Thoughts on Publishing

Publishing A Lady in Rogue’s Clothing has been one heck of a learning experience.  In three short months I went from complete self-publishing novice to fairly adept author-publisher.  While I’m sure that there is a metric tonne left for me to learn, I have picked up some important tips along the way.

So, if you’re interested in self-publishing, here’s what you can learn from my experience:

  1. Set up your author identity first.  This allows you to run marketing on the day you debut your book (or before), rather than after the fact.  Some places you should consider having an author profile:
    • GoodReads – Not only the biggest social network for book lovers, but has a host of great author-specific tools!
    • Facebook – Even if you’re not a big fan of the site itself, it is worthwhile to have a page set up for your author identity.  It’s a great way to coordinate across multiple different platforms (including Instagram), plus it has lots of nifty business tools.
    • WordPress (or other personal website) – Having your own personal website makes you look that much more professional.  Plus, blogging helps you keep in touch with your readers and build buzz!
    • If you need stock photos, Pexels is an awesome source.  It’s where I get most of mine (excepting the ones I take myself!)  All the images there are Creative Commons licensed, which makes it so much simpler!
  2. If you aren’t a graphic designer by trade or by hobby, buy a book cover!  People really do judge a book by its cover, and trying to go back and update all your GoodReads/Amazon/etc listings after the fact takes a ton of time and energy.  The Book Cover Designer is a pretty awesome site, with some great deals – well worth the money spent!
  3. Publish through IngramSpark.  Yes, it will cost you quite a bit up front (somewhere higher than $130, for ISBN+Print+eBook), but it will be worth it for the distribution opportunities.  There are a lot of things to know about before you get started with IngramSpark, but here’s some of the things I learned:
    • Make sure you have a version of Adobe Acrobat that allows you to create and edit print-ready PDFs.  Exporting as PDF from Word won’t work (it doesn’t flatten the layers properly), and if you print to PDF from Word, your page size will not line up properly (unless your book is 8.5″ x 11″)
    • Make sure you have an image editing software of some sort available.  Even if you buy the cover art, you’ll have to fit said art into a template, along with any text you want to have on the spine and back.  Currently, I’m using GIMP for this, but something like Photoshop would be ideal.
    • You’ll need to think of a name and logo for the “imprint” you want to publish your title under.  If you don’t have one, your name will be your imprint.  This is why I came up with Rose Bridge Publishing.
  4. Once you publish, make sure you take advantage of all the advertising opportunities that are out there!  This part is super important to spread the word!
    • GoodReads – They have a pay-per-click mode, with a maximum budget (instead of maximum time), and you can target your ad to specific readers.  Plus, you can have multiple variations of your ad in any given campaign, so you can see which taglines/images get more clicks!
    • Facebook – You can set up an advertising campaign for as little as $3.  Granted, that won’t get you much reach, but it does make publicity a lot more manageable.  You can customize your ad’s audience, but be careful – the customization isn’t self-explanatory, and Facebook gets sneaky about how they try to convince you to pay for more ads (they’ll make it look like you’ve not finished submitting your ad).
    • IngramSpark Advance – This one’s a bit pricey, at $89 (as of this posting), but it’s worth it.  IngramSpark sends out a monthly flier to libraries and bookstores around the world, called the Advance.  If you pay for an ad, your cover will be included along with a short description of your novel.
    • Local independent bookstores – In Portland, we have Powell’s bookstores, and self-published authors can submit their book to be considered by the store’s buyers.  This part might take some legwork, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll buy your book, but it’s worth a shot!
  5. One word of caution – advertisements have diminishing returns.  After your initial advertising blitz, let it ride for a while so that you don’t end up pouring more into your ads than you’re getting out of them.
  6. Join a writer’s group.  I joined two – Romance Writers of America and Rose City Romance Writers.  These groups offer lots of opportunities to network and to learn, and they’ve got a whole host of resources available to you (including peer editing and contests).
  7. Use something like QuickBooks Self Employed to keep track of your expenses and income.  It’ll save a LOT of headache come tax time!

I’ve never been one to have a whole lot of patience (between that and being terminally klutzy, I sometimes wonder if my life is being written by a particularly cliche writer), so self-publishing worked out well for me.  Is it for everyone?  Certainly not.  But it boosted my confidence and taught me a lot of new skills, so I’m happy with my choice.

(Plus, this way I avoided writing a bajillion query letters!)

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or thoughts about the self-publishing process!

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