Self-Publishing Relief | Self-Publishing Help For Your Book
At Self-Publishing Relief, we have over twenty years of experience working with authors. We respect writers, so we don’t make empty, pie-in-the-sky promises. Here’s what we do promise: We have the expertise to support and guide you through every step of self-publishing an e-book and print book.
When it comes to cover art design, stock artwork (aka images created for licensing to anybody who needs them for commercial or private purposes) can be a self-published writer’s best friend. Because stock art isn’t created for one particular customer, it can be relatively inexpensive. It’s easy to download from the Internet, easy to sort and search using simple keywords, and easy to convert into a book cover. But using stock art also has its pitfalls. Self-Publishing Relief will talk you through what you need to know when buying stock art for the cover of your self-published book.
The Dangers Of Buying Stock Art For Your Self-Published Book Cover
Poor image quality. Though an image looks good on your computer screen, it might not look good printed on the cover of your book. Colors may wash out. Shadows might appear grainy or lines look pixelated. Be sure that if you’re downloading stock artwork for your self-published book cover, you’re choosing images that are at least 300 dpi and properly sized for your needs (stretching or enlarging can ruin image quality in some circumstances).
Problems with provenance. Be sure to buy stock art only from reputable sources.
Seeing double. Great stock art gets noticed. Many publishers have contracts with larger stock artwork vendors so that they have a ready supply of artwork to use for cover art design—and thousands of books are published every year. Unless you are able to pay for the sole right to use a given image, the photo you love could be used by someone else as well. It happens.
Confusing agreements. Some stock art agreements can be confusing, allowing you to purchase licensing for some kinds of usage but not others.
Where To Find Stock Art For Your Self-Published Book Cover
Photographers and artists upload their artwork to a number of websites across the Internet. Here are a few of the bigger stock art websites:
www.istockphoto.com. Curated by the folks at Getty Images, iStock photographers and artists must meet certain quality requirements before they are allowed to showcase their work.
stock.adobe.com. Known for image editing programs like Lightroom and Photoshop, Adobe collaborates with artists and photographers across the world.
www.solidstockart.com. This website claims to offer more generous licensing—with fewer strings attached than other stock art websites.
www.oldbookillustrations.com. Just for fun, check out this stock artwork site that specializes in artwork that’s already in the public domain and has been rediscovered for public use.
Looking For A More Customized Book Cover?
Some self-publishing companies offer book cover design services that rely on stock art to create wonderful, practical images for less cost. See examples: Check out the professionally predesigned premium book covers available through Self-Publishing Relief!
You can also use stock photos and art to design a more customized book cover for your self-published book. Using stock images will allow you to keep costs down while still creating a uniquely memorable cover. Be sure to choose a designer with experience in designing book covers for your genre.
Question: Would you consider using stock art to design your self-published book cover artwork? Send us your questions in our comments section!
Local book promotion events are a big deal for self-published writers—they can lead to event-driven sales, media coverage, and word-of-mouth publicity. Even “big player” traditional publishers encourage their writers to reach out to local venues and nearby events. At Self-Publishing Relief, we know that indie writers can effectively support their sales efforts with marketing events to promote their self-published books.
How To Find The Best Locations To Host A Live Book Promotion Event
If you’d like to host a local event to promote your self-published book, the first thing you’ll need to do is define your audience. Only after you know who it is you’ll be speaking to can you figure out how to best entice organizers to create an event for you.
Possible Locations That Could Host Your Book Promotion Event
Houses of worship
Decide What Kind Of Book Promotion Event You’ll Pitch To Each Venue
Different audiences may be drawn in by different offerings. For example, schools might be interested in a “how to be a writer” mini class for their students. Senior centers or cafes might be interested in a traditional reading of pages from your book, followed by a book signing. Historical societies might prefer a lecture about a given historical topic that is related to your book. Library audiences might like to learn more about the art of self-publishing. Learn more about how to come up with ideas for talks that will promote your book.
Once you’ve pinpointed your potential book marketing venue, it’s time to reach out to event coordinators and organizers to tell them about your great idea.
Tips For Approaching An Event Organizer To Plan Your Book Promotion Event
Reach out to the right individuals by name. Though you may have to resort to a generic “Dear Event Coordinator” letter, you’ll probably see better results from your outreach if you show that you are a part of the community—and few things are better evidence of that than addressing people by name.
