A Quick Guide to Self-Publishing
writing

Before you begin your self-publishing journey, it’s important to take a step back and become familiar with each element of the process.

Check out our quick guide below so you can see what exactly is involved in self-publishing a book, as well as where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Editing.

This is not negotiable. Your book must be edited. End of story.

If you do not have another set of professional eyes on your book, then you will most likely find yourself having published a book that is riddled with typos and grammatical errors. This is not because you are careless; it is because mistakes occur in all manuscripts, and yours is no exception.

Additionally, authors are often are too close to their work to see all the areas where it can be improved. An editor who brings an objective eye to the manuscript can be a huge boon.

Book cover.

Your book cover is your best marketing tool. It is the first thing potential readers see when discovering your book, and it can often be the reason someone decides to find out more information about it, or, worse, move on.

Invest in a professional book cover. Make sure it looks unique and readable as a thumbnail, as that is most likely how most potential readers will first discover the book.

Ebook.

If you’re self-publishing, there is no reason not to have an ebook version. With online converters, as well as more complex software, it has become increasingly easier to produce a professional ebook.

If your book has a lot of pictures, however, it would probably be best to hire a professional to help with the digital layout.

Paperback.

While the ebook format of your book is fairly simple to produce, the paperback format can be more cumbersome. Again, there are online converters and software that can help you produce a professional paperback interior, but it is best to hire a professional to ensure your book is properly produced. 

In addition to the paperback’s interior, you will also need a fuller version of your book cover, complete with a back and spine. You can choose your book’s trim size, and your spine width will be dependent on the number of pages. Ensuring your paperback’s cover is properly formatted down to the millimeter is another reason to work with a professional cover designer.

Lastly, it’s important to determine what your expectations are for your paperback. If all you want to do is sell it on Amazon, and perhaps explore some advanced distribution options at a lower royalty rate, then you can simply create one version of your paperback specifically for Amazon.

If, however, you want to try to get your book into bookstores, then you’ll need to explore IngramSpark, a self-publishing service that makes your book available to retailers in its network.

If this is the road you want to go down, then you will need to create a paperback interior and cover that are specific to IngramSpark’s dimensions, as they will most likely be slightly different than what Amazon requires.

Hardcover.

It is best to avoid creating a hardcover version of your book unless you have good, specific reasons for doing so, as the process can be a pain: you’ll need yet another separate interior and book cover.

If you need a hardcover version, then you can create, publish and distribute one through IngramSpark.

ISBN. 

Purchasing an ISBN is only necessary for your book if you choose to publish it through IngramSpark. If you are publishing your book on a small budget, it is best to avoid a plan that requires you to get an ISBN.

Distribution.

Amazon is a no-brainer for where your book should be sold, as it dominates the ebook landscape. The decision over whether or not you should enroll in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, which makes your ebook exclusive to Amazon for a set period in return for unique benefits, has been covered online by others in great depth. This is a personal decision, and one you should invest some time in making.

If you choose to not go exclusively with Amazon, it is best to simply use a distributor like Draft2Digital, which will allow you to distribute your ebook to other retailers like Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and more.

Lastly, as discussed above, if you want your physical book to be available for bookstores to sell, then you’ll need to work with IngramSpark as well.

Metadata.

Properly formatted metadata is critical to your book’s success, as, without it, few potential readers will be able to find your book.

The components of a book’s metadata are:

  • Title

  • Subtitle

  • Categories or genres

  • Book description

  • Author bio

There are a few other pieces of metadata that search engines will use to potentially surface your book to potential readers, but these are the big five that you should be most cognizant of. For this reason, it’s important to do proper keyword and category research to make sure you are writing engaging and SEO-friendly copy, as well as placing your book in an appropriate category that allows your book to be discovered.

Price.

Self-published ebooks typically sell for less than their traditionally published counterparts. Do some research and find out what price point works best for books in your genre. 

When it comes to the physical version of your book, you’ll need to consider the length of the book and the cost of the printer to create and distribute it, as these variables will affect what your royalty is on each sale.

Marketing.

It is not simply enough to professionally publish your book. If you follow all the above steps and stop there, you’ll have a great book that no one can find. In order to sell your book, you need to make people aware of it.

There are plenty of ways of doing this: an author website, Goodreads, social media, advertising, blogging, email newsletters, etc. Think about what you can reasonably commit yourself to as well as how much of your budget you can set aside for marketing, and create a marketing plan.

Publicity.

There is some overlap between marketing and publicity, but they are distinct areas of expertise. If you want to pitch reviewers or bloggers, then you’ll need to create a publicity plan or hire someone with existing contacts to pitch your book on your behalf.

As you can see, self-publishing a book that is properly done and discoverable for potential readers is not as easy as simply uploading a Word doc, throwing some text together for a cover, and hitting the “Publish” button. You can go that route, sure, but you’ll be left with a book that few people will ever know about.

Before you begin your self-publishing journey, you need to figure out what your budget is, as well as what your technical skill is. It’s possible you have a great book and a decent budget, but don’t know how to actually do much of the above. If so, that’s ok. You have options, including hiring AuthorPop to help. Do some research and figure out what the best option is for you.

AuthorPop also offers website design and an array of marketing services, and we can connect you with a host of vetted cover designers, publicists and other publishing professionals.

If you are interested in working with AuthorPop on any aspect of the self-publishing process, please us the below form to reach out.

