Yes, this is part of my occasional series on being an author-publisher!
How much do you need to know about computers to be a self-published, self-promoted author?
I think when I first decided to self-publish, I read the information available on making a suitable file for uploading to Amazon, and did so. After a few tries I got it right and Princelings of the East went out on Amazon KDP around the end of November 2011. A week or so later I discovered Smashwords publishing and distribution platform – from a comment about ease of formatting in the Amazon KDP forum, I think. I went over to Smashwords and read a whole load of information about writing books in a way that you can convert them to the eReader formats more cleanly, and absorbed just about everything I could. Trust me, read Mark Coker’s book on formatting your work before you try to publish it! Reading it before you set word to Word would also be useful – saves a lot of time reformatting.
So having got Princelings out on Amazon and Smashwords (and Barnes & Noble and Sony and the iBookstore and a whole load of other places they distribute to now), I read Mark Coker’s marketing guide. I did know something about marketing beforehand, so I’m not as stupid as that sounds, but I didnt know too much about marketing online. It’s still a learning thing, partly as the game keeps changing.
I was ready in some ways for publishing – I had this blog. Deep in the archives you will find me talking to my diary about these steps I was taking. I had already become my own blogmaster. But to build a presence online you need to participate. There are loads of bloggers advising on this – check out Duolit, Smashwords and hundreds of others.
Getting a blog:
Most beginners use WordPress or Blogger (blogspot) – both have their pros and cons. For the beginner you need to understand that there are Posts, or regular updates (like this one); and Pages, which are places for permanent information, like summaries of books and where to buy them. The more you learn about tags and categories, the more fun you can have with cataloguing your posts into themes of interest to your readers.
Getting involved with other blogs:
You need to share your posts with others, and read theirs. You need to become part of a community that leads to more people knowing about you and your books. There are loads of ways to do this, including signing up for bookblasts, hosting guest writers, doing giveaways and blog tours, taking part in blog hops and challenges.
- Do the April AtoZ Challenge – it gives you the best window into meeting other people over a wide range of topics. Read what they say about comment forms!
- Sign up for giveaways for those that fit your profile; try I Am A Reader Not A Writer for a start.
Have enough online identities for you to really participate in both. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogger (Google+) – all these help you talk to people in different communities, and really they make life easier. Tweet your posts. Link them to Facebook. Pin on Pinterest. Doing the AtoZ Challenge in my first year was a pain at times because I had so much difficulty commenting on Blogspot blogs. I got my own identity on Google the following year and it all went smoothly. Last autumn I set up a blogspot site just to see how it worked. I use it as my publisher site.
So what does this have to do with becoming your own webmaster?
The more you do, the more you want to do. It’s a learning curve. From posts, to sharing posts, to entering giveaways, to hosting giveaways, to wanting a smart address in the title rather than a long one with wordpress or blogspot in it…. to deciding that you want the rafflecopter widget to show up in your WordPress post….
I’m talking about their free offerings. Blogger offer you the chance to make money out of adverts appearing on their free blog platform. WordPress offers you the chance to disable adverts if you pay a small fee ($13 I think). That’s when I finally decided to become my own webmaster. You can use WordPress software on a different website host, learn to look after it yourself, and put all those fancy extras in, with no adverts.
So, having discovered how to have my own website address jemimapett.com pointing to my blog wherever it was or whatever the computer thought it was called (and paying WordPress another $13 a year for the privelege), I decided to make the big leap into independent webhosting. I used the company my workplace had used for years, and in fact I’d used for something else some years earlier. My package costs £35 for two years and I can have a number of sites on the same package. I could do one site. I read up how to do more than one. A lot of the words made no sense to me at all. I got help from their support team. I managed to get it set up. I managed to copy all the posts from the old sites into the new sites. I moved Princelings at the end of October, and Jemima’s blog (this one) at the end of December. It was all looking so good… although there were odd wrinkles like whenever I edited a blog tour post signed in as Jemima it stripped out the rafflecopter form, and I had to be logged in as admin to put it back.
Then, last weekend, the server (the remote computer used by the web company) went wrong. They fixed it eventually, but my webpages weren’t working correctly. I think it was because WordPress did an upgrade on the same day, and things got restored incorrectly but by then they’d already been corrupted somewhere else…. It took four days to sort the mess out. At one stage I thought I was going to have to start again with a clean slate. I would lose all the posts since October or December. I learnt a lot more about being a webmaster. I think I’m going to have to move them all to a new account and install again, as since the websites are working on the face of it, they aren’t working properly at the point where I put the posts together (the dashboard). I continue to read the support documentation and try things out. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. I’m keeping an export file of my posts these days, just in case – especially as I already have a lot written for April.
But over these last few days the person I miss most from my corporate life is the webmaster. Just be prepared – and back up your posts!