Way back in 2020, just before the onset of global catastrophe, I made the decision to self-publish. It was a big decision for me, as it is for anyone who faces the conundrum of whether to go down the traditional publishing or the self-publishing route. If you were to do up a pro and con list for each route, you would end up sitting there in the centre of your bed surrounded by half scribbled sheets of A4 paper, an empty box of paracetamol, and an implacable headache. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there.
But this guest post isn’t about whether or not to self-publish; that topic deserves an article all of its own. For the sake of this post I am going to assume that you have already made that choice.
When I made the decision to self-publish, I scoured the internet looking for articles on what a brand new self-published author needed to do. I found a few bits, but nothing really concrete. And most of what I found was aimed at authors in other genres: Romance, thriller, horror etc. I just couldn’t find much for fantasy?
So, what I’ve decided to do for my guest post with the amazing Self-Published Fantasy Month, is to create a small guide of notes and tips on the main learnings that I’ve picked up along the way. Think of it as a ‘things I wish I had known when I started’ kind of post. I will divide it up into handy headings, so you can take a browse at the topics that interest you most.
Whether you are only starting out, have a couple of books under your belt, or you’re anywhere in between, I hope you can find something useful in this.
Full disclaimer: This article is based off my experience. In it, I hope to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained along the way, and in doing so I hope to maybe help other new authors who are starting out. I’ve also tried to answer a few of the common questions that I’ve been asked over the last few months.
I’m sharing all this because as indie authors we succeed together. Success is not mutually exclusive. This is a community that lifts each other, and I want to give back to that in some small way.
Also, I will mention some resources in this article. I am in no way affiliated with any of them, and I earn absolutely no money from them. I’ve just found them really good, cost effective, and great for customer service.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, here we go.
Drafting/Alpha Readers/Beta Readers/Editors
This is probably one of the biggest choices you will make when you start out. Firstly, I’ll give a quick explanation as to what these mean, although I’m sure most of you already know.
Wide: This means that your ebook will be available for distribution in multiple, or all, major online ebook retailers. E.g Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Apple, Google etc
Amazon Exclusive: This means that your ebook will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and will be exclusively available on the Amazon store.
There are solid arguments for both. But for a new author, your best chance of starting with a bang is by going Amazon exclusive. Of course you can do well if you start off wide, but it is a lot harder.
Wide: Going wide means you won’t be beholden to Amazon. Your income stream is diversified, and if something were to happen to Amazon, or Amazon suddenly changed its tack with regards to authors, your world won’t collapse.
Amazon Exclusive: Amazon is absolutely dominant in the ebook market. Particularly in the US and the UK, which are the two biggest markets. There are two major bonuses for going exclusive with Amazon when you start. The first is that Amazon provides extra visibility to its exclusive titles. The second is Kindle Unlimited (KU). KU is a subscription service that readers pay for monthly and in return they can read as many KU books as they want. The author is then paid per page read (longer books really benefit here).
My take: If you are starting out, Amazon Exclusive is going to be the easiest, and most lucrative avenue. As you gain experience and develop in your career, it might be a good idea to diversify and to start to pull some books wide. But that will be totally dependent on your own situation.
I’ll start off with a quick one here.
So, the be all and end all: writing. From the moment I started writing I found a million questions floating around in my head. How many words should my book be? How long should a chapter be? How many chapters should a book have? Does a book even need chapters? How many cookies can I eat in a sixty second window? How many words should I write in a day? Should I write every day?
- How many words should a book be? The answer to this one is, how long is a piece of string? New self-published authors aren’t constrained by the word limitations of the traditional publishing industry. You will often hear ‘Oh you’re a new author? You should probably cut that word count in half’. Thankfully, that advice does not pertain to us indies. Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take stock of other books in your genre –you should. It just means that you don’t have to twist up into a ball of anxiety over your word count.
In general, fantasy books tend to be 100k+ words, whereas other genres tend to be shorter, and Epic Fantasy tends to be a bit longer. But this is as flexible as a rubber ducky slowly heated over a campfire.
