We have at RazberryJuice taken an interest in online publishing, praising the Kindle and EReaders, reviewing ebooks and speaking to authors. It seemed to us the next logical step was to speak to Suzanne Fyhrie Parrott of UnrulyGuides.com a DIY Self-Publishing resource, offering guides, kits and tutorials for the self-publishing author. Her site condenses down the self-publishing process into easy to understand terms, providing tips, tutorials, and tools, as well as step-by-step videos making the process a lot less painful.
It must be overwhelming for a first author, with their book finished and they hope ready for an eager audience of readers! Publishing online appears at first glance to be the easiest way to go, with the possibility of quick returns. But in your experience, what are the pitfalls that many first time self-publishing authors fall into, and how can they be avoided?
Expect to spend money to achieve professional results: editing, book cover design and ebook formatting. You laboured over your work – it has become a part of you. Why would you want to wrap your 'child' in old newspapers?
Most authors want to jump right in and format their book for publication but I want to express a work of caution. Literally overnight, thousands of self proclaimed publishers and conversion "experts" have popped up to gain your business. Many have no more experience than your average person, using popular conversion tools to automatically do the work without truly understanding design and formatting basics to create a well-formatted book. Research the service before hiring. Check out their website, ask for referrals and examples of work they have done. If necessary, buy a book they have produced and evaluate it on your own device or app.
Every book needs a killer book cover. It's the first thing potential readers see. With the competition growing into the millions you'll need a book that literally screams – buy me! Again, don't skimp on the book cover design. Work with a professional that understands your target audience. View examples and choose the professional that fits your style needs.
A professional formatter will not only convert your file but will ensure it adheres to the required standards of the devices for which it will be distributed.
Lastly, do not expect to be the next JK Rowling. You are competing with millions of authors – most who will never make a sale. And their greatest failing isn't a poor novel but a failure to plan. You'll soon discover as a self-publishing author, writing your manuscript was the easy part – now comes the hard work.
The rejection of the traditional route of paper publishers is all but eliminated when self-publishing, being replaced by an equally soul destroying rejection of your book simply not selling! With the recent furore around books such 50 Shades of Gray, a book some would say lacks the finesse of a finished polished novel, but has nonetheless made its author very rich indeed. What marks out a successful self-published ebook in your opinion?
Marketing, promotion and knowing your target audience. Many authors publish a book and do nothing to promote it. They expect the book to be magically found and they'll become a household name. I wish it were that simple but, alas, being a writer is hard work. In fact, you are a business and like any business, you need to find customers and establish yourself as a trusted 'expert'.
You can achieve a lot without expending much or any money. Establish accounts on the social media (Facebook, Twitter), set up a blog or website and offer helpful tips and advice (what you learned along your path to self-publishing), find reader groups in your genre and participate, offer contests, make a book trailer and put it on YouTube – the options are numerous and they only take a few hours a day to engage with potential readers.
What inspired you to create Unruly Guides? What kind of help and support can a first time author expect when visiting Unruly Guides?
I first established Unruly Guides as a free source for anyone to learn about the e-reader phenomenon. I realized it was confusing to many, including myself. Everything I read seemed to indicate it was totally new and foreign.
What I discovered was these new ebooks (epub and mobi) were not much different than creating a website, something I had done for over 15 years. The foundation was the same, HTML, and so I wanted to share this knowledge to my readers.
I offer articles and tips as well as step-by-step videos, in (hopefully) an easy to understand format so authors can learn the basics of self-publishing. The site is a stepping stone, one that many have taken and successfully achieved their goals.
I also personally answer every email and comment received, though it may take a few days. Currently I spend two hours every morning answering author concerns and questions. As I can't spend all my time on email, I plan to set up a FAQ database system to help with the most common questions.
Its is always interesting how someone comes into what is a new genre, UnrulyGuides couldn’t have existed ten years ago, so how did you wend your way into the world of ebook self-publishing?
Ebooks aren't really new and the epub and mobi formats are just a 'different' packaging system, so the transition into e-books was rather seamless. However, when any new way to advertise arises, I try to see what it can offer my current clientele.
When the Internet emerged, websites were on the top of the list for my clients. This was at a time when it wasn't taught in schools and you had to learn it through the limited sources that were offered online.
When PDFs became popular, my clients were able to offer brochures and reports in a more cost effective way than printing. It also offered me an easy way to provide downloadable step-by-step tutorials for my visitors on the basics of using the Internet, such as marketing, advertising and search engine optimization.
Epubs and mobis are just another media, and fortunately, with the HTML foundation, were very similar to what I have already been creating for the past 15 years, so the move was rather seamless.
Finally, what would be your top five tips for the author sitting reading this with their magnum opus safely tucked away on their word processor?
Think of your writing as a business. You need to set a deadline for every step to self-publish your book. Write all the things you want or need, estimate the time and then double it. It is better to have more time to achieve your goals than to continually extending them, or worse, doing a shoddy job trying to meet your timeframe.
Establish and online presence. Readers want to know who you are and the easiest way is a website or blog. Blogs, such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com offer their services for free so you have no excuse to not set one up – right now.
Find your target audience. Facebook, Twitter, discussion groups – there are dozens of places you can use to seek out and find your target audience. Amazon has several discussion groups, where you can engage with potential readers. But do not push your wares at first – engage with them, offer help and ask questions. Your target isn't the entire world, but those select few that like your style of writing, whether it be 100 or 1 million.
Write an error-free bio. This can be used in numerous ways. Having a short bio attached to your email (via the free service Gravatar.com) means that every time you post on a blog, that bio follows you. And if you include your email in the bio, then not only do you offer readers to find you, you are providing a link back to your site.
Have your book professionally edited, formatted and designed. Nothing kills a readers attention faster than shoddy writing. And you can't grab a readers attention without a well designed cover. Don't skimp in any of these areas. You owe it to yourself to provide the best for your book.
In conclusion, don't let anyone say you can't write. Do the absolute best you can. Don't fret over bad reviews or rude comments (in fact, just ignore them). And once your book is published and you are establishing a readership you owe it to them to write another.
Just for RazberryJuice Readers