None of us can deny the power of social media to impact businesses, big and small. As we’ve seen repeatedly, what we post to our accounts can have positive and negative real-life effects, destructive and groundbreaking. With it, we can reach people worldwide without leaving the house. It is no longer just about posting family photos. People are making real money and establishing real connections.
However, an over reliance on social media to hold up the core of our business can prove disastrous since we do not own them. Lately, I have heard many complaints of Instagram pages being hacked, Facebook jail, and TikTok suspensions.
And these are not complaints from people with small accounts. People with tens of thousands of followers have had to start from zero.
People who operate systematically, moving their tribe (those genuinely interested in their content because everyone isn’t), over to their own platforms, do not lose when their accounts are hacked or when IG decides to glitch.
They do not lose because they understand a basic principle:
Social Media is the vehicle, not the destination.
Social Media is a powerful tool for socializing and networking with your target audience. Still, you want to always be moving them along your funnel.
This looks like adding them to your blog, email/text list, website, or membership site.
To do this, use a call-to-action at the end of your posts to tell people what you want them to do.
The call-to-action or CTA is when you give your people direction. What do you want us to do after seeing your post?
Do you want us to visit your website by clicking the link in your bio?
Do you want us to leave a comment? Are you asking for feedback?
Do you want us to buy something? Are you having a Black Friday sale?
The goal is to avoid getting too comfortable with the followers you get from these social media platforms. Only some people following you are interested in what you have to offer. You can ensure they know where to find you outside Instagram and Facebook. This allows you to nourish relationships and build stronger bonds with those who care.
In a matter of seconds, your thousands of followers can be gone if someone hacks you or your account is deleted for whatever reason.
Protect yourself by establishing an online home.
Indie Author Basics simplifies and streamlines the Self-Publishing Process so authors can Self-Publish high-quality books without pulling out their hair.
I used to ask people to subscribe to my email list, and almost no one ever did. It was also cringy to ask.
And then I realized I was working harder than I needed to.
The truth is, asking people to subscribe to your email list is boring, and no one wants to do it. We have enough emails.
And if you are a new author, no one’s ever heard of, saying we will get a free copy of your book doesn’t work either.
As I alluded to in the last post, authors must start to think like readers if they want to attract them.
Instead of asking people to subscribe to your list directly, do this instead.[mepr-show rules=”31881″ unauth=”message”]
Offer Something They Want
The value in giving something away is that if it’s a truly valuable piece of content, it will naturally lead to your paid stuff. At first, this wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t until I gave away my best book (the one people actually wanted to read) that I started to see a difference.
For your give, my advice would be not to throw something together. Give us something good.
Your give is also known as a lead magnet and doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a resource, guide, free tutorial, or access to exclusive content. It can be a complimentary ticket to your online class or a virtual pass to the next event.
Deliver Your Give By Requiring Email Sign-Up
Choose a platform to use to collect email addresses. I use Mailchimp, but there are tons of others. Require people to enter their email to receive the freebie.
Set Up Automation
As soon as they sign up, they should be able to instantly download the freebie. Setting up an automatic welcome email to officially introduce yourself is an excellent start to a warm welcome.
You’re done, and you didn’t have to beg, borrow, or pull teeth to get here.
Other ways to add subscribers:
Collaborate with other Authors
Host a contest
These are the two most powerful strategies I’ve seen. I get the most sign-ups through my poetry contests or when I collaborate with other authors.
Have a sign-up sheet at every live event.
This is probably the only time it’s okay to ask people to subscribe to your email list directly. I always have it sitting at my table. Still, the amazing thing is people will walk by and put their email addresses down without me asking! So in a way, you still don’t have to ask. All you have to do is make it available.
Add a pop-up on your blog and website.
Please ensure this goes away after about 5 seconds and doesn’t take up most of the space. Pop-ups that aren’t easy to close out are annoying and distracting. This makes us feel like we are being forced to sign-up. You don’t want people leaving your site because your pop-up won’t leave them alone.
Use Your Blog
If email newsletters aren’t your thing, you can always use a blog. When people subscribe to your blog, they get an email notification whenever you post something new. You can use this with your third-party email list or by itself. Either way, it’s another way to stay connected with your tribe outside social media.
I can go on, but the moral of the story is there are tons of ways to collect email without spamming.[/mepr-show]
Oh, please be sure you provide a way out! It is illegal not to provide a way for people to unsubscribe if they no longer feel you. It is much easier to do this if your emails go through a third party. If people can’t unsubscribe, they will report you as spam, which can ultimately hurt you. I talk more about that here.
Kyrie Irving is in hot water for posting a link to the documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black Americato his Twitter account. The movie is a film adaption of the Independently Published book by the same name. It is alleged that the movie has much antisemitism in it, (I disagree but that’s a different post), and Irving has since taken the tweet down and apologized to the Jewish community via an Instagram post.
