I know many authors who have tried publishing their writing through various online sources, and have found the experience, difficult, tedious and frustratingly slow. It needn’t be that way.
It is my pleasure this week to welcome guest blogger Holly Dunn, who works in the world of writing, books, and independent publishing. She is just the person to help if you are thinking about publishing a book, whether it be a novel, short stories, essays, memoirs …
Self-publishing a book in New Zealand
The rise and rise of the indie author
The ubiquity of the internet has brought with it many opportunities for authors to make money from their work. Gone are the days of gatekeepers who guarded the doors to publishing. You don’t need an agent and you don’t need a publisher. What you need is a dogged persistence and the ability to assemble a team of professionals to help you out. Here are five of the key steps you need to take to become a successful indie author through self-publishing.
1. Define your self-publishing goals
I always and advise indie authors to set out their goals before they start on this journey. Self-publishing is a business model, and all successful businesses have goals and targets. These goals will be your touchstones along the way, helping you to stay on track.
Think about what you want to achieve with your book. Is your goal to make a profit? Do you want to become an authority in your field? Maybe you just want to make your book available to friends and family. Your answers to these questions will determine how you approach your content, marketing and design.
I’ve noticed that most authors don’t set clear goals from the outset. By failing to do this, they struggle to know whether or not they are doing well. You may not meet your goals, but if you have them you can evaluate what went well and what you could do better next time.
2. Make a marketing plan for your book
It might seem strange to put this first, but before you start looking for a designer or even an editor, you should consider how you’re going to market your book and make your money back. If your goal is to make your book profitable, this is an essential step. Many successful authors will actually do this before they even start writing.
A solid marketing plan should include:
- Your target audience. Be specific in this. What are your readers’ interests? Where do they live? What age are they? What is their worldview? The more detail you can include, the better you will be able to serve that group of people.
- The different platforms you will use to market your book. In 2019, this will probably include some kind of social media and/or paid advertisements online.
- Your marketing budget. There’s no point in spending hundreds (possibly thousands) of dollars getting your book printed if you’re not willing to spend anything on advertising. Set aside some money for this. The percentage of your overall budget will depend on the kind of marketing you plan to do.
- Some kind of content marketing plan. Content marketing is when you produce free materials to attract your target audience. This is usually done online through something like a blog or a YouTube channel. Through this, you can build a following of loyal fans who will be likely to buy your book when it releases. Content marketing is cheap to produce but can take several years to build to a profitable level. Consistency is key when creating content online.
- Some sort of information to send to bookshops. Don’t just think about ebooks and social media marketing. Consider more traditional ways of selling books, including through retail stores. Advance Information (AI) sheets are a great way to let bookshops know about your book. Be sure to include the genre and target audience as well as the basic information such as price and ISBN.
3. Get your work edited and proofread
After you’ve done your marketing plan and are confident you can reach your goals to either gain exposure or make a profit from your book, look into hiring a professional editor for your manuscript.
There are several different types of editing. A content editor will look at the overall picture of your book. This includes things like general consistency, pacing, style and flow. This is the big picture content.
A copy editor looks at more specific issues within the text. This includes things like checking if a character switches clothing within a scene, whether words are repeated and if there are any unnecessary capital letters or punctuation.
Proofreaders job overlaps somewhat with a copy editor. However, proofreader looks at the text more objectively. They are looking specifically for issues in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Oftentimes, a proofreader won’t read the text exactly. Instead, they will scan over the words, looking for errors.
All three of these have some overlap. In traditional publishing, a book will typically go through all three processes at least once. If you have budget constraints, you can look for somebody who will cover all three. However, if you can stretch to two or three people your book will be better for it.
A single person may need to go through your books several times to get the editing right. In that time, an editor becomes accustomed to the text. In doing so, they will find it harder to pick up on errors in the second and third time through. This is why it’s so difficult to proofread and edit your own work. At a certain point, we read what we expect to be instead of what is actually there.
As for prices, they vary from editor to editor and will usually be based on word count. Generally speaking, the more you pay the better the editor’s services will be. Just ensure you discuss expectations up-front.
4. Come up with a design that will sell your book
Book design is a crucial part of selling your story. People will judge your book by its cover, so it’s important that it accurately represents the content of your book.
As with your marketing plan, it’s important to consider your book’s audience. What are their preferences? What sort of designs are they drawn to? A key part of this is the genre.
Ideally, your book should fit into one genre. This helps your reader to identify it as something they want to read.
Look at other books in your genre. What are the common tropes on the covers? Do they favour illustration or photography? What font styles are used? What are the most common colours? Your book should fit alongside these designs without replicating them.
I would suggest looking for a professional designer to create your book cover. Not only that, but I would suggest finding somebody who specialises in book cover design. Covers are a specialised skill and not all graphic designers are good at it. In fact, I’ve seen excellent graphic designers do a mediocre job at the book design, even though they are fantastic in other areas.
Good places to look for book cover designers are Instagram, Bēhance and in bookshops. Most books list the designer on the back of the book or on the inside flap of a dust jacket. Look at their portfolio and see if they’ve done anything comparable to your book in the past. When you reach out to them, include as much detail about your project as possible.
Another aspect of the design is the layout of the inside pages. This is called typesetting and is another specialised job. There are companies and individuals who offer this service. If you want your book to be taken seriously I highly suggest hiring professionals to do your layout and cover.
5. Get your book printed
Finally, we get to print! It’s helpful to know what size you’ll be printing before you start designing, so look into common book sizes before you start. In New Zealand, A5 is fairly typical for self-publishing, but there are many other sizes and layouts.
It may be tempting to only look at overseas options, but there are many factors to consider. I’m an advocate for printing locally if you can. Printing overseas may look cheaper, to begin with, but when you include the shipping and customs fees the prices are comparable, especially for smaller runs.
Unless you are an established author or have a lot of pre-orders, it’s probably not necessary to print more than 100 books in your first print run. This is where print on demand services are very useful. Print on demand allows you to print copies of your books as needed, which saves money on storage and allows you to make changes if you notice any mistakes.
There are many other advantages to printing your book on-demand, such as a reduced environmental impact and the ability to change parts of your book if necessary. For indie authors, it allows much more flexibility for publishing.
Now you know the basics of the self-publishing process. If you’re interested in learning more about self-publishing in New Zealand, take a look at the book I wrote on the subject. It goes into much more depth on marketing, content and design. The book is available through The CopyPress website and through any good bookshop in New Zealand.
1. L. Kennedy is the marketing assistant at The CopyPress in Nelson. The CopyPress helps indie authors to achieve their dreams of seeing their book in print. With industry contacts, in-house designers and a built-in distribution system, The CopyPress can help authors at every stage of the journey, from editing and design to getting their book stocked in bookshops. Kennedy is also the author of Self-Publishing in New Zealand, which takes writers through the nuts and bolts of creating a book to sell.