Self Promotion Part 4 - Get Your Writing Out There!
Having been around the publishing industry for a little while now and attended talks and panels with industry professionals, I occasionally get asked for advice about how to get a book read by more people.
So I have some advice, but I have split it into a few articles as the draft ended up a long to be a single article.
Part 4 - Get your writing out there
My advice, it comes with the caveat that there is no right answer in publishing and book promotion, there is no magic bullet, it is mostly a combination of luck, trends in book marketing and the personal taste of a variety of industry professionals. Although it does obviously help if your writing quality is high and you have written a good book, but just being a good writer is not necessarily enough. Having said all that, you can increase your chances of being lucky in a combination of ways.
You may read this and wonder whether all this effort is worth it, it does not guarantee you a published book, let alone a best seller. You can always find a successful author that does not have a social media presence or a website, so you may question if you really need to do any of these things. And really nobody can answer that, is it possible to be successful without these... yes, are you guaranteed success... no... but if you want to do all you can to be the most successful writer you can be these are my suggestions.
So so here is:
Part 4 - Get your Writing out There
There are a number of step to take to get your document on your computer to an actual product in a readers hands.
Editing and proofreading your own work is really difficult even if you have the skills to do this for others. So it's often worth considering paying a professional to do this. At the very least, if you are editing/proofreading your own work. Put the file away for at least a few days, do something else, don't think about it, then go back to it with a fresh perspective.
Cover art is important, it is often the one thing that makes your reader decide if they want to read your book or not. Unless you are a super artist or graphics wiz, you might want to pay someone to create this.
The layout of the document is dependant of where and how your are planning to distribute your book. Most self-published books are sold as e-books.
Ebooks are primarily formatted html documents. There is specific software available to help you format ebooks, such as sigil, or design software such as indesign, but most html editors will do the job. The end product needs to be a mobi or epub, if your software does not do this then there are a number of free converters online.
Epub allows more formatting options and is accepted by more distributors, but Amazon uses mobi.
Amazon is one of the bigger distribution agencies for self published ebooks, but there are other options such as Smashwords.
Amazon requires you to register a KDP account to publish your books from. Its is worth noting that specific Amazon selling options (KDP Select, for example) does not allow you to sell ebook via other sites.
Smashwords accepts epub documents. From Smashwords you are able to make your book available on Apple, Kobo etc. Smashwords also has some really good guidance on becoming exempt from US tax if you are not a resident there (or US citizen).
If you are looking to get your books on a print on demand service , most site prefer these in pdf format. You can often order a proofing copy to check the formatting, this is very much recommended to check it has printed the way you envisaged it. Issues of dimensions can be tricky, your book's spine thickness is impacted by type of paper and number of pages, if you don't get that exactly right, the printing will all be a little off...
If you plan to sell physical copies of your book many providers will give you the option of ordering copies at cost and then you can take them to sell at events etc. This is probably less life impacting that doing a full print run with a separate printer's firm and then distributing these yourself... although that's an option too.
2. Traditional Publishing
Despite the increase in self published and book formats, the traditional publisher still hold a special place in the hearts of many writers. I will separate publishers into four categories as I think it is important to know what a publisher can or can't achieve for you.
A. Small Indy
A small independent publisher is perhaps one step away from self publishing. They are (hopefully) going to help with professional editing and proof reading, artwork and distribution. While they will market your book, they have limited influence in this area so don't expect miracles. They may have an established market, so it is worth seeing what else they publish as to whether the people who read those would like your book also. You may not need an agent
B. Large Indy
The distinction I would make is whether their books are in Waterstones or not, so check online to see if the book available on their own website are also on Waterstone's (other bookshops are available).
These publishers can do everything a small Indy does but will have a wider reach for marketing and distribution. These may require an agent to submit.
C. Large Publisher/Imprint
These are the big companies in genre publishing and are often considered the holy grail. These include companies such as Gollancz, Hodder, Tor, Harper Voyager, Orion etc. They will generally need an agent to submit outside of any open submission periods.