- How long should a chapter be? However long it needs to be to portray whatever it is you want to portray in that chapter. I have found it’s a good rule of thumb to vary chapter length so as to give readers a break at some point. But it’s very much a stylistic choice.
- How many chapters should a book have? Again, however many chapters your story naturally breaks up into.
- Does a book even need chapters? Technically, no. But in my opinion it is a convention worth sticking to. It provides natural breaks in your writing and allows readers to absorb information better. But who am I to tell you what to do? You might not even need paragraphs. Actually, no, you definitely need paragraphs. That one is a non mover.
- How many cookies can I eat in a sixty second window? Less than I initially thought.
- How many words should I write in a day? Should I write every day? Now this one is the big anxiety riddled elephant in the room. There are many schools of thought on this. But seeing as I’m writing this article, you’re going to get mine.
I’m going to answer this one in reverse, starting with whether you should write every day. Personally, I found that when I started writing every day, it became easier. Even if it was only 100 words. The repetition slowly became habit, and through habit, everything became more natural. Not everyone can write every day, and that’s okay. But my advice would be, if you can find even 30 minutes a day to write, just do it. You would be surprised how quickly it adds up.
Now, the other doozy: how many words should you write in a day? This is not a ‘one size’ fits all situation. But there is one thing I can promise you. You can train yourself at this. I swear it to you. No matter how much of an uphill battle it seems, you can grow this number. You just need to find what system works for you.
Some people are free flowers who love to listen to music. They don’t give themselves any structure, they just sit down in front of the keyboard and pour their magic through their fingers for however long it flows. I tried this and I was getting anywhere between 200-500 words a day.
Some people give themselves large 2-4 hours blocks where they just sit down and write. No excuses, this is your writing time. I tried this as well, with similar results.
What I found worked for me was working in 2.5 hour blocks, broken down into 30 minutes of uninterrupted writing, followed by 10 minute breaks. When I switched to this, my wordcount jumped to about 2k words a day. Now, I also had a pretty strong outline already written up, and that is a massive factor in wordcounts.
But look, all of this aside, the main thing isn’t how much you write in a day. It’s that you write.
This is a big one. What I mean by pricing is, of course, the price you place on your books. I’m picking this as a topic for a good reason – which I’ll get to in a minute. Self-published books have a pretty set standard pricing structure, and all those fabulously supportive readers are well used to it.
- Free (either permafree, if you are wide, or at select promotional periods if you’re in Kindle Unlimited)
- 99c (quite often first book, but more established indies just jump straight up to 2.99+)
- 2.99 (2nd book. New authors can get away with this as a 1st book price as well)
- 3.99 (3rd book)
- 4.99 (subsequent books)
- 5.99+ (Not common unless an author is well established)
When I first started out there was absolutely no way I was pricing my book at 99c. Seriously? I had spent so much time, effort, and money crafting that book. Surely it as worth more than 99c?
This is not the way to think. The price on your book does not equate to your effort.
Pricing is one of the absolute top reasons that a new book will or won’t succeed. I often see fantastic books, with beautiful covers, written by truly lovely people, just not take off. Most people will say if your book isn’t selling, you need to check two things: your cover and your blurb. Those people aren’t wrong, but I would argue the first thing you need to check is price.
Like it or not, there are a lot of books to choose from out there, and there are a lot of amazing self-published authors. So if you are a new author, and you have your book set at 3.99, 4.99, 5.99, or 6.99, you are giving yourself a mountain to climb. I’m not saying you can’t succeed, I’m just saying you’re making it harder on yourself. At prices between 99c-5.99, it’s not really about the money to readers. Well it is, obviously, but it’s about more than that. It’s about time. Essentially you are asking a reader to trust their time and money to you above another, more established, author. They know that author. They know they are going to have a good time in their world. They don’t know you.
