40 minute read.
This article is in direct response to some questions I got from a reader. She wanted to know about how to get her books published, and she had some specific questions that I am going to cover right here.
According to many sources I’ve researched and read about over the years, this is what I know about the ins and outs of publishing a book, including what to look for, what to avoid, and what to expect.
Let’s tackle these questions one by one.
How do you get published?
Short answer, there are 2 ways you can publish a book:
- Traditional publishing with a publishing company
- Self publishing
First, let’s take a deep look at traditional publishing.
Part 1: Traditional Publishing
What You Need to Know About Traditional Mainstream Publishing
Mainstream publishing is a great way to be seen as a successful author. You have the advantage of having a big brand backing your book. Books can be a great way to establish a platform that involves doing great research, conducting amazing interviews, using design skills, and doing public speaking engagements and presentations.
While this approach is seen as a greater way to increase sales because of the publisher’s market visibility, you’re actually not going to make as much money as you think you will, even with a cash advance if you can get one.
Publishers usually give you 8-15% royalties on your book. So even selling 300,000 copies isn’t going to make a difference.
The advantage of having a mainstream publisher is having the backend stuff handled for you, like converting to digital formats such as .epub, .mobi, PDF, and audio books. But ultimately, you don’t have as much control over the content, editing, and design.
Who are your Readers?
It all depends on who your readers are and how many. An anonymous writer once wrote “Close friends and family don’t really count because they are biased and generally want to see you succeed. My mom always use to tell me I was a great writer, but my mom isn’t my target market, and even if she bought my book, it won’t pay the bills.”
You have to hit people in your target niche or market. It also depends on the genre of your book.
Some good questions to ask yourself:
- What is your book about?
- What makes it stand out above all else in that market?
- Is it fiction or non fiction?
- Have you submitted any manuscripts to publishers yet?
- How many have you submitted?
- Were they big or small companies?
The Cold Hard Truth
It’s becoming harder and harder to get an agent or publisher to look at manuscripts from new people.
Why is this? It’s because the major publishers are losing business at an incredible rate. Who are they losing to? Self-publishers.
So to make sure they profit from traditional publishing, they only want the best work from the most well known authors. This sucks for new writers trying to break into the business.
If you are a new writer and want to get published but can’t, it’s not that you aren’t a brilliant writer. It’s just too risky for them to take a chance on you.
The traditional route is to find yourself a literary agent because publishers are too busy to be bothered by unknowns. Literary agents know this.
It is extremely frustrating with a Catch 22 situation.
Publishers want someone who’s been published before, but how can you get published if no one takes a chance on you? As difficult as it is, it happens all the time.
In most cases, if you haven’t built an audience yet, literary agents and the publishers will not automatically give you an audience. They will do what they can to market your work, but getting a literary agent is only 10 percent of the battle.
Established authors hire literary agents because they can afford it. They’ve already been published. Publishers usually don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. But even if some of them do, it’s rare, and it’s not something you can bet on.
Once you have sent your manuscript off, don’t bank on a reply any time soon.
Expect to wait a few weeks at the least, though it can sometimes take months for the literary agent to get back to you.
Do not chase them for a follow up. That’s a good way to piss them off and never want to consider you. The whole process demands patience. Agents and publishers are very busy people and it’s important to show respect for this.
Agents and publishers need to appreciate that time is precious to writers too, but it doesn’t seem that way. This is why it is very important to make multiple submissions. Send your synopsis and sample chapter to several agents at once, and keep a cycle of batch submissions going every few weeks.
If you go with traditional publishing, it’s important to match your work to the right agent or publishing houses. If your book’s main character is a withdrawn farm boy with secret powers, you might as well flush $50 down the toilet if you send your manuscript to a house specializing in alien monster fiction (unless, of course, the whole story ends in a revelation about the boy being an alien monster).
You will need to pitch your manuscript to a prospective agent.
Assuming you have signed with an agent and they’ve agreed to do the work on helping you submit to a publisher, this is the next step.
