Self-publishing is a boom industry, and there are likely to be more authors who are either struggling to get a publishing deal or who simply want more creative freedom (and more royalties) who make the decision to self-publish via the Amazon KDP or similar in 2014 and beyond.
Although self-publishing has given opportunity to thousands of previously unpublished works to get out into the marketplace and find an audience, self-publishing is by no means an easy option. Without the proper formatting, a great book cover and a professional edit before heading to the Kindle (and then a well-constructed marketing campaign thereafter), a self-published novel is unlikely to thrive and bring no plaudits or royalties to the author.
There are a range of mistakes that newbie self-publishing authors make, and many of them are due to naivety. Conducting research, spending money on the services available to make your book of a publishable standard and understanding how to market a novel are just three of the tools that will help your book on its way to becoming a success.
Here are a selection of mistakes that are going to be detrimental to your self-published novel, and how you can overcome them:
Your Title Sucks
The title of a novel plays a huge role in its success. There is no point having a long and unpronounceable book title just because it holds some kind of significant meaning to you, because from the moment you hit “Publish”, it’s not about you anymore, it’s about your audience and how they perceive you.
Take a look at all the books that have captured a huge audience lately, they are either short and snappy titles or longer titles that completely indicate what to expect from the novel. If Twilight was called Young Love with a Pale Face, or One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest was called Potential Sex Offender in a Mental Institute, would they have captured a worldwide audience? No, ithey would have been avoided like the plague. In Twilight‘s case, the title is related to the time in the day when the sun is going down and the night is drawing in, perfectly sets up the premise of the novel, and its one word, which makes it intriguing and easy to remember, which is an important strategy for when teenagers are recommending it to each other.
For a bit of fun, take a look at these honest book titles for world famous titles. Personal favourite? Huckleberry Finn.
Poor Cover Design
Graphic designers and book cover illustrators must be making a killing from the self-publishing boom, and if you want to make an impact on Amazon – where looks play a huge part in attracting readers – then a top notch book cover is essential. Skimping out on the $200-500 it will cost to get a stunning and unique cover designed specifically for you novel is a dumb move, but sadly it is one that many newbie authors make.
It’s fine to have the attitude of “I’ll give it a go myself”, but if you want to be taken seriously as a novelist, there are times when you need to outsource to professionals who can make your novel look like it came from Penguin or Random House, not a rank amateur taking short cuts.
Who needs a Proofreader or Editor? Everyone
Check out this excerpt from an article on Digital Book World from bestselling author and marketing expert Guy Kawasaki:
“When I turned in the final copy of APE, I thought there were no mistakes in it. The copyeditor found 1,400—that’s right: one thousand four hundred. Writing and copyediting are two different skills—just like the best salesman doesn’t make the best sales manager nor the best player make the best coach.”
If Guy Kawasaki needs an editor, we all need an editor. This is one of the worst mistakes an author can make, because there is no excuse for a book with spelling and grammar errors in it to exist. If there are errors, they are going to be pointed out by readers in scathing reviews, and no author wants poor reviews for any other reason than a subjective opinion of your work.
Paying out for a professional reader and editor is essential, because you will always miss something in your own writing. You will view your work in a different way than a professional editor will, as they will give it a cold read with no emotion attached, just a simple eye for detail that is likely to bring up even the tiniest little details that are missing.
Badly Written Blurb
Have you ever written the back of a novel or DVD and said: “Wow, that sounds amazing!” and then headed to the counter and purchased a copy? Of course you have, and the reason for that is because the author or someone working closely with the author has taken time to construct a blurb that sells the novel without giving too much away and draws the reader in.
When writing a blurb, it is important not to fall into the trap of using clichés to sell the story or boring the audience to death with details that won’t get the reader psyched about hitting the “Buy Now” button at the Kindle Store. Have a read of some of your favourite books – and books in a similar genre to yours – and study what works for them. It will give you an idea of what you need to write in order to entice those readers in to buying your novel.
Here is a great example of a blurb for Nick Spalding’s Love on Both Sides:
A Poor Author Page and Bio
Your blurb needs to be great to sell your novel, but the author also needs to be marketable, particularly in today’s world where image and visibility means so much. Your author page on Amazon is prime real estate, and if you aren’t including your website and social media links, selling yourself with a great biography and showing off your good looks with a professional-quality image, you are missing a great opportunity to sell more books and to increase awareness and interest in you as an author.
Using Nick Spalding again as an example, check out his author page for a solid representation of the author and the person. Notice how his blurb highlights the comedic style of his writing. This is very clever, as it gives potential readers a flavour of what to expect from his books:
You’re Too in Love with Your Own Work
Having complete artistic control over your novel is great, but it can also be detrimental to the author and greatly diminish the chances of the novel being the best it can be. This is because authors can all too often fall in love with their own work, adding prologues, epilogues, too much description and dialogue that sounds fantastic to you but is completely unnecessary to anybody who isn’t the person who wrote it.
Not all writers are precious, but the trap with self-publishing is thinking you don’t need an editor – and we’re not just talking about proofreading and changing a few words, we’re talking entire paragraphs, sentences that are too long and entire prologues that bring nothing to the story. Authors should be prepared to hand over their work to a professional editor so that they can highlight what works, what doesn’t, and what can make your novel greater than it is in its current form.
Thinking that You Don’t Need to Market Your Novel
News Flash: Marketing your self-published novel is essential and will take up a lot of your time once your novel has been published. It is astonishing how many authors feel like they shouldn’t have to market their work, or don’t want to be involved in marketing because they “don’t like Facebook”. The simple fact is: Authors need to build an audience online, particularly if they are not an established author already. Writing an amazing piece of fiction isn’t enough to get you in front of a marketplace with potentially millions of books competing with yours.
Getting pre-release reviews, interacting with readers and authors on social media and sites like GoodReads and keeping a blog on your website are all great ways to market your work without becoming stale or boring. You have a lot of work to do before you can sit back and count your royalties, so get online and start engaging your readers.