I've been self-publishing since January 2010, and now with four of my own titles out there in Indie land here is some of the advice I give others starting out.
- Edit: I have so much to say! I've tried to keep it short hence the 'Top 10 Tips', but if you have any questions or are left wanting more, feel free to drop me a note to pick my brains.
1. Don't expect things to happen over night, unless you have a great platform in the first place (a really large blog following, mailing list, are an expert in your field, or you're Snooki) then sales are not going to just come right away. Unlike in the traditional publishing world, it's okay if your sales don't happen in the first six weeks though.
It can actually take 10-12 months for things to really happen and for all your marketing efforts to kick in, even if you start your promotions early. That sounds like a long time, but keep in mind that if you were publishing traditionally you'd be waiting that long at least to see your title on the shelf!
2. Get your book edited and preferably critiqued. Both will make your writing and work infinitely better. And since you are going to be (presumably) charging for your book, you owe it to your readers (aka consumers) to put out a professional, high quality book. Provide quality as you would any other product you would bring to market.
Critiquing will also expand your writing network, and you will already have several people to ask for reviews and help spreading the word when you are ready to publish.
3. Amazon is going to be your best friend. Yes it sucks that they have such a monopoly right now, but the truth is that Amazon is staying ahead of the game and it is very reader-friendly. So that's where readers are going to keep shopping. I advise against selling from your website for this reason, direct all sales to Amazon and the more copies you sell, the more you will see Amazon promoting your book. It's internal marketing and it's awesome. Be sure to optimize your Amazon page, too!
3. Get reviews. Get reviews. Get reviews. It's social reinforcement and besides, there is nothing worse than a lonely book! See my post here on how to get more reviews. Oh and don't be afraid of giving away copies in exchange for getting reviews - don't "hog" your book - give and you shall receive!
4. Are you publishing paperback or digital only? Fiction or non-fiction? There are different strategies for each one and it might take a while to figure out what is going to work for you, but do your research and it will save you from wasting time on ineffective promotions in the end.
5. Pay (a professional!) for a good cover design. Ask yourself "Could I imagine this on the shelf of [insert favorite bookstore here]?" Make your book look like a traditionally published book. They look that way for a reason.
If you are only selling eBooks, your cover should be designed to look good at online thumbnail size and proportions, but still professional enough that you could imagine it being published by one of the big 6.
6. Spend time figuring out your brand; your online image, what you want to be synonymous with. Craft a great book description and author bio based on these things and make sure that every piece of marketing and promoting you embark on corresponds to these ideas.
7. Spend time working out exactly who your readers are and where they hang out. You might be surprised!
8. Sometimes you gotta spend money to make money. Research the best sponsorship options, and/ or blog tours for your book and genre. Don't skimp on marketing costs and time. You might have an amazing book, but unfortunately it still isn't going to sell very well unless you get the word out about it.
9. If you can, aim to get more than one book out. For each additional title you publish, you'll be doubling (or tripling, quadrupling) your exposure and so your marketing time and $ will be going further each time. It's likely that if someone enjoys one book, they will enjoy your other book(s), and you'll benefit from this waterfall effect. Make sure each title corresponds to your brand (see p.6)
10. Have a solid plan!!!!! For each of my titles I have a spreadsheet of things that I want to do to promote the book, and it gets longer each day. That's okay. It's a little overwhelming, but promoting our books means being in it for the long run.
And because I like things to come full circle, this ties into my point number 1:
Energy and persistence conquer all things.