Strategic Self-Publishing: 3 Key Lessons from Lorraine Paton

You know those authors that are kind of nerdy about the craft? The ones that find out as much as they can about what’s going on in the industry and then are gracious enough to share their studious research? Well, Lorraine Paton is such an author, for which we bow down to her.

Lorraine recently presented to the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association on Strategic Self Publishing and is kindly allowing me to share my takeaways from her presentation.

What does strategic self-publishing mean? In a nutshell it means that you as the author are being as business-minded and thoughtful about publishing your work as any traditional publisher would be. There are books that we all write as passion projects, but if your primary focus is to make money from your self-published work, there are three key ways to maximize your potential:

  1. Understand Your Market
  2. Pay Attention to Expectations
  3. Maximize Your Sales Opportunities

Understanding Your Market

Take your chosen genre and get busy doing some research. Head over to Amazon and take a look at your genre’s bestseller lists (sub genres can have their own bestsellers lists too, so check those out). What trends do you see in terms of cover, niches, storylines?

How much competition is there? Is everyone writing the exact same story? Are vampires still the ‘in’ thing? For your bestsellers, what is the average length of a story? Are novellas trending in your genre? These details are important, and the only way you’ll find that out is by digging in and doing a bit of research.

Tip: being on a bestseller list – even a subgenre bestseller list – makes you much more searchable in Amazon.

Pay Attention To Expectations

What are your reader’s expectations? If you write mystery and don’t wrap up all the loose ends, will your readers unleash their wrath upon you? Better to know in advance, don’t you think? How can you get a sense of reader expectations? Read! Read broadly in your chosen genre to get a sense of those expectations to ensure that you can deliver.

Expectations reach beyond the story subject matter, however. Go back to your bestsellers list and check out the covers. Notice any trends?

strategic self publishing

In my genre, romantic comedies, whether I like it or not the trend is for that illustrated, pastel-colour fee. There are a couple of covers in there I would not consider fitting into the romantic comedy feel (points if you can guess which ones!).

If I went the opposite direction, would my book sell as well as I’d like? Probably not, because the cover is a visual indicator when readers are clicking next, next, next. Personal opinion aside (and we all know that I Judge Covers) you don’t want to miss out on sales opportunities because you neglected to pay attention to your readers’ expectations.

Tip: When you have a cover designed, make sure you test it in black and white as well as colour, and make sure it works as a thumbnail.

Ah, the price tag. Getting the right price is psychological. Isn’t it funny how if a product is $4.99 vs. $5.01 you’d likely see a difference in sales? There’s a mental barrier that authors need to be conscientious of. The best thing to do is to compare your price to others in your genre. If you were planning to price your work 20% above the top 5 bestsellers, are you shooting yourself in the foot? Hard to say, but remember that when you self-publish you can always change your price point. Play around with pricing until you find your sweet spot.

Maximizing Your Sales Opportunities

When you go to Google or Amazon, you’re searching with keywords. These keywords help a search engine to pull content that you’ve indicated an interest in, so if your book isn’t matched to those categories and keywords, how will your audience find you? With difficulty if at all. Another way to make sure your work is keyword rich? Include a keyword in the title. This may not be the right answer for everyone, depending on your goals as an author, but you can’t argue with the Amazon algorithm.

Have you written other work or do you have a soon-to-be-released work in progress? Maximize your front matter (a.k.a. the pages before your novel starts) and your back matter (the pages at the back). To do this you could include hyperlinks to your newsletter, a blurb for your next book, an about the author section with links to your social media, etc.

Tip: as you release new novels, make sure you’re updating the front and back matter of all your previous releases with current links and info. 

Think Of Yourself as a Publisher

Seriously, guys, I could go on. Lorraine gave us a vast amount of information that could be about three blog posts worth, but I think you’ve got a good idea.

Some final quick tips:

  • First and foremost, produce quality work
  • Keep the branding consistent on your releases (again – reader expectations!)
  • Try and keep the time between releases tight (30-60 days) to help stay on new release lists
  • If you write novellas, consider KDP Select – readers only need to get past 10% and you get paid. Ten percent of a novella is not that long!
  • Have a newsletter! This is a great sales tool for your future releases

Once again, I’d like to say thank you to Lorraine Paton for sharing her vast knowledge. To find out more about Lorraine and her novels you can check out her blog, or her Morning Lake contemporary romance series (I’m a fan!).


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2 Responses to Strategic Self-Publishing: 3 Key Lessons from Lorraine Paton

  1. Lorraine Paton April 18, 2015 at 1:08 am #

    Thank you, Victoria, for summarizing my chat at ARWA so wonderfully! I hope my research was helpful. 🙂

    • Victoria Smith April 20, 2015 at 11:25 am #

      It was EXTREMELY helpful, Lorraine! Thanks for sharing. Many writers will benefit from your presentation.

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