Mention your personal connection. If possible, mention your personal interests in the group or venue you’re approaching. Was a parent a former member? Did you spend years studying for exams at a certain coffee shop? Have you attended other events at the location? Organizers will appreciate your support.
Bribe. We’re not suggesting that you slip an event organizer a five-dollar bill, but gifts rarely go amiss. You can offer the organizer a free copy of your book for review or a promotional gift basket. Or you can offer to take up a collection at your event in order to donate back to your host (or other charity).
Focus on what you have to offer, not what you have to gain. Event coordinators have their audience’s best interests in mind—and you should too! Clearly outline what attendees will have to gain by showing up for your book promotion event.
Offer to cross promote. Local publicity is a two-way street. You’re hoping for a big audience, and so is your host! So be sure to mention how you are willing to promote the event: post on your social media, write and submit a press release, etc.
Strike the right tone. Remember: When talking about your potential event, let your enthusiasm for your audience—as opposed to your pushiness to sell books—shine through! And of course, thank organizers for their time and offer to follow up.
Self-publishing offers great opportunities for savvy authors, but it also means tackling challenging production, marketing, and distribution decisions. The experts at Self-Publishing Relief know that one of the most vexing decisions is whether you should self-publish on one retailer, such as Amazon, or “go wide” and publish across many.
The Pros And Cons Of Self-Publishing With Multiple Retailers
There are lots of advantages to having your self-published book show up on as many retailer sites as possible. The wider your distribution, the more likely you’ll catch interested eyeballs—and make more sales. Fortunately, self-published authors can set up accounts directly with these major book retailers to help achieve this goal:
Alternatively, authors can use an eBook distributor as a one-stop book distribution shop. These companies offer indie authors opportunities to reach the major retailers as well as smaller book retailers, closed-off ones, and subscription services, such as:
Obviously, the multiplication of book retailers does add complications in terms of book tracking, production, and marketing:
Production: Best practices suggest you should use vendor-specific hotlinks in your eBook’s back matter to encourage a reader, once finished with your story, to one-click buy your next book. If you are distributing wide, you’ll need multiple vendor-specific formats if you wish to keep up with this recommendation.
Tracking: If you set up individual accounts on the major book retailers, keeping tabs on sales will require more effort unless you use a paid service such as booktrakr.com to automatically accumulate the information.
Amazon provides perks to those who sign up their books to their KDP Select program, which requires exclusive rights for distribution.
The pros of Amazon’s KDP Select:
Exclusivity allows you to earn 70% royalties from Japan, India, Brazil, and Mexico. Non-KDP Select authors earn 35% in these markets.
For up to five days per 90-day period, you can choose between running a Kindle Countdown Deal (promotional discounting), or running a Free Book Promotion. Non-KDP Select authors can discount to 99 cents but for free promotions must rely on price-matching or the kindness of an Amazon representative.
Your book or books are added to Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s eBook subscription service. You’ll be paid for borrows based on pages read. Every month, you’ll receive your share from the KDP Select Global Fund. Non-KDP Select authors don’t have access to this avid book-reading audience or this fund.
Your distribution reach is limited. More and more folks are reading on their smartphones. Having your book available on Apple iBooks (for iPhones and iPads) and Google Play (for Android-run devices) can give you exposure to the fastest-growing e-reading platforms as well as more international markets.
You’re more vulnerable to changes. Amazon can adjust their terms at any time, potentially upending all the eggs in your one basket.
What If I Go Exclusive And Then Change My Mind?
One of the wonderful aspects of self-publishing is that no decision is permanent. If you sign on to KDP Select and then decide that you want to go wide, all you have to do is wait until the end of the 90 days to be released from the exclusivity obligation. (Just make sure you don’t have the box checked to automatically renew.) Then you’re free to open new accounts with other vendors and enjoy the benefits of “going wide.”
Though it has been well-established for nearly ten years, self-publishing is still a nascent industry, subject to turbulence. If you’re venturing into the wilds of indie-publishing for the first time, be sure to connect with other self-published writers to network, share experiences, and keep up with changes in the industry.
