In April, I self-published my first book as an e-book available exclusively for the Kindle. Self-publishing has been a big learning experience, and one that caused me to slow down and rethink how I will launch my second e-book.
Writing books has always been part of my personal life plan. It’s something I have worked toward and planned for and hoped for. But the road to getting published isn’t a simple or easy one. Until this spring, I had always eschewed the idea of self-publishing. But something changed and the allure of being able to bring a book to market to see how it goes was too strong to ignore. So I went for it.
When I set out to write my e-book, Better Blog Writing: How to Improve Your Writing to Keep Readers Coming Back for More, it was a quick decision followed by a flurry of research and writing. I hired an editor, whom I adore, for the project. Then I created the first cover with a little guidance from a dear friend who is also a graphic design professional. She warned me that it was fine, but that it could be better — but I went with the cover anyway. (Note: the cover at right is the second cover of the book, which I updated after about six weeks on the market.)Within a matter of weeks, everything is done and ready to launch. I uploaded the book to Kindle Direct Publishing and launched it. Then I started talking about it, writing about it, tweeting about it, all the time watching to see if it sold more copies.
This is where the learning really began.
Lesson #1: You Need a Marketing Plan
When I launched the book, I was confident that it was filled with great content and well-edited. I still am. That’s what I really spent time on. But while important, these things are only part of the equation. They are the things that make a book good, but they aren’t the things that make the book sell.
In short: I didn’t have a marketing plan in place. I marketed the book, but it was an after-the-fact effort. Instead of preparing a plan that included lots of reviews and mentions in the days immediately following the launch, I started spreading the word about the book after it was already out there. Because I hadn’t taken a beat to send copies before the book launched, there wasn’t a lot of earned media early on. And even now, the book only has had one review on a blog and one mention in a newsletter other than my own.
All these things together are marketing. The Facebook and Twitter posts I’ve done over the past few months are too. However, without a marketing plan that generates early excitement about the book, things can be very slow going. That first week? It’s important to sales. And having book reviews, blog posts and maybe even ads are necessary. While I am sure more reviews will come in the future, because I didn’t plan better they will trickle in slowly instead of happening in an important, concentrated time.
I took a backwards approach to marketing and it’s shown in my slow but steady sales rates.
Learn from my mistakes: Next time, once the book is finished, I will send out review copies and let bloggers and writers know about the release date — planning it in advance. I will ask for reviews, if they choose to do them, to be published during the release week. And I will plan either a Twitter Party or a Virtual Book Launch to generate excitement.
Lesson #2: Plan Every Book Detail
Another misstep I made when launching my book was to focus solely on the content and title. While these are the things that will matter most to the person actually reading the book, you have to connect the readers with the purchase first — and by not placing enough importance on the other parts of the process, I may have missed out on early potential readers — the ones who followed my link to the book but chose not to purchase because it didn’t sound alluring enough. Or those who never found it because I didn’t place the book in the right categories or with the right keywords.
The book description, keywords and categories are extremely important. When crafting an e-book, you need to spend time preparing these items and have them go through the editing process as well. These are the things that will bring potential buyers to your doorstep. And if you fail to capitalize on important keywords (for instance, I initially didn’t include blogging as one — but I should have), you are missing potential readers who are searching for those keywords.
Learn from my mistakes: When I submit the copy for my next book to my editor, I will include the book description and potential keywords for her review as well. That way, when I upload the book to launch it, I will have a well-planned and executed book description ready to go.
Lesson #3: The Visual Matters
This lesson could also be titled “Listen, Listen, Listen” because despite reading as much as I could about self-publishing, I just didn’t heed warnings enough. Moreover, I didn’t listen close enough when my friend tried to warn me that the cover wasn’t as good as it could be.
That old excuse that the visuals aren’t as important as the content? Well, that’s something writers say when they are in denial.Even though I know how important aesthetics are, I still didn’t put enough weight on having a really alluring cover. And that probably was the difference between someone clicking to read more about my book and just scrolling past on Amazon.
As a result, about six weeks after launching the book, I redesigned the cover to look better and more professional.
Learn from my mistakes: Back in the 1980s, IBM gave employees pencils without erasers with a slogan imprinted on them: “Do it right the first time.” That’s probably my biggest and best lesson of all from this whole process.
I’ll be launching my second e-book, Better Blog Organization, in a few months. But this time … I will be doing it armed with all this knowledge, and a really great plan.