This post is about how he found the documentary and what Indie Authors can learn about platforms.
Kyrie Irving found the documentary by researching Yahweh on Amazon, saying that’s what his name translates into. According to this interview, he typed the name in the search engine, and the movie came up.
Many Indie Authors have long-cut ties with Amazon, which is their business. What I hope we can gain is an understanding of how people search for information, namely books, and the role that it plays for us as authors.
Amazon is not a distributor or bookstore. Amazon is a retailer that sells many things but is known for books. They are known for books because, in addition to selling books, they operate a Self-Publishing arm called Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Amazon is so very well connected with books that bookstores hate them, and people who think of buying a book (and now movies) turn to Amazon almost instinctively.
Amazon is also the world’s second-largest search engine, with Google being the first.
“Amazon, with 54 percent of product searches taking place, is the world’s largest search engine for e-commerce. Technically, Amazon is the second largest search engine in the world excluding Google.”
Decoding the World’s Largest E-commerce Search Engine: Amazon’s A9 Algorithm
When someone wants to search for a book and does not want to visit an offline bookstore like Barnes and Noble, where will they search first?
Today (11/2022), it is a #1 Bestseller with tons of new reviews. Yes, he searched for the movie, but the book is a #1 Bestseller.
All because a rich and famous celebrity tweeted the link.
And this celebrity found it on the second largest search engine in the US.
When deciding what platforms to put your book on, consider not what you want but what readers want.
When your average reader wants to look up a movie, topic, or book, they are not going to Smashwords. They are not going to Draft2Digital. They are not even going to Goodreads like that. They are also not flooding B&N.com, though they’ll visit the brick-and-mortar bookstore (catch that).
When people (not necessarily people who are always on the internet and are familiar with the book world but everyday people with jobs who happen to want to buy something) want to look up information, they go to Google and Amazon.
Ignoring this is just not good business sense, except that your goal is not to make money from your books or bring a whole lot of awareness to it, which is cool. Not everyone publishes a book for these reasons.
(It is also not wrong to be on the other platforms, also known in the Indie community as “going wide.” It means you are not exclusive to Amazon but have your book available at other online retailers, which is awesome. I go wide myself. At the risk of steering away from the topic, that’s a post for a different day.)
However, for those of you Self-Publishing books you want people to buy, not being on Amazon is not bad or wrong, but it is leaving a lot of money (and exposure) on the table.
This post is a nudge to consider more strongly the platforms you wish to sell your book (if you are selling it).
It is a reminder to go to the places where your potential reader will most likely hang out.
That is the message.
Kyrie Irving found Hebrews to Negroes and made it a bestseller by posting the Amazon link (without a caption) because the book was sitting on a platform where readers are most likely to search for books.
Go where your readers are most likely to hang out, and search for books like yours.
Indie Author Basics simplifies and streamlines the Self-Publishing Process so authors can Self-Publish high-quality books without pulling out their hair.
Editing is first for several reasons, one being that I can’t get the book formatted before it has been properly edited. I determine my production schedule on the date the book comes back from editing.
2. Digital and Print Formatting
Now that the book has been edited, it can be formatted for digital and print. Formatting for digital ensures that it flows properly when you read it on your kindle, phone, and other e-devices.
Print formatting is vital to ensure the intended finished size of the book is how I want it. The most common size is 6×9 for a standard paperback. Poetry books tend to be smaller, 5×8, and workbooks are larger, maybe 8×10.
When I published my first poetry book, I chose 8×10. Imagine a poetry book the size of the 8×10 picture on your wall. Yes, it was a mess.
Oh, and Microsoft Word will not take care of your book formatting for you. Converting an MS word document to PDF and uploading it as is, is why many Self-Published books look messy and all over the place on digital devices. It can also make the printed book look poorly done, such as having too much spacing that makes your novel look like a College Essay. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about.
Don’t skip on formatting. How your book looks inside is important.
3. Professional Cover Design
Technically, the cover can be worked on as the book is being edited. A finished cover can be used to help promote the book if it’s done early and even kick off early preorders.
However, there’s a reason cover art is not right under editing.
To complete the entire cover (front, back, and spine), the artist needs the exact number of pages and the book’s trim size. Usually, the number of pages changes after formatting. Also, some books are too thin for a spine. If I give him/her the wrong size, it can affect how the book prints, and then I’ll have to get it redone, which can cost more money.
While I can get away with a finished cover, I cannot complete the full artwork before steps one and two are accomplished.
As you can see, I have a strategic reason for publishing in this order.
4. Buy / Assign ISBN
I buy ISBNs in bulk, so this part is usually already done. If it’s not, this is around the time I get them.
5. Upload Files to KDP / Ingram Spark / Draft2Digital
This part requires its own post to fully explain. I’ll do my best to keep it short but clear.
I publish with Kindle Direct Publishing and Ingram. KDP for Amazon and Ingram for wholesale distribution to bookstores and libraries.
