We all wear many hats: parent, spouse, co-worker, employee, neighbor, etc. But as a self-publisher, we wear quite a few simply in pursuit of that one goal. We are a writer creating engaging fiction; we are a publisher putting together our finished work and ensuring that it is published in a professional manner; and we are a marketer trying to ensure that others know that our work is available to them.

Most authors would rather do the first and forget about the rest—after all, no one writes a book merely so they have something to market. But the sad truth of it is that as a self-published author, you’re it. And even if you have a publishing contract from a publisher, you are still responsible for the marketing of your own work. Very few publishers handle that for their authors (some smaller publishers might, but they are a rare breed).

So, we deal with all the rest and some authors do get some pleasure or, at least, satisfaction from seeing all the parts of this job well done.

But as it is the new year and a time for planning, can we pause and think of exactly all that we did last year and hope to accomplish this year? If you didn’t write it all down, this year you might want to track all that you do in each of these three areas.

Wearing Your Author Hat:

Make a list of the books you hope to write this year. Are you starting a new series? Continuing on with an old one? How long does it take you to actually write a book and, based on that information, how many do you reasonably think you can write? The “reasonably” in that question needs to take into account LIFE because it always gets in the way at some point or other, so while you’re writing all this good stuff down, know that it’s entirely likely that all or some of your plans could go flying out the window with one small piece of bad news—or good.

Wearing Your Self-Publisher’s Hat: 

Do you have an established team with whom you work? Do you and your editor see eye to eye on your work or do they try to encourage you to make changes you’re not comfortable with? Are you happy with their level of editing? What about your proofreader? Do they do as meticulous a job as they should? How about formatting—do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you? Do you have a cover designer you love? Are they willing to make changes and work with you to get just the right look you’re going for? And finally, do you publish your books on Amazon in Kindle Unlimited? If so, has that been profitable for you or might you want to consider moving your books to other online retailers this year? If your books are not in KU, you could also sell them on your own website directly to readers.

Wearing Your Marketer’s Hat:

If you are not about to publish your first book, that means you must have some experience marketing your work. What did you do last year? Did you run ads on Facebook, Amazon, or Bookbub? How did they do? How was your “return on investment” your ROI? And if it wasn’t as good as you’d hoped, is that the fault of the ads, the place where you ran them, or possibly even your book description? There are so many factors that make an ad profitable. The best thing to do is to run as many tests, changing only one variable at a time as you can.

And let’s not forget about your readers. Wearing your marketing hat, how is your social media presence? Do you send out a newsletter on a regular schedule? Do you have a reader magnet to draw people in to signing up for your newsletter and something in your newsletter to entice readers to open it each month? Some authors run monthly giveaways, others provide exclusive content. Personally, I publish a short story or vignette in each newsletter. It’s up to you to do what you’re comfortable with, but consider what you are doing, how well it’s been working and how you might do better—entice more readers to sign up and then stay on the list.

Is your head spinning? Mine sure is! Now, who was who said being a professional author was easy? Certainly no one who’d ever tried it. It is, however—in my humble opinion—the best job in the world. Hmmm… maybe next week we should stop and take a look at all the perks of being a self-published author so that we’re not left wondering why we do this.

Until then, good luck with your planning and I hope you all have a wonderful 2024!