Most reputable publishers will have a website with information about their submission requirements. If you don’t follow them, your manuscript won’t be considered. End of story.
Many publishers have pages devoted to what’s called their “frontlist” of releases within a publishing season, which is typically either spring or fall.
If the publisher wants to see your full manuscript after they’ve received your letter, awesome! Find out how long the evaluation time is and if you haven’t heard from them in that time frame, follow up politely.
Ask if they have come to a decision.
If you made multiple submissions to different agents and you’re getting multiple bites, you’re in good shape. Don’t turn it into a bidding war.
Most agents make 10 to 15 percent of your income. Most publishers have a boilerplate contract wherein a few things are negotiable, such as which publishing rights you grant permission for them to format for distribution. They can sell translation rights on your behalf, taking a percentage of royalties from such sales.
Sometimes you or your agent might want to reserve certain rights to sell yourself, such as movie rights, or ebook rights, or translation rights if you know other companies that might be better able to exercise these rights.
Traditional Publishing Pros and Cons
- Advance and Royalties. You get paid an advance upfront and pay nothing to publish.
- There is a high likelihood that your book will be sold in physical bookstores.
- You have a good shot at mainstream media coverage.
- You have the backing of a reputed publishing house which helps you get discovered.
- Marketing is part of the book publishing deal and the publisher helps to an extent.
- You have professional editing, formatting and cover design.
- You book is made available through all major bookstores and online retailers.
- It helps you establish a platform for giving powerful presentations about your subject and start a public speaking career.
- It can take 1-2 years for your book to eventually be published.
- It is highly selective. Very few authors get accepted.
- It can take a significant amount of time to get a book to the market.
- New authors have a hard time getting the backing of a good publisher.
- Lower royalties. It can take anywhere from 5 to 15% of selling price for print editions.
Royalty rates can be anywhere between 5 percent and 20 percent, with either of these extremes being kind of rare. It’s usually around 10 to 15 percent of either the net received or the cover price. A percentage of the cover price is a better deal for the author.
A percent on net is better for the publisher because different selling venues ask for different discounts, which would eat into the publisher’s margin if they are paying on cover price.
Once your book sales have earned out the advance, then you get paid royalties either biannually or annually. Even when your book sales are working against the advance, you should always get a royalty statement. All of these details will be in the contract.
Not all traditional publishers will pay you an advance against royalties.
Publishing services like iUniverse and Outskirts Press will not pay you an advance against royalties. The advance is usually a portion of the publisher’s best bet as to what they can net in the first print run.
They want to make back their plate costs (the one-time costs leading up to the first impression of ink or toner on paper) and the advance they paid you plus a gross margin of usually at least 60%.
That’s why they need to know how many words you’ve written and all about your niche market or genre so they can run the numbers and offer you a fair advance against royalties.
So, now the big question…
How do you get a publisher to take the time to read your manuscripts?
Well, isn’t that the million dollar question! Assuming you haven’t been scared off yet, here is the down-low of going through this tricky process. This is where it gets more detailed.
Start with a Literary Agent
Publishers and agents want you to send them a submission query letter before they will look at the rest of your work.
Generally speaking, you’ll need to describe:
- Your story in 300 words or less, and tell how many words are in the manuscript.
- What your niche market or genre is.
- What your competition might be and how you stand apart from it.
- What writing groups, guilds, societies you belong to.
- Whether you are willing to travel to do book signings.
- If you can speak well, and whether you’ll do radio interviews or TV appearances.
- Whether you’ll be involved in making a book trailer or a video that can be uploaded to Youtube or other popular social media video sites.
Here’s a response from an anonymous writer about submitting a manuscript to a literary agent:
- Submit to one or more literary agents. You do this by writing a query letter. The agent Janet Reid has a lot about query letters if you scroll down the right panel of her blog. http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com. Individual agents will also have specific guidelines.
- Get a bunch of rejections.
