At the risk of sounding arrogant, I seem to have figured out a thing or two about this whole “self-published author” thing, and since I keep getting asked for advice by aspiring and new Indie Authors I thought I’d share a little of what I’ve learned over these past two years. For the record, the title of this post is meant to be taken in good fun: I still don’t consider myself a “best-seller”, though the amazing performance (in my eyes, at least) of City of Scars and the surprising consistency of the Blood Skies series does have me wondering if I’m not just living in denial. ;D
Either way, for what it’s worth, here you go: The Super Quick Guide to How to Create a Best-Selling Ebook. Because we don’t have time for long lists around here.
Step #1: Read
Yeah, read. A lot. Then read some more. Reads books in your genre, reads books out of your genre. Read books by authors you like, and books by authors you hate. Read non-fiction, read travel guides, read recipe books. But read.
Also, watch TV, and watch movies. Don’t look at me like that – you can learn a lot about storytelling from television and film, not to mention good and bad ways to reveal information, develop characters, and end chapters.
Step #2: Take Notes
They don’t need to be organized (my notes are little notations I type onto my iPhone, for crying out loud). But good ideas come at the craziest moments, and it’s your job as a writer to capture them, even when it’s totally inconvenient to do so. Make lists of cool images, characters, or even lines of description or dialogue. Write down the things that scare you, or that make you laugh. Take note of the book covers or movie posters you see that intrigue you, and why. Write down things you like about your friends and hate about your enemies. You can use all of that stuff.
Step #3: Write the Book Sorry, I’m not going to elaborate on this one. It takes effort, diligence, routine, dedication, and a little bit of insanity. Work it into to your schedule, even if you don’t have a schedule. If you only get 8 minutes of free time while you’re waiting on the corner between buses during your lunch hour, figure out a way to spend those 8 minutes writing.
Step #4: Edit
This should actually be a dozen different steps, but I’ll break it down for you – edit, edit, edit, and edit again. Get feedback, or professional help. (With the editing…the “other” sort of professional help comes later. ;D) Get feedback from peers, fans, or the guy sitting next to you at the lunch table. Read it, and fix the problems with the parts you don’t like. Read it again. If you’re not utterly sick of your book by the time it’s finally ready to go (for me this usually takes six or more complete readings from start to finish), then you’re not doing it right.
Step #5: Get a Cover
Unless you have mad photoshop or artistic talents beyond just writing, get a professional cover done. Yes, it can be pricey (the same goes for getting a professional editor). But yes, it’s worth it. Find an artist whose work you like, who’s reliable, and who can translate your insane ramblings into something tangible. A book never feels “real” to me until I have a cover to prove to the world it really exists, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with two very talented cover artists who’ve been able to translate my brain turds into beautiful images.
Step #6: Get Support
This is that annoying part of the recipe where it says “Step #6 – Now, take the meat you’ve been marinating for 3 hours…”, even though at nowhere up to that point had the recipe even mentioned that meat was going to be involved. Unless you have a publisher (and, honestly, even if you do), you need to build an online presence. No, there’s no sure-fire way to do this. Try blogging. Get on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc. Find people with similar interests (there is a HUGE community of Independently Published Authors out there, and most of them have the same questions and problems that you do). Leave comments on other people’s blogs. Support them by spreading the word about their projects. Get involved with a writing group. Be present.
Step #7: Get A Plan
Decide when your book is going to release. Tell people. Ask them to get involved with spreading the word, and make it worth their while. Knowing your (approximate) release date will also make it easier for you to plan things like when you need to be finished editing, when you need to have the cover from your artist, etc. If you know book bloggers or friendly readers who like to help out then give them some free copies and ask them to leave reviews.
Step #8: Release the Book, and Breathe
This step may involve drinking.
Step #9: Get Lucky
This one, as we all know, is completely out of your control. Obviously the more books you write and the more effective you are at spreading the word the better you’ll sell. Hypothetically. But sometimes what you do doesn’t matter, or it takes something out of your control to get you the (relative) level of fame you deserve. A popular book blogger you’ve never even heard of might randomly decide to feature your book one day through no fault of your own, or a hot new movie might come out that features the exact same search terms as the title of your novel, and before you know if you’re the talk of the virtual town. Who knows? All you can do is take command of the factors that are in your control. Until you do that, nothing else is ever going to happen.
About the Author
Steven Montano writes his ass off. It’s proved to be a decent weight loss program. The author of the Blood Skies dark fantasy series and City of Scars, Steve is most often found lurking on Twitter or screaming at the top of his lungs out in the parking lot. Find out more at http://bloodskies.com/.