How it works is I upload my files to KDP per usual, but I DO NOT select expanded distribution. The reason is that if you are making your title available in both self-publishing systems, that makes the title available to Ingram and will cause a conflict with the ISBN when you upload it into IngramSpark.
Although Amazon works with Ingram, publishing with Ingram separately makes it easier for your book to be ordered by bookstores. And bookstores hate Amazon, by the way. The thought of carrying a book published by Amazon gets their blood boiling. That’s another reason it’s good to have your own ISBN. It can make it easier for the store to carry your print-on-demand title without being distracted by the fact it was published independently by Amazon.
After publishing with Amazon, I go through the process of uploading my files to Ingram Spark.
If step three was not done properly, this is the part I can get stuck on. The cover must match the size of the book and the artist must provide a single PDF file that includes the back cover, spine, and front cover as one image.
Lastly, I upload my files to draft2digital for distribution to all online retailers, from B&N, to Kobo, to iTunes.
6. Order Proof Book
Order the proof copy of the book from Amazon and Ingram. Check for errors.
7. Start Production Schedule / Publish Book
Now that the book is complete, I can kick off the production schedule.
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.
It’s been a lil minute since we had a lil chat. This year I decided I would not rush back to this blog after the New Year.
If you are one of those extra woke people who need to remind me it is not technically a “New Year” until spring, don’t. I know, and we not talking about that right now.
Anyway, come on in!
Please remove your shoes. House policy.
Go ahead and grab some coffee. The Kerug is self-serving, so help yourself. There is also tea on the counter if that’s your thing. Sugar is in the pantry, and cream is in the fridge. I hope International Delight’s Sweet Cream is okay?
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am on a month-long fast from alcohol. I have started drinking more fruit and vegetable-infused smoothies instead. It hasn’t been long enough for me to really notice any changes, but I’ll keep you updated on that. I am not much of a drinker (I tend to stick with wine), but I wanted to start the year with a fresh flush of my system. No alcohol and fast foods and processed stuff and all that junk. If you take care of your body now, it will take care of you later!
2021 Me: “Look at us tryna be all healthy and stuff!”
2022 Me: “Girlll. I know right?!
Speaking of body, if we were having coffee right now, I would tell you about this dope essay contest that the Navigating the Life blog is hosting on body positivity. “Body positivity refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, and appearance.” Click here to learn more.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you my main priority is finishing the black history book. If you are new to this blog, click here to check out my Black History Fun Fact series. It was something I started to honor Black History Month that turned into a weekly feature when I realized Black history is too powerful to limit to 28 days. Long story short, I am turning the series into a book. My goal is to finish the rough draft by the end of February, if not the start. I am about 32K words in now on the road to 50K.
By the looks of it, this will be a thick book, so 50K is not necessarily the end word count, but it is what I am striving for now. I am noticing how easily distracting it can be to finish a book and keep up with social media simultaneously. Suffice to say, I have severely limited my time on this blog and my socials. I pop in to see what ya’ll are up to, but I gotta be focused this month if I am going to reach my goal. You’ll see me around, though.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I am preparing to present at my first conference this March. I am teaching a class on the importance of faith in business. My specific topic is “Overcoming Fear in Business.” We will discuss and identify the symptoms of fear and learn practical methods of overcoming the barriers in business caused by fear.
Suppose you’ve ever had anxiety about showing up to promote your brand or company (especially if you are Introverted). In that case, you want to be in the building. It’s going down on March 11th in Gulfport, MS. Be sure you follow my social media for more updates as the date approaches.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you I have not published much poetry to this blog because I am working on another book. When I published My Soul is a Witness, I ran into issues with publishing poems featured on this blog. I had to verify they belonged to me before Amazon could approve it. I am not sharing many of them with this blog this time to overcome that hurdle. I already have the name of the collection and will reveal it with the cover. For now, you should know it will follow in the same vibe as I am Soul and My Soul is a Witness.
If we were having coffee right now, I would also tell you I am thinking of turning Indie Author Basics with EC into a Podcast. Part of the reason is I have felt a strong sense that I should speak more. Now, most people don’t believe me when I say I am shy, but I really am. If you notice, I don’t go live a lot. I am not a fan of being out front. For you 90s fans, I’m not tryna be “all in the videos.” Only the real one’s will get this reference.Tee hee.
Suffice it to say, I feel a need to push myself more, step out from behind the keyboard and speak. Allowing you to hear me discuss the Indie Author Basic topics and maybe even interview authors would help. Whatcha think? Should we give it a go?
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you the Book Review Registry is still closed. I cannot possibly read any more books and finish mine at the same time. I hope to reopen as early as March. Be sure to check out this page for details on how to apply. Keep in mind you are not booked, and your space is not reserved until payment is received.
If we were having coffee right now, I would tell you your cup is empty. Your coffee/tea is gone, and so is my time. Now, you don’t have to go home but…