Having decided to self-publish my indie book Cornerstone: The King, I planned to draft a detailed marketing plan when I returned to Raleigh in mid-February. However, during the drive, I felt called to write my mental health story first while the events and emotions were still fresh in my mind. I reviewed my journal and medical records and sketched an outline of the events from March 2018 to January 2021.
Over the following three weeks in Raleigh, I wrote and edited the story, then packaged it into twenty chapters. As I wrote the story, I continued corresponding with the book designer.
Design the Cover and Format the Interior
There are many self-publishing or indie publishing resources available, but I liked Reedsy the best as a one-stop shop for all my self-publishing needs. I reviewed many articles from their blog prior to making decisions about self-publishing. I also chose my copy-editor, proofreader, and designer from Reedsy.
After negotiating the desired start date and cost with my preferred designer, he composed several cover designs based on my input. We collaborated back and forth until I chose the design. The final design fits my desired brand as an author—simple and beautiful. Likewise, the chosen font, color scheme, and symbols concisely capture the novel and genre.
Most sites recommend paying a professional designer because the cover art is the first impression customers see about your book and brand. Particularly those authors interested in building a sustainable author brand, the cover is the foundation. The cover is so important that Findaway Voices recently chose it as the most important marketing tactic. What does the final cover design look like? This will be revealed as we get closer to publication.
When choosing a book, the cover hopefully hooks the reader to read more. If interested in reading further, the reader may flip to the back cover or flip through the first few pages. Readers can’t physically do this with e-books, but many retailers allow readers to preview samples of the book. This is one reason why many recommend hooking readers with an intriguing prologue or a cliffhanger.
I considered this marketing tactic when asking the designer to include the maps and character list in the front of the book. This way, readers could see these in Amazon’s first look pages. Moreover, I considered marketing when writing the Acknowledgements Page at the back of the book. For any independent author, it’s important to ask readers to leave reviews as the number of reviews provides social validation for deciding between buying or not buying any product.
I received the final interior design in late March. It looked beautiful, and I was eager to print it and hold the final product in my hands. However, I paused and decided to read the book again. This was a good decision because I caught one too many typos. I was frustrated. How could errors make it past the editors and my reviews? I reasoned the process was likely similar in traditional publishing. My eyes had glazed over from reading the book in Word, and I assumed the editors missed typos because of this too. Reading the book with interior-designed typography was like smooth sailing—so much easier to read than reading in Word. Consequently, typos stood out. I took notes and sent them to the designer to update the manuscript. At the time of this writing, I await the final product so I can begin the next steps.
Key Self-Publishing Takeaways
A professionally designed cover is arguably the most important marketing tactic and wisest marketing dollars you can spend.
Before submitting your manuscript to the designer, consider marketing tactics to include in your beginning and ending pages.
Review the manuscript a final time after it’s been interiorly designed and look for errors before preparing the book for publication.
Self-Publish as an E-book and a Print Book
When I receive the final manuscript, I will submit the book for copyrights and buy International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) for each version of the book. While I wait, I will prepare the book in Amazon, build my Amazon author page, and print proofs. Once receiving the printed book, I’ll read Cornerstone: The King once more and look for typos. I assume there won’t be any remaining typos, but I will confirm before sending books to advanced readers.
One lesson I’ve learned while reviewing Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is that you don’t receive the link to the Amazon review page until you’ve uploaded the book. Consequently, I’ll ask the designer to update the manuscript at that point and include the link in the Acknowledgements Page.
Key Self-Publishing Takeaway
The link to your Amazon page for customers to leave reviews isn’t made until you finish uploading the book to KDP.
Master the Kindle Store
In my opinion, mastering the Kindle Store depends on my marketing strategy and distribution model. While researching marketing strategies for independent publishers, one important question kept reappearing: should I enroll in Amazon’s KDP Select program? Do the pros outweigh the cons? By giving Amazon exclusivity for 90 days, I would have access to Countdown Deals, free promotion opportunities, and access to Kindle Unlimited, the Netflix model for books sold on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited is usually cited as the most beneficial since customers receive emails reminding them which books are part of the program.
On the other hand, if I do not give Amazon exclusivity, my book is accessible to a wider and larger international network of retailers and is available for non-Amazon bestseller lists. I’d miss out on running free promotions with Amazon, particularly during the important launch week. Fortunately, there is a way around this by pricing my book as free with other retailers and asking Amazon to price-match. But Amazon could delay approval or not approve. It is definitely more work to make my book free if I don’t join KDP Select.
Should I enroll in KDP Select?
I don’t know yet, but the answer partially depends on my distribution model. As David Gaughran describes it, choose either the Kindle Unlimited Hare model or the Wide Tortoise model. Many indie publishing blogs I read recommended choosing one distribution model. Don’t bounce between enrolling in KDP Select, disenrolling, enrolling, etc.
An additional factor to consider is the percentage of the top 100 books in my desired categories in Kindle Unlimited. The answer is a mixed bag—fantasy books are usually included as a higher percentage but historical fiction is not. Though my book leans toward fantasy, it is better described as historical fiction.
I agree it’s best to pick one model and stick with it because this decision determines my marketing strategy. However, a third option is to enroll in KDP Select for book launches to facilitate running free promotions. As more people downloaded the free book, my category rankings would spike temporarily, but then would crash if sales weren’t sustained in plateaus.
Key Self-Publishing Takeaways
Mastering the Kindle Store is a function of your marketing strategy and distribution model.
Answering two questions can help you decide whether to enroll into KDP Select: 1) What percentage of the top 100 books in your target categories are in Kindle Unlimited? 2) How important is running free promotions to your marketing strategy?