By Lisa M. Umina, Halo Publishing
2017 was an important year for self-publishing, when, for the first time ever, self- and indie-published books surpassed the market share of big publishers, with 42% of the market, as compared to 34% held by big publishers. In 2018, experts predict that the number of self-published books will increase, which is an indicator of the success and popularity of this option.
The barriers to publishing have been slowly but surely lowering, and it is becoming clear that readers care more about having a good story in their hands than about the name brand on the front cover. Perceptions around self-publishing are also shifting, as it has proven to be a viable and professional option for authors, granting them more creative control and quicker turnaround times than traditional publishing.
Authors now have the option to earn higher royalties from their intellectual property, maintaining 100% rights to the book. In fact, writing a book can be a brilliant business move for people working in various fields (doctors, journalists, life-coaches, personal trainers, just to name a few examples)—it helps establish you as an expert in your career path, and it can set you apart as a candidate for speaking engagements. Beyond being a professional tool, becoming an author is also a platform for those who have gone through an exceptional personal experience. These types of stories resonate with readers, and they are often successful for this very reason.
Print is not dead. In fact, according to Fortune magazine, millennials are putting 80% of their book-buying budget into print copies of books. Plus, according to Forbes, millennials are even reading more than older generations.
Moreover, now more than ever before, authors can equip themselves with low-cost, effective tools to market their own book. With social media websites, any author can design a free author page, having control over the type of advertising they choose to run, and connecting with like-minded individuals at the click of a button.
Predictably, as the barriers to publishing are lowered, the market has become more saturated with books than ever before, which presents a unique challenge to authors.
But this is not necessarily bad news. In 2017, 40% of eBook revenue went to Indie authors, and in 2016, 27% of Amazon’s best-selling eBooks were self-published. While this is an undeniably difficult market for new authors to break into, it’s not impossible. Now, more than ever before, self-publishing is being taken seriously and producing amazing content, with self-published titles getting picked up by traditional publishing houses and self-published authors performing well, with some successful self-published authors earning millions.
Consider Your Content
Many people write because they are passionate about writing and they have a story they want to share with the world. However, it is also important for authors to keep in mind that the best-selling books are those that are targeted to a specific audience. Books that are overly broad are not likely to be best-sellers.
Identify your niche(s) early on. This will not only guide the writing process but also set you up for success after publishing your book. Think about why the world needs your book and why you are uniquely qualified to write it. Having a clear answer to these questions will lay the groundwork as you begin to market your book.
Don’t Cut Corners
Unfortunately, some self-published authors set themselves up for failure by trying to cut costs in the wrong places. I’ve noticed one of the biggest mistakes an upcoming author can make is publishing their story without investing in a professional book editor. They don’t realize the unforeseeable amount of book returns they will receive if their book has grammatical errors. Even the best marketing campaign will not make up for a sloppily-done book or a poor cover design.
Set Realistic Goals
People self-publish for different reasons and an essential part of the process is identifying your goals. Why are you publishing your book and what do you hope to take away from the experience?
If selling a lot of books is on your list, set a realistic goal that is achievable and that you can work towards. For example, if you are an unknown author and you have not worked to develop an author platform, chances are that you are setting yourself up for failure if your initial goal is to sell 1,000 books in the first month. Try setting a goal to sell one hundred books and work on building your author platform in order to reach this goal.
Design a business plan detailing every step of how you will achieve your goals. Remember that this takes time; make a commitment to work consistently on marketing and publicizing your book each day.
Another way to promote yourself and your book is to collaborate with organizations, non-profits, schools, libraries and participate in local events in your community. Making these types of relationships is a very effective strategy for building awareness of you and the people you are partnering with.
Best-selling authors are tapping into their networks: talking to local bookstores, collaborating with non-profit organizations or schools, and making every effort to stay in front of their target audience on a regular basis.
Don’t Stop Writing
Just because the book is written doesn’t mean it’s time to put down the proverbial pen. One of the best things you can do is continue writing: whether it’s writing timely entries on your own author blog, writing guest posts for other websites that are relevant to your topic, or writing a monthly column for a newspaper or magazine.
This will not only establish you as a professional in your field, but it can generate many opportunities to get the word out about you and your book. Continuing to add to your portfolio will make you an appealing candidate for speaking engagements, and it will help you to grow your author platform.