London Writers’ Cafe is one of the biggest, liveliest writing groups in London. Last night, I_AM Self-Publishing proudly sponsored a sell-out panel session called: Are you ready to Self-Publish? Rows of authors filed in, keen to find out what they needed to do prior to self-publishing. Our director, Ali Dewji, was on the panel along with a great bunch of experts: Justine Solomons, founder of Byte the Book; Caroline Goldsmith, half of Red Button; Chris McCrudden of Midas PR and Andrew Lowe, a self-published author.
The panel were each asked what their top 3 tips were on what authors needed to do before they self-published. Despite the fact that the speakers all came at it from a slightly different angle, there was quite a bit of overlap so I have grouped their great tips below.
Top 5 tips from London Writers’ Cafe: Are You Ready to Self-Publish?
- Polish your content. The whole panel agreed that getting the content up to scratch before publication was crucial. They discussed working with peer reviewers (see our post on the writers’ feedback questionnaire), editors and proofreaders to get the manuscript in great shape. “We cannot cover-up crap,” added Chris McCrudden who knows just what it takes to get coverage for books. Before the marketing and publicity processes start, the book needs to be the absolute best it can be.
- Design matters. Ali Dewji explained that your cover will form the cornerstone of your author brand, so it is important to take the time to get it right. “Your cover needs to impress readers who will be attracted to well-designed books, press and blogger reviewers who will only want good-looking books on their pages and retailers who will only put good-looking books in promotions.” Andrew Lowe added that it’s not just the external design that counts but also the layout of the interior pages – the font, the margins, the spacing – all make a difference to the reading experience.
- Know what you want and how you will achieve it. “Have a strategy,” advised Caroline Goldsmith, and her words were echoed by Ali Dewji, who encouraged authors to think of self-publishing as setting up and launching a business: “You need a business plan, you need to know who your readers are and how to reach them.” Andrew Lowe very helpfully added that before you can draw up a plan, you need to work out exactly what you want – what your goals are and what success looks like to you.
- Marketing is not optional. Chris McCrudden dispelled the myth that authors don’t need to get involved in the marketing and the selling of their books. He explained that this was a fallacy, and that even traditionally published authors were having to get involved in actively promoting themselves. When there was some resistance to this from the audience, one marketeer in the audience gave an excellent piece of advice: “Approach your marking plan with the same creativity as you approach your book.” Authors are creative people with great ideas, and this should carry through to your marketing strategy too.
- Build your author platform as early as possible. “Don’t wait until the day you publish to tell people about your book.” It was Justine Solomons who first made this point, but it was backed up by all of the panel. Chris McCrudden added, “Join reader communities and get known within them.” Well in advance of your publication you should start chatting to these people and making friends. He warned authors against being too salesy or pushy when ingratiating themselves within these communities and instead advised them to be nice “on social media, being nice matters.”
We hope these tips will help you to think about whether you are really ready to self-publish. If you are not quite sure what is going to be best for your project, we’d love to give you some 1-on-1 advice. Book your free consultation here.
For more information on how to join London Writers’ Cafe and the exciting events that they have coming up, check out their MeetUp page here.