11 self-publishing strategies for success

Posted By on June 14, 2011

As self-publishing continues to go mainstream and lose its stigma, more and more authors are taking the plunge and going indie. Success, however, is certainly not guaranteed. By following the tips below, you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls and enhance your chances of flourishing.

1. Educate yourself. Publishing is a business and needs to be treated as such. There are books, blogs, websites, and associations devoted to self-publishing. Failing to learn all you can about it can mean wasting thousands of dollars by blundering along without knowledge or a plan.

2. Study the competition. Be sure your topic hasn’t been overdone. Check the library, your local bookstore, and Amazon.com. But don’t stop there: Check Books in Print Subject Guide and Forthcoming Books in Print Subject Guide. Then make sure yours is better than what is already out there.

3. Write what other people want. Catering to one’s own personal desires often makes for a blah book nobody buys. Face the facts: Personal journals and impassioned tirades are best saved for family and friends, not foisted upon the general public.

4. Think “marketing” from the start. The time to start generating marketing ideas is before you even write the manuscript. Identify your market. How can you reach them? Start folders of ideas. What catalogs might be interested? Which associations reach your potential readers? Can you sell the book as a premium to companies that would give it away as a gift to entice new customers or use it internally for training? Think about who else reaches your potential customer and how you can partner with them. Do you have contacts who have national name recognition and might write an advance endorsement?

5. Get professional editing. You cannot edit your own work. You cannot.

6. Create a catchy title. The right title can make a book. Short is best. Clever is fine but don’t sacrifice clarity. Include a subtitle for nonfiction books as it gives you extra mileage in ensuring readers know what the book is about.

7. Include all the vital components. Depending on whether your book is paper or electronic, you may need an ISBN, LCCN, EAN scanning code, subject category on the back cover, the title displayed boldly on the spine, and so forth. Don’t know what you need? See item number 1 in this list!!

8. Have a dynamite cover. Get it designed by a professional who knows book cover design, not just someone who does nice logos or brochures. There is a lot of competition out there; this is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

9. Make the interior inviting. Study the insides of books that look clean and user-friendly; use these as your model. The production values of your book must meet the competition to be acceptable in the trade. It is not advisable to do your book layout in Word, so if you are not budgeting for the steep price tag and learning curve of a program such as InDesign, hire a pro.

10. Price properly. Books that are much more costly than the competition—or even sometimes a lot cheaper—can meet resistance. Figure out a per-unit cost that still offers you a margin for profit and enables you to offer booksellers a discount—and that keeps you in line with your competition.

11. Publicize, promote, publicize, promote. Eat, sleep, and talk your books. Ongoing, enthusiastic marketing is the real key to success. Never quit. Always be on the alert for new opportunities; marketing is forever and your efforts today can yield results way down the road.

(Portions of this post have been excerpted from the upcoming second edition of Jump Start Your Books Sales by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier, scheduled for release in late 2011.)

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6 Responses to “11 self-publishing strategies for success”


  1. Thank you for your ongoing advice. I have been following your self-publishing book the entire way on getting my new book out. What a great book!


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  3. Thanks so much, Michele! Glad you are enjoying the book and I appreciate you stopping by the blog. :-)


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  6. The above information is very much appreciated. As a new writer and Lord willing soon to be author, I appreciate the advice very much.

    Thank you!

    Rickey J. Musick

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