The ABCs of Self-Publishing: A Guest Post by Mark Evans

Today we have a guest post from self-publisher Mark Evans, who has just released his first novel, Mrs God. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Mark! 

“You remember the scene in Glengarry Glen Ross, don’t you? The one where Alec Baldwin gives a lecture on the art of selling real estate, by swearing a lot and insulting Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin and Ed Harris? It’s a great scene. Baldwin’s message can be boiled down to just three letters: ABC. Always. Be. Closing. Always be closing the deal, getting people to sign on the dotted line.

Well, Jack, Alan and Ed could have been authors and Alec could have been giving them advice on selling self-published books. The same principle applies – always be closing. It’s as easy as ABC. In fact, self-published authors should go even farther; they should be closing long before there’s something to sell. Let’s break it down.

Planting the seeds

Don’t wait until you’ve emerged blinking into the light to let people know that you’ve just finished your book. That’s too late. If you’re serious about devoting a large portion of your time – up to a year or two – to bashing out a manuscript, then tell people about it. You may be a mother, father, dancer, student, or just jobless dreamer, but once you tell others that you’ve started work on a book, you get a name tag that reads ‘writer’. If people care about you, then they’ll be curious about how the book is going – and tell others too. They are all potential readers. Always be closing.

Mighty algorithms

Okay, you’ve finished your book and by that I don’t mean you’ve gotten to the end and typed ‘the end’. I mean you’ve rewritten it and rewritten it and given it to beta readers and rewritten it some more. I mean you’ve rewritten it so much that you’re physically sick of rewriting it. Good, that means you’re finished. Now it’s time to choose where you’re going to place it. Here’s a clue: Amazon. Put it where the readers are. Let the terraflops of computing power at Amazon HQ help sell your book for you. Get formatting. Always be closing.

Give people what they want

Not all people are the same. Some like The Beatles, others prefer the Stones. Some swear by ebooks, others cannot stand the medium and will only read words printed on paper. Consider going the extra mile and formatting a version of your book for print-on-demand sites, such as Createspace and Lulu. Those without an e-reader will be happy that there’s a paperback version of your book, but they won’t be too enamoured by the cost of getting it into their hands. Always be closing. Offer this cohort something extra. I wrote a four-page Q&A for the end of my book, Mrs God. Because of this ‘special edition’ I could possibly entice those who downloaded it to their e-readers to purchase the paperback version too. ABC.

FRONT COVER

Take cover

Do you really believe that people don’t judge books by their covers? Me neither. That’s why you need to get a professional to design yours. Unless you’re a whizz on Photoshop, that is. You’re book cover should be striking and must also work at different sizes, from poster right down to gravatar. It should work like a branding, encouraging people to click on it or stop and look at it. ABC.

The art of the blurb

Short blurbs are harder to write than long ones. Spend some time on reducing the word count by making every word count. The blurb is to capture browsers and the curious. These people are like butterflies, flitting from one title to the next on websites, spending mere seconds upon each book. Your blurb should be brief and compelling – offering sweet nectar. Follow this format: x must do y in order to get z, but n stands in the way. X is your hero, n is your nemesis. Most fiction is sold this way, from novels to blockbuster movies. ABC.

Social media’s trinity

Before you’ve finished your book, you should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and a blogging site. Post, tweet and blog as much as you can. You will gain followers/readers and you will also showcase your writing skills. Remember six degrees of separation, the idea that any two people in the world can be linked in just six moves? Well, social media removes perhaps two of those moves. Get active online and you’ll get closer to millions of possible readers. ABC.

Tackling tax

If you live outside the United States, you’re going to have a medium-sized panic attack when Amazon (and any other site) asks you to fill out its online tax form. Catherine’s blog helped me out in this regard, with an easy to follow guide on getting an EIN number. I rang the IRS from Ireland and within 10 minutes had my number, thus preventing the IRS from taking a 30% chunk of my royalties. It’s a small obstacle to clamber over if you want to sell your work in the biggest ebook market in the world. ABC.

The price is right

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by hooking possible buyers only to make them baulk at the price of your book. Unless you’ve written a 3,000-page epic, keep the price below $9.99. Unless you’ve written a 12-page picture book for kiddies, keep the price north of $1.99. Not too high to break the bank, not too low to undersell your hard work. Determine a Goldilocks price. I found $4.99 was just right; a 350-page novel for (about) the price of a drink in a bar. ABC.

Launch day

Shrinking violets will find it difficult to do the hard sell, the cold calling. Well, as Alec Baldwin would say: “Get out there, you got the prospects coming in, you think they came in to get out of the rain? A guy don’t walk on the lot unless he wants to buy.” There’s a whole lot of people walking on the social media lot – you gotta get out there, grab a few by the elbow and lead them to your book. Sell them your work. Make it easy for them to buy it. Keep at it. Always be closing.

Always. Be. Closing.”

Mark Evans picMark Evans has worked as a journalist with the Irish Examiner national newspaper for more than ten years. His first non-fiction book, Inquizition, was published in 2007. He has written award-winning plays and his news features have been published in Ireland, the US, South Africa and Australia. He lives in Co Cork, Ireland, with his wife and two children. Mrs God is his first novel.

