People don’t tell new Indie Authors that publishing a book does not mean people will buy it. That is why the moment you decide you are writing your book must be the moment you also start building your community.
Building a reader community is important because it is the first step toward getting your book noticed by the people who want to read it.
Put plainly: when you focus on connecting with people, you attract a tribe of people ready and excited to buy your book when it drops.
This is critical for Indie Authors, in particular, who do not always have access to the same kind of exposure as authors who publish with publishing houses or small presses with bigger budgets.
No, people will not buy your book just because you posted the link.
No, people will not buy your book just because you’re their favorite cousin.
And no, people will not buy your book because you tell them to.
Please also consider that even if your favorite cousin does buy your book, it doesn’t guarantee that they will:
Actually read the book
Review the book
Join your email list
Subscribe to your blog
Engage with your social media
Be repeat customers
Your real tribe, primarily strangers interested in what your book is about turned avid readers you have built a relationship with, will move differently than the family members you are begging to buy from you.
Here are some things you can do to help find your tribe :
Share your writing process.
Give updates on where you are in that process (draft, revisions, editing)
Talk about your inspirations and motivations
Talk about your challenges
Post excerpts from the book to social media
Start a blog
Start building your email list
Educate people about the book you are writing
Share the book cover when it’s ready
Talk about life outside of books and writing. What are your other interests?
Talk about your favorite books and authors
I agree. Building community is not about working tirelessly trying to convince people to read your book who would rather spend that $5 at Starbucks. That’s exhausting and is the frustration of many Indie Authors. That’s that pulling teeth part of the game everyone hates. Suppose building your community feels like you are pulling teeth. In that case, it is probably because you are begging people to support you who are not interested. Do them and yourself a favor and let them go in peace.
What it is about, as Jenn stated, is letting the people already interested in your book know it exists.
I am not trying to get people who are not poetry readers to read my poetry book to put this into perspective. That is not to say I won’t convert some people (tee hee). Still, I am looking for people who are already into poetry, black poetry by black women to be precise.
By sharing our likes, dislikes, challenges, and experiences and connecting with people of like mind, we find people with similar interests as our own. Then, we make the added effort to show up in the places where these people may hang out so we can connect with them on or offline. Maybe your tribe is on Facebook a lot. Maybe they are on YouTube, Instagram, Clubhouse, Twitter, and so on.
It’s 2022, and Indie Publishing has come a long way. Gone are the days of posting links to social media hoping someone will bite. This is known as “Hope Marketing,” or the hope for a sale. This doesn’t help us build community, sell books, or establish meaningful relationships.
Focusing on people who are already into what you are writing will have a tribe of people waiting to buy your next book and save you a lot of time and heartache.
Remember, it is much easier to market to an already interested audience than an audience who you have to convince.
And most important of all, have fun!
Connecting with people is not supposed to be tedious. Building a reader community doesn’t have to feel like work. That takes the fun out of it. Just be yourself and share your journey. The people who are meant to be part of that journey will notice.
One of the first signs that someone is new to publishing is their obsession with copyright.
Everyone at some point thinks about ways to protect what they have built, but obsessing over the possibility of someone stealing your work is one sure way of waving your hands in a crowded room and shouting, “Hey, everyone! Newbie here!”
“People who are paranoid about the theft of an unpublished manuscript or who obsess about somebody “stealing their ideas” red-flag themselves as amateurs.”
Anne R. Allen
You Can’t Copyright an Idea
Despite how brilliant I am sure you are, your book idea is not unique in the sense that no one has heard of it in some form before, and you cannot copyright an idea. According to Section 102(b) of US Copyright Law:
“In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such work.”
Us Copyright Law
In the US, Your Work is under Copyright the Moment It Is Created
Since January 1, 1978, American Copyright laws have stated that anything you produce is automatically under copyright. That’s right, at creation. Whether you typed it up in Word on your computer or published it in a book, it is automatically under copyright and lasts for life plus 70 years:
“Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
“In general, for works created on or after January 1, 1978, the term of copyright is the life of the author plus seventy years after the author’s death. If the work is a joint work with multiple authors, the term lasts for seventy years after the last surviving author’s death.”
