A few years ago I published a book called Write, Format, Publish, Promote. It’s a little outdated, so I just went through and fixed it up a bit – I’m going to make it permafree, to get lots of downloads and widen my funnel (free books are a great way to reach your target audience).
When I published that book, I asked some of the people I know with a lot of experience writing, formatting and publishing books for their thoughts on these questions:
1. #1 tip for writing the book (software, motivation, revising, etc)?
2. #1 tip for formatting for print or ebook, and/or publishing?
3. #1 tip for free or cheap book marketing or promotion?
4. #1 piece of advice for self-publishing authors?
Some of their advice may directly contradict my own, but that’s OK.
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” —Walt Whitman
I don’t think I ever published these on my blog, so if you haven’t read that book, I thought it would be good to share their advice here.
~ Debbie Young ~
Self-published author and Commissioning Editor of ALLi’s
(1) As in the old saying, “the best way to get something done is to just do it” – no book will get written without hard graft, so clear blocks of writing time and set yourself a schedule. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail to meet specific self-imposed deadlines – that’ll kill your creativity. But there’s no magic bullet that will substitute for perseverance.
(2) My pet hate: Don’t leave spaces between paragraphs – it is infuriating for anyone reading the e-book, especially if your paragraphs are short, because it wastes screen space and requires more page-turning than strictly necessary.
(3) Create, maintain and regularly update (at least weekly) a focused author website – it’s your shop window, open to the world – using the free WordPress.com software. If you take the time needed to learn all its tricks via its excellent help sections and forums, you’ll find WordPress very flexible and powerful, and it’s all absolutely free, if you use the entry-level version. If you have at least a tiny budget, add a custom URL (e.g. www.authordebbieyoung.com as opposed to www.authordebbieyoung.wordpress.com) to look more professional. Otherwise there’s no software cost, no set-up fee, not even a hosting charge. Worried about learning new software? Don’t be. If you’re up to formatting a Word document, you can manage WordPress.
(4) Make your book the best it can be before you publish it. Self-publishing is not an excuse for cutting corners.
~ Chris Casburn ~
(1) Get a good beta reader to review each chapter as you go along. Don’t wait until the end. Make sure he/she is not family, honest and able to tell you the truth!
(2) Cut out dedications, etc. if you’ve added these to a tree-book and add a request to review on Amazon at the end.
(3) If writing a kids book you must do school visits and in the UK they will pay you too!
(4) Form a group with other local authors to share costs of stands at book fairs etc. – and it’s not so lonely!
~ Ellie Stevenson ~
The Haunted Historian: haunting the page across time.
(1) Write first and edit later. The main thing is to get the story down in full. Perfecting the language and rhythm comes later.
(2) Poor formatting can ruin a reader’s experience of your story. A lot of traditional word processing software can introduce quirks which won’t come out well on an e-reader. You need to address this.
(3) Build relationships with people on Facebook and Twitter. This will take time but will also introduce you to fellow authors. Share information that readers will find interesting, related to your book. Pinterest is also a great way to showcase your book visually.
(4) Join the Alliance of Independent Authors for great advice and a good network of fellow professionals.
~ Jeannie van Rompaey ~
Once you feel you’ve taken your book as far as you can, hire a professional creative editor. You don’t have to take on board everything she says. It’s your book, but consider the comments carefully and don’t be too proud to change some things.
~ Laurence O’Bryan ~
Author of the guide to social media – Social Media is Dynamite
Take a look at socialmedia4writers.com for a weekly magazine and archive of online book marketing ideas, for free.
~ Orna Ross ~
READ THE CONTRACTS. Know what you’re selling, how much it costs and how you’ll be paid. Know what you’re buying, how much it costs, how you will pay. (Percentage or lump-sum). If percentage, percentage of what, net or gross? discounts? And term. Always look at the term.
~ Jim Kukral ~
Founder, Author Marketing Club
(1) Use Google docs. It’s free, and you can write from any location (coffee shop, home, poolside) with an Internet connection. It lets you keep one master document in the cloud at all times.
(2) Technically you could upload a Word doc directly to Amazon, but you should pay to have a properly formatted eBook so it just reads nicer. You want to look professional, yes?
