It took me quite a while to realize success in self-publishing.  The first task for any of us is to write a good book—after all, that’s really what we’re trying to sell!  But as I learned, successful self-publishing really starts with a marketing plan.  I greatly enjoy writing and I like research too, which is important for the historical fiction I write.  Marketing is a little more challenging, but absolutely imperative if you hope to sell your master work.

Your first marketing tool is your book’s cover. I spent about two years chasing agents before deciding to self-publish my first book, The War Widow.  I knew I needed a cover for the book, but didn’t realize how important the cover image was to any book’s success—I found out later with low sales. Let’s clear this up right now: YES–readers judge books by their covers!  They always have and I believe that they always will. It is innate to how humans function— we go for the things that are most appealing to our senses. When it comes to writing, the first sense used is vision and a great cover captures that. At the very least, a great cover earns your book a second look.  Since most of us don’t have the skills to produce professional looking images, bite the bullet and spend money with a graphic artist.  Explain to your cover designer the basic plot of your story and describe the look and feel you want your cover to convey.  Then, let the creative professional create.  After you receive the cover’s first draft, give it a critical review.  Decide what you like and don’t like and help the designer hone the concept until it is just right.  You’re paying money for this after all and a good design partner will want you to be happy with the end result.  The cost of the design will vary based on where you get the work done and how elaborate a design your book requires.  Figure $150 at a minimum. A great source to find cover designers is 99 Designs which showcases different design work.

While your cover designer is at work, hire a copy editor.  Nothing is more distracting to readers than typographical errors, style discrepancies, inconsistencies and poor grammar.  A good editor can save you from many simple mistakes and will help you produce a better book!  The cost of an editor will depend on the length of your manuscript.  Editors can be found for $300 and up.

With an enticing cover on your edited book, you’re ready to make it available to the public.  Start simply by sending an email to your contacts.  Many people aren’t fond of reaching out to the base that they already have but it’s all part of building your author platform and letting friends and family share with their friends and family. Don’t be too proud to reach out, it can be detrimental to your author platform! Let them know that your book is now available and include a link to where it can be purchased.  Let them know how instrumental their support is to you writing and let them know how thankful you are to have them by your side. It’s honest and from the heart which many appreciate.  Then take it a step farther:  develop an integrated social media platform that combines multiple approaches appropriate for the target audience for your book.  My readers skew older; Facebook is a good way to reach many of them.  A young adult author would be wise to consider Instagram, for example.  Use the platforms—to include a website—that will reach your target market.  This is another area in which most of us have limited expertise.  Hire a pro to assist.  The kid down the street (or down the hall) who is good with computers may be cheap, but you’re likely to get what you pay for.  A good website will feature images and information about your book(s), how to purchase them and share a little bit about your background as well.

Once that first book is in the marketplace and your social media presence is established, keep in touch with your readers through periodic updates.  Don’t let them forget about you!  Give them hints about your next book.  The more books you make available to the public, the quicker you will recover your investment. LET ME REPEAT THIS: THE MORE BOOKS YOU MAKE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC, THE QUICKER YOU WILL RECOVER YOUR INVESTMENT!  Readers, when they find an author they enjoy, will devour that author’s works.  So keep writing!  The more books you write, the more you will sell—and that’s part of the fun!  Don’t expect to recoup your initial investment right away, success takes time and effort, but that’s true of any occupation—and few are as emotionally rewarding as writing.

Success in self-publishing, like success in any endeavor and business won’t be easy and it won’t come without effort and investment.  Hone your craft, believe in your work, invest in your product.  Keep writing.