But remember, this is optional. You do not need to do this for your work to be considered under copyright, though it can be helpful in the event of a lawsuit:
“In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a US work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”
US Copyright Office
“Copyright exists automatically in an original work of authorship once it is fixed in a tangible medium, but a copyright owner can take steps to enhance the protections of copyright, the most important of which is registering the work. Although registering a work is not mandatory, for U.S. works, registration (or refusal) is necessary to enforce the exclusive rights of copyright through litigation.”
You also don’t need to send a copy of your manuscript to yourself. Also known as “Poor Man’s Copyright,” this would not stand up in court if a lawsuit is in play and does not replace registration.
“The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.”
Warning: Registering your unpublished work with the Copyright Office can set you up to be scammed because scammers sometimes scroll the copyright database for unpublished work to snag. Click here to learn more. I recommend reading the whole thing but scroll to the bottom for this particular part. Publish the book first, and then register the copyright.
You Don’t Need an LLC to Self-Publish a Book
Suppose you find you are making a significant amount of money from your self-published books, and it becomes necessary to separate your business and personal accounts. In that case, creating an LLC is ideal. However, it is unnecessary to pay money to form an LLC to self-publish a book when you are just starting. Consider the fees associated with applying for and keeping an LLC.
Remember that the LLC serves the purpose of operating as a separate legal entity and that you, personally, won’t be responsible for any debts the LLC incurs. But that’s not usually necessary with self-publishing because it is low risk. By low-risk, I mean you do not start out making tons of money, or at least not the kind of money that would warrant you to separate your accounts.
I operate under an LLC because I do other things outside of publishing, such as coaching, book reviews, interviews, and other services I provide. However, I have only had an LLC for about a year now. Until then, I operated under my legal government name just fine.
Buy Your ISBN for Your Own Imprint
As I cannot reiterate enough, there are tons of scams out there, so it’s important to remember that you do not need to pay someone thousands of dollars to “maintain your copyright.” As we have already established, copyright belongs to you when you create the work, and you can register it through the copyright website for thirty bucks.
However, if you wish to maintain your publishing rights and have your own imprint, buy your own ISBN. This will ensure you publish books under your name or company name. This means the book will point to you as the publisher, not Amazon. In this way, you use Amazon as a printer or the platform you use to print physical copies of your book and house your book online, but the rights to the book belong to you.
Can you Self-Publish a book without buying an ISBN? Yes, you can. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, and many others will allow you to choose to use one of their free ISBNs. ISBNs in the US are not cheap (they are free in Canada), so this is ideal for many beginning publishers. However, I highly recommend buying your own.
You have complete control over what is entered in your book’s metadata—that is, the descriptions and categories that help libraries, bookstores, and readers worldwide discover your book and decide whether they want to purchase it. In today’s digital world, your book’s metadata can hugely impact its chances of being found and purchased by your target audience. This would mean a lot to self-published authors, who do not have a traditional publisher’s marketing and distribution capabilities to fall back on.
As you will be the publisher of record, your ISBN will remain unchanged even if you change your publishing service company or publish with multiple companies.
Any individual or organization with specific orders or inquiries regarding your book will approach the publisher of record; you would rather this be you instead of your publishing service company.
If you plan on writing several books, it makes sense to take on the mantle of a publisher and have your own constant publishing imprint on your books.
“Your ISBN is the identification number that is tied to you and your book. If you use an identification number tied to a business that could go under (because remember, a free ISBN belongs to them), you risk your book not being available for purchase. This is an even bigger concern if you are using a Vanity Publisher. They could easily disappear, and you will have to start over on the publishing front.”
If you are going to be constantly paranoid and obsessed with copyright and worrying that people will steal your book or idea of a book, you are not ready to Self-Publish. You might feel better going the traditional route. However, if you are ready to publish Independently, you have to relax on the copyright stuff. It is going to be okay. Go ahead and register it with the copyright office and publish the book. You will be fine.