- If you don’t get an outright rejection, the agent will probably ask for a partial. That might be one chapter. It could be 3 chapters.
- If you don’t get rejected, the agent will ask for the full book. The agent may be thinking about representing you if they have a little more information or you can fix something, or they will simply offer to represent you.
- NEVER pay an agent up front. They get paid when you get paid. The agent then sends it to the publishing houses.
What if you can’t afford a literary agent?
Each big publisher receives between about 3,000 and 5,000 fiction manuscripts each year, yet only about 5 get accepted. Those are incredibly high odds, not in your favor. Your time and money to get all of the work done and prepared for publishers may be extremely tight.
If you are on a budget, it’s understandable that you can’t afford to pay an agent their percentage of the profit if your book is successful. Of course, you want to keep as much profit as possible.
But you have to decide whether it’s worth more for you to sign with an agent to get your foot in the door with a publisher, or whether it’s better to save on cost, not sign with an agent, and hope for the best by yourself. Most authors don’t recommend skipping on an agent, but the decision ultimately rests on your shoulders.
If you are bound and determined to forego a literary agent and contact a publisher, I hope you have a strong stomach. If you do, read on. The next part is about approaching publishers.
How do you contact publishers?
Here’s a response from an anonymous writer about submitting a manuscript to publishers:
- Do the research. Find out what publishers publish your kind of book. Dig deep. Lots of publishers will be “vanity presses” where the author fronts the costs of printing the book.
- Read and follow the guidelines EXACTLY. Every publisher has guidelines for submissions or lets you know if they take cold submissions. If a publisher does not take unsolicited submissions, you have no chance without an agent.
- Send your submission and then move on. You will not hear at all from a lot of people. If you do, it is way more likely to be a rejection. Keep writing and keep sending your work out.
- Get readers and editors to help you hone your craft.
- Learn how to promote your work and meet the folks in the industry. Maybe one day you’ll have a manuscript seen by someone at a publishing house that is interested.
- If all that doesn’t work, consider self-publishing.
So, how do you submit a manuscript?
Manuscript Submission Guidelines
All publishers follow different set of guidelines, although some core instructions are common. Here is generally how it works according to many sources I’ve seen:
- Go to the publisher’s website, and find the submission guidelines.
- Follow the guidelines to the exact letter.
- Do NOT deviate from the guidelines, or they will throw it out because you can’t follow directions.
- This is the first test. They want to see if you can follow simple instructions, and they don’t want to waste any time with mavericks. These are extremely busy folks. If you are too much trouble to work with, you are not worth their time.
- Submit your manuscript in electronic form, and not paper.
- Make an exceptional cover letter and a synopsis that is dripping with dynamic exciting language. There’s lots of information on the web for how to produce both of the documents.
You don’t want to do these things in your manuscript:
- Boring story.
- Complicated plot.
- Too moral.
- Too many stock characters.
- Main character is bland.
- Pacing is too quick or slow.
- You have an attitude.
- The book is full of graphic violence, profanity, and explicit sex.
- Brag about yourself.
- The story is not authentic or relatable.
- Too much fluff and not enough substance.
- Overrun with cliches.
- Full of spelling mistakes, typos, horrible punctuation or no punctuation at all.
The Cover Letter Also Known as Query Letter
Some Common Guidelines for Writing a Cover Letter:
- A one paragraph description of the book, including title, genre, word count and audience (fantasy, romance, science fiction, politics, crime, etc.).
- A brief bio, including interesting details of your life, particularly if they’re relevant to the book you’re writing.
- Relevant credits of other books or stories you’ve had published.
- Use quotes only if from reputable sources, well-known authors or reviewers.
- 300 words is plenty. If the publisher wants more, they’ll ask for it.
How to Craft a Cover Letter to a Publisher when Submitting your Manuscript:
Sample Body of Letter:
Dear [Publishing Company Name],
[Powerful opening statement about why your book is important.]
[Brief Bio, such as “I began writing stories when I was X years old…”. Walk them through how you built your knowledge and experience.]
