Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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April 9, 2018

Advice for the Soon to be (Self)-Published

Ann Griffin

As I write this, it is T+ 6 weeks and counting, since my debut novel, Another Ocean to Cross, was released to the world. Since then, I have sold about 150 copies through all outlets, received 12 reviews (all positive,) held 4 launch events, and scheduled 3 more for April, and had the pleasant experience of depositing money in the bank, for a change.

I’d like to share with you some of the things I have done that are working well for me.


Talk to the Groups You Know Ahead of Time

Don’t be bashful. Most people are thrilled to know a real author.

I belong to a church choir, a golf league, a retirees group, and a dog lovers’ group in my home town of Mesa, Arizona. I spoke with them about my book, and to my surprise, they were all interested. As a result, I scheduled three events, and sold sixty books.

Create a Presentation

I created a twenty-minute Powerpoint presentation, with photos, about how I researched my book. The listeners positively ate it up. One of them told me afterwards, she had never before given any thought to how much work the writer had put into it a book.

Then, I let people ask questions. (A planned book reading disappeared into the black hole of my overstimulated brain, but my error did not dampen the excitement of the day, and I won’t leave it out next time.)

Refreshments, including a gorgeous cake and champagne, went over very well. However, I bought too much food and drink. People were far more interested in buying their book and talking with one another.

Enlist your Friends

I enlisted the help of several friends to answer the door, look after the food, drinks, and take photographs. Another accepted payments, while I signed the books, inserted a bookmark, and smiled beatifically. It made a tremendous difference, not having to worry about anything but my presentation.

You’re Starting a Business

(If you are traditionally publishing, skip to the next heading.)

I decided to form an LLC, which costs little, and adds professionalism to my work. The LLC and government EIN number allowed me to open a separate checking and credit card account for my business. This is not required, but makes life a lot easier in tax season.

I obtained a local business license, which obligates me to collect and remit sales tax. Check with your local or state government.

After looking in my garage for a decent substitute and finding none, I sprung for a cash box and keep a decent float in it. I purchased a “for deposit only” stamp for the backs of checks.

What about credit cards? I agonized over this a bit, since one doesn’t have to take them, but decided I did not want to lose potential sales. I opted for the Square device that plugs into your smartphone or tablet. It is easy to use, the service fee is reasonable, and hey, I got those sales!

I paid to have my books (the financial kind) professionally set up. I loathe this end of the business, but the $150 I spent on my bookkeeper has given me confidence that I won’t run afoul of the IRS next year.

The Marketing, oh, the Marketing

The biggest rule of marketing is, “make it easy for people to find and buy your book.”

Others, more experienced than me, have written plenty on this intimidating subject. I’m not going to do more than scrape the thinnest bit off the crust, but here’s what I have done so far:

  • I posted links to websites carrying my book, on my social media sites.
  • I opted to use com for my newsletter list. It wasn’t as hard as I had expected. I only have 185 names on it so far, but it is a start, and every time I sell a book in person, I ask the buyer if she wants to be on my list. The vast majority say, “yes.”
  • I advertised all my launch events anywhere I could, while not spending a fortune.
  • My readers are probably tired of me asking for reviews, but now I have twelve.
  • I created an author Amazon page.
  • My website has undergone a lot of updating, now that I have reviewer quotes to share.
  • A blog post forces me to think about what I have learned, so I can share with others who might want to know.
  • Keep alert for unusual places to get the word out. For example, I attended a local women’s networking meeting, and now I have contributed an article about my book to their magazine with a circulation of over 6000.
  • I visited my local library, and the helpful librarian quickly signed me up for a local author book fair, an individual presentation/signing, and local author of the month next October.
  • What about friends in Tuscaloosa who want a signed copy? I had unique bookplates designed and printed. I mail signed bookplates, as readers request them.
  • I’m currently in discussion with bookstores in Toronto and Waterloo, Ontario, and sent an optimistic letter to a bookstore in Yorkshire, England, asking for a book signing event.

My life has changed since I published my book. People look at me differently. They treat me as though I am an authority on writing. (If they only knew!) Even other writers give me a new level of respect. I feel different, too, having accomplished an enormous goal I set years ago. So for those of you not quite in the “published” world yet, don’t give up! The effort and time will be worth it.

Do you have additional tips for what to do when self- or traditional-publishing? Do you have questions for Ann?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Ann:

Ann Griffin has lived in three countries (UK, Canada, and USA) and four states, so the hardest question anyone can ask her is, “Where are you from?” She loves historical fiction. Family stories and family secrets have provided her with much fodder for her writing, and she does not anticipate running out of ideas anytime soon.