Tomorrow will mark five years since I released the first book in The Stella Trilogy. Wowzers! I am celebrating by introducing the new cover to book one and two. If you haven’t heard, I removed the books from amazon for some much needed polish and am re-publishing them. To learn why check out the blog post “Quality Over Quantity: Why I Pulled My Trilogy from Amazon.”
While I changed the cover to I am Soul after its release and got a new cover to The Aftermath, my first novel (2012), I’ve never wholly revised my backlist before. The Stella Trilogy is getting an entirely new makeover, which includes editing, covers, formatting, and ISBNs. Why go through all the work for an old book?
Books do not expire. Every book is new to people who have never read it which is why it benefits Indie Authors to go back and update “older” works every now and again. Here are some things I saw needed work on Stella:
Editing – It wasn’t enough to slap a new cover on the books. I knew these books had to be revamped altogether. Like most newbie Indie Authors, I had a friend to edit the first version of these books because I didn’t have the money to pay someone. This time around, I am getting the books professionally edited.
Song Lyrics – The first book had song lyrics in it—rookie mistake. You need permission to include the words to a song in your books. I promptly removed those lyrics. I can’t afford to get sued.
DIY Covers – I like the cover to book one, but it was a DIY premade from Derek Murphy’s website, offered freely to authors. I added the image of the black woman, but the rest was unoriginal. I cringed every time I saw it on his site. Book two was more original as I purchased the winter lady image, but it was still poorly applied to the cover. I did everything in Microsoft Word, and since I didn’t know that super-thin books don’t need a spine (if there aren’t enough pages to warrant one) when the books printed the spine folded over to the front. Yuck. For this reason, new covers were something I knew I needed to get done.
Free ISBN – I am done with the free ISBN game. Listen, if you don’t include the cost of the ISBN in your book budget, you are still a beginner. Have I always purchased my own ISBN? No. ISBNs are expensive, but having your own is worth it. They (ISBNs) are also cheaper if you buy them in bulk. 10 ISBNs can cover ten different books. Applying your own ISBN number to the book ensures that your imprint name will be applied to the book. In other words, you are the publisher, not KDP, and not Lulu. This time around, all books in The Stella Trilogy will have its own ISBN so I can register the books to me.
BONUS: Alternate Ending – I am excited about adding an alternate ending to excite Stella fans who have already read the books. The conclusion to book one is not the ending of the original book one. Why the change? It is to tighten the link between all the stories for a smooth transition from one book to the next.
Lessons I learned so far:
Work with what you have until you can do better.
You don’t have to know everything to start. I didn’t. Work with what you have until you can do better. (If a free ISBN is all you have to work with right now, use it until you are able to move up. I did.) I do not regret putting Stella or my first books out there, even though they weren’t properly edited, and the covers were DIY. These books gave me my start, and the courage and the freedom to step out on my own. These books gave me my beginning, and I am forever thankful to Yah for them.
Then, when you can do better, please do it.
The other part of this, though, is doing better once I knew better. If I produce mediocrity, I will only get mediocre results. Once you’ve stepped out there, it is okay to go back and change what you see needs work. We may not be perfect, but this doesn’t mean we cannot strive to maintain a level of excellence in all we do, even if the best we can do still falls short. We don’t have to stay at the same levels in the latter part of the journey as the first. We can tweak and correct and improve with time. We have that freedom, to sharpen, and to elevate.
About The Stella Trilogy
Stella is a work of Historical Fiction and is distinctive in its focus on one woman’s road to self-discovery, against the backdrop of the African American fight for justice, racial equality, and freedom. We discover how three individuals living in separate periods strive to overcome the same struggle, carefully knit together by one blood. The three-part series features elements of enslavement, Jim Crow, Passing, and the Civil Rights Movement.