I have a completed a 70,000 word manuscript (or “novel”, or “non fiction book”) titled [Name of your book].
Here is a synopsis and sample chapter of my book.
Jody Lebel’s Experiences
According to Jody Lebel, author of short stories, articles in Woman’s World, and Chicken Soup for the Soul, very few of the big five publishers and their subsidiaries accept unsolicited transcripts. She also mentions the five major publishing houses here:
- Penguin Random House (Penguin, Dutton, Putnam, Random House, Alfred A. Knopf, Doubleday, Crown, etc.)
- Simon & Schuster (Poseidon, Pocket, Threshold, etc.)
- HarperCollins (Harlequin, etc.)
- MacMillan (St. Martin’s Press, Tor, etc.)
- Hachette (Little, Brown & Company, etc.)
Jody also goes on to say that if you choose to contact a publisher, you must query them first, which involves you knowing how to write an awesome one-page letter asking if they are interested in reading more of your novel.
If they are interested, they will request 1-3 chapters and a synopsis. Then wait. I waited for 18 months once (and I had an agent) for Harlequin to send me a rejection letter.
There are also many small publishing houses. They don’t have the power and reach that the big five does, but you have to start somewhere.
- Scour the Internet and find an agent that represents the type of book you have written.
- Query the agent to see if you can get a contract with an agency.
- Then let the agent do the job of shopping your book around to publishers. They have the contacts and know exactly what to do. They only get paid from your sales. They don’t market to the little publishers. There is not enough money in that.
- Make sure your book is ready.
- Have it read by other writers and take their comments seriously.
Also, here are some other specific things you can do:
One good site to try is Querytracker.com. This is a free website that lists agents and publishers and tells you which ones take which genres and what their requirements are and how to submit to them.
Not every agent in the world is listed here, but there’s around 1400 of them on this site. Do your homework and find publishers on that site that take on new writers that don’t have an agent.
There are many sites that show you how to write a query letter. Smaller publishing houses may be more willing to take a chance on a new writer than one from the big five.
To get the attention of an agent or editor:
- You MUST write a book they want to represent.
- Only query the ones that represent the genre your book is in.
- Always include the first 5 pages of the manuscript along with the query. If they are interested, they will read them.
- If you can hook them, they will ask for a partial. That’s the first 3 chapters.
So there’s your in:
- Awesome query
- “Grab ’em by the throat” on the first five pages
- Hope they ask for a partial (3 chapters)
Also attend local writing conferences where agents are setting appointments. Unless your book is completely awful, they will ask for you to send the first 3 chapters as a courtesy. Make sure your chapters are sharp and fresh.
Conferences most often charge a fee. If you can fit it in your budget, it is well worth the money and time, just for the lectures and knowledge you gain.
Advice from Andrew Rhomberg
Andrew Rhomberg, founder of Jellybooks, says, “Write a book proposal first that makes the publisher (or agent) interested in actually reading the manuscript. Basically you need a pitch that makes you and your book stand out.
Also remember that readers, book sellers and publishers can all tell within the first 10–50 pages if they are going to like the book or not. They don’t need to read the whole thing to make a decision.
It helps if the story is original, and if it aligns with current trends. It is also very important to have evidence to suggest that people like what you write (stuff you’ve posted to Wattpad, your blog, YouTube etc.). Don’t just ask your friends. You need the candid feedback of total strangers!
The next step is to get a warm introduction to the publisher directly or (more commonly) indirectly via a literary agent who specializes in your field. You could do this via an author you admire and who works in the same genre.
It is easier to get them to read your manuscript (or the the first few chapters) than the publisher. If the agent or publisher respects the author who is making the referral, you are much more likely to get an intro.
Trying to “network” with publishers at conferences or fairs is a complete waste of time, because they don’t have the bandwidth to consider what you are putting forward. The exception is if you are writing non-fiction. In such a case, conferences or events in your field might be an opportunity to connect with publishers in that field.