This is where pricing comes in. I’m sure you have tweaked this by now, but my advice for a new author is to price their book at 99c. It took me a lot of time and agonizing arguments with myself to come to that choice. But I feel it’s the right one. As a new author, with one book, immediate return on investment should not be your priority (It is very rare that a single book makes much money anyways – but it can). What should be your priority then, you ask? Getting your book into the hands of passionate and loyal readers. That is priority number one. And a 99c book creates as few obstacles as possible between you and that goal.
Now there is one major factor to consider here – Kindle Unlimited (KU). If you are in KU, then 99c is an even lower risk. As you will also be paid per page read. I actually get paid about 8.2 times more for each book read in kindle unlimited than I do from each 99c book sold. And that also happens to be more than I would get if I had my book priced at 2.99 or 3.99. But this has to do with the length of my book. Longer book = more page reads.
Top Tip: I usually put my books on a free promotion once every 3 months, for 3 days. When I do this I will usually book in with a promotion website like Freebooksy, FussyLibrarian, or RobinReads (there are hundreds of these sites. But these are the three I recommend). FREE? You want me to give my book away for free? Yes, yes I do. Free downloads provide you with two things.
1) Reviews. The more people that have your books, the more people that can potentially leave a review. The more reviews you have, the more likely someone is to make a purchase. It’s a vicious cycle really.
2) They push your book up what is known as ‘The Popularity List’. There are many theories about this list, but from first-hand experience I have found that every time I do these promotions, my KU reads and sales find a new lease of life afterwards.
Right. So that was a lot to take in. Just remember, all of this is only my opinion. Everything I’m talking about here has worked for me. What works for me, might not work for you. But hopefully, my experience might help you start your career with a little less stress than I started mine.
My Take: So, long story short, this is my plan, and what I recommend:
- First book at 99c (In KU. I run free promotions every 3 months, but you can do it as frequently or infrequently as you see fit. But I find 90 days is the perfect window.)
- Second book at 2.99
- Third book+ 3.99+
I’m going to break this one up into three sections: Getting reviews, approaching bloggers for reviews, and handling negative/positive reviews.
Getting Reviews: What’s the magic number? Everyone has a magic number when it comes to reviews. A number that they dream to hit. Mine was ten (I’m currently at 352). My number was ten because I found out that a lot of promo sites have a minimum requirement of 10 reviews on a book before they will promote it.
Whatever your magic number is, reviews are scary, anxiety inducing, and intimidating. But I have one piece of advice on this that, in truth, permeates everything about being an author (And anything else really). Be authentic. Now, when I say ‘be authentic’, what I mean is: be honest, be nice, and be true.
If ‘be authentic’ was a little too abstract, let’s apply it. The single greatest way to get reviews on your book is through the people that read it (duh). So one of the most important things you can have in your book is a Call to Action (CTA). In this case, your CTA is a little message at the end of your book asking your readers to leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads etc. This is where being authentic comes in.
A heartfelt, authentic message asking your reviewers to help you on your journey goes a lot further than you might think. Personally, I noticed my review numbers jump once I added this.
Top tip: Take a look at the highest reviewed books in your categories. Buy them (supporting other indies is only ever a good thing – we succeed together). Once you have bought them, read them. Because, books. Then, just like you would with covers or blurbs, go and take a look at their CTAs for reviews, because they are clearly doing something right. Don’t copy them, but learn from them. Use them to help shape your own.
Top Tip Numero dos:To get reviews, people need to read your books. The best way to get your books into peoples hands are the Free Promo days we talked about in the Top Tip in the Pricing section. Combine those free promos with the new CTA you just put at the end of the book, and that will give you your best shout.
Approaching Bloggers: Book Bloggers are a special breed of human. They take time out of their lives to read books, craft magical reviews, and spread the world all across the interwebs. And they do it for absolutely nothing. But above all else, they are people. Sometimes they will not have enough time to take on new reviews, and sometimes they will just have too much life going on. Be nice and be genuine. The word authentic comes to mind again.