The 2020 Lit Mag Literary Magazine for Poets is on its way out! We are proud to feature last year’s Grand Prize Winner Chanelle Barnes on the cover. Volume 2, Edition 2, is scheduled to print Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
This year’s magazine features the winners of “Yecheilyah’s Annual Poetry Contest 2019”: Chanelle Barnes, BuddahDesmond, Jahkazia (Jah-kay-asia) Richardson (our 2018 Champion), Kiyana Blount, and Dondi A Springer. The mag also features the poems of select poets who participated last year.
How can you be featured in the Lit Mag Magazine? Be sure to participate in my annual poetry contests! Rules and guidelines for the 2020 competition to be announced.
Be sure to support this contest by picking up your copy of LitMag 2019 by clicking on the link below. Your contribution helps us to keep this contest going by keeping the entry fee-free or low-cost for participants, allows us to print the magazine featuring the winners, and of course, offers some dope prizes to contestants! Link below:
I’m Laura DiNovis Berry and I grew up in Lititz, PA, a town that once had its own chocolate factory and now draws famous musicians in.
Yess to chocolate. What genre do you write in, why?
I primarily write poetry. I dabble in short stories, but poetry is like painting with words and there’s something about verse that constantly drives me to keep pushing myself to improve in that arena.
Got another poet in the house ya’ll. When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
I self-published my first poetry chapbook, Bright Pink Ink, right before my wedding last year. It was extremely liberating. I was planning a wedding and a move from Pennsylvania to Texas so having the ability to channel some of my frustrations and nerves into that book provided me with a fantastic stress reliever.
Congrats on the book AND wedding! Laura, are you employed outside of writing?
I am! I have had the pleasure of working and learning from a wide variety of jobs. Currently I work as a Drama Teacher and work with children all the way from kindergarten up to high school. On the whole, it has been a wonderful experience.
I love teaching children. What’s the best thing about working with children?
There is nothing like working with human beings who have only been alive for a few years!
Their take on everything is fascinating. They can be exceptionally mean and fabulously kind – the reminder that they are still learning how to function in this world is sobering, but makes me feel extremely privileged to be a part of that growth. It can also result in some hilarious situations like having the kids be convinced that your hair is a wig since you’ve cut it short. I had to let my class of six year old tug on it to verify.
I understand also you write free poetry book reviews? Tell us about that.
I do! Book reviews are desperately needed in the poetry community so I created Berry’s Poetry Book Reviews last year. This is a platform for poets so they may reach out to a broader audience! The reviews I provide are free but I donate 10% of of my earnings and donations from patrons to a non-profit organization every year. Last year the beneficent of of these program was the Kennett Square Garage & Youth Center, an after school program which aims to empower middle and high school youth. This year, our combined efforts will be helping Lambda Literary!
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions?
Rugby has had a grip on me since college. Right now I play with the Corpus Christi Clams Women’s Rugby Club. I will be moving soon, sadly, but I have actually begun working on a full poetry collection inspired by the female rugby player’s experience so I don’t think I’ll be able to stop playing any time soon!
Alright now so we got another book in the works. If you had unlimited funds to build a house that you would live in for the rest of your life, what would the finished house be like?
My husband would sniff at this, but there’s a very good chance it would end up looking like an earth witch’s hobbit hole.
It would be warm, cozy and lead out into a garden filled with vegetable, guarded by maple trees.
Okay that sounds better. Scared us there a moment. What skill do you think you’ve mastered?
Oh, that’s easy. The skill of being ridiculous.
Lol. Care to explain? What’s ridiculous about you?
Well, I am generally known to be silly – it is not an uncommon occurrence for me to start dancing…wherever really. I like to have a good time and make people laugh.
Yea, laughing is lit. Does blogging help you to write?
It does and it doesn’t. It helps in the sense that I practice different forms of writing (more journal-esque writing), but it hurts because I distract myself from working on my poetry.
Understood. Laura, life is not always pretty. We all experience hardship every now and again. What is your best advice for reducing stress?
Exercise – it doesn’t even have to be anything intense. Just the other night my husband and I were in, not quite a fight, let’s say more of a spat, but walking – taking a nice walk outside together – really helped both of us calm down and better engage with each other.
Nice. What do you love about yourself?
My parents once said I don’t know the concept of failure, and I think that is definitely something that I love about myself.
