Ever dream of quitting your day job to become a full-time writer? Learning how to create a small business that captures, markets and sells to readers can help you get there. Here are seven resources that will help you not only understand, but implement, the business end of publishing so you can start actually making a living from your books.
1. Wise Words on Marketing & Publishing Success
Smashwords founder Mark Coker has authored two must-read books for self-publishing authors: “The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success” and the “Smashwords Book Marketing Guide” contain essential insights for authors who actually want to make money from their books. Coker’s an author, publisher, tech and business guy who likes running numbers, analyzing data, and making charts and graphs. Luckily, he can translate his findings into plain English, demystifying the business end of publishing while managing to encourage authors to persevere toward success. My favorite encouragement? “… write a super fabulous book that inspires mad passion in your readers.”
2. MetaData: The Most Effective Passive Marketing Tool
SelfPublishedAuthor.com is published by Bowker, the United States’ official ISBN agency, and run by Laura Dawson, globally recognized “metadata queen.” Bowker’s raison d’etre is to catalog books. This used to be easy for them when traditional publishers were the only ones registering books. Today, with the boom in self-publishing, they have an interest in educating authors on how to get their books cataloged correctly. The site’s strong point is on informing authors about ISBNs, on how to correctly categorize your books, and how to use that thing called “metadata” to get your book found. This rather unsexy procedure is possibly your best marketing tool, as it allows your readers to find, and buy, your books, just by typing keywords into Google.
3. Social Media: A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down
Aliza Sherman and I met virtually back in 2000 when I was blogging about traveling by motorcycle and she was blogging about traveling in an RV with her two Chihuahuas. She has stayed active in the web business all these years, and her website and blog today contain an overflowing treasure trove of social media wisdom. She informs and entertains with her weekly tips, her Wine Sisterhood Digital Diva Minute, her new social media discoveries, and her life/work balance slant. Sherman delivers the medicine in small portions, and never wastes your time. But if you want to delve deeper, get her “Social Media Engagement for Dummies” book, a great resource for authors and other small businesses. Check out her blog, slideshows and videos, get her tips delivered via email, and simplify your social media activities.
4. WordPress Blogs and Websites: “You Central”
WordPress blogs and websites help you succeed as an entrepreneur by giving you a framework in which to showcase your work, allowing readers to get to know you, and a store where they can actually buy your books. WordPress is “You Central” and the foundation of your entire author platform. If you don’t have a WordPress sites, get started with Brad Dalton’s series of beginner videos on WPSites.net. Even if you have a webmaster that maintains your WordPress site for you, you’ll benefit from Brad’s tips, delivered daily or weekly, via email. Some are geeky, but many are inspirational, like how to show related posts, implementing CAPTCHA, adding text over an image using CSS, displaying daily content automatically, the most effective place to display advertisements, creating circle buttons … I’m constantly surprised at how much I learn about how to make my website a more attractive and effective author platform.
5. Book Design: Look Professional
Joel Friedlander is “The Book Designer” and he helped design the Gutenberg printing press in 1450. OK, not really, but judging by the quantity of information on his blog, it could have been started in 1450. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the other topics on his site at first — just go to the Book Design section. Still too overwhelming? You’re in luck. He’s created a set of interior templates in Microsoft Word that you can use for e-books and print books for between $10 and $160. Or, for a reasonable price, have him help you. Along with good editing, good design will help you stand out from the crowd. Book cover design? They vary with genre, and it’s worth paying for. Find a pro on Bibliocrunch, a vetted crowdsourcing site, founded by Miral Sattar, for authors to find publishing professionals including cover and interior designers, editors, publicists, even coaches.
6. Book Editing: Sound Professional
There’s no better way to scream “self-published!” than bad design, formatting, grammar, spelling errors, and typos. So set yourself apart from the majority by getting great book editing. How? Science fiction writer and editor Marcy Kennedy offers a free PDF booklet “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Hiring a Freelance Editor.” All you have to do is subscribe to her mailing list.
7. Email Newsletters: A Captive Audience
Speaking of mailing lists, you have a newsletter signup form on your website, don’t you? If someone comes to your website and is interested enough to add themselves to your mailing list, that’s awesome! These people want to know more about you and your book, and even want to buy it when it comes out. Reward them, not with spammy “buy my book!” newsletters, but with free stories, photos, and links to similar content — stuff they want to know about. At the bottom of your newsletter you can provide a link to your books, stories, and social media sites. I like MailChimp because it’s easy to use and it’s free up to 2,000 email addresses. Sign up and embed the newsletter signup code on your website. Don’t let another visitor get away!
These seven resources ought to get you started with the basics in becoming an author entrepreneur without becoming too overwhelmed. Remember that we writers are especially poised to succeed as entrepreneurs because we are naturally great communicators. It’s easier for us to create words and information to share. Getting the slant right is the hard part, but if you remember that “buy my book” is not a good conversation starter, you’re most of the way there. Be helpful, give lots of stories away for free, and participate in communities. They say you get what you give, but most authors who share freely will tell you that you get back a hundred times more.
Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published her adventure travel stories since 1994 on the internet and in print. Find her workshop schedule and buy the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors on SelfPubBootCamp.com.