Since I posted this photo on social media, I've been bombarded by congratulations, well-wishes, and questions about launching my book. I’d like to share my journey of publishing this book with you, thus far.
Read up on Self-Publishing
From the moment I decided to self-publish, sometime last October, I read all the advice I could find about the journey I was beginning. I turned first to Jane Friedman, self-publishing guru, and her incredibly useful step by step guide to self-publishing. Her blog led me to Joel Friedlander, another fabulous resource, and his Self-Publishing Roadmap. Between these two, I printed out their guidelines, started at number one, and worked my way down the list. (They have plenty of books and articles, more than I can list here.)
Go Wide or Go Narrow
- I decided to “go wide” rather than focus on the US market only. My book takes place entirely outside the US, and I hope readers in the countries where the book takes place will want to read it. If this doesn’t apply to you, you may wish to go narrow and focus on Amazon.
- I formed my own publishing company, Georgic Publishing LLC.
- I obtained a credit card and bank account in my company name.
- I ordered my own ISBN numbers. This is a little expensive, but those “free” ISBN numbers KDP will give you, cannot be used in other places such as Ingram Spark.
Professional Design and Formatting
- You can do this yourself, but self-designed books usually look amateurish, unless you are already a graphic designer. Someone referred me to Fiverr.com, and with some research, I found a great designer whom I love.
- Interior formatting can be done on KDP website through their templates, but let me tell you, I was amazed at how much back and forth there was even with a professional, to get the details right. This is a time to be fussy. A book with errors or sloppy formatting screams, “Amateur!”
Marketing my Book
Even before your book is published, it is absolutely essential to talk to everyone you know, about your upcoming book. People are interested! Don't be shy! And ask if they'd like to get your emails about the launch. Jot down their email addresses in your handy notebook, or the notepad feature on your phone, and then don't forget to enter them in your database. If you're not on social media, hop on. Pick two sites you like and stick with them. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever works for you.
Creating a Database
You don’t have a database? I bet you do. Do you have a list of contacts in your phone and on your laptop? That is your starting database.
Jane Friedman talked at last years Writers’ Digest Conference about setting up a mailing list and starting a newsletter. I sat there, intimidated, thinking I had no content worth sharing in a newsletter.
But now that I have news to share, I began by creating a “category” in my list of contacts, called “My novel mailing list.” I added every contact whom I thought might be interested, to that group. I sent out a message and told them I was setting up a newsletter, and if they didn’t want future mailings, to please let me know. I expected a dozen or so unsubscribes, but I got one, and promptly removed her.
However, once your list is over 200 people, you may be caught for sending out spam. So again, I turned to my helpful writer friends. I found Mail Chimp too complex. Someone suggested TinyLetter, which is very simple to set up, and free for up to 5000 subscribers. I set up an account. The beauty of these systems, is that each email goes to each individual, and they never see the others receiving the messages. Privacy helps.
Setting up Launch Events
Here’s where all that talking about your book ahead of time, pays off.
I started talking to my golf league last spring, about my book. This winter, they asked me, "When's your book coming out, Ann?" The day I gave them a date, they were almost as excited as I was. From there, it was a question of discussing logistics with the organizers. I will be there on February 21st, with my books, a cash float, and my soon-to-arrive Square, for credit card payments.
You don't play golf? Is there any other organization you belong to? Bridge, quilting, skiing, it doesn't matter. Not everyone will buy your book, but some will, some who wouldn't even know about your book otherwise. Ask if you can bring a few books to a meeting. If they say no, then invite them to your home.
I sing in a church choir, and two of the members managed to get my book early (not sure how) so they are my volunteer advance sales force, building up excitement. I’ll be taking books to choir rehearsal in a few weeks.
I decided to hold my big launch on February 24th at my home. If yours isn't big enough, see if a friend would allow you to do it there. I have read blog posts about launches, and two tips I picked up were, (1) have someone else there to handle money, to free you to sign books and talk to people; and (2) have a friend take photos.
Don’t forget your local library! I was thrilled to find that my local librarian is very fond of local authors, and promotes us at every opportunity. I am now scheduled to participate in a Local Authors’ Book Signing on March 3rd, and do my own signing and presentation on April 21st. I’m also scheduled to be Local Author of the Month in October 2018.
And, one more group, the retirees in my community, invited me to be guest speaker. That’s April 10th.
Since a significant chunk of my book takes place in Canada, I contacted Indigo Chapters bookstore about signings, carrying the book etc. To my amazement, the helpful corporate person who responded, indicated they may well carry the book on a store-by-store basis, and may host signings when I am in Canada over the summer. So never make assumptions.
There is more I plan to do:
Attend the huge Tucson Festival of Books in March. (Even though I'm too late to sell my own.)
Visit all the local libraries and give them a copy for circulation.
Visit all local indie bookstores and check their policies on signings and sales.
What to do at your Launches
Provide finger food and beverages if possible. If it’s at your home, you can include champagne and wine. Keep it simple but festive.
Get some balloons. Create a party atmosphere, because by golly, it’s your party!
Have one helper to take payments for books, another to manage the food.
Practice your presentation and make sure the technology is working.
Your presentation should include something about how you were inspired to write the book, research you had to do, anything unusual about the book. In my case, historical fiction, there is plenty to talk about regarding research.
Allow time for Q & A.
Ask for reviews.
Ask them to tell their friends about the book.
Mention book clubs – if the club studies your book, you can come to a meeting for the discussion, time and distance permitting.
Other nit-picky details
A business license: check with your local municipality. Don’t run afoul of the law.
Bookkeeping. Get it set up, or it will run away with you. I used Wave, a free online service, but there are many other choices.
Order bookplates, preferably custom designed with an image or title of your book on it, for out of town buyers who want a signed copy. Sign the bookplate and mail to the customer.
Order bookmarks, and put one in each sold book. Be sure your website and email address are on it.
You can insist on cash or check, but credit cards are so ubiquitous, I’d advise getting a Square so you can take credit cards on your phone or tablet.
Order 100 copies of your book.
Buy extra-fine or fine sharpie markers for signing. Sign on the inside title page.
For my next post, I’ll tell you how it went, what worked and what didn’t. Feel free to comment or ask questions!