Find out more on: mrsgodbook.com and shaelum.wordpress.com. You can find Mrs. God on Amazon.com here

26 thoughts on “The ABCs of Self-Publishing: A Guest Post by Mark Evans

  1. Janet Pamela Noble (@janpamnoble) says:

    Thanks for the wisdom of your experience Mark. Ahem, I am a LITTLE confused by your comments on pricing.I am currently putting together the finishing touches on my first ebook. It is a children’s illustrated chapter book with 30 pages for newly independent readers ( think Horrid Henry meets My Naughty Little Sister!) You say it should be priced at about $2, however most similar ebooks on Amazon.co.uk are $1.59 (£1) and eQueen Catherine states in Self Printed that you should charge $2.99 (as you earn 70% of the price as oppose to 35% for books set at less than $2.99)
    So – should I set the price at $2 (which is closer to that of similar ebooks) instead of $2.99 although I will potentially make less profit?

    Hope this makes sense – this self printing malarkey is all new to me!

    • shaelum says:

      Hi Janet,
      Well done on your book! Children are far more discerning than adults, so kudos to you! It sounds like you’ve put a lot of effort into your book and it’s difficult to put a price on that level of work. You’ve already done some research into the cost of similar books so you now have the welcome conundrum of pricing yours. It’s a balancing act and entirely up to you. However, you should ask yourself if your main concern is to make as much cash as possible or to make as many children as happy as possible by reading your book. If it’s the latter, then royalty percentages will not seem so important. Keeping the price low could result in many more people deciding to buy your book. If you intend on producing more books, then I would suggest keeping your book as low as you can!
      Best of luck,
      Mark

  2. lauraeflores says:

    Always be closing. Takes me back to the days, when I worked on commission in the business of selling things to people. I will always remember this one old guy, who told me that he wasn’t gonna buy what I was selling, but he sure appreciated my moxy. It’s funny how things you never thought would come in handy, prove to be of most paramount importance.

  3. rjrugroden says:

    Thanks, Mark! I’ve recently decided that self-publishing is the way I want to go, and came to the same conclusion that offering both an eBook and a Print-on-demand option is the way to go.
    I was thinking of pricing my 360 page book at $7. But after thinking over your post, I realize that is probably too high. Would I pay $7 for a new author I’ve never heard about? (Okay, maybe I would, but I’m a sucker for new writers.)

    • shaelum says:

      Firstly, well done! Most people simply do not know just how much of an achievement writing a book is, so congratulations on making it to the finishing post! 😉
      Secondly, print-on-demand is well worth the extra effort. So far, I’ve found that my total paper sales are 50% of the ebook ones.
      Thirdly, lower the price, increase the readership…
      Best of luck,
      Mark

    • johanna buchanan says:

      Hi Mark,
      Thanks so much for this. I am publishing my book The Cinderella Reflex in November but as an ebook only. That was about as much work as I could handle for my first outing, although now the launch day is getting closer I’m getting a few pangs of regret about.
      Also I didn’t read the advice about starting to promote before you even finish your book so I’m having to do it all at once but it’s all a learning curve and a very exciting one.
      I’m so glad I read your blog today because one of my stumbling blocks this week was that EIN number you mention for the tax people and I didn’t have a clue where to start.
      Could you give me some advice about another hurdle? Do you have to be a technical wizard to upload your book to Amazon yourself? I’m not (a technical wizard) and kind of dreading it.
      Good luck with Mrs. God!

      • shaelum says:

        Hi Johanna,
        No technical wizard here! To be honest, uploading to Amazon is as easy as attaching a picture and a text file to an email. They make it really easy to follow, though your heart will be in your mouth the whole time.
        Don’t worry about your feelings of regret – this is natural. If you were super-confident, then I would be worried. I felt almost depressed because I thought my manuscript would never be in good shape, then felt immense doubt that people would ever like it. You have to trust in your own talent and in your story. Once you believe that you have done as much as you could have done, and you are happy with the book, press publish.
        The beauty of self-publishing an ebook is that you can update and tinker with it as much as you like – to fix little things, not revise the whole thing!
        To answer your main question: you don’t need to be a technical wizard, you just have to know your book, know it’s best assets, and I would suggest you upload it keep it in draft until you’re definitely, definitely, happy for it to be unleashed upon the world!
        Thanks for your kind words and drop by my blog at shaelum.wordpress.com for updates… and let me know how you are doing.
        Mark

    • shaelum says:

      Hop aboard the self-publishing rollercoaster, Aussa! It has many ups and downs, you’ll be scared witless, but you’ll be so proud you took the trip.
      Just remember that you’re not the only one on board!
      Best of luck,
      Mark

  4. rosedandrea says:

    Reblogged this on Rose's Road and commented:
    I’m working my way through this list of self-publishing to-do’s. It’s a bit of work. Some of them are simply going to have to wait until I have a little money to work with, but they are on my list. It just has a slightly different order than that of other authors. And that’s O.K., not everyone takes the same path. It has taken me a while to be calm about these facts, but now that I have the voices in my head have stopped screaming at each other (at least, most of them).

    • shaelum says:

      Hi Rose,
      As the saying goes, there’s many ways to skin a caterpillar! A lot of people who’ve made contact have been filled with anxiety over the process of self-publishing. If I can give you three pieces of advice, it’s these: 1) Don’t panic!; 2) Have faith in yourself, you probably won’t win a Pulitzer or become a gazillionaire through writing, but you will be scratching that giant itch that has become part of who you are, so write for yourself first and foremost; and 3) Get your book out there and let people know.
      We are writers, not self-publishers. Let’s keep our energy so we can create worlds first, books second.
      Hope this helps,
      Mark

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