for Twitter, Instagram, and your website if you can't afford to hire a designer. Services like Buffer allow you to pre-schedule social media content and also send it out for you, enabling you to pursue that next project without wondering if you've mentioned your last offering yet. If you want to run ads or create a sales funnel, do your research and hire out for those services or invest in courses about how to do it right on your own.

Remember, if you write it, some will come, but if you want your book to have a long life, you'll need to market it and tell people why it's worth reading.

Pick Your Publishing Platform Well

I published sunny. through, what was at the time, Createspace, one of Amazon's self-publishing platforms. It has since merged with the Kindle platform and become KDP or Kindle Direct Publishing. As I was researching self-publishing platforms, I also came across other popular offerings like Blurb and Lulu.com. There's also Tablo which I was just introduced to and boasts that it will get your book into 40,000 bookstores from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, as well as physical retailers all over the world.

Each platform is going to come with different costs, offerings, and royalties. You want to keep those three areas in mind as you pick the platform that's right for you. Think about what your goals for your book are and which platform will get you closest to achieving them.

You'll also need to think about if you're going to have a physical book, e-book or both and which platform will best enable you to distribute them. Know that you'll have to go through separate processes to get on iBooks and Nook, so be prepared for that extra step no matter what platform you choose.

Do Your Research

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When I had written enough of sunny. to realize that it could actually be a book, I went to a bookstore to study what other books in my genre looked and felt like. I took notes on everything - font, font size, how the books were structured, how many pages they had on average, the cover art, the cover material (front and back), what was on the spine, the color of the pages, where the title and author name were located, how the table of contents was laid out if it had one, how poems were structured on the pages, and most of all, how each book made me feel. I wanted to make sure that sunny. would make sense, look right, and stand out if someone dropped it in a stack of poetry books by prominent poets of yesterday and today.

Once you have a general sense of what books in your genre are like, research and think about how you can make your book stand out. Sunny. has a simple cover. It's just the title, my name, a saxophone, and a bright yellow background. I haven't seen many poetry books with a saxophone on the cover or with bright yellow backgrounds and I knew these design choices would make sunny. stand out while also communicating that there's a story behind the sax and the book is about finding the sun. It makes you feel warm inside and intrigued; both being characteristics I believe have helped it sell well.

Be Mindful of Your Costs

Unlike getting started on other creative endeavors, self-publishing does have a price tag associated with it. You will need to pay for your ISBN, which is like your book's identification number. You'll also want to copyright your work with the U.S. Copyright office for an extra layer of protection. And if you're hiring out for design work or marketing help, those services will cost you as well.

Make sure you have a budget for the process and do your best to stay under it. You can't get out of buying an ISBN and while you can skip the copyright, it's really not the best idea. I recommend buying your ISBN from whoever you self-publish with as it will just be easier and they may even include it in the price of using their platform. Your copyright will cost anywhere from $35-$85 and again, is a step that should not be overlooked.

Think About Opportunities for Expansion Early

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You don't need to have a podcast, event series, and merchandise ready to go as soon as your book is released into the world. In my personal opinion, it's smart to see how people respond to the book before jumping on to various spin-offs, but if folks are responding well, think about ways you can build on the initial interest and purchases to really create a brand out of your work. Can you host workshops, parties or other events? Is there a podcast in there to extend the story? Are people asking you for merchandise? Thinking about the larger picture of the brand that can grow as a result of your book while you're in the process of publishing will make you better prepared for later down the line.

Ultimately, bringing a book into the world is no small feat and thanks to technology, getting a traditional book deal is no longer the only way to become or be successful as an author. Hopefully these tips and tricks help you in your process of self-publishing and congratulations! You're going to be an author!

Featured image by Getty Images.

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