(3) Take advantage of your free days in Amazon KDP Select. Include a proper call to action in your book at the end to get the reader to join your email list so you can sell them on future books.
(4) Get the book done and publish! It will never be perfect. The longer you wait; the longer you don’t have the opportunity a good book brings to your reputation or career.
~ Children’s author Karen Inglis ~
A couple of print publishing tips from a children’s author…
Print books – if using images use Insert > Picture to place them in the file. Don’t just copy and paste them into the file. Also don’t resize them inside the Word document. Insert the file size you need. (I use black and white images for children’s books.) This rule may also apply for ebook images.
If you’re creating a children’s picture book for print, be aware that you cannot get silk paper finish from Createspace or Lightning Source. The paper finish is good but it’s not the sticky-finger proof variety that you see on the shelf in bookshops.
~ Dan Holloway ~
Author of Self-publishing With Integrity
(1) Never write for anyone but yourself.
(2) For print books, on a basic level, pay attention to pagination –the font, the pointage, the positioning; more generally, always leave sufficient margins.
(4) Never take yes for an answer. If too many people are happy with what you are doing, you’re doing it wrong – it never pays to be too close to the centre of the bell curve
~ Walt Morton ~
Author of American Ghoul
(1) Accept the idea that producing a book is a DAILY PROCESS. You don’t need to have every part perfectly figured out in advance before you begin. That would require literary genius plus marketing and design genius. The process will go more smoothly if you work at it steadily, every day, keeping your mind in the game and allowing the book time and space to grow and evolve.
(2) You will be happy if you write a clean simple story that does not rely on any tricky formatting, fonts, italics, etc. It’s almost impossible to make something graphically complicated look good on every e-reader, phone, kindle and other device. KEEP FORMATTING SIMPLE.
(3) STICK TO THE INTERNET. You may be tempted to take out a print ad in the New York Times. It will never pay for itself. All the best promotions are online, because online your potential readers are just one click away from a purchase, a download, and a review. Plan on trying various things (bookbub, KDP, giveaways, etc.) there is no one perfect way unless you are famous and already have 2 million facebook followers.
(4) BE PROFESSIONAL. Spend 95% of your efforts producing the best fiction you can, and that includes more time writing, revising and editing it to make it easy to read and entertaining. Work with at least one editor and proofreader. Make a completely professional error-free presentation and then readers take you seriously and give you money. Only 5% of your time should go into marketing, because there are limits to what you can achieve.
If you are a writer – just write. You are better off with 10 books than 1 book you have marketed like crazy.
~ James Ventrillo ~
“Lady in the Water,” have you seen it? It was that movie about a mermaid that lived in Paul Giamatti’s pool. It was written, directed and even co-starred M. Night Shyamalan. Night based the movie on a fairytale he made up for his kids. He was hot off the success of his previous movies and presented the story to his distributor, Disney, who footed the bill for his previous hits. Disney took one look at the script and had Night escorted out of the building.
Night ignored Disney’s criticisms and did what any multi-millionaire would do—he paid for it himself. The movie bombed and Night had to eat Ramen for the next six months. Why am I telling you this story? Because books, just like movies, are supposed to go through a rigorous production process. For movies, dozens of people have to read the script and approve it, making improvements along the way until it is ready to be filmed. Then even after the movie is made it is edited, where entire scenes, subplots and even characters are completely removed. Next it is screened, and audiences critique the film, often sending it back for more changes until it is finally ready for mass release.
But Night did not do that. He bypassed the system because he could, and he paid the price. As a self-published author you are also bypassing the system.
Note from Derek: I pulled this story from readersfavorite.com because I love the message. James continues by recommending you produce a quality product, get it edited, enter book award contests, “attend book fairs and conventions, build a website, get on Facebook and Twitter, and start getting the word out about your book. In time, word of mouth will hopefully take over for you and your book will go viral.” Note the major emphasis on “hopefully” – if you didn’t create a product that people like, by considering the readers and potential market, no such thing will happen.
