M is for Mercantile

Hello, and welcome to the April A-Z Blogging Challenge! Over the first 26 days of April, we will explore aspects of writing and marketing books – authors, feel free to weigh in, and readers, feel free to observe and ask questions!



Oh, right, selling books. That reason we’re all here as authors. Yeah…how, exactly, does one go about doing that? Fear not! This is your one-stop shop for getting ready to publish. Once you have a manuscript. So, you know, if you don’t yet have a manuscript, bookmark this post and come back to it.

First things first…what do you need to publish on an online site?

  • Blurb: you need a blurb for your book. There are two basic formulas. The first is: [selling point, such as an award] [another selling point, maybe a quote from a review] [brief overview of your book, using not only words that describe the narrative, but words that describe why your narrative will appear to readers]. The second is [really amazingly engrossing synopsis that sets up the main question of the book]. Both work. Both will seem like a very simple proposition and then will drive to screaming insanity. It’s harder than it looks – just stick with it!
  • Author photo: you need a good head shot of you. Just you. Not with someone else cropped out of the photo. It doesn’t have to be super formal, but if you don’t have a good one, get one! Or be mysterious and put up a picture of a chipmunk.
  • Author bio: your author bio should let a little bit of you shine through, whether that’s whimsical or serious. If you’re writing non-fiction, list credentials. If you’re writing fiction, list awards. Either way, don’t be afraid to get a bit whimsical. Remember – you’re not selling this one book, you’re selling you, as a brand that has created this one book and can create others.
  • Keywords: an oft-overlooked portion of book uploads, but an incredibly important one. The difference between sloppy with this and being precise is about 20 minutes of research, so get on that. Spend 5 minutes brainstorming how you think readers should find your books. Should they search for “dragons”? “Young adult fantasy”? Type those into whichever site you’re using and see what comes up. Is it books like yours? Cool. Then make sure to leave room for one or two keywords that are the names of books or authors yours are similar to. Ha! Done. I told you that would be a minimal effort.
  • A cover: oh, my goodness, the cover. GET A GOOD COVER. It is impossible to stress this enough. People do judge a book by its cover. There are fantastic premade covers (I’d urge you towards sites that will only let each cover be sold once), and there are great independent artists who will make original art. Take your time, do your research, and maybe skip some going out to eat or coffees or something. Get a good cover. Get a good cover. Please, get a good cover.
  • Bank information: you need to put in your social security number (for taxes) and some way to pay you (for fairly obvious reasons; if you don’t want the money, you can give it away – but they do have to give it to you first). You won’t need this while uploading the book specifically, but they will ask you for it at some point.
  • A formatted manuscript: this can get a little bit tricky. Amazon is notoriously easy for uploading (.doc or .docx are welcome), but other sites tend to be a bit crazy. If you don’t feel up to the challenge, you can always hire someone to format your book for upload (general rules: someone with verifiable testimonials and up-front pricing). BUT… I believe in you, and it is completely doable for you to manage this on your on. Mark Coker of Smashwords has a Style Guide that, while geared to Smashwords uploads, is just pretty for formatting. Author Susan Kaye Quinn also has applicable posts on her blog. I’m linking you to the iTunes one, for the simple reason that iTunes is the one I find most frustrating.

Got all of these things collected? Great! You’re almost done! One last choice (and it’s okay to spend some time thinking, or change your mind after a little while): do you want to go Amazon Exclusive (KDP Select) or cross-platform? There are benefits to both, and philosophical arguments in both directions. I personally do not do KDP Select for most of my titles, because I want people to be able to search out my books no matter what kind of e-reader they have; Hugh Howey, on the other hand, loves KDP Select because he believes (perhaps quite rightly!) that he reaches far more readers that way. The thing to remember is, neither KDP Select nor cross-platform is irrevocable. Like everything else in indie publishing, it is something you can switch up if your first choice isn’t working for you.

In fact … that’s good advice for quite literally everything in this post. Write a blurb. Get a cover. Choose some keywords. And don’t be afraid to change them up if they’re not working for you.

Onwards and upwards!

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