Question: Where do you prefer to read eBooks: on your Kindle, Nook, desktop computer, on an app on your smartphone or tablet, through a subscription service, or several of the above?
For publishers and authors, most standard promotion and marketing campaigns are geared toward pushing sales of a new, stand-alone book. But what if the book you’re releasing is the fifth novel in an ongoing series? How do you generate interest in a new release if that interest is predicated on the buyer having already read the entire backlist? Self-Publishing Relief has the answer: Toss out the usual protocol—and promote the series itself.
Five Smart Tips And Ideas For Promoting Your Self-Published Book Series
If your website has a Book List page, make sure to highlight the book series as well as the individual books. If possible, dedicate a page to the series where you can give more detail, such as introducing the main character or giving a sense of the greater world. Check out Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot Bay series or Hugh Howey’s Silo series.
Did you know that Amazon offers book series pages? All you have to do is double-check your metadata to make sure the phrasing and capitalization of the series matches exactly across all the books. Amazon will then auto-generate a book series page.
Create A Book Funnel
In your novels, what comes after “The End”? If you’ve planned your back matter wisely, you’ll encourage satisfied readers to continue on in the series.
The back matter in each of your series books should include:
A teaser first chapter or first scene for the following book that, ideally, ends in a cliff-hanger
A one-click hotlink in your eBook to the vendor page for the next book, both before and after the excerpt
A clear call-to-action for the reader to buy the next book in the series
Adding a teaser chapter works like a funnel, directing the reader through the entire series.
Be Patient In Publication
In traditional publishing, a debut author is the sexiest hook for book promotion and marketing. Everyone loves unknown talent, hoping to find the next Patterson or Roberts or Martin.
Self-publishing works a little differently. Promotion and marketing tactics center on the distinct advantages self-publishing offers. One of those advantages is flexibility in the timing of book releases.
Indie-published romance and mystery author Liliana Hart shot up the best-seller charts with her “5 down and 1 in the hole” technique. By waiting until she had five books in a series before publishing any of them, she took advantage of the vendor algorithms to rise swiftly on the lists.
Not all writers can be so patient, but conventional self-publishing wisdom suggests that even if you don’t hold the books back, at least wait until you have three books published before you promote your book series.
Use Pricing Strategies
Have you ever wandered through a food court and grazed on the sample offerings of the surrounding restaurants? If so, you probably decided what to eat for lunch based on what you tasted. Offering a free sample has always been a powerful way to encourage people to buy what you’re selling.
Making the first book in a very long series permafree
Because there’s a higher risk of reader fatigue and sales degradation, traditional publishing is not always eager to embrace a book series by a new author. Fortunately, self-publishing is a powerful new paradigm in the industry, giving writers new tools and flexibility to introduce their work to a bigger audience. With a little creative promotion and marketing, your self-published book series can grow and thrive!
Question: What is your favorite book series, and how far have you read through it so far?
At Self-Publishing Relief, we truly understand how frustrating it can be to get your book published the traditional way. Your novel may languish for years before finding a home with a publisher—if ever. You may consider self-publishing a last resort, but taking charge of your project and publishing independently just might give your book the ultimate gift: discoverability! Here are ten more reasons to self-publish:
Ten Reasons Self-Publishing May Be Right For You And Your Book
Total control. As a self-publisher, you have the final say on content, cover, interior design, pricing, and promotion.
Networking opportunities. As your book goes through production, you’ll connect with many different people in the publishing industry. These are all excellent future contacts and networking opportunities!
Boost business. Writers who self-publish nonfiction books related to their day jobs often find they’re adding immense value to their business. A pediatrician might publish a short wellness guide for her patients, or a financial advisor could put together a book about smart financial planning to boost his business and visibility.
Instant gratification! (Or nearly instant…) A self-published author can self-publish a book in just weeks, then see his or her book on sale online within hours, and then be paid sixty days later.
More shelf time. In a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore, novels have only a month or two to catch on…but a digital book is forever available. This gives the self-published author time to put promotions in place and continue building a brand.
Compared to the helpless feeling of waiting for an agent or a traditional publisher to make decisions about you and your book, the self-published author feels empowered—learning new skills, meeting professionals, making mistakes (and learning from them), handling sales, and interacting with readers.
