How do you become an author? Well, the short answer is that you write and self-publish a book. But you know there’s obviously more to it than that.
Once you’re published, it may seem as though the heavy lifting is over. It may be tempting to order those “Professional Author” embroidered towels for the guest bath and start practicing your humble half-smile for when Oprah’s team calls for that interview. After you’ve called your mom to brag, updated your Facebook profile with your new title and a link to your book, and sent autographed copies to all of your adoring fans, you may wonder what’s left to do.
The answer is A LOT. It’s a rookie mistake to pat yourself on the back and declare yourself done. Your first self-published book is a dynamic entity which needs your attention in order to flourish. Once you’ve published a book, you’ve certainly earned the right to take a break and bask in your daydreams, but then it’s time to refocus.
How to Become an Author
Your ongoing success as a professional author is built on the next steps. It’s time to harness the momentum of your first book, and become proactive about building your author brand. The next phase of your book’s journey is about to begin—promotions, marketing, networking, branding, and new products and projects.
We’ll show how to capitalize on your first self-published book’s moment in the sun, and use it as your springboard to even greater success!
The Power of your Own Name
It’s time to take the next step and spread the word about your book. You need to get out of the house (physically or virtually) and interact with readers.
The good news is, once you have a book out, it’s much easier to find opportunities to open doors that were previously closed to you. As a freshly-minted author, your name has power—so, get your name (and face!) out there.
For example, if your local TV news station is looking for an expert to talk about the best fishing holes in your area, who do you think they are more likely to choose to appear on the segment: the guy who published a book about the best places to fish, or the guy who just happens to like fishing?
Once your name appears on a book cover, it’s much easier to get attention—whether it’s by being accepted as a guest blogger on a popular web site, getting booked as a guest on a TV show or a podcast, or being interviewed in a newspaper or magazine.
All of this recognition and publicity can help you meet any lifestyle goals you might have, such as getting more customers for your business, getting donations for a charity or a passion project, and to call attention to any other endeavors that are important to you. And of course, the more attention you get, the more books you can sell.
Cultivating a Professional Aura (a.k.a Fake it ‘til You Make it)
It’s an intoxicating feeling to be a fresh-off-the-press debut author—but it’s also intimidating, as you’re navigating a brand-new world. Your first instinct might be to hide until the fuss dies down. Or perhaps you long for accolades and attention for your work, as you settle into a new role and industry. You’re in the trial-by-fire phase, and you want to get it right. It’s okay to feel as though you’re trying to find your footing and play-acting in a new part.
First step: start calling yourself an author, not a writer. It might sound picky to make the distinction between an “Author” versus a “Writer” but here’s why semantics matter. Every professional writer used to be an amateur writer, but not every professional writer will become a professional author.
That sounds a little like a SAT logic problem, doesn’t it? In short, you are no longer “just a writer” once you’ve published your book. You have earned the distinction and title of “Professional Author.” This is true whether your book sells a single copy or a billion. You’re now a member of an exclusive professional group, and it’s to your benefit to think of yourself in that regard.
In terms of acclimating to a new professional industry, you’ve picked a terrific time to publish and join the ranks of other authors. The era of the indie author is happening now. As a self-published author, you are a pioneer on the cusp of a publishing revolution.
Big publishing houses are even seeing established authors walk away from lucrative deals in favor of self-publication. You’re in a favorable position since you’re not beholden to a publishing houses’ restrictions and deep cuts into your profits. It’s an exciting time to be a self-published author.
Developing Your Author Brand
Let’s talk about building on your success. You’ve flying high right now—you’re published, something only 1% of the population has accomplished. Welcome to the club; look around and take in the view from the top. One of the keys to continued success is capturing the proud feeling of this moment and using that to buoy your journey as an author. It’s onward and upward from here on out.
That said, just publishing your book won’t mean a thing unless you do the work to drive traffic to your book. One of the biggest mistakes a new author can make is to finish a book and never touch it again. You can’t just let it sit out there alone and untended. Your new job as author is to generate buzz, traffic, and sales.
Building on Your Debut Book
You’ve just finished learning the ropes of writing and publishing. Now, it’s time to focus on learning a new skill set that all self-published authors need to know: Quality self-promotion. One caveat, don’t get discouraged, this will inherently take trial-and-error. You’ll soon discover what resonates with your audience, and what doesn’t.
The logical first place to start with self-promotion is by looking at the following 4 must-do’s for the DIY self-promoter.