~ Matt Stone ~
(1) My top tip for writing a book is to immerse yourself in the thing. I call it “binge writing.” I try to write an entire draft in as few days as I can from start to finish. You can spend as much time as you like revising, but the actual creation of the thing – and this is even more true for fiction than nonfiction, although I apply this to nonfiction – should happen fast. I always drag ass when I first get started on any big project, because I lack momentum. Momentum is everything. I think that’s all writer’s block is: a lack of momentum. But once you get momentum, take advantage of it. When I’m really cranking on a project, 5,000 words gets written in the same amount of time, and with the same amount of effort, as 500 words did on the second day. Live, eat, sleep, and breathe that book from the first sentence to the last. Otherwise you’re likely to spend more time trying to figure out what you’ve written already when you sit down to write than you will actually writing.
(2) I think the most important thing when it comes to publishing is making sure you’ve got a solid launch plan, and that everything is tight. Like Derek points out in Book Marketing is Dead, you have to get the title, cover, book description, and other basic fundamentals rock solid. If not, don’t bother trying to sell it. Get it perfect, then enter the market with as big of a splash as you possibly can. The sales you get in that first week will determine a lot of the future success of that book. Don’t botch the launch! Oh wait, Derek hates exclamation points and capitalized text, let’s mess with him: “DON’T BOTCH THE LAUNCH!!!!!!!!”
(3) For free book promotion, you’ve got to really hit up those book deal Facebook groups. Naht! Listen to this carefully, as this simple tip can and will completely change your life, not just for book-writing, but for all things relating to internet-based business if you choose to take it seriously… It’s better to make a strong connection with one important person than it is to make weak connections with tens of thousands of unimportant persons. The internet is filled with thousands of successful bloggers, social media dynamos, experts, and entrepreneurs with great influence. I’m not talking about the people you’ve heard about before. Those people have agents and bodyguards and a huge wall of people trying to filter out lil’ folks like you. But those mid-sized people are a gem. They get lots of emails, but not enough to be unable to answer yours. They will give you the time of day, answer your questions, and let your voice be heard. Make. A. Connection. If you want someone to do a favor for you, do a favor for them. Anything. Develop a connection and a rapport with them. Almost all of the big favors I have done for people myself were in response to a cold email. Almost all of the big favors done for me began with me sending out a cold email. I recently just built a highly profitable business in three months with two emails sent to the right two people. 20 minutes. $0.00. Believe it. This is not a scammy thing either unless you make it one (if you do you won’t get anywhere with this strategy). The two people I contacted are both going to make thousands of dollars this year based on the favors I did for them. Get involved with creating mutually beneficial relationships with the right people. Work nonstop for a month for free for them if you have to. They spent years to build the audience they have built, and in a month you can buy yourself a ticket to a powerful endorsement/referral to that giant audience they spent a half decade building. All the free book Facebook promo groups on earth will never do as much as one powerful endorsement from someone with 5,000 daily site visitors, 50,000 followers on Facebook, and a mailing list of 20,000. Never. And people with that kind of audience have an endless abyss of connections with others just like them. Anyway, if you want people to find out about you and become interested enough to read your work, find the people out there with a strong relationship with tens of thousands of readers, and attack them—not with SPAM or brown-nosing—but with radical sincerity, loyalty, and the offer of unthinkable favors asking nothing in return. Not everyone will reciprocate, but most will, it only takes one, and it doesn’t cost anything. Plus, you get to know really cool people that way. You get to like and be liked by someone else. That’s fulfilling. Empty SPAM marketing is empty and will crush your soul. Just having people of influence know your name is money in the bank as far as I’m concerned.
(4) My biggest tip for authors is to always be true to what you want to do. Nobody was ever truly successful forcing themselves to do something they hate. Even if they made money, they sacrificed years of their lives. You think trading years of your life for money is success? If I could make you a millionaire tomorrow, but the downside was that you were going to die in five years for accepting the money, would you take that offer? Geezus I hope not. When you are doing exactly what you want to be doing—when you are immersing yourself in exactly what you want to be immersing yourself in—you will go much farther much faster. You think I have to motivate myself to write, mentor authors, or to do the things I do? No way. I have to motivate myself to go to sleep, to eat, and to go outside. I really love what I do that much, and I refuse to spend time doing things that I don’t want to do. That’s why I’m so successful. Even if you didn’t make a lot of money by spending every day doing what you want to do at the exclusion of that which you find unpleasant, your life would still be great. Odds are, you’ll get freaking rich doing what you love—building exceptional skills, knowledge, talent, and expertise in whatever arena you are pouring all of your passion into.
