The Elements of a Non-Fiction Self-Publishing Success Story

May 9, 2014

As several of our self-publishing clients prepare to launch their books this season, we’ve been thinking about which elements of a self-publishing strategy most directly determine the success of the project. We’re fortunate to have seen some remarkable success stories, so we have lots to say on this topic. This is the first post in a series that will explore what makes a self-publishing strategy successful, and how authors can implement these ideas and tools in their own publishing plans. 

Setting yourself up for success: start as you mean to go on

One of the most difficult parts of the self-publishing journey is mapping out a great strategy from the very beginning of the process. Publishing combines so many different activities and areas of expertise; it’s hard enough to figure out what to do and how to do it, let alone when to tackle each task. This is especially true if you’re new to the process or if you don’t have lots of time on your hands to figure it all out. We’ve listed below a few critical items that we think all self-publishers should consider as early as possible in their publishing journeys.

Hone your pitch

Okay, so we’ve said this once or twice before, but we can’t stress it enough. Hone your pitch. Figure out the crux of your book – what exactly is it trying to do? What exactly are you trying to say? Where would it sit on the shelf and how is it different from the other books around it? Why would people want to read it? Get as specific as you can in the way you articulate your response to these questions. If you nail your pitch, you’ll have a better chance of expressing the book’s meaning and value to people whose response will be critical to its success, throughout the entire publication process.

Consider your sales and marketing strategy early in the process

Too often, we think of sales and marketing after we’ve addressed all of our editorial and production considerations. You don’t need to have your entire sales and marketing plan mapped out on day one, but if you give serious thought to it early on, you can substantially enhance your book’s potential. For example, we’re working with a self-publishing client who started building a list of potential media contacts while she was still revising and editing the manuscript. Now that the manuscript is polished and ready to go, she and her publicist have plenty of time to pitch excerpts and profile ideas to magazine and newspaper editors before the book’s official publication date in the fall. This is especially important for “long-leads” – publications whose editorial content is finalized months ahead of time – as their editors don’t have the ability to slide new articles in at the last minute.

Spend time up-front to get advice that will serve you well throughout your entire project

Many of the self-publishing clients who engage us partway through their book projects tell us that they wish they had consulted with us at the very beginning. We are extremely supportive of a do-it-yourself approach and many of our clients are entrepreneurs and self-starters. But as with any business, it can be very helpful to get some expert advice at the beginning of a publishing project, even if you plan to tackle most of the execution yourself. An acquaintance of ours hired a graphic designer in his network who was talented but who hadn’t designed books before. He wasn’t concerned about this until he realized that he and the designer were spending several extra hours researching book-specific design specifications, such as how to determine the book’s spine width and where to get a barcode. In retrospect, he said he would’ve preferred to have a publishing expert refer him to a book designer who could’ve addressed those issues as a seamless part of the process, saving him both time and money.

There are many great sources of publishing expertise out there, so we recommend consulting with someone you trust who has plenty of experience in the industry. This doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive: in addition to our agency work and longer-term, project-based services, Page Two offers short strategy consultations that can help point authors in the right direction and get you off to a great start.

With these thoughts in mind, you have the foundation for a strong self-publishing project. Our next blog post in the series is about how to find a successful book idea.

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