Posted by Kristen Hamilton on June 10, 2019 at 7:05 PM
The majority of my author clients are first-time, self-publishing authors. This is a compilation of all the advice I've given to self-publishing authors in the months leading up to their first book's publication. Let's go!
Before writing your book
- Find your book's target audience. Oftentimes, your book’s main character is a direct reflection of your target audience.
- Outline your book. Outlining your book and having an idea of the major plot points will save you major headaches later down the line. If you plan to write a series, outlining the series as a whole will be a livesaver when you're in the middle of drafting.
Once you've finished outlining, start writing your book!
During writing your book
- Compile a list of beta readers. Beta readers often give authors valuable feedback that drastically improves the story.
- Be aware of rules for your book's genre. Try to keep within set parameters for word count and common tropes within your genre.
Once you've finished the first draft
- Let the manuscript breathe. You should completely finish writing your first draft before you move on to self-editing and revisions. Once you finish your first draft, leave it for a couple weeks before picking it up again. Your brain will need the break, and you'll find that you'll be able to look at your own work with a more objective eye.
- Send your book to the beta readers, and implement the most common suggestions for improvement.
- Contact a book cover designer and formatter to get on their schedule. If you want people to take your book seriously, you need to put out a quality product.
- Choose your publication date. You'll need to give yourself plenty of time to look over your manuscript after you get it back from the book editor, as well as wiggle room to make changes to the book's formatting and cover design. You don't want to be rushed during this process!
10 months before publication
- Establish your author website and social media pages (including Amazon and Goodreads) and make sure you regularly update them. Include important links to buy your book, an author bio and picture, and a blog. Above all, make sure your website looks professional and easy to navigate. You can purchase a URL and build your own professional-looking website for a few bucks a month.
- Have a professional author picture and author bio that is the same across all platforms. Being consistent is the number-one way to present yourself as a professional author, and will make it easier for fans to find and recognize you.
- Write a new blog post at least twice per month to drive traffic to your website. Your blog posts can be short (even 250 words will do), as long as they're consistent. Make sure what you publish is relevant to your book, your writing life, or your genre. Post reviews of all books you read that you rate 3 or more stars. (If you don't have anything nice to say about a book, don't post the review!) How did this book make you feel? Be a generous reviewer, and people will be generous with reviewing your book. Above all, remember that writing a book is an art—so don't publicly slam a book if it's simply not your style.
- Set up an account with MailChimp. Interact with your fans with an e-mail newsletter sharing info on book discounts, upcoming promotions, giveaways, etc.
- Prepare your elevator pitch: 50 words, 30 seconds. You can use this for pitching your book to reviewers and book agents.
- Build a media list for publicity/press release. Who do you want to contact about your book's upcoming release? Free press release websites include prlog.org and 1888pressrelease.com.
- Contact key reviewers in your genre. Kirkus Reviews offers discounts on their Facebook page. You might also want to consider reach out to book review bloggers to review your work.
8 months before publication
- Purchase an ISBN if desired. Authors who want to expand their writing career and sell their book on multiple platforms should purchase an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for their self-published book.
- Register your work with the United States Copyright Office. The moment you put anything on the paper (printed or electronically), it’s copyrighted to you, and nobody can take your work and claim it as their own. But to give yourself better protection, you can officially register your work at the United States Copyright Office.
- Maintain your social media presence. Post content that is relevant: asking for feedback on a scene you've just written, sharing snippets or character background stories, or talking about writing goals.
6 months before publication
- Announce your book's release date to start drumming up excitement among your new fans.
- Wrap up the final revisions on the cover design with your cover designer. Good cover designers will be able to provide you with ebook and paperback covers, as well as promotional (digital) items like a banner for your author Facebook page. Make your book's cover release a big deal! Share it everywhere.
- Do a Facebook likes campaign to build your fan base. Be careful, though: Facebook's new algorithm devalues posts that have a link that takes people outside of Facebook, and will make these posts visible to fewer people. Share relevant links in the comments or use video to encourage people to visit your website.
- Share releases of other books in your genre. Start putting good karma out into the universe and it'll come back once you release your book. The self-publishing world is a supportive community—be a part of it!
- Send your book to the editor. If you like, write and include the dedication, acknowledgments, and about the author. The dedication and acknowledgments goes in the front matter of the book; the author bio goes on the last page of the book.
