OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Authors who discover the power of self-publishing often turn into evangelists for the medium.
I'm clearly one of those, and so is Catherine Ryan Howard, who has a useful blog with a comedy slant on the self-publishing business as well as a series of humorous travel memoirs – Mousetrapped and Backpacked. She has just re-released Self-Printed, her book about how to self-publish so today we talk about some of what she has learned. Click here to download the audio in mp3 format.
In this video, we talk about:
- How Catherine started with self-publishing after rave rejections for her travel memoir, Mousetrapped. She decided it would be better to publish it then leave it in a drawer but she is also still seeking a traditional publishing deal for other books, aiming to be hybrid in the same way I am. It went so well she released Backpacked and Self-Printed. On writing with humor and how it's part of her natural voice.
On whether printing your book is a good idea
- I personally think print is fantastic but only as a vanity option, something you have to do for yourself, and not for sales. Catherine explains why her book is called self-printed and how really indies make money with ebooks, and not print books. Print books are really for your benefit, not for the benefit of your business or your bank account. It's a lot of work to make a really good quality paperback. All the indie success stories are with ebooks. The advantage of ebooks in terms of updates as well as the fact we both still think print is done best by traditional publishing with distribution to physical stores. Catherine advises new self-publishers to focus on ebooks primarily.
What are people still getting wrong about self-publishing?
- (1) Seriously, you must use professional cover design. Learn from The Book Designer Ebook Cover Awards (monthly). The Aug 2012 entries included an author who had used one of his own paintings to construct a cover that wasn't effective. Cover design is a specific skill, that 99.99% of writers don't have. Hire a professional book cover designer.
- (2) Don't think you'll be rich by next week. Catherine worked hard for a year and only sold 100 copies a month until things started taking off. Yes, it happens for some people with no marketing, but you can't model yourself on the outliers. This is hard work so you'll need to budget time and energy into your equation.
- (3) Editing and how critical it is to bring your book up to even a minimum standard. You can't skimp on it. MS Word spell-check cannot do editing for you. You need a professional editor because you don't know what you don't know, and your book has to be the best it can be, whatever you are charging for it.
Marketing that has worked for Catherine
- Blogging has been the most successful thing for Catherine, but her blog is the same voice as her non-fiction travel memoirs. Twitter is also critical for traffic but also for meeting other writers and the opportunities that come because of the connections there. It is about imagination – how many ways can you think of to get people to notice your book?
- Facebook is also good e.g. Mousetrapped is about Disney, Orlando and gap years. So Catherine can network with people who like those and people share within those groups. Very useful if your book is about a specific thing on Facebook.
How to sell self-published books
- Catherine has looked back and reviewed the journey and she has a theory about this. Finding the first readers is difficult. You can't go from nothing to the top of the Amazon charts. You need that small group of fans to help you, and they will often do it to support you if you develop a following online who know you. You can then multiply that initial interest.
- The importance of building a list so that you can sell the second book when it's time. It's also important to have a list because the social networks rise and fall. You need to own your mailing list so you're not left high and dry if they fall apart because you don't own that digital real estate.
Do you have any specific tips from your self-publishing experience? Do you still print books (and if so, do you make significant income from them?) Please do leave a comment below.