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5 Things You Need To Do Before Self-Publishing

Well. Have we got a mothersuckin’ treat for you today? (Yes, yes we do.) Bestselling self-published author Mark Cassell has written us a kick-ass guest blog with everything you need to know about killing it in the self-pub marketplace. Listen to the man. He knows his shit…

5 Things You Need To Do Before Self-Publishing

Mum’s read your manuscript and says it’s wonderful. Dad’s highlighted that sneaky typo to slip past your fiftieth revision, and your significant other gave useful if critical feedback as a first reader—even though you’ve ignored them these past three months/years/decades (delete as appropriate).

Since you’ve collected an impressive stack of agent and publisher rejections which may as well be razorblades stitched into your soul, you wonder what next. You know your book’s better than many others. Let’s face it, we’ve all read a New York Times bestseller and thought it was shit.

Now what?

Before you upload your amazeballs manuscript to Amazon Kindle and get a bazillion paperback copies printed using that holiday snapshot as a front cover with “a novel by Joe Bumhole” scrawled across it in that wonderful Papyrus font, just STOP.

And it ain’t Hammer Time. That’s a long way off. Three months in fact…

The following five tips are not etched in ancient mystical stone, but they’ve helped me along my indie path and pushed my debut novel to the No.1 slot in British Horror Fiction.

1. Wait three months

Three months is the maximum time you can have your book on pre-order on Amazon. You’re in a hurry to tell the world your story, I know that. The trick is to grab as much attention as possible in this time, so when it comes to the publication date all those pre-orders help fire your title to a No.1 slot in one or more category lists.

The longer your title stays in the top ranks, the more attention it’ll grab. The more attention, the more sales. Sales are what you want, right?

2. Be professional

You know how to be professional, and be precisely that in this game. I use the word “game” oh-so-lightly because it’s not a game. Treat this like a job. A job you actually love. By all means have fun, laugh and joke with everyone; just don’t be stiff, don’t be a prude. In this game, if we’re too serious we’d go fucking insane.

I trust you’ve already had your manuscript professionally edited and proof-read, and have a faultless blurb, so the next part of professionalism I’d like to talk about is a cover (please see above in what NOT to do). It’s no use in following the next three steps if you have a crappy front cover.

If you’re a Photoshop sharpshooter then create a cover that radiates POWER like those on the shelves at Waterstones. If you’re short of skills in this area don’t skimp, and be willing to pay for a quality cover design. Incidentally, don’t dare consider using stock images; you don’t want your cover resembling anyone else’s.

Be sure to talk with your chosen designer and tell them what you want. This is your baby, remember? Talk with them throughout the entire process, without EVER losing sight of how it would look beside those big names on the shelves or on screen. Your aim is to produce something equally professional.

3. Entertain on social media

If you haven’t done so already then it’s time to get your arse on the social media wagon. As an indie author, by definition you are ALONE in this game. You have no one to back up your product (yep, this book of yours is a product) and without a publicist or publisher for clout, it’s all up to little ol’ you.

That’s where the almighty machine that is social media comes into this.

At the time of posting, Facebook and Twitter flank YouTube as the top most popular social networking sites. Use several if you wish, however be careful not to spread yourself too thin otherwise your voice will get lost among all those others.

You must get your brand out there, not just sell copies. Interact with all who are interested in anything related to your book. Chat and share and like and retweet stuff that reflects this fantastic product of yours, including things associated with your genre. Be active. Just don’t spam.

You have a beautiful cover and you want to show it off, but PLEASE don’t keep throwing it at your new-found friends, letting it bounce back, and then chuck it at them again. That kind of behaviour will swiftly piss everyone off.

I read somewhere that only one in ten social media posts should be self-promotion. That, my friends, is not an unreasonable gauge.

4. Don’t be friends with everyone

You’re a tiny voice among many indie authors brandishing their books, all desperate to outreach others. Sure it’s good to chat with authors and add them to your friend list, which is handy when learning who they used for cover design for instance.

However, if you’re a dark fantasy writer there’s little point in collecting romance writer friends. I’m not saying be a dick and ignore them should they contact you, but you need to build a brand in your genre. Your profile must SHOUT your genre, it must ooze everything you and your work stands for. Certainly there are cross-genres which makes things a little loose here, but when starting out you need to concentrate on where your debut novel is rooted.

Surround yourself with people who are compatible with your book, and you’ll soon see most friend and follower suggestions are geared towards your demographic—social media is sneaky like that and will constantly recommend others who share similar interests. Sticking with like-minded chums, these suggestions won’t be diluted by sexy erotica writers when you want supernatural horror weirdoes. Like me.

This way of networking will lead to your friends and followers recognising your voice, your brand, and your book.

5. Write short stories and flash fiction

Do extensive research for websites, ezines and anthologies, all within your genre. Your chums post all sorts of stuff so you’ll soon find potential markets. Still do your homework beyond this, and then narrow it down to those whose readers fit perfectly in your demographic.

Write your story in a similar vein to your novel, even set it in the same town. Better still, use the same characters or new characters in the “world” you’ve created. You have some leftover scenes from your novel, right? Use them.

Get yourself published on those websites and in those ezines, get a story in that anthology. Submitsubmitsubmit (yeah, all one word). Many websites and ezines don’t offer payment but this doesn’t matter; you’re a newbie to this game so you should see this as a free advert placement. Getting your work in an anthology is an even bigger deal, and that’s when you’ll most likely receive monies.

Once you’re a more established author, that’s when you can shoot higher and start earning money per word and per story, and begin grabbing handfuls of royalties. Yummy!

There are dozens of other things you could and indeed should do before self-publishing, and I trust my suggestions will help you towards becoming a professional author, not just an indie author.

Enjoy yourself!

Mark Cassell
Mark Cassell

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous anthologies and ezines. His 2015 release, Sinister Stitches, is a collection of stories from a mythos that began with his best-selling debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, a supernatural horror tale of demons, devices, and deceit. This year saw the publication of Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill in association with the ezine Future Chronicles.

Mark Cassell

Mark Cassell


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