- Write the blurb for the back of your book. Write about the main problem your character faces. Be sure to write the blurb (back cover description) in present tense. Remember that Kristen offers blurb writing as a service, so if you can’t get it just right, just ask!
3 months before publication
- You should be getting your book back from the editor around this time. Take your time in looking over the changes. Read your book to make sure there aren't any residual errors (yes, book editors make mistakes sometimes, too!) and that you're happy with your final product.
- Send your book to the formatter and the printer if you're doing a paperback version.
- Share pictures of advance reader copies (ARCs) once you receive your paperback book. These advance reader copies are usually given to reviewers (like Kirkus or book bloggers) or book contests.
- Give your ARCs to reviewers or book awards/contests. This might cost money, but it's an investment in your author career. Check out the Alliance of Independent Authors rating of award websites/contests.
- Drive pre-orders with ad campaigns: "If you loved [popular book in your genre], check out my book."
- Post short videos (60 sec max) of events: reviewing your manuscript (hopefully edited by a good book editor!), attending local book/author events, etc.
- Make venue arrangements for book signings, such as at Barnes & Noble or local bookstores.
1 month before publication
- Share early reviews of your book once they start coming in. If your book has placed or won awards in any contests, share, share, share! Contact your cover designer to see if he/she can add a "sticker" to your ebook cover to show awards won.
- Give ARCs to people in your writing group, Little Free Library locations, and local libraries.
- Update your website with a sales page and press kit pages.
- Write your launch day press release. Also, pre-write social media updates promoting your book. This should be something valueable, like a tip, a quote, etc. You'll want to do this in advance, because publication day will be crazy busy!
- Start counting down to your book's publication date on social media.
- If you've contacted local media sources (i.e., the radio or local news channels), share their broadcasts with your followers.
- Set up an interview (i.e., local radio or news channels, or with specific genre groups on social media) if possible.
- Upload your book on Amazon and Goodreads. Amazon Kindle usually takes about 12 hours to look over your file to make sure it looks good before publishing it on their site. Set up a pre-order option on Amazon.
- Encourage people on your newsletter to mark your book as "Want to Read" on Goodreads. This makes your book more visible on Goodreads, further expanding your book's reach.
- Announce your book's release everywhere. Contact your beta readers, post about it on your social media accounts at least 2-3 times per day for the first three days of your launch. Create an Instagram or Facebook story following you around on launch day. Today is when you'll submit your press releases and publish your pre-written social media updates.
- Hold a launch party. This can happen at a local bookstore, online, or both (thanks to Facebook Live!).
1-3 months after publication day
- Send thank you notes to people who helped promote your book (i.e., advance reviewers, interviewers, etc.). Keeping your book at the top of their mind (while also being respectful of their time) will help keep your sales high.
- Schedule and hold a Facebook Live event (promote this beforehand!) or live Twitter chat to answer fan questions.
- Update the Events page on your website with events you'll be attending/hosting/featured in, like local book signings.
- Continue to seek and share reviews for your book.
- Continue to post on your blog and social media pages regularly. Just because your book is published doesn't mean your job here is over. Marketing is a critical part of being a self-published author.
- Host a giveaway for your book to keep it relevant. You can set up a giveaway on Goodreads here.
3, 6, and 9 months after publication day
- Attend book fairs and festivals. Socialize and talk to authors and attendees. The authors who are most prominent in their local community are those who sell the most books.
- Reach out on social media to engage book clubs. You can write up discussion questions for book club meetings, attend Skype meetings with groups, or attend local meetings in person. And what better way to spend an afternoon with people who love your work? (Talk about humbling!)
- Start to post about things other than only your book on social media. While readers will enjoy hearing about your book, your page should now function as a hub for readers to get to know things about other books in your genre. Your goal should be to share 80% of others' content and 20% of self-promotion. Trust me, this is a tried-and-true formula; there's a reason it works.
- Launch another book giveaway/contest.
- Consider releasing new versions of your book, like audio. Each version you release should have its own launch party to keep your book relevant and at the top of everyone's minds.
1 year after publication day
- It's your book's birthday! Celebrate with a "birthday party" by putting your book on sale. Host an Amazon or Goodreads giveaway.
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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of
Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing
services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several
authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have
topped Amazon's best sellers lists.
Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she
can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her
four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,
eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is
likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.