Right … You've finished your book and you're about to release your masterpiece on an unsuspecting world, a world full of readers who will rush to buy your book.
Wrong! You have a product that’s one of millions of other similar products. In just five years, from 2006 to 2011, the number of self-published books exploded by 287%! By December 2013, Amazon revealed that 25% of its Top 100 eBooks were independently published.
Now, in 2014, when independently publishing your book is even more accepted, your book will be just one of those millions of voices. As hard a fact as that is to swallow when you’re dreaming about writing your first book, it’s a reality about independent publishing you must accept and work with from the very first word you write.
Eish! What to do? Give up your dream of publishing your book? Never! Nooit! Absolutely not! What you do is you start to establish an author brand.
Establishing your Author Brand
You’re not selling a book (a single product.) You’re selling yourself as an author (a product brand.) Before you choose that brand name, you need to consider:
· Will you be publishing in fiction or non-fiction?
· What genre will you write under, for example, romance, crime, literary? Technical, self-help or religious?
· What sub-genre will you write under, paranormal romance, sweet romance, erotic romance or medical romance?
If you intend to write in one genre and one sub-genre, you could publish under your author name only.
If you intend to publish across genres, consider establishing a publishing imprint. I write novels, poetry and short stories, and I’ve independently published them under the publishing imprint Aztar Press, which has its own logo and website.
Choose a brand name that works. If your name is Percival Archibald Wroskovoskovitch, write under Percy Arch or Archie Wros or use your mother or grandmother’s name. You want a name that's different but short, sharp and pronounceable like Dan Brown or Chinua Achebe. Can you imagine have a twitter handle like @PercivalArchibaldWroskovoskovitch? There won’t be any space left to tweet!
Have good author photo taken. You can hire a professional photographer, or you can get a friend with a good camera to spend the afternoon doing a photo shoot. Try to resist making the photo cutesy or fun – browse any well-known author and the main photo they use for publicity is a clear head and shoulders shot. You can add the cutesy photos in the spaces provided by various websites such as Amazon author page, Goodreads author page. There are sections where you can easily upload more images for anyone who wants to look at them.
Before you even start writing set up your social media (more later) with your author brand name. You'll be amazed at how many people have the same name as you no matter how unusual your name (there is a Judy Croome who lives in Canada!) Even if you’re not ready to start your social media marketing just yet, you do want to reserve your author brand name for when you’re ready to start tweeting, googling and facebooking.
So … you’ve written your perfect, professional book. You’ve established an author brand. The next step is dressing your baby up so she’s ready to face the world. This is also called publishing your book.
Publishing your Book
If you’ve decided you’re only going to publish your book as an eBook, you’ve cut your publishing work in half. But you still need to follow certain critical steps to publish your eBook and make it easily available for readers.
a. Book Blurb
Before they’ll buy, readers have to know what your book is about. You’ll need to write a short description (called a book blurb) of your book. This blurb will be used in loading your e-Book to on-line distribution sites and, if you decide to publish in print at a later stage, this will feature on your back cover. To get an idea of what a good description does, browse on-line bookstores and read the book descriptions of the top-sellers. Look on this as your sales pitch to potential readers.
b. Cover Design
Cover design is another critical factor in the process of making your eBook into a professional product. While a professionally edited book brings the reader back to buy your next book, a brilliant cover design captures the reader’s attention from among the thousands of eBooks your book is competing with in on-line stores. You can do the cover design yourself, but then you need to beware of the numerous pitfalls that await. Or you can hire a professional cover designer.
I designed my own cover for my first-ever book – here’s what a reader had to say. I took his advice, found a professional cover designer and ended up with this cover. Can you see the difference a professional designer makes to the first impression a reader has of your book?
Before you decide which route you want to take, browse through these cover design articles on self-publishing guru Joel Friedlander’s blog The Book Designer. Also look for recommended cover designer websites or, alternatively, if you like the look of a cover from a particular eBook you read, look on the copyright or acknowledgements page – the author may have a link or mention who the cover designer was. Chances are, if you love the look of a particular eBook cover, the designer will match your expectations. Check costs first though, as some designers can be expensive.
You could also set your own cover design price and run a freelance cover design competition.
Make sure that both a high resolution image and a smaller image to use for web thumbnails is included in the price, as well as asking how many alterations are included in the original cost (you can’t expect to make infinite changes – the designer works by the hour, so he’ll have a set number of hours he can work on your cover.)
Check that the font used for the title and your author name is clear and legible in both the large and small image. As you’re not selling a book, but selling yourself as an author brand, your author name must be prominent, but not overwhelming.
Correctly formatting your eBook is another critical area in publishing your own eBook. Poor formatting and book design are as off-putting to the reader as poor editing. Make sure your eBook format is professional.
There are two main eBook formats, .MOBI (Amazon only format) and EPUB (industry standard). PDF is another popular format, but it’s easy to copy and re-distribute books without the author’s knowledge or consent.
There are software programs that allow you to format your own book into eBook format, and most distributors of eBooks offer a formatting style guide and/or process suitable to their site but, unless you’re an IT whizkid, it’s wiser to stick to professional formatting services and hire a professional eBook formatter who will convert your book into the standard formats for a fee. You will then have a professional eEPUB and MOBI file to upload to your on-line distributors.
d. Setting your Price
Pricing for independent publishers is a controversial topic. Some experts say, keep the price cheap. Others say, place a fair value on your work. Still others say, play around with the price and find what pricing level readers are willing to pay for your books. Another option is to price your new books higher than the books listed on your title back list. You’ll earn a % of that price as a royalty. Think carefully about what a realistic price for your book is and be willing to change it up or down if you need to.
e. Digital Rights Management
Digital Rights Management (DRM) limits sharing of content to protect you against reasonable pirating of your books. When publishing your book to on-line distributors you’ll have to elect whether to activate DRM or not.
The next step, discussed in Part 3, is finding an eBook distributor who will help us reach those eager readers!
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 1 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 3 here