Disclaimer: The post below is purely my opinion. You are free to disagree with it. You are free to think I'm wrong or that I don't know what I'm talking about. That's totally okay, but just please elaborate your sentiments elsewhere. Thank you and God bless.
Anyway, I've been thinking that I should at least write a blog post that could serve as my way of making up for missing that event (and missing out on the opportunity to help other writers, assuming that there are those who think I could be of help). I'm even more convinced now (of doing this), after reading a post on Facebook about the plight of several Wattpad writers and their (ongoing) battle for rights reversion.
This post is for you if:
- You are legally free to publish (regardless of what name you have to use).
- You are interested in self-publishing, particularly for an international market.
- You really, really, really want to write and are willing to do everything to make a go at it.
P.S. A few years ago, I made the decision to part ways with my publisher, even to the point of borrowing money to get out of the contract. I did this because I truly believed I could make my writing my main source of income. But it wasn't all blind faith - I also did my research. I did the math.
Everything you need to know about self-publishing and whether it's for you or not is readily available (for free, too) on the Internet. It's just a matter of how determined you are to learn more about self-publishing.
What should you self-publish then?
- Consider the most popular trends in your romance sub-genre of choice. For contemporary, stepbrothers, billionaires, best friends are still / always hot. Athletes, CEOs, firefighters, even porn stars are pretty in demand. Rockstars are popular as well but to a lesser extent (those who have already established a name for rockstar romances still do amazingly well, though). In the end, focus on what you love and write best.
- Writing in English (not Filipino, not Taglish) is a must for an international market.
- Writing about Western characters is preferable and strongly recommended if you want to earn more quickly. I also suggest the use of Western settings for the same reasons. (P.S. I have never been to Greece but I write about Greek billionaires. I have never met a werewolf or a demon, but I write about them, too).
- Writing steamy is optional but it's easier to sell when you do. Sex sells. Sorry, it's a fact. But if you don't enjoy reading or writing it, forget it. It's still best to write what you truly enjoy.
- Genre fiction is a means of escape for most readers, and this is especially true for ROMANCE. If you plan to kill off your major characters, I'm sorry but your book is unlikely to sell.
- When writing your book, set aside all thoughts of negativity and doubt. Just focus on writing a story that you would personally enjoy reading. For now, let's not care about grammar and what your peers would say about your work. Just. Focus. On. Writing. An. Enjoyable. Story.
- Write a standalone romance. Better yet, write a three-book series because readers prefer to buy authors who aren't one-hit wonders. Standalone, fyi, means a book with a non-cliffhanger ending. In romance, this means your couple gets their happy-ever-after (let's avoid the happy-for-now ending...for now, pun intended).
- For now, come up with straightforward titles that let readers know exactly what they can expect from your book. Ex: The Greek Billionaire and His Secretary (that's mine, by the way).
- Great looking covers are recommended, but yes there are exceptions (i.e. books that do spectacularly well despite having not-so-pretty covers). However, one thing I've noticed is that these exceptions tend to have compelling stories, and you know what they say: content is king.
- Editing is necessary if - after objectively evaluating your story - you know that your writing will likely prove incoherent to native English readers. Objective is the keyword here. OTOH if you're confident about your ability to self-edit your work then that's cool.
- Sign up for a free account at Mailchimp.com to build your newsletter. Research on how to do this.
- Learn how to format your story for e-publishing. Again, a lot of info is available online for this, and it's free. You can also outsource this if you're willing to pay.
- Work on your blurb. Basically, this is the product description of your book. It's the summary that you see on the product page. It can be short or long, up to you - just make sure it will get readers to click. Think about your favorite book. What about its blurb drew you in? Try to replicate the same thing with your book.
- Prepare front and back matter (basically this is marketing info at the beginning and end of your book). Let's say you have a three-book series.
- For Book 1, start with an invitation for readers to sign up with your readers and explain why they should do so (e.g. exclusive sneak peeks of upcoming books, random giveaways). At the end, invite them again to sign up and add links to Books 2 and 3 once they're ready.
- For Book 2, do the same but link to Book 1 and 3. You get the drift.
- Give out ARCs to trusted readers or friends who are able to post reviews on Amazon. If they're also willing to buy the book on Amazon, SO MUCH THE BETTER! Verified reviews (this means reviews posted by people who bought the book) carry more weight than unverified reviews. And yes, we have a way of knowing this. Just check any book on Amazon. If you see a review tagged with 'verified purchase' then that's a review posted by someone who bought the book. REVIEWS are everything on Amazon and elsewhere so you want to collect as many reviews as possible and make a huge splash on your debut.