If you find a few bloggers who you think might enjoy your book, reach out. Take the time to write a genuine message, and explain why you think they would be a good fit for your book. If they are going to take the time read it and write a review, the least you can do is take the time to write a lovely message. Please, do not just spam message bloggers/reviewers. There is not a single situation where this will work, and its just not nice for them.
All in all, don’t be afraid. They are good people. Or, as we might say where I’m from: good skins.
Top Tip: If you’re not sure where to start with approaching bloggers/reviewers, Book Tours/Blog Tours are a great way to go. There are quite a lot of companies out there that arrange Blog Tours. But there are two I can wholeheartedly recommend. One from my own experience and one through word of mouth. LoveBooksToursare an amazing company that have a host of fantastic, passionate bloggers. They are great to work with, and you will absolutely get your money’s worth with them. Another company that I haven’t worked with, but I know does great work is StoryTellersOnTour. I have not heard a single bad thing about them!
Dealing with Negative/Positive reviews: The first bit of advice anyone with experience will give you is ‘don’t read reviews’. It’s good advice, but near impossible to follow. At least, for me it is. So I’ll break this down short and sweet.
Negative reviews: Every single book will get negative reviews. Some books just aren’t meant for some people. There are two things you can do with these. 1) ignore them completely 2) See if there is any genuine critique you can gleam from them, apply it, learn, improve.
You, yourself, will know which is right for you. Some people have naturally thicker skins than others. Don’t put yourself through torture.
Important: Never. Ever. Ever. Approach or harass a reviewer who has given you a bad review. They are people. They are entitled to not like a book. Move past it, move on, move upward.
Top Tip: Go take a look at the Amazon book pages of your favourite books. Filter for 1 star reviews. Read. It will make you immeasurably happier to see that even your favourite books have gotten hideous reviews. My favourite is the review that called The Wheel of Time, “Bargain basement Tolkien”.
Positive reviews:Again, a few schools of thought. But personally, if a blogger has gone out of their way to post a glowing review of my book, I’m saying thank you.
I feel like I could start every topic with: ‘This is the big one’. Alas, this is the way.
Marketing is a funny one. Most people hear marketing and their brain instantly goes to advertising. I know, because my fiancé is either in marketing, advertising, or PR. It’s one of them, but I always get it wrong, she always corrects me, and I invariably get it wrong again. So when I say ‘marketing’ here, what I mean is how you get your name out there and ‘market’ yourself. A hint here, is a word that keeps recurring through this article – authentic.
So, just as I have done in most of the other topics, I’m going to break this down into what I view as four of the key components of book marketing for indie authors (all of which tie into each other):
Authenticity: You’re probably sick of me using this word. But it is such an important word. Great covers can sell a book. Great books can win readers. But authenticity is what builds bonds, friendships, and connections. And believe me when I say, there is no better marketing than building great friendships, bonds, and connections within the writing community. I know that may sound sappy, but it’s true. Authenticity is the most powerful marketing tool you will ever have. And the best part? It’s completely free.
Buzz: Creating a buzz around a book is critical. People always want to be a part of the next big thing. It’s just how we’re wired. It’s the reason that neon clothes were a thing in the 80’s, and it’s the reason that you probably used to own a pair of bootcut jeans (you might still own a pair of bootcut jeans. In that case, I commend you. You’re braver than I am).
There are a few things that feed into this. Firstly, Authenticity (those friendships, bonds, and connections you built. Those guys are great.) Secondly, Advance Reader copies (ARCs) are essential for creating a buzz. Do not be afraid to send out as many ARC’s as you possibly can. I know at the start I worried if I sent out too many ARC’s I might cannibalize my sales. There are 8 billion people in the world – you will not cannibalize your sales. As of 2019, according to statista.com, 52% of US adults own ereaders. And according to the US census, there are about 209 million people in the US over the age of 18. That makes about 100 million adults in the US alone with ereaders. So I repeat, sending out ARCs and other free copies will not cannibalize your sales.
Sending out ARC’s not only gets you essential early reviews on your books, it also starts to create that buzz (particularly physical copies, though, that can be expensive). As more people read your book and post about it, other people want to read it to.
