Unfortunately, being an author doesn’t just mean writing books, though I know most of us really wish it was. It also means running your own mini business. If you don’t agree, I would ask you: the government sees you as a business, why don’t you? Every year we have to file some kind of tax form (typically a W9) and get taxed on the advances and royalties we receive–that’s taxable income, we’re selling something…we’re a business. Ugh.
Now, that you’ve accepted the ugly truth, you need to think like a small business, or at least organize like one. I’m not going to go through budgeting, or anything quite as personal as all that…
But I will list a few things that you need to have in order to get yourself up and running to sell and market your book.
Think about all the stuff that you have to do. You have to set yourself up online to connect with readers. You have to prepare for next year’s tax season. You have to actually take credit cards for selling your novels. Here is a small checklist to make sure you are accounting for it all:
1. Get Author Headshot Taken / Write Bio
Chances are, your publisher has already requested these items. They have to (or they should) start marketing even before you do. So you’ll probably want to get these done sooner rather than later. See if you can find a professional photographer to get your headshot done and it’s wise to not look too dolled up as headshots should always be more natural/evergreen photos that people will be able to recognize. For the bio, I actually read at least twenty different author bios before I wrote my own. They tend to include the following info:
- Writer of such-and-such
- Achieved this academic degree
- Lives with spouse and their pet komodo dragon
- In their spare time defends the earth from evil yada yada yada
2. Download Receipt Manager App
Remember that tax stuff I mentioned and being your own small business? Here’s where you start preparing for it. There will be a lot of costs in promoting your book: printing promo materials, hiring blog/instagram tours, doing giveaways, purchasing books from your distributor, gas, food, and lodging for going out of town for conferences and signings…the list goes on. Well, guess what? You can write all that stuff off on your taxes! Whoo! But you need to properly keep track of it. The best way to do that is via an excel sheet or a receipt manager app. Here are two good ones I recommend:
3. Get Website, Email Newsletter, Social Media, and Blog Set Up
Yes, you need a website. No, just Facebook won’t cut it. Yes, you need to have social media. No, you don’t have to be on every platform. Yes, you need to collect emails. Honestly, I could write for pages and pages about an author’s online presence, but that is for another day. For now, you just need to take away these three things:
- You need to have a central place that readers/bloggers/press can find you, follow you, and contact you and that is your website.
- Ignore what everyone says about authors having to be on every social media platform. Pick one platform that you enjoy and then do it well. I like Instagram and Twitter so that is how I share new content and connect with fellow readers and writers.
- Create a space to share content and updates with your followers. That can either be a blog or an email newsletter, or both! Either way, you need a place that gives readers the option to follow your journey as a writer.
4. Claim Goodreads and Amazon Page
This is actually a lot easier than it sounds, but you definitely need to do it. Goodreads and Amazon are so on top of their game (and working with your publisher) that your book probably is already out there and has its own page. Your job is to claim it – this will allow you to put in your bio, headshot, website/social links, and any other relevant info. Check out these articles on how to claim each page:
5. Selling Platform (Square, Paypal, etc.)
Finally, get ready to start selling your own books! If you go to signing events or conferences, or you’re just selling to friends and family, you’ll need a way to take credit cards. While not everyone has venmo, payment systems like Square and Paypal make it easy to take credit cards. They are “free” in the sense that they automatically take a small percentage of whatever you are selling.
That’s all for author logistics. Anyone have any suggestions that I might’ve missed? Let me know!
Next, I’ll discuss certain media relations items you need to start doing!