Never forget that what worked for somebody else may not work for you. What worked for them and what works for you will probably be different. If I can give just one piece of advice: Rejection is part of the process. Never take rejection personally!”
Here’s What Elaine Calloway Has to Say
Elaine Calloway, Amazon Bestselling Author says this:
If you’re wanting to go with a publisher, rather than self-publishing and doing it yourself, it helps to get a lit agent first. The submissions from agents always go to the top of the pile, and any unsolicited queries and info from writers goes into “the slush pile” where you don’t want to be.
Go to Find the Agent Who Will Find You a Publisher (agentquery.com) and filter by the genre you write and what agents might be a good match for you. Then start sending query letters, or whatever their bio/website suggests you send, to get an agent first.
Alternatively, you could attend a writer’s conference where there will be publishers present that you can pitch your book idea to, and then if they request 3 chapters, you can get your work higher in the pile than just a cold submission. But agent stuff goes on top, so that’s where I’d start.
You may also want to eventually look into self publishing. It’s faster and you get to keep more of the profits.
The Truth About Book Promotion
You must have a clause in the contract that states a time frame within which the work will be published.
Typically this is within 18 months or less. It’s not ethical, but publishers have taken works off the market by just paying the advance and “delaying” publication until you get fed up and take your work elsewhere.
The truth is most publishers won’t promote your book beyond the season in which it is released unless it’s being released in stages, such as hardcover first, then paperback. Depending on the publisher, an ebook edition may be released simultaneously.
It would be worthwhile for you to find out what the marketing budget is and in which publications your book will be announced.
Your agent will cover everything in the contract with you, or you may want to get a lawyer in publishing to look at it. Regular lawyers won’t be specialized or experienced enough. They won’t understand terms laid out by the publisher.
Say you’ve negotiated the contract and a publication date has been set.
You have a contractual date to deliver your final manuscript, and you’ve met the date. Next, your book is edited and vetted to make sure nothing libelous is in there. You approve the edits. It then gets typeset and you should be allowed to review page proofs.
Your edits get incorporated to a second set of pages that most authors don’t see. It depends on your deal. The book is on a schedule and has an appointed date it’s supposed to be at distribution channels. You don’t want to mess with the appointed date, because all of this runs on a time-sensitive “cash flow.”
Big publishers have all their print runs scheduled in advance to minimize cost and maximize profit. If they lose their schedules with their printers, bad things happen.
When your book goes into production, it is usually about four months to get your first printed copy.
If you’re printing digitally, it’s about a month. Only established authors can get a manuscript through this system in less than four months.
Print publishers that exist right now are stretched to the breaking point on resources. Advances, attractive royalties and a publisher that sets up PR for you is not exactly realistic. You might get very lucky, and get royalties after your book breaks even.
Be Prepared to Stay in it for the Long Haul
If you really want to get published by a traditional publisher, don’t get discouraged. All published writers were once in the same boat as you are, but they found a way to do it. You can do it too. All you need to do is to understand the entire process and push forward.
For the majority of authors the loop of submitting and getting rejected is infinite. It depends on how long you want to be kicked in the crotch over and over again and still think the guy somehow won’t kick you in the crotch again, but suddenly offer you a million dollars.
Getting published traditionally is incredibly difficult!
This is no joke. Some authors have said it cost them a Master of Arts Degree in Creative Writing, at least fifteen years, a million dollars in lost earnings, and many broken relationships.
Unless you are dead serious and bound and determined to make it work, even to the point where it’s your only mission in life and nothing else matters to you, you’re better off taking a different route.
This may not be the answer you want, but it’s realistic. There is no magic way to being published. There is no golden ticket. You are competing with millions of other people all of whom have a great idea for a book.
Books, magazines, and thousands of blogs are written explaining ways to get published. They all want to be published, just like you do.
Be prepared to get rejected…a LOT.
If all of this sounds like a major pain in the ass, it is!