 
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Author Websites 101: Everything You Need to Know
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An author website is the hub around which all other online activities circulate. Aside from a book’s product page on Amazon or Goodreads, it is perhaps the first place a potential reader will go when determining whether or not to buy your book. It is a platform that you, the author, own outright. It is your opportunity to dictate how you present yourself, your book and your brand to the world. It is your business card, your headshot and your portfolio.

A professional author website is a critical tool for any author who wants to increase digital discoverability, engage with readers, and sell more books.

But, contrary to popular belief, an author website does not need to be complicated. In fact, the simpler it is in design—the more intuitive it is to navigate and the fewer bells and whistles it has—the better.

I’ve built websites for dozens of authors, and I’ve advised countless more on how to best optimize their author websites. Time and time again, they are heartened to learn that they do not need a $10,000 website with a slew of fancy features.

The truth is, you want your author website to be as minimalist as possible. More and more online traffic is coming from mobile devices, so it’s imperative that your site not be bloated with extraneous gadgets and can instead load quickly. Moreover, being viewed more and more on a small screen, your site needs to be easily navigable. You cannot have a structure in place that requires visitors to spend precious seconds deciding where to go so they can find they information they seek.

This is a poor user experience, and one you cannot afford to have.

A well-constructed author website should have the following basic features:

  • Your name and a clearly visible navigation system at the top.

  • Your book, along with buy links, blurbs and the description on the homepage. Your book cover should be the first thing people see.

  • An about page, with an up-to-date headshot and a bio.

  • A contact page with clear instructions for how readers can connect with you, and, if applicable, your agent(s) and publicist.

  • Separate pages for each book you have.

That’s it. Your author website does not need anything else. Now, it absolutely can have more pages (Keep reading for a list and explanation). But a professional-looking author website does not need any more features than what’s listed above.

Let me break down each element:

Your name and navigation system.

Yes, people will intuitively know this is your author website, since they most likely were actively searching for you in order to find it. But you should still have your name in big (but not obscenely so) type up top. Your name should also act as a link back to the homepage.

The navigation should consist of links to each part of your website in readable type. Visitors should not need to click several times to find the page they’re looking for. Don’t make them work, or else they will leave. It’s ok to have a link that acts as a folder over which visitors hover to see a set of links grouped together.

Finally, be sure to include your social media links.

Look at this example from Megan Abbott’s website:

 
Megan Abbott name and navigation
 

The homepage.

Unless a reader is a diehard fan of your previous books, there’s a good chance they will need to be convinced to spend $20 to buy your new one. Furthermore, consumer research has shown that a potential reader will need to see your book cover multiple times before they are willing to make that investment. To that end, when it comes to your digital activities, you need to always be thinking about how you can get your book cover in front of readers as many times as possible without overdoing it.

Your homepage is the perfect space.

Don’t have the cover take up the entire page. Make it tasteful, but don’t make it a thumbnail either, like how it appears on Amazon. Just make it an appropriate size and surround it with the description of the book, buy links, and, if appropriate or desired, blurbs and reviews.

Again, look at this example from Megan Abbott’s website:

 
Megan Abbott homepage
 

About page.

Now we’re moving into easier territory. Your about page really just needs two basic elements: an up-to-date headshot and a bio. Don’t make your bio just two sentences. Visitors came to your website because they want to learn more about you. But don’t feel the need to write a novella, either. 

Contact page.

If someone took the time to read an author’s book, I believe they should have the ability to contact the author to let them know they enjoyed it. Either write out your email address or use a form, similar to the one below from Megan Abbott’s contact page, in which your address is obscured.

 
Megan Abbott contact page
 

Also, if you have an agent (or several agents), a publicist, or someone who arranges your speaking engagements, include their contact information as well.

Separate book pages.

Each book you’ve written deserves its own page. Just include the same elements you did on the homepage for the book you’re promoting and you’ll be all set.

Other pages.

The above are all the necessary pages for an author website, but here are some other pages to consider:

  • Newsletter – A list of email addresses of people who buy your books is one of the most important marketing tools an author can have. I’d recommend having a sign-up form somewhere on your homepage, but it’s a good idea to have a separate page as well.

  • News – If you or your books are making a lot of news, it might be a good idea to compile it all on one dedicated page.

  • Press – This one is similar to a news page, but it’s really more for articles being written about your books. Feel free to combine the two if you want.

  • Events – Going on a book tour? Make it easy for readers to know if you’re coming their way.

  • Interviews – Do you do a lot of interviews? Gather them all in one place for your readers.

  • Media – If you have photos, videos or audio that you want readers to able to easily find, put them all on this page.

  • Book Club – If your book is one that might appeal to book clubs, it’s a good idea to create a separate page so readers can find reading guides, questions and unique resources.

  • Writing – If you write some articles in addition to your books, odds are your readers will want to read these, too.

  • Blog – There are many reasons for authors to have a blog. If you want one, just be sure to create a strategy at the outset to better ensure success. 

Like I said at the top, the key word when it comes to an author website is minimalist. You want a clean, polished, modern website that loads quickly, is easy to navigate, is optimized for both computers and phones, and is readily discoverable by search engines. You do not want something that is convoluted and takes minutes to load.

What I covered in this article is really just the basics on author websites. There are myriad technical aspects that an experienced web designer should be cognizant of—SEO best practices, internal linking, image sizes, etc.—but those are areas that, for most authors, are beyond their skillset.

I’d love to hear from you below with any comments, questions or concerns!

Daniel BerkowitzComment