I put out my self published non-fiction research book about a year ago. I did almost everything wrong. I’m starting to come to grips with what I should have done, which I’ve arranged in the following 3-step plan for those who can benefit from my mistakes.
1) Distribution. The book has to be OUT there, easy for people to buy – and NOT JUST amazon consumers who buy online. Want your book in bookstores or libraries? They don’t want to deal with you directly! Imagine making out individual checks to all the authors who had books in their bookstores (thousands of little checks a month…) Instead, they want to order directly from the source – most likely Ingram’s. BUT they are used to the standard discount of 55% and returnability. So that’s what you have to give them. This is only if you’re approaching bookstores, otherwise it’s not worth it. But if do want your book in bookstores, set it up with Lightning Source or another distributor, give it 55% – that way, when you contact stores, they can look it up and order it easily.
2) Reviews. You need to start getting reviews 3 months before you finish the book. Almost all self-published authors skip this step in their eagerness. While it doesn’t matter that much for small review sites, don’t rush it. Get the big name reviews, newspapers, etc. Send out at least 100 review copies. Don’t write letters asking reviewers if they’ll review your books – just follow the guidelines and send them in. Taking reviews is a constant process – keep soliciting reviews from every source you can think of; contact people through amazon that have read and liked similar books to yours. Hunt them down and offer them a copy. Don’t push them for a commitment or a positive review.
3) Promotion. Now that you have good reviews from credible sources AND people can order the book (both online, on amazon and other bookstores, and directly from Ingram) you can start PROMOTING the book. Do an author blog tour. Do a postcard campaign to libraries and university bookstores. Submit copies to bookstores to see if they’ll stock them. This stage should be much easier now, because everybody you talk to can look up the book on amazon and see your nice reviews. Put your best reviews in the front of your book.
Most authors, myself included, focus on promotion first and push hard – you’ve just got one shot to make a good first impression, so make it count!