If you still want to continue, check out the resources below:
These are wonderful informative resources on finding agents, connections, networks, and opportunities. I don’t get paid to write about these sites, organizations, or companies. They are just in my experience very solid reputable sources of information.
This is a massive list of publishers and agents by genre. It brings the power of automated searching to the world’s largest, most complete database of the book publishing industry. You can find publishers of a particular subject and type of publication.
It finds every book publisher in a specific city, state, or even zip code beginning with the same two or three digits. It helps you keep track of names and find the person you’re looking for, as well as his or her title and place of work. You can define your search by the number of publications issued in the past year. It gives you a Job Title Index and downloading functionality.
This is the place to sell your writing, whether you’ve got a book, manuscript, or article idea, manage your submissions, and stay abreast of the latest publishing industry news. You can find advanced publishing and marketing knowledge from publishing experts, and know how much to charge for freelance gigs.
You have access to industry listings updated in real time, and can gain access to the new opportunities. Information is specific to your writing needs whether you’re interested in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, children’s, script writing, or agents. They have niche-specific pages.
This is a great resource for getting the latest and greatest instruction and information on literary agents, literary agencies, query letters, submissions, publishing, author platform, book marketing, and lots more.
There’s another option to getting your name out there before going with traditional publishing or self-publishing. If you’re writing fiction, you might want to take a look at The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Part 2: Self-Publishing
Now more than ever, it’s so much easier to self-publish. The truth is though, you’re going to have to define your goals on your manuscript and know what’s the most likely situation to occur.
There’s a shitload of books on Kindle Direct. Having 35%-70% royalties is incredibly good compared to the measly 5-15% traditional publishers give you.
Self-publishing gives you the benefit of more money, full control over content and design, and you don’t have to depend on someone else to choose your dream for you. You choose you own dream!
Self-Publishing Pros and Cons
If you decide to go the route of self-publishing, you are going to have to either do the dirty work like editing, designing, formatting, and marketing yourself, or outsource and hire people to do them for you.
Here are the most common pros and cons for self-publishing:
- You have complete creative freedom over your book.
- A large majority of the profits are retained by you.
- You have better control of the publishing process.
- Better royalties. You decide your pricing and royalties. eBook royalties can be as high as 70%.
- Faster to market. You can self-publish an eBook that you have ready in a matter of minutes and make it available worldwide.
- There are no restrictions for newbie authors.
- It can help you give better presentations because you then have something to promote.
- It is easier to start a public speaking platform that will augment your book sales.
- Little assistance is provided in navigating the path necessary to produce a quality book.
- You have a higher upfront cost, but you keep a higher percentage of profits from sales. Cost can be an issue especially when you need to hire a person for editing, proofing, and design. You often have to pay for multiple copies up front. This is, of course, unless you go through a service like Createspace.com or Fiverr.com.
- You have a disadvantage for being discovered. Your book is the proverbial needle in the haystack.
- You are responsible for all marketing efforts. If you are opting for a print edition, there might be an upfront cost involved, except in the case of the Print-on-Demand option.
Successful Self-Published Authors
James Altucher is a highly successful author. He has a 20 point checklist that he says every writer should follow if you are considering self-publishing:
- Write every day.
- Decide what the book is about.
- Write it well.
- Have it professionally edited.
- Have the interior design done professionally.
- Have the full cover designed in four formats: PDF, paper back, kindle (epub format) and Audible (following the format suggestions of ACX.COM) – Just ask your designer.
- Create your Amazon Author page. Link to your Twitter, your blog and anything else. Put a nice photo in it, and your bio. Make sure to link your books to you.
- Determine what is the objective of the book (business card? Hit a list? Make Money?).
- Make sure you are adding value in a special way.
- Come up with at least 100 ideas on how you will be marketing your book.
- Give a thirty second speech on what your book is about (your elevator pitch).
- Think about a dedication.
- Think and get a Foreword.
- Get blurbs from at least three people.
- Think and if you want, get an Intro.
