Tips From a Self-Published Author

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Everyday someone asks, “How did you self-publish your book?” After the millionth time I decided to create a blog for self-publishing newcomers. Nelson Beats The Odds was released on August 21, 2015 through Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC. I used Createspace to distribute my book. The experience taught me many valuable lessons that I share in my workshop “Self-Publishing and Social Justice“. I created the workshop to help prospective self-publishers create stories with social justice themes. During the workshop I share self-publishing “do’s and don’ts”. I also include the following self-publishing tips:

1. Find your Voice and Speak to your Target Audience

Speak your truth. Your story needs to reflect your values, opinions and experiences. I was intentional in creating a story that featured predominantly African-American characters because it reflected my experience growing up. My biggest goal was to create a story that resonated with African-American boys and encouraged them to read. In 2014, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) released it’s annual report on the number of books by/about people of color. The CCBC found that only 14% of 3,000 to 3,500 books included books by/about people of color.

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2. Hire/Recruit Free Lancers and Friends with Desired Skill Sets

When I realized that I was going to do a children’s book, I reached out to my friends on Facebook to see if I could find an illustrator. I had over a dozen referrals, but none really caught my eye. I’m a perfectionist and I wanted my book to be done right. I joined Hire An Illustrator and eLance. I found the illustrator for my book on eLance. What sold me wasn’t their spectacular portfolio, but the fact that one of them was diagnosed with Dyslexia. I felt safe leaving my story in his hands because I knew he could relate.

I reached out to a good high school friend named Tiffany  and a member of a Facebook group I joined to edit my book. Tiffany was the lead editor and she did a phenomenal job. She had a great eye for detail and helped me frame my story.

3. Build a Following

Unfortunately, my following for the book wasn’t built until after I decided to write it. The first things that I did was start a Nelson Beats The Odds Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page. I also started this blog because the “experts” said so. It was overwhelming trying to keep up with both my business and personal social media accounts. Not to mention I was also running a website.

Currently, my Facebook page has nearly 1,500 followers. I’ve found success with Facebook’s Boost feature. The feature can be costly but the amount of visibility it brings can introduce your product to different markets. I’ve also joined Black Educators Rock, an online group with over 145,000 African American educators. Sharing posts in the group helped my book become an Amazon Best Seller in the Kindle Store Learning Disability category. The group also helped me sell 56 paperback books in December, giving me my best sales month thus far.

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Asking friends to share photos of their children reading “Nelson Beats The Odds” has been a huge success. This has been extremely effective in exposing my book to a larger audience. I believe it brings out the competitiveness in parents when others post photos of their child reading my book. I also started the #iBeatTheOdds Facebook Group because it gives Facebook users and opportunity to share their stories thus bringing more visability and new content to my page.

4.  Don’t Stress Over Money & Be Fearless

You’ll never have enough money. Get use to overdraft fees, maxed out credit cards and empty pockets. I’ve had a lot of success the past few months but there is always something to pay for. I purchased “The Alchemist” and “The Secret” audio books and they’ve helped me stay grounded. I’m in search of my personal legend and once I decided to jump, I became  fearless.

5.  Set a Modest Kickstarter Goal or Use Sites like Indiegogo

The biggest mistake that I made was setting my Kickstarter goal at $10,000. I was really ambitious and thought that I could raise that much money in 45 days. I only managed to raise about $1,800. Since I didn’t reach my goal I was unable to receive any money. When I began working on my second book, “Nelson Beats The Odds: Tameka’s New Dress“, I set my goal for $700. I raised a little over a grand this time around but hit my goal. Kickstarter is a great platform, but I’d encourage you to research other crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo before you make your decision.

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6.  Start with Createspace and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

I encourage everyone to go through Createspace and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. “Nelson Beats The Odds” is my first book and I didn’t know anything about publishing. Every website that I searched recommended using Createspace and I see why. The site is free, easy to use and has great customer service. In less than a day my book was available on Amazon and Kindle.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service is best thing since sliced bread! They have a feature where you can offer your eBook for free five times over the span of 90 days. The feature allowed my Facebook and Twitter followers to sample my book and helped drive my paperback and Kindle book sales.

7. Use Multiple Publishing Platforms & Distributors

Publish your book in paperback, hardcover and eBook. It’s very difficult as a self-publisher to get your book in stores. I’ve been able to get my book into two comic book stores on consignment.  In terms of distributors, I use IngramSpark, iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. I have plans on publishing a “Nelson Beats The Odds” audiobook and translating the book into Spanish in 2016.

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8.  Promote Your S@#t Like it’s a New York Best Seller

I know that I have the best children’s book out right now. I was so confident that I knew I would win an ALA award this year for “Nelson Beats The Odds” (still keeping hope alive, lol). When you exude that type of confidence people buy into you and your product. I worked hard to create a solid product with educational value. Every day I’m online promoting my book. Every weekend I’m at a church, school or event vending or speaking. I’m starting to yield big results. I’ve had 5 school’s purchase fifteen or more books from me. Hamilton-Holmes Middle School in King William purchased 75 copies this month.

9. Network & Cross-Promote

I send at least 15 emails a day to special education administrators, teachers, professors or staff. I’m working my way through Virginia’s public school systems, colleges and special education organizations. I’m meeting people at churches, farmer’s markets, conferences, practically anywhere. You should be scanning the internet and social media for events daily. Once you arrive at the events don’t be afraid to tell others how amazing your book is. Remember, networking is the key to self-publishing.

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I’ve developed the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator on iOS as fun way to promote my book. The self-esteem app allows users to upload photos of themselves and add characters from the book. The app gives the brand an additional platform to promote on.

Since writing Nelson Beats The Odds, I’ve had an opportunity to meet authors, musicians, poets, clothing designers and artists. I’ve realized that I needed to cross promote because everyone that follows me knows about my book. It is a great way to share great products with a wider audience.

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10. Expect Nothing and Appreciate Everything

Don’t expect your family and friends to buy into your dream. Expect disappointments. Expect things not to go right but appreciate those experiences. I’ve learned more from my failures than my successes. When you’re putting your own money up you learn quickly.

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Author: Ronnie Sidney II, MSW

Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, is a father, therapist, author, app developer, professional speaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He received a Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. Ronnie was raised in Tappahannock, Virginia, and attended Essex County Public Schools (ECPS). While attending ECPS, he spent several years in Special Education after being diagnosed with a learning disability. The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school. With limited options regarding four-year colleges, he decided to enroll in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. The following year, he transferred to Old Dominion University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services in 2006. Sidney has since published two books, "Nelson Beats the Odds" and "Tameka's New Dress". He also developed the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator.

2 thoughts on “Tips From a Self-Published Author”

  1. Thanks for the great tips. After reading this I am encouraged. I too have a desire to write and I have titles and stories ready to be put to paper. I know everything you are working for will come and thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. wonderful testimony of God’s grace! my son is also in the special education setting. i have spoken with politicians and it’s the insurance that’s the problem, but what they don’t know is that i’m that mama who won’t be played with when it comes to my children!

    Liked by 1 person

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