Spending tens of thousands of hours engrossed in something you love simply leads to the cultivation of something rare and exceptionally valuable.
~ Sean Platt ~
(1) Use Scrivener. It’s the best writing software I’ve used in six years of writing every day, with millions of words produced. It is outstanding, and will save you countless hours in composition, editing, formatting, and general execution.
(2) That’s a very general/nebulous question, with four very different branches to the tree, so I’ll stick with print. Many (MANY) writers think they need to be in print. You don’t. Print accounts for relatively few sales in the scheme of things. As long as you know why you want your book in print (promotion, fan love, ego, price anchoring, etc.) it can be a great idea, but doing it “just because” rarely is.
(3) Have something (exceptional) free that makes it easy and frictionless for a new reader to find you and try you out.
(4) Write. Publish. Repeat. Like we always say, keep writing. Don’t stop. One book will never make a career.
~ Joanna Penn ~
(1) Use Scrivener and the word count tracking so you can monitor progress every day. Seeing the little bar turn from red to green as I reach my word count goal is fantastic. I also write on a physical wall diary and get a star sticker if I go over 2000 words. It’s a behaviour encouragement chart for children basically, but it works for the writer’s brain too!
(2) I use Scrivener to output .mobi and .epub and that has been fine for Kindle, Kobo and iBooks, but for Nook I hired a formatter as the upload process is so sensitive. I also hire a print interior designer in order to have a quality final product.
(3) Marketing is sharing what you love with people who enjoy hearing about it. So just start sharing your passions and obsessions on the site of your choice and, over time, you will attract like minded people.
(4) Be patient and think of this as a five year project. There’s no need to sell a gazillion copies of your first book. In fact, you probably don’t want to, because you will get better with more writing. If you just take little steps every day, write 1000 words, write a blog post, connect with one person on social media, then in five years, your life will have changed. Mine certainly has!
~ Shelley Hitz ~
Founder of www.trainingauthors.com
(1) I am a fan of outlining a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, to help finish a project. Lately, I have been using mind mapping to outline my book chapters as it makes it super easy to move things around, edit it, and then export it to Word or a text file so I can put the outline in my book template.
After I create the outline of my book, I sometimes use the free project management software, Asana.com, to plan out a tentative schedule and deadline of when I want to have each section done. This works best when I am working with another person on a project, like Heather Hart and I did on our book, “How to Get Honest Reviews” or when working with a coach or accountability partner. I have been using Asana with my monthly coaching clients as well to help them successfully meet their goals and to keep them accountable. You can see a brief video tutorial I created about Asana here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3ricbq3qSQ
(2) I recommend authors create a formatting system that works best for them and then use that same system over and over as they publish new books. At this time, I have published over 30 books in eBook, print and audiobook formats. For books in a series or similar genre, I create a book template with similar front matter and back matter. This allows me to then do a few simple edits for the next book in the series and start writing right away in my template which saves me a ton of time.
Make sure that you check your formatting after uploading to the various platforms. For example, if you publish a Kindle eBook on KDP, I recommend reviewing the .mobi file they give you on your Kindle device, Kindle app, and on the cloud online. One book I published looked fine on my Kindle device, but had formatting issues when viewing it on the Kindle app. Therefore, take the time to make sure your formatting is done correctly.
(3) My best free book marketing recommendation is to consider using the KDP Select program. This is not a great strategy for every book and every author. However, we have had success using it for some of our books. You do need to invest your time promoting it and we recommend submitting your book to sites that promote free books. I share my 11 step checklist for organizing a KDP Select promotion as well as 76+ places to promote your book here: http://www.trainingauthors.com/kdpselect
(4) In some ways, for an author, the finish line is publishing your book. However, that is when the book marketing just begins. No matter where you are in your journey of writing, publishing or marketing your book; I encourage you to persevere. In the words of Winston Churchill… “Never, never, never give up!”
