I asked some people if they had any questions about publishing, and the answer was "How do you publish?" So I'm going to cover self-publishing this week, and traditional publishing next week. I will also expand on certain points I will touch on at some point.
Have a Good Product
Pretty obvious and basic, but something that people constantly complain about self-published books lacking. Your book is not good enough. When you have gone through several drafts, edited it, perhaps given it to some friends to read, it is not good enough. If you published this traditionally, at least one editor would work with you on it for at least one more draft, probably more, in order to make it a product that will hopefully sell. So, how do you make it a good product?
Do several rewrites
An important beginning point, rewrite it several times, and leave space in between them. It is important to look at it with new, critical eyes and to do your best to make it the best book you can make it. It will be hard, it will hurt, but some things will have to go, and some things will have to be added. You will need to make major changes and minor changes. Write the first draft with that in mind.
Find beta readers
This is very important. Get the feedback of several people. Friends an family will do, but make sure to stress that you need them to tell you the problems. Remind them that if they don't tell you now, it will end up in the finished book, which is hurting you rather than helping you. Listen to their feedback, respond well, consider it, then decide if you want to use it.
Beta readers who are writers are very helpful as well. You can trade beta reading, as well as pay professional beta readers.
Send it to an editor
Do NOT publish your book before sending it to an editor. First get over-all, character, plot, and logic editing. Make sure that the base book is good. Be willing to listen to your editor, they know what they are talking about. However, you do not have to do everything that they tell you to do. Next, get an editor to do proofreading. One of the most frequent problems with indie books is grammar and spelling mistakes.
Have a good cover
Not exactly a part of having a good product, but you should have an eye-catching, fitting cover. You can usually tell the genre of a book at a glace, without the title. I could tell you one of those erotica "romance" books through frosted glass, and I don't even read them. You want your cover to make sense to your genre, but not be so close to others so as to look like a part of the mass.
Also, don't copy popular books. The main reason that I never read Divergent was because, on top of the similar setting, the cover looked so close to The Hunger Games. Seriously, a bland, dark background with a circular symbol? A bit familiar.
Choose a Good PlatformOne of the most important factors for visibility and profitability is how and where you self-publish. There are two types of platforms, print and electronic, and two forms within them, hosted and self-hosted.
POD is the easiest, though least profitable, method of selling print books. You find a company such as CreateSpace, upload your document and cover, set your price, and they take care of the rest. Once someone orders your book, they print a single copy of it and ship it. Because of the one-at-a-time printing method, they are more expensive to make, which is why it will be less profitable. But still, you don't have to take care of it yourself.
En mass printing
Another option is to pay a printing company to make a large number of your books (the more they print, the cheaper per book) and then sell and ship them yourself. This involves more effort (and storage space) but you will earn more money.
Mini publishing company
The last printing option is to purchase your own printing equipment and do the whole process yourself. This has a huge start-up cost, but would eventually get you more money, if you sell enough books.
There are a variety of places that will host your ebook, from Amazon's KDP to Smashwords. These work pretty similarly to POD, in that you just upload everything, and the they sell your book, while taking a cut. The cut is generally smaller than with print books due to there being no printing costs, but the price of ebooks are usually cheaper too.
You can make your own ebooks (as PDFs or mobile files) and sell them on your blog or website. This generally has less visibility than when they are hosted and is harder to do, but you get more money per book.
Market Your Book
Marketing is one of the things that most authors hate doing, but it is extremely important. There are infinite ways to market your books, so I'll just give some tips on how to go about it.
Begin marketing before your book is ready
I used to think that I didn't want to market my books until they were released so that people could buy them immediately. However, marketing your book before it is out allows you to build up interest before the big day. Don't market too early, though, or people will forget about it.
Use free methods
There are lots of ways to advertise your book for free, and many of them are very effective. Pinterest is a great one, if you already have it, as well as Tumblr, Twitter, etc. A blog or website is great too. (You should probably have at least a website, even if you don't pay much attention to it.) They are more natural ways of getting your book out there. People tend to ignore ads, knowing that they are ads, and thus not actually of interest to them.
Don't be obnoxious
It is easy to fall into the trap of posting a bunch of "Buy my book!" tweets/blog posts/etc., but in the end this will just annoy people. Be nice, think of your customers, and keep promotional posts of any kind down to 50% or less.
Find the good paid services
There are certain paid things that are completely worth it. Whether this is a book tour, an ad in a big magazine, or paying to get an awesome website, is dependent on your book, platform, and who is offering the service. Be careful with this, you don't want to go overboard, but do keep it in mind. A few good paid services can really help to launch your books.
Bonus tip: Paying for followers, likes, subscribers, etc. is never a good expense.
Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK and on Tumblr here: http://dragonheartetk.tumblr.com/