Jennifer Oko has won praise for her fiction writing — The New York Times Book Review called her first book Lying Together: My Russian Affair “riveting” and twice named it an Editor’s Choice. Her second book was a Hot Summer Read in USA Today and a Pick of the Month in Marie Claire magazine. She recently published her third book, but this time did it as a self published e-book. Here, her top tips if you’re thinking of doing the same.
A couple of weeks ago I published my third book, a humorous mystery novel called HEAD CASE. My first two books entered the world in the traditional way, landing first on bookstore shelves before making their way into people’s hands. As we all now know, the world of e-book publishing has changed all of that, and I decided to take the publication of my latest novel into my own hands.
HEAD CASE is about a young woman named Olivia Zack—a neuroscientist, pharmaceutical consultant…and murder victim—who embarks on a postmortem quest involving ethically challenged executives, spotlight-hungry celebrities, third-rate mobsters, and drug-dealing babushkas as she attempts to deconstruct the events that led up to her mind-altering death.
After reading story after story about once conventionally published authors having lots of fun (and occasionally great success) in the brave new world of digital self-publishing, I realized that an e-book would be the perfect publishing platform for this somewhat unconventional book.
It turns out, however, that to do it right, it’s not as simple as just clicking “upload” and kicking back to watch the book start to sell.
Here are a few things I have learned:
1. Dress the part. If you want your book to hold its own next to books with huge publishing houses behind them, your book has to look good. Really good. Inside and out. And that costs money. I did a crowd-funding campaign via Kickstarter to raise funds for things like the cover art, proofreading, formatting, and promotional and marketing support. It was also a great way to make me accountable to my “investors” and give me the kick in the pants to finally put the book out there.
Here’s the video I used for my crowd-funding campaign, enlisting the talents of a puppeteer and a rap-writing friend to make the video lively and eye-catching (and not just me in front of a camera, begging for money):
2. Know who your friends are. Create a team to help share your tweets and posts. It’s an awkward thing to directly ask people to do, but even if you have a large following on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest and so on, chances are that on your own you can’t get the social media outreach you need to let the world know that your book exists and should be downloaded immediately. (Got specific questions about this? Please be my friend at facebook.com/jenniferokoauthor and follow me on Twitter at @jennifer_oko and I’ll tell you more about how I enlisted folks! )
3. Fill up the empty seats. Nobody goes into a new restaurant if the tables are empty. Same with books. It’s critical to get at least a few reviews and ratings up from the start (see friends, above). Assemble a team of friends or contacts and give them the book early so they can review it as soon as it’s available. In the US you can gift Kindle books, so I sent some of my reviewers free copies. Other things I did was to gift copies to reviewers (something you can only do via Amazon in the US right now) and I also sent a PDF copy via Dropbox to a few friends/avid readers. And remember, you can get reviews both for the UK and US Amazon site for Kindle books. (Special thanks to Jennifer at BritMums for reviewing the book for UK Amazon.)
4. Be patient. I laugh at this one, because I can’t take my own advice, but I know I could use it. When I published my first two books, I was told there was a three-week window for reviews, and if your book didn’t hit then, forget it. With self-published e-books, the window is much bigger. Overnight sensations are rare. Many of the new self-publishing superstars talk about how things started slow, but over a few months time, books started to move.
5. Be realistic. For every self-published blockbuster, there are hundreds of thousands of other authors who are lucky to turn a profit at all. But remember that even if the book doesn’t become a bestseller, it has more readers than it would have had if it just sat on your hard drive year after year.
By putting together a plan, asking for help and enlisting the support of friends, you can self publish too.
Got your own tips about self-pbublishing or e-books? Add them below.