I’ll add to this as I go, but here are some great resources to help you. I have personally worked with all of these designers and formatters and give them all glowing reviews.
RECOMMENDED COVER ARTISTS
RECOMMENDED PREMADE BOOK COVER DESIGNERS
Probook Premade Book Covers – owned by Deranged Doctor Design
The Chicago Manual of Style – the standard style manual for the publishing industry
Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary – I recommend getting their premium subscription to avoid the annoying ads.
Romance Writers of America / RWA
The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing
Absolute Write – get the skinny on publishing houses and agents before you submit
Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success by Mark Coker
Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker
Discoverability by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson
The Story Template by Amy Deardon
Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing
Think Like a Publisher by Dean Wesley Smith
Dean Wesley Smith’s online workshops
Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast
MY ADVICE TO WRITERS
- Practice. Write every day, and I mean every. single. day. Don’t miss, don’t make excuses. Make your writing a priority. It’s the only way to get better, and finishing stories is the only way to make more money (if that is your goal).
- Diversify. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Spread out in subgenres (when I was writing romance, for example, my readers liked not only werewolf romance, but also vampires, demons/angels, and contemporary). Spread out into different markets, meaning get into electronic, print, and audio. Can’t afford it? Save up, barter/trade, or learn how to do it yourself. Spread out into different vendors (meaning don’t go all-in to Kindle Unlimited). Release stories of different lengths to attract different readers. Same goes for price points. Certain types of readers/buyers are attracted to free and $0.99, while another type is attracted to $2.99-$3.99, and so on. Combine stories into bundles to attract another type of buyer and create another product. More products = more money and more visibility.
- Publish frequently. This keeps you in the new releases lists more often. I recommend going no longer than three months without publishing something, though two is best. It doesn’t have to be a major work. I’ve seen bumps in sales whenever I released a short story.
- Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Just because nobody else is doing it yet doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
- Adapt. If something’s not working the way you want, fix it. Not selling anything? Look at the cover. Does it suck? Look at the blurb. Would you want to read your book? Are there grammatical errors all over your baby? Also, what works now may not work in the future. Free used to be great for introducing readers to your books. Those readers have moved on to Kindle Unlimited and other subscription services. So free is nowhere near as effective as it used to be.
- GET YOUR BOOK EDITED. Can’t stress this enough. Get your book edited. If you don’t, you’ll pay for it in bad reviews. I should know–I did. Don’t be cheap. Hire the best editor you can afford, preferably a copy editor and a proofreader because no one’s perfect. At bare minimum, you need a copy editor.
- Make it as easy as possible for people to buy your books. Include links, preferably with pictures. Put them everywhere: on guest posts, in your newsletter (you do have one, right?), in the back of your books. Include links to ebook, paper, audio–whatever you have. If people have to search for your stuff, I can guarantee they won’t. We are too busy and have too many distractions.
- Be available. Have a contact form on your webpage, and then check your email and your spam filter. Be on social media. You don’t have to be on every social media hub, but I do recommend at least one. Probably Facebook, because everybody is on there. Or Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever floats your boat. If you hate the platform, don’t use it. It will show. And a neglected platform is worse than not having one.
- Release a regular newsletter. Stay in touch with your readers. Next to your books and your website, this is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. Also, email addresses go stale, or people forget they signed up for your newsletter. Don’t wait eight months to send out a newsletter. I recommend at least bi-monthly, just to remind them about you.
- Optimize your website. This is your 24/7 storefront. Put buying links and newsletter signups everywhere.
- Read. Read books on craft. Read fiction, inside and out of your chosen genre. Read blog posts. Get better, learn, absorb.
- Don’t give up. The only way you can fail is if you quit.
- Believe in yourself. Some people will think you’re crazy. Some will envy you, some will try to drag you down. Don’t listen to the criticism. Keep marching to the beat of your own drum. Stand up for yourself. There may come a day when you’re the only one standing in your corner of the ring, so don’t give up on you or your dream.
- Release a professional product. As close as you can get. Professional cover, formatting, editing. Aim for the best you can afford. Self-publishing has gotten a lot cheaper. Don’t skimp on polishing the product itself. Let it shine.
- Give up the idea of perfection. You’ll never be perfect. Your website will never be perfect. Your books will never be perfect. So don’t take forever to release something because you’re chasing perfection. It doesn’t exist. Get the book done to the best of your ability, tweak it, edit it, release it, and move on to the next story. Oh, and your website? It just needs to be functional. People want to know where they can get your books. That’s the most important thing. So don’t waste a lot of time trying to beautify your website with a bunch of bells and whistles. Keep it simple. And above all, make sure it looks good on mobile!