1. Build an Author Website
You’re an author now and, as such, you need your own professional website. Think of your website as your virtual business storefront and your marketing and PR teams. Keep it clean, easy-to-use, and attractive. You can work with a web developer, or if you’re even just barely tech-savvy, it’s fairly easy to create your own using tools such as SquareSpace or Wix.
Here are the basic elements to include on your author website:
- A Page Featuring Your Book
- Bio or About Page
- Events page
Of course, you want your book to stand out on your site, so direct traffic toward it with a separate, standalone page devoted to your book and book sales. Up the visual appeal with an enticing cover shot and crisp graphics. Include an intriguing blurb which leaves readers eager to read your book. Of course, include a link to purchase so your readers can buy it.
Did you know that Amazon has a unique feature to promote your book sales on your own website? If you join Amazon Associates, then you’re provided a sales link to your book, which you can then use on your web site. You will earn a commission (on top of your book royalties) for any books you sell via your Amazon Associates link.
Creating a professional webpage can take your book to the next level. As you grow your brand and your body of work, you can update your website to reflect new projects.
2. Promote Your Book on Social Media
A clue to promotions on social media is in the very title: social media is intended to be social. Use your social media accounts, not just to churn out links and self-promotions, but to connect and engage with your audience and network. Building relationships is vital in this business—so share, like, comment, and write back. Your friends and fans will love to hear from you, and in turn, may do some promoting on your behalf.
The beauty of social media is that you can let your fans speak for you. If people like your work, and you, they’ll share it and you’ll gain new fans. Interacting with your audience will build buzz for your book, so no matter which social media platform you’re on, it’s vital to use your accounts to connect and build relationships.
When it comes to Facebook, one problem with book promotions is that so many people use it for sales, peoples’ feeds are saturated with ads. Plus, Facebook often hides business pages from readers’ feeds unless you pay for ads. So how do you get noticed on Facebook?
Start a Facebook group for readers and others who are interested in your topic of expertise. This is an especially good tactic with authors who like to discuss personal development topics. This lets you have an ongoing connection with your readership and a direct line to test new ideas for the next book.
3. Start Blogging
Blogging can be a virtual gold mine for your book. Did you know that companies that blog get 55% more traffic than sites without a blog? When you blog about topics that are relevant to your readership, then they’re more likely to find out about you and your book when they stumble upon your web site via an internet search. Blogging helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your author web site by keeping your content updated.
Besides, continued writing in the form of blogging helps exercise your creativity muscle while sharing your works with the world and building community. Don’t let your creative well run drive after your book is published; use blogging to keep your skills sharp. Writing and posting prolifically keeps you fresh, and if people like what you post, they’ll want to read your words in book form, too. Blogging can also lead you to start compiling material for your next book.
4. Speaking Engagements and Media Appearances
When you hear of speaking engagements and media appearances, you may think of hiring a PR firm and booking an international book tour. As a self-published author, you may think this is outside of your grasp. The truth is that local speaking engagements (and potentially a few carefully-chosen, far-flung events) can be a fantastic way to promote your book.
Look for local book fairs, chances to donate your book, and events held at colleges or public schools. If you want ideas for speaking engagements, you can also check out writer’s forums to see what others are doing. And you can pitch yourself to local TV and radio stations if your book is on a topic that conflates with current events.
When you book a gig, share the details on social media so your fans can find you. You should also create an event page on your web site and on Facebook to invite friends and readers. You’ll have fun and make new connections. It’s a win-win.
If you’re nervous about speaking in public, here’s how to handle your first appearances like the polished professional author you are: practice, practice, practice. Be prepared with answers to questions you might be asked. You’ll want to also prepare and rehearse a brief synopses of your book which will intrigue potential readers.
While speaking—and this applies to TV, radio, or any other arena where you’ll be talking—one rule to remember is to leave them wanting more! Give just enough detail about your book so your audience will have to buy it.
Finally, relax: you can handle this. There’s literally nobody in the world who knows as much as your book as you do.
Your Next Book
Now that you’re an author, one question you might get asked a lot is, “Are you going to write another book?” Depending on how you feel about the writing and publishing process, that question might make you feel excited or scared.
If you really do want to be a professional author, the question isn’t “will you” write another book, it’s a matter of “when” you’ll get started. So when should you get started writing your next book? The answer can best be summed up with this quote:
“Next morning I went over to Paul’s for coffee and told him I had finished. ‘Good for you,’ he said without looking up. ‘Start the next one today.’” ― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
If you’re going to fulfill your dream of being an author, write and publish one book. If you want to be a professional author, then keep on writing and publishing books. Don’t stop now, or you stop living your dream.