- Do the last page of your book (your bio). Make sure to include where people can find you.
- Have a professionally done photograph that goes with the look of the book.
- Record the audio book.
- Wait until you get the files back from the recording studio.
- Select a five minute period of your audio to be used as the “sample that people will hear,” and tell the studio to give you this file as well.
Chandler Bolt talks about his successes with self-publishing in his bestseller Book Launch: How to Write, Market & Publish Your First Bestseller in Three Months or Less AND Use it to Start and Grow a Six Figure Business.
He says there are many benefits to writing a book. Here are his top 7:
1. Passive income from book sales
Not too many people are buying from the brick and mortar publishing companies which are trying to pawn out old, hard copy books. Instead, they’re buying e-books for Kindle with one click as they wait in airports, watch TV on their couches, or procrastinate at work.
2. Leads for your business
Do you pay for leads for your business or do you rely on word of mouth? Are there leads coming in? One of the biggest benefits of having a book on Amazon is the massive amount of leads your book can drive.
3. More coaching clients and speaking gigs
If coaching and speaking is on your agenda, or if you want it to be, there is no better way to increase your visibility, book more gigs, or land more coaching clients than through a book. A book can give you authority and making you reputable and an expert on your topic.
4. Free exposure and PR for your business
If you have a low marketing budget or just want to get your business or name out there, a book is the best way to get press, exposure, and PR. You can get featured in newspapers, on podcasts, and even on top sites like Tiny Buddha and The Huffington Post.
5. Build/grow your business
Books are an outstanding way to sell your products and services faster and easier. A book is a salesman in print that’s constantly building relationships with buyers about your product and convincing them that they should buy other products or services you have to offer.
6. Grow your network
A book is your way to get your foot in the door to land that big deal or build that important relationship. These days, a book is like a glorified business card. Does anyone use business cards anymore? Not likely. The world has gone digital, so why would you want to waste your time and money printing business cards?
7. Grow your local business
Local businesses think that because they only do business in a specific town, region, or neighborhood, a book won’t make a difference to their bottom line. Nothing could be further from the truth! How would it sound to your local customers and clients if you told them you are a published author or bestselling author? It would sound awesome!”
Tim Grahl describes his methods for marketing your book in Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book.
He writes: “I have named my step-by-step plan The Connection System. The fundamentals are so strong and simple that every author can immediately implement this system after reading this book to begin building their online platform.
- Your journey into online platform building will start with the best way to get Permission to communicate regularly with your fans.
- Then we will discuss how to engage your readers through Content that you will make freely and widely available.
- Once you have permission and content, we will examine how to find and connect with new readers through Outreach.
Finally, we’ll talk about how you use Permission, Content and Outreach to naturally and ethically Sell your books.
In each of these sections, we will talk about how to Track everything you are doing so you can see what works and what doesn’t.”
What can you do to promote and market yourself?
Regardless of whether you go with a traditional publisher or self publishing, no one will care about your writing as much as you, and no one will promote your work as well as you can. So, here are the best ways to make yourself known.
Start a Blog and Build an Audience
Before thinking about agents and publishers, you can get your name out there to some high quality blogs by asking the owners of these blogs to submit a few articles that fit your demographics or niche market. This is known as Guest Blogging.
Submit an article of at least 3000 words. It should solve a problem or be helpful to the audience who reads it. I go into detail about being insanely helpful and giving your best stuff away for free in this article.
If you want to start your own blog, there are many free blogging platforms where you can set up a website and get people involved with your material.
It’s hard in the beginning. But don’t get discouraged and think people aren’t reading.
You have to reach out and pull people toward you. There are many ways to do this. Some are direct and others are not direct. Public speaking is one way to do it, but it depends on how bold you are about spreading your ideas verbally. You could also give a presentation about your blog topics to spark interest.
Install WordPress.org and you get all kinds of awesome tools and plugins to work with. Write lots of quality articles, give away freebies, and thank everyone who reads, subscribes, and comments.
