The creation of an eBook or print on demand title is relatively easy. The difficult bit is cutting through the millions of other titles out there and making your book known. Below is a list of basic things that will help.
- Perfect Copy. Make sure your book is professionally edited and has no errors in it. Don’t bother publishing a book unless it has been edited and has been read by a number of people you trust that can provide you with useful feedback.
- Compelling Cover. A professional eBook cover is essential in grabbing people’s attention. The cover also has to look good as a thumbnail. Avoid using red text in your cover as it blurs on the screen.
- Distribute Widely. With Amazon, Smashwords, BookBaby and others you can distribute your eBook to all the major eBook retailers and reach the widest possible audience (for free or minimal cost).
- Book Formats. Make sure your ebook is available in the three key eBook formats: PDF, ePub and .Mobi. Also consider creating a print on demand version. Not everyone wants to read an eBook and another advantage of having a POD version is that the higher price of the print book can induce people to pay the lower priced eBook.
- Utilize your own ISBN: An ISBN is not strictly necessary to publish an eBook to Amazon and Smashwords, for example. However, it will give you greater flexibility in your distribution and promotion efforts if you have your own (or your publisher’s) ISBNs for both eBooks and print on demand titles.
- Compelling blurb: Make sure the description of your book is captivating for a potential reader. Examine the descriptions of successful books in your genre for clues.
- Pick the Correct Book Category: Ensure you have a good understanding of the specific book category your title falls under. If you are unsure, look at similar books in your category and select that one. Try to avoid picking general categories such as “Fiction” “General”. Be as specific as possible.
- Choose your Key Words Carefully: Think of Amazon like a big search engine: people search for items via key words. So pick key words that you think both reflect the content of your book but also may be relevant to potential readers.
- Price your book appropriately and experiment: For an unknown author of fiction, $2.99 for an eBook is your starting point. For non-fiction your audience is willing to pay more so you can start at a higher price. Experiment with different price points.
- Set up your Author Profile: Set up your author profile at Amazon’s Author Central. https://authorcentral.amazon.com/ . Find your books on Amazon and place them in your Author Central profile. Click on a link to one of your books in Author Central and you will be able to edit and update your book descriptions and add additional elements to the book and the description (such as adding bold to the text). Add as much detail as you can.
- Sign up to Goodreads: Ensure you are a member of Goodreads and sign up to their author program http://www.goodreads.com/author/program . If your book is not in the Goodreads database you can manually add it.
- Create a Ganxy Showcase: Ganxy allows you to sell your eBooks directly from a Website/Blog or Facebook page. They handle the fulfilment of the orders for 10% of the sale price. The royalty rates are significantly better than you will get from Amazon and other retail outlets but it also gives you flexibility to bundle multiple ebooks together, sell eBooks for free, get email addresses from those who buy your books and much more. www.ganxy.com
- Create a Webpage/Website/Blog. You need somewhere online to showcase your eBook and your work. If you will be creating multiple titles, then this is a must. But be warned, if you don’t plan on updating your website or blog regularly then don’t bother. You need to have a plan on how you will be using this web presence.
- Tell your friends/family & contacts: This may seem obvious but tell your friends, family, facebook, twitter and Linked-in followers about your new book and provide links to where they can purchase a copy. Ideally, send them a link to your Ganxy showcase.
- Enhance your Email Signature: In your email signature include “Author of [book title]…” and provide a link to where the book is available.
- Get a review: Ask a friend or family member to review your book. Positive reviews drive sales. Send free copies of your book to people you think might positively review your book. If you want real results, find an ‘Amazon Top Reviewer’ to review your book. Not easy, but can be done.
- Make your book free for a period: Services like Ganxy or Smashwords provide tools to allow you to offer your book for free for a period of your choosing. Amazon Kindle Select program, which enables you to make your title free for 5 days in a three month period on Amazon used to be a good way to initially promote your book. However, I am now not convinced that the promotional benefits outweigh the costs of 3 month exclusivity. But it has been useful in the past so it can be worth a shot. But if you have multiple titles, offering one title for free can potentially hook people to your other books.
- Write another book: The evidence would suggest that authors with multiple titles sell more books than those with just a single book. Marketing just one book from an unknown author is difficult. However, if you have multiple titles, there is the opportunity to cross promote each book and make one book a loss leader for the second or subsequent titles.
Things to consider carefully before embarking
The following elements can be successful but my advice is to seriously consider your return on investment (whether it be time or money) before you start these efforts.
- Blogging: there are many books and countless articles out there about the value of starting a blog to help promote and support your book. If you haven’t started blogging before your book is published and you don’t already have something of a following, then don’t bother starting a blog. Successful blogs are updated at least once per week so ask yourself the question “do you have something interesting to say at least once a week?” A better strategy than starting your own blog is to seek out popular blogs in a related field and ask to write a guest article/blog. This can deliver a far higher return on investment.
- Twitter: Like blogging, twitter is not a place for just shameless self-promotion. You have to create content that people are interested in. It takes time to create a following and like all blogging, one’s return on investment needs to be measured.
- Google Adwords/Facebook ads/Goodreads ads: Pay per click ads to promote your book can be a very good way to drive traffic. However, you need to crunch the numbers to assess whether it is worthwhile. If you are paying $10 per day for an advertisement, to drive sales of your $2.99 book, then you need to work out how many books to sell to break-even. Many times, the return on investment doesn’t add up.
All these tips may seem very obvious, and they are to an extent, but my experience is that new self published authors are often so axious to actually just get an eBook published, that they miss the basic steps, and then wonder why they get few sales.
My last tip is this: Just because you can publish an eBook doesn’t mean you should. Writing well takes time. Publishing an eBook is different from becoming a writer. A writer writes…constantly.
Ben Macklin is the Managing Director of BWM Books. BWM Books provides print and eBook publishing, advice and marketing services to published and unpublished authors and their families. Twitter handle @bwmbooks.
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