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The Three Main Problems of Self-Publishing and How to Solve Them
I often get into conversations with other members of a writer's group I belong to about self-publishing, and these same three questions always come up. They’re important matters all self-published writers struggle with, but here are a few solutions to the problems that you'll face with self-publishing.
How much should I spend on my book?
Self-publishing is technically free, which is great if you don’t have a big budget to spend.
However, the old adage is true: you have to spend money to make money, and book covers cost money. You can save money by designing one yourself or you can ask a talented friend to do it for you. But remember, people really do judge a book by its cover, so consider spending money on the cover if it’s the only thing you pay for.
Editing is also important. If you can afford a professional editor, then use one. There’s no quicker way to lose readers and to get bad reviews than to publish a book so full of typos, grammatical errors and bad punctuation that it makes for an uncomfortable reading experience. It’s no secret that what sets self-published books apart from traditionally published books is bad editing. But, if you’re on a tight budget, can you really justify spending more money on a book that might only sell a few copies?
And then there’s marketing. Of course, you can use the power of Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest and Instagram to promote your book, but is this enough? There are many specialized sites targeting Indie authors who are desperate to make a living writing. But how expensive are they and are they worth it? Paying for promotion doesn’t necessarily guarantee sales, so what should you do?
If you don’t have the skills to create your own book cover, then get a professional to do the job. But, you don’t have to pay a fortune. Follow new artists or art students on social media and ask them if they’re looking for reviews and work for their portfolio. They might be interested, which would be a win-win for everyone. Your book promotes their skills, and you solve the problem of paying for a cover. But remember, artists and writers do not and should not work for free. So, be respectful and make sure that if an artist provides a cover for you, do your part in promoting them in return.
If you can’t afford an editor, use beta readers and willing proofreaders. Ask friends and social media contacts first. Try to round up a team of three or more people who are preferably educated to degree level and who are avid readers. They won’t be able to replace the expertise of a professional editor, but it’s important to get someone other than yourself to look over your work.
Who are my audience and where do I find them?
There's no quick-fix solution to finding the people who will buy your book. Marketing and promoting are full-time jobs and you will have to find the time to do both of them well and to continue writing. If you don't, you'll have a great book, but no-one to read it.
Make sure that your social media pages are up-to-date and professional. There are a lot of social media sites out there, but you don't have to be active on each one. Choose two or three that you like and make sure that you publish interesting content for your readers on them and that, above all, you support other people and “retweet, “like”, “pin” and comment on their work too! Build connections and engage with people. Remember the keyword in social media is “social”!
How do I get reviews?
No matter how attractive the cover of your book, how engaging the title and how well-written the synopsis, if you have no reviews, people won't be convinced that they should buy your book. Reviews are important, even if they're a mixture of good and bad. Readers trust books with reviews. The problem is that a lot of people will read your book and then enjoy it, but will forget to review it. So, how do you get reviews?
There are many ways to get genuine reviews. Offer a free copy of your book to friends, family and social media contacts in exchange for a review. Make sure they understand that you're not bribing them for a “good” review, but an honest one. Alternatively, if you know who the people are who've already bought your book, remind them politely to review it. People who are not in the writing business don't realise how difficult it is to get reviews nor how important they are. If you're a member of a book club, offer your book in exchange for a review from all the members. Also, remember that writers also read. Why not suggest reading and writing a review for another author in exchange for the same service for your book? Lastly, you can submit your book to websites like Readers' Favorite for review. Luckily book pages are often like restaurants – a full restaurant attracts diners, and a book page with reviews invites other readers to participate.
While you're addressing the above problems, don't forget to write.The more you write, the better you'll get. Write more, learn more. Read more, learn more. Promote yourself more, learn more. Believe in yourself and believe in your book. You'll get there!
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Louanne Piccolo