Self-Pub Like A Pro: A Q&A With Courtney Milan

Self-publishing is a "trend" that's turned out to be a tried-and-true method for authors to get their works directly to readers. But it's not always an easy path, there are many variables to consider and control along the way. To help new writers figure it all out, we'll be spotlighting various self-publishing heavy hitters — including authors, editors and industry professionals — here on the RT blog each month with our new Self-Pub Like a Pro column. This month Courtney Milan, who found her self-publishing niche with her Brothers Sinister series, is here to shine some light on our biggest questions. 

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1. What's the most important thing to keep in mind when self-publishing?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should be writing the best book you can. I know that sounds flippant, but trust me, that's the No. 1 thing. You can recover from any other mistakes. Prices, covers and key words can be changed. You cannot recover from writing a terrible book. Your first goal should be to look at the reader experience.

2. What's the best piece of advice you can give newbies looking to self-pub?

If you're new to this business, you should be spending 95 percent of your time writing, and 5 percent taking care of the other business. The most important thing is to write. The publishing part of this is not that bad or that time-consuming. The writing has to come first.

3. If you could go back and self-publish your very first title again, what would you do differently?

The only thing I would do differently is to be more effective with my backmatter. I wish I'd included a link to sign up for my newsletter at the end of that very first title I self-published. But that's the only regret that I have.

4. How do you recommend a newbie price their debut self-pubbed title?

The only recommendation I'm going to make is that you keep an open mind. Listen to what other new authors are doing and how it works. Pay attention to what's happening in the market — pricing discussions change, vendors change how they treat different prices and you want to have your ear to the ground so that you know what's going on. Don't price emotionally. Don't be afraid to try new things. Pay attention to your own sales and make a decision about how to go from there.

5. What's the most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with cover art?

You should start thinking about creating a brand for yourself so that your covers are recognizable not only as in your subgenre, but also as a book by you, at a tiny thumbnail size.

6. What's your best piece of advice re: key words?

Think about what makes your book appealing to readers. If you're writing about a common trope (friends to lovers, bad boys, whatever) use those keywords. Try to make sure that your blurb makes use of those keywords.

7. Anything you'd like to add?

If you're new, it's easy to obsess about day-to-day details. Give yourself permission to check numbers and rankings on a regular basis, but also make sure that this is not interfering with your writing habits.

Thanks so much for the intel, Courtney! You can pick up her latest romance, The Countess Conspiracy, available digitally now! If you have burning self-pub questions you want to have answered, let us know in the comments below. And look for our next Self-Pub Like a Pro column next month. 

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