D. Vanity Publishers
Vanity publishing is where an author is asked to pay a large amount of money for their book to be published. These are, in my opinion, a con. This should be separated from printers etc that will help you self publish. Vanity publishers have, in my opinion, little or no regard for the quality of the work they are publishing, it's not in their interests to turn someone away or heavily edit, when they could be a new customer. It does writers no favours to put out substandard work as it may put off other future publishers.
If you want to submit to companies you need to read their submission guidelines carefully, if you don't submit in the way they specify, addressed to the correct person, etc. there is a pretty good chance they won't read it. You may need to submit to an agent first. While as a general rule the payments (advances) may be larger from a big company the love and personal attention perhaps goes down when compared to a smaller company. Double check pronouns, titles and the spelling of the name of the person you are addressing.
Contacts can be found on publishers and agents websites (google is your friend) as well as in the Writers and Artists yearbook and lit rejections website.
It is also worth checking writers beware to check for bad experiences and alert you to scams and vanity publisher
Getting you book in an audio format is not necessarily simple, if you are doing this on your own you need appropriate equipment to ensure a reasonable quality product. However if you do succeed in this it makes your work available for a whole different audience.
There are two key different types of audio product, an audio book and a audio drama. The first is a simple recording of a reading of the book. An audio drama is a scripted performance by voice actors who take on the different roles.
However even for an audio book its not something you can do on your laptop without additional equipment or software.
The most popular service for distributing audio is Audible, you do need a few products available to make use of their services. It's also worth noting that if the listener returns the product (even if they have listened to it) you are required to refund audible with any royalties received.
4. Short Stories
There are a variety of short stories competitions and anthologies, which is great for building up your writing credits, but do your homework. Have they published a previous anthology, in which case is it still on sale, is it getting good reviews? Is a known author going to be in the same anthology? What are they paying you?
If someone is publishing your work for a commercial project they should be paying you. It is not ok to have a competition where you sign away publishing rights by entering, even if you don't win a prize or payment. Competitions are great, but if you don't win you should have the rights to your story still so you can submit it elsewhere. Check what the paying or prize situation is before you enter. Notable exceptions to the payment rule is perhaps not for profit organisations which have a guaranteed distribution, but often don't pay.
Short stories can also be submitted for inclusion in magazines such as Interzone.
5. Book Reviews
Even if you have a publisher they still expect you to promote your own work, but if you are self published this is even more essential.
There are a number of book reviewers and book review sites, do some internet research to see where your potential readers might be looking for reviews. Amazon reviews are important, but they are not the only ones. Look for a site that has positively reviewed books that are similar/in the same sub genre as hours and ask them to review yours. Check the site to see if they have submission advice/details. Some sites will only take paper copies, some are happy for electronic.
There is a thorny issue of paying for book reviews. While I totally agree that the work involved in writing book reviews should ideally be rewarded it is difficult to achieve this in an ethical way. Amazon in particular will remove a review (and sometimes more stringent penalties) if they believe it has been paid for. The idea of an author paying for reviews, particularly requiring positive reviews, potentially undermines the neutrality and reliability of the reviewer.
NetGalley is worth looking at as a method of getting electronic copies of your book out to reviewers.
Use Goodreads, to see who is reading your book and what they are saying about it. Some authors has mixed views on this site as it can be very subjective with scoring and voting, rather than a more objective static review.
If there is a (favourable) review of your work it is worth sharing this on social media, not only does this help get the information about your work out there, but it also makes a reviewer more likely to review your work in the future.
6. Non-Fiction Submission
You might have research you want to publish or enjoy writing reviews or critical articles. If so you might consider using this to raise your profile more generally.
It's worth saying that I don't have a financial connection with any companies in this article, I mean I am connected to the BFS and the BSFA, but I get no payment if you join them. There is no paid content here, but there are also no guarantees. Good luck, I hope some of these ideas prove useful to you. If you have any other suggestions or have had success with any of these, let us know by posting in the comments below!