Reputation reinforcement. If you self-publish your first few books, you can use them to reinforce your author brand and build a readership. Traditional publishing houses may be watching—and may even offer a contract for your next book!
Niche appeal. Self-publishing is PERFECT for personal projects or niche books. Create a family cookbook or memorial book, or publish a book specifically for people who want to learn how to make macramé plant hangers.
And the number one benefit of self-publishing? No rejection from publishers! If you’re tired of receiving rejection letters from literary agents or editors, self-publishing makes the journey from writer to published author possible—right now!
The self-publishing process can be empowering for aspiring authors. The positive energy involved in getting your own project off the ground can propel you much further, much faster than waiting in line for your shot at traditional publication. So stay positive and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
January 13 is “Make Your Dreams Come True Day,” and one of the smartest ways to achieve your dream of becoming a published author is to get that novel, memoir, or poetry chapbook of yours out the door and into the hands of readers! If you’ve decided to take charge of your dream and self-publish a book, you might want to consider finding a self-publishing mentor to guide you through the process.
At Self-Publishing Relief, we know publishing a book on your own can be daunting. So many decisions! But a self-publishing mentor—someone who’s gone through the process successfully and, preferably, repeatedly—can offer you the benefit of his or her experience by giving you advice and pointing you in the right direction. It may even be possible for your mentor to open doors for you with new opportunities through professional contacts.
What Traits Should You Look For In A Self-Publishing Mentor?
A good mentor will be someone willing to give you advice and counsel and who’s prepared to direct and support your work. But just as important—once you know what you’re doing, a good mentor will let you move forward on your own.
Look for someone who has successfully helped guide others through the self-publishing process, or an author who has had success publishing his or her own books. Peruse a potential mentor’s books for quality. Do you love the cover art and format? If you’re considering a self-published writer, does he or she have solid sales, a decent following on social media, and a strong, consistent author brand?
What’s the best way to ask a self-publishing guru to mentor you?
Gather your courage, don’t be nervous, and ask! Remember, your request will actually be quite flattering. Keep in mind that mentors have lives of their own, so immediately establish the limits of what you expect from the relationship.
Be respectful and ask for only ten minutes of a person’s time. You can meet casually for a cup of coffee, or correspond via email. Be prepared with a few specific questions.
You could ask how you can help a potential mentor—assist with administrative tasks, promote their work on your social media, etc.—and in return the mentor may be more inclined to offer advice or contacts.
Be sure to follow up with a “thank you.” And someday, if a new writer comes to you for advice or support, you can pay it forward!
Where can you find a self-publishing mentor?
Writing groups, workshops, and conferences for self-publishing or indie authors.
Internet searches for self-published authors in your genre. Read their blogs; then send an email to potential mentors.
You’ve heard the stories—and you probably don’t believe them. The one about the unpublished sci-fi writer who had to be convinced to try self-publishing, only to find the money rolling in along with a traditional contract and a major motion picture deal. Or the story about the unpublished romance writer who kept her self-published project a secret while making five figures a month. Within a few years she was a New York Times best-seller and had sold five million eBooks.
But these stories are true. The first author is Andy Weir; the second, Liliana Hart. Are they outliers? How common is such success? And exactly how much money can you really make in self-publishing? Self-Publishing Relief has the answers.
The Typical Self-Publishing Scenario
Hoping for the same success, many writers have embraced self-publishing. They put their books through multiple edits, choose striking titles and stunning covers, and upload to e-vendors.
Their moms buy a copy and so do some of their friends. Promotions on social media elicit a few more sales, but after a month or two—nothing. What happened?
You can build a following by offering your book to interested parties in exchange for joining your mailing list.
Remember, first books rarely make a big splash—even in traditional publishing.
How Self-Published Success Stories Succeed
As well as their meteoric success, Andy Weir and Liliana Hart have something else in common: Their first books were self-published in 2011. Because Amazon dropped the price of the Kindle to $99 around this time, the demand for eBooks shot up when inventory was low. New books from forward-thinking writers were snapped up, talked about, and raved over.
They’re Smart Marketers. Understanding the importance of Facebook ads, Amazon ads, BookBub ads, and other platforms helps boost discoverability.
The average self-published author usually emulates the second- and third-wave authors without pushing too hard. A successful self-published writer publishes consistently while building an audience and mastering smart marketing techniques.
What You Can Expect To Earn By Self-Publishing
How much a self-published author makes in royalties depends on a lot of factors, including how many books they have, the genre they write in, and how savvy they are at marketing.
If you’re curious about how your favorite self-published authors are faring, check out a clever little piece of software called KDSpy.
Keep in mind, self-publishing success isn’t only measured in money. Self-publishing offers the freedom to write what you like, choose your message and marketing, and control your platform. And self-publishing lets you share your stories with the world on your timeline, rather than waiting years to sell them and even more years before you see them on the shelves. And for many authors, these benefits are priceless.
Question: What is your definition of success as an author? Is it a traditional book contract, a minimum income expectation, peer awards, or something else?
What can friends, family, and coworkers do to help market your self-published book? More than you think!
Is there a photographer in the family who can take your author publicity photo? Do your friends know other authors who may want to cross-promote? Or perhaps Aunt Frieda’s best friend is the local librarian. Whether it’s your grandmother talking up your book at the senior center or a golf buddy who wrote a nice review on Amazon, there are many ways the people in your life can help promote your book. But if you plan to ask your loved ones for a little help, Writer’s Relief knows it’s important to do so the right way.
How to ask (even bribe!) friends and family to help promote your self-published book:
Ask one-on-one. Rather than sending out a group email begging for help, politely reach out individually to each person with your requests.
Be specific. Outline exactly what you need so there’s less room for misunderstanding—and to make it easier for your loved ones. Don’t make them guess what you want.
Provide any needed information. Even though your friends may have read your book, it might be hard for them to summarize it for others. Give them the words they need in the form of a two- to three-sentence synopsis. And make sure they have links to your author website and other important information to share—like where people can buy your book! (Here are 9 tips to sell more books via word-of-mouth sales.)
Offer a bribe. If you’re asking a friend to do something time-consuming or otherwise difficult, offer an incentive for the favor: proofreading help, babysitting, mowing the lawn, etc.
Be realistic…and grateful. You don’t want to overwhelm your family with tasks—and don’t forget that all-important “thank you.” An attitude of gratitude will go a long way!
Here are a few ways friends and family can help market your self-published book:
The average Internet user accesses five different social media platforms. If your friends, family, and coworkers each use up to five social media accounts, with dozens to thousands of friends and followers each, imagine the power of that reach! Ask them to share links on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to your author website and/or the sales site (like Amazon) where people can buy your book.
Friends and family members who purchased your book can publish an honest review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.
Read reviews of your book on Amazon and mark which are helpful and which are not. (This keeps the more positive reviews higher on the list.)
Visit local bookstores, libraries, and other outlets that might be willing to carry your book.
Videotape an interview with you to post on your author website.
Most of your friends and family will enjoy supporting you and being a part of the publishing process. Others may require a modest bribe, which could be as simple as a free book or a gift card for a coffee shop.
You can also organize a “thank-you” pizza party or dinner to show your gratitude for their efforts. And be sure to return the favor when the opportunity arises to support other writers!
Question: Have you helped someone promote his or her self-published book? What exactly did you do?
Writers know it. Readers know it. Traditional publishers know it. And Self-Publishing Relief knows it too: Good reviews sell books. In an industry that typically sees breakout books rise to stardom through word-of-mouth book sales, what people are saying about your self-published book can be a huge factor in its success. So how can you maximize your book review quotes to drive sales?
You need to know how to spot a good quote when you see it.
What Makes A Great Review Quote (Or Blurb)?
Anytime someone says something nice about your book, you might want to shout it to the rooftops! But there is a hierarchy of reviewer quotes in the publishing industry that you should consider when deciding which of your quotes will get top billing.
Great book review quotes aren’t flat and expected. Instead, share-worthy reviews promise readers an emotional journey or a surprising revelation—using only a few words (similar to great query letters). The best book review quotes tend to come from well-known magazines, celebrities, best-selling authors, and bloggers/book review sites with large followings. Paid book reviews also carry some weight (like those from Kirkus Reviews). And having a lot of four- and five-star reviews on sites like Goodreads will also help to sway readers (Example: “Over 500 five-star reviews on NameOfWebsite!”).
The book review quotes that typically aren’t as effective are quotes from individual, non-professional readers that are posted on book retail websites like Amazon.
How To Best Use Your Book Review Quotes And Endorsements
Keep review quotes short—very short. Few people who are visiting your author website or social media profiles will take the time to read looooooong review quotes. In fact, seeing a big block of text will probably cause visitors to bounce off your website! Instead, wow your visitors with instant impact by including only the most salient phrases of your reviews. Some writers even opt to include only single words (“Exciting… Riveting…” —The Blah Blah Review).
CAVEAT: Writers may benefit from including slightly longer reviews (two or three sentences MAX) in the front pages of their published books. Why? Pages and pages of concise reviews are noticed and often carefully perused by booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and potential buyers. After all, everybody wants to read and talk about the book that everyone is reading and talking about!
Put book endorsements on your book cover and back jacket copy. Book recommendations are powerful, so pick your very best (and shortest) quotes for front-and-center placement.
Add reviews to your query letters. If you want to secure literary agent representation, include excerpts from your review quotes at the bottom of your query letter or in the text itself.
Include quotes in your author bio. Along with the traditional elements of an author bio (publishing history, a bit of personal information, etc.), consider including a very short phrase from an impressive reviewer. If possible, choose a quote that focuses on your writing in general (“a captivating storyteller who always entertains”) rather than on a particular book project.
Create a carousel of reviews for your author website. If you have several great, high-impact reviews, show them off by creating a carousel (or maybe scrolling text) on your author website. Movement gets noticed!
Brag on your business cards. Include very short review quotes or numbers of starred reviews on your business card to remind the people you meet of your growing fanbase.
How To Get Book Review Quotes And Endorsements If You Don’t Have Publishing Connections
Believe it or not, you might be able to score a fabulous book review quote from a best-selling author or a popular book reviewer—if you play your cards right!
One of the major challenges for self-published authors is discoverability. How do you shine a light on your self-published book when it’s bobbing in a sea of a hundred thousand others? How do you continue the momentum of a book launch? How do you promote your backlist books when they’ve been languishing on virtual shelves?
If you’re a self-published author, you have the advantage of a powerful marketing tool: Promote a short-term price drop! But keep in mind, there’s more to this type of promotion than just dropping the book price and then sitting back waiting for the sales to roll in.
Self-Publishing Relief offers a checklist for making the most of your sale:
Increase Book Reviews. Maximize downloads by setting your price to free.
Boost Sales of a Book Series. Dropping the price of the first book in a series hooks new readers who’ll buy the sequels. Consider a 99-cent or free price point.
Bring Attention to an Upcoming Book Launch. Got a new book coming? Drop the price of a similar book in the weeks prior to the launch. Make sure to promote the new book in the back pages of the book on sale.
Widen Your Audience. Indie authors sometimes team up with others in the same genre to produce book bundles for promotion rather than profit. Highly discounted book bundles grab enormous attention—and sometimes best-seller list accolades!
Prepare Your Website For The Onslaught. A price drop will cause a surge in sales as well as an increased interest in you and your books. Is your website ready for the attention?
Are all the hotlinks on your website working?
Do you have a mailing list sign-up in a prominent place?
Are the social media icons easily visible?
Depending on your price drop goals, does your landing page promote the sale, an upcoming book, your series, etc.?
Prepare Your Social Media Pages.
Make fresh new banners for Twitter and Facebook to promote the sale.
Before Sale Day: Check Your Price. For any price change of 99 cents or more, most vendors register the change within 1-2 days. But if you don’t publish exclusively to Amazon through Kindle Unlimited, you must drop all other vendors’ prices to “free” and wait for Amazon to price-match. Also, you may need to change your selected royalty rate in order to charge lower than $2.99. This can take some time, so check frequently before the day of the sale.
During The Sale: Promote Your Price Drop On Social Media.
When the dust settles, it’s a good idea to evaluate the success of your price drop promotion. How do the five-day sales match up to the cumulative cost of advertising? Did you make an immediate profit? If not, did you still see higher sales a month later? Don’t forget to take into account the value of new newsletter subscribers and social media fans. All this data can help you determine whether a price drop promotion is right for you and how, next time, you may be able to do better.
Question: When it comes to eBook prices, how much is too high? At what price point would you consider not buying a book?
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