It's been nearly six years since I wrote my first book, How To Enjoy Your Job, now rewritten and republished as Career Change.
I've spent the time since then embedding myself within this market. Learning about writing, publishing and book marketing is more than my career, it's also my hobby and my passion (and my fun, judge me how you will!)
But being so deeply involved for so long means that it's now hard to remember what was difficult at the beginning!
It helped me to revisit the process of publishing from scratch, so here's the checklist I worked through that might be helpful if you're just starting out.
I'm assuming you have finished the first draft and then gone through the major editing and beta-reader process, so you have a finished manuscript ready to go.
(1) Finalize the manuscript
Once the final draft is finished, you need to add the extra material like the copyright page, the dedication and anything else, like the Author's Note and acknowledgements. Remember to include a call to action at the end of the book for people to sign up for your email newsletter, as well as including your social media links, or at least your website.
Don't forget your back blurb/sales description which also needs to be done before you publish.
My recommendation is to also use a proof-reader for the manuscript, so someone new who reads the book just before you publish and notices the last typos and punctuation issues. This is the final cleanup of the manuscript. For Nada, Wendy Janes did a fantastic job!
This needs to be done in advance as many designers are booked up, so email early and book your slot. Jane Dixon Smith was amazing for Nada, producing an ebook and print book cover. Arthur had his own ideas about the cover, wanting to emphasize the sinister mask of the Marmuthones, which feature in the opening murder. Jane took that and added depth, the heroine Eleanor in the background walking to her future. Click here for more book cover designers.
(3) Get URL and website sorted
As Arthur is a new author, I decided to go with a basic, free WordPress.com site that is easy to build, set up and maintain. I did buy ArthurJPenn.com as a domain and redirect it to the wordpress site, which gives it a more professional look and is easier to include on business cards and the back of the book. Dad is getting used to wordpress, checking out the different themes right now, so the site may be in-flux if you visit 🙂
I advise people who want to write as a career to host their own website, but you can move the content later, so after we see how the first book goes, we may look at moving to a hosted site. If you want to set up a self-hosted WordPress site, I've made a tutorial here which will have your site up in under 30 mins 🙂
Another reason to use self-hosting is to be able to embed a signup form to an external list service like Aweber (affiliate). But you can get around this by hosting the form on the service itself and providing a re-direct. Not perfect, but functional for a new author just starting out.
(4) Publish on Amazon for Kindle
Now this is a marketing decision, but because Arthur doesn't have an existing platform, I decided that it was worth going with KDP Select for the initial 90 days to get some traction with giveaways.
After the 90 days is up, we will likely publish on Kobo and Smashwords for the other platforms. I'm generally not a fan of exclusivity but for the short-term initial period, it's worth it for traction.
When you first set up your profile, you have to fill in the tax information. Non-US citizens will have 30% with-holding tax applied unless you sort out your tax numbers. It's not too hard, check out this great post from Karen Inglis.
You should also fill out your Amazon Author Central profiles – for the .com and then the other stores as well. You can claim your books and get them linked together.
(5) Publish on Createspace for print
There are many reasons to print your book, but when it's your first book, the main reason is to hold it in your hand and say ‘I made this!‘. It's a time to celebrate! Again, Jane Dixon Smith did the book design, and we used Createspace for the publishing, using print on demand.
Here's a short video of the unboxing (with some squealing from my behind the camera!)
(6) Decide on marketing options
We all know that writing and publishing are only part of the journey, but getting the book to readers is a whole other story. I gave Dad a copy of ‘How To Market A Book‘ but I realize it is quite a learning curve for new authors.
My initial suggestions are:
a) Use some kind of promo pricing, or KDP Select free period in order to get some kind of data into the algorithms
b) Set up your author profile and then add your book in multiple formats onto Goodreads. Once that's all done, you can set up a print giveaway. This is at least a way to get some profile on the site and hopefully some reviews.
c) Get business cards with the book cover on one side and your details on the other. Give these out to all and sundry, using the old physical word of mouth technique. I use Moo.com but there are lots of options.
d) Pick something you like doing, e.g. photos on Pinterest and just do one thing a week or even a day.
(7) Start writing the next book
… Arthur has already started the sequel, so watch this space for a Penn dynasty!
Do you have anything to add to a new author checklist? Or any suggestions for marketing ideas that don't involve too much internet time? Please do add your comments below.
If you like historical fiction, you might like to check out Nada.
A young woman’s struggle to free herself from the manacles of fascism and the bigotry of faith.
Sardinia, 1934. On her eighteenth birthday Eleanor Cardinale is relishing the warm embrace of local festivals, red wine, and her first lover. Her passion is set against the backdrop of the island’s crystal seas, mountain crags and ancient magical legends.
But her joy is fleeting, for dark forces gather as she openly challenges her suffocating religion and Mussolini’s twisted vision of a new fascist Italy. The Duce is at the height of his popularity and Eleanor finds herself dangerously alone in her dissent.
Eleanor’s simple Sardinian life is shattered by a series of hideous crimes against her loved ones; savage rape, atrocity and finally murder by masked dancers in the fire and shadows of a demonic festival.
Is Eleanor willing to pay the ultimate price for freedom and independence?
NADA is a story of love, murder and revenge set in a time of Italian fascist expansion and ending in the early days of the Spanish Civil war. A historical novel, for fans of Robert Harris and Louis de Bernieres Corelli’s Mandolin.