Once you have gone about arranging all of your ARCs. One of the best places to capitalize on them, and to create a buzz about your book, is social media. It is through social media where the buzz from your ARCs will be created. It is through social media (Twitter tends to be where a lot of the fantasy people build their lairs) that you will meet all the amazing readers, authors, and bloggers of the writing community. (Friendships, bonds, and connections. Come on, say it five times really fast with me).
To some, social media is a marvel of the modern age. To others, it is the filter through which all anxiety and horror flows. But one thing is for sure, it is very helpful when it comes to book marketing. Not absolutely necessary but, when used the right way, it is very helpful indeed.
Top Tip: When, and if, you send out signed copies, put the effort in. Wrap them nicely, maybe stick in a bookmark or two. Readers and reviewers truly appreciate these things. They make a difference. Marketing is all about the intangible (in this context I mean it’s not just about them dolla dolla bills). Sending out books in nice wrapping with free bookmarks might seem like an expense, but the pay back is the visibility and buzz you get, along with a passionate and loyal reader.
Credibility: This is another important one. Credibility is a big thing, especially for self-published authors. There will always be people who challenge your credibility. And part of your job as a self-published author is not only to never put arrows in their quiver, but also to build your defenses so high they are unassailable. Now, weird fantasy style analogies aside, what I mean is you need to make your books, and yourself, indistinguishable from traditionally published books and authors.
For your books, that means great (on trend) covers, great writing, and professional editing. If you just want to publish a book because it’s been a dream of yours, then you don’t need these things. And that is a legitimate, and great, reason to publish. Follow your dreams. Write that book. I’m all for that. Now, if your dream is a little different to that, and you want to try and make a living from your books, then those aforementioned necessities are just that – necessities.
For yourself, what credibility means is having all the same things that a traditionally published author would have. And that means a website (I use WordPress and DIVI theme. Divi is on the expensivish end, but you will make up for it in hours of frustration saved. I use Siteground for hosting, and namecheap for my domain. Also, David Gaughran has a fantastic free book on setting all of this up called Following. I don’t get any money for mentioning these guys, but they’ve all been great, and cheap, so far), a domain email, and even just a presence on social media.
I know some of those things might seem trivial. You might wonder ‘why do I need a website?’. And that’s a legitimate question. Personally, I use mine for a plethora of things including selling signed copies, newsletter signups, and hosting digital versions of my maps. But also, a website is important because it’s a home base for people to find you. And if you Google your favourite traditionally published author, chances are they will have one.
Top Tip: Reviews are your ‘craft credibility’ or ‘social proof’. They are what tells new readers ‘Hey, this author can write! You should read their book!’. And for new authors, getting those reviews are a crucial part of getting that steam train started.
Familiarity: So this one is where we touch on ‘actual marketing’. Familiarity is absolutely paramount for marketing. One of the key principles of marketing is the ‘Seven Touches’ concept. Boiled down to a single line, the Seven Touches concept means any prospective buyer should hear or see the marketing message at least seven times before they buy it from you. Essentially, the more familiar a reader is with seeing you and your books, the more likely they are to buy a book. It’s a pretty simple, if often overlooked, concept. And everything I’ve already talked about feeds into it.
Your ARCs provide one or two touches for people, depending on how many reviewers are sharing your book. Then as you build bonds and friendships, those people support you – because that’s what friends do. And in doing so, can provide more touches. Your website, your social media, your newsletters. Each of these provide more touches. Another big one, and obvious one, is your readers. Personally, I love interacting with my readers, and I do so on a daily basis. I make sure I answer every email and every message. What’s more, readers love interacting with authors. And that interaction is what builds truly loyal and passionate readerships, who in themselves will naturally market your books. Look after your readers and they will look after you (the nicely wrapped signed books, free bookmarks etc, we talked about in the Top Tip for the Buzz section, feeds into this).
