J.A. Heinlein wrote this post back in 2009. It remains one of my most commonly referenced posts in my conversations with authors. You should follow him on Twitter.
1. You need to know Why You Want to be PublishedYou must ask yourself and answer the question, “…why do you want to be published?” Some feel called to educate and inspire, while some want to “entertain” and tell a story, either fiction or non-fiction. And, the different callings and writer desires can combine to accomplish both. What is the objective of your writing? Who will benefit? I work with a lot of very successful professional speakers/authors, and over the years, the most common mistake has been for them to want to "rush too quickly to write and get published"... and, without having asked and answered those most fundamental of questions: What is the reason and purpose for me to be a published author?
- it is my ministry and calling?
- to help expand my brand?
- to provide lasting value and impression?
- to create an additional income?
- to increase my speaker's fee value?
2. You need to be informed
- Do your homework – “flatten” the learning curve as quickly as possible.
- Do the advance work to understand the “basics”– outline your plan for writing, marketing
- Packaging: Creative Design: Cover, Layout, Illustration
- Production: print options - POD/Digital, offset, ebooks, ebook platforms
- Considerations of Setting-up Small Business
- Pricing, Distribution, Fulfillment
- Promotion, Sales, Market Placement
- Social Media Marketing - Online Network Management
- Online Presence, Search Engine Visibility Development
- Experience: Do's & Don'ts
- Sell- Marketing yourself and your work, promotion and contests
- Writer’s Digest - 101 Best Websites for Writers
- 100 Free Tools to Write, Publish and Promote Your Own Book
- 5 Advanced Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses
3. You need a platform
“Platform is a big word in publishing. Seriously, it's a critical component of getting a book sold. It's so important, in fact, that many experts recommend that you start to build your platform long before you're ready to submit your book for publication. What is an author's platform? It's what helps sell your book. An author's platform is the way you reach readers. It's a network, and it’s notoriety. It's exposure.” - Lolaness, Build an Author's Platform: It's How to Sell Your Book “10 simple steps that will take your visibility from zero to standout in a short time, while also giving you ample opportunities to flex your expertise, carve out your niche topic and connect with your audience.” Christina Katz, Writer’s Digest - How to Build a Marketing Platform
4. You need a planThe strategic plan is tailored and built upon the idea of developing a niche strategy focus, from the author’s identified platform and intended audience. Its goal is to direct focused efforts toward the right audience for initial sales and ongoing sell-through.
“…the publishing business is all about marketing, and it's certainly true that books don't sell themselves. However, there's a caveat to the idea that anybody who can market books can start their own publishing house, and it's that you need a business plan in place that will allow you to make a profit on the books you sell.” -Morris Rosenthal, Self Publishing: Starting Your Own Publishing House
5. You need helpFortunately, there is now a “one-stop resource” that you can enlist help from! – The BelieversPress Community. “BelieversPress is a gathering of Christian authors and an elite team of Christian publishing professionals collaborating to bring the message God has placed in authors’ hearts to touch the lives of millions.”
- If you're serious about your book, hire a book mentor to coach you and to help in coordination of the publishing process.
- Educate yourself, by engaging and asking a lot of questions, and sharing your own experiences with the group.
- Engage with and enlist help by hiring from the variety of related services of the community.
6. You need to execute your planThe plan should identify:
- industry professionals and interest "affinity" groups
- spheres of influence, building "word of mouth" viral campaigns
- special sales markets - beyond traditional bookselling/bookseller strategies
- emerging markets to develop new market channel opportunities
- select bookstore markets and current bookseller relationships
- Focused Research of Audience Demographics & Psychographics,
- Indentified Branding Objectives,
- Writing Schedule,
- Production Deadlines
- Package Planning ,
- Tactics for Promotion & Marketing,
- Sales, Market Placement, and Distribution.
SummaryFor independently published authors, there is a lot of advance work that must be done by the author and, their "team" can be of immeasurable value, if they are fortunate to have one as in “the BelieversPress Community. It is the "same" work and objectives that both traditionally published authors or independently published authors must accomplish. The traditionally published authors would seem to have an edge as a result of having a "bigger machine" backing them. -but, based on current sales results, the real effort and scaled back resources of brand name companies are being used to mainly push the "A list" level authors. Bottom line, whether traditionally published or independently published, authors must take a very active role in promotions of themselves and their work. Those who expect to "just write" and let others "carry the load" will likely not be successful going forward.
Yes, advance planning, and taking part in marketing and promotions can be quite an investment of personal resources...difficult, time consuming... exhausting even... but, the rewards are being able to share your unique message with others, building and enjoying enduring reader relationships, seeing your dreams and passionate objectives become a reality......and of course, it is nice to be able to buy groceries...
“... authors who survive will be the ones who find ways to authentically grow their platform and meaningfully reach their readership.” “Communities will decide what books are worthwhile, and communities won't have ego-filled judgments. Publishers will always be giving their authors one thing that is hard to come by: a measure of instant credibility. (That is: Someone thought this was good enough to take a financial risk on.) In good scenarios, there is also collaboration: to make a good book a great book. But soon, communities will have as much power as publishers to decide what books deserve attention." - Jane Freidman, My Big Rant on Self-Publishing, Writer's Digest