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What is the biggest challenge for self-publishing authors?

To provide our readers with the answer to this, we did a Q&A with the Director of Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc.’s indie publisher/self-publishing division to see what their experience has been over the past 17 years of working with Canadian authors to self-publish professionally.

Q: What is the hardest part of self-publishing?

A: In our experience, there are actually two parts that authors struggle with when they are self-publishing: the process and marketing. Particularly new authors, whom we often work with, comment: “I didn’t realize the importance of intellectual property.” “I never would have thought to ask that question.” “The deluge of ad hoc information out there is overwhelming – where do I even begin and how do I stay on track?” And then when the book is done (some authors have referred to it as birthing a baby), they are overwhelmed again about how to market their book (which, like a baby, needs attention to its specific needs, nurturing, and help growing slowly in a linear fashion into the successful book that it can become).

Q: What about writing, isn’t that a hard part?

A: Most often authors are already writing, journaling, blogging, taking courses, so they are already (and may have been for several years) working on this aspect. Although it has different challenges, some discussed in other articles, this is usually before the self-publishing process. Having said that, once the editorial process of professional self-publishing begins and editor is involved to help rework, polish and guide authors on this aspect, it is not an issue provided authors have an editor with solid experience. Which brings us back to the process – authors don’t always realize at what stages the various aspects of editing should be integrated and the value of investing in this part of the publishing process, along with other aspects such as design and production that make a big difference when completed professionally.

Q: Do readers judge a book by its cover and the inside look and feel (bookstore flipping or online ‘look inside’) to see/decide which books they’ll buy?

A: Yes! Design is very important and it’s critical to see choices, and proofs at each stage, before final book production. AND, if you can, test on others. But other things are important too!! Most books (and other products) are purchased online. Think about how fast you click by a listing online – two seconds, is the cover interesting? Yes, then what does the blurb say? – another quick read. Interesting – how much does it cost?

TIP ~ Your cover is great (because you’ve published with professional help; engaging design, unique artwork – maybe even originally created just for your book). Try changing your blurb – grab readers attention with the first sentence (depending how long it is, that’s all readers might see on such as Amazon or Kobo listings). What hooks you when you buy a book? What can you say that will make them think think they must have your book? See our article on algorithms, how books appear in search; it’s about what people will buy. If you are using your book as marketing tool and/or have more than one book, offer the first book title free with a teaser (sample chapter) and a can’t-miss call to action buy now while on sale.

Q: When is the best time to start developing a marketing plan?

A: While you are doing your research early on about your audience, which helps craft your story or book content, you are laying the ground work for who you will be communicating with later on. Some authors start communicating right away, building a list; even involving their audience in feedback or telling them about how the writing is evolving (often something that works well for fiction as readers become invested in your characters, story outcome, etc.). However the key period, when your book’s layout and production is being handled by professionals, is when you can really start to get into the actual book promotion. Absolutely get your website organized and your accounts (for repeat authors, your book titles) set up on such as Amazon, Kobo, Goodreads, etc. At this point you have a visual and, particularly for first-time authors, letting your audience see that you mean business and getting a taste of what’s to come can do more to engage potential readers than just words. Your book may take a 4-6 weeks to be completed so you definitely have time to get going. However – the most important thing – it is imperative to market with purpose: have a plan that centers around your audience’s needs, keeps you focused on organized acitivities, builds your readership logically and authentically, doesn’t put your efforts in too many places at once. Plus, spend the time on each activity to see if its working; don’t give up too soon.

Q: So back to the biggest challenges. What is the best approach?

A: Don’t go it alone & be patient. Our authors find comfort in knowing we work with others and have for years and they have a guide to direct them through all the critical steps of the process for truly self-publishing [owning the business of publishing their quality books(s)] and a place – our AuthorHub team – to ask any questions that arise during and after the publication process, even years after the publication, they are reassured that the support team is there for them. As for marketing – based on our experience, we know the author who is passionate about their subject/story is the best resource to market their book. When they follow an organized approach and work steadily on building – not just ad hoc – communication they can be very successful. Just have a look at other self-publishers who have achieved success, they know it is a strategic and long-term commitment. Don’t give up! – slow and steady is how relevant audiences are built. (Even traditionally published authors are responsible for their own marketing but with far less return after publisher’s cut.)

Begin by setting a timeline – it helps make you accountable and keep things moving.  March is a good time to start planning your book publication while things are usually quiet.  It is also a good time to formulate plans for such as your launch party, connecting with your audience, showcasing your book, getting out there in the warmer weather to come.

Need help planning your journey? We know Canadian authors want to create, so when it comes to all the structure of organizing a book publication it is easy to procrastinate, or not know where/how to start. We’ve got you covered! Contact us to discuss hands-on, personal support for your custom project (we’ll guide you and our professional team will do the edit, design and publication work for you, based on flat fees) and/or check out our quick and easy BEL Learning Publications online workshops – to get information, encouragement and support … keeping you on track and motivated!!

image of workshop title slides for: self-directed tutorials

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