Familiarity is part of the reason people talk about the ‘Also Boughts’ on an Amazon book page. Funnily enough, statistics show (I love that line. I’m absolutely not going to back this one up. But it’s true) that the Also Boughts carousel is actually more valuable to you in the form of marketing touches than it is for direct sales (there’s that ‘intangible’ thing again). It creates familiarity. It puts your book in front of readers eyes, so that when they see it the next time, they think ‘Oh, I’ve seen that book before.’
Authenticity, Buzz, and Credibility are the skeleton of marketing. Familiarity is the lifeblood. Wow. That was a terrible analogy, but I’m keeping it.
If you are anything like I was, your first though might be, ‘newsletters? I literally never open any of them’. Trust me, I get that. But one thing I’ve learned is just because I don’t usually use them, doesn’t mean my readers don’t.
It is never too early to start a mailing list and start sending out a newsletter. (If you’re looking for recommendations: I use Mailerlite for my newsletter, and they have been fantastic)
One thing that I would say is the most important aspect here is having a reader magnet to offer new readers in exchange for signing up. A reader magnet is typically a piece of your writing (short story, novella, full novel), that you give away for free to your mailing list. I have found that something of a novella length is perfect (20-40k words). It’s also ideal if that novella is directly connected to the world of your books.
Top tip: You know that prologue you probably wanted to write at the start of your book? Yeah, the one everybody told you was a bad idea (I like prologues, just as a by the by). Take that prologue, expand it, and turn it into a novella. This tip might not work for everyone, but it is precisely what I did. Then I went and came up with a shorter, more concise prologue for the book.
Your newsletter is where your readers will get to see a bit more of your personality. It is where you show a bit about who you are, what you’re like, and how funny you are (I tend to tell a lot more jokes than I have any right to. My fiancé encourages me, by laughing. But really I should quit while I’m ahead). It is the place where you will likely find your most diehard fans. These are the ones who will email you with questions they have about your books, volunteer to be Beta Readers, and will all-in-all be some of your greatest advocates. Treasure those readers.
The common questions I see are ‘How often do you send newsletters’, and, ‘what do you write in newsletters?’
Newsletters can be sent as frequently, or as infrequently, as you like. Some people send once a year, some people twice a year, others every month. I find I get the best engagement when I email every 2 weeks. I usually include book updates, a bit about what’s going on in my life, any news I have, pictures of my dog (many requests for more of these; she’s a cutie), and I almost always have a newsletter swap arranged with another author. A great place to get started for newsletter swaps is StoryOrigin. (StoryOrigin and BookFunnel are probably the two largest book delivery/promo organising platforms for authors. The debate between which is better would take another article on its own. But using at least one of them is vital for building your email list and delivering your reader magnet. I’ve found StoryOrigin is better for building your list, and the developer is a really nice guy. BookFunnel seems a bit more sleek and streamlined from a reader perspective).
Top Tip numero dos: When you do sign up with a Mailing List provider and start your mailing list. One of the first things you should do is create an onboarding welcome sequence for your new subscribers. What this does is automatically sends out a series of emails to new subscribers welcoming them to your list, maybe offering them your free novella (reader magnet), and then maybe checking in on them a few days later. When a reader signs up, they expect to be greeted right away. If you do end up using MailerLite, here is a video on how to set one up. And here is a brilliant article on why you should use a welcome sequence by the great folks at authorbiz)
Hire a good one. End of.
No, I joke. But that is a major part of it. The cover is the first thing anyone will see. So the simple, harsh truth is, it needs to be damn good if you are serious about trying to really make a go of this whole ‘author thing’.
Do your research. Look up the top sellers in the genre of your book and see what kind of covers they have. Personally, I would look at both the self-published top sellers, and the traditional top sellers. The reason I would say to do this is because the lines are blurring.
There used to be a major separation between the two publishing routes. But that’s not so true anymore. As those lines blur, and the quality of self-published books rises and rises, more and more readers are starting to pick up indie books. Why does this matter? It matters because those new readers are used to traditional publishing style covers as well, and if you manage to strike a good blend of these trends, you can do very well.