- Decide whether you want to take advantage of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited (KU) or not.
- What's Kindle Unlimited? This is a subscription program that requires you to publish your book exclusively on Amazon for three months. After this, your contract expires (as long as you didn't tick the box for automatic re-enlistment), and it's up to you if you want to sign up for another three months. With KU, you are paid $.004 for every page read. But you can still also sell your book (it's up to you to choose the price of your book) on Amazon. So basically, when you're in KU you can earn from sales and pages read but ONLY on Amazon. This means you can't publish your book on Nook, Google Play, Buqo, etc. However, you can sell your book in print wherever and whenever. It's only the ebook distribution that KU cares about.
- KU Benefit #1: Free days! During your three-month contract with KU, you can set your book for free for five days. You can do this consecutively or you can do this one day a week. It's up to you. Anything goes for those five days. This is an essential benefit because free books are another promotion tool. It allows readers to try unknown authors risk-free, and if they like what they read then they're more likely to buy the next book. Without KU, you cannot set your book for free immediately on Amazon. You need to wait for them to price-match. More on this later.
- KU Benefit #2: More visibility. Not surprisingly, Amazon favors books that are published exclusively with them and so KU books are given better rankings. The better your rank is, the more people are likely to see your book and the more chances of getting sales or pages read.
- KU Benefit #3: So many readers have subscribed to KU, and since your books are technically free for them to read (their subscription rate doesn't change no matter how many books they read), they're more likely to take a chance on your work even if they don't know who you are.
- KU Disadvantage #1: The $.004/page rate I mentioned earlier is an estimate. It can go up or down anytime.
- KU Disadvantage #2: Since you're exclusive with Amazon, your book can't be published elsewhere. This puts you at Amazon's mercy, in case they change the rules again (in a bad way).
- My 2 cents:
- If you're writing contemporary romance, I think you shouldn't jump into KU right away. You should see how your first books do by going wide (publishing everywhere).
- If you're writing paranormal romance, I'll go with KU because they don't sell as great outside Amazon.
- If you're writing young adult romance, I'll also go with KU because of the same reasons above.
- If you wrote a serial instead of a series of standalone novels, I think I'll risk going wide.
- Whether you wrote full-length books or serials, I would choose to make the first book free and then the next two books $2.99 each. This price point is my personal sweet spot, and I believe that my books are worth $2.99. This is also the minimum price you need to set in order to enjoy 70% royalty. Anything below this price point only earns 35% royalty.
- To publish your ebook, you will need to set up an account on Amazon and any other retailer. Again, do your research. Consider downloading the self-publishing manuals by David Gaughran for more tips
Marketing your book...
- Set up a Facebook page, Twitter account and other social media accounts you're comfortable using for your author profile. Start a website or a blog if you can't afford to pay for your website's domain just yet. Please research about this.
- Set up your author account on Amazon's Author Central page. Add books to your author page.
- Post on your social media accounts just once or twice a week about your books. Interact with your readers.
- Write your next book. This is the most important way to market your old books. Write as many as you can. Release regularly. Don't pay attention to bad reviews. As long as you've put your heart in your writing, then you did a great job. Continue writing. Continue reading. As long as you're objective with your work, then you'll be able to tell if you're not writing shit.
New Release checklist
- Book cover design (self or outsourced)
- Editing (self or outsourced)
- Title (be strategic still)
- Blurb (work it!)
- Front and back matter (invite readers to sign up for your newsletter, explain why, give them a list of your older books, and invite them to review your books, too)
- Format your book (self or outsourced)
- Give out ARCs and remind them gently about the need for posting reviews ASAP
- Send out newsletter to let readers know that your new book is out. Include an exclusive excerpt (not the first chapter because this can already be seen in Amazon's Look Inside preview) and high-resolution image of your photo.
- Update front and back matter of older books to include link to your newest book.
- Post on social media accounts about new release.
- Recycle and repeat.
If you're lucky, you'll enjoy instant success. If not, keep writing. If this really is the job for you then you'll eventually gain readers. It's just a matter of time, luck, and penning the right book for the right market. Good luck, and I hope this post helps. Please feel free to email me if you have questions! God bless!