It can be a jungle out there for self-publishers. Just try Googling “publishing an e-book,” and you get a staggering 54,400,000 results. If you search “self-publishing an e-book” you come up with 2,510,000 results and if you ask for “self-publishing advice” you will be directed to a sweet 3,070,000 offerings.
We decided to simplify matters by going to some of the leaders in the self-publishing world and asking them one simple question: If you could give someone starting out in self-publishing only one piece of advice, what would it be? As it turns out, the key is to know what you want, and to be patient.
“The most important advice I can offer is don’t rush. Many first-time authors make a lot of mistakes along the way — some of which are inevitable — but I find that some authors don’t even have a clear idea of what their goals are. I tell authors: Before you do it, take time to understand why you’re doing it, to research your opinions, and to hire experts if needed to help you achieve your goals. Take enough time to produce a product that’s worth your reader’s time and money.”
When we asked writer, blogger, and consultant Joel Friedlander what advice he has to offer, he said:
“Know your goals. Be absolutely clear about what those goals are and how you plan to achieve them. Self-publishers need to understand why they are writing this book, who it is for, how they will reach those people, who they will have to hire to help, what their budget is, and what they want to get out of all this. So many times I’ve seen authors spend thousand of dollars unnecessarily and run into dead-end after dead-end because they simply didn’t have a clear set of goals in mind when they started out.”
Hugh Howey, celebrated author of the Wool and Silo series and self-publishing expert, offered this advice:
“My one piece of advice would be patience, both in publishing and in expectations of sales. Make sure your work is as amazing as you can make it before putting it out there, and once you do publish, don’t worry about how the work sells out of the gate. Books are now available forever. Start writing that next book. Don’t be in a hurry.”
For Ron Martinez, founder of the direct retail and social media marketing service Aerbook, the author/reader relationship should take center stage. He said:
“Remember that the most important relationship in the book business is the one between author and reader. Make your books as widely available as possible in our increasingly networked world. There has never been a better time for books to find their readers.”
Carla King, blogger, writer, adventurer, and self-publishing guru, had this advice for people new to self-publishing:
“Premature distribution is one of the most embarrassing mistakes made by self-published authors. Avoid it by starting small, publishing beta versions of your book, and growing your author platform as you perfect it. You don’t want to publish and then discover copy-editing errors, realize you should have invested in a better cover design, or wish you’d spent more time on marketing copy, metadata, and back of book information. So upload your book in places that allow you to publish, sell, remove, revise, and republish in just minutes.”
Cindy Ratzlaff, social media strategist and brand evangelist, said: “My first piece of advice would be to write every day. But my second piece of advice would be to hire an editor. Even the best writer needs the trained eye of a professional editor.”
And finally, author-marketing expert Penny Sansevieri put it this way:
“Self-publishing should be treated as a business. You would never open up a brick and mortar store without doing some competitive research and having a business plan and a marketing plan in place. Yet it amazes me how many times authors launch a book with no idea of the market or how they plan to get it out there.”
So there you have it. According to these experts, self-publishers need to be patient; know their goals; make their books the best they can be; network to find readers; avoid premature distribution; write everyday and hire an editor; and research your competition. Sage advice, indeed, and it sure beats sifting through the 3,070,000 suggestions offered by Google.
Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.
Personally, I think there’s nothing worse than premature distribution, but some interesting advice there from more people who’ve been there and done that.