You can use WordPress.com for free, but you will be subject to their rules and limitations because they assume ownership of all your content. They also don’t allow you to do a lot of things associated with promotion and sales.
To get a domain name, I suggest NameCheap, Name, or Google Domains. Bluehost, Hostgator, and GoDaddy also offer domain name registrar service. They are all good. Again, I don’t get paid to mention any of these companies.
Whatever platform you choose, post your writing on your blog and link out to other platforms from there. Get on as many social media platforms as you can tolerate and have time to do.
Social Media Marketing and Promotion
Get on Twitter if You Are Not Already on There
Search for stories and people in your genre. Follow authors who are self-published. Study what they are doing and learn how you can take your niche in the same direction with your own words. Build a following there by tweeting and link to your writing. Seek out people who are like you.
Start a Facebook Business Page
Post the title of your book or books. Also post the cover design. Reach out as many people as possible with questions, but also provide lots of helpful answers if people have questions.
NINJA TIP: If you don’t have a cover design yet, a clever way to get people engaged is to post 3 potential designs, and ask a bunch of your connections to vote on the one they like best. It is very effective! You’re asking for their advice, which makes them feel good AND getting exposure at the same time.
Start a Google+ Account
Like Facebook and Twitter, reach out to people in your network and social circles. Post your book title, and the cover design. Get people engaged and create a buzz around your work.
Set up a Profile on LinkedIn
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account already, sign up. Join groups of authors on LinkedIn. You can also find book professionals there to help you with advice.
Post your Work on Reddit
Reddit is a funny sort of animal. Be careful about what you post there. It’s all about games and fun on this site. If they suspect you are doing any obvious direct marketing, there is a strong likelihood you will get banned, or at the very least ridiculed, trolled, and judged by users.
They keep everything light, fun, and delightfully irreverent. If you are going to mention your work, be very helpful with advice and content, and you’ll build trust over time.
Now It’s Up To You
I hope this guide has been helpful. You live in an amazing time with a staggering number of opportunities and people you can connect with in your network. Everyone who wants to get published has been faced with challenges like these at one time or another.
It just depends on how you approach it and what you want to do about your challenges. There are many people and resources out there to help you succeed with your journey. I highly recommend speaking in public or giving some sort of presentation just to get a feel for how people will receive your content.
If there is anything else you’d like to know from the sources I’ve read and studied over the years, feel free to leave a comment and use the contact form. I read all responses and will try to get back to you with a reply.
For hiring people to do editing, proofing, and designing:
Funds for Writers – Run by prolific writer and author C. Hope Clark. An award-winning source of numerous grants, fellowships, contests, awards, and markets.
Adazing: Book Marketing – CJ McDaniel
Self Publishing School – Chandler Bolt
Lulu Publishing – Create, publish and sell your book for free.
Learning About Self-Publishing (and Traditional Publishing)
Self-Publishing: Sharing the Secrets – Phyllis Moorman
2015 Guide to Self Publishing – Robert Lee Brewer
Write Everything Right! – Denny Hatch
Your First Bestseller – Mike Fishbein
The Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing Your Best Seller – James Altucher
Life Entrepreneurs Press – Jesse Krieger
Sources and References:
Karan Bajaj, Bestselling Novelist
Erica Friedman, Published Writer in Forbes and The Huffington Post
Sharmistha Majumder, Masters in English Literature
Jo Roderick, Inspirational and Motivational Author
Valerie Cooper, Former Publisher
Marco North, Published Author
Janet Reid, Literary Agent
Kindle Direct Publishing: Self-publishing for eBooks and paperbacks.
Smashwords: Ebooks from independent authors and publishers.
CreateSpace.com: Print-on-demand service. Free to self-publish.
Jody Lebel, Author of short stories, articles on Woman’s World and Chicken Soup for the Soul
Querytracker.com: Helps authors find literary agents
The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
Elaine Calloway, Amazon Bestselling Author
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