3 Essential Self-Publishing Skills Every Writer Should Develop

Written by A Guest Author | September 8, 2016

Written by Benjamin Cheah

Successful self-published writers combine the skill sets of a writer and a publisher. The latter is often overlooked. This article focuses on three essential publishing skills self-published writers need to develop – before they publish their stories. Even if you’re not planning on self-publishing, having a solid grasp of these skills will make your writing more appealing to traditional publishers.

Market Research

Market research tells you who your readers are, what they want, and how to connect to them. By knowing your audience and genre, you know what kind of writing appeals to your readers and how your story stands out from the rest. While plotting and writing your story, judiciously deploy the tropes that define your genre to give your readers a starting point to connect to your work, then deliver your own interpretation of these tropes in pursuit of your creative vision.

Later, when producing marketing materials like advertisements and selected excerpts, reinforce this approach. Show that your story has everything that readers are looking for, and how the story stands out from others. For maximum effect, combine this with platform building.

Platform Building

Platform building is about developing relationships with people and building your brand. But it is not enough to simply promote your stories to all and sundry. This turns people off. Relationships are a two-way street: to receive value from people, you must first deliver value.

Use social media platforms like blogs, Facebook and Twitter to help people. This includes sharing success stories, promoting other authors, and discussing lessons you have learned on your writing journey. Similarly, if you are a member of a readers’ or writers’ group, be an active member. While you should discuss your writing, especially if you need help or are invited to, keep your focus on assisting others and upholding the goals of the group.

Another option is to share your writing online through social media. Readers benefit by having a free story, and you benefit when they share or comment on your work. This lets you sharpen your skills and grow your popularity. A number of bestselling authors started off this way, such as Andy Weir and Beth Reekles. Be sure to interact with your readers and friends to keep the relationship going.

Platform building lets you create a credible reputation, both as a writer and a valued member of the community. When the time comes to publish, more people will be willing to help you out.

Endgame Time Management

After completing the manuscript, it is tempting to announce release dates and arrange promotional campaigns. But do not jump the gun: there is more work to do.

A completed manuscript needs formatting, editing and cover art before it becomes a publication-ready book. As a rule of thumb, if you hire a professional, budget one week for formatting a novel, one month for editing, and one month for the cover. You can eliminate formatting time if you wrote your manuscript according to the guidelines of your chosen distribution platforms. You can save even more time by running edits and cover art simultaneously. But this only works for digital releases, as the cover artist needs to know how thick a print book will be.

A print release will require formatting the manuscript differently from digital publication. Order a proof copy and inspect every page for errors and readability. Take note of shipping times from your printer, such as Lulu or CreateSpace, and budget an extra fortnight after receiving the proof for final changes.

Give yourself at least one month between finalizing changes and releasing the story, preferably two. Now is the time to start running promotion campaigns and pre-orders. Go into overdrive, promoting your stories to all and sundry through the platforms you have built.

Market research, platform building, and time management are three essential areas a self-published writer needs to develop before publication. By identifying and connecting to your audience, building a solid reputation, and giving yourself time to polish and promote the story, you will give yourself a head start in the industry.

Bio: Benjamin Cheah is a self-published writer from Singapore and the author of the American Heirs series. Altogether, he has published three novellas and one novel. He has also published short stories with Castalia House and Cohesion Press. In the day, he is a freelancer who alternates between copywriting, editing and data entry. You can find his website at benjamincheah.com.