So all in all, be aware of the cover trends of both indie books, and traditionally published books. Spending $1500 dollars on a beautiful cover will do you no good if it doesn’t match the current trend.
Drafting/Alpha Readers/Beta Readers/Editors
Along with a little bit about drafting, Here I’m going to talk about Alpha Readers, Beta Readers, and Editors. Where to find them and why they are great.
Drafting: Your second draft is for making it look like you knew what you were doing in your first draft. Read that line, memorize it, sear it into your brain, and tattoo it on the back of your hand. Wait, maybe those last two were a bit extreme. But you get the idea.
Your single biggest enemy when writing your book, is you. Imposter Syndrome is the name commonly given to this. Don’t listen to it. It’s an evil little thing. Write your book. Fix it the next time round. The important thing about your first draft is finishing it.
Alpha Readers: An Alpha reader is someone who reads your book after you’ve written the first draft. They might also read it as you go, or not read it until your second draft. But the idea is they read it in its most raw form. Not everyone uses an Alpha Reader. A good Alpha reader is hard to find because they need to be able to look past the jumbled mess of the word vomit you spewed onto the page, and see the story. That is not always an easy thing to do. In general you don’t go searching for an Alpha reader online. They are usually someone who knows you a bit better.
If you find someone you are close to, with that kind of ability, hold onto them, feed them, keep them in your life. They are gold. Mine is my best friend from Ireland. We grew up playing imaginary games together. He was a natural fit. He was also the one who convinced me to eliminate the word ‘jovial’ from my first draft. It was the right decision.
Beta Readers: Again, not everyone uses Beta Readers. But I have found my Beta Team to be worth their weight in saffron (way pricier than gold). Once my manuscript finally resembles a story, I sent it to my Beta readers, and they convince me it’s not terrible. Along with helping me improve it.
I have found my best Beta Readers through my newsletter. I did find one or two through Facebook groups that ended up being fantastic, as well as truly nice people (David and Jake, I’m looking at you). But the people who volunteer through your newsletter have usually read your book already, and are your perfect target audience. I send out an email to each of my subscribers as part of my welcome sequence to see if any of them would like to join my Beta or ARC teams.
Editors: You need an editor.You just do. I could write an entire article on why, but there are already enough of them out there.But it’s very important to find an editor who works well with you, and knows your genre. Don’t worry, most editors will do a short sample edit so you can get an idea of how they work.
When you are starting out, there are two ways that I think work to find a good editor. The first, is recommendations. If you know some people who are already published and are doing well, just ask.
The second way is to find some indie books you really like, then find out who edits them. They are usually credited in the first few pages of the ebook. Personally, I think this is the best way. Because it means you already know you like the way they edit a book. How do you know this? Because you love the books they edit. From there, it’s just seeing if you work well together.
So you’ve read the rest of this article, you’ve written your book, and now you are ready to go. The only advice I can give you here is to apply everything above, and then also let you know what I did.
- I sent ARC’s out about a month before launch – as many as I could. Do not fear the ARCs, they are your friend! (If you are confident in your book, it can also be worth sending out some physical ARCs. It’s costly, but again, that intangible marketing is everything. Physical ARCs generate a lot more buzz)
- I had my paperback and hardback files ready to go.
- I had my website, social media, mailing list, Goodreads page all set up and running (I did most of these a few months before).
- I had ordered physical proofs of my paperbacks, and made sure everything as okay.
- I had promotions booked.
- Launch day -2: I uploaded the book two days early. I did this to ensure that it actually went live on time. And also, so I could get the right categories added to my book. You can add up to 10, even though Amazon only initially lets you add 2. Guide here.
- Launch day -1: Now that my book was live, I went about claiming and creating my amazon author profile and making it look nice and tidy. Guide here. I also made sure that everything on my books page looked perfect.
- Launch Day: WOOT! My first thing here was to get very excited. Then I sent out an email to my ARC team that the book was live. I also sent an email to my mailing list letting them know.
