Invest in a decent book cover. I hate book covers with grainy photos and red letters typed over them in bold fonts. I also hate monotone book covers that are all one color with the title at the top and the author’s name at the bottom. These are definite signs of novices! Most POD companies have some sort of automated book cover design program with stock images. Don’t use their stock images! If you do, just know there will be other books out there that have the same cover as yours. I budgeted for and invested in book cover software for my second book and it paid for itself in six months after the book was released. I also used it for my third and fourth books and lent my help to other authors for a small fee. Research your options or hire a graphic designer for assistance.
Edit! Most POD companies offer some sort of editing service, but it can be quite pricey. If you can’t afford to hire an editor, at least have a smart friend or two read over the manuscript and look for mistakes and misspelled words. Don’t think that your own eyes will catch everything, no matter how many times you read your own book. I’m guilty of doing that myself, and readers were quick to point out my mistakes. Sure, traditional books even have mistakes in them and some are always going to slip through, but if your book is full of mistakes and errors it can be a big turn off to the reader, and to reviewers!
Format your book properly and follow the rules! I have never, never, NEVER seen a traditionally published book that lacked right margin justification and I’m tired of self-published authors telling me that they did it that way because it’s easier to read. No, you didn’t follow the rules because you didn’t do your homework, or you don’t know how. I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth and it’s one reason I will turn down a book for review right away.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, go into a bookstore or go to your bookshelf and select 10 traditionally published books from the genre you plan to write in – horror, mystery, thriller, romance, whatever. Study the layout and format of each. What do they have in common? What makes them different? Chances are their front matter contains a title page, dedication page, copyright page, etc. Where are the page numbers? Do the pages have headers? Where does the body of text start and end on each page? Whatever all ten books have in common, chances are your book should have that in common too. Learn the benefits of the software you are using to create your book and learn how to format, or get someone to help!
Don’t be a POD snob! That means don’t assume that just because your book is available on Amazon now, that you are any more special than any other author. Unless you are Amanda Hocking and making millions from your self-published book then you are in the same boat with the rest of us and being a snob will get you pushed into the water. Be able to accept criticism and never NEVER attack reviewers just because you don’t agree with what they said about your book. Self-published authors standing on soap boxes are generally full of hot air. If you are visiting forums or book blogs, you should be prepared to participate in more ways than just self promotion. Don’t just stop in and say “Read my book!” and then leave. Don’t believe me? Check out the self-promotion forums in the POD community and decide for yourself how many of those authors actually get read. Be professional, and know that sometimes you should be quiet. You should also be willing to give back, which leads to…
Before considering self-publishing, read a few self published books. Particularly ones published through the same company you are going to publish with. Get to know the product! Also, read reference books about self publishing. There are lots of helpful books out there! As Stephen King points out in his book On Writing, when you aren’t writing you should be reading.
Learn the Ebook market! That’s right! Sure, go ahead and publish in paperback or hardcover but Ebooks are where you are going to make your money these days. And there’s a whole new set of rules to follow when E-publishing. there’s lots of options out there and each has its own publishing format and interface. Be prepared to invest the time to do it right! And again, study the market and the genre your book belongs in. See what’s selling and what isn’t. And pay attention to pricing. Readers love the 99 cent Ebook! And you’ll probably make more money from Ebooks at that price than you will with your overpriced paperback anyway.
Understand that physical bookstores are not your friends. In fact, most of them hate authors, especially self-published authors who come into the store with a chip on their shoulder and expect the store to let them do a signing there. Unless your name is James Patterson or Dean Koontz or J.K. Rowling, booksellers don’t want to talk to you. And never, NEVER call a bookstore and try to promote yourself over the phone! They don’t have time to talk to you. Almost all bookstores expect a discount so that they can sell a book and make a profit. With almost all self-published books, companies charge all customers list price so there is no discount for bookstores. Or there’s no distribution of your book through wholesale channels for chain bookstores to be able to get your book anyway. And if there is, the book is usually sold non-returnable so a chain bookstore will require pre-payment. Sure, there are other options out there, but that goes back to a whole new way of self-publishing so that your book is available through these channels, and that would mean a whole other top ten list, right? So for now, just know….bookstores aren’t always your friend. Sure, there are exceptions here. Maybe your local indie store loves you and you know the lady behind the counter because she goes to church with your grandmother and she told you she’d love to have you in for a signing. That’s great! Let us know when you sell a thousand copies at that venue.