Website: http://anngriffinwriter.com

Email: info@anngriffinwriter.com

Facebook:  facebook.com/anngriffinwriter/

49 comments on “Advice for the Soon to be (Self)-Published”

  1. Thank you for this practical glimpse into your journey. I'm considering an LLC since I managed to get back the rights to all my novels from the micropress that first published them. Will your LLC make any difference if you decide to go with a traditional publisher on a book later?

    1. Only if a traditional publisher wants to publish this first book. If that happens, unlikely though it is, I would shut down the LLC.

  2. Good advice, and thanks. I got started when indie publishing was in its infancy and had no clue whether it would work. Because there was no history, or any 'template' to follow, I just muddled along starting with a remaindered title. I took every money-saving route available because I wasn't going to invest a lot of money into something that might be a fleeting fad. And, because I had a ton of those remaindered hard cover books, I saw no need to do anything but digital. I thought about a publishing imprint, but that also required hoops to jump through and money, so I listed myself as the publisher.

    Things worked out okay for me, albeit slowly, but my 25th publication is about ready to go, and I've moved totally indie. I admire your systematic approach, and that you have circles of friends who support you. I belong to a book club through a library, and none of the members buy the monthly selections. I had one woman approach me with a book of mine to sign, and she gleefully told me how thrilled she was to find it at a garage sale and get it for a dollar.

    95% of my income comes from my ebooks now. However, I still make print available for the occasional signing, contest giveaway, and .. my mom.

    1. Terry, you're an indie pioneer! Thanks for your story. It puzzles me that so many people cheap out on books. Thankfully , and I'm not sure why, not a single friend has asked for a free copy . I gave freebies only to those listed in my acknowledgements section and immediate family. I have a paperback and ebooks, but so far the money is coning in through the paperbacks.

    1. Typo, sorry. I left an all caps reply below to address this, but it is tinyletter.com.

  3. I love the picture of you on the floor with books in hand! I help people write their memoirs and that's the same look I see on their faces when the shipment of books arrive. And you're dead-on with the advice to keep talking to people. Most of my clients place a small order, just enough copies to give to family members. But the ones who are more extroverted and happy to talk about their book are the ones who always come back to order more--for their personal trainer, their second cousin twice removed, that lady in the checkout lane at the grocery store....
    A quick word about Kathy's LLC question. If I understand it correctly, the main reason to get an LLC, besides the authority it lends your brand, is to keep your personal assets protected in case of a lawsuit.
    Good luck promoting your book and congratulations!

      1. If you do go with an LLC, it was easy to do online with my state's website for small businesses. Another writer I spoke with had spend over a thousand dollars for a lawyer to create her LLC, but then she didn't know how to use it. I'd argue against such an expensive route. Another factoid: if you have an LLC and are selling books from your home or various local places, you may be expected to collect sales tax. That requires a business license and a bookkeeper to help you set up your books at a minimum. I did that, but I'm not good at it, and I may hire her to do most of my books once a month.

        1. Thanks! We have an LLC for my husband's business, so I'm somewhat familiar. And I splurge on a pro for some of the bookkeeping and tax issues, too. It clears my head for other things. Like writing!

    1. I'm smiling... I'm that person who talks to anyone about my book. I even sold one to a library volunteer, right after I had dropped off a copy for their circulation! Re the LLC. I'm no lawyer, but it will only protect you if you keep your business and personal finances clearly separated . Check with your attorney if avoiding lawsuits is one of your goals.

  4. Just as readers often don't realize how much research authors do while writing books, many often don't realize how much business and marketing goes into being an author. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. You're right, Julie. Hooking up with other authors online and in person has helped me. Two have reviewed my book, and others have shared their strategies or even asked me to piggyback on some of their activities.

  5. What experience did you have getting your book into libraries? I hear it is difficult for books not from traditional publishers.

    1. See my reply below. I'm working from my tablet, and my reply didn't go under your comment.


  7. I walked into the library and offered them a copy for circulation. Now I must wait and see if it gets enough interest that they wnt more copies, in which case they will order them from Ingram Spark. They are unlikely to order from Amazon. My story is internation, so I wanted the book to be available beyond Amazon, which is why I distributed through Ingram Spark as well as Amazon. The limitation is, you can't use KU or run giveaways on Amazon while using IS.

  8. Congrats Ann! I love the cover of your book. Your Amazon book page and author page look great. I would recommend you end your "About The Author" section with a line like: Read more from Ann at her website [insert url]. You can do that on the book page and the author page. I don't think it will appear as a link, but at least people can copy and paste the url. I even leave my social media urls there and encourage people to follow. Good luck with everything!

