Huffpost Books
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jennie Goutet Headshot

A Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing

Posted: Updated:

As you probably know, self-published books can sell as many copies as those that are traditionally-published, and sometimes even more so!

Although luck does plays a huge part -- being in the right place at the right time -- good writing, along with professional editing and design are also essential, as is persistent marketing.

This is an abridged version of my Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing. For the more complete version, click here.

Preparation and Publishing

Step One: As an author, you will ideally have a blog, a personal Facebook account, as well as a Facebook fan page. You will be on twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Social media may take time out of your writing schedule, but people rarely buy books from someone they've never heard of so it's worth the investment of your time.

Step Two: Make sure you've had a few beta readers who have a good grasp of the English language and are not afraid to give an honest critique. Your book must then be professionally edited, and will probably require several read-throughs on paper even after that.

Step Three: Hire a cover and internal layout designer. The CreateSpace team will design your cover for a fee, and although they offer to convert your file for you to upload on kindle, you don't own the file and you can't send it to other people for free (in order to get reviews, for example). That's why I'm in favor of hiring someone independently.

Step Four: Upload to CreateSpace. This part doesn't cost anything. I recommend you use their ISBN number because it's free, and most books don't require more than one. For the Kindle version, you'll get an ASIN number, which serves the same purpose, and which is also provided for free. The Kindle version is not done through CreateSpace. We'll get to that.

Step Five: You need to include metadata. These are the key word searches that you input for the description of your book when you publish. You can choose one category for your print book, and you can choose two for kindle. In addition, you get five to seven key words.

I recommend using their words -- their categories and sub-categories as your key words. It doesn't matter if the category has two words (like "feelings and emotions) -- the words are only counted by the comma between each one.

Step Six: You have to go to KDP Amazon to upload your kindle file. I recommend choosing 70 percent royalties instead of 35 percent because I can't think of why you wouldn't want to earn more money on your title. Allow for the open distribution, and don't try to limit people sharing your book. Don't be stingy about free books, book lending, giveaways because it's a cheap form of publicity and there will always be readers who pay for it.

One last piece of advice on Kindle. I would go for the Kindle Prime Select program for at least three months. It means you can't make your book available for any of the other e-readers, which can be limiting. However, you can let people download the book for free for a certain number of days, and that will shove you right up in the page ranks of Amazon and make your book more visible.

Marketing

Step One: If you are already a blogger, ask friends and acquaintances in advance to do a book review right after your book comes out. You should already have been supporting their blog or they will likely not be willing to do the extra work. Make a schedule so that all the reviews don't fall on the same day. Provide the book for free, and as a nice gesture, link back to them on your own blog the day their review comes out, saying what you appreciate about their work.

Step Two: If you're going to do the five days free on Kindle Prime Select, plan your days to fall on Tuesdays through Thursdays. You can break up the five days to achieve this. Here is a website that lists all the places you can promote your book while it's free. Do this, but don't tell your friends that your book is out until the free days are over.

Step Three: Do a giveaway on GoodReads. (Join GoodReads if you haven't). I recommend giving away five copies, and making the giveaway a month long. Although you have to pay for the print copies to be sent out, it's not that much with your CS discount. Many of the people who sign up to win the giveaway will add your book to their "to-read" list so you'll get tons of publicity like that.

Step Four: You need reviews. You can sign up here to do an author review swap on GoodReads. You read four books in exchange for four people reading yours -- they will not be the same people. You must leave a review on GoodReads and Amazon for each book you review, so that's four more reviews for you in both places.

Step Five: Submit your book to national book awards. Why not, right? The five cream of the crop awards are found on this website. And the rest of them -- many of which seem worthwhile to me (although it can start to get costly), are found here. This is a great thing to put on your bio, and it could get you lots of sales and recognition, even if you were "only" shortlisted.

Step Six: Join Freado. This site has an application called BookBuzzr, which allows you to put a widget to preview your book on your blog or Facebook page. Although you can get the widget for free, I paid for Freado's premium service, and I'm almost certain some of the sales can be tracked to that website. Becoming a premium member of Freado will allow you to receive regular e-mails telling you your daily Amazon rank -- the high and the low, and this is not a bad thing.

Tracking Sales

There is not one website that shows you all the books you've sold. The print copies that you sell are found in your Member Dashboard on CreateSpace, and the Kindle copies that you sell are found on your KDP Amazon page.

In addition . . . for Kindle, you have to click on "Reports" to see the Sales Dashboard or the Month-to-Date Unit Sales. The Month-to-Date will only show you the Amazon.com sales. If you want to see how much you sold from other countries, you either need to click on each individual country (there's a drop down menu), OR you need to look at the Sales Dashboard. This will show you a graph of how much you sold, and it will include all the countries.

These are the core tips. Visit A Lady in France to learn more. And don't be afraid to just go for it. The hassle of publishing independently, and the anguish of having to market your book, are small concerns compared to the reward of seeing your words come to life.