A few months ago I self-published my first novel, The Yoga Sutras. Three months is surely too early to judge whether it’s a success or a failure, but already I can see the things I did wrong.
Or rather, I can see some of the things I did wrong. No doubt there are others that I just haven’t spotted yet.
The physicist John Wheeler once said that time is what prevents everything from happening at once. The same could be said of planning.
Writing a book is terrifying. Self-publishing a book is terrifying. Writing a book and then self-publishing it is beyond terrifying. The result is panic. To avoid panic, you will need to plan. Failure to plan was my first mistake.
The author platform
An author platform consists of your website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, a blog and a presence on sites like Goodreads.com. The author platform enables you to make contact with potential readers and tell them about yourself, your interests and your book. If you fail to do this you will not sell many books.
Here’s the most important fact to understand about your author platform. It must be built before you publish your book. It should be obvious why.
I had (accidentally) built an author platform without even knowing it. I had a blog with 1,000+ followers (a solid start, but more would have been better), a Twitter account with a few hundred followers (a few tens of thousands would have been helpful), and I had three friends on goodreads (Yes, three. Please, don’t say anything).
You might also have some real-world friends and family that you are counting on to buy your book. All I can say is don’t count your chickens. Or your friends.
So I was halfway there. When I launched my book, I managed to generate some initial sales, but it wasn’t enough for Amazon’s algorithms to identify the (surely enormous) sales potential of my book and propel it to bestseller status.
So start building your author platform the day you decide to become an author.
Planning (part 2)
Yes, more planning, so boring. If you were a professional publisher, you would launch a book simultaneously on all platforms – Kindle, iTunes, Kobo, etc, plus a paperback version. If you are an amateur and a publishing virgin like me, you will blunder into this process releasing one version at a time over a period of several weeks. This is not good. You are literally throwing away potential sales by not making your book available in the form that readers want.
Preparing your e-book for the different platforms and getting them approved takes time. Plan the process.
Publishing as a paperback is quite painless these days, but takes longer than an e-book. I used CreateSpace, but people tell me there are other options too.
You can see how much research I did, can’t you?
What!? Give your book to people for free? Yes. Most bestselling writers and publishers give away copies of their book. Not to anyone, you understand. This is part of the marketing process and it only works if you plan it. That P word again.
An effective giveaway (on Goodreads for example) is part of the pre-launch process. A month before the planned publication date you start a giveaway process. People register in the hope of receiving a copy of your book. Most will be unlucky, because you will only be giving away a small number, but the process creates hype. Some people may choose to buy your book as a result.
The lucky winners of your book will be thrilled and may write early reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The giveaway is also a chance for you to make friends with potential readers on Goodreads.
You will also have sent pre-release copies of the book to influential bloggers and reviewers to generate more buzz. If you know any. Guess how many I knew. It was a number smaller than one.
I did it my way
So this is the anatomy of a successful book launch circa 2014, at least as far as I can tell. If I had known all this before I published, I would have done a much more professional job and would have made more sales. As it is, I can’t complain. I am delighted that some of you bought my book, and if reading it gave you pleasure then I can consider myself a lucky person.
If you felt this article was of any value, please rush out and buy my book, and there may still be a chance that Amazon’s perfidious and unpredictable algorithms will latch on to it and send it on its way to stardom.