    1. Thanks for the extra tips, Eva. I'll add my website link to my author page. I've had many compliments on the book's cover, which was designed by a graphic artist in the Phillipines. I agree, you can't spread your online locations too far or too wide!

  9. A most interesting article, so interesting I'm going to share it with my friend who is thinking about the self-publishing route. I wish you every success with your book. I am going to check it out on Amazon. Promoting your book through an article like this can only lead to more interest. Your slideshow looked fascinating from the photo - certainly that was what got my attention and interest. Great ideas all round! At the local library where our Writers Group has met for the last 9 years, we managed to get a Local Author shelf. It took a lot of hard work and pressure over several years but we picked up a great new member from it and hopefully he gained more readers by it.

    1. Gill, I hope your friend finds the article helpful, and I hope you enjoy my book. The slideshow I developed from a combination of other presentations. Mostly, in my experience, authors talk about some of the ideas and events that led to their book. In past work, I used Power Point quite often, and thinking of all the research I'd done for this book, I decided it could be a useful tool. That proved to be the case when out of thirty people attending, I sold twenty-three books. Regarding local libraries, I'm fortunate to have a librarian who champions local authors. And it helps that Diana Gabaldon is a local author here (!) We have several shelves dedicated to our books plus a local author book fair held annually. Congrats on getting some attention for your local authors!

  10. Thanks for an informative and upbeat post, Ann! I'm getting so much out of your responses to the comments, too. I so wish I were an extrovert...Last night I was at dinner with several friends and one asked how the book was doing and another asked when the next in the series will come out. I came alive talking about them, and it was such a happy feeling.

    1. Thanks, Fae! Taking advantage of your friend's opening was a great thing to do. I've become a little more brash, but I, too, had friends nagging me, saying, "Ann, when is your book coming out?" Giving them a date stoked their interest. The next phase is coming soon, when I run out of friends.

  11. Your "Advice" blog post is loaded with info. Thanks so much for sharing it with Writers In The Storm Blog followers. All the luck with your new release.

    1. Victoria, you are so welcome. I love belonging to writers' groups where we freely share our hard-earned wisdom. Best of luck to you, too.

  12. Thanks for an upbeat post stuffed with practical action steps. I saw you on the WFWA webinar several weeks ago - so you certainly do know how to get your name out there!

  13. Congratulations. There are many ways to do indie publishing. I'm going on three years as an indie author, and honestly, I have so much control this way, I wouldn't do it any other way. I don't sell books. All my sells at present go through Amazon Unlimited. I make more money out of their lending program than direct sales. I just started doing paid promotions with a free novella. I had 4500 downloads with, so far, about 1000 spillover paid books from others in the series. I have 10 titles out and I expect I'll have to double that to make a decent consistent income. When you write in my genre, romance, you have to have multiple books in a series. It doesn't matter whether you're indie or trad published, you have to please your audience.

  14. Hello my name is Jacquelyn Pinkney I wrote a inspirational book entitled There Is Light At The End of the Tunnel. I want to be a self publisher. I have a limited income. My story need to be read and told. I live in Savannah Georgia. If you could help me please let me know.

    1. Hi Jacquelyn. The best advice I can give you is to read everything you can get your hands on about self-publishing. Jane Friedman and Joel Friedlander have excellent websites dedicated to self-publishing authors. They caution about the pitfalls, discuss the various publishing options, and give you a timeline to get your book self-published. I hope this helps and best of luck to you.

    1. Hi DHolcomb. Yes, local bookstores may have local author events. I did one last weekend and sold seven books, less than I would have liked, but more than I expected. Thank you for the reminder.

  15. Thanks so much for sharing! The marketing part was really helpful, and it's awesome to see/hear about how much you've done in person in terms of events and meetups

    1. You're welcome, Dibenami. Self-publishing requires an extraordinary amount of self-marketing, and it's all about putting yourself out there, even if you're a bit uncomfortable. I did another presentation this morning using the slide show, and received excellent feedback. Oh, and I sold ten more books. Each book sold chips away at my costs, and one of these days I may be in the black. All the best to you.

  16. How do you get a newsletter list of peoples emails going?? And what do you put in it if you haven't yet put out a full lenth novel??

    I blog, and have some crime fiction short stories published, but not many followers.

    1. Every time I sell a book, I ask if the buyer wants to be on my email list. Most say Yes. Before my book was out, I added all the friends who had expressed interest in the book. The newsletter content is constantly evolving. At first it was updates about the launch, and signing events. Then I included some early reviews. Now I add links to publications such as this blog post, and links to book reviews of others, info about historical fiction, anything I can think of to make it interesting . I have no doubt it will look very different
      In another few months.

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