Self-Publishing: A beginner's guide by a beginner
Where to begin. I'm going to assume you have gone through multiple edits, paid an editor and are ready for the next steps. There is so much information out there about publishing your own stuff, much of it contradictory. So how do you self publish a book? To be honest that part is simple. Having a successful launch is much more difficult. That's the part I am still trying to perfect, and I could fill a book on what not to do. Much of what I am going to put into this post is what not to do.
Where to publish?
There are many platforms to publish on. The most popular being Amazon all the way down to Wattpad. Each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. I'll run through a few of these. A word of caution. With very few exceptions. If someone want's you to pay them to publish your book, run! it's a scam.
Amazon KDP- if you web search this it will bring you to their author self publishing tool. It is super easy to use and has some pretty powerful tools to go along with it. What they don't tell you is after you publish, you will need to use Amazon author central, their marketing platform which is intimidating and if you 're serious about extracting every penny from your sales Amazon associates.
I say their marketing because if you don't use it, well no one will find your books except your close friends and relatives. It's complicated beyond that. Because Amazon uses bots to fish for information on you, if any of your friends/relatives review your book once it's live, than the program deletes the review. Too many violations and it locks your book from receiving new reviews for a while. And that hurts your sales rank. Which makes your adds less likely to work.
It's very complicated and frustrating. But there are some workarounds.
Have a separate social media account for your author or pen name and don't friend many people.
Use unconventional networking like Discord or Reddit(more on that later)
Don't have any of your ARC readers be friends with you, communicate through Email (seriously, many of my ARC readers though legit were blocked from reviewing even though they were strangers)
Make sure you follow Amazon guidelines when having your ARC reviews post,
Don't use pay for review sites, personally I have never done it but there are horror stories on sites like Reddit from people who have.
If I may predict the future here. I think that a combination of poor customer service, dwindling profits from the platform and the complicated biased algorithm will eventually kill Amazon, at least as a "Only publish here" destination. It is difficult to succeed unless you are willing to pay a lot of money to them or get lucky and hit critical mass and your book sells like crazy. To someone like me who does this as a hobby. The gamble of spending $1200 on marketing isn't worth it.
B&N Press- I honestly can't speak to the intricacies of this one the same as I did for amazon. This is somewhere I will look at in the future, after I change my first book. Their platform is clean and neet, and from my web research looks as easy to use as KDP.
Wattpad, Fiction Press, Commaful- All of these are platforms to publish web novels, of the three I like Wattpad the most. Commaful isn't bad, it is just had to monatize and difficult to use in my opinion. Fiction press is archaic and frankly every time I use it I feel like I need the digital equivalent of a tetanus shot.
Like Reddit (Another good place to post a web novel) the stories are voted. The more votes, the more exposure. So marketing them on social media and to your friends will actually be effective here. Wattpad has the added benefit of allowing you to communicate with fans.
Admittedly, this is a weakness of mine. In the year and a half I have been trying to figure this out, I have had some minor successes.
Marketing starts with your cover. If you make one yourself, get feedback from honest people who don't mind making you cry, or pay someone to do it for you choose trust worthy sources if a deal seems too good to be true, it is. move on. Compare your work or hired work to covers that are selling well. If it is appealing and looks good, it's probably okay. The saying, "don't judge a book by its cover" forget it. It will only cause you grief, pain, and suffering. You need a good cover.
Next is your blurb. You wan't it to be honest, draw the reader in while staying brief. If the reader makes it through, they will look inside your book, purchase it, or move on. If the blurb isn't honest, the reader will let you know in the form of a negative review (which can draumatically drop your sales rank on amazon). Or a partially read book on kindle unlimited if you have opted for that program.
I cannot stress how important those parts are. Especially if you are a nobody. Meaning you have no fanbase or are not already famous.
Social Media marketing. There are many blogs and resources online. Most I havn't found all that helpful as the dynamic is constantly changing. Users float from one group to the next. One week, a new group will be popular and then the next the activity drops to almost nothing. And then, months later the group will again be active. (I say groups, but this applies to hastags and subreddits as well.) You have to keep your ear to the ground and keep an eye out. Look for the post with most engagements and copy what they are doing (In your own style). Find catchy ways to draw readers attention. I hate to use the word click bait but that's sort of what you will be going for. But again be honest. If you say "You wont believe what the MC does when he finds out his grandma is alive" and the line has nothing to do with the story. Again, your reader will let you know.
If you want to pay groups to do this, let me know how it goes. again, that is not an area I'm willing to risk my money.
Paid for advertising. Many of the above ideas apply. But unless you have a few reviews this is a waste of money. So it is important to get your ARC readers in line and ready for your launch day if you want to run any adds. This is the area that I am the weakest but I suggest watching Kindleprenuer videos. if you are interested in the topic.