~ Joel Friedlander ~
(1) Try out “distraction free” writing environments like iAWriter, Ommwriter or others. You’ll be amazed at how much work you’ll get done.
(2) Print books follow specific, industry-standard rules, and following those rules will help your book reach greater acceptance with book publishing professionals like book reviewers, buyers, and media types too.
(3) Recognize that, for nonfiction authors, an authoritative, engaging, and helpful blog in your subject area is about the best and most cost-effective online marketing tool ever invented.
(4) Decide up front whether you are publishing for your own enjoyment, to sell tons of books, or to help establish yourself in some other work you do. This decision will guide you throughout the process.
~ Mick Rooney ~
The Independent Publishing Magazine
(1) Scrivener is a great tool for the writing process, and taking your book to print and/or ebook publication. Once you have the basic framework of story and plot, push on and complete the first draft. Don’t stop to rewrite what you already have written.
(2) Examine other professionally produced books. Keep formatting simple. Don’t be extravagant with fonts and sizes. And above all, if you use MS Word as a raw file for conversion to ebook, use the built in formatting options for paragraph indents and don’t use a double-space at the start of every new sentence.
(3) Free or heavily discounted promotional offers are great to give your book an early start, but don’t fall asleep at the marketing wheel. Free works best in short strategic bursts. Offering free books for long periods of time after release is like leaving your Christmas tree up until Easter!
(4) Self-publishing means taking on all of the responsibility of managing your book project. It doesn’t mean you have to – or should – take on the tasks of self-editing and self-designing your book! Always use professional services and advice if a task is outside of your skillset.
~ Mars Dorian ~
Visual Storyteller, www.marsdorian.com
(1) Finish what you start – only then will you improve your craft. So don’t start the next book if the first isn’t finished yet.
(2) Add sufficient white space between paragraphs or chapters. Nothing kills reading joy (and grows eyes tired) more than one endless chunk of text.
(3) CTA – Call To Action at the end of the book. The best marketing happens when your customers talk about your book, and a good way to make them talk about it is to tell them at the end: “If you like my book, please recommend it to your family and friends.”
(4) Try to write a story that only you can write. The world doesn’t need another me-too copycat, the world needs original and fresh storytelling.
~ Brendan McNulty ~
We see motivation as being equally as challenging as having the inspiration to write, and so we have a process that we go through to inspire and support people through their writing. We’ve found that the most important thing is to get into a rhythm and routine of writing, morning pages are a great help in this regard, but making writing a habit is crucial. The other thing is not to beat yourself up when you’ve only written 100 words that day, or missed a couple of days. Any momentum is forward momentum and feeling guilty about your writing only stands in the way of you finishing your novel.
~ CK MacLeod ~
(1) Have a system. In order to write a quality book, it helps to know what steps are essential to producing that quality. In Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I list the writing and publishing steps that authors can follow in order to produce a quality read. I also suggest ways to make those steps efficient. Your time is valuable, and if there’s another way to create great book in less time, I want to know about it!
(2) You have many options for formatting an ebook, from DIY to hire. The most cost-effective way is to begin with the tool you have. What tool are you using to write your book? Can you use that tool to also format your book? Find out everything you can about the tool you already have.
(3) I’m not a marketing expert by any stretch – at least not yet. But I have picked up two tips that can’t hurt: Learn to summarize your book in one compelling sentence. People’s attention spans are short. Practice on Twitter.
Also, consider asking people from your social media networks to review your book. Send them a free review copy and ask them to be transparent about that when they post their review. I belong to a professional editing organization and it only just occurred to me that I can ask my colleagues to review my book!
(4) No one writes like you do. Every author has a voice and a style that’s unique and a perspective on a topic that is theirs alone. Exercise your writing muscles. Read, read, read, and write, write, write. Cultivate that writing voice. It’s like a thumbprint – there are no two alike.
ALSO, here are some graphics I made for the book.
Do me a favor and pin or share them!
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I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
Love it! Super useful tips.
love roundups like this. Saves so much time