Thank you Laura for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Laura DiNovis Berry recognizes that poetry is a near magical craft that she will never fully understand but will forever be held in fascination by it. When she is not working on her own poetry, she provides free book reviews for her fellow contemporary poets.
If you are a new entrepreneur, if you are just publishing your books or starting your own business, I want to congratulate you! I want to tell you; you will do well and go far. I want to tell you; you are brave and beautiful.
But I also want to warn you:
start a business that is not dependent only on the people you know personally to be successful.
One of the best decisions I made in the past 2yrs was to go out and network with people face to face without worrying whether they believed exactly as I did or worrying about what people would think of me.
Only depending on the people who know you personally to support your business can leave you doubtful and broke because there are people who will project their fears and limitations onto you. This means that once you’ve moved beyond those limitations, once you’ve elevated, these people abandon you because you no longer fit within the box they mentally created for you.
There’s a meme circulating that says:
This is all the truth. Most of the people who will continuously support you will eventually become like family. They will be all the wonderful people you meet along the way who will root for you harder than anyone you’ve known personally. Social media is cool, but there’s an entire world outside of the internet.
When you are running a business, the people you know, including relatives, are the icing on the cake. They are the ones in your corner cheering you on and going “Yaass, sis yaass,” or “yams bro!” They are the people there to support you no matter what and we all need some of that encouragement! But we also need longevity in our business which can only come from consistent financial support and there are so many people in the world willing to pay you for your knowledge not just like your posts.
Author Tip: Take the time to discover who your book or business is for specifically and target your content to those people. This is called a target audience, and it helps you to focus on the group of people most interested in your content so that your book, product, or service doesn’t stop selling after your family and friends have bought it.
Today, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Sheila Williams. Sheila, welcome to the PBS blog!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Sheila Williams. I am English, born in Yorkshire in the North of England (known as God’s own county to those who were born there!) Until five years ago my feet were firmly planted in English soil. Then, I had one of those ‘where did that idea come from’ moments and moved across the channel to the south-west of France – a region known as Occitanie (previously the Languedoc). I now live in a small village near the Pyrenees mountains with my dog Zouzou, otherwise known as the Ayatollah for his insistence on regularity – regular walkies, regular mealtimes, regular cuddles and regular snoozes on the sofa.
Awwue lol. I bet he’s adorable. Any siblings?
I am the youngest of three. My brother Mike is the oldest. He’s a very practical person, always building something. He has an apartment in my house here in France and stays for about six months every year which is very handy since the house is a bit of a wreck and always needs something doing. He’s a keen guitarist and banjo player and not a bad singer either. We’ve always been close despite our very different temperaments and political views. It makes for animated discussions on the terrace with a bottle of the local wine during summer.
My other sibling is my sister Pat. She too is an author and lives in New Zealand. As kids we were pretty close although she could be extremely prickly at times. She moved to Canada when she left college and then on to New Zealand. I have seen very little of her since then. Sadly, there was something of a schism, a family break-up after our father died which led to considerable ill-feeling between her and my mother and percolated through to Mike and myself. The rift is something I have never been able to repair and she remains stubbornly out of touch.
I am sorry to hear that. Hopefully you guys can reconcile! I think it’s cool your brother has an apartment in your house! What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I would love to go on safari in Africa. I am passionate about this beautiful world that we live in and the creatures that populate it. Before it is too late and we ruin it altogether I want to see some of the species that are being driven towards extinction in their natural habitat. I am not a fan of zoos although some do good work in helping to preserve species. I can imagine a dawn safari, just as the sun is rising, still a chill in the air and seeing the different animals at the watering hole. I imagine the sounds and smells that would fill the air. One day I’ll do it. It’s top of my bucket list.
That sounds nice. What’s your favorite drink?
A cold glass of Blanquette de Limoux which was the earliest form of champagne. It goes down smoothly, with a little fizzy bite as an aftertaste. Just the thing after a swim on a hot sunny day.
You made that sound soo refreshing yess. Lol. avorite color?