- Launch Day +1: I posted on all my social media about the launch (It’s better to spread out your sales. Amazon rewards average but consistent sales a lot more generously than it does singular spikes)
- Launch Day +2: I just sat back and had a drink. Cider if you must know. It was blueberry. Tart, with a little bit of sweetness at the end. Notes of ‘very drunk’.
- Launch day +3/4: I made my book free for 2 days and also booked Freebooksy and FussyLibrarian promotions. This was probably against all popular advice. Free? At the very start of launch? I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. But low and behold I got about 3k downloads. I completely credit my early reviews and KU page read spikes to this day. Best thing I ever did.
- Launch Day +7: I had a Book Blog Tour with LoveBooksTours. It went amazingly and I got to meet some incredible bloggers who I keep in touch with to this day.
- From here on out I just tinkered with some Facebook and Amazon Ads (I still do not have a clue how to use them and will probably try again after my second book comes out), spread the word on social media, and went about finding some great friends in the community.
Long story short – Quick fire notes
- Don’t be afraid of 99c.
- Don’t be afraid of Free Promo’s.
- When you’re starting out, getting your book out there is priority, not its cost.
- 200 books sold at 99c is more money than 20 books sold at 2.99. And each of those books count towards a single sale in your ranking. So you will go up the rankings quicker, which will in turn sell more books. (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big advocate of a 99c Book 1)
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people.
- Be Authentic. Be nice.
- Give more than you take. It will come back around.
- Build a Mailing list.
- Appreciate reviewers – they do this for free.
- If you’re not sure where to start with Bloggers. Try a Blog Tour.
- Observe and Learn. Look at what successful indies are doing in your genre, and learn from them.
- A heartfelt Call to Action for reviews at the back of your book is a must. It just is.
- So many free resources out there. I highly recommend looking at David Gaughran’s website and signing up to his newsletter.
- It’s important to be prepared for you launch. Don’t just wing it.
- Maximise those first 30 days after launch, if you can show Amazon your book will sell, they will keep marketing it after that.
- Prolonged sales (even mediocre sales) are far better than sales spikes for the Amazon algorithm. The algorithm is programmed to weed out those anomalies. It wants to find products that sell consistently. So spread out your promo (I know its tempting to try and shoot for the highest rank you can in one burst, but hold back. Think long term).
- There are no ‘tricks’ to marketing. It is hard work and learning.
- The more a reader sees your book, the more likely they are to eventually make a purchase. Visibility is key.
- Do not spam reader/author groups and do not pm people asking them to buy your book (I know I shouldn’t have to put this in here, but it’s better safe than sorry).
- Lastly, but most importantly. Readers are the beating heart of what you do. It is readers that will allow you to turn writing into a career. Look after them. Put them at the front of all your plans. They will look after you in return.
Well, that’s it from me. Thank you for dedicating your time to my ramblings, and I hope you have found something in here that helps.
If you do have any questions. Please, reach out.
Ryan Cahill is an epic Fantasy author from Dublin, Ireland (though he has recently packed up and emigrated to Middle Earth, New Zealand). Raised by parents who cherished books and adored stories, he has always been fascinated with the art of storytelling. There are three things Ryan has always told himself about writing. Write the books you want to read. Write the books that your younger self would be proud of you for reading. Make sure they have dragons.
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About Of Blood and Fire (The Bound and the Broken #1)
Born in fire. Tempered in blood.
Epheria is a land divided by war and mistrust. The High Lords of the south squabble and fight, only kept in check by the Dragonguard, traitors of a time long past, who serve the empire of the North.
In the remote villages of southern Epheria, still reeling from the tragic loss of his brother, Calen Bryer prepares for The Proving—a test of courage and skill that not all survive.
But when three strangers arrive in the village of Milltown, with a secret they are willing to die for, Calen’s world is ripped from under him and he is thrust headfirst into a war that has been raging for centuries.
There is no prophecy. His coming was not foretold.
He bleeds like any man, and bleed he will.