We live in an immediate gratification kind of world. When you put money or time into something like self-publishing, you probably want to see a return on investment right away. This is the way most of the world currently thinks, but unless you start thinking long-term about your business, you’ll miss out on several opportunities to create a career for a lifetime.
Writing a book and publishing it professionally is one step in a very long process. You can’t take a look at three months worth of sales and make much of an assessment of how your business will progress from there. That makes certain things like determining the value of your time spent very difficult to do. Instead of refreshing your sales stats or trying out dozens of tweaks that you read about on some blog, you should plan for the future. Here are four steps you can take today that will help you solidify your self-publishing pursuit going forward:
1. Save Up Money For Professional Costs
Maybe it’s the same instinct that causes us to click and buy the latest time-wasting app, but many indie authors want to put out their books right away whether or not the products are ready. This may take the form of a half-baked book with countless spelling and grammatical errors. It could be a cover that looks less like a traditionally published book and more like an eighth grade art project. Beyond the desire for immediate results, many authors will post these doughy books because they don’t have the money to make them look professional.
Successful self-publishing requires an investment of both time and money. When you plan ahead, you’ll end up with more of each. Consider delaying your release so that you can save up $50 to $100 a month for six to 12 months. Imagine what you could do with your book if you had between $300 and $1,200 in a self-publishing savings account. At the least, you could get a pretty great cover for your book. At the most, you’ll be able to splurge for the cover, an edit, and maybe even your first BookBub. Stocking away a little bit of money over time is a tried and true method to building up capital. This is the sort of thing that requires financial patience, but if your books look great from the beginning, you’ll be able to make a much better first impression.
2. Create a System That Works Every Time
Everyone’s got one book in them. Unfortunately, it’s rare to have success with just one book on the virtual shelves. Pushing aside your life and squeezing out the time you’ll need to release your book into the world is one way of doing things. The other is to set up a system that you can replicate over and over again to write more books.
It may seem counterintuitive to say this, but when you write your first book, the focus shouldn’t be getting the words down on the page. You should concentrate on figuring out your process. Ask yourself, “How can I set up my life so I can do this all over again in 3-4 months?” It isn’t about forcing a book out of yourself every so often. It’s about rearranging your time to make multiple books possible.
Take a lot of notes and do multiple freewriting sessions to determine what works about your process and what doesn’t. When you publish a book with your system in mind, you won’t feel nearly as burnt out when you work on your second product. Instead, you’ll be a well-oiled machine ready to work on the next project.
3. Make a Mailing List Your Priority
In mid-2014, Amazon KDP started showing off its new sales graph. This allowed authors to get a clean, visual representation of how many books they’ve sold for the last 90 days. While the graph was helpful from a tracking standpoint, it likely increased the number of times authors checked their sales stats per day. It’s easy to get distracted by these numbers, but when it comes down to it, your long-term efforts shouldn’t be focused on sales.
Even if you’re doing well now, there’s no guarantee that the same will be true in three, six or nine months. Algorithms change and Fortune’s Wheel turns. Because continued success on one platform is never a guarantee, you need to funnel as much traffic to your mailing list as possible.
Most people never change their email address. That means that when you collect that contact info through AWeber, MailChimp or GetResponse, you have a way to get in touch with this person forever. Compare that to social media or a recommendation algorithm that could drop you like a bad habit and you’ll understand why email is so important. Even if a reader loves your work, he might not understand why your list is so key. That’s why you need to give him the moon to share his info. When you only have a few products, it’s hard to give things away for free to get people to connect with you, but that’s the thing with long-term strategies. They often hurt in the short-term as they set you up for future success.
Don’t focus on daily sales nearly as much as you concentrate on improving your email subscription rate.
4. Consider Your Books Lifetime Assets
There are many differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing. One of the main ones is that trad pub books, like movies at the box office, try to earn as much as they can during the first few weeks of release. Afterwards, they pull most of their marketing efforts for that book and concentrate on the next potential winner. The most forward-thinking self-published authors take a completely different approach.
These author entrepreneurs look at their books like lifetime assets that can be exploited in many different ways. First of all, your book can continue to earn you revenue decades into the future. If your launch efforts don’t go as planned, then you can try to push the book again when you have a few more in your catalogue. You can also make this book into multiple products by putting it on all the major platforms, getting it translated, and turning it into an audiobook. The best thing about this is that all of those versions of your book can earn you money for the rest of time. When you have multiple books out that can each be split into dozens of different products, you will start to see the value of treating books like lifetime assets.
Once again, daily sales aren’t your most important tracking metric. It’s a much better long-term practice to determine additional ways to package your book to generate more income over time.
Five Years Down The Line
A short-term focus is likely to get the rug pulled out from under you. Take the thousands of Google AdSense users who had their businesses destroyed by Google’s search algorithm updates. Most of them weren’t focused on providing value. They only considered the money, and they assumed the gravy train would continue in perpetuity. The ones who were wrong felt the sting of the short-term mindset.
It may feel like you’re going at a snail’s pace when you set up all these long-term plans. Waiting for the concrete to harden in your indie author business foundation takes longer than you’d think, but it’s the best way to make sure you’ll still be doing this in five years time. Plan ahead and take things slow. You’ll improve your attention span and grow your business by leaps and bounds in the years to come.