Oh I’m definitely a blue person. I love all shades from the darkest velvety blue to the sharp blue of the morning sky. There is at least one shade of blue in every room in the house and my wardrobe likewise. It’s a colour that can soothe, sing, import elegance as well as casual comfort. What’s not to like?
Let’s talk about writing a bit. Who is your favorite writer?
Ah this is a tough one. There are so many. There are the three Kate’s – Kate Mosse, Kate Morton and Kate Atkinson – all very different in style and genre. For classics I love Jane Austen; for history Bernard Cornwell and for Sci-fi Robert Heinlein. Daphne du Maurier slips in there somewhere too.
When did you publish your first book? What was that like?
My first book was non-fiction ‘Close to the Edge – Tales from the Holderness Coast’. It is an eclectic history of part of the coast where I lived in England. My friend – a photographer and I walked up and down the length of the coast researching people and places. It was huge fun. I published it with Amazon and not being very techie-minded got into a bit of a muddle but it all got sorted out. Then, when the paperback arrived I went round all the caravan sites and got them to hold copies of it to sell to the visitors; I donated copies to all the local libraries and got the tourist information offices to sell it for me. It was extremely hard work and my first introduction to marketing a book. It’s not a best-seller but the sales continue to trickle in even four years later.
That’s awesome. Aside from Non-Fiction, what genre do you write in?
I’ve probably made it a bit difficult for myself! I write a mix of history with a dash of fantasy or spooky stuff. I published a book of short stories ‘The Siren and Other Strange Tales’ which has a lot of spooky stuff in it and my first novel ‘The Weave’ is a contemporary fantasy story with history woven in. My wip is definitely history, set in the 7th century with a splash of fantasy. I like the little bit of something extra that fantasy gives me as a writer. It gives me an opportunity to tease the reader a bit…to make them wonder whether there is something psychological going on in a character or whether it is something supernatural/fantastic really happening. It is something I’m exploring much more in my wip.
Okay History, Sci-Fi and Horror book readers! You heard it here first. Here’s a writer for you.
What takes up too much of your time?
French bureaucracy! The French love their paperwork and as an expat there are wads of it to be completed. They also have strict demarcation lines between who does what which sometimes means that the carefully gathered information slips between departmental gaps. It’s getting better though as more and more is brought on-line. The Brexit situation has created even more since most expats I know in France are applying for a ‘carte de sejour’ which will allow them to stay in France. The documentation required is extensive and much of it is already in the maws of bureaucracy but it still has to be provided anew.
What do you love about yourself?
I suppose it’s my ability to be myself without embarrassment, without worrying about what others’ might think any more. It’s something that has crept up with age and I guess experience too. I like to do daft things now and again like make up silly songs and sing them in the shower or dance with the dog in the village square. I don’t worry about making a fool of myself. Alongside that I have developed assertiveness which I sadly lacked when I was younger and I like the fact that I can say saying clearly(albeit diplomatically I hope) what I think!
Thank you Sheila for spending this time with us. We enjoyed you!
Sheila Williams, author, slipped into this world on Guy Fawkes night, under cover of fireworks and bonfires. Outraged to find other nurslings in the nest, she attempted to return to her own world but found the portal closed. Adopting a ‘make the best of it’ attitude she endured a period of indoctrination to equip her for her place in society. Freeing herself as soon as possible from such torture, she embarked on a series of adventures – or to use the vernacular – careers; hospital manager, business consultant, life coach, sheep farmer. She attempted to integrate into society by means of marriage before setting out alone to discover another world, known as France, where she now resides.
In her quest to understand this world she pursues knowledge of its history; not of kings and queens but of its ordinary people and how they lived and worked. To this end, she haunts events such as boot fairs, vide-greniers and sales rooms where many ancient artifacts can be uncovered.
Her outlets from this unfathomable world include nature, animals (especially funny videos of), books and writing stories. This latter occupation enables her to create her own worlds, populate them and dispose of the residents as she thinks fit. She finds holding the fate of these poor souls in her hands immensely satisfying.