The most important thing

I go to writers conferences certain that I will learn something new about writing, whether it be craft, motivation, or promotion.

Yesterday was no exception. I attended the Carolinas Writers Conference in Wadesboro, NC, and given a variety of workshops, I chose to sit in  on L. Diane Wolfe’s publishing classes. Wolfe is owner of Dancing Lemur Press.

Wolfe told us things that make sense: know your goals, know your target audience, know your genre. She talked about traditional vs. self-publishing. As she talked about publishing your own work, I took special notice. I have published both ways. I self-pubbed one book just to test the waters, and three more when the traditional publisher went out of business and I got my rights back.

Listening to Wolfe, I realized I made a fatal mistake. When I self-pubbed though Create Space, I let them assign an ISBN. Little did I know that this immediately branded my book as a vanity book, locking it out of any respected distributors. The chance of seeing them on a bookstore’s shelves plummeted to zero unless I took a box of them to the physical store and begged the manager to sell them on consignment.

Here is the most important thing: if you are going to self-pub, do it as a business.

That’s right. Pick a name  (do a search to make sure it’s original). Take yourself to the town hall and register it. Then get a sales license. None of this costs much and if you are unsure how to go about it, make an appointment (free) with the Small Business Center of your local community college.

You should also create a logo. If you are not artistic, go to Fivrr and for $5 an artist will create one for you.

Now when you log into Create Space (or other venue — I’m only familiar with Amazon) you put your book in as a publisher and use your own ISBN, which you will purchase from Bowker. Wolfe said it makes sense to buy in bulk and I agree. You aren’t going to publish just one book. and you need separate ISBNs for the print and e-version or your book.

A word about this. Bowker is the only place you should purchase your ISBN from, although there are many sites that offer them at a discount. Yes, it is expensive but in this case it is worth it. The discounted numbers are still owned by the company that sells them to you. You are only leasing it and the number will not identify you as the owner, but the company you purchased it from.

The second thing I learned is not to rush. Give yourself at least three months, and preferably six, to do advance promotion of your book. Send out ARCs (advance reading copies) to reviewers and bloggers, get endorsements, put the information in your newsletter and mailing list, and sign up for virtual tours. Talk to clubs and organizations, and write articles, not necessarily about your book, but on a subject your book touches on. Then gently mention your book toward the end.

Generate interest before the book is released.

And after you hit the publish now button, you keep going. Promotion is constant, not just before and after the book comes out.

So that is what I learned and I thought it was important enough to pass along. I wish I’d known this before I self-published, but you can bet it I decide to do it in the future I will follow this path.




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