I have 5 books currently published on Smashwords. This is because they are too short to send to a publisher and I really wanted others to be able to enjoy them. A lot of people are hesitant about self publishing because they think its allot of work and they don’t really understand it. Well im going to break it down and hope that you take a chance on it.
1. Editing. One of the bad elements attached to self publishing is that the work wont be as high quality as a publishers list. This is because often people upload their work thinking that if they have read it then it must be free of errors. I cringe at how much my editor finds wrong with my work once i think its perfect. So please, get a professional to look it over, they don’t cost much and it will make you money in the long run.
2. Cover. Have a professional cover. By that i don’t mean have a professional make it (although this is a good idea). My first two covers were made by a cover artist for $20. They are great. But the problem with having someone else do it is that they don’t know what your book is about. They are working from your description of it. Take a moment to look at covers on popular books and see what makes them grab your attention. They will have clear bold titles, well thought out fonts, an image that sums up the book and all will lay perfectly together. Practice makes perfect.
3. Marketing. Yes you have to market, all the time. You might tweet your book and get a few hits. But after 30mins that tweet is at the bottom of the feed never to be seen again. So, do it again, and again. Blog about it, blog on other peoples sites, email, facebook, bookmarks, stickers. Keep in mind that each marketing hit lasts about an hour. You have to grip as many people as you can in that time and make them remember it. Remember the dentel man, but wait there’s more you get free steak knives! He was annoying but you remembered him, right? A good idea is at the end of each book put an ‘about the author’ part. Include a website and any other ways they can find you, twitter, facebook etc. Lead them to your next book.
4. Free. The most important point here is that yes you want to make money. But first you have to make people notice you and create a following. People aren’t going to take a chance on an unknown author for $2.99. They might on a free book. If they like it they will go to your $0.99 book or your $1.99 book etc. Give people a taste and show them that you are the real deal. This goes for sampling too. Allow it, at least 10% but 20% is better, this is the equivalent of browsing at a book shop, let them read the first few pages and see if they like it before they buy it so its not such a risk for them.
5. Write more. You will find that each time you release a new book your other books will have a surge too. If you liked the first book you are more likely to go back and get the next one, and hopefully read your whole back list!
6. Review. Having reviews on your books is a great sales pitch and pushes them up the ranks. But its not always easy to get them (friends and family don’t count). Review other peoples books and hope that they return the favor. Network. ASK for reviews on twitter or your local book club. You only need one or two to get the ball rolling.
7. Help. Smashwords has a formatting guide, read it. Basically you need to remove all Tabs and hidden formatting. Hit enter 4 times to create a page break etc. It’s important, follow it to the letter. If you have trouble there are people you can hire to format it for you. Most editors will do this if you ask.
8. It only takes seconds to upload a book. You up load the text, enter the details, title, author, isbn (available on the site) then upload the cover image. Its not hard once you have the basics down.
And most importantly remember that your sales wont be good on your first book. You have to be patient and build your followers. Try different tactics, see what works. Give it time. This year they found that books over 100k words sold better, but last year it was books